Does God have any regrets? – OpEd – Eurasia Review


The Bible says: “Adonai (the Lord) regretted having created humans on the earth, and God’s heart was pained. (Genesis 6:6) But to regret means to recognize that one was wrong, and all the Christian, Jewish and Muslim philosophers claim that the unique God of Abraham is omniscient and all-powerful; therefore God cannot regret.

Of course, if God cannot regret, then God is not almighty.

After all, it was God who decided to create human beings as a combination of divine and animal character traits. When God said, “Let us make mankind” (Genesis 1:26), God was speaking to nature in general and animals/primates in particular.

Thus, the pain and regret that God feels is not due to God’s negative attitude towards humanity, but to God’s disappointment that some humans have not lived up to their divine potential. It’s like a parent who really wanted children, but is disappointed when some of them behave very badly.

If God has the ability to feel compassion, piety and mercy, then God can change, or make humans appear to change their minds, so as clearly stated in the Quran when God tells the Prophet Muhammad: “We sent messengers before you. , and We assigned them wives and descendants. No messenger could bring a sign without God’s permission. For every age (there is) a scripture. God abolishes (abrogates) whatever He wills, and He affirms (everything He wills). With him is the source of the scripture (of the messengers). (13:38-9)

Rabbi Bahya (13-14th century) said: Humans are unworthy to have the spirit of God dwelling in them, for they are only flesh like all other creatures, and their soul is drawn to the flesh rather than to the spirit of God. Bahya’s point of view is extreme. After all, it was God’s decision to create human beings as a combination of Divine and animal.

When God said, “Let us make mankind” (Genesis 1:26), God was speaking to nature in general, and animals/primates in particular. Thus, the pain and regret that God feels is not due to God’s negative attitude towards humanity. But God is disappointed that humans have not yet reached their Divine potential.

The word regret (“va-yinakhem”) is also related to the word consolation (“nakhamah”). Thus the rabbinical anthology of interpretations called Midrash Genesis Rabbah 27:4 presents several portraits of God.

Rabbi Judah has God saying, “It was My mistake that I created him (to live in the world) below, as an earthly being; if I had created them (mankind) in the higher realms (with fewer temptations to choose from), they would not have rebelled against me.

Rabbi Nehemiah suggests that God is “…consoled, knowing that he created humans in the lower realms, with limited powers. For if humans had been from the higher realms, they would have caused even the angles to rebel.

Rabbi Aivu proposes that God “…regrets having created humans with yetzer ha-ra, an evil/untamed ego inclination, for if God had not created humans thus, they would not have not rebel against God.”

But Rabbi Levi has a more positive view of consolation. He conjectures that God is “…consoled that he created humans as God did, for (eventually) humans will be put on the earth”, i.e. humans are mortal and subject the funeral. Every generation no matter how evil will be extinguished, so that there is always hope that future generations will make it right.

Rabbi Levi ben Gershom (1288-1344), Ralbag for short, wrote groundbreaking works in many fields; include biblical exegesis, astronomy, geometry, logic, mathematics, philosophy, and philosophical theology. Ragbag also wrote many commentaries on Averroes’ comments on Aristotle.

Rabbi Levi ben Gershom affirms that God knows everything that can be known, and knows it perfectly. What can be known, however, does not include what actually happens to every individual on Earth. God has perfect knowledge of the formal structure of the cosmos, but not of the individuals who are individualized by their materiality, ie you and me. God has perfect knowledge of the natural world that he created, but humans can, because of the way God created them, exercise their free choice. Most humans do not truly exercise free choice in Ralbag’s estimation, but when they do, God cannot be aware of the choices and their results in advance.

So there is evil in the world, and it is not just an absence of good (as countless philosophers say), but real and impactful evil (even if controlled and minimized by God in all possible without losing human free will)

I say, “Although God knows that giving humans moral agency would mean they could do great harm, when it happens it hurts God deeply and causes temporary regret.
We also learn from this that God responds to human actions and cares deeply about us.

While the Greek philosopher Plato wrote, “No human thing is of serious importance.
(The Republic, book 10) the Torah begins with: “Then God said: “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, so that he may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the cattle and all wild animals, and over all creatures that move on the ground. So God created mankind in his image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them. God blesses them and says to them: “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. (Genesis 1:26-28a)

The Talmud reports that: “For 2 years the school of Shammai and the school of Hillel debated whether God should have created mankind. The school of Shammai said it would have been better if people had not been created; The Hillel school was of the opposite opinion. Eventually they voted and the majority decided that the school of Shammai was right and that it would have been better if people had not been created, but since they were, every human being is responsible for ‘examine one’s own past and future actions’ (Talmud, Masekhet Eruvin 13b).

Although the Torah does not say so, much later Hebrew biblical literature says, “There is certainly not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.” (Ecclesiastes 7:20) and “When they sin against you – for there is no one who sins” (1 Kings 8:46 & 2 Chronicles 6:36)

Saint James, the brother of Jesus (James 3:2) says: “In many things we all commit trespasses”; and Saint John also declares: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8) and Saint Paul proclaims: “as it is written: “None is right, no, not one. (Romans 3:10); and again: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23)

Yet our rabbis have taught that most people do more good than bad, and that we need to focus on the balance between good and evil. Focusing only on evil is in itself evil because it leads to hopelessness, depression and hopelessness: “There are three (psychological types) whose life is no life; the overly compassionate, the angry and the overly demanding (perfectionists)”. (Talmud Pesachim 113b) Perfectionists are hard on others and even harder on themselves. Both paths will eventually lead to sin.

For more information on Jewish views of human nature and the nature of the one God who created us all, see my recent book: Which Religion Fits You? : A 21st Century Kuzari (ISBN 978-620-2-45517-6)


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