Does God Change His Mind?

I’ve noted a few Bible passages in the past which seem to indicate points where God changes His mind – here, here, and here.  In the second example, we see that God “relented” from his decision to destroy the Israelites.  In the third example, we see God choosing to forgive the people only after Moses entreats Him to do so.  This seems very clear – when the faithful speak to God, He listens.

But in 1 Samuel, we see Samuel rebuking Saul for not completely destroying the Amalekites as ordered by God.  And we read:

Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned. I violated the LORD’s command and your instructions. I was afraid of the people and so I gave in to them.  Now I beg you, forgive my sin and come back with me, so that I may worship the LORD.”

But Samuel said to him, “I will not go back with you. You have rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD has rejected you as king over Israel!”

As Samuel turned to leave, Saul caught hold of the hem of his robe, and it tore.  Samuel said to him, “The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to one of your neighbors—to one better than you.  He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a man, that he should change his mind.”  — 1 Samuel 15:24-29

In Samuel’s words, God does not change His mind, since He is not the same as a man.  But how do I reconcile this with the three stories linked above, where God clearly was going to do one thing, then heard a prayer, and then did something else?  This is a puzzle.  God doesn’t change His mind – but perhaps He changes His timing or method.  This is one for further study.


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