by Matt Slick
“Did Hezekiah king of Judah and all Judah put him to death? Did he not fear the Lord and entreat the favor of the Lord, and the Lord changed His mind about the misfortune which He had pronounced against them? But we are committing a great evil against ourselves," (Jer. 26:19).
The Hebrew word for "changed His mind" is nacham. It also means "relented," and it "does not mean that God changed His mind but that He embarked on another course of action. The Hebrew word nacham suggests relief or comfort from a planned, undesirable course of action. God is not inflexible; He responds to individuals’ needs, attitudes, and actions."1
Different Bible translations render this verse differently. The NASB says, "changed His mind." The NIV and NKJV, say "relent." The KJV, RSV, and 1901 ASV say "repent." Either way, the Lord knows the future and states what will happen if different choices are made, i.e., "If you do this, then this will happen; if you do that, that that will happen." It does not mean that God is ignorant of the future and has to adapt. On the contrary, it means that God knows exactly what will happen in the future given different choices. This is not possible if God does not know the future precisely and exhaustively.
Nevertheless, in Jer. 26:19 we have the account of the Lord dealing with Hezekiah. God's "changing of his mind" is the reference to how God deals with us in our time frame. We perceive it as God changing His mind, but from all eternity God knew what would happen and what He would do.
Furthermore, the Lord often speaks to us in our time reference so that what He wants to accomplish gets done. It is important to understand that God brings about certain changes in people by telling them that they will be punished if they continue in sin. They hear God's pronouncement, change their ways, and repent. God then "changes" from punishing them to blessing them. This does not mean that God did not know from all eternity that they would change their ways. It means that from all eternity God ordained the means by which they would change; namely, His pronouncement of judgment which would motivate them to change. Working in our time frame is necessary for us, not God. The means God uses to bring change is often the appearance of options He gives us. As free creatures, He gives us the choice to change -- knowing ahead of time what our choices will be should He warn us; thereby, bringing about change through His interaction with us. This is a better explanation than assuming that God is ignorant, can make mistakes, and takes chances.
- 1. Walvoord, John F., and Roy B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Wheaton, IL: Scripture Press Publications, 1985.