Can God Be Surprised?

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Could God ever be surprised by anything? Can humans think or do something that he did not quite expect?

The AMG Concise Bible Dictionary, in defining the Godhead, says "This does not mean that events take God by surprise . . ." The 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia article on the same subject states, "Admitting that God knows from eternity the future free acts of creatures, the question is how or in what way He knows them . . ." Are these statements true? Is it impossible for the Eternal to be surprised by us?

Our first example of God being surprised takes place in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve, after eating the forbidden fruit, hide themselves when they hear footsteps. The Eternal calls out to Adam and asks where he is (Genesis 3:9). He responds that he hid because he was naked (verse 10). God then asks, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree . . ." (verse 11, HBFV throughout).

The questions God asks certainly shows a bit of surprise on his part! Rather than monitor their every thought, he graciously respected Adam and Eve's mental privacy and choose not to spy on them. He desired to have a relationship with them on a real time, face-to-face basis. The Lord was at least a little surprised that Adam, whom he directly instructed (Genesis 2:16 - 17), so quickly and easily caved in to sin.

One day Jesus, who was God in the flesh, traveled to his boyhood home of Nazareth and preached in the local synagogue (Mark 6:1 - 2). Those in attendance knew him, and his family who were still living in the city, quite well (verse 3). Sadly, even though those who attended services were amazed at his wisdom, and acknowledged his miracles, they rejected him and his message.

Garden of Eden
Garden of Eden
Jacopo Bassano, 1570 - 73

As Jesus was leaving Nazareth and reflecting on what happened He was "amazed by their unbelief" (Mark 6:6). The Lord was somewhat surprised that those who knew him the best could so easily dismiss him.

One of the greatest example of God being surprised was when Jesus visited Capernaum (Matthew 8:5 - 10, Luke 7:1 - 9). A Roman commander, who had a trusted servant near death, sent Jewish messengers requesting he heal the man. As the Lord drew near to the Roman's house, other messengers came and said the centurion felt unworthy for him to enter his residence. They also revealed, in a unique acknowledgment of his authority (which the disciples had yet to reach), that the Roman knew Jesus only