Article: Can God repent? by Will Kinney

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Can God “repent”?

There are many Bible Correctors out there today who try to tell us that the King James Bible is in error for translating the Hebrew Scriptures in such a way as to suggest that God can “repent”.

First of all, let it be noted that not only does the King James Bible say that God “repented”, as in Genesis 6:6 “And it REPENTED the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart” but so also do the following Bible translations:

Wycliffe 1395, Coverdale 1535, Bishops’ Bible 1568, Geneva Bible 1599, Revised Version 1881, American Standard Version 1901, the Jewish translations of 1917 and 1936, the Revised Standard Version 1952, the Hebrew Names Version, Darby, Young’s, KJV 21st Century Version 1994, Third Millenium Bible 1998, the Updated Bible Version 2003, J.P. Green’s Modern KJV 2000, the Spanish Reina Valera 1909, 1960, 1995 (se arrepintió), Italian Diodati 1649 and the New Diodati 1991 - "si pentì di aver fatto l'uomo sulla terra, the French Martin 1744, French Louis Segond 1910 and the French Ostervald 1991 - "Se repentit d'avoir fait l'homme sur la terre”, and the Portuguese Almeida

The 1987 Amplified bible, put out by the Lockman Foundation, also uses the word 'repent" in the same way in 1 Samuel 15:35 saying: "And the Lord REPENTED that He had made Saul king over Israel."

Even the Revised Standard Version of 1952 has God “repenting” in such verses as Genesis 6:6; Exodus 32:14; 1 Samuel 15:35; 2 Samuel 24:16; 1 Chronicles 21:15; Amos 7:3, 6; and Jonah 3:10.

The NASB has God repenting in Jeremiah 26:3 saying: “Perhaps they will listen and everyone will turn from his evil way, THAT I MAY REPENT of the calamity which I am planning to do to them because of the evil of their deeds.”

People who claim the Hebrew word is incorrectly translated in the King James Bible when it shows God “repenting” of some action are merely revealing their own ignorance of both the Hebrew and English languages. Many, many other Bible translators both before and after the King James Bible disagree with their peculiar views because they too have translated the Hebrew words in the same way as the King James Bible.


Webster's online dictionary 10th edition

Main Entry: re·pent

1 : to turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one's life
2 a : to feel regret or contrition b : to change one's mind
transitive verb
1 : to cause to feel regret or contrition
2 : to feel sorrow, regret, or contrition for

Webster's 1913 dictionary actually uses Genesis 6:6 in one of its references to the meaning of the word repent, saying: "To cause to have sorrow or regret; -- used impersonally. And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth." Genesis vi. 6."

Online Wiktionary

1(intransitive) To feel pain, sorrow, or regret for what one has done or omitted to do.
2(intransitive) To change one's mind, or the course of conduct, on account of regret or dissatisfaction.
3(transitive) To feel pain on account of; to remember with sorrow.
4(transitive) To cause to have sorrow or regret.

I have run into several of these men who criticize the King James Bible reading of "it repented the Lord that..." and have had opportunity to discuss the Bible version issue with some of them. What I have found without exception is that not one of these men believes that ANY Bible in ANY language found in print today IS now the complete and inerrant words of God. One such man is Dr. Jason Gastrich who likes to list some 50 places where he thinks the King James Bible (and ALL bibles out there) are in error. Many of Dr. Gastrich’s “errors” are shared by even the NKJV, NIV, NASB, RSV, ESV, Holman and ALL bible versions in existence. What he has done is what all others do who do not believe The Book - they each make themselves their own final authority and don’t agree with anybody else 100% of the time.


Dr. Gastrich writes:

“God cannot repent because He cannot do evil. The KJV problem: The KJV says that God repented in 1 Samuel 15:35. The non-KJV solution: The Hebrew word "nawkham" means regret. Therefore, God regretted making Saul king, but He did not repent.” - Jason Gastrich

Here again we see how the Bible Corrector’s fertile imagination works. Brother Jason should learn a bit more about his own English language. Words frequently have several meanings, and the word “repent” does not always have to do with “repenting from sin”. The word “repent” can also carry the simple meaning of “to change one’s mind”. Again, this is what Bible teachers refer to as an Anthropomorphism.

