Bible Q&A: A Question About God’s Omniscience

Can God actually see our future?  If such is the case, why did he say to Abraham, “Now I know”?

God can see our future, as taught throughout Scripture.  One example of many which could be cited is what God said to Israel through the prophet Isaiah when he challenged Israel’s false gods to see the future as he could (Is. 41:21-23).  In chapter 45 of Isaiah we see an example of God seeing the future in that through Isaiah he foretold of the Persian king Cyrus’s reign more than a century before Cyrus was born, even going so far as to identify Cyrus by name.  God does indeed have the power to “declare the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things not yet done” (Is. 46:8-10).

So why did he say to Abraham, “…for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me” (Gen. 22:12)?  Remember that Moses wrote that God “tested” Abraham by commanding him to sacrifice Isaac (Gen. 22:1).  The Hebrew term for “tested” (nasa) carries with it the idea of testing or proving someone (Strong, Brown-Driver Briggs). If a teacher gives a test to a student, it is because the teacher wants to ascertain or prove what he does not yet know: how much the student has learned from the teacher.  The student taking the test proves to the teacher how much the student knows. Being omnipotent, God certainly has the power to decide not to know something for the purposes of testing us.  That is what he did with Abraham.  He wanted to know just how faithful and loyal Abraham had grown to become over the years.  Being omniscient, he could have easily already known this by foreseeing how Abraham would have responded to his command to sacrifice Isaac.  Yet he wanted to “test” Abraham, and thus used his omnipotence to deny himself the foreknowledge of how Abraham would respond to his difficult command.

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