Does God change his mind? There are several passages, especially in the Old Testament, in which God appears to change his mind. God says He’s going to destroy Nineveh and then does not. God regrets creating humanity and wipes out everyone except for one family. And finally, God relents from His anger at the Israelites and does not destroy them after they are caught worshiping the golden calf.
So, the question then becomes, did God change His mind in these cases? How can an unchangeable God change His mind? And if God is all-knowing, shouldn’t He have seen what was coming and acted accordingly, not be caught off guard? He are a few things to consider as we look at this challenge:
God Is Unchanging
We know from several passages in the Bible that God is unchanging. Here are just a few of them:
19 “God tis not a man, that He should lie,
Nor a son of man, that He should repent.
Has He usaid, and will He not do?
Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good? Numbers 23:19 (NKJV)
6 “For I am the Lord, I do not change; Malachi 3:6 (NKJV)
17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. James 1:17 (NKJV)
So it seems very clear in both the Old and the New Testaments that God is unchanging. So how do we make sense of the other verses?
Conditional vs. Unconditional Promises
Many of the verses cited at the beginning of the article were conditional promises. That means that God would only carry out the actions if certain conditions were or were not met. In the case of Nineveh, the promise was to destroy the city, unless they repented. Since they did repent, God was not obliged to destroy the city.
So, this is not a case of God changing His mind. Rather, God issued a warning, and the people repented. We see many examples of this through scripture.
God Knows The Future
God knows what will happen. He can see time in both directions, past, and future. We humans can only see what has happened in the past. This makes it difficult for us to understand how God sees time. But God is not surprised by anything.
In cases such as Genesis 6:6 where God expresses regret for creating humanity, we need to keep this clearly in mind. God’s regret is that humans have become as depraved as they have, thus separating themselves from Him. Humanity is still allowed to go on through the line of Noah and his family. God doesn’t change His mind about creating humanity.
In fact, God knew the situation humans would wind up in. And in fact, created a rescue plan for them in the person of Jesus. Far from altering His plan, God continued to work His divine purpose knowing the failings of the people he used.
So, does God change His mind? No, He does not. God many offer a conditional promise, in which the outcome depends on the actions of the people involved. Or He may show regret for people’s actions. But He does not change His mind.
t 1 Sam. 15:29; Mal. 3:6; James 1:17
u Num. 11:23; 1 Kin. 8:56