Does God Change His Mind?
Can God engage in Divine repentance? If God is immutable, if He does not change at all, does that mean He never changes His mind? The Scriptures seem to indicate He does and He doesn’t.
Let the Scripture speak…
(Exodus 32:11) And Moses besought the LORD his God, and said, LORD, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people, which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand?
(Exodus 32:12) Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, and say, For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth? Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people.
(Exodus 32:13) Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou swarest by thine own self, and saidst unto them, I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of will I give unto your seed, and they shall inherit it for ever.
(Exodus 32:14) And the LORD repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people.
God relented or repented. God changed His mind. These Scriptures seem to indicate that God can change His mind. Yet we have others that indicate God doesn’t change His mind.
(Numbers ) God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?
(Numbers ) Behold, I have received commandment to bless: and he hath blessed; and I cannot reverse it.
(1 Samuel 15:29) And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for he is not a man, that he should repent.
Is there a contradiction in Scripture?
The Bible uses human terms to describe God. The Bible speaks of Him becoming angry, having arms, hands, a face, and feet. God is not a man that He should relent [change His mind] 1 Sam.
In regard to Exodus 31:14 it would appear that God changed His mind because Moses showed God a better way. It is unthinkable that God can be corrected by infallible man.
Did God overlook the consequences of punishing His people? Without the help of Moses God would have made a hasty and foolish mistake?
This is blasphemy to talk in such terms. If we try to find too much theology in narrative passages we can easily go beyond the point of the narrative into serious errors.
These Biblical narratives in which God seems to repent, or change His mind, are almost always narratives that deal with His threats of judgment and punishment. These threats are followed by repentance of the people or by intercessory petitions of their leaders. God does not or can be talked into changing His mind. He does not punish sinners who repent and turn from their evil ways.
Who is ultimately repenting in Exodus 32: 11-14? God never repents in the sense that He turns away from sin or from error. God is never corrected by man or given any insight by man.
Dr. John MacArthur says, “Moses' appeal for God to change His mind, to relent, succeeded because God had only threatened judgment not decreed it. A divine intention is not an unchangeable divine decree. Decrees or sworn declarations (cf. Gen. 22:16-18; Psa. 110:4) or categorical statements of not changing or relenting (cf. Jer. ; Ezek. 24:14; Zech. -15) are unconditional and bind the speaker to the stated course of action regardless of the circumstances or reactions of the listeners. Intentions retain a conditional element and do not necessarily bind the speaker to a stated course of action (cf. Jer. 15:6; 18:8-10; 26:3, 13, 19; Joel ; John 3:9-10; 4:2).
William McDonald in the Believer’s Bible Commentary says, “Moses recognized that the people had sinned so he did not seek to justify their actions. As a result God relented of His threatened course of judgment. The word “relented” does not mean that God changed His mind but that He embarked on another course of action. The Hebrew word nāḥam suggests relief or comfort from a planned, undesirable course of action.”
If God can change His mind, what is there to say that He will not change His mind about my salvation?