This Arabic root means “to breathe heavy” (BDB 636, KB 688, Niphal PERFECT). This is an anthropomorphic metaphor. The root of this word expresses deep feelings (see Robert B. Girdlestone, Synonyms of the Old Testament, pp. 87-88). The prophet Nahum carries this term in his name. God is often spoken of in the Bible as changing His mind or relenting (cf. v. 6; Gen. 18:22-32; Num. 14:11-20; Josh. 7:6-13; II Kgs. 22:19-20; Ps. 106:45; Jer. 18:1-16; 26:3,13,19; Jonah 3:10). God is affected by (1) our prayers and (2) His character of compassion and love (cf. Exod. 3:7; Jdgs. 2:18; Hosea 11:8-9; Joel 2:13-14; Amos 5:15). However, this should not be understood in the sense that God’s nature or purpose vacillates. It does not change (cf. Num. 23:19; 1 Sam. 15:29; Mal. 3:6; Heb. 13:8; James 1:17).
Num. 23:19; 1 Sam. 15:29; Mal. 3:6; Heb. 13:8; James 1:17 are all used to override God changing His mind.
A private question:
Have you blogged on John 6:65?
Joh 6:65 And He said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.”
No. I have not blogged about this. Here is what appears to be happening in the text:
Jesus offends his disciples by talking about cannibalism (v53-56). A bunch of disciples leave. Then Jesus doubles down and makes a reference to himself ascending to heaven (v62). This offends more of them. Jesus then tells them his words are life, and there are disciples that do not believe it (referencing those who left). He flushes them out by saying no one can come to/with him unless they accept that Jesus’ words are from God. the next verse says a bunch of disciples leave (v66). Then the 12 disciples start talking about eternal life. It seems “that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father” the “it” is Jesus’ words, the life giving words
and false disciples were following Jesus but not believing his words were from God. Jesus’ point is twofold, that those who are rejecting him are rejecting God, and that they just don’t understand Jesus’ teaching (which they would understand if they were more spiritually inclined).
THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD IN PSALM 139:13-16
Timothy P. McMahon
David’s words in Psalm 139:16 are often cited to support the notion that God has predestined the lives and actions of human beings. The New King James Version’s rendering is typical:
And in Your book they were all written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.
From this translation one might reasonably understand that God, like the Fates of Greek mythology, has determined the individual’s lifespan and the course of events within it. Yet, interestingly enough, the old King James Version, whose translators’ predestinarian bent is evident throughout their work, viewed this text from a much less fatalistic perspective:
And in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.
In their view, apparently, God was able to foreknow, and perhaps to foreordain, David’s physical characteristics from his embryonic state. One might take this as an anachronistic (not only for the psalmist, but for the translators) description of genetics.
While the KJV translation here offers a reasonable concept, in order to understand the text more fully, we must examine the original Hebrew. One caveat at the outset: The text of Psalm 139:13-16 is extremely difficult. (Note that the two renderings above achieve quite disparate results, both containing several italicized words supplied by the translators in their attempt to make sense of the original.) We will attempt a fresh analysis of the text in order to propose a new interpretation of the passage.
Let us first view the passage under consideration within the context of Psalm 139 as a whole. Dahood (1969:3:284) points out that the psalm is a declaration of innocence on the part of the author. HaShem knows that he is pure, that he is not guilty of unfaithfulness or idolatry. His accusers (v.19) have nothing to stand on. God Himself can vouch for him. God knows everything about him, all his deepest secrets, even what he cannot know about himself. Even if he wanted to escape the providence of HaShem, that would be impossible. Heaven is not high enough, the sea is not far enough, the winds are not remote enough, Sheol is not deep enough. The breadth and depth of God’s knowledge are “too wonderful for me, too high for me to attain” (v.6). He concludes the section leading up to our passage by exclaiming:
Even in the darkness He observes me
and night is daylight all around me.
Even the darkness is not too dark for You
and at night it shines like daytime for You.
As darkness, so is light.
The imagery in v.12 of darkness, night and concealment remind David of that place which in Hebrew thought most typifies the unknown: Sheol, the realm of the dead. The Old Testament offers only imprecise descriptions of the netherworld, where humans exist consciously in a shadowy state. In the Hebrew mind, the tentative, undefined existence in Sheol was comparable to another realm of human existence of which men had only the shadow of knowledge: the life of the fetus in his mother’s womb. The association between Sheol and the womb is intensified by the figure of the earth as mother. Just as the fetus lives within his mother’s body, so Sheol is a chamber within the earth. Job declares:
Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will return there.
Scripture elsewhere affirms God’s intimate knowledge of the netherworld (Job 26:6; Proverbs 15:11). Here, David declares that He possesses equally comprehensive knowledge of pre-natal life. As we approach vv.13-16, then, we must understand that the focus of David’s awestruck praise is not God’s ability to make things happen in the future, but His ability to examine the impenetrable, to see as well in darkness as in light, to know thoroughly and intimately those realms which to humans are mere shadows. Scripture often celebrates HaShem’s ability to bring about His will (e.g., Isaiah 49:10; Psalm 115:3), but here the subject is His wisdom, His understanding, His ability to perceive and know all things.
ki atah qanita kilyotay // tesukkeni bebeten imi
for You possessed my kidneys // You covered me in my mother’s womb
While the syntax of this verse is refreshingly straightforward, there is room for discussion on the meanings of several key words.
(a) qnh. Generally in its 182 occurrences = “possess, acquire, purchase.’’ In Ugaritic it seems to mean “create, bring forth,’ which sense scholars have attempted to assign in Hebrew as well. We see no compelling reason to accept this idea here, though.
(b) kilayot literally are the kidneys of a human or animal. The term is also used figuratively in a manner similar to the biblical use of ‘heart’ to signify a person’s innermost being or true self. This then might be a statement to the effect that God knew David intimately from his very beginning. Alternatively, TWOT suggests that kilayot is put here by synechdoche for the body as a whole, in which case it would be an indicator of HaShem’s protective care over the bearer of the messianic lineage.
(c) skk normally means ‘to cover,’ as in Exodus 33:32, “I will cover you with My hand,” indicating protection (Nahum 2:5), oversight (Exodus 25:20) or concealment (Lamentations 3:44). Dahood proposes translating the preposition b- ‘from,’, a usage common in Psalms. This changes the focus to an affirmation of God’s protection throughout his life: “You have covered me from my mother’s womb.”
odka ‘al ki nora atah nipla’ot
I will praise You, High One, for You are marvelously wonderful
nipla’im ma‘aseka // wenapsi yada‘ta me’od
marvels, Your acts // yes, You know my soul intimately.
The challenge of this verse is the inverse of the previous: Here, the vocabulary is relatively simple, but the syntax is difficult. Our translation above departs from the Massoretic Text in favor of the reading preserved in the Qumran manuscript 1QPsa as transcribed by Sanders (1967:72). In contrast, the best rendering we can come up with reading MT is as follows:
I will praise You because I am awesomely marvelous. Your acts are marvels, which my soul knows very well.
(a) This rendering divides the “marvels” between HaShem and David, his creation, rather than focusing on the Creator alone. The final clause then addresses the psalmist’s knowledge rather than the knowledge of God, which we believe to be the overall theme of the composition.
(b) ‘al is normally a preposition, ‘on, upon,’ which here would be logical in sense, ‘because.’ Dahood (1969:3:293) sees here, as often in Psalms, a divine title, ‘el, similar to the universally recognized ‘elyon, ‘ Most High.’ The preposition ‘al here would be superfluous, as the following ki already means ‘because.’
(c) The MT form nora’ot is a feminine plural adjective, ‘awesome,’ with no apparent noun to modify. 1QPsa reads nwr’ ’th (which we have vocalized nora’ ’atah), the masculine singular form along with the 2ms pronoun. This yields an exclamation from David to HaShem, “You are awesome!” serving as an explanation for the preceding verb of praise.
(d) The form nipla’ot (from 1QPsa; MT reads niple’ti) is a nif‘al feminine plural participle from pl’, ‘to be marvelous.’ We have interpreted it as a substantive participle used adverbially: “You are marvelously awesome.”
(e) With Dahood we have repointed MT yoda‘at (fs qal participle) to yada‘ta (2 ms qal perfect), “You have known.” A more wooden rendering of the last word in the verse would yield, “You know my soul so well.” The important factor is to see it as a description of God’s knowledge rather than the psalmist’s.
David is simply in awe of the extent of HaShem’s knowledge both of the creation in general and of himself in particular. (This dual focus, along with the highly emotional state of the psalmist, explains the somewhat abrupt transitions in the syntax.) Even if the entire world is against him, HaShem knows his innocence; HaShem will vindicate him, for He has known him intimately since his very conception.
lo’ nikhad ‘ozmi mimeka // aser ‘usseti baseter
my bones were not hidden from You // when I was made in the secret place
ruqqamti betahtiyot ’ares
[when] I was woven in the lowest parts of the earth
(a) The pointing of ‘ozmi ordinarily would indicate its derivation from ‘osem, ‘might,’ but, as this does not fit the sense, a derivation from ‘esem, ‘bone,’ is much more plausible and supported by the versions. While one would normally anticipate the plural ‘asamay, the singular is apparently used as a collective (cf. NKJV, ‘my frame’).
(b) The verb form ‘usseti is understood as a form of ‘sh, ‘to make,’ although among over 2,000 occurrences, this is the only attestation of the pu‘al conjugation in Scripture. The sense fits well, and we have seen no convincing alternative proposal. Perhaps the pu‘al is used in an intensive sense to depict the duration of the process.
(c) We have rendered seter as ‘secret place’ because of its parallel to “the lower parts of the earth,” an unmistakable designation of Sheol.
(d) The verb rqm and its noun riqmah occur collectively twenty times in the OT, always with the meaning ‘embroider, weave.’ The verb implies great skill on the part of the weaver and usually a variegation of colors in the woven object. This unique usage seems to be an allusion to the marvelous intricacy of the human body, recognized even in pre-scientific times.
Verse 15 makes explicit the equation of the womb with Sheol. Since Sheol is “the secret place,” a miscarried fetus is “hidden” there (Job 3:16). Perhaps the view of Sheol as Abraham’s bosom (Luke 16) is prefigured in this usage, for “the secret place” is also used to designate the intimate dwelling of HaShem (Psalm 18:11; 32:7; 91:1).
While David employs passive forms here (“I was made… I was woven”), there can be no doubt that he views HaShem as the One who brought him forth: “Your hands have made me and stood me upright” (Psalm 119:73). The comparison of Sheol, which is in the earth, recalls God’s original formation of Adam “from the dust of the earth” (Genesis 2:7). That God brought David forth from the lower parts of the earth also foreshadows the redemption of Christ, who descended into “the lower parts of the earth” (Ephesians 4:11) to bring forth the souls of the righteous, such as David, to eternal life by His resurrection (cf. the application of Psalm 16 to Christ in Acts 2).
