In the debate on veracity and historicity of the Biblical stories and claims many assert that after an event in discussion G-d miraculously wiped all evidence or replaced it to look natural.

For example:

  • in the story of the Creation - G-d created everything at once in 6 days but then made it look like it happened in billions of years

  • in the story of the flood - the whole humankind descended from Noach's 3 children, but G-d made the genetics look like we developed in millions of years

  • in the story of Exodus, the narrative describes millions enslaved and eventually liberated conquesting the Holy Land, but G-d wipe out any empirical evidence of this scale

It's not a big Chochmah to provide this excuse retroactively when we have overwhelming evidence, but I'm curious, in the times when the Torah stories were perceived literally, say before Rambam, is there any authoritative source that speculated that G-d does deceptive correcting miracles to conceal His deeds?

NOTE: This question only asks whether this approach has an earlier source or not, it does not deal with the justification or the refusal of the approach itself.

  • Well, there’s a Gemara that say explicitly that it’s impossible to have 100% proof of Hashem’s existence - does that count as an answer? – DonielF Nov 27 '19 at 13:53
  • @DonielF Tha's interesting on its own - please show. But here I look for a tradition that G-d willingly deceive humanity to enlarge the reward of the believers. – Al Berko Nov 27 '19 at 13:58
  • Ah, I’ve got a Gemara for that too. Give me a second. – DonielF Nov 27 '19 at 14:13
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    What abot let us make man in Breishis 1:26? Rashi says that is to allow room to think of multiple creators. – sabbahillel Nov 27 '19 at 14:14
  • @sabbahillel No, I'm not looking for interpretations, I'm looking for facing established scientific facts that everybody, incl Rabbis agree upon. – Al Berko Nov 27 '19 at 15:29

The general theme of AZ 54b-55a is “If Hashem hates idolatry, why doesn’t He just get rid of it?” One particular statement that’s relevant to the question at hand (my translation):

א"ל רבא בר רב יצחק לרב יהודה האיכא בית עבודת כוכבים באתרין דכי מצטריך עלמא למטרא מתחזי להו בחלמא ואמר להו שחטו לי גברא ואייתי מטרא שחטו לה גברא ואתי מטרא א"ל השתא אי הוי שכיבנא לא אמרי לכו הא מלתא דאמר רב מאי דכתיב (דברים ד, יט) אשר חלק ה' אלהיך אותם לכל העמים מלמד שהחליקן בדברים כדי לטורדן מן העולם והיינו דאמר ריש לקיש מאי דכתיב (משלי ג, לד) אם ללצים הוא יליץ ולענוים יתן חן בא לטמא פותחין לו בא לטהר מסייעין אותו:

Rava bar Rav Yitzchak said to Rav Yehuda, “Why is there such a place of idolatry in our city where, when the world needs rain, it appears to them in a dream and says to them, ‘Slaughter for me a man and rain will come,’ and they slaughter a man to it and rain comes?” He replied, “Now, were I dead, I could not tell you the following teaching which Rav said: What is that which is written, ‘Which Hashem, your G-d, divided them (חלק) from the nations’? To teach you that Hashem slips them up (החליקן) with words to remove them from the world.” This accords with the statement of Reish Lakish: What is that which is written, “If toward the mockers, He will mock, but to the humble He gives grace”? One who comes to become impure, they open for him; one who comes to become pure, they assist him.

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  • Please help me to see the connection? Here G-d willingly deceives people (לפני עוור?), but all empirical evidence is facts that absolutely everybody, including the prominent Rabbis, agrees, not just speculations, or hypotheses. We don't say - there's no physics, genetics, chemistry, geology, etc. We admit to the facts but try to interpret it differently, namely that G-d changed the reality retrospectively. – Al Berko Nov 27 '19 at 15:22
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    @AlBerko How doesn’t this answer the question? Hashem hides His interaction with the world so that we have a choice. If you’re asking why that changed - ask that! – DonielF Nov 27 '19 at 15:59
  • This is not what I read in the passage. Let's differentiate: it says G-d fools/misleads some wicked people into thinking stupid things, while I asked the source for the approach of referring to unwritten correcting miracles - do we have a tradition of those miracles or it's a late invention. – Al Berko Nov 27 '19 at 16:21
  • Again, the difference is that here G-d only fools specific people, while in my Q. G-d fools us all. – Al Berko Nov 27 '19 at 16:26

For the short answer, see 1 Kings 22:20-23 and Yechezkel 14:9 regarding the use of what, at very least, we would usually identify as deception by God.

