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

Don Stewart :: Did God Wrongly Think Israel Would Come Back to Him?

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Did God Wrongly Think Israel Would Come Back to Him? (Jeremiah 3:7)

Does God Know Everything? – Question 17

Open theists hold that God is ignorant of how people will act in the future. They use a number of proof texts to establish this. One of them is found in the Book of Jeremiah. It reads as follows.

“I thought that after she had done all this that she would come back to me. But she didn’t come back, and her treacherous sister Judah saw her.” (Jeremiah 3:7 God’s Word)

Here we are told that God thought that Judah would come back to Him. But Judah did not. Does this mean that God thought something was going to occur which did not occur? Are we to assume that this tells us?

Option 1: God Believed Something Would Happen Which Did Not Happen

Some people think that God genuinely believed one thing would happen but it did not happen. Therefore, He was mistaken about what would occur in the future. Indeed, He was genuinely surprised and saddened by the results of Israel’s behavior. They also ask the following question, “How could God honestly say He thought the nation of Israel would turn to Him when He always knew they would not?” They conclude He must not have known. This means God has true beliefs as well as false beliefs.

Option 2: God Was Not Ignorant

We do not have to interpret this passage by assuming God was mistaken about what would occur. In fact, He predicted ahead of time Israel would turn away from Him. We read about this in the Book of Deuteronomy.

“Assemble all your tribal elders and officers before me, so that I may speak these words directly to them and call heaven and earth as witnesses against them. For I know that after my death you will become completely corrupt and turn from the path I have commanded you. Disaster will come to you in the future, because you will do what is evil in the LORD’s sight, infuriating Him with what your hands have made.” (Deuteronomy 31:28, 29 HCSB)

Thus, the Lord knew that Israel would not always be faithful to Him and would not always come back to Him when they went astray. Therefore, we should not assume ignorance on the part of the Lord in this instance. Indeed, no ignorance whatsoever.

Summary – Question 17
Did God Wrongly Think Israel Would Come Back to Him? (Jeremiah 3:7)

In the Book of Jeremiah, there is a statement from the Lord that says He thought that sinning Israel would come back to Him. But Israel did not come back as the Lord had thought. Therefore, it is concluded by some that the God of the Bible was mistaken in His belief about how the nation would behave. Is this what we should conclude from this passage? Was the Lord wrong in His assessment?

Open theists do indeed cite this passage as an example of God being wrong about past statements. Since He does not exhaustively know the future, we should expect to see Him make mistakes like this. In this verse, He supposedly admits His error. Therefore, we should not expect Him to be able to do something which He is not capable of doing.

This particular interpretation of this passage, however, does not fit the facts. Indeed, centuries earlier the prophet Moses told the people of Israel that the Lord expected them to turn from His path to a path of sin. Consequently, He had predicted such a thing would take place. It certainly was no surprise to Him.

Therefore, the fact that Israel would fall into sin was something God not only anticipated He predicted its occurrence. Thus, this passage in Jeremiah needs to be read in light of this and other statements the Lord made about His people.

Did God Ask a Question about the Future Because It Was Unknown to Him? ← Prior Section
Did the Lord Think Israel Would Never Turn Away? Next Section →
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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