Can God somehow forget?

Did God create covenants with people because He can forget?

Genesis 9:1 - 29

ESV - 1 And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. 2 The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are delivered.

Clarify (1) Share Report Asked December 08 2014 Tot Tito Dulay Lim

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David 2011 David Robinson Army 1SG, firefighter, consultant (CFPS) - retired from all!
While this is an interesting question, I think it needs a bit more definition for clarity's sake. If we mean, for example, can He "forget" in the same sense that people forget things, the answer is clearly, no. When we forget something, we no longer know it. God, however, knows everything that is knowable. He cannot forget (cease to know) anything. That would require that some true information would exist that He doesn't know.

When the Bible speaks of God forgetting in Genesis 9:1-29 and in similar passages such as Hebrews 8:12, Jeremiah 50:20 and Isaiah 43:25, the authors are using anthropomorphic language. This very common way of speaking ascribes human attributes to non-human entities, in this case, to God Himself. Reason dictates that scripture must use anthropomorphic language to describe God if we are to be able to relate to Him.

It is helpful to remember that much of our language, including words such as "forget," can be used equivocally and analogically. That is, the meaning of words may change dramatically depending on context. When the context is the omniscient God, we should not assume that He knows things (and therefore, forgets things) in the same way we do. "Forget" means one thing in the context of man, something different in the context of God.

It is also helpful to meditate on the epistemology of God, or the study of how God knows what He knows. Even though we have scripture as our guide, our endeavor to know the mind of God is pitiful by comparison and extremely limited in scope and depth. It is, however, a worthwhile effort if it honors and glorifies Him and strengthens our faith.

We should first realize that God not only knows everything knowable, He knows it all the time. That is, all things are constantly before Him at any point in time (or eternity). All facts, all information, all events, all people and all things that have ever been or ever will be or ever could be are constantly in His conscious and abiding thoughts. For example, from all eternity there has never been (nor ever will be) a time when He is not thinking about you with the full and present knowledge of every aspect of your being from your beginning all the way through forever. The same is true of every other being or entity He has ever created. When scripture says He “knows” you, it is not kidding (Psalm 139:1-4)!

As finite humans, we can effectively think about only one thing at a time. We are not constantly (consciously) aware of all that we know. When we learn or become aware of something, we archive that information for later reference. If we are fortunate, our brains will store the information in a way that we can accurately retrieve it if needed. It is all too likely, however, that we will eventually lose that information in the recesses of our memory or that our brains will dump it in favor of something it perceives as more valuable.

Understanding something of the differences between the epistemology of man vs. That of God, we can see that God's memory (or remembrance) of something is very different from ours. While God's forgetting something may be linguistically analogous to our forgetting, it is by no means the same. In order to communicate with us, God must sometimes equivocate or use analogies, always condescending to use language we can understand.

When the Bible speaks of God's forgetting, it usually refers to His conscious decision not to do the thing in view. When He says in Hebrews 8:12 and elsewhere that He will "forget" (not remember, blot out, etc.) our sins, it means He will not act to punish us for our sins. (He can “legally” choose not to punish us by having punished His Son instead.) When it seems to suggest in Genesis 9 that He could potentially forget His covenant with Noah, the text is talking about God choosing not to honor His part of the bargain. He assures Noah that it cannot happen by giving him a sign. Just as surely as the rainbow appears after a storm, He will always remember (honor) His promises.

December 09 2014 2 responses Vote Up Share Report

Image les Silliman Retired carpenter, father of 4, Grandfather of 14.
The Bible does not tell us that God forgets, but rather that "He remembers no more." That is to say, He no longer reminds us of our sin and uses it against us. It does not mean He has forgotten, only that He has really forgiven, something we as humans seem to have trouble doing at times!

December 09 2014 1 response Vote Up Share Report

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