Genesis 22:12—Was God ignorant of how Abraham would respond?

Problem: This verse implies that God did not know how Abraham would respond to His command, since it was only after Abraham obeyed that God said, “now I know that you fear God.” However, the Bible declares elsewhere that God in “His understanding is infinite” (Ps. 147:5), that He knows “the end from the beginning” (Isa. 46:10), and has foreknown and predestinated us from the foundation of the world (Rom. 8:29–30).

Solution: In His omniscience God knew exactly what Abraham would do, since He knows all things (cf. Ps. 139:2–4; Jer. 17:10; Acts 1:24; Heb. 4:13). However, what God knows by cognition, and what is known by demonstration are different. After Abraham had obeyed God’s command, he demonstrated what God always knew, namely, that he feared God.

Here again the Bible, addressed as it is to human beings, speaks from the human perspective. In like manner, a math teacher might say, “Let’s see if we can find the square root of 49, ” and then, after demonstrating it, declare, “Now we know that it is 7, ” even though she knew from the beginning what the answer was.

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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.