Your question, as formulated, relies heavily on the idea that the Biblical stories transpired literally as described while the physical/material evidences (as represented by contemporary academic beliefs) are, as it were, falsified. In much of the Orthodox world, however, it is believed that such evidence provides some justification to interpret these passages non-literally. Regarding a seven-day creation, I would not be surprised if most on a site such as this did not accept the story literally as it is found in the text. The question of deception is even more acute in this case because there is a presumption that we are to interpret the text literally (see how the Meforshim approach אֵין מִקְרָא יוֹצֵא מִידֵי פְּשׁוּטוֹ) and are only permitted to abandon the literal meaning upon finding evidence that the narrative is counter-factual (see Emunos v’Deos 7:2). God tells us what happens in the Torah and it is only through external information unknown for centuries that we are able to tell it wasn't meant literally (according to this approach).

Regarding the notion that the Earth was created to appear old, this is deceptive only when one doesn't think things through. While the Torah obviously provides no information as to how old the earth appeared when it was created fully formed (see Rosh Hashannah 11a) the presence of countless features such as trees would give the impression of more time having transpired than the six-days of creation. Although it would be a sound inference to believe the Garden was older, such inductive reasoning would have to be revised when presented with more information (such as the testimony of the Creator).

Regarding the Israelite's sojourn in the desert, any academic assessment of the historicity of the account will begin with the presumption that the miraculous elements are embellishments as a matter of methodology. That the B'nei Yisrael were fed a supernatural food with a supernatural shelf life (Ex. 16) or that their shoes and clothing did not wear out (Dt. 8:4) means that much of the material culture that we would expect to find as evidence was never produced in the first place, not that it was somehow deceptively concealed.

Just because there is a conflict doesn't mean there is a contradiction. Two of the examples you cited are real conflicts between the Torah narrative and academic science but, at least provided one has reason to believe the Torah account, they do not falsify them. The idea that God could utilize deception is a theologically challenging one but there is some precedent suggesting this to be the case but it is not clear that your examples are the best available ones to probe this question.

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  • Thank you for your effort. I don't see where it answers the question of the source for this approach in the times when things were interpreted literally. Did anybody say "3M people left Egypt but don't try to look for evidence because G-d wiped the desert clean? Or "the whole humanity came from 3 men but if you look at genome, G-d scrambled it to look natural"? – Al Berko Nov 27 '19 at 16:39
  • My question is not about the approach itself, I don't judge it, I only try to find whether it has traditional roots or not. – Al Berko Nov 27 '19 at 16:40
  • You need to re-read my answer if you think it applied to when they were not interpreted literally. Nobody says God wiped the dessert clean because the pesukim themselves negate the need k'pshuto. – Yirmeyahu Nov 27 '19 at 17:11
  • @Yirmeyahu how would your approach explain the genetic portion of the question? – user9806 Nov 27 '19 at 17:29
  • It doesn't, per se, but nor have I seen any serious or systematic treatment which takes the purported approach of the OP. As I said, these examples are poor ones to probe the issue addressed. Yet once one probes the implication of the answer of creation some of the related ideas (the balance required for free will, the inherent nonsense of applying scientific inferences to the supernatural) can be applied, with considerable more difficulty but the strength of "precedent" to the genetic question and others. In as far as there is reason to believe the Torah account is true to begin with... – Yirmeyahu Nov 27 '19 at 17:42

I never heard anyone say that "G-d miraculously wiped all evidence"

The common explanation that I've heard is that the events being discussed were supernatural events. Therefore you will not find evidence for them by looking for them with natural current scientific means.

Obviously, there was some sort of mechanism used for the world to transition between it's natural and supernatural states. But it wasn't that "G-d does deceptive correcting miracles to conceal His deed"

The are plenty of sources in the Torah about there being seemingly valid evidence against it. Not to answer this question but in a general sense. Starting with the Torah itself talking about a Novi Sheker performing real miraculous signs as a nisyon.

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  • Thank you, but I think that a miracle is limited to what it says it did, for example, Man was a miracle, Be'er was a miracle, but they explicitly stopped by Arvot Moab. From there Nature should take over - they ate, they trade - we should all see the abundant evidence for that. Now, I don't advocate the approach I don't judge it either, I only ask whether it has roots in our tradition or not. – Al Berko Nov 27 '19 at 17:24
  • There is no way the sojourn in the Midbar was an event that took place through natural means. Moshe makes explicit reference to that in Devorim before his death – Schmerel Nov 27 '19 at 17:40
  • Yes, but it ended very abruptly one day according to the Torah and from that point on they were on their own. – Al Berko Nov 27 '19 at 22:54

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