David’s poetic usage of the expression ‘embroidered’ or ‘variegated’ leads us to pause briefly to reflect upon the ancient biblical writers’ appreciation of the process of conception and fetal development. Qohelet (11:5) reminds us of the limitations of our knowledge:
Just as you do not know the way of the wind, or how the bones develop in the pregnant woman’s womb, so you do not know the action of God who does it all.
Again, God’s understanding of fetal development is an indication of the superiority of His knowledge. The most explicit biblical description of the process is found in Job 10:8-11, which we cite with minimal comment:
Your hands fashioned and made me altogether
— yet now You destroy me!
Remember that You made me out of clay
and to the dust You will return me.
Did You not pour me out like milk,
and curdle me like cheese?
You clothed me with skin and flesh
and knitted me with bones and muscles.
golmi ra’u ‘eneka // we‘al sipreka kullam yikkatebu
Your eyes saw my fetus // and in Your book they all were written
yamim yussaru welo’ ehad bahem
they were formed [over a period of] days, and one of them is His
or, and not one is among them.
The difficult text of verse 16 has challenged interpreters throughout the centuries. The LXX renders almost word for word, yielding a translation not much better than the standard English versions:
akatergaston mou eidon oi ofqalmoi sou, kai epi tou bibliou sou panteı grafhsontai; hmeraı plasqhsontai kai ouqeiı en autoiı
Your eyes beheld my unformed [body] and in Your book all will be written; they will be formed [over a period of] days, and none [is] among them.
The main problem is determining the antecedent of the plural suffix of kullam, which in turn is the apparent subject of the verbs yikkatebu and yussaru. The only available candidate, golmi, ‘my fetus,’ is singular. The usual approach is to find the requisite plural noun in yamim, ‘days.’ From this is derived the notion that the psalmist’s days are written in God’s book; that is to say, his life, or at least its duration, is predetermined. However, we see no solid basis for the idea that the plural suffix is “anticipatory” to a following noun here. Further, the verb ysr means ‘to form, shape,’ generally a physical object; rarely used figuratively in the sense of ‘formulate’ a plan of action. The concept of ‘forming days’ has no OT precedent. Finally, in this interpretation, the word ehad, ‘one,’ must refer to one of the days, which yields no perceptible sense from either textual variant of the final clause. Modern interpreters generally resort to some sort of emendation (e.g., glmy — gmly, ‘my actions,’ with support from the Syriac) or reanalysis (Dahood reads gilay-m, ‘my life cycles’), but none of these attempts is to our satisfaction.
Unconvinced by ancient or modern interpretations, we here present our own proposal. We caution the reader that our solution is hypothetical, not resting on empirical evidence, yet we consider it eminently reasonable. We propose that glmy be revocalized as golmay, a plural form representing the diversity of elements in the embryonic human body. The form is then understood in English as a sort of collective noun. We would then translate golmay as ‘my fetus,’ but the plural form would enable us to take this noun properly as the antecedent of the plural suffix -m, and so also as the subject of the two plural verbs, “were written” and “were formed.”
We cite by way of analogy the Hebrew noun panim, ‘face,’ which “always occurs in the plural, perhaps indicative of the fact that the face is a combination of features” (TWOT:727), and accordingly can take plural verbs (Isaiah 29:22) and adjectives (Proverbs 25:23), even when it refers to the face of only one person. In this light, we translate as follows:
Your eyes watched my fetus [in all its features]
(In Your book it was fully described in writing)
As it was being formed over a period of time.
And one of those [features] is His.
The second clause is understood as somewhat parenthetical; the third clause is subordinate to the first. The final clause is a bit abrupt, but such transitions (including the shift from second to third person) occur earlier in the composition and are well documented in Psalms generally.
David marvels at the depths of God’s knowledge and His providence. Throughout David’s gestation, HaShem watched the unfolding of the marvelous process He had set in motion when He created Adam and Eve with the power of procreation. Yet surely He was not merely observing, but carefully watching over David, forerunner of the promised Messiah.
What does it mean that David’s features were written in God’s book? This is usually taken as a reference to the book of life, which is then understood (in the light of Revelation 21:27) to mean that God determined David’s eternal destiny at the moment of his conception. However, the book of life is not the only divine book mentioned in Scripture. Revelation 20:12 refers in the plural to “the books,” echoing Daniel 7:10. In addition to the book of life, God has other books in which He records people’s deeds and also the experiences of His people (Psalm 56:8). There is even a “book of HaShem” concerning the natural activities of the animals (Isaiah 34:16). We believe that David is referring to God’s careful record keeping concerning His beloved, even numbering the hairs on our heads. As cited above, Qohelet 11:5 infers that fetal development is in some sense “God’s action,” and our verse 16 stresses that it takes place over a period of time (taking yamim adverbially, as LXX and commonly in OT).
What then is the sense of the final clause? What “feature” of the fetus pertains especially to God? We believe this refers to the inner man, the soul or spirit. HaShem is “the God of the spirits of all flesh” (Numbers 16:22 & 27:16), not merely of the elect. (Certainly the spirit of every son of Israel would be His in a special way simply by virtue of the covenant.) Paul in Romans 5 establishes that by the justifying power of Christ all men are redeemed from the sin of Adam, and, in that sense, the spirit of the fetus would truly be His, at least until death ensues from the revival of sin (Romans 7:11). David himself trusted that his deceased child’s soul was in God’s loving hands (2 Samuel 12:23). “The spirit [nesamah] of man is HaShem’s lamp, searching the chambers of the belly” (Proverbs 20:27). Finally, it must be in the spirit that Christ illuminates every man who enters the world (John 1:8).
God, looking upon David as a mere shapeless mass, could view him as the person he would become. To HaShem, Creator of all, the individual’s genetic makeup is an open book. Certainly if we, mere human beings, can reasonably anticipate the results of our efforts, God, in His inestimable intelligence, can foresee David’s physical and mental characteristics and so deem him a suitable forerunner of the King. His ability in this regard is the same for every one of us as we are conceived in our mother’s womb. So we, too, can exclaim with the psalmist:
And for me, how precious are Your thoughts, O God,
How mighty their essence.
Bialik, Hayim N. and Yehoshua H. Ravnitsky, The Book of Legends (Sefer haAggadah), tr. William G. Braude. New York: Schocken, 1992 ed. (originally published in 1908-11).
Dahood, Mitchell J., Anchor Bible vol. 17A, Psalms 101-150. Garden City, NJ: Doubleday, 1970.
Klein, Ernest, A Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the Hebrew Language for Readers of English. New York: Macmillan, 1987.
Rosenberg, A.J., Psalms: A New English Translation, vol. 3. New York: Judaica Press, 1991.
Schwartz, Howard, Lilith’s Cave: Jewish Tales of the Supernatural, San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988.
Weiser, Chaim M., Frumspeak: The First Dictionary of Yeshivish. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, 1995.
 Here we might compare Paul in 1 Corinthians 4:1-5. An apt comparison may be made also to Christ, the One falsely accused throughout His life by the self-righteous of His day and finally condemned in the place of a criminal. In fact, a majority of this psalm may be read in a quite edifying manner as Messianic.
 Interpreting God as the subject of yesuppeni and taking swp here as equivalent to Arabic safa, ‘to watch, look.’ Cf. Job 9:17, “who observes me from the storm cloud.” See Dahood (1969:3:291).
 Darkness is associated with Sheol in Psalm 88:13; Job 15:22; 1 Samuel 2:9; Psalm 143:3.
 The image of Mother Earth does not appear as such in Scripture, probably to differentiate Israelite religion from the fertility cult so dominant in the beliefs of the surrounding peoples, and to emphasize that HaShem, who sometimes describes Himself with maternal imagery (Job 38:29; Isaiah 49:15-16), is the source of all creation, including the earth. It is implicit in the use of “mother” to designate the land of Israel (Hebrew eres means both ‘land’ and ‘earth’) in such texts as Isaiah 50:1; Ezekiel 19:2; Hosea 4:8, and also the land of Babylon in Jeremiah 50:12. It is also recognizable in such expressions as daughter (of) Zion, etc.
 Sheol is actually called a “womb” in Jonah 2:3, and the sea is said to have come forth from the womb in Job 38:8.
 Job’s statement is echoed almost verbatim in Qohelet 5:15, and, in less mythological terms, by Paul in 1 Timothy 6:7. Qohelet further equates the pre-natal and posthumous states in 6:4-5, indicating his belief in a conscious intermediate state, as opposed to the common but erroneous contrary interpretation of 9:5-10. The imagery of Job is brought out more fully in Ben Sira 40:1, “from the day they go forth from their mother’s womb, till the day they return to the mother of all living.”
 Primarily in Genesis 14:19-22, where HaShem is called qoneh samayim wa-eres, which might then be rendered ‘Creator of heaven and earth,’ although ‘Possessor’ is equally valid. Also see Deuteronomy 32:6, which may be translated to the effect that HaShem created Israel, but could also be understood as a declaration that He redeemed (‘purchased’) His people from Egypt.
 A homophone meaning ‘knit together’ has been proposed for this text and Job 10:11 (cited below).
 Supported by LXX ek gastroı and Syriac min karseh
 It also assumes that the verb niple’ti is derived from pl’, ‘marvel,’ rather than from plh, ‘separate,’ with which the form is more compatible.
 LXX oti foberoı qaumastwqhı, ‘for You are awesomely wonderful,’ is supportive here.
 LXX to ostoun mou is again sympathetic. 1QPsa reads ‘sby, ‘my pain(s),’ unless this represents a phonetic confusion of the labials b and m.
 Echoing the words of God to Adam in Genesis 3:19.
 Verse 16 exhibits a textual variant. The ketib, which is the text as written, reads l’, ‘not.’ The qere, the Massoretic marginal correction, reads lw, ‘to him.’ KJV and NKJV follow the ketib. We have chosen in our main exposition to follow the qere, but also offer an explanation following the ketib version.
The same variation between the negative and the possessive occurs in Isaiah 9:3 (v.2 in MT). KJV, following the ketib, renders “Thou hast multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy; they joy before thee…” The negation here is nonsensical. Reading the qere, we understand the verse: “You have multiplied the nation, You have increased their joy; they rejoice before You…”
 The word glmy is a hapax legomenon in the Bible. The only other occurrence of the root is the verbal form yglm in 2 Kings 2:8, where Elijah ‘rolled up’ (perhaps ‘wadded up’?) his garment. Klein (1987:101) defines golem as a “shapeless matter.” In medieval and modern Hebrew the verb develops such meanings as ‘personify’ and ‘embody.’ Rosenberg (1991:517-18) quotes Rashi and Redaq (David Qimhi) to the effect that glm refers to “the solidified drop of sperm, before the limbs and organs are formed in it. It is called golem just as wood is called golem before it is formed into a utensil.” Klein also compares Aramaic gulma, ‘shapeless mass.’ Finally, in Yeshivish, the slang of the rabbinical academies, goilem (note the Yiddish pronunciation) has come to mean ‘a hopelessly foolish or ineffectual person’ (Weiser 1995:31).
