We run our website the way we wished the whole internet worked: we provide high quality original content with no ads. We are funded solely by your direct support. Please consider supporting this project.

How do you respond to Numbers 23:19?

The Lord tells Balak through Balaam “God is not a human being, that he should lie, or a mortal, that he should change his mind.”

This verse (as well as 1 Sam. 15:29, which quotes it) is often cited in refutation of the claim that God genuinely changes his mind. However, since Scripture explicitly states in dozens of contexts that the Lord does change his mind (twice in 1 Samuel 15!) the text cannot justifiably be used in this fashion. There is a straightforward explanation of this text that is perfectly consistent with texts that teach that the Lord does sometimes change his mind.

In this passage Balak attempted to get Balaam (a “prophet-for-hire”) to prophesy what he wanted to hear (cf. 22:38–23:17). The Lord informed Balak that he, the true God, is not like a human being who can lie when it’s profitable or a mortal who will change his mind for the sake of convenience. This was a common practice for false prophets who speak on behalf of false gods. But for the first time in his life Balak (and Balaam!) confronted the real God. This God is not like a mortal who would change his mind for the reasons Balak gave him to do so.

The conclusion that the whole council of Scripture should lead us to is that God changes when it is virtuous to change, but is completely unchanging when it is virtuous not to change.

Related Reading

Why Does God Need Prayer?

Greg Loves Questions. In his best selling book Letters from a Skeptic, he responds to questions from his father, who was then an atheist. Tomorrow Greg will be hosting a AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Reddit.  We hope you can join us! Here is an adaptation of one of Greg’s responses to a question from…

What is the significance of 1 Chronicles 21:7–13?

The Lord gives David three options of how Israel may be judged. “Three things I offer you; choose one of them, and I will do it to you.” Paralleling 2 Samuel 24:12–16, this passage reveals that the Lord gives people genuine alternatives and then responds to their choices. If the future is unalterably settled in…

Topics:

How do you respond to Zechariah 12:10?

“when they look on the one they have pierced, they shall mourn for him…” Hundreds of years before Christ was born it was declared that he would be pierced (cf. John 19:24–27). Detailed prophecies such as this one help convince us that Jesus is the Messiah hoped for in the Old Testament. The ministry and…

How do you respond to Psalm 139:16?

“In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed.” Psalm 139 is a beautiful poetic expression of God’s personal moment-by-moment involvement in our lives. So intimate is his involvement that he knows our thoughts before we utter them (vs. 2–4). His loving presence surrounds…

Lighten Up: Full of Possibilities

How Much of the Future is Settled? How Much is Open? (podcast)

Greg considers the mathematical nature of determinacy.  Episode 566 http://traffic.libsyn.com/askgregboyd/Episode_0566.mp3