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

Don Stewart :: Was God Unaware That the People Would Build High Places?

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Was God Unaware That the People Would Build High Places? Why Did He Say “It Would Never Enter My Mind?” (Jeremiah 7:31, 19:5, 32:35)

Does God Know Everything? – Question 19

There are several passages in the Book of Jeremiah where it says that the people were going to build the pagan high places for worship. The following passage seems to indicate God’s ignorance that this would happen. We read the following words in the Book of Jeremiah.

And they go on building the high place of Topheth, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire—which I did not command, nor did it come into my mind. (Jeremiah 7:31 NRSV)

According to this verse, God did not command the building of these high places neither did the thought that they would do it come into His mind.

A similar thing is said later in the writings of Jeremiah. It says,

They have built worship sites to burn their children as sacrifices to Baal. I didn’t ask them or command them to do this. It never entered my mind. (Jeremiah 19:5 God’s Word)

Here the Lord said that such an act never entered into His mind.

We read a third passage about this subject of the high places. It says,

“‘And they built the high places of Baal which are in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire to Molech, which I did not command them, nor did it come into My mind that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.’” (Jeremiah 32:35 NKJV)

Again, we are told that such an abominable act by the people never entered into the mind of the Lord. Does this mean He never thought such a thing would occur?

These passages have been used to argue that God did not think that Judah would continue to build the places of child sacrifice and He was wrong in His assumption. Is this what these passages are attempting to teach us?

Option 1: This Indicates God’s Limited Knowledge

There are those who believe that these passages actually express God’s ignorance of certain things. When the Lord said, “It did not come into His mind” He is telling us that He did not anticipate this occurring. This supposedly indicates that God’s knowledge is limited as to how people were going to behave in the future. Thus, the future is unknown to Him. He can be just as surprised as the rest of us with events which have not yet taken place.

Option 2: The Passage Does Not Mean God Has Limited Knowledge

While open theists use these passages as reflecting God’s inability to know exactly how people will act in the future, this is not the best way to understand these passages. Indeed, the phrase “did not enter the mind of God” does not mean that God never thought about this possibility. In fact, Scripture tells us that this very same practice had previously happened a century earlier in the reigns of two kings; Ahaz and Hoshea. Of Ahaz, it says,

He walked in the ways of the kings of Israel and even sacrificed his son in the fire, following the detestable ways of the nations the LORD had driven out before the Israelites. (2 Kings 16:3 NIV)

The king of Judah practiced the same horrible things as did the pagan kings of Israel. This included child sacrifice.

The same practices occurred during the reign of another king of Judah, Hoshea. We read about this in Kings. It says,

They made their sons and daughters pass through the fire and practiced divination and interpreted omens. They devoted themselves to do what was evil in the LORD’s sight and provoked Him. (2 Kings 17:17 HCSB)

Hence, we have two specific past examples by kings of Judah of this type of detestable behavior. In other words, the events which Jeremiah recorded were not things which had never happened to this people before.

Thus, it is obvious that this passage cannot mean that God never thought about this sinful practice occurring. He certainly knew about the previous kings who had done the exact same thing. Of a truth, nobody who is a Bible-believer would want to accuse God of having forgotten events which took place some one hundred years previously.

The statements in Jeremiah mean that this was not His original intention. In other words, He did not intend for His kings to practice child sacrifice. This terrible practice violated the holy standards that God had established.

The Hebrew Does Not Have to Be Translated That Way

In addition, the Hebrew can be better translated, “It did not enter my heart.” Therefore, the subject is God’s intention, not His understanding of the situation.

Therefore, we can safely say that no passage in Scripture contradicts the doctrine that God is all-knowing. This is true for a number of other passages and statements in Scripture that seem, at first glance, to teach similar things. A closer examination will reveal that they are not teaching God’s knowledge is somehow incomplete or limited. It is certainly not.

Summary – Question 19
Was God Unaware That The People Would Build High Places? Why Did He Say “It Would Never Enter My Mind?” (Jeremiah 7:31, 19:5, 32:35)

There are three passages in the Book of Jeremiah which seems to say that the God of the Bible was unaware as to whether or not the people of Judah would build the high places. When they did build them and offer children for sacrifice this act shocked Him.

This response, it is claimed, indicates that God does not know the future. If He had known that which was going to occur then His response would have been different. Open theists use this as part of their case that God’s knowledge is not exhaustive when it comes to future events.

This, however, is not how we should understand these references. In fact, it could not mean this. Earlier in the history of the southern kingdom of Judah, in the same Book of Second Kings, we find that the same problem arose with other kings of Judah.

Scripture says that two of the kings of Judah, Ahaz and Hoshea, did the exact same thing. Since other kings of Judah had already built high places against the commandment of the Lord, He certainly knew that this type of practice had previously occurred. Therefore, He was not ignorant of what had occurred or that it could happen again. If one wants to argue this, then it would be His knowledge of the past which was limited or incomplete.

There is also something else which must be considered. The phrase “it did not enter the mind of God,” may be translated “did not enter into His heart.” If this is what these verses are trying to communicate, then it is speaking of God’s desire, not His knowledge.

Whatever the case may be, this is not an instance of Scripture portraying God as having some sort of limited knowledge.

Did the Lord Think Israel Would Never Turn Away? ← Prior Section
What Should We Conclude about Certain Passages That Seem to Teach God's Limited Knowledge? Next Section →
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