Repenting God

For those who complain that the Bible contradicts itself:

And Samuel said unto [Saul], יהוה hath rent the kingdom of Israel from thee this day, and hath given it to a neighbour of thine, that is better than thou. And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for he is not a man, that he should repent. Then he said, I have sinned: yet honour me now, I pray thee, before the elders of my people, and before Israel, and turn again with me, that I may worship יהוה thy God. So Samuel turned again after Saul; and Saul worshipped יהוה.

Then said Samuel, Bring ye hither to me Agag the king of the Amalekites. And Agag came unto him delicately. And Agag said, Surely the bitterness of death is past. And Samuel said, As thy sword hath made women childless, so shall thy mother be childless among women. And Samuel hewed Agag in pieces before יהוה in Gilgal. Then Samuel went to Ramah; and Saul went up to his house to Gibeah of Saul. And Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his death: nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul: and יהוה repented that he had made Saul king over Israel.

One minute Samuel says YHWH isn’t a man, that he should repent; the next minute the author says YHWH repented his making Saul king over Israel. Seriously, no one could miss something like this, so there’s no way it’s just an oversight on the author’s part.

Ideas, though?

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2 responses to “Repenting God

  1. my NIV bible translates the first “repent” as “change his mind” and the second repent as “grieved.” i don’t see the problem with that. are they the same word in the original? does it have different meanings?

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    • In Hebrew they’re both נחם (‘be sorry, moved to pity, repent’) in the Niphal form, though the Septuagint translated it with two different verbs – this verb differs also from שוב (‘return’). I think NIV maybe does a good job with trying to make sense of the difference between the two contexts, but it doesn’t really do justice to the irony; ESV renders it thus: And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for he is not a man, that he should have regret. […] And the Lord regretted that he had made Saul king over Israel.

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