The rabbis of the midrash (Genesis Rabbah, cited in Bialik 1992:15) viewed this text from two angles. It was said in the name of R. Eleazar, “As the Lord was creating Adam, He had come to the stage when Adam had the form of a golem, an unarticulated lump, which lay prone from one end of the world to the other. With regard to this, Scripture says, ‘Thine eye did see my golem.’ In contrast, R. Judah bar Simon said that while Adam lay prone as a golem, ‘God caused to pass before him each generation with its sages, each generation with its scribes, each generation with its leaders, as it is said, ‘O [Adam], when thou wast a golem, thine eyes did see all [the worthies whose names were] inscribed in thy book’.” Medieval kabbalists developed a rather extensive legend concerning the golem. Such luminaries as the Maharal (R. Judah Loew of Prague) were said to have brought a clay figurine to life through magical invocation of the Tetragrammaton, and golem was used to describe this humanoid. See, among others, Schwartz (1988:243-5).
 The rabbis, following the qere reading lw, have traditionally understood this as a reference to the sabbath: At the original creation, God formed the seven days, and one of them was His. We find this interpretation lovely, but cannot imagine how it would be of any relevance in the context of Psalm 139.
 It is entirely possible that our proposal has been offered before, and we are simply unaware of its existence in the literature. If this is the case, we are not attempting to appropriate another’s scholarship. We can only vouch that we have not seen it elsewhere, and that it is, in this sense, the outcome of our own prayer and seeking of divine wisdom.
 We find it curious that those who oppose the open view of God would seek to buttress their argument by citing this text to support the notion that God made these determinations when David was in utero, as elsewhere it is held that all such determinations were made “before the foundation of the world.”
 Perhaps, in light of the command to “read,” this refers to the Torah, but we prefer to find in this text an allusion to the “laws of nature.” God’s involvement with the animal kingdom is portrayed in the whirlwind discourse in Job and in Psalm 104, esp. vv. 14, 21, 27-30.
 Taking the ketib reading l’, ‘not,’ we would render, “and not one of them [yet] existed [in its mature state].” In other words, God could perceive all of David’s features when they did not yet possess discrete forms.
Reprinted in full from Will the Real God Step Forward:
New International Version (NIV)
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
JPS Hebrew-English TANAKH
16:Your eyes saw my unformed limbs;
they were all recorded in your book;
in due time they were formed to the very last one of them.
This is the same verse as depicted in two very different translations. The NIV translates the verse as the “days” were formed and written before one of the “days” came to be. The JPS says the “unformed limbs” were formed and written before the “unformed limbs” became fully formed. The NIV uses the term “days” as the subject of the sentence clauses, the JPS uses the term “days” as an adverb; all these things happen in the days the limbs were being formed.
Although the Hebrew is not straightforward, the NIV leaves room for only one interpretation. In this version, the word “days” is the subject of all three clauses: the days “were ordained”, “were written” before “one them came to be”. As is often the case, this translation is used as a proof text for predestination and foreordination. It is claimed that God has predestined the days of every individual’s life. This has been the theme of too many Calvinist commentators who subordinate biblical exegesis to theology:
Foreordination in general cannot rest on foreknowledge; for only that which is certain can be foreknown…His foreknowledge of what is yet to be, whether it be in regard to the world as a whole or in regard to the, detailed life of every individual, rests upon His pre-arranged plan (Jeremiah 1:5; Psalm 139:14-16; Job 23:13, 14; 28:26, 27; Amos 3:7).
Boettner, Lorraine. The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination. Philadelphia: The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1966(p. 74)
The translation committee of the NIV was heavily weighted with Calvinist sympathizers. The lead translator was Edwin H. Palmer, who had died in 1980 served as executive secretary of CBT, as coordinator of all translation work on the NIV, and as the first general editor of The NIV Study Bible. Dr. Palmer was a pastor of Christian Reformed Churches and an Instructor in Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary (1960–1964). He wrote two books, one of which was The Five Points of Calvinism.
But as the JPS translations indicates, this is a poor prooftext for the Calvinist’s point. There is a better competing translation to the translation offered by the NIV. Although many if not most Calvinists accept Psalm 139:16 as a proof text for predestination, Calvin himself would agree with the JPS translation that the Hebrew uses “days” in an adverbial sense:
16. …Interpreters are not agreed as to the second clause. Some read ימים, yamim, in the nominative case, when days were made; the sense being, according to them — All my bones were written in thy book, O God! from the beginning of the world, when days were first formed by thee, and when as yet none of them actually existed. The other is the more natural meaning, That the different parts of the human body are formed in a succession of time; for in the first germ there is no arrangement of parts, or proportion of members, but it is developed, and takes its peculiar form progressively.
Calvin’s Commentaries, Vol. 12: Psalms, Part V, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com Psalm 139
Calvin does not go into detail why he thinks “days” should be translated adverbial but I propose three reasons: the common adverbial use of the word “days” transliterated yā·mîm in the Old Testament, the context of Psalm 139, and the description of the use of yā·mîm as an adverb by a grammarian. It cannot be emphasized enough; this idea is supported by one very important grammarian: John Calvin.
The Hebrew word for days in Psalm 139:16 is transliterated yā·mîm (Hebrew יָמִ֑ים) is used 269 times in the Old Testament. It is used nominatively or accusatively, as the subject or the direct object of the verb, fewer than 45 times. (Amos 9:13 Behold the days are coming) Most of the other uses are adverbial uses of noun, what often is referred to as the genitive case. (Genesis 8:12 So he waited yet another seven days and sent out the dove) It is admitted that “days” is a noun, the question is how is the word “days” used in the sentence; as the subject of the verb or the object of the verb or as an indicator of the duration of the action.
Most of the 269 times are adverbial uses of yā·mîm. In many cases as in Genesis 8:12 “seven days” just appears as a noun without a preposition or other indicator of adverbial use. In the English it is common to put a preposition before a noun to indicate the adverbial use of the noun. For example “we sleep at night.” The preposition “at” helps us to understand the noun “night” is being used adverbially in the sentence describing when we sleep.
In comparison to Psalm 139:16, in Genesis 24:55 there is a close equivalent use of yā·mîm. There is no preposition or adjective qualifying “days” the word just appears in the sentence. The reason the word few is in parenthesis is the translators have to supply an adjective to make the English understood. It is not common in English to use the accusative or nominative “days” alone in the sentence. But this is common in Hebrew.
Genesis 24:55 (NKJV) But her brother and her mother said, “Let the young woman stay with us a few days, at least ten; after that she may go.”
The word “days” is being used adverbially. The subject of the sentence is not “days” but “the young woman.” This common adverbial use of “days” is in Psalm 139:16.
Many translators have chosen to use the word “days” in Psalm 139:16 as the subject of the word form. (NKJ, NIV ESV, NASB, ASV, Douey-Rheims). Other translators have used the word “days” as an adverb in the sentence. (KJV, JPS, AKJV, ERV, Jubilee, Webster) Syntactical adverbial use of the word “days” describes the length of the activity of the main verb. This form of the word “days” transliterated yā·mîm is used 269 in the Old Testament, and the overwhelming syntactical use is adverbial. (over 240 times) In fact, placing yā·mîm at the end of the clause “all of them (unformed limbs) were being written,” and at the beginning of the clause “they (unformed limbs) were being formed” is a clever use of the adverb “in the days” complementing the imperfect forms “were being written” and “were being formed,” and at the same time providing a common link between the two clauses. The formation of the unformed limbs was occurring in the same days God was seeing and writing down the event.
Another common indicator of meaning is context. There are three pronouns in Psalm 139:16. What are the antecedents of these pronouns? The NIV translators thought the three pronouns should refer to “words.”
Psalm 139:16 NIV
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days (they) ordained for me (they)were written in your book
before one of them (them) came to be.
The “JPS Hebrew-English TANAKH” translators thought the three pronouns should refer to “unformed limbs.”
Psalm 139:16 JPS
Your eyes saw my unformed limbs; they were all record in your book; in due time they were formed to the very last one of them.
In the Hebrew, the first clause is “(they)were written in your book.” The word days comes after the first clause. The first use of the pronoun “they” is before the word “days” is even used. This would be very unusual because pronouns are used to avoid boring and redundant use of nouns. In order to be boring and redundant, these nouns would have to be used prior to the pronoun.
In fact the “unformed limbs” seems to the whole topic of the preceding three verses. These unformed limbs are mentioned as; my inward parts, me in my mother’s womb, my frame. The whole context is David as an unformed fetus before he was born. . Certainly context in verses 13-16 shows at least five references to the unformed limbs being formed.
Psalm 139:13-18 New King James Version (NKJV)
13 For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb.
14 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;[a]
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
It is most likely the reference to “all of them” is David’s unformed limbs. This is supported by the King James version which says, and in thy book all my members were written. In fact the King James version used “days” adverbially and uses “unformed limbs” as the antecedent of the pronouns in the sentences.
Psalm 139:16 (KJV)
16 Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.
The word for unformed substance is used as the subject and object of the prepositions. (“my members” were written, they were fashioned, and there were none of them.) The phrase (in continuance) is a translation of the Hebrew word “days.” This is an adverbial use of “days.”
The following is a lengthy quote from perhaps the most famous Hebrew grammarian. Gesenius affirms the use of nouns as adverbs in the sentence. There is not real distinction morphologically between nouns used in the accusative vs the nominative in the Hebrew. As a grammarian he would categorize this noun as an accusative noun, although he admits this is the adverbial syntactical use (genitive case) of Hebrew language. He actually uses a form of “day” in the Hebrew as an example of “day” used as an adverb.
(b) Substantives in the accusative (the adverbial case of the Semites, § 118 m), cf. τὴν ἀρχήν, δωρεάν, e. g. מְאֹד (might) very, אֶ פֶ֫ס (cessation) no more, הַיּוֹם (the day) today (cf. § 126 b), 1מָחָר to-morrow, יַ חַ֫ד (union) together. Several of these continued to be used, though rarely, as substantives, e. g. סָבִיב , plur. סְבִיבִים and סְבִיבוֹת , circuit, as adverb circum, around; others have quite ceased to be so used, e. g. כְּבָר (length) long ago [Aram.: only in Ec.]; עוֹד (repetition, duration) again or further.
Gesenius, W., E.Kautzsch & A.E. Cowley (ed.), Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1910), 270. (§ 100. Adverbs.2.(b))
The grammarians agree, it is possible to use the word “days” in the adverbial sense. The overwhelming use of the word day (Hebrew yā·mîm) is in the adverbial sense. Why does the NIV insist on using days as the subject and not as an adverb?
Are the commentators guided by exegesis or by theology? If the JPS translation is correct then this is not a proof text of the Calvinist eternal now. In the eternal now, God exists outside of time and sees every detail of the future outside of the limitation of time. The JPS translation leaves room for God seeing the development of the unformed fetus in real time as the event happens.