Does God know everything? Of course He does. Yet all Bible versions use the literary device called anthropomorphism in such expressions as when God comes to Adam in the garden after he had eaten from the tree of knowledge and He says: “Where art thou?” Didn’t God know? Of course He did.

Other examples of this very common way of using Biblical language are Genesis 3:11 where God asks: “Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?”

Genesis 4:9 “And the LORD said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother?”

Genesis 18:21 “I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me: and if not, I will know.”

Numbers 22:9 “And God came unto Balaam, and said, What men are these with thee?”.

Some modern versions like the NKJV, NIV, ESV and NASB tell us that God either “regretted” or “was sorry”, but these renderings end up having the same “problem”. If God is unchangeable and immutable, then theologically speaking He could not possibly regret or be sorry for anything He does. Clearly the terms “repent” or “was sorry” or “regretted” are examples of what is called either anthropopathy or anthropomorphism, that is, the attributing of human characteristics to the divine, like when the Bible tells us that God has a nose, ears, feet and arms.

Modern bible versions like the NKJV and NASB, which frequently translate this Hebrew word as something other than "repent" end up with the same "contradictions". For example, in 1 Samuel 15:29 the NKJV says: "the Strength of Israel will not lie nor RELENT. For He is not a man, that He should RELENT." The NASB tells us that "He is not a man that He SHOULD CHANGE HIS MIND." However both the NJKV and NASB type versions are then faced with a direct contradiction when they tell us in Exodus 32:12-14 that Moses asks God to RELENT (NASB - change Your mind) and then relate that God indeed "RELENTED from the harm which He said He would do" - NKJV (CHANGED HIS MIND - NASB).

Many commentators who are far from being King James Bible only believers have no problem correctly understanding what it means when the Bible says that God repented of certain things.

John Gill
John Gill

John Gill comments on Genesis 6:6 “and it repented the LORD” saying:

“This is speaking by an anthropopathy, after the manner of men, because God determined to do, and did something similar to men, when they repent of anything: as a potter, when he has formed a vessel that does not please him, and he repents that he has made it, he takes it and breaks it in pieces; and so God, because of man's wickedness, and to show his aversion to it, and displicency at it, repented of his making him; that is, he resolved within himself to destroy him.”

Jamieson, Fausset and Brown remark: “God saw it . . . repented . . . grieved--God cannot change (Mal 3:6; Jas 1:17); but, by language suited to our nature and experience, He is described as about to alter His visible procedure towards mankind.”

John Wesley comments on this verse saying:

“And it repented the Lord that he had made man upon the earth -That he had made a creature of such noble powers, and had put him on this earth, which he built and furnished on purpose to be a comfortable habitation for him; and it grieved him at his heart - These are expressions after the manner of men, and must be understood so as not to reflect upon God's immutability or felicity. It doth not speak any passion or uneasiness in God, nothing can create disturbance to the eternal mind; but it speaks his just and holy displeasure against sin and sinners: neither doth it speak any change of God's mind; for with him there is no variableness; but it speaks a change of his way.”

John Piper, certainly no King James Bible promoter writes: God Does Not Repent Like a Man, November 11, 1998.

“After Saul disobeys Samuel, God says, "I regret [= repent] that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following Me and has not carried out My commands" (1 Samuel 15:11). Some have argued that since God "repents" of things he has done, therefore he could not have foreseen what was coming. Else why would he repent or regret, if he knew in advance the consequence of his decision?

However, this is not a compelling argument against God's foreknowledge. First of all, the argument assumes that God could not, or would not, lament over a state of affairs he himself chose to bring about. That not true to human experience; and more importantly, God's heart is capable of complex combinations of emotions infinitely more remarkable that ours. He may well be capable of lamenting over something he chose to bring about.

Not only that, God may also be capable of looking back on the very act of bringing something about and lamenting that act in one regard, while affirming it as best in another regard. For example, if I spank my son for blatant disobedience and he runs away from home because I spanked him, I may feel some remorse over the spanking - not in the sense that I disapprove of what I did, but in the sense that I feel some sorrow that spanking was a necessary part of a wise way of dealing with this situation, and that it led to his running away. If I had it to do over again, I would still spank him. It was the right thing to do. Even knowing that one consequence would be alienation for a season, I approve the spanking, and at the same time regret the spanking. If such a combination of emotions can accompany my own decisions, it is not hard to imagine that God's infinite mind may be capable of something similar.

