Does God Know or Does He Not Know?

September 7, 2017 at 10:05 AM 2 comments

El Roi – The God Who Sees. Knows the past, present, and future. Knows your heart: Heb 4:13. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.

If you read through the Bible, you’ll eventually come to places where it appears as though God doesn’t really know what is going on. Reading these sections of Scripture make it appear as though in order for God to fully know all the details, He had to “go down” into an area physically on earth in order to get a closer look before He was able to make a right judgment regarding that particular situation. Is this the actual case or is there something more, something deeper that He wants us to know about Him and His methods before He brings judgment onto a person, a group, or a situation?

One of the things I learned early on years ago in my biblical studies is that God is all-knowing. He knows everything. There is nothing that He does not know. Logically, who would worship any God who didn’t know everything? Though people have done so and continue to do so, my question is why waste the time? Usually, in today’s vernacular, people who worship a lesser god (which is no god at all), are being led by “feelings” or believe in a type of impersonal “force” that they believe offers them some type of guidance in their lives. This is most certainly in vogue today and whether people like to hear it or not, it’s really a form of superstitious idolatry that they’ve latched onto and believe in.

In the ancient world, people were also very superstitious. Each people group had their respective impersonal and limited gods they worshiped. As far as Israel was concerned, Jehovah was very persistent with them regarding avoiding idolatry because He knew that once they got settled in the Promised Land, if they were not careful, they would start looking around at various people groups and wonder about their worship activities and the gods they worshiped. God knew there would be a tremendous temptation for the Israelites to join in worshiping many of the gods that their neighbors worshiped. After all, the first Israelites were part of that world of idolatry.

God constantly spoke through prophets to Israel explaining His abject hatred for the religious practices of the heathen, who often sacrificed children to various gods like Molech. On too many occasions, as we’ve noted in previous articles, the Israelites gave the outward appearance of worshiping Jehovah, while in secret participated in detestable worship practices connected to many false gods. God clearly knew what was going on behind the scenes where the people (including priests and leaders of Israel), didn’t think God could see them. God was able to see what they did behind closed doors.

But if God sees all, why do we read portions of Scripture where it appears – at least on the surface – that God doesn’t have a full or complete understanding of a particular situation and because of that, needs to actually come down to the physical location of earth, walk around, and see things for Himself? What is the true meaning of that?

Genesis 18 is where we see God and several angels meet with Abraham on their way to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, which occurs in Genesis 19. The story is likely a familiar one to most readers.

16 Then the men set out from there, and they looked down toward Sodom. And Abraham went with them to set them on their way. 17 The Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, 18 seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? 19 For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.” 20 Then the Lord said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, 21 I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know.” – Genesis 18:16-21 (ESV)

In the above text, God actually speaks with Abraham as one man speaks to another. This is true fellowship with God because it is not superficial talk. God is revealing to Abraham what He is about to do. God is including Abraham in the process. It is absolutely fascinating!

Verse 20 is where God tells Abraham what’s happening. “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave…” God is pointing out to Abraham what God has already knew. Sodom was terrible because of the constant sins of the people who lived there. It would seem as though these two cities of the plains had become a microcosm of the entire previous world during Noah’s day, where back in Genesis 6, we see God’s sorrow at having made humanity because every thought and motivation of all human beings (except Noah), was evil, all the time. This was what Sodom/Gomorrah had become. Their evil was so prevalent and constant that there was nothing good there at all.

God explains to Abraham the terrible situation that exists in Sodom and Gomorrah (v. 20). Notice verse 21 though, where it seems as if God isn’t quite sure. He says, “I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know.” Taken at face value, it would seem as though God wasn’t quite sure. He had to see the situation up close and personal before He could make a final judgment concerning Sodom and Gomorrah.

However, if we take the text as a whole, God had already decided what His course of action would be where the two cities were concerned. Abraham seemed to sense this as well, which would explain his line of the of questioning to God starting in verse 23.

Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? 25 Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” – Genesis 18:23-25 (ESV)

Abraham was very concerned because the strong sense he got from God was that the decision to destroy the cities had already been made and Abraham’s nephew Lot lived there with his family. Yet, the text of verse 21 – “I will go down to see…” – appears to imply that God had not actually made the final decision.

What these words spoken by God actually tell us is that God goes to the nth degree to ensure that everything about the situation has been thoroughly investigated before judgment rains down. This is done not for God Himself, but for humanity. It proves to us God is not capricious. Unlike the many “gods” that people have believed in and worshiped (even today), Jehovah God does not make decisions based on a whim. He is letting us know that when it comes to judgment, God takes His time. His grace extends to humanity (as seen in the way He held off judging many past nations until they past the tipping point), and judgment is His last resort. Judgment will eventually come if there is no repentance, but God will wait as long as He can for any sign of repentance.

This is apparent in God’s response to Abraham starting in verses 26 and following of Genesis 18.

If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake.

Ultimately, Abraham learns that for the sake of ten (10) righteous, God would not have destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. This tells us is that there were not at least ten people there whom God considered righteous, hence the two cities were ultimately destroyed.

But let’s say that God had found ten people there whom He would have considered righteous. God would not have destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. But sadly, would the evil and sin of the populace in those cities have changed? Likely not, but because of His grace, had He found ten there, He would have spared the cities, which also meant that the evil they became known for would have continued unchecked.

