God Regretted?

Gen 6 6-7 a

Q. In Gen 6:6-7 God deeply regretted creating humans on earth. If He is all-knowing, wouldn’t He have known what humans would become? Or is it that He knew, but He still gave them choice, and just felt regret that they chose to live in sin?

A. Yes God is omniscient, and knew what man would do e.g.
Acts 15:8 And God, who knows the heart, ….
• 1 Jn 3:20 …. for God is greater than our heart and knows all things.

Then why did God regret? First, let’s examine the text:

Gen 6:5-7 Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. The LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.” (NASB)

Gen 6:5-6 is the first mention of heart in the bible. Notice two things:

1. Man’s heart was evil continually, and God was grieved in His heart. God is not unfeeling. He saw the wickedness of man and it affected Him. He is not like Allah, who has no compassion. God’s heart grieved in response to man’s heart.

2. The LORD was sorry. The Bible clearly states that God does not repent (feel sorry, change mind), or change:
Num 23:19 “God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; ….
• Mal 3:6 For I, the LORD, do not change; ….

Then in what sense is the LORD sorry? I believe this is a problem caused by using our limited language to describe God in human terms. God’s purpose for man never changed. He always intended for man’s good, to have fellowship with Him. However, His plans provided for different outcomes depending on man’s response to His love and provision. Man’s intent was evil continually, therefore God sent calamity so that they will learn to repent. If they don’t, He will execute His judgment to discipline them. But if they do, He will relent and not destroy them. God’s action and attitude, but not His purpose, therefore changes in response to man’s reaction. This change we describe as God regretted, for lack of a better term.

This language was used to describe God’s choice of Saul. God’s intention was to establish Saul’s kingdom forever, but Saul did not keep God’s commandment. So God’s action changed and He chose David to replace Saul. He “regretted” He made Saul king:

1 Sam 13:13 Samuel said to Saul, “You have acted foolishly; you have not kept the commandment of the LORD your God, which He commanded you, for now the LORD would have established your kingdom over Israel forever.
• 1 Sam 15:11 “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following Me and has not carried out My commands.” ….
• 1 Sam 15:35 …. And the LORD regretted that He had made Saul king over Israel.

In short, your second observation is correct. Man has no one to blame but himself.

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Does God Change?

immutable 1

Q. After the golden calf God was angry with the Israelites and wanted to destroy them. Moses pleaded for them and God changed His mind and spared them. However, my theology class taught that God is immutable and never changes. Who is correct?

A. Both are. Skeptics see this as an example of contradiction in the Bible, which therefore can’t be trusted. But they are wrong. The contradiction is only apparent, as the words are used in a different sense in the two cases. Let me elaborate.

The English word “immutable” translates the Greek word “ametathetos” which lexicon definition is “not transposed, not to be transferred; fixed, unalterable”. The adjective “immutable” and the noun “immutability” do not appear in newer translations of the Bible such as NASB, ESV or NIV, only older versions such as KJV or NKJV, in only two verses:

Heb 6:17-18 Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us. (NKJV)

In context it means “immovable”, and therefore unalterable. The Oxford Dictionary defines “immutable” as “unchanging over time or unable to be changed”. When theology text books describe God as immutable, they base it on the following supporting scriptures:

Num 23:19 God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good? i.e. God always performs what He promised.
Job 23:13 But He is unique and who can turn Him? And what His soul desires, that He does. i.e. No one can persuade Him.
Ps 33:11 The counsel of the Lord stands forever, The plans of His heart from generation to generation. i.e. His plans are eternal.
Ps 102:27 But You are the same, And Your years will not come to an end. i.e. He does not change. He lasts forever.
Ecc 3:14 I know that everything God does will remain forever; there is nothing to add to it and there is nothing to take from it, for God has so worked that men should fear Him. i.e. His work is complete, perfect, and everlasting.
Mal 3:6 For I, the Lord, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed. i.e. God does not change.
1 Co 2:7 but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory i.e. God foreordained from eternity past.
Eph 3:11 This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord i.e. His purpose is eternal.
Heb 1:12 And like a mantle You will roll them up; Like a garment they will also be changed. But You are the same, And Your years will not come to an end.” i.e. God stays the same and does not change.
Heb 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. i.e. Jesus never changes.
Jas 1:17 Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. i.e. God does not change.

All of the above relate to His nature, His character, or His purpose, which never changes. Philosophically this must be so, as change occurs either for better or for worse. Since God is perfect, He cannot improve for the better. He can never learn anything to become better, as He is all-knowing. All His work is perfect; therefore He cannot do anything wrong to get worse. He is incapable of sin. He is forever true to His nature, which is perfection. So by definition God never changes. In this sense God is immutable.

So what does it mean when the Bible says “God changed His mind’?

(To be continued)