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

Don Stewart :: Did God Ask a Question about the Future Because It Was Unknown to Him?

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Did God Ask a Question about the Future Because It Was Unknown to Him? (Hosea 8:5)

Does God Know Everything? – Question 16

One of the favorite passages of open theists which they say indicates the future is unknown to God is found in the Book of Hosea. It records the Lord asking a question about the future. Hosea records Him saying,

I have spurned your calf, O Samaria. My anger burns against them. How long will they be incapable of innocence? (Hosea 8:5 ESV)

The Lord asks a question without giving an answer. How are we to understand this question which He asks? Are we to assume that He did not know the answer?

Many Understand the Statement Literally: God Did Not Know the Answer

A number of people take the question of the Lord at face value. God asks the question of His people, “How long will they be incapable of innocence” because He does not know the answer. Thus, the best way to understand His question is exactly as it stands.

If the future had already been settled in eternity past, then why would God ask such a question? Surely He would know the answer if He were aware of the future. Open theists conclude that this illustrates that God does not know the future exhaustively. He does not know the answer to His own question.

There Are Better Ways to Understand This Verse

Yet, taking this statement literally is not the only way to understand God’s statement about the future of His people or even the best way to understand it. What we have here is God’s lamenting over the people constant rejection of Him. The question is rhetorical; it does not expect an answer.

In fact, the New English Translation recognizes this and translates it as a statement instead of a question. It says,

O Samaria, he has rejected your calf idol. My anger burns against them! They will not survive much longer without being punished, even though they are Israelites! (Hosea 8:5 NET)

Thus, the natural way to understand this verse is to see it as God’s sadness and anger against the people for not listening to Him. Indeed, it has nothing to do with His knowledge of the future. Instead it is a lament over their rejection of Him.

Summary – Question 16
Did God Ask a Question about the Future Because It Was Unknown to Him? (Hosea 8:5)

Open theists believe that the God of Scripture does not know the future exhaustively. Indeed, they assert that some things are unknown to Him.

One of the examples they use to demonstrate this belief is found in the Book of Hosea. In this passage, the Bible records God asking a question about how long the people will survive without being punished. Open theism sees this as another example of God’s limited knowledge. The Lord asks a question but He does not know the answer to His own question.

However, it is not necessary to assume that this is what the passage is saying. Hosea is recording God lamenting over the behavior of His wayward people. The question He asks is not because He is unaware of the answer. Indeed, the question is rhetorical. He is not expecting an answer. He is merely stating the facts; the people of Israel had constantly rejected Him.

Consequently while this passage has often been used by open theists to show God’s lack of knowledge of the future in actuality it has nothing to do with what He knows or what He does not know. Therefore, it should not be appealed to in this discussion.

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