Did God Know That Adam and Eve Would Sin?
MANY people ask this question in all sincerity. When the issue of God’s permission of wickedness is raised, the sin of the first human pair in the garden of Eden quickly comes into focus. The thought that ‘God knows everything’ may easily lead some to the conclusion that God must have known beforehand that Adam and Eve would disobey him.
If God truly had foreknown that this perfect couple would sin, what would this imply? Such a notion would attribute many negative traits to God. He would seem to be unloving, unjust, and insincere. Some might label it cruel to expose the first humans to something that was foreknown to end badly. God might seem responsible for—or at least an accomplice to—all the badness and suffering that followed throughout history. To some, our Creator would even appear foolish.
Does Jehovah God, as revealed in the Scriptures, match such a negative description? To answer that, let us examine what the Bible says about the creative works and the personality of Jehovah.
“It Was Very Good”
Regarding God’s creation, including the first humans on earth, the Genesis account says: “God saw everything he had made and, look! it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31) Adam and Eve were perfectly made, ideally suited to their earthly environment. There was nothing deficient in their makeup. Created “very good,” they were certainly capable of the good conduct that was required of them. They were created “in God’s image.” (Genesis 1:27) So they had the capacity to demonstrate to some degree the godly qualities of wisdom, loyal love, justice, and goodness. Reflecting such qualities would help them to make decisions that would benefit them and bring pleasure to their heavenly Father.
Jehovah endowed these perfect, intelligent creatures with free will. So they were by no means preprogrammed to please God—like some sort of robot. Think about it. Which would mean more to you—a gift that is given mechanically or one that comes from the heart? The answer is obvious. Likewise, if Adam and Eve had freely chosen to obey God, their obedience would have meant all the more to him. The capacity to choose enabled the first human pair to obey Jehovah out of love.—Deuteronomy 30:19, 20.
Righteous, Just, and Good
The Bible reveals Jehovah’s qualities to us. These qualities make it impossible for him to have anything to do with sin. Jehovah “is a lover of righteousness and justice,” says Psalm 33:5. Thus, James 1:13 notes: “With evil things God cannot be tried nor does he himself try anyone.” Out of fairness and consideration, God warned Adam: “From every tree of the garden you may eat to satisfaction. But as for the tree of the knowledge of good and bad you must not eat from it, for in the day you eat from it you will positively die.” (Genesis 2:16, 17) The first couple were given a choice between endless life and death. Would it not have been hypocritical for God to warn them against a specific sin while already knowing the bad outcome? As “a lover of righteousness and justice,” Jehovah would not have offered a choice that in reality did not exist.
Jehovah is also abundant in goodness. (Psalm 31:19) Describing God’s goodness, Jesus said: “Who is the man among you whom his son asks for bread—he will not hand him a stone, will he? Or, perhaps, he will ask for a fish—he will not hand him a serpent, will he? Therefore, if you, although being wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more so will your Father who is in the heavens give good things to those asking him?” (Matthew 7:9-11) God gives “good things” to his creatures. The way humans were created and the Paradise home prepared for them testify to God’s goodness. Would such a good Sovereign be so cruel as to provide a beautiful home that he knew would be taken away? No. Our righteous and good Maker is not to blame for man’s rebellion.
The Scriptures also show that Jehovah is “wise alone.” (Romans 16:27) God’s heavenly angels witnessed many manifestations of this boundless wisdom. They began “shouting in applause” when Jehovah brought forth his earthly creations. (Job 38:4-7) No doubt these intelligent spirit creatures followed events in the garden of Eden with great interest. Would it, then, make sense for a wise God, after creating an awe-inspiring universe and an array of marvelous earthly works, to bring forth under the eyes of his angelic sons two unique creatures who he knew were bound to fail? Clearly, to plan such a calamity would not stand to reason.
Still, someone may object, ‘But how could an all-wise God not have known?’ Granted, a facet of Jehovah’s great wisdom is his capability to know “from the beginning the finale.” (Isaiah 46:9, 10) However, he does not have to use this capability, just as he does not always have to use his immense power to the full. Jehovah wisely uses his ability of foreknowledge selectively. He uses it when it makes sense to do so and fits the circumstances.
The ability to refrain from using foreknowledge can be illustrated with a feature of modern technology. Someone watching a prerecorded sports match has the option to watch the final minutes first in order to know the outcome. But he does not have to start that way. Who could criticize him if he chose to watch the entire match from the beginning? Similarly, the Creator evidently chose not to see how things would turn out. Rather, he chose to wait and, as events unfolded, see how his earthly children would conduct themselves.
As mentioned earlier, Jehovah in his wisdom did not create the first humans as automatons programmed for a fixed course. Instead, he lovingly endowed them with free will. By choosing the right course, they could manifest their love, gratitude, and obedience, thereby bringing added delight to themselves and to Jehovah as their heavenly Father.—Proverbs 27:11; Isaiah 48:18.
The Scriptures show that on many occasions God did not make use of his ability of foreknowledge. For example, when faithful Abraham went to the point of attempting to sacrifice his son, Jehovah could say: “Now I do know that you are God-fearing in that you have not withheld your son, your only one, from me.” (Genesis 22:12) On the other hand, there were also occasions when the bad conduct of certain individuals caused God to “feel hurt.” Would he have felt such pain if he had long known what they would do?—Psalm 78:40, 41; 1 Kings 11:9, 10.
Thus, it is only reasonable to conclude that the all-wise God did not exercise his ability of foreknowledge to know in advance that our first parents would sin. He was not so foolish as to embark on a bizarre venture, using his ability to know the outcome in advance and then staging a mere rerun of what he already knew.
“God Is Love”
God’s adversary, Satan, initiated the rebellion in Eden that resulted in negative consequences, including sin and death. Satan thus was “a manslayer.” He also proved to be “a liar and the father of the lie.” (John 8:44) Driven by bad motives himself, he strives to attribute bad motives to our loving Creator. It suits him well to shift the blame for man’s sin to Jehovah.
The quality of love is the strongest reason why Jehovah chose not to know in advance that Adam and Eve would sin. Love is God’s main attribute. “God is love,” says 1 John 4:8. Love is positive, not negative. It looks for the good in others. Yes, motivated by love, Jehovah God wanted the best for the first human pair.
Even though God’s earthly children had the option of making an unwise choice, our loving God was not inclined to be pessimistic or to be suspicious of his perfect creatures. He had amply provided for them and had equipped them well. It was only appropriate that God should expect, not rebellion, but loving obedience in return. He knew that Adam and Eve had the ability to act loyally, as was later proved even by imperfect men, such as Abraham, Job, Daniel, and many others.
“With God all things are possible,” said Jesus. (Matthew 19:26) That is a comforting thought. Jehovah’s love, along with his other dominant attributes of justice, wisdom, and power, guarantees that in due time he can and will remove all the effects of sin and death.—Revelation 21:3-5.
Clearly, Jehovah did not know beforehand that the first couple would sin. While he was pained by the disobedience of man and the ensuing suffering, God knew that this temporary situation would not prevent the fulfillment of his eternal purpose for the earth and humans upon it. Why not find out more about that purpose and how you may benefit from its glorious fulfillment?a
a For more information about God’s purpose for the earth, see chapter 3 of the book What Does the Bible Really Teach? published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
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Jehovah did not create the first humans as automatons programmed for a fixed course
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God knew that Adam and Eve had the ability to act loyally