What is the significance of 2 Chronicles 32:31?

“God left [Hezekiah] to himself, in order to test him and to know all that was in his heart.”

God tests his covenant partners to discover whether they will choose to remain faithful to him, an exercise that is absurd if God exhaustively foreknows exactly how faithful every person will choose to be. If the classical view of the future is correct, the biblical purpose for every “testing”—viz. “to know all that was in his heart”—is misleading at best.

Defenders of the classical view sometimes argue that verses such as this are meant to describe how things appear to us rather than how they truly are. But there are two problems with this interpretation.

First, the verse does not state or remotely suggest that it simply looked as though God tested Hezekiah to know his heart. It rather suggests that God was genuinely seeking to find this out.

Second, it is not at all clear how passages such as this which describe the motive behind God’s actions (viz. “in order to know”) can be explained away as an appearance. How does it appear to us (but not to God?) that God came to know Hezekiah’s heart through this testing? If God didn’t really come to know Hezekiah’s heart by the means which this verse says, the verse doesn’t seem to communicate much of anything.

However, once we accept that God is a God of the possible and not simply the God of eternally frozen facts, and once we accept that God can genuinely think and speak in terms of “maybes” and “ifs,” verses like this can be understood in a straightforward manner without extravagant theological explanations.

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