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

Don Stewart :: Does God Forget Sin?

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Does God Forget Sin? (Jeremiah 31:34, Isaiah 43:25)

Does God Know Everything? – Question 15

If God is all-knowing, as the Bible so clearly teaches that He is then He cannot learn anything new neither can He forget anything which He has learned. His knowledge does not increase or decrease.

However, there are a couple of passages in Scripture which seem to teach that God actually forgets certain things. They are as follows.

Jeremiah 31:34

There is a passage in the writings of Jeremiah that seems to teach that God has a memory lapse concerning sin. We read the following verse about what the Lord will do in the future.

“No longer will one teach his neighbor or his brother, saying: ‘Know the LORD,’ for they will all know Me, from the least to the greatest of them”—the Lord’s declaration. “For I will forgive their wrongdoing and never again remember their sin.” (Jeremiah 31:34 HCSB)

The Lord says that He will never remember their sin again. This seems to mean that God will forget they had ever sinned.

Isaiah 43:25

The same thing is said in the writings of Isaiah. The prophet records the Lord saying the following.

“I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.” (Isaiah 43:25 ESV)

Here we have God saying that He will not remember the sins of the people. Does this mean that it is possible for God to forget certain things? Two options are usually presented to answer this particular question.

Option 1: God Does Forget

Some people actually assume that this passage teaches that God can forget certain things He has learned. This means His knowledge is not exhaustive. He can learn new things as well as forgetting certain things which He had learned. In other words, the knowledge of God is not always exhaustive.

Option 2: These Statements Are Not to Be Understood Literally

While there are a few people who understand this passage as God actually forgetting the sins of the people, this is not what the passage means. Indeed, the idea of forget in this context means “not to hold it against them.” God will not remember their sins in the sense that He will not hold them against the people.

The translation God’s Word puts it this way.

“No longer will each person teach his neighbors or his relatives by saying, ‘Know the LORD.’ All of them, from the least important to the most important, will know me,” declares the LORD, “because I will forgive their wickedness and I will no longer hold their sins against them.” (Jeremiah 31:34 God’s Word)

This translation is more in keeping with the intent of the passage. The idea that God will not “remember” the sin of the people means that He will not hold it against them in the Day of Judgment. It certainly does not mean that somehow they will escape His memory.

Elsewhere He says,

...as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:12 NIV)

Our sins have been forgiven and forgotten. When we say “forgotten” we mean that He will not hold them against us any longer.

Consequently, the term “remember” is used in the sense of bringing something up again. It does not mean that God will forget what had occurred. He never forgets.

Summary – Question 15
Does God Forget Sin? (Jeremiah 31:34, Isaiah 43:25)

The Bible says in a number of places that the God of Scripture “forgot” the sin of the people. This has caused some to assume that His knowledge is not exhaustive. Indeed, if He can “forget” certain things then clearly He does not have all knowledge.

However, this is not what these passages are teaching. God does not forget anything in the sense that He cannot remember. The idea behind the word “forget” in these passages is that God will not hold their sin against them. He forgets it in the sense that He will not hold them responsible for what they have done. He will forgive them for their evil deeds. This is the meaning of this word in this particular context.

Therefore, the idea of God “forgetting” is not to be understood in the same way as we forget. Consequently, it has nothing to say about the amount of knowledge which God possesses.

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