If one were to examine the literal Hebrew translation in the same word order, it would look like this:
The Westminster Leningrad Codex (WLC)
16 גָּלְמִ֤י׀ רָ֘א֤וּ עֵינֶ֗יךָ וְעַֽל־סִפְרְךָ֮ כֻּלָּ֪ם יִכָּ֫תֵ֥בוּ יָמִ֥ים יֻצָּ֑רוּ ׳וְלֹא׳ ״וְל֖וֹ״ אֶחָ֣ד בָּהֶֽם
My unformed substance, they saw, your eyes, and in your book, all of them, will be written, days, they shall be formed, and not, and him, one in them.
I would like to propose a different translation.
Your eyes saw my unformed substances and they were being recorded in your book, in the days the unformed substances were being formed, and as yet, not one of them was fully formed.
There is no controversy about the first clause (Your eyes saw my unformed substances). It is translated, “Your eyes saw my unformed substance.”
The second clause (and in the days) the word “days” is used adverbially. The pronouns used for the subject of the verbs formed and recorded is unformed substance and not days. The English word “words” (ימים, yamim) is being used syntactically as an adverb. It is referring to the timing of the verb ordain NIV or fashioned NKJV. God is observing the formation of the unformed embryo as it is being formed into a newborn baby. In the words of John Calvin (the different parts of the human body are formed in a succession of time.) Calvin refers to this translation as the more natural meaning because of the context of Psalm 139.
Another problem of this verse is the tense forms of formed and written. (were being formed, they were being recorded in your book) The Hebrew has two tenses, the imperfect and the perfect. In English we call the imperfect the future and the perfect as the past for convenience. The Hebrew however stresses that the perfect is a completed action and the imperfect is an incompleted action. Every translation I could find translates the verbs in the past tense but the verbal form is imperfect not past.
The Psalmist is putting us into the perspective of God, in the past, when the events were not yet done. Keil and Delitzsch refers to this as the synchronous past. As God’s eyes saw the embryo being formed into a human being he was recording the events as the embryo is being formed. Naturally to the Calvinist this would be against his theology. A Calvinist believes God decrees or writes in his book the formation of the embryo before the world began. These tense forms of “written” and “formed” should be respected.
There is some confusion about the translation of the last clause but it is probably an elliptical construction. An elliptical construction is the omission of one or more words in a sentence that are understood in the context. God was observing the process of the embryo being formed and as yet not one part was fully formed.
If the meaning were “the days were ordained,” then God would be injecting some sort of timeless, philosophical, statement in the middle of a discourse about the formation of embryos. The word translated as “fashioned” is transliterated as yatsar, Hebrew יָצַר. It is used 63 times in the Old Testament. It is translated “ordained” by the New King James translators 0 times, King James version 0 times, and the NASB 1 time and the NIV 3 times. “Ordained” implies that God preplanned the event in ages past. The most natural meaning of the word yatsar is to fashion or form.
There is a real problem with the tense of the verbs. The verb for “saw” is in the past tense but the words fashion/ordain and “were written” are in the future tense. The tenses in Hebrew do not necessarily correspond to the English tenses. The past tense refers to completed action and the future tense refers to uncompleted action. When God was looking at the unformed limbs he recorded them and fashioning them.
Your eyes saw my unformed limbs; they are being recorded in your book; in the days they were being formed to the very last one of them. Why do most translations used the past tense for the these verbs? (all the days ordained for me were written in your book) Keil and Delitzsch perhaps the most respected Hebrew commentary refers to the tenses as follows.
The signification of the future יכּתבוּ is regulated by ראוּ, and becomes, as relating to the synchronous past, scribebantur. The days יצּרוּ, which were already formed, are the subject. It is usually rendered: “the days which had first to be formed.” If יצּרוּ could be equivalent to ייצּרוּ, it would be to be preferred; but this rejection of the praeform. fut. is only allowed in the fut. Piel of the verbs Pe Jod, and that after a Waw convertens, e.g., ויּבּשׁ equals וייבּשׁ,
Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary on Psalms 139:16
The synchronous past is referring to a point of view. The passage starts out with the past “Your eyes saw” and the words which follow are translated with a view as if one was speaking in this past time. Although the verb “is being written” is in the future/uncompleted tense it is referring to the past event “saw.” The timing of the event (is being written) is at the same time as the past tense “saw” making the action of the verb write being in the past. Therefore to match the past tense of “saw” the verb “write” is put into the past tense.
The verb “fashioned” is in the imperfect tense. How is one allowed to translate this verb into the past tense? Keil and Delitzch propose an error in the original manuscript or some alternative, corrupted form of the past tense. This corrupted form is somehow coincidentally the exact form of the future. The argument is unconvincing and too convenient for their goal of supporting their theology which makes their analysis suspect.
Even if one were to accept their methodology does it fit the translation? The action of writing and fashioning, even if they are in the past tense should be no more later that the action of the verb saw. The action of seeing is in the past when the embryo is still being formed. The Calvinist must believe the ordaining/fashioning and the writing are in the remote past at the beginning of time. This will not support the beginning of time contentions of the Calvinist.
Very rarely, do I agree with John Calvin but I have to admire him in this way. He did not allow his theology to trump the translation of the verse. In the Hebrew the most common way to indicate duration of time is with a simple noun uncluttered by propositions.
Exodus 20:11 Version (NKJV) For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth
The reason “in” is in italics is because the word “in” is not in the Hebrew. It is implied by the context. This is the same construction used in Psalm 139:16. The noun “words” is not the subject of the sentence. It is describing the duration of the events “saw” “were writing” and “were forming.” The most natural meaning of the texts is “in days when.” This translation allows for a more natural use of tenses of the verbs. Excuses do not have to be made for translating the tenses away from their natural meaning. The context is respected. The context is about the unformed baby. This is not some theological aberration about the “eternal now” of Plotinus.
What does Psalm 139:16 say?
Your eyes saw my unformed substances and they were being recorded in your book, in the days the unformed substances were being formed, and as yet, not one of them was fully formed.
From a commenter:
Where did God actually “change” his mind?
There is a very helpful category on this page to answer your question:
God repents (changes His mind) throughout the Bible. So often does God do this that God laments:
Jer 15:6 You have forsaken Me,” says the LORD, “You have gone backward. Therefore I will stretch out My hand against you and destroy you; I am weary of relenting [repenting]!
God even declares that it is one of His general principles that He will change His mind based on circumstances:
Jer 18:7 The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it,
Jer 18:8 if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it.
Jer 18:9 And the instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it,
Jer 18:10 if it does evil in My sight so that it does not obey My voice, then I will relent concerning the good with which I said I would benefit it.
In this scenario, God both does not do what He thought He was going to do and does not do what He said He was going to do. We see this realized throughout the Bible:
1Sa 2:30 Therefore the LORD God of Israel says: ‘I said indeed that your house and the house of your father would walk before Me forever.’ But now the LORD says: ‘Far be it from Me; for those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed.
Jon 3:10 Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.
Jer 26:3 Perhaps everyone will listen and turn from his evil way, that I may relent concerning the calamity which I purpose to bring on them because of the evil of their doings.’
Exo 33:14 And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
Exo 33:15 And he said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here.
Exo 33:16 For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?”
Exo 33:17 And the LORD said to Moses, “This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.”
Eze 4:12 And you shall eat it as barley cakes; and bake it using fuel of human waste in their sight.”
Eze 4:13 Then the LORD said, “So shall the children of Israel eat their defiled bread among the Gentiles, where I will drive them.”
Eze 4:14 So I said, “Ah, Lord GOD! Indeed I have never defiled myself from my youth till now; I have never eaten what died of itself or was torn by beasts, nor has abominable flesh ever come into my mouth.”
Eze 4:15 Then He said to me, “See, I am giving you cow dung instead of human waste, and you shall prepare your bread over it.”
This is a huge theme in the Bible. I 1 Samuel, God changes His mind about Eli’s family priesthood after seeing the actions of Eli’s sons. In Jonah, God changes His mind about destroying Nineveh after seeing the people repent. In Jeremiah, God offers to change His mind about destroying Israel if the people repent. In Exodus, God changes His mind about accompanying Israel after Moses insists. In Ezekiel, God changes His mind about his prophet eating food cooked with human poop after the prophet objects.
Nowhere is there a concept of exhaustive definite foreknowledge (EDF). Instead, God reacts and changes His mind on a host of various issues at different scales. The largest scale repentance is God regretting that He made man:
Gen 6:5 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.
Gen 6:6 And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.
Gen 6:7 And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.
See also: God responds to rejection
A YouTube video explaining the context of Romans 9:
Grace Fellowship church writes about the fallacies of Open Theism:
Appeal to Selective Evidence. Carson writes: “As a general rule, the more complex and/or emotional the issue, the greater the tendency to select only part of the evidence, prematurely construct a grid, and so filter the rest of the evidence through the grid that it is robbed of any substance.” The examples of this offense in OT are numerous but I shall give one glaring illustration. Consider the OT hypothesis that God did not know how Abraham would respond to the command to kill Isaac. Boyd makes much out of this apparent lack of knowledge and even says it teaches that “it was because Abraham did what he did that the Lord now knew he was a faithful covenant partner” (Gen 22:12). Bruce Ware, interacting with Boyd on this issue points out how Boyd has not considered the related texts to this passage, especially Hebrews 11:19, which says, “He (Abraham) considered that God is able to raise men (Isaac) even from the dead; from which he also received him back as a type.” Expositing this verse, Ware concludes, “it demonstrates without any doubt that Abraham had a God-fearing heart leading up to his sacrifice of Isaac. Since God knows this (all Open Theists acknowledge He has perfect knowledge of the past and present), it is absolutely wrong to interpret Gen 22:12 as saying that only when Abraham lifted the knife did God ‘learn’ that Abraham feared God.” It is easy to make the Bible say what we want it to say when we only appeal to certain texts and certain parts of certain texts.
So Ware believes that Hebrews 11:19 invalidates God needing to test Abraham to know what was in his heart.
Heb 11:17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son,
Heb 11:18 of whom it was said, “IN ISAAC YOUR SEED SHALL BE CALLED,”
Heb 11:19 concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.
Is this the text that Ware would have his readers believe? Is it reasonable to believe that both Abraham could have believed that God would raise his son and God still needed to press Abraham until the last second to really know if that was true?
The fact is that human beings say a lot of things. They believe a lot of things. But when they are tested, there is a distance between how they thought they would act and what they actually do. The mere fact that God extends this test until the last second implies that this was a real test. God was checking Abraham on Abraham’s sincerity of his trust in God. If God knew the future, then why undergo the test? Why extend the test until the last second? Who is gaining what? Why do people, throughout the Bible, challenge God to test them in order to know them?
Despite Ware’s claims, this is not the counter-evidence that he would like to present it as. In order to be counter-evidence, he must first have to assume his starting case. The default understanding of Hebrews as it relates to Genesis is the Open Theist view; the one most common to normal human thought and action.
Act 13:48 Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.
