Numbers 14:11, "How long will this people spurn Me?"

by Matt Slick

"And the Lord said to Moses, "How long will this people spurn Me? And how long will they not believe in Me, despite all the signs which I have performed in their midst?" (Num. 14:11).

Some open theists say that God's question to Moses was an admission by God that He did not know how long the Israelites would be rebellious, but this is not necessarily so.  The statement is not a statement of God's ignorance.  It was a necessary statement for the benefit of Moses.  Think about it.  Would it have been appropriate for God to say to Moses, "They will not believe me for 3 months, 17 days, 5 hours, and 14 minutes.  After that, they will believe.  So Moses, I would like you to relax, do nothing, and I'll take care of it."  Nope, instead of God proclaiming what He knew, He worked in our time frame and said what Moses expected to hear (God's expression of dismay at them), which is proper considering their lack of belief.  Sure, God can take care of them by doing a miracle or something, but sometimes He takes care of people's doubts by using other people to pray and intercede, to warn others, etc.  Apparently, this is what God wants done since God uses people to accomplish His desires all through the Bible.  Therefore, could not God speak the truth to Moses, not because God was ignorant, but because He wanted Moses to intercede on Israel's behalf -- which Moses did in verses 13-19?  Like Jesus who intercedes for us (Heb. 7:25), Moses interceded for them and God responded: "So the Lord said, 'I have pardoned them according to your word; 21but indeed, as I live, all the earth will be filled with the glory of the Lord,'" (Num. 14:20-21).

Remember, God is condescending to speak into our time and in our words.  He is, so to speak, stepping from eternity into time, addressing time-bound creatures who cannot see the future and who cannot see the ramifications of God's interactions with them as God does.  So, instead of God telling people what will be (thereby thwarting the very impetuous of repentance and intercession brought on by God's "complaining"), God speaks in human terms, in the human condition, from the perspective of time and the reality of Him interacting with them there.

Also, God "complains" so that people will respond, so that His will can be accomplished in their repentance and change.  If He didn't "complain" then they wouldn't respond, and God's plan wouldn't occur.  Instead of snapping His cosmic fingers and making things happen without people, God often uses people, instructs them, interacts with them, and sometimes He does it all through comments that are amazingly human in appearance.

The open theists do not seem to want to entertain such possibilities.  I think this is a shame since it is a logical explanation for the statements that God makes.


  1. This verse does not require that God be ignorant.  God could be speaking forth so that Moses would then intercede for Israel and God would then forgive.  This is how God works, through people.
  2. God knows the future, but to accomplish the future according to His will, He speaks the words of disappointment to Moses who then prays, thereby accomplishing the desire of God that He withhold His judgment.

About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.