(Jer. 3:7) Does God not know the future?

CLAIM: Jeremiah 3:7 states, “I thought, ‘After she has done all these things she will return to Me’; but she did not return, and her treacherous sister Judah saw it” (Jer. 3:7). How could God think that something would happen, but it didn’t? Open theist Greg Boyd writes, “If the future is eternally settled, it is difficult to see how God could express surprise over how humans behave, and even confess several times that he expected people to act differently (e.g., Jer. 3:7, 19; Isa. 5:1–5).”[1]

RESPONSE: The rendering of this word “thought” can also be translated as “desired.” Regarding this Hebrew word for “think,” W.L. Holliday writes, “The verb אמר is often used for inner speaking, thinking, and desiring (2 Kgs 5:11).”[2] Thus, in explaining his inner thoughts and desires, God communicates in this way to Jeremiah. Yet this shouldn’t be taken to conclude that God doesn’t know the future—only that he had alternate desires and plans for Israel, which they rejected.


[1] Boyd, Greg. Chapter Four: God Limits His Control. In Four Views on Divine Providence. Zondervan Counterpoints Collection. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. 2011. 199.

[2] Holladay, W. L. Jeremiah 1: a commentary on the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah, chapters 1–25. (P. D. Hanson, Ed.). Philadelphia: Fortress Press. 1986. 121.