A Calvinist reports that Acts 13:48 is the Bible verse that made him a Calvinist. He writes:
I think the thing that was so compelling to me in this verse is that it wasn’t a broad doctrinal statement on God choosing a people for him self or even a parable. Don’t misunderstand me – I love those. But in that moment it occurred to me that this was a very historical and contextual expression of predestination in the bible. There are very specific people that this happens in the stream of the narrative. It was never meant to be a theological argument that’s build up over chapters. It’s a succinct statement from Luke about what happened to these gentiles who heard Paul’s sermon. More than that, it says it so plainly put and straight-forward.
But, here is the interesting thing, the Bible verse actually has a very probable translation that destroys Calvinism. Due to the single fact that most translators are Calvinists, this young man adopted their readings and also became a Calvinist. One has to wonder how much more damage the Calvinist stranglehold on translations has done. The verse very easily could have been rendered:
Act 13:48 Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as appointed themselves to eternal life believed.
In the Greek language, the Middle and Passive take the same verb form. So unless the context is clear, there is uncertainty in if others are acting upon someone or if those people are acting upon themselves. This Greek Grammar website explains:
Middle and Passive Transitive Verbs Transitive verbs can be either middle or passive, and only the context can help you decide which meaning is intended. (Transitive) Middle Voice Usage For transitive verbs, the implication of the of the middle voice is that the action expressed by the verb directly affects the subject. The verbs in the following sentences are all transitive, and they all have a middle/passive form in Greek. οὐκ οἴδατε τί αἰτεῖσθε You do not know what you are requesting (Matthew 20:22) ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν· πάτερ, εἰς χεῖράς σου παρατίθεμαι τὸ πνεῦμά μου. Jesus said: Father, into your hands I commit my spirit (Luke 23:46) τί διαλογίζεσθε ἐν ἑαυτοῖς …ὅτι ἄρτους οὐκ ἔχετε; Why are you discussing among yourselves …that you have no bread? In each of these examples, the subject is presented as acting for its own benefit. Compare the following example. The verb used there (δέχομαι) is a lexical middle. ἐμὲ δέχεται [He/she] receives me (Matthew 10:40) The form of this verb that appears in the lexicon (δέχομαι) is middle voice. Since the verb always has a middle voice implication—the action it expresses (receiving) directly impacts its subject—it never appears with active voice forms. Its meaning is best expressed in the middle voice. Passive Voice Usage (always transitive) Observe the following sentences in which the subject is acted upon by someone not explicitly named. οὐχὶ δύο στρουθία ἀσσαρίου πωλεῖται Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? (Matthew 10:19) ἀφίενταί σου αἱ ἁμαρτίαι Your sins are forgiven (Mark 2:5) ἕκαστον γὰρ δένδρον ἐκ τοῦ καρποῦ γινώσκεται For every tree is known by its fruit (Luke 6:44) Notice that the subject of these verbs would be the object if the verb were active voice. This is the basic meaning of the passive voice. When translating Greek middle/passive forms of transitive verbs you may need to try both middle and passive translations to see which makes best sense in the context.
This cannot be stated enough: When translating Greek middle/passive forms of transitive verbs you may need to try both middle and passive translations to see which makes best sense in the context. Jesse Morrel makes an excellent case as to why this passage would be better rendered as middle.
From a comment by Gene on a thread concerning Psalms 139 on the Facebook group God is Open:
Psa 139:4 For there is not a word on my tongue, But behold, O LORD, You know it altogether.
Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, my daughter knows it all. Its uncanny. Almost like we have lived together so long she really knows me, who I am , and how I think. She will even say sometimes, ” I know what you are thinking.” And she is right.
John Piper, a Calvinist, offers prooftexts to show that man does not thwart God’s will:
Genesis 50:20: Joseph says to his brothers who had sold him into slavery, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.”
Deuteronomy 29:2-4: Moses says to the Israelites before they enter the promised land, “You have seen all that the Lord did before your eyes . . . those great signs and wonders. Yet to this day the Lord has not given you a heart to know, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear.” (cf. Romans 11:32; Deuteronomy 5:29).
Proverbs 16:4: “The Lord has made everything for its own purpose, even the wicked for the day of evil.” (cf. 1 Peter 2:8; Jude 4; Romans 9:22)
Proverbs 16:9: “The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.”
Proverbs 16:33: “The lot is cast in the lap, but every decision is from the Lord.”
Proverbs 19:21: “Many are the plans of a man’s heart but the counsel of the Lord, it will stand.”
Proverbs 21:1: “The King’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he wishes.”
Isaiah 63:17: “Why, O Lord, dost thou cause us to stray from thy ways, and harden our heart from fearing thee? Return for the sake of thy servants, the tribes of thy heritage.”
Jeremiah 10:23: “I know, O Lord, that a man’s way is not in himself; Nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps.”
Jeremiah 32:40: In the promise of the new covenant God says, “I will put the fear of me in their hearts so that they will not turn away from me” (cf. Ezekiel 36:27; Jeremiah 52:1-3).
Lamentations 3:37f: “Who is there who speaks and it comes to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both good and ill go forth?” (cf. Isaiah 45:7; Amos 3:6).
Philippians 2:12, 13: “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”
2 Timothy 2:24-26: “The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome but . . . able to teach . . . with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.”
Hebrews 13:20, 21: “Now the God of peace . . . equip you in every good thing to do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Revelation 17:17: Of the ten kings who wage war against the harlot (Babylon) it is said, “They will hate the harlot and will make her desolate and naked, and will eat her flesh and will burn her up with fire. For God has put it in their hearts to execute his purpose . . .”
Do Humans Have Free Will, from Bible Contradictions:
And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that [were] on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.
O LORD, I know that the way of man [is] not in himself: [it is] not in man that walketh to direct his steps.
And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.
For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ
Bible Contradictions lists maybe one verse for free will. But they do show a basic understanding that when the Bible gives choices, it does so under the presumption that people can in fact choose one option or the other. The Bible is filled with such verses.
The verses listed against free will are approached by Biblical Contradictions either as a gross misunderstanding of free will or a presumption of fatalism. If a father says “The way of my son is not his own will, I direct him” this is not a claim for fatalism or a counterclaim for free will. This is just a general control statement. Sometimes sons are even controlled against their will, but no one stipulates that the son no longer has free will because their resistance failed.
In Acts 13:48, the verb could very well be reflexive. The context suggests as much, as shown by Jesse Morrell.
On the face value reading, Jude 1:4 suggests mankind has free will. Who are the individuals marked out for condemnation? Those who turn grace to lewdness and deny Jesus. In Jude 1:18, the author even goes so far as to point out it is “their own ungodly lusts”. And interestingly enough, Jude adds in a call to save these people. In verse 23, Jude calls for believers to “pull out of the fire” those who are failing.
Biblical Contradictions doesn’t seem to notice the point of the author with verse 4. Jude is saying that God has prepared a judgment place for those who reject Him. The author is not saying individuals were picked by name to suffer this judgment.
Triablogue posits a verse to show that God is the cause of all physical deformity:
Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? (Exod 4:11).
Some Christians, hoping apparently to limit God’s liability, effectively absolve God of responsibility for what goes on in the world. If a child is born blind, it is a result of a prenatal infection or genetic defect; God had nothing to do with it. If religious zealots bring down buildings and kill thousands, God was not involved. The problem with this is that it effectively limits God’s power and sovereignty. What if an infection was the proximate cause of a baby’s being born blind? Couldn’t God have saved the child if he had wanted to? Couldn’t God have stopped the mass-murderers? God cannot be almighty and all-knowing and also be absolved of responsibility for what happens in the world.
God’s response in Exod 4:11 is striking: he takes full responsibility for the suffering that people experience. He makes some blind, some deaf, and some mute. The text does not deny that there are proximate causes to such things (injuries, infections, etc.; the ancients knew nothing about viruses and bacteria, but they certainly knew that accidents and injuries could make a person blind or lame). Furthermore, the issue of human sin is never raised in God’s response. This passage is not at all concerned with proximate causes–human sin, like disease or injury, is really just another proximate cause. This text is focused on the ultimate cause, God, and does not shrink from affirming that God is in control of all that happens. Of course, the question of theodicy is very large, and merely asserting that God takes responsibility for all that happens in the world does not resolve all the issues. This topic is explored much more fully in Job. D. Garrett, A Commentary on Exodus (Kregel 2014), 215-16.
What is interesting about this verse is that Triablogue uses the ESV rendering of the verse:
Exo 4:11 Then the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?
The NKJV gives an alternative rendering:
Exo 4:11 So the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the LORD?
The ESV seems to in fact say that God is the cause all birth defects, at minimum. The NKJV merely says that God makes all people (some may be mute and some may be blind). The Hebrew, as languages tend to do, can support either. So then the context must be examined.
The immediate point of the verse is that God is trying to convince Moses to go to Egypt on God’s behalf. That is not a fatalistic or Calvinist concept. God is arguing that Moses can speak, despite Moses’ lack of confidence, because God will be with him. It is interesting to note that God loses this argument with Moses. God gets angry, gives up, and appoints Aaron to be Moses’ mouthpiece:
Exo 4:14 So the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses, and He said: “Is not Aaron the Levite your brother? I know that he can speak well. And look, he is also coming out to meet you. When he sees you, he will be glad in his heart.
In a context where God’s plan is thwarted by Moses, the meaning that Triablogue gives to the verse is highly unreasonable. God is not claiming to control all life changing calamities forever into the future. God is not controlling all things even in the present; sometimes petty complaints thwart God’s will. The text is just not about Calvinistic sovereignty.
If God is claiming to cause birth defects, God’s reasoning to Moses would have to be thus: “I am the one who created your mouth (and everyone’s mouth) and I know the limits to which I created it. I know you can speak for Me. Your argument is invalid.”
But the context of Exodus 3 and 4 is about God enabling Moses with power. So, while God could be claiming to cause birth defects, it is more likely that God is claiming to have power. God is the creator of all men. And the creator of all men would help Moses communicate. Moses does not have to worry about his speech because he has Yahweh on his side (see also Exo 3:12). The very next verse says:
Exo 4:12 Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say.”
From the new blog Why I am a Heretic:
The Lord said to Moses, “You are about to rest with your fathers, and these people will soon commit adultery with the foreign gods of the land they are entering. They will abandon Me and break the covenant I have made with them.” (Deuteronomy 31:16, HCSB)
The above verse a Classic Theist might state God knows all future decisions from either a simple foreknowledge point of view, or exhaustive foreknowledge.
But then we come to this verse:
“And when many troubles and afflictions come to them, this song will testify against them, because their descendants will not have forgotten it. For I know what they are prone to do, even before I bring them into the land I swore to give them.” (Deuteronomy 31:21, HCSB) [emphasis mine]
God knows what they are ‘prone’ to do, or some other translations state that God knows their ‘imaginations’ / ‘strong desire and purposes’ / ‘know how they think’.
