Does God Repent?

The classic King James Version of the Bible says, “It repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart” (Genesis 6:6). Elsewhere, God says, “It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king: for he is turned back from following me, and hath not performed my commandments” (1 Samuel 15:11 KJV). If God is perfect, how could He repent? Hank Hanegraaff, the host of the 𝘉𝘪𝘣𝘭𝘦 𝘈𝘯𝘴𝘸𝘦𝘳 𝘔𝘢𝘯 broadcast and the 𝘏𝘢𝘯𝘬 𝘜𝘯𝘱𝘭𝘶𝘨𝘨𝘦𝘥 podcast, says the Bible unequivocally teaches that God is perfectly good and thus incapable of doing evil (Psalm 5:4–5; James 1:13; 3 John v. 11). As such, God’s repentance must not be understood as entailing moral guilt. Indeed, the moral perfection of the Creator sets Him apart from His sin-tainted creation (Leviticus 11:44–45; 19:2; 20:7; 1 Peter 1:15–16). Although God does not change, the meaning of the word repent has changed over time. Thus, in place of the word repent, most modern English translations substitute the word regret or grieve. Indeed, as a human father grieves over rebellion on the part of his children, so our heavenly Father grieves over rebellion on the part of His creation. God’s repentance must be understood as an anthropomorphism (talking about God in terms we would use to talk about a human being) that communicates the full measure of God’s grief over the horror of sin rather than a change of heart or a change of mind. With respect to the faithlessness of Saul, God said, “It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king” (1 Samuel 15:11 KJV). Yet the very same chapter says that “the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for he is not a man, that he should repent” (v. 29 KJV). Apart from an anthropomorphic understanding, such passages would be self-refuting.






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