If God Is Not a Man, Can Jesus Be God? (Numbers 23:19)

Does Numbers 23:19 show the Bible is contradictory because it says God is not a man, yet Jesus was a man? Learn the answer to this alleged contradiction.
Bible "contradictions"
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Quick Answer

Here are two possible solutions:

  1. The point of the verse is that God does not lie or change His mind. It is essentially saying that God is not like a man in that He cannot do these things. Jesus, even though He was a man, could not lie or change his mind (in a sinful, regretful manner).
  2. The incarnation of Jesus had not yet happened when Numbers 23:19 was written, so at that time, God was not a man.
  3. Jesus' human nature is distinct from His divine nature—His divine nature is not His human nature.

The argument

Some argue that the Bible is contradictory concerning whether Jesus can be God if God is not a man. Numbers 23:19 says that God is not a man, yet Scripture teaches that Jesus took on a human nature in the incarnation. Here is the relevant verse.

Numbers 23:19 - God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?

The solution

There are two possible solutions to this alleged contradiction.

  1. The point of the verse is that God does not lie or change His mind. It is essentially saying that God is not like a man in that He cannot do these things. Jesus, even though He was a man, could not lie or change his mind (in a sinful, regretful manner).
  2. The incarnation of Jesus had not yet happened when Numbers 23:19 was written, so at that time, God was not a man.

1. God is not like a man

The purpose of Numbers 23:19 is to contrast God with man. It says that God is completely different from man in that God does not lie or change his mind in a sinful or regretful manner.

Jesus was also completely different from man in that He was the only man who never sinned. Jesus never lied or changed his mind sinfully.

2. God was not a man at the time of Numbers 23:19

Jesus had not been incarnated yet when Numbers was written, and the verse uses the present-tense verb, "is." So, at the time of Numbers, that verse was completely true. It does not say that God will never take on a human nature, the way Jesus did.

3. Jesus' divine nature is not his human nature

Another way in which Numbers 23:19 is not a contradiction is that Jesus had two distinct natures: a divine nature and a human nature. It is certainly true that Jesus' divine nature was not His human nature, so there is no contradiction between Numbers 23, the incarnation, and the hypostatic union.

"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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