Jeremiah 3:7-10 is a passage that someone cited as proof that the Bible does not teach God’s omniscience.
Let me quote the passage:
“I thought, ‘After she has done all these things she will return to Me’; but she did not return, and her treacherous sister Judah saw it. 8 And I saw that for all the adulteries of faithless Israel, I had sent her away and given her a writ of divorce, yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear; but she went and was a harlot also. 9 Because of the lightness of her harlotry, she polluted the land and committed adultery with stones and trees. 10 Yet in spite of all this her treacherous sister Judah did not return to Me with all her heart, but rather in deception,” declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 3:7-10)
Let’s take a closer look.
- Argument: “God predicted Israel would repent, but admits He was wrong.”
- In the context this is God speaking to the Prophet Jeremiah “in the days of Josiah the king” (6)
- In the context of the rest of the chapter, Jeremiah 3:7-10 is part of the prophetic description of Israel and Judah being analogous to a harlot in her unfaithful relationship towards God (see Jeremiah 3:1-5 and 11-25 where there are languages of unfaithfulness).
- Remember all analogies break down. Also not everything here is literal; that is, some words and phrases here are figurative especially with the finer details.
- For instance God says Judah “had a harlot’s forehead” (3). The nation of Judah and Israel did not literally have a physical forehead of a harlot. Rather the point was that Judah and Israel were unfaithful and it was obvious. Moreover, with it being obvious they “refused to be ashamed” (v.3).
- God was also not literally married to Israel and Judah. Marriage was a symbol of God’s covenantal relationship with Israel/Judah.
- We should be cautious of anyone using Jeremiah 3:7-10 to establish that God is not omniscient of the future given the passage is largely symbolic.
- Contextually in other areas within the chapter in which things are more clear and direct, we see God does know and predicts the future: “It shall be in those days when you are multiplied and increased in the land,” declares the Lord, “they will no longer say, ‘The ark of the covenant of the Lord.’ And it will not come to mind, nor will they remember it, nor will they miss it, nor will it be made again. 17 At that time they will call Jerusalem ‘The Throne of the Lord,’ and all the nations will be gathered to it, to Jerusalem, for the name of the Lord; nor will they walk anymore after the stubbornness of their evil heart. 18 In those days the house of Judah will walk with the house of Israel, and they will come together from the land of the north to the land that I gave your fathers as an inheritance” (16-18)
- Here there is no use of marriage and harlotry motif.
- It is talking about after Israel and Judah’s literal repentance.
- This is something future and yet God knows about it which makes Jeremiah 3:7-10 unlikely a denial of God’s knowledge of what’s ahead in the future.
- Going back to Jeremiah 3:7-10 given the use of analogies here we take it that God was condescending and speaking anthropomorphically to man when he said that He said “I thought, ‘After she has done all these things she will return to Me’; but she did not return, and her treacherous sister Judah saw it.” (7)
- The emphasis on verse 7 is that Judah and Israel should have been expected to repent but she did not. God’s people not repenting is something that is disappointing. And one can be disappointed in the sense of not being pleased even if you know it is going to happen. It’s just that in the analogy of God as husband God uses the language of verse 7 to describe how disappointing the sins is of not returning back to God.
- Thus Jeremiah 3:7-10 shouldn’t be used as a proof text to say the Bible deny God’s omniscience.