The Hebrew term is יִצְר֗וֹ, or ‘yetser’ , which from Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance states: a form; figuratively, conception (i.e. Purpose) — frame, thing framed, imagination, mind, work.
God knows our hearts and intentions intimately because he knows US intimately as our Creator and heavenly Father. He doesn’t require exhaustive foreknowledge, or even simple foreknowledge to know these things.
Some examples of these Scriptures include:
The Lord frequently changes his mind in the light of changing circumstances, or as a result of prayer (Exod. 32:14; Num. 14:12–20; Deut. 9:13–14, 18–20, 25; 1 Sam. 2:27–36; 2 Kings 20:1–7; 1 Chron. 21:15; Jer. 26:19; Ezek. 20:5–22; Amos 7:1–6; Jonah 1:2; 3:2, 4–10). At other times he explicitly states that he will change his mind if circumstances change (Jer. 18:7–11; 26:2–3; Ezek. 33:13–15). This willingness to change is portrayed as one of God’s attributes of greatness (Joel 2:13–14; Jonah 4:2).
Sometimes God expresses regret and disappointment over how things turned out—sometimes even including the results of his own will. (Gen. 6:5–6; 1 Sam. 15:10, 35; Ezek. 22:29–31).
At other times he tells us that he is surprised at how things turned out because he expected a different outcome (Isa. 5:3–7; Jer. 3:67; 19–20).
The Lord frequently tests his people to find out whether they’ll remain faithful to him (Gen. 22:12; Exod. 16:4; Deut. 8:2; 13:1–3; Judges 2:20–3:5; 2 Chron. 32:31).
The Lord sometimes asks non-rhetorical questions about the future (Num. 14:11; Hos. 8:5) and speaks to people in terms of what may or may not happen (Exod. 3:18–4:9; 13:17; Jer. 38:17–18, 20–21, 23; Ezek. 12:1–3).
The Lord frequently speaks of the future in terms of what may and may not come to pass (Ex.4:1-7; Ex. 13:17; Ezek 12:3).
Classical theologians often consider only the passages that demonstrate that the future is settled either in God’s mind (foreknowledge) or in God’s will (predestination) as revealing the whole truth about God’s knowledge of the future. They interpret passages (such as the above) that suggest God faces a partly open future as merely figurative. I do not see this approach as warranted on either exegetical or theological grounds. I am therefore compelled to interpret both sets of passages as equally literal and therefore draw the conclusion that the future that God faces is partly open and partly settled.
In Genesis 18, we find the story of when Abraham almost sacrificed his son by God’s command. God had commanded Abraham to kill his son. Abraham, although distraught, proved determined to obey God. God then stops the sacrifice at the last moment:
Gen 22:10 And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.
Gen 22:11 But the Angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” So he said, “Here I am.”
Gen 22:12 And He said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”
This presents a problem to the Classical view of God. God is portrayed here as learning new information. God says “now I know” (as opposed to know before and not requiring the attempted sacrifice). Several attempts have been made for the Classical view to explain this. One such attempt is made by James Patrick Holding of Tekton. Holding claims that “now I know” is a figure of speech, binding a contract:
In the case of Genesis, we would again offer the conclusion that the “now I know” is a contractual seal saying what God has observed in response (in time) to a human act.
Holding quotes several verses in which he attempts to build the context that “now I know” is a “recognition” event. Several of the times this phrase appears in the Bible, the context is either ambiguous or detailing gaining information. Several of the instances are commands/imperatives and several are individuals speaking. Holding, himself, does not distinguish between the two.
Exo 18:10 And Jethro said, “Blessed be the LORD, who has delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of Pharaoh, and who has delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians.
Exo 18:11 Now I know that the LORD is greater than all the gods; for in the very thing in which they behaved proudly, He was above them.”
Jdg 17:12 So Micah consecrated the Levite, and the young man became his priest, and lived in the house of Micah.
Jdg 17:13 Then Micah said, “Now I know that the LORD will be good to me, since I have a Levite as priest!”
Psa 20:6 Now I know that the LORD saves His anointed; He will answer him from His holy heaven With the saving strength of His right hand. [This seems to be a Psalm written by David in response to some event in which God gave help]
Imperatives (“yada” is sometimes translated “consider”):
Jdg 18:14 Then the five men who had gone to spy out the country of Laish answered and said to their brethren, “Do you know that there are in these houses an ephod, household idols, a carved image, and a molded image? Now therefore, consider what you should do.”
1Sa 25:17 Now therefore, know and consider what you will do, for harm is determined against our master and against all his household. For he is such a scoundrel that one cannot speak to him.”
2Sa 24:13 So Gad came to David and told him; and he said to him, “Shall seven years of famine come to you in your land? Or shall you flee three months before your enemies, while they pursue you? Or shall there be three days’ plague in your land? Now consider and see what answer I should take back to Him who sent me.”
Jer 42:21 And I have this day declared it to you, but you have not obeyed the voice of the LORD your God, or anything which He has sent you by me.
Jer 42:22 Now therefore, know certainly [yada yada] that you shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence in the place where you desire to go to dwell.”
In all cases, the individual in question is bringing something into their mind that may not have existed before. The imperatives are commands for people to think, always in response to provided information that could sway a decision. The one commanding is either unsure that the people were including this information in their decisions or bringing up new knowledge the individual did not have. People are responding to knowledge.
When the individual speaks about themselves, it never seems to be this “recognition” event. When the individual is speaking, they are learning new information. This makes sense; other people cannot be trusted to think for themselves so it must sometimes be pointed out to them to include information in their decisions. When people talk about themselves, it is a different dynamic. People know their own thoughts, and only say “Now I know” when they learn something new. They might have suspected in the past, but the new knowledge is confirming their thoughts.
The statement that “Now I Know” represents some sort of “contractual seal” is not a concept found in the Bible, although it is a better attempt to explain the text than calling it an anthropomorphism. In both the context of a self-referential statement and of an imperative statement it is a response to information. This is not what the Classical view wishes to portray God as doing. God is not being reminded of things He might not have known in order to think more clearly. And the Classical view does not want God learning new information. An “contractual agreement” idiom is just not supported by the context or other context of similar word use.
James Patrick Holding next includes texts which do not include the iconic phrase. Both Genesis 12:11 and 2 Kings 5:15 contain the English phrase “Now I know”, but the “now” is actually an interjection like “Hey”.
“Hey, I know you are beautiful.” Gen. 12:11
“Hey, I know there is no other God.” 2Ki 5:15
Holding mentions the Hebrew words are different, but fails to explain the meaning of the new word. In Genesis 12:13, two verse after the one used by Holding, the same word is translated “I pray thee” or “please”. This is not the same statement.
Walter Brueggemann notes in his work on Genesis states on Genesis 22:12:
It is not a game with God. God genuinely does not know. And that is settled in verse 12, “Now I know.” There is real development in the plot. The flow of the narrative accomplishes something in the awareness of God. He did not know. Now he knows. The narrative will not be understood if it is taken as a flat event of “testing.” It can only be understood if it is seen to be a genuine movement in the history between Yahweh and Abraham.
From the Cruciform View on Romans 9:13
First off, Paul is quoting Malachi 1:2-3 in verse 13. It was common practice in the ancient world to refer to a whole corporate, nation with the name of a patriarchal individual. Indeed, this where the name “Israel” comes from. The corporate nation of people was named after the individual patriarch Jacob, after his name was changed to Israel (Gen. 32:22-28). Likewise with the twelve corporate tribes of Israel, with each group being named after it’s individual patriarch (Judah, Benjamin, Napthali, etc.). Paul is not referring to individuals in this passage, but rather to the corporate nations that were their descendants. (I explained the idea of corporate election a little bit more in my treatment of Romans 8:28-30 in Part 4 of this blog series)
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T. C. Moore Donavan , you’re certainly entitled to your view, and it’s good that you want your life to be biblical, but I’d suggest that the approach to theology you’re demonstrating here is very UNbiblical. It’s akin to treating the Bible like a cookbook, where every page is a recipe, and any page can be consulted equally as applicable. By stringing together a list of verses wrenched from their contexts and presuming that each one self-evidently supports a determinist position dishonors the Scriptures and is unhelpful theologically.
The Bible, canonically organized and superintended by the Holy Spirit as it has been, tells ONE story. The Hebrew Bible begins that story, sets the stage, builds tension, and foreshadows the rest of the story. In the New Testament, particularly in the Life of Jesus, the Story reaches its climax, bringing to fruition that which was foreshadowed.
To have “biblical” theology, we must not string together verses, wrenched from their contexts, and presume to systemize them with some arbitrary categories. Instead, we should look to the Telos of the Bible and to the Main Character: Jesus. In Jesus, the Bible finally and definitively reveals God’s character and nature. What we see in Jesus is that God is self-giving, never-ending, division-destroying love. And we see that God is not coercive. Instead, God triumphs over evil with a force more powerful than coercion. God triumphs through self-sacrificial love.
From Craig Fisher:
Heb 6:18 that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us.
Of course, God is speaking about only two immutable things and God is not one of them. The first immutable thing is the promise which he willed the beloved of Hebrews 6 would inherit. The second immutable thing was his oath.
Heb 6:17 Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, (το αμεταθετον της βουλης αυτου) confirmed it by an oath,
This is not talking about the essence or knowledge or attributes of God. God is saying he is not lying about his promise to the beloved. Some classical theologians would argue he is referring to all of God’s counsel as being immutable. Luke 7:30 says:
30 But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the will of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him.
The will of God for the Pharisees and the lawyers included their baptism but they would not be baptized and rejected the will (βουλη) of God. If the Pharisees can reject the will of God then God’s counsel is not immutable. It is within the free will of man.
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Norman Geisler writes in his Creating God in the Image of Man:
And 1 Samuel 15:29 affirms emphatically, “He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind: for he is not a man, that he should change his mind.” What is more, this is affirmed in the very context that states that God does change his mind, something that the author of 1 Samuel thought to be consistent (15:11). But this could only be the case if one of these two is taken literally and the other not. But which is which? Once again the answer comes only by seeing which is best explained in the light of the other.
Notice Geisler’s False Dichotomy: There are two verses that contradict each other; one must trump the other. Geisler is appealing to his reader not to see the common sense third answer: that both texts are literal and should be viewed in the way that the original author intended.
When 1 Samuel was being written, the author did not think that in verse 11 he would describe God repenting only to affirm 18 verses later that God is immutable. In fact, if the Samuel’s entire point is quoted, the point is that God had just taken Israel from Saul:
1Sa 15:28 And Samuel said unto him, The LORD hath rent the kingdom of Israel from thee this day, and hath given it to a neighbour of thine, that is better than thou.
1Sa 15:29 And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for he is not a man, that he should repent.
To Geisler, this is how he views this conversation:
So Samuel said to him, “The LORD has taken your kingdom, and by the way, have I ever explained to you about God’s incommunicable attributes such as immutability and impeccability?”
