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

Don Stewart :: Did the Lord Have to Come down from Heaven to Discover What Was Happening at Sodom and Gomorrah?

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Did the Lord Have to Come down from Heaven to Discover What Was Happening at Sodom and Gomorrah? (Genesis 18:20-21)

Does God Know Everything? – Question 8

The Bible says that the people of Sodom and Gomorrah had sinned terribly against the Lord. The Scripture says the following occurred.

Then the LORD said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.” (Genesis 18:20-21 NIV)

Again we find Scripture saying that God must go down and look at something to see if it is so. Does this not indicate God’s lack of knowledge? There are a number of ways in which we can respond to this passage.

Option 1: God Had to Go down to See for Himself

A literal understanding of these verses has God coming down to see what was occurring. Until He arrived, He did not know if their behavior was as bad as had been reported to Him. If this is what the passage is meant to teach, then the God of the Bible has limited knowledge of events happening on the earth.

Option 2: God Did Not Have to Leave Heaven to Know What Was Occurring

There are a number of ways of understanding this passage without assuming that God had to actually leave heaven and come down to earth to discover what was going on.

For one thing, the Bible speaks of God being omni-present or everywhere present. This being the case He does not have to go anywhere to discover what is occurring because His presence is already everywhere. Indeed, the Bible is clear that there is no place which a person can hide from the Lord.

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. (Psalm 139:7-8 NIV)

Consequently, the writer was not intending to teach that God had to actually come down from heaven to discover what was happening on the earth.

If this is the case then how are we to understand the language? One perspective sees the language as figurative. In this context, God pictures Himself like a human. Human beings would have to go and check out something and see if it were as bad as they had heard. God pictures Himself that way to emphasize the severity of the sin against Him. We are not to assume that He had to literally leave heaven, then and come down to the earth to find out if the story about the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was true.

The point is that God did not have to personally visit Sodom and Gomorrah to discover what was going on in these wicked cities. Therefore, we should not assume that this passage is attempting to teach us that the God of Scripture is somehow limited.

Summary – Question 8
Did the Lord Have to Come down from Heaven to Discover What Was Happening at Sodom and Gomorrah? (Genesis 18:20-21)

The Lord is said to have to have had to come down from heaven to the evil cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to discover if they were as sinful as it had been reported to Him. This gives the impression that He did not know the extent of their sin until He personally saw it for Himself. Is this what this passage is meant to teach?

Some feel that this passage shows that God’s knowledge was somehow limited. He did not know what was occurring until He saw for Himself. If so, it would teach that God does not know everything that is presently going on.

Yet this is certainly not what this passage is teaching. Indeed, Scripture says that God is present everywhere in the universe. This does not mean that He is limited to knowing only what He can observe.

Therefore, the language has to be seen as figurative. God is spoken of as coming down to Sodom to see if the sin was really as bad as reported. This is to emphasize the depths of sin to which the people had slipped.

In addition, the idea that God would personally visit the city underscores the necessity of judgment. Therefore, we are dealing with figurative language in this instance.

Was God Unaware of What the People Were Doing at Babel? ← Prior Section
Did God Consult with Abraham about the Future of Sodom and Gomorrah? Next Section →
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