Jeremiah 15:6—Can God repent?

Problem: The prophet speaks of God repenting so many times that He is “weary of relenting.” Yet in other places the Bible affirms that “He is not a man that He should relent” (1 Sam 15:29; cf. Mal. 3:6).

Solution: God does not actually change, but only appears to change as we change, just as the wind appears to change when we turn and go in another direction (see comments on Gen. 6:6 and Ex. 32:14). God cannot change His character nor His unconditional promises (Heb. 6:17–18), because they are based in His unchangeable nature (cf. 2 Tim. 2:13). In fact, it is because God is unchangeable in Himself that He appears to change in relation to humans who vary in their character and conduct. God’s immutability demands that His feelings and actions toward different human beings be different. Since He always feels the same revulsion toward sin (Hab. 1:13), God cannot feel the same toward a person who has just fallen in sin as toward that same person when he confesses his sin and calls upon God’s mercy for salvation. In this case, it is not God who changes, but the person who changes in relation to God.

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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.