Because Calvinism is dependent on “proof texts” ripped from context, they tend force odd readings onto texts. It would be unnatural for Samuel to add a random sentence into his conversation explaining immutability. What was his point? What was he trying to accomplish? What is Samuel communicating to Saul? Context is key for understanding what sentences mean.
Here is the context of the entire chapter:
King Saul has just violated God’s command not to take spoils of war:
1Sa 15:9 But Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them: but every thing that was vile and refuse, that they destroyed utterly.
1Sa 15:10 Then came the word of the LORD unto Samuel, saying,
1Sa 15:11 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. And it grieved Samuel; and he cried unto the LORD all night.
This leads God directly to “repenting” of having made Saul the king of Israel. Samuel hears God’s message, and the next morning confronts Saul on his spoils of war. Samuel explains to Saul that “Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king.” Saul immediately repents, and asks for mercy (for his kingdom to not be taken away):
1Sa 15:24 And Saul said unto Samuel, I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD, and thy words: because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice.
1Sa 15:25 Now therefore, I pray thee, pardon my sin, and turn again with me, that I may worship the LORD.
Notice Saul’s deep repentance. Saul seeks pardon and wants to go worship God. But this is denied. Samuel says:
1Sa 15:28 And Samuel said unto him, The LORD hath rent the kingdom of Israel from thee this day, and hath given it to a neighbour of thine, that is better than thou.
1Sa 15:29 And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for he is not a man, that he should repent.
The context of God not repenting is “repenting that He made Saul king.” When God says He will not repent, God is saying “I will not repent of repenting that I made Saul king (taking his kingdom away).” God is not making a general claim of immutability. God is making the claim that Saul cannot expect to convince God to give him back the kingdom. God has made up his mind.
To set up a parallel to really drive home the point: Pretend I allow my boys to play with GI Joes. Pretend I have given them instructions on how to play gently such that they do not destroy those action figures. If my boys then play with those GI Joes, destroy a couple, then I might then take away those toys. If my boys apologize and promise to be more careful in the future, I would be well within my rights to say: “I am taking the GI Joes. I will not change my mind. I am not your mom that I would change my mind.”
For someone to come along and claim that I am immutable would be a disservice to the context. My statement was limited to the events in question, and extrapolating and mystifying would be a gross injustice. My words, taken literally, are that my mind is made up on this one issue.
Interestingly enough, Geisler fails to mention the text then recounts God’s repentance again:
1Sa 15:35 And Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his death: nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul: and the LORD repented that he had made Saul king over Israel.
When Geisler talks about having to interpret one verse in light of the other, this reveals his flawed method of interpretation. The best means of interpretation is to ascertain exactly what the author of any specific text was trying to communicate to his readers. Implications of verses should only be secondary. Geisler would rather read his theology into the text than gain his theology from the text. He tries to distract by assuming the way he sees a particular verse is a literal understanding, when it is the farthest thing from it.
Jesse Morrell gives a short scriptural defense of Open Theism followed by a well written defense. Here is the first part:
* God speaks of the future in terms of what may or may not be: Ex. 3:18, 4:9, 13:17; Eze.12:3; Jer. 36:3; 36:7
* God changes His plans in response to changing circumstances: Ex. 32:10-14, Jer. 18:1-10; Jonah 3:10
* God’s willingness to change His plans is considered one of His glorious attributes: Jonah 4:2; Joel 2:12-13
* God tests people to see what types of decisions they will make: Gen. 22:12; Ex. 16:4; Deut. 8:2, 13:1-3; 2 Chron. 32:31
* God has had disappointments and has regretted how things turned out: Gen. 6:5-6; 1 Sam. 15:10, 15:35
* God has expected things to happen that didn’t come to pass: Isa. 5:1-5; Jer. 3:6-7, 3:19-20
* God gets frustrated and grieved when he attempts to bring individuals into alignment with his will and they resist: Eze. 22:29-31; Isa. 63:10; Eph. 4:30; cf. Heb. 3:8, 3:15, 4:7; Acts 7:51
* The prayers of men have changed the plans of God (God changes the future: Ex. 32:10- 14; Num. 11:1-2, 14:12-20, 16:16:20-35; Deut. 9:13-14, 9:18-20, 9:25; 2 Sam. 24:17-25; 1 Kin. 21:27-29; 2 Kin. 20:6; 2 Chron. 12:5-8; Jer. 26:19; Isa. 38:5
* God is said to have repented (changed His mind) multiple times in the Bible: Gen. 6:6-7; Ex. 32:12-14; Num. 23:19; Deut. 32:36; Judges 2:18; 1 Sam. 15:11, 15:29, 15:35; 2Sam. 24:16; Ps. 90:13, 106:45, 110:4, 135:14; Jer. 4:28, 15:6, 18:8, 18:10, 20:16, 26:3, 26:13, 26:19, 42:10, Eze. 24:14, Hos. 11:8, 13:14; Joel 1:13-14; Amos 7:3, 7:6; Jonah 3:9-10, 4:2; Zach. 8:14
* Prophecies are often God foretelling what He Himself will later bring to pass. So they often have to do more with God’s omnipotence to bring about His plans then merely foreseeing the future: Gen. 3:15; 1 Kin. 8:15, 8:20, 8:24, 13:32 (with 2 Kin. 23:1-3, 15-18); 2 Kings 19:25; 2 Chron. 1:9 (1 Chron. 6:4; 10, 15); 2 Chron 36:21-22; Ezra 1:1; Isa. 5:19, 25:1-2, 37:26, 42:9 (with vs. 16); 46:10; Jer. 29:10, 32:24, 32:28, 33:14-15, Lam. 3:37; Eze. 12:25, 17:24, 33:29, 33:33; Dan. 4:33, 4:37; Acts 3:18, 27:32-35; Rev. 17:17. This type of prophecy includes the prophecies of the Messiah. So His birth, the location of His birth, the miracle of His birth, were not accidents or merely foreseen events, but were the deliberate plan of God (Gen. 3:15; Isa. 9:6; 53:6; Acts 2:23, 4:28)
* The future is partly open (undetermined, uncertain): Ex. 3:18, 4:9, 13:17; Eze. 12:3; Gen. 22:12; Ex. 16:4; Deut. 8:2, 13:1-3; Jdg. 2:20-22, Jdg. 3:4, Ex. 33:2, Ex. 34:24; 1 Sam. 2:30, 2 Chron. 12:6-7, 2 Chron. 16:9; 2 Chron. 32:31; Ps. 81:13-14; Isa. 5:1-5; Jer. 3:6-7, 3:19-20; Matt. 24:20; 26:53; Mk. 13:20.
* The future is partly settled (determined, certain): Gen. 3:15; 1 Kin. 8:15, 8:20, 8:24, 13:32 (with 2 Kin. 23:1-3, 15-18); 2 Kings 19:25; 2 Chron. 1:9 (1 Chron. 6:4; 10, 15); 2 Chron 36:21-22; Ezra 1:1; Isa. 5:19, 25:1-2, 37:26, 42:9 (with vs. 16); Jer. 29:10, 32:24, 32:28, 33:14-15, Lam. 3:37; Eze. 12:25, 17:24, 33:29, 33:33; Dan. 4:33, 4:37; Acts 3:18, 27:32-35; Rev. 17:17; Gen. 3:15; Isa. 9:6; 53:6; Acts 2:23, 4:28.
* The future can be changed: Gen. 19:17-22; Ex. 32:10-14, Jer. 18:1-10; Ex. 32:10-14; Num.11:1-2, 14:12-20, 16:20-35; Deut. 9:13-14, 9:18-20, 9:25; 2 Sam. 24:17-25; 1 Kin. 21:27-29; 2 Kin. 20:6; 2 Chron. 12:5-8; Jer. 26:19; Isa. 38:5; Matt. 24:20; Mk. 13:20;
* Scriptures that say God has a past, present, and a future: Jn. 1:14; Rev. 1:4, 1:8, 4:8; 5:12;
* Scriptures that say God’s eternity is endless time, that is, time without beginning or end: Isa. 9:6-7; Isa. 43:10; Isa. 57:15; Job 36:26; Dan. 4:34; Hab. 1:12 Ps. 23:2; Ps. 90:2; Ps. 102:24; Ps. 102:27; Lk. 1:33; Heb 1:12; Rev 1:4; Rev. 1:8; Rev. 4:8; Rev. 5:14;
* Scriptures that say man’s eternity is endless time: Isa. 45:17; Eph. 3:21; Rev. 14:11;
* Scriptures that say eternity is endless time for Heavenly creatures: Rev. 4:8
* Eternity is time without end (endless time instead of timelessness): Isa. 9:6-7; Isa. 43:10; Isa. 57:15; Job 36:26; Dan. 4:34; Hab. 1:12 Ps. 23:2; Ps. 90:2; Ps. 102:24; Ps. 102:27; Lk. 1:33; Heb 1:12; Rev 1:4; Rev. 1:8; Rev. 4:8; Rev. 5:14; Isa. 45:17; Eph. 3:21; Rev. 14:11
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Gen 22:12 And He said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”
In Genesis 22, God tells Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac. Abraham had been counting on his son to continue Abraham’s lineage and fulfill God’s promise that Abraham’s decedents would be as numerous as the stars. Abraham takes Isaac to the mountains, binds him on an altar, and raises the knife to kill Isaac. But God intervenes. At this point God utters those famous words “Now I know”. God says that Abraham does not have to sacrifice Isaac because now God knows that Abraham fears (obeys) God.
The straightforward reading is that God just tested someone and learned their heart. But the closed view of God does not allow for God to learn new things. When those who see God as Open mention this text, the Close View gives a typical response. From John M Frame’s No Other God: A Response to Open Theism:
Ware points out that so-called straightforward interpretation of Genesis 22:12 cannot be maintained, even in the system of open theism. He makes three points. First, if God literally needed to test Abraham to find out what was in Abraham’s heart, then His ignorance was not of the future, but of the present. But open theists often claim that God knows the present exhaustively. Second, this interpretation denies what open theists elsewhere affirm, that God knows the inner motivations of the human heart. Third, if God is trying to find out whether Abraham will be faithful in the future, he is trying to know Abraham’s libertarian free choices in advance, which, on the openness view, not even God can know.
One thing that Openness proponents should point out is that of the three reasons given, none of them had to do with the text in question. All three points were of the argument: “The text cannot mean what it says because of the implications.” Notice also that implicitly the Closed View understands the face value meaning of the text. Every time the Calvinist claims something is an anthropomorphism they are admitting that fact.
But Frame and Ware list three points:
1. If God literally needed to test Abraham to find out what was in Abraham’s heart, then His ignorance was not of the future, but of the present.
Setting aside the fact that some Open Theists maintain that God can choose what He wants to know, even in the present, this argument still does not hold.
God was testing to see what a free will agent would do under extreme testing. Most humans, when asked a hard moral question will reply “I don’t know. I would have to experience the situation.” Others might claim to have one response but, in reality, might do another. I am reminded of the questions asked to abortion supporters in Ray Comforts’ 180 Movie.
