A Study of Jeremiah 19:5

“They have built also the high places of Baal, to burn their sons with fire for burnt-offerings unto Baal, which I commanded not, nor spake it, neither came it into my mind.” (Jeremiah 19:5)

A large portion of Limited Predestinarian Primi-tive Baptists appear to believe they have been predestinated to bring up Jeremiah 19:5 and kindred texts to prove God does not predestinate all things. “See the text?” say they. “Here is a clear cut case where an awful evil took place. So foul and so wicked was it that never had it entered God’s mind.” In their apparent zeal to deny the predestination of all events they are compelled to deny the universal knowledge of God. “Just what are you going to do with that text?” On and on they will go, pleading ignorance for God, as though that is the only way He may be extricated from the appearance of culpability in these deeds.

God needs no defense from guilt. He stands in no need of the pleas of His creatures to absolve Him of wrong doing or abetting the same by simply not acting.

My response to the above argument is always, Whoa! Hold on a minute. Let us examine the text and its context and see what is there.

Jeremiah 19 is just as much a part of the Bible as John 3:16 or Romans 8:28 so we shall review it accordingly. Verse three tells us to whom the LORD sent Jeremiah, His prophet. He was sent to the kings of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Jehovah had, at that particular time, no complaint with the heathen nations around about Israel. The complaint in Jeremiah 19 was with Judah in particular. (It is interesting, however, that He calls Himself the God of Israel, as though there had never been a division among the tribes.) God’s message to Judah was attended with certain unusual effects; whoever heard the message would experience having their ears tingle. The injunction God laid against Judah pertained to their exceeding wickedness; wickedness such as was hitherto unknown among the fathers (verse four). Their trespasses were alarmingly insidious; so much so, God demanded their attention on the matter. You may be sure He got it. Their sins were enumerated as follows:

  • They forsook God.
  • They estranged the place, apparently meaning the valley of the son of Hinnom, which was by the East gate (Verse 2).
  • They burned incense unto other gods.
  • They filled the place with the blood of innocents.
  • They built the high places of Baal.
  • They burnt their sons with fire.

None dare deny the enormity of the crimes catalogued against the kings of Judah and Jerusalem. They were clearly odious. By any standards they were exceeding wicked. To burn your offspring with a consuming fire as a sacrifice to idols bespeaks wanton abandonment of all compassion and devotion. Further, it denotes full apostasy by the perpetrators. None but those with depraved minds could entertain such practices.

Jehovah made three pronouncements concerning Himself and His relation to the events following His description of Judah’ s sin:

1.  “Which I commanded not.” Thus, Judah had no command to hide behind.

2.  “Nor spake it.” Judah had no word from God to plead.

3.  “Neither came it into my mind.” Finally, it would be inconsistent with the nature of God to even think of granting them such sordid privileges.

Items 1 and 2 should give no one any problem. It was clear God had never given any commandments that could possibly be construed as allowing the sins of these transgressors. They might search the laws and ordinances of Israel till the sun ceased to shine and never find anything remotely resembling a commandment allowing for, or directing, this conduct. Neither had God ever verbalized anything to them they could take as concurrence, indifference, or neutrality. There was absolutely nothing they could lay a hand on to claim as sanction or consent.

Item 3, however, seems to turn even the most placid religionists into near infidels and God-limiters of the first sort. Their beliefs (or disbeliefs) on this range anywhere from one extreme to another but always have as their aim a denial God knew about this particular sin. More particularly, since God did not know the events, they deny God predestinated or decreed any of these acts, either directly or permissively. (The denial of absolute predestination is the heart of all Conditionalist reasoning.)

Just what are the possibilities we may draw from the pronouncements God made, and how then may we best sort out the truth from error? There appears to be only two major possibilities. The first is, God was truly unaware or unmindful of their conduct and thus, “Neither came it into my mind” meant God never knew about this sin, at least until it was committed. This would mean that God was deficient or lacking in the knowledge of all things. His omniscience was less than real omniscience; God did not know all at all times. Such a god is no god at all. He is only a being somewhat superior to other beings but, nevertheless subject to limitations as all other beings.

