When something is perfect, there is no need to change it. God is perfect. Therefore, He does not need to change His mind. Malachi 3:6 states, "I the LORD do not change." Numbers 23:19 likewise confirms, "God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind."
Does God change His mind?
However, there are occasions in the Bible when God seems to change His mind. In Genesis 6, God says He is "grieved" that He had made humans and chooses to destroy all of them except Noah and his family. When Jonah preached to the people of Nineveh, God "repented" (KJV) or "relented" (NASB) of what He was going to do, and the city was spared (Jonah 3:10).
When the Bible mentions God's "sorrow" or the "changing of His mind," it expresses in human terms the fact that sin bothers God. Because of sin, people deserve judgment, and sometimes judgment takes place (like with the Flood during Noah's time). At other times, the sinners repent, and God responds with mercy instead of wrath. God's mercy is the emphasis. The NIV's rendering of Jonah 3:10 captures the thought perfectly: "He had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened." God does not change His mind; He simply has compassion.
In fact, the Bible teaches that God knows all things, including every eventuality. "I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done" (Isaiah 46:9-10). Since God knew "the end from the beginning," He knew that He would send the Flood even before He created man. He was not "caught by surprise" by man's sin and did not "change His mind" about creating man. Also, God is never surprised by who responds to His grace and who does not. "He chose us in him before the foundation of the world" (Ephesians 1:4). He is the sovereign, all-knowing, perfect God.
Ezekiel noted God's words: "I am the LORD. I have spoken; it shall come to pass; I will do it" (Ezekiel 24:14). What God wills, He does. There is no changing His plans. On one occasion, the people of Israel were caught worshiping a golden calf. God told Moses that the people deserved to be destroyed. Yet Moses prayed and sought the Lord's mercy, and "the LORD relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people" (Exodus 32:14). Again, it may appear God had changed His mind. The explanation is that God knew in advance that He would offer mercy following the prayer of Moses. God did not change His mind; He progressively revealed what He had already decided.
James wrote, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change" (James 1:17). Since God is perfect, there is no "variation" with Him. He doesn't change because He doesn't need to. When to the Bible says that God "changes His mind," it is simply communicating in limited human terms God's actions in a manner we can comprehend.
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Is God omniscient? What does it mean to be omniscient?
Is God omnipotent? What does it mean to be omnipotent?
Truth about God