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

Don Stewart :: Was God Unaware That Israel Would Not Produce Good Grapes?

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Was God Unaware That Israel Would Not Produce Good Grapes? (Isaiah 5:4)

Does God Know Everything? – Question 12

In the Book of Isaiah, the Scripture talks about the God of the Bible seemingly being surprised by the lack of good grapes that were produced by the nation of Israel. The Bible has God asking the following question.

“What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done for it? When I looked for good grapes, why did it yield only bad?” (Isaiah 5:4 NIV)

This passage seems to teach that God was truly surprised that Israel did not produce good grapes. In other words, He was expecting something that did not happen. Does this not indicate that His knowledge is limited? How are we to understand His question? There are a few options that have been put forward.

Option 1: God Was Surprised

There is the position which some people hold which says that God was actually surprised that He did not find any grapes. This supposedly shows that God’s knowledge is not exhaustive when it comes to future events. He was expecting something but He did not find. It is one of many passages which teach that God does not know what is going to occur in the future. Instead, He constantly continues to learn new things. This shows His limited knowledge in certain areas.

Option 2: The Language Is Not Meant to Be Understood Literally

It is not necessary to understand this passage as teaching us that God’s knowledge is somehow limited. This verse is actually the comment of God upon the lack of fruit that was borne. He is reminding the people that He expected grapes to be brought forth in His vineyard. He is not asking the question because He doesn’t know the answer. God wants the people to consider the reason why the vineyard did not yield grapes. He wanted them to contemplate why they did not produce what they should have produced. It has nothing to say, one way or the other, about God’s knowledge or lack of it. Therefore, it should not be used as a proof text that God’s knowledge is somehow limited.

Option 3: These Are Not Meant to Be the Words of God

There is another way of looking at this text. It is uncertain as to who is actually speaking here. This passage seemingly begins with Isaiah the prophet speaking for God. In this verse, he actually speaks as God. Yet, it is still the prophet speaking. In other words, in this song of the vineyard we have the words of Isaiah the prophet speaking prophetically for God but not actually recording the words of God. If this is the case, then there is no problem with this passage.

Option two and option three both fit with the totality of Scripture. Option one contradicts what the Bible says in so many places. We again emphasize the fact that the God of Scripture knows everything which is possible for Him to know.

Summary – Question 12
Was God Unaware That Israel Would Not Produce Good Grapes? (Isaiah 5:4)

In the Book of Isaiah there is a song of the vineyard where the God of Scripture seems to be surprised at the outcome of certain events. The Lord looked into His vineyard and did not find good grapes but only bad grapes. Scripture portrays Him as surprised at the result. How are we to understand this?

This has been interpreted to mean that God does not always know what is going to occur in the future. In this case, He was expecting something which He did not find. Consequently, not only did He did not find what He expected to find, God also learned something new about the situation. This is taken to be one of many passages which teach God’s limited knowledge. According to this viewpoint He is able to discover or learn new things because the future is unknown to Him.

However, this is not the way in which this passage should be understood. Isaiah the prophet is recording God questioning the people for the lack of fruit they produced. They needed to answer for this. It was not God expressing surprise as though He did not know what they were going to do or that He expected to find fruit and He was shocked not to find it. This is not the case at all.

There is another way to interpret this song. These are the words of the prophet Isaiah; they are not the words of God. At the beginning of the song, Isaiah is speaking for God. However, in this verse, he actually speaks as God. Yet, it is still the prophet speaking. If this is the proper interpretation then we do not have the words of God at all in this passage. It is the words of His inspired prophet asking questions of the people. When Isaiah speaks as God, it is to ask the people the question about the lack of good grapes. Indeed, it is not to express some idea that His knowledge is limited in some way. Thus, this verse has not anything to do with the subject of God’s knowledge. Nothing whatsoever.

Again, when we understand the context of this passage there is nothing in it which teaches that God has limited knowledge of this subject or, for that matter, on any subject. The God of the Bible has all knowledge in areas where knowledge is possible.

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