Some argue that the Bible is contradictory concerning whether God changes his mind. The argument is that God seems to change his mind in Genesis 6:6-7, Exodus 32:14, and Jonah 3:10, yet other passages, such as Malachi 3:6, say that God does not change. However, there is a very reasonable explanation that eliminates the supposed contradiction.
Scriptures – Does God Change His Mind?
God Changes His Mind
6 And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. 7 So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.”Genesis 6:6-7
And the Lord relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.Exodus 32:14
When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.Jonah 3:10
God Does Not Change
For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.Malachi 3:6
The Answer – Does God Change His Mind?
Anthropomorphism and Anthropopathism: Using Human Language to Describe God
The Bible oftentimes uses human language to describe God. This is called Anthropomorphism and Anthropopathism.
Anthropomorphism refers to instances where the Bible uses human physical appearance to describe God, and anthropopathism refers to instances where the Bible uses human emotions to describe God.
In both cases, God does not ”’actually”’ possess these human physical attributes or emotions, but the Bible uses this kind of language to ”’help”’ us understand God. Because God is invisible, a spirit, and [[Impassibility – The Attributes of God|impassible]], it can sometimes be difficult to relate to God as humans who are not those things, so it can be helpful to speak about God ”’in terms of”’ characteristics that humans do possess.
This is what we see in Genesis 6:6-7, Exodus 32:14, and Jonah 3:10. Because we know that God is sovereign and eternal, we know that he created the universe with the end already in mind, so no event in history can surprise or change God.
So, when these passages suggest that God changed his mind, God did not ultimately, or metaphysically, change his mind. Rather, these passages are using human language to describe the actions of God in a manner that might be more relatable to us.
In each of these situations, we can confidently say that God already knew, and had planned, what he ultimately did, and that the human language used to describe God was used simply to help explain the reason, in human terms, for why God did what he did.
- In Genesis 6:6-7, God’s decision was to punish man’s sin with the flood. The ultimate reason for the flood was because sin deserves punishment, but the “human” reason given was that God “regretted” and was “grieved.”
- In Exodus 32:14, God’s decision was to not punish the Israelites. The ultimate reason was simply because God has the right to have patience with sin, but the “human” reason given was that God conversed with Moses. It is arguable that God chose to have this conversation with Moses to draw out the argument Moses makes for God to not punish the Israelites, namely, as a witness to the Egyptians. If God had not had this conversation with Moses, we would not have heard Moses say this.
- In Jonah 3:10, God’s decision was to not punish the people of Nineveh because of their repentance. There is simply no contradiction here, because God’s warning to the people of Nineveh implied that if they changed, or repented, they would be spared. So, because the people of Nineveh repented, they were spared.
Foundational Principles Regarding Bible Difficulties
There are some foundational principles that apply to all alleged and apparent contradictions in the Bible. To read more, see Bible Difficulties: Foundational Principles.
More Answers to “Contradictions” in the Bible
To read more answers to alleged and apparent contradictions in the Bible, see “Contradictions” in the Bible Answered.
These books are also excellent resources: