Does God Change His Mind?

Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim

Reader: How is it that God doesn’t change His mind and is omniscient, despite the fact that Psalms 106:23 says that if it wasn’t for Moses praying before God, He would have destroyed the Jewish people? 

Rabbi: Metal which is distant from fire is in darkness. Draw it closer and it becomes illuminated. Even closer, and it grows warm. Still closer, and it melts. In all cases, fire remained the same; it was the metal’s proximity to the flames that caused changes in the metal. (Maimonides' metaphor)

God does not change, as that which is perfect seeks no alteration. When Moses prayed, he raised himself to a higher level, on which, God’s system of providence no longer required the death of the Jews: Moses could now address the Jews’ flaws in place of God’s punishment, while prior, he could not, and they deserved annihilation. Just as the fire did not change, God did not change, but Moses did change, and was now in the position to correct the Jews.

God’s system of providence is perfect. It is designed to relate to man in more beneficial ways when man obeys God. That perfect providential system does not change. When one draws closer to God, His providential system benefits his life in various ways, just as fire has various effects based on proximity. An example of this system is seen in Parshas Emor (Lev. 25:20,21):

And if you will say, “What will we eat in the seventh year; behold we have not planted and we have not gathered our crops?” And I will command My blessing for you in the sixth year and it will yield three years worth of crops.

Here, God guarantees the Jewish nation that although obeying His command not to work the land each seventh year should result in a fallow fruitless field, this lack of harvest will in fact be remedied a year earlier in year six, where that year yields three times the norm to last until the eighth year’s planting is harvested in year nine. 

Deuteronomy 15:10 repeats God’s guarantee of altering natural law to enrich man when he follows God:

Give to him [the poor] readily and have no regrets when you do so, for in return the LORD your God will bless you in all your efforts and in all your undertakings.

Regarding tithes, God says (Malachi 3:10): 

Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, and let there be food in My House, and thus put Me to the test—said the LORD of Hosts. I will surely open the floodgates of the sky for you and pour down blessings on you.

The opposite is also true (Deut. 11:16,17):

Take care not to be lured away to serve other gods and bow to them. For the LORD’s anger will flare up against you, and He will shut up the skies so that there will be no rain and the ground will not yield its produce; and you will soon perish from the good land that the LORD is assigning to you.

The rule: God alters nature based on man’s merits and sins. God has placed into the world a system of divine providence which is no less intricate than His other systems witnessed throughout the universe, from the cosmos, to weather, the human body, and the atomic level. 

Man must trust God’s promises, for He does not change, and based on so many Biblical cases, man must believe in Reward and Punishment.