And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do to them…
There are certain passages of holy Scripture which assert in the strongest way that God cannot repent, and that He never does. There are certain other passages which assert, just as strongly, and with as little qualification, that He can repent, and that, in fact, He has often done so. Here is an apparent contradiction. The ordinary method of interpretation applied to such texts is, to my mind, eminently unsatisfactory, and in fact involves erroneous and pernicious views of the Divine nature. We are told that the passages which speak of God's repentance are simply forms of speech to indicate a change of outward procedure, but do not imply any change whatever of interior feeling. This theory, in order to exempt God frown those imperfections which are connected with the exercise of the affections and passions among men, virtually denies to Him the possession of any affections at all. It makes Him simply a Being of pure thought and unrelenting will. What a stupendous inroad is thus made on the fulness and beauty of "the glorious Gospel of the blessed God!" I take the words to mean what we naturally understand by them — that God did really repent — i.e., changed His mind, which is the meaning of repentance. When He sent the prophet He meant destruction. When the city was humbled, He changed His mind, and waved the destroying angel home. There was a condition involved in the threat, and understood. God knew that the city would repent. Yes, but He also knew that the city would repent under commination. Why should it be incredible that God "repents" or changes? Would it not be more incredible if it were asserted that He never does? Are we to suppose that what constitutes a special perfection in the moral character of a man is an imperfection in God? God morally regards us at any one moment just as we are.
(A. Raleigh, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.