The second plausible possibility is this: it never entered God’s mind to command or speak to these sinners relative to these matters, no; not even to suffer such to be done. Simply put, in the language of man, God said He never, ever, thought of commanding them to practice this wickedness. Had God commanded them so, the command would correspond to His commands to them involving matters of sacrifices; that which was allowable and that which was not. No such command was ever given. They were without excuse.

If one accepts the latter possibility, he avoids becoming embroiled with additional and more complex questions regarding God’s omniscience. For instance, how can an omniscient, or all-knowing, God not know something; in this case the horrible sins of the citizens of Judah and Jerusalem? If there is a basic premise regarding God which practically all sane persons accept, it is that God is all-knowing. Nothing escapes His wisdom, prescience, observation, knowledge or understanding. All things are naked and open before Him; past, present, and future. God knows all, God sees all. Is a god of lesser capacity worthy of the name, God? Preposterous! Let the Arminian worship this frail god. Those embraced in the election of grace adore the God of all knowledge.

The Bible teaches us in clear terms that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He changes not. That being so, how could it be possible for God to have known, or learned of, the terrible events of Judah and Jerusalem, after the fact, without it involving His unchangeableness? To be precise, if by the expression, “neither came it into my mind” means God did not know about the events from some period prior to their actual transpiring, then was God less wise before He learned of them? Conversely, was He more wise, then, after He learned about the events? Could such a thing be possible?

Is God a learner of events as we creatures are? Does He build upon His base of wisdom as events take place like mortals do? Is it possible to say that God did not know of these atrocities until they were committed without at the same time saying God increased in His omniscience with the passing events? What else can we conclude from the noxious idea that God was growing in learning when He said “neither came it into my mind”?

The Word of God says “Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.” (Acts 15:18) Can this event, where God comes to these sinners and condemns them for this awful abomination, be excluded from His works? How could God know of this action of His from before the foundation of the world and yet He not know what the action would involve? Is it possible that He just knew that something unknown but wicked was going to transpire but that He would have to wait until the event developed to know the details of what He eternally knew of only generally? That may not be blasphemy but it is a second cousin to it.

An additional consideration is involved if one denies that God knew about these terrible actions. How could God address these sinners about their crimes if these same crimes had never entered His mind? Can God speak about what He knows nothing about? Did God know about the sins or not? If He did know about them, then just when did He learn of them? Was God, who is omnipresent, on the scene when the action took place to become a learning spectator, as all other beings? Did He know about them before or after they transpired? Or as they transpired? Can any of these questions be answered according to the Arminian approach without consigning God to a status of learner? Make no mistake about it. God would have to have known less before these events and known more after the same if “It never came into my mind” means He was unaware until the fact. And so, He could not have been telling us the actual fact of His person when He avowed He never changes.

Let those that deny our conclusions answer our questions.

The Psalmist wrote, “For ever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven.” (Psalm 119:89) Would the word of the Lord to Judah in Jeremiah 19:5 be excluded from this citation? If, as is averred by the Arminian, God did not know of the events under consideration from all eternity, how then could His word on the subject be forever settled? Could it be possible that God did not know of what He was to speak until sometime after creation? May God deliver us from such confusion. It is a serious imputation of deficiency in God’s wisdom to say that Jeremiah 19:5 means God was unaware of what Judah did. Our God, Who is all wise, knew this matter perfectly from the foundations of the world. The simple meaning of the text is that it never entered God’s mind to command them to build altars or desecrate their offsprings in the fire.

Is God unmindful? “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.” (Hebrews 4:12-13) God discerns. Dare any say He discerns imperfectly? God discerns the intents of the heart. Those miscreants in Jeremiah 19 certainly intended in their hearts to do what they did, thus God discerned or knew before the time that which was to transpire. If He knew before, even for one second, the nonsensical argument of the Arminians fall to the dust before the feet of our Omniscient God.

Furthermore, the text says all things are naked and opened unto His eyes. Notice that it does not say they are simply open; they are opened. Opened by His power, His wisdom, His holiness, His will, His knowledge. Is God unmindful? Only in the perception of infidels.

J.F. Poole – 1999

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