Does God Change His Mind? Gen 6:6-7, Ex 32:14, Jon 3, Mal 3

Are Genesis 6:6-7, Exodus 32:14, Jonah 3:10, Malachi 3:6 contradictory concerning whether God changes His mind? Learn the answer to this apparent contradiction.
Bible "contradictions"
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Quick answer

No. When it appears that God is changing His mind in the Bible, the Bible is utilizing anthropomorphism, or the attribution of human traits, emotions, or intentions to non-human entities. This is done to help explain God in language we can more easily understand.

The argument

Some argue that the Bible is contradictory concerning whether God changes His mind. Malachi 3:6 says that God does not change, but Genesis 6:6-7, Exodus 32:14, and Jonah 3:10 appear to say that God changes His mind. Here are the relevant passages:

God does not change

Malachi 3:6 - For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.

God changes His mind

Genesis 6:6-7 - And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, "I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them."
Exodus 32:14 - And the Lord relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.
Jonah 3:10 - When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.

The answer

God appearing to change His mind in the Bible is an example of anthropomorphism

When it appears that God is changing His mind in the Bible, the Bible is utilizing anthropomorphism, or the attribution of human traits, emotions, or intentions to non-human entities. This is done to help explain God in language we can more easily understand.

God had always planned to do what He ended up doing

The Bible clearly teaches that God always accomplishes what He desires:

My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose. (Isaiah 46:10b)

This means that it would be contradictory for God to be "sorry" or "regret" that He had done something.

The concept of anthropomorphism helps explain why the Bible uses this kind of language to sometimes describe God.

However, what is actually happening is that God had always planned for this exact sequence of events to happen in this order. It was always part of God's plan to punish humans for their increasing sin (Genesis 6:6-7) and to forgive the Israelites and Ninevites when they repented (Exodus 32:14, Jonah 3:10).

"I don't buy that explanation"

Some people have trouble accepting possible explanations to alleged contradictions in the Bible, especially ones that they consider a stretch. For example, Dan Barker, president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, says this:

I have received numerous replies from Christians who think that these contradictions are either trivial or easily explained. Yet not a single "explanation" has been convincing.

Fact vs Opinion

The fact is that there are plausible explanations for every alleged contradiction in the Bible. That there is a plausible explanation for an alleged contradiction does not mean that it is definitely the correct explanation for the alleged contradiction.

However, as long as a possible explanation has been suggested, then it has been objectively demonstrated that there is no necessary contradiction regarding the Bible verses and passages brought up.

When people like Dan Barker say that they don't find a particular explanation for a contradiction "convincing," then that is merely their opinion. A plausible explanation has been suggested that eliminates the necessary alleged contradiction. They simply don't like it, which is not at all a relevant argument against the explanation.

Additional Resources

To read more about solutions to Bible contradictions and difficulties, check out Norman Geisler's The Big Book of Bible Difficulties: Clear and Concise Answers from Genesis to Revelation. While we do not agree with some of Geisler's theology, particularly concerning his view of predestination, this book is still an excellent resource. It is thorough and filled with research.

Another book to check out is Tim Chaffey's Demolishing Supposed Bible Contradictions: Exploring Forty Alleged Contraditions, which also answers many alleged contradictions in the Bible.

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