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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: Does God Know Everything?

Don Stewart :: Was God Unaware of What Had Happened to Adam and Eve?

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Was God Unaware of What Had Happened to Adam and Eve? (Genesis 3:9-11)

Does God Know Everything? – Question 6

Does the Bible teach that there are some things beyond the knowledge of God? Or does God choose not to know certain things that He otherwise would be able to know? According to open theism, God’s knowledge is limited to those things that can be known. Since the future is unknown, God cannot know exactly what will happen. Like the rest of us, God will have to wait and see what happens in the future. This means that God can learn new things.

Appeal Is Made to Scripture

Part of their appeal to this limited knowledge of God comes from certain passages of Scripture. Indeed, some people believe that a close examination of the Bible will show that God’s knowledge is limited in certain areas. One of these passages which allegedly reveals this limited knowledge of God is found in the Book of Genesis. It records the original sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

The Episode of Adam and Eve

Scripture says that Adam and Eve tried to hide themselves from God when they realized their sinful condition. The Bible records God arriving in the Garden and calling out to the man. Scripture puts it this way.

But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” (Genesis 3:9-11 NIV)

The Book of Genesis records God asking Adam a number of questions. First, He asked Adam where He was. After Adam responded God then asked Him two other questions. He wanted to know how he knew he was naked and if Adam had eaten from the tree which the Lord commanded Him not to eat from. Therefore, we find that the Lord God asked Adam three specific questions in the Garden of Eden after Adam had sinned.

How are we to understand these questions which the Lord asked Adam? A number of solutions have been offered. They include the following.

Option 1: God Had to Ask Because He Did Not Know

It is alleged that God did not know where Adam was, so that He had to ask. This, it is argued, shows limited knowledge on His part. In addition, God asked Adam if he had eaten from the forbidden tree. This also shows that God did not know that Adam and Eve had chosen to rebel against Him. God also wanted to know who told Adam and Eve that they were naked. He was surprised to learn that Adam had disobeyed. Otherwise, why should He ask the question?

Option 2: God Asked Adam to Get Him to Confess

The idea that God did not know what had occurred with Adam does not fit the facts. God was not asking Adam where he was because He needed the information. Instead God wanted Adam to confess that he was hiding from the Him. He also wanted Adam to admit his sin of eating from the forbidden tree. The context is one of judgment. The Lord asked the questions to Adam so that he would admit his guilt before God.

Furthermore, this example would not prove that God does not know the future. Indeed, it would only prove that He does not know everything in the present, or in the past. These are not future events which God is asking about. He asked Adam what had happened, not what was going to happen.

Therefore, from a look at this passage in its context, it is not necessary to conclude that God was somehow unaware or taken by surprise by the sin of Adam and Eve.

Summary – Question 6
Was God Unaware of What Had Happened to Adam and Eve? (Genesis 3:9-11)

The Bible says that when Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, they tried to hide from God. When God came to the Garden of Eden He called out to Adam to find him. After Adam responded God asked Him two further questions about his past behavior. He wanted to know who told Adam that he was naked as well as if he had eaten from the forbidden true. These three questions which God asked have been interpreted in a number of ways.

Some people believe that God did not know where Adam was or what had happened to him. Therefore God asked him these questions. Furthermore, the Lord God was genuinely surprised by Adam’s behavior. This indicates that God does not have all knowledge of all things as well as the fact that He can be surprised.

The usual way this is understood is not that God needed to know where Adam was or what he had done. God certainly knew this. God’s questions were to get Adam to own up to his sin. The context is getting Adam to admit that he had done wrong and that he needed to admit his wrongdoing.

Furthermore, this passage would certainly not illustrate God’s lack of knowledge of future events. The questions God asked Adam concerned where he was at the present time and what he had done in the past.

Therefore, this passage should not be used to argue that God does not know the future. However, it has been used to assert that God was surprised by past actions. Yet a proper understanding of the context will show that this is not the case. Nothing takes God by surprise.

Is Open Theism the Best Way to Understand the Question of God's Knowledge? ← Prior Section
Was God Unaware of What the People Were Doing at Babel? Next Section →
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