Does God Repent?

The Repentance of God

“And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.  And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.” (Ge 6:5-6)  KJV

    God repents?  Say what?!?!  I thought that God did not change His mind – ever!  Now we read that God repents?????  

    How will we respond to this?  We can say, I guess the Bible must be full of inconsistencies.  We can also say, I’m sure there’s an answer, but I don’t know what it is.

    Better yet, we can seek an answer.  Yeah, that would honor the Scriptures, and the God who gave them to us.  Let’s see what that answer is.

    First of all let us note that there other places where God is said to have repented.

“Then came the word of the LORD unto Samuel, saying,  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 Sam 15:10-11)  KJV

“When the angel stretched out his hand upon Jerusalem to destroy it, the LORD repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed the people, It is enough: stay now thine hand.”  (2 Sam 24:16)  KJV

“If ye will still abide in this land, then will I build you, and not pull you down, and I will plant you, and not pluck you up: for I repent me of the evil that I have done unto you.”   (Jer 42:10)  KJV

    Next let us indeed affirm that God is immutable and that His counsel shall stand.

“God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken and shall he not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19)  KJV

“But he is in one mind, and who can turn him? and what his soul desireth, even that he doeth.” (Job 23:13)  KJV

“Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me,  Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:  Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.”   (Is 46:9-11)  KJV

“I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.”  (Mal 3:6)  KJV

    Then we must also see that God’s treatment of men is conditioned upon their response to Him.

“The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying,  Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause thee to hear my words.  Then I went down to the potter’s house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels.    And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.   Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying,  O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel.   At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it;  If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them.   And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it;  If it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them.”  (Jer 18:1-10)  KJV

‘Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning:  And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.  Who knoweth if he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him; even a meat offering and a drink offering unto the LORD your God?”  (Joe 2:12-14)  KJV

    Having seen these things let us then come to this conclusion:

  1. This passage is speaking of God in an anthropopathic way.  That is, God is spoken of as having human attributes.  It is a representation of God in such a way that men might understand a little of the workings of God.
  2. God knows the end from the beginning.  God knows what He will do, and He knows what we will do.  God’s repentance is part of His foreknowledge and foreordained plan.
  3. God’s repentance is not a change of heart such as you and I experience.  God remains holy, pure, righteous, gracious, merciful, loving, et al.  When man turns from God and sins, God’s righteousness demands that He respond to the sin of man.  Why?  Because God’s glory has been despised in man’s sin.  Thus, God did not change, but man did.

When the wicked man repents of his sin and turns to God for grace, neither does God’s heart change then.  God’s righteousness and grace demands that God receive and forgive the one to whom He promised forgiveness if he repented.  Again, God did not change His mind and heart. Man’s heart and mind were changed.

Thus we see that God is immutable, His promise infallible, His Word unchangeable, and His ways unsearchable. At the same time we see that God’s repentance is a vital part of His character in which His outlook toward man is changed based upon man’s response to God and His Word. God’s repentance does not mean that He makes mistakes. His repentance is perfect repentance. It is the reflection of His unchanging, holy character.