In Genesis 18:21 towards the ending of the verse, God says “if not, I will know” when concerning the people of Sodom’s sin.  Also, in Genesis 18:21 “I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know.”  Does this refute the notion that God is omniscient? Why is he asking the question if he already knows?


This is an example of what is known as an anthropomorphism.  This means it is an example of Bible writers metaphorically assigning to God human traits in order to make his words accessible to human understanding.  In the Bible we have such phrases as “See, I have engraved you in the palms of my hands.”  God does not have hands and your name is not literally written in the palms of hands that he does not literally have.  Many other examples of God speaking of himself in human terms in order to make himself understood by humans can be mentioned.  When “the Lord” (actually an angel) in Genesis 18:21 says “If not, then I will know.” he is speaking figuratively.  In fact, the one who will truly know is Abraham, not God.  A possible interpretation of the phrase “then I will know.” is “This is when it will become obvious to everyone.”  There is plenty of evidence from the Bible that God is omniscient.  These passages are not refuted by Genesis 18:21, although I can see why someone might ask this interesting question!

Here are a few scriptures in which God claims to have omniscience.  These passages are NOT disproved by Genesis 18:21 (although, like I said, I can see why someone might just possibly see it that way).

1 John 3:20

For whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.

Psalm 147:5

Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.

Hebrews 4:13

And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Proverbs 15:3

The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.

Jeremiah 1:5

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

Isaiah 40:28

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.

1 Chronicles 28:9

“And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever.

John Oakes

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