No, the knowledge God was trying to test was not “present knowledge”. Abraham’s heart was not a computer program that God could look into to see the free will results based on hypothetical criteria. The only way to know what someone would really do is to test them. God was seeing how Abraham would handle a loyalty test. God stops Abraham at the last possible moment (when the knife is raised) because at any second Abraham could have chose to disobey.
2. This interpretation denies what open theists elsewhere affirm, that God knows the inner motivations of the human heart.
See the answer to point 1. Not even humans know how they will respond to situations before they occur. For parents, imagine if God asked you to sacrifice your children. How far would you go? What kind of inner struggles would occur? Would you do it?
The underlying Calvinist assumption about point 2 is that humans do not have free will. This is false.
3. Third, if God is trying to find out whether Abraham will be faithful in the future, he is trying to know Abraham’s libertarian free choices in advance, which, on the openness view, not even God can know.
This last point could only come from the mind of a Calvinist. When students are tested in school, what this is measuring is how likely they will perform on similar material in the future. The long term trends produce reliability (not perfect certainty) of the results. Employers do not “know” the future free actions of these students, but use grades to predict how skilled of a worker those students will be. God does the same.
In the Calvinist mindset, those who advocate Free Will would think God is just as likely to pick a meth head as a clean cut Baptist preacher to lead a revival, because God “doesn’t know the future free actions of man.” This is nonsense. Even though human beings have free will, their actions are predictable. I can right now predict that every time the Bible shows God learning something new that the Calvinist will claim it is an anthropomorphism and hold in contempt those who take the face value meaning as true. This is not a hard prediction to make. Yes, sometimes a Calvinist will choose to do something else, but those instances are shocking.
When God tests people, God is not going for “knowing something with 100% certainty”. God is establishing patterns of reliability.
The really interesting thing is that Genesis describes God making these predictions:
Gen 18:17 And the LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing,
Gen 18:18 since Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?
Gen 18:19 For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice, that the LORD may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him.”
God predicted that Abraham would produce a righteous nation. This prediction ultimately failed. The Jews rejected God and rejected their Messiah. The entire Bible gives testament to this.
Long excerpt from ApologeticJedi’s website:
1. God worked in six day-divided time spans, but rested on the seventh day. (Gen 2:1-2)
2. God brought the animals before Adam to see what he would call them. (Gen 2:19)
3. God is uncertain whether they will eat of the Tree of Life after the fall. (Gen 3:22)
4. God repents that he made man. (Gen 6:6)
5. God must patiently wait while the ark is being built. (1 Pet 3:20)
6. Satan is willing to wager with God over how the future will turn out. (Job 1:11-12)
7. Abraham challenges God over his promise, and lives! (Gen 15:2-3, 6)
8. God is prevailed upon by Abraham over whether to spare Sodom. (Gen 18:22-33)
9. The angels of God argue with Lot about sleeping in the square. (Gen 19:2-4)
10. God learns that Abraham would not even withhold even his own son. (Gen 22:12)
11. God is moved by the cries of injustice. (Ex. 2:23-25)
12. God agrees with Moses that a backup plan should be prepared. (Ex. 4:1-9)
13. God promised those in the Exodus would reach the promise land, but they don’t. (Deut. 1:8; 1:34)
14. God is uncertain how Israel will react when they see war. (Ex 13:17)
15. God tells Moses He will destroy Israel, but does not. (Ex 32:7-10; Deut 10:10)
16. God tells Moses He will not lead them, but He does. (Ex. 33:3-19)
17. God wants to destroy Israel again, but is talked out of it. (Num 14:11-12)
18. God sets both a curse and a blessing for Israel to choose. (Deut. 11:26-28)
19. God has faith in the people, that they can do it. (Deut 30:11)
20. God gives the choice of life and death. (Deut. 30:19)
21. God repents when his sets up people that lead others astray. (Deut. 32:36)
22. God promises to drive out the Canaanites, but doesn’t. (Josh 3:10; Judg 2:1-3; 3:1-7)
23. Joshua charges that we can choose between good and evil. (Joshua 24:15)
24. God changes His mind about establishing Eli and his sons forever. (1 Sam 2:30)
25. God gives Israel a king before He had planned to. (1 Sam 7:7-8)
26. God had planned to establish Saul forever, but will not. (1 Sam 13:13-14)
27. God repents over making Saul king. (1 Sam 15:10)
28. David believes God can change His mind. (2 Sam 12:21-23)
29. God’s mercy stopped the punishment from completing what He said. (2 Sam 24:16; 2 Chr 21:15)
30. Elijah claims they had two options to choose from. (1 Kings 18:21)
31. God is not always in the wind, fire, and earthquakes. (1 Kings 19:12)
32. God is full of compassion. (Ps 78:38-40)
33. God is limited by man’s decisions. (Ps 78:41)
34. God desires new songs. (Ps 33:3; 96:1; 98:1; 144:9; 149:1)
35. Heed my rebuke demands God, or else! (Prov 1:22-27)
36. The span of your life is alterable (Prov 9:11)
37. Solomon lists chance as a factor in life. (Eccl 9:11)
38. God tells Hezekiah that he will die, then adds years to his life. (2 Kings 20:1-6)
39. God expected His work towards Israel would not be in vain, but it is. (Isa 5:1-5)
40. God’s desire is to be allowed to forget our sins. (Isa 43:25)
41. God declares the future, rather than knowing it. (Isa 46:9-11)
42. It is not God that keeps men from being saved. (Isa 59:1)
43. The people were able to grieve the Holy Spirit. (Isa. 63:10)
44. God predicted Israel would repent, but admits He was wrong. (Jer 3:7-10)
45. Ordaining the sacrificing of children never entered God’s mind (Jer 7:31; 19:5; 32:35)
46. God gets tired of repenting. (Jer 15:6)
47. God promises to repent of what He thought to destroy a repenting people. (Jer 18:7-8)
48. God promises to repent of what He says to promote a backslidden people. (Jer 18:9-10)
49. God is uncertain if the people will repent if they hear his message. (Jer 26:2-3)
50. God is uncertain if the people will repent from a written message. (Jer 36:2-3)
51. God does not willingly bring grief on men. (Lam 3:33)
52. God despises the fatalistic viewpoint. (Eze 18:2)
53. God predicts Babylon will take Tyre, but they do not. (Eze 26:7; 29:18)
54. God predicts Babylon will destroy Egypt, but they do not. (Eze 30:10)
55. What God wants, is for the wicked to turn from their ways. (Eze 33:11)
56. God becomes heartbroken. (Hosea 11:8-9)
57. God sends a drought to influence his people without success. (Amos 4:6-11)
58. Nineveh repents and God refuses to fulfill His prophecy. (Jonah 3:10)
59. Jesus became flesh, who had never been so previously. (John 1:14)
60. The will of men and the will of God need to coincide. (John 7:17)
61. Some people are just born blind. (John 9:1-4)
62. Man has a choice, and God wants him to choose to abide in Him. (John 15:6-7)
63. Jesus is amazed at the unbelief of Israel. (Mark 6:6)
64. Jesus is marveled at the belief of Gentiles. (Luke 7:9)
65. The Pharisees and lawyers rejected the will of God. (Luke 7:30)
66. They could have believed if Satan hadn’t interfered. (Luke 8:12)
67. Jesus teaches about chance meetings. (Luke 10:31)
68. Bad things happen without a reason. (Luke 13:2-5)
69. God wants to destroy Israel, but Jesus convinces God to wait-and-see. (Luke 13:6-9)
70. Woe! Men are responsible for their own actions. (Luke 17:1)
71. Perhaps they will respect the master’s son, says the master. (Luke 20:13)
72. Jesus asks people to come to him. (Matt 11:28)
73. Jesus predicts the last days will not last as long as prophesied. (Matt 24:22)
74. Jesus predicts he will return in His follower’s lifetime. (Mat 24:33-34; 16:28; 10:23; 23:31-36)
75. Jesus says he wanted Israel to rally to him, but they weren’t willing. (Mat 23:37)
76. Jesus left Godliness to become sin and to experience death, for us. (Phil 2:8; Heb 12:12-20)
77. The Father, for the first time, forsakes the Son. (Mat 27:46)
78. The Holy Spirit announces the start of the Last Days that never come. (Acts 2:14-20)
79. People can resist the Holy Spirit in their lives. (Acts 7:51)
80. Paul advises to prevent prophecy from happening. (Acts 13:40-41; Hab 1:5)
81. Faith comes from things that men do – namely hearing and reading. (Rom 10:17)
82. God may return to Israel if the Gentiles abuse their position. (Rom 11:20-24)
83. Your prize is not decreed, but is based on how you run. (1 Cor 9:24)
84. To God, Love is more important than a prophecy. (1 Cor 13:1-13)
85. God changes His mind about keeping the Sabbaths. (Col 2:16)
86. God wants all to be saved. (1 Tim. 2:3)
87. God’s will is that men abstain from sexual immorality. (1 Thess 4:3)
88. Jesus must wait for his enemies to become His footstool. (Heb 10:12-13)
89. God does not pick one person over another. (Gal 2:6)
90. If you do these things, your election will be made sure. (2 Peter 1:10)
91. The Holy Spirit counsels everyone to decide to come to Christ. (2 Peter 3:9)
92. Temptation originates apart from God’s decree but from our own will. (James 1:13-15)
93. God very strongly desires that we follow Him and not the world. (James4:5)
94. There is time in heaven. (Rev. 8:1; 6:10; 22:2)
95. The water of life is offered to whoever wills. (Rev 22:17)
For full post, click here.
Submitted by Neil Short of neshort.org:
Proverbs 16:4 reads:
The LORD has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble (RSV, NRSV, ESV, almost NASB).
This verse seems to teach the Calvinist doctrine that God created some people with the purpose of sending them to Hell (a logical corollary to Calvinism’s Irresistible Grace and Unconditional Election). This interpretation contradicts several straightforward Biblical passages saying that God does not want anybody to be damned and he is grieved when somebody chooses that life destiny (1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9; Ezekiel 18:30-32; 33:11; Lamentations 3:33). That’s why we check for an alternative interpretation for Proverbs 16:4! or we need to accept the Calvinist explanation and wrestle mightily with the other passages (as Calvinists do with 2 Peter 3:9).
My instant reaction to the “destined for Hell” view is a question. Why would you grab a verse out of the Wisdom literature of the Bible and apply it mathematically – like an axiom or theorem? Think of any proverb from Proverbs. Is it a rule that is true in every circumstance? The proverbs are true in a general sense; but there are [almost] always exceptions. Once we understand exactly what Proverbs 16:4 actually says, we’ll see that the usual method of applying proverbs applies here too. In fact, reading this verse in the Calvinist way is reading it in some way other than as a proverb. What life-lesson is being taught by stating that some people are created by God for Hell? None at all. It is thus seen as a statement of universal fact amidst a vast ocean of wisdom proverbs. Point: When you apply a Bible reading, be sure to acknowledgement the kind of literature the reading is.
For the full post, click here.