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Home > Dictionaries > Holman Bible Dictionary > REPENTANCE OF GOD

Holman Bible Dictionary

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Old Testament description of God's reaction to human situations. The Hebrew verb (nhm) expresses a strong emotional content, perhaps with a reference to deep breathing of distress or relief. It should be noted that “repent” is not always the best translation for nicham but was the translation used by the KJV. The scope of possible translations includes “repent” (Jeremiah 18:8,Jeremiah 18:10 RSV), “grieve” (Genesis 6:7 NIV), “pity” (Judges 2:18 NAS), “change of mind” (Psalms 110:4 REB), and “relent” (Psalms 106:45 NAS). Therefore, the concept of the repentance of God would also include God's grieving, pitying, changing His mind, and relenting.

The concept of God's repentance is not limited to one section of the Old Testament, but can be found throughout the Law, Prophets, and Writings. The repentance of God became Israel's creed alongside other attributes of God like “gracious,” “merciful,” “slow to anger,” and “great in covenant-love” (Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2).

The repentance of God was usually in response to His creation, such as human disobedience (Genesis 6:6-7), intercessory prayer (Amos 7:1-6), or repentance (Jonah 3:6-10). In many instances God is said to “change his mind” about some evil that he had planned to do (Exodus 32:12,Exodus 32:14; Jonah 3:10). In one instance God is said to “change his mind” (Jeremiah 18:10) about His good intentions.

God's repentance plays an important role in our understanding about the role of prayer and about certain attributes of God, such as immutability, timelessness, and impassability. The God who repents is free to answer prayer and to interact with people. This freedom is part of His being the same forever.

M. Stephen Davis

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor.. "Entry for 'REPENTANCE OF GOD'". "Holman Bible Dictionary".
<>. 1991.


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