Let’s look quickly at one more section of Scripture that also implies God didn’t know the whole story and had to come down to earth in order to discover it. In Genesis 11:1-9, we learn of the fate of the people who were attempting to build the Tower of Babel. A cursory glance at these nine verses seems to indicate that God was required to get a close-up view of the situation before He could make a final determination. However, the way the original Hebrew sets up the narrative, we learn that God is actually stooping to respond to humanity in the way they expected their false “gods” to respond. It actually becomes a very sad narrative, but again, shows us clearly how very gracious God is in that situation and in general toward His Creation. It also proves His omniscience.

In his commentary on Genesis, Bruce K. Waltke [1] indicates that this narrative can be divided up into four parts or scenes.

  • the initial setting on the plains of Shinar (11:1-2)
  • the human word to construct a city and tower (11:3-4)
  • the divine word to deconstruct by confounding speech (11:5-7)
  • the final scene; the nations scattered (11:8-10)

Waltke goes into the chiastic [2] structure of the original Hebrew, which is insightful. It is fascinating the way God literally reverses the attempt by the people to reach the heavens and to stay put in that one area instead of dispersing themselves throughout the world as He had originally commanded! The narrative starts off with the people all speaking the same language and coming together with the same idea to build a tower that reaches the heavens. It ends with God undoing their efforts and confusing them by introducing many languages and destroying their unity so that they will go off and disperse themselves around the world instead of being in one place, under one person, with one unifying idea.

The people building the Tower of Babel were attempting to move into God’s domain – the heavens – the very dwelling place of God’s throne. According to Waltke, it was very common for ancient people to build some sort of ziggurat (temple), the kind with exterior staircases to the top, which appeared as though it extended to the heavens. Sometimes, a blue enamel surface covered the highest point of the tower to help it blend in with the sky, to complete the illusion. The ancients believed that a tower such as that would allow the gods to walk down and into the ziggurat and even into the city where their gods could be among them.

When God says, “Come, let us go down…” (v. 7), He isn’t saying this to get a closer look at things. Based on that last part of that verse, God had already decided what He was going to do; “…and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” He says “let us go down” because the people expected their gods to walk down the outer steps of the ziggurat so God simply stoops to their level even though they would never have expected God Himself to go down to them and would not have wanted that. He also said that to reverse their statement, “Come, let us build…” (Genesis 11:4). The people wanted to reach into the heavens. God said He would “go down” to them.

Ironically, the tower is so puny that God has to come down to see it…’This figurative usage implies no limitation on God’s omnipotence for the divine descent presupposes prior knowledge of human affairs from on high, and God’s subsequent counter-action unqualifiedly exhibits His absolute sovereignty.” [3]

The problem with the Tower of Babel is humanity’s abject “refusal to live within God-given boundaries.” [4] It’s the same problem with Adam and Eve and with you and me. Sin is lawlessness (1 John 1:34), and everyone who goes beyond God’s law (rule) sins.

God knows all. He sees all. He is everywhere at once. He does not need to actually come down to earth physically in order to get a clearer picture of anything. He does so for our sakes, as a testament to His willingness to stoop to our level and prove that He thoroughly investigates something before He carries out His will. But even in that, we must realize that God does not need to take the time He sometimes does as we see in His Word. God’s decisions are instant, though for us, at times, it appears as though He takes great pains and great amounts of time before a decision is rendered.

The reality is that God does what He does for our benefit, wanting no one to perish. He seems to wait until the last possible moment before meting out judgment. Yet, this is how it looks on our timeline, not God’s. Things take a while from our perspective because of God’s grace toward humanity and His desire that all should come to Him in repentance to receive salvation.


[1] Genesis A Commentary, Bruce K. Waltke, p. 176

[2] ChiasmA chiasm…is a writing style that uses a unique repetition pattern for clarification and/or emphasis

[3] Genesis A Commentary, Bruce K. Waltke, p. 180

[4] Ibid, p. 180

Entry filed under: Atheism and religion, christianity, Demonic, devil worship, Eastern Mysticism, emergent church, eternity, israel, Judaism, Maitreya, new age movement, Political Correctness, Politically Correct, Politics, Religious - Christian - End Times, Religious - Christian - Prophecy, Religious - Christian - Theology, salvation, Satanism, second coming. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. rutnerh  |  September 7, 2017 at 2:02 PM

    Well done exposition on the concept of divine omniscience….difficult to comprehend by finite human minds. I define omniscience as “infinite I.Q.” in my discussions of creationism versus evolution, a humanistic anti-God fable or the big bang speculation (both not meeting the formal requirements of scientific theories), to illustrate the unfathomable gap and contrast between God’s wisdom evident in His 6 day Creation and feeble human wisdom seen as foolishness in His eyes.

    I hope you will also cover two other divine attributes: divine onmipresence and omnipotence, the latter particularly relevant in these days in light of the unprecedented super hurricane Irma approaching the shores of FL and the East Coast.

    We all need to pray that God will have mercy on His “few” saints in the affected areas and that the ” many” unbelievers, in the words of Jesus, will seek His free offer of eternal salvation and life in heaven after death. Eternal damnation and suffering in a real hell tragically is the imminent fate of many in Irma’s path who refuse His offer before death……per true story told by Jesus in Luke 16;19-31.


    • 2. modres  |  September 7, 2017 at 2:08 PM

      Thanks for your comments. We will probably get to the two attributes you mention at some point.



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