How do we read these texts? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
Sometimes in the book of Genesis, it seems like God doesn’t know what’s going on. Now some of you might be thinking I’m referring to the creation passage and using that in this debate. No. I am not. I am instead referring to passages where God asks some questions or indicates He needs to investigate a matter.
Let’s start with Genesis 3. God comes walking through the garden at one point asking Adam where he is. While some might question if God knows the future, right now, this is asking if God even knows the present. Did God know where Adam was? Absolutely. He knew what had happened already. So why ask the question?
It’s asked to give Adam a chance to respond properly. As we know from the text, he didn’t. He played the blame game and blamed God and Eve both. Eve did the same thing and blamed the serpent. Unfortunately for the serpent, he had no one else to pass the buck to. God doesn’t buy any of it and punishes all of them.
Why phrase it this way? God is being presented in a way that we can understand. We will see this more when we get to impassibility. This is the language used especially in the Psalms when God is described as a rock, a shield, a hen over her young, or being told to wake up and bring about judgment. It’s not as if the Psalmist thought God was literally sleeping.
Another place to go to is Genesis 11. In this, the people decide to build a tower to the heavens. The problem with this is the flood came and the people were told to go throughout the Earth and fill it. Instead, they say they will stay in one place so that they can avoid another flood. God says “Let us go down and see what is going on.”
Why say this? It’s actually meant to be sarcasm. Here the people are trying to build something to reach to the heavens and God is in the heavens and saying “I think I see some tiny smidgen of something down there. Let’s go see what this thing is.” Consider it like Goliath talking smack to David about how insignificant an attacker he was. The text is speaking in mocking language of what God is doing to the people.
Finally, when Abraham barters with God, God seems to reason within Himself what He should do. Of course, this would mean that God would be ignorant of something. This again is not just the future, but the present. It is also God asking what the right thing to do is, which would mean God has a moral requirement and that laws of morality are above Him.
What is the purpose of this text then? It is to show Abraham as a mediator. After all, mediating is somewhat important in the Bible. Yes. God really does heed what men say. How that works will be something talked about later on. God is in charge of this deal the whole time. He sets the standards. Once a limit is reached, God says no more.
He also already does know what’s going on. It’s not as if God literally has to go and investigate. (And for what it’s worth, God is never seen going through the towns.) God is acting in a way we can relate to.
Now immediately, the objection pops up of, “But you’re not taking the text literally!” I am taking it literally in the sense that I think this is what the author intended. I am not taking it literalistically in the sense of reading it as a wooden text much like I don’t read in Deuteronomy of God being a consuming fire and think that He’s a giant cosmic bunsen burner.
All this sets us up for another such occurrence in Genesis in a passage with a lot of debate about it so we will save that for next time.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)