Does God repent?

Question: Does God repent?

(Genesis 6:6) says God does repent.

(Numbers 23:19) says God does not repent.

(I Samuel 15:11,35) says God does repent.

Response: No. God does not repent his sins, because he does not sin. The word "repent" means to have regrets, and sometimes the regret directly involves sin and sometimes it doesn't. In the first and third verses (Genesis 6:6 and 1 Samuel 15:11,35), referenced above, we are being told that God does not regret his own sins, because he doesn't sin. In the second verse (Numbers 23:19), we are being told that God regrets the fact that people commit sins.

The word that is being translated into English as "repent" is the Hebrew word nacham, and it generally means to have regrets. It is the context in which the word is used that determines whether the regret involves sin.

For each of the three verses referenced above, if you look at their context, the meaning of nacham is clear:

Genesis 6:6 KJV translation: "And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart."

In this verse, there is no mention of sin. The verse is telling us that God has regrets in regards to creating man (because man sins against God).

Numbers 23:19 (KJV): "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?"

This verse is stating that God cannot repent for his sins because he does not commit sins.

1 Samuel 15:11,35 (KJV): "It repenteth me that I have set up Saul [to be] king: for he is turned back from following me, and hath not performed my commandments. And it grieved Samuel; and he cried unto the LORD all night." ... "And Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his death: nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul: and the LORD repented that he had made Saul king over Israel."

Here again it is clear from the context that the verse is using nacham to refer to the regret that God has in regards to someone else's sins (Saul's sins). The Lord is disappointed with the disobedience of Saul.

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