Now the question is: Does the Bible teach that God laments some of his decisions in the sense that I have described above (which does not imply that He is ignorant of their future consequences), or does the Bible teach that God laments some of his decisions because he did not see what was coming?

The answer is given later in 1 Samuel 15. After God says in verse 11, "I repent that I have made Saul king," Samuel says in verse 29, as if to clarify, "The Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for he is not a man, that he should repent" (KJV). The point of this verse seems to be that, even though there is a sense in which God does repent (verse 11), there is another sense in which he does not repent (verse 29). The difference would naturally be that God's repentance happens in spite of perfect foreknowledge, while most human repentance happens because we lack foreknowledge. God's way of "repenting" is unique to God: "God is not a man that he should repent" (the way a man repents in his ignorance of the future).

For God to say, "I feel sorrow that I made Saul king," is not the same as saying, "I would not make him king if I had it to do over." God is able to feel sorrow for an act in view of foreknown evil and pain, and yet go ahead and will to do it for wise reasons. And so later, when he looks back on the act, he can feel the sorrow for the act that was leading to the sad conditions, such as Saul's disobedience.

Hence we have our precious fighter verse in Numbers 23:19 - "God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?" I say it is precious, because here God's commitment to his promises hangs on his not repenting like a man. In other words, God's promises are not in jeopardy, because God can foresee all circumstances, he knows that nothing will occur that will cause him to take them back. Resting in the confidence of God's all-knowing promises, - Pastor John”

The King James Bible is right, as always.

Will Kinney

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Other Artilces by Will Kinney in the Textus Receptus database ~

Old Testament

Genesis Genesis 1:28 Replenish or Fill? - Genesis 6:6 Can God repent? - Genesis 22:1 Did God "Tempt" Abraham? Exodus Exodus 20:13 Thou Shalt Not KILL - Exodus - the Israelites "borrowed" of the Egyptians Numbers Numbers 22 Why was God Angry with Balaam? Job Bible Babel in Job - a comparative study 1 Samuel 1 Samuel 13:21 "a file" a "pim" or "two-thirds of a shekel"? 2 Samuel 2 Samuel 21:8 Michal or Merab? - 2 Samuel 21:19 Who Killed Goliath? 1 Kings 1 Kings 20:38 ashes upon his face - 1 Kings 22:38 "washed his armour" or "while the harlots bathed" NKJV Nonsense Psalms Psalm 8:5 Lower than the Angels, or a little lower than God? - Answering Doug Kutilek's anti-Preservation in Psalm 12 - Psalm 74:8 the synagogues of God; Psalm 77:2 my sore ran in the night - Psalms 1 How Different the Versions! - Psalms 2 How Different the Versions! - Psalms 3 How Different the Versions! - Psalms 4 How Different the Versions! - Psalms 5 How Different the Versions! Proverbs NKJV Bible Babel in Proverbs - Bible Babel in Proverbs Isaiah Isaiah - a Comparative Study - Does God Create Evil? Isaiah 45:7 Jeremiah Jeremiah 8:8 the pen of the scribes is in vain - Jeremiah 27:1 Jehoiakim or Zedekiah? - Ezekiel Ezekiel 29:7 Hebrew, Greek or Syriac? Hosea Hosea - a Comparative Study

