The Bible’s Viewpoint
Does God Change?
ANTHROPOLOGIST George Dorsey described the God of the “Old Testament” as “a savage God.” He added: “Yahweh is . . . utterly unlovely. He is the God of plunderers, of torturers, of warriors, of conquest.” Others have reached similar conclusions regarding the God of the “Old Testament”—Yahweh, or Jehovah. Thus, some today wonder whether Jehovah was in fact a cruel God who eventually changed his character to become the loving and merciful God of the “New Testament.”
Such an idea about the God of the Bible is not new. It was first propounded by Marcion, a semi-Gnostic of the second century C.E. Marcion repudiated the God of the “Old Testament.” He considered that God to be violent and vindictive, a tyrant who offered material rewards to those worshiping him. On the other hand, Marcion described the “New Testament” God—as revealed through Jesus Christ—as a perfect God, a God of pure love and mercy, of graciousness and forgiveness.
Jehovah Meets the Challenge of Changing Conditions
God’s very name, Jehovah, means “He Causes to Become.” This implies that Jehovah causes himself to become the Fulfiller of all his promises. When Moses asked God his name, Jehovah elaborated on its meaning in this way: “I shall prove to be what I shall prove to be.” (Exodus 3:14) Rotherham’s translation puts it this way: “I Will Become whatsoever I please.”
So Jehovah chooses to become, or proves to be, whatever is needed to fulfill his righteous purposes and promises. An evidence of this is the fact that he bears a wide array of titles and descriptive terms: Jehovah of armies, Judge, Sovereign, Jealous, Sovereign Lord, Creator, Father, Grand Instructor, Shepherd, Hearer of prayer, Repurchaser, happy God, and many others. He has chosen to become all of these—and much more—in order to carry out his loving purposes.—Exodus 34:14; Judges 11:27; Psalm 23:1; 65:2; 73:28; 89:26; Isaiah 8:13; 30:20; 40:28; 41:14; 1 Timothy 1:11.
Does this mean, then, that God’s personality or standards change? No. Regarding God, James 1:17 says: “With him there is not a variation of the turning of the shadow.” How could God meet the challenge of varying circumstances while remaining unchanging himself?
The example of caring parents who shift roles for the sake of their children illustrates how this is possible. In the course of a single day, a parent may be a cook, a housekeeper, an electrician, a nurse, a friend, a counselor, a teacher, a disciplinarian, and much more. The parent does not change personality when assuming these roles; he or she simply adapts to needs as they arise. The same is true of Jehovah but on a far grander scale. There is no limit to what he can cause himself to become in order to fulfill his purpose and to benefit his creatures.—Romans 11:33.
For example, Jehovah is revealed as a God of love and mercy in both the Hebrew and the Christian Greek Scriptures. The prophet Micah of the eighth century B.C.E. asked about Jehovah: “Who is a God like you, one pardoning error and passing over transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? He will certainly not hold onto his anger forever, for he is delighting in loving-kindness.” (Micah 7:18) Similarly, the apostle John wrote the famous words: “God is love.”—1 John 4:8.
On the other hand, in both parts of the Bible, Jehovah is presented as the righteous Judge of those who repeatedly, grossly, and unrepentantly violate his laws and harm others. “All the wicked ones [Jehovah] will annihilate,” said the psalmist. (Psalm 145:20) In a similar vein, John 3:36 states: “He that exercises faith in the Son has everlasting life; he that disobeys the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains upon him.”
Unchanging in Qualities
Jehovah’s personality and cardinal qualities—love, wisdom, justice, and power—have not changed. He told the people of Israel: “I am Jehovah; I have not changed.” (Malachi 3:6) This was some 3,500 years after God’s creation of mankind. True to that divine statement, a close examination of the Bible as a whole reveals a God who is unchanging in his standards and qualities. There has been no mellowing of Jehovah God’s personality during the centuries, since no such mellowing was needed.
God’s firmness for righteousness, as revealed throughout the Bible, is no less nor his love any greater than it was at the beginning of his dealings with humans in Eden. The differences in his personality seemingly demonstrated in various parts of the Bible are in reality different aspects of the same unchanging personality. These result from the differing circumstances and persons dealt with, which called for different attitudes or relationships.
Hence, the Scriptures show clearly that God’s personality has not changed over the centuries and will not change in the future. Jehovah is the supreme embodiment of constancy and consistency. At all times he is dependable and trustworthy. We can always rely on him.
[Pictures on page 16, 17]
The same God who destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah . . .
. . . will bring about a righteous new world