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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: The Personal Attributes of God

Don Stewart :: What about Certain Passages That Attribute Human Passions to God?

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What about Certain Passages That Attribute Human Passions to God? (Anthropopathisms)

The Personal Attributes of God – Question 26

Human emotions are not part of God’s character. However, the Bible does refer to God’s emotions in human terms. When this occurs the technical term is “anthropopathism” (human passions). From Scripture we find the following examples of human emotions attributed to God.

1. God Experiences Laughter

The Bible speaks of God laughing. The psalmist wrote,

The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord ridicules them. (Psalm 2:4 HCSB).

This type of laughter is one of derision. He derides the nations for attempting to rebel against Him. Indeed, any rebellion against the Lord is futile.

2. God Shows Weariness

The Bible says that God gets weary. The Lord said,

“Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts my soul hates. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them.” (Isaiah 1:14 NIV)

The practices of Israel had caused the Lord to grow weary. Of course, God does not get weary or tired in the human sense of the term.

The Holman Christian Standard Version reads,

“I hate your New Moons and prescribed festivals. They have become a burden to Me; I am tired of putting up with them.” (Isaiah 1:14 HCSB)

This is more the idea. God’s patience was wearing thin with this people who said one thing but did something else. Again, these are human terms used to explain God’s dealings.

3. God Becomes Jealous

Scripture speaks of God’s jealously. We read in Ezekiel about the Lord’s jealously. He said,

“I will turn my jealous anger against you, and they will deal furiously with you. They will cut off your nose and ears, and any survivors will then be slaughtered by the sword. Your children will be taken away as captives, and everything that is left will be burned.” (Ezekiel 23:25 NLT)

Jealously was attributed to the Lord. However, God’s jealousy is not like human jealously. It is more of a passionate concern.

4. God Shows Hatred

The Bible says that God shows hatred. Moses wrote,

“And never set up sacred pillars for worship, for the LORD your God hates them.” (Deuteronomy 16:22 NLT)

This is a holy hatred. Indeed, God hates sin of any kind.

5. God Experiences Joy

The emotion of joy is attributed to God. Isaiah wrote the following.

As a young man marries a maiden, so will your sons marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you. (Isaiah 62:5 NIV)

The Lord rejoices over His people.

6. God Shows Grief

The Bible says that God was grieved over the behavior of wayward Israel in the desert. The psalmist observed,

How often they rebelled against him in the desert and grieved him in the wasteland! (Psalm 78:40 NIV)

He grieved over their unbelief and rebellion.

Paul wrote about the possibility of believers grieving the Holy Spirit.

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. (Ephesians 4:30 NRSV)

Believers can behave in such a way as to grieve the Lord.

7. God Gives and Receives Love

In one of the most famous verses in the Bible, we are told that God can give love to others.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 ESV)

The love of God is something which is clearly taught in Scripture.

His love is everlasting to those who trust Him. The psalmist wrote,

But the love of the LORD remains forever with those who fear him. His salvation extends to the children’s children... (Psalm 103:17 NLT)

He is able to give and receive love.

8. God Has Compassion for His People

The Bible says that the Lord has compassion for His people. The psalmist wrote,

The LORD is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him. (Psalm 103:13 NLT)

The Lord is a compassionate God.

9. God Wipes Away Tears

God is spoken of as wiping away tears from the eyes of people. Isaiah wrote,

He will destroy death forever. The Lord GOD will wipe away the tears from every face and remove His people’s disgrace from the whole earth, for the LORD has spoken. (Isaiah 25:8 HCSB)

The tears of God’s people will be wiped away from their faces.

10. God Remembers

The Bible speaks of God remembering. After the flood, the Bible said that God “remembered” Noah.

God remembered Noah, as well as all the wildlife and all the livestock that were with him in the ark. God caused a wind to pass over the earth, and the water began to subside. (Genesis 8:1 HCSB)

God is said to have remembered Noah in a special way.

11. God Knows

The Bible also speaks of God knowing things. We read the following in Genesis.

“I am going down to see whether or not these reports are true. Then I will know.” (Genesis 18:21 NLT)

God knows what is true, and what is not true.

These Are for the Benefit of Humanity

These human emotions that are attributed to God are done so for the benefit of humanity. We can better understand the nature of God when He is described with human-like passions.

However, they are only given as an analogy so that we can better understand how God acts and thinks. He does not experience these emotions in the same way in which we do. He uses these terms to teach us what He is like.

However, it does demonstrate that humans have certain characteristics that are like God although they are not exactly the same.

Summary – Question 26
What about Certain Passages That Attribute Human Passions to God? (Anthropopathisms)

The Bible attributes human passions, or feelings to God. These are known as anthropopathisms. In the Bible we read of such things as God’s laughter, weariness, and jealously. We are also told that He has compassion, He remembers, He loves, He knows and He shows grief. Other human passions are also attributed to Him.

Yet these passions which are used to describe God do not directly correspond to the same passions which we experience. We love, but not in the same way as the Lord loves. We remember, but not in the same way in which God remembers.

Consequently, these descriptions of God are given to better explain the character of God in terms that we can understand. While these passions are compared to human passions they are not the same. God is perfect in His character while we are not. Therefore, we must be careful not to assume that God acts and feels exactly the same way in which we do. He does not.

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