New Testament

Did Jesus Tell Them to Take a Staff or Not? Matthew Is Matthew 23:14 Scripture or not? - Matthew 27:44 cast in teeth Mark Gospel of Mark - a Modern Version Mix-up Luke Is "cousin" wrong in Luke 1:36 - Luke 17:36 Is it inspired Scripture or not? John John 1:18 the only begotten Son Acts Act 3:19 times of refreshing; 7:20 Moses was exceeding fair - Acts 9:5-7 hear the voice; 7:20 exceeding fair - Acts 5:30 slew and hanged; 19:20 word of GOD - Acts 13:33 this day have I begotten thee - Acts 19:9 DIVERS were hardened, and believed not - Acts 19:35 Diana or Artemis? Jupiter, Zeus or Heaven? - The So-called "Science" of Textual Criticism. Science or Hocus-Pocus? Gospels through Acts Romans James White discussing Romans 6:17 Philippians Textual Studies in Philippians 2 Timothy 2 Timothy 3:16 Inspiration of God or God Breathed? Hebrews The Book of Hebrews - a Comparative Study 1 Peter 1 Peter - Shifting Sands of Scholarship 1 John And These Three Are One Article defending the inclusion of 1 John 5:7. - 1 John 5:7 These three are one Jude The Book of Jude - James White's "inferior" texts Revelations Revelation 13 Confusion - Vials or Bowls in the book of Revelation - Rev.16:5 and SHALT BE; 5:8-10 redeemed US - Revelation 17:8 "the beast that was, and is not, and YET IS" - Acts 28:13 We Fetched a Compass; 1 Tim5:4 Nephews - Matthew 24:3; Hebrews 9:26 End of World or Age?

Modern Versions

Bible Babel 1 - Bible Babel 2 - Bible Babel 3 - Bible Babel 4 - The Oldest and Best Manuscripts? - Every Man for Himself Bible Versions - the HCSB, NET, ESV, TNIV, NKJV - The Inerrancy of Scripture - are you a Bible believer or a Bible agnostic? - True Bible? - Modern Versions Teach Racism - Modern Versions Teach Pride as a Virtue - Do Ghosts Exist? Modern Versions say Yes ESV The English Standard Version 2001 NASB The Ever Changing NASB's NKJV NKJV Word Changes - When the NKJV departs from the TR - The New KJV is a Hack Job Translation - NKJV vs KJB Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah - Is the NKJV the same as the KJB? - Don't go on Safari with a New KJV Translator - The NKJV is a Poor Substitute for the True Bible - NKJV vs KJB Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah - NKJV Bible Babel in Proverbs

King James Word Definitions

Lucifer - Jehovah - Unicorns - Is the word "Easter" an error in the King James Bible? - Are the words "CHURCH" and 'BISHOP' wrong? - Hell and Damnation in the King James Bible - "By and by" versus "the-by-and-by" - Servants or Slaves? - Is "charity" an error in the KJB? - The Grace of God Destroyed - "Would to God" - Another alleged 'error' bites the dustIs "bottles" an inaccurate word in the King James Bible?

King James Bible

Is King James onlyism Scriptural? - Does the KJB only position "blow up"? - What About Those Printing Errors in 1611? - Does the King James Bible depart from the Hebrew Texts? - Why do you King James Bible onlyies Attack the word of God? - The Historic Confessions support the KJB position - Can a Translation be Inspired? - The Old Latin versions and the KJB


NO LXX Part 1 - NO LXX - the Fictitious Use of Septuagint

Dead Sea Scrolls

The Dead Sea Scrolls Fiasco

Hebrew Text

The NIV, NASB reject the Hebrew Texts - NIV, NASB reject Hebrew texts Part 2 - How to Destroy Messianic Prophecies

Greek Text

"The Greek" and Hebrew Games

Gender Inclusive Versions

Gender Inclusive Versions Dealing with the TNIV

Answering Critics

E mail exchange with Bible Agnostic Doug Kutilek - John MacArthur - Pastor with NO Infallible Bible - A Bible Believer's Response to James Price's book King James Onlyism - a New Sect - A King James Bible Believer's Response to Rick Norris' book 'The Unbound Scriptures' - 17 Parts

Part 1 - The "logical" Premise of Mr. Norris

Part 2 - Those Dreadful Archaic Words

Part 3 - Imperfect men, Perfect Bible

Part 4 - Revision

Part 5 - Printing Errors and Spelling

Part 6 - Inspiration and Inerrancy

Part 7 - Alleged Errors in the King James Bible

Part 8 - Let Me Count The Ways

Part 9 - Beasts or Living Creatures?

Part 10 - Mules or Hot Springs?

Part 11 - "Digged down a wall" or "hamstrung an ox"?

Part 12 - Steel, brass, copper, bronze - Paper or Plastic?

Part 13 - The Usual Suspects

Part 14 - The Preservation of the words of God

Part 15 - KJB Only versus Latin Vulgate Only Argument

Part 16 - Where Was the Word of God Before 1611?

Part 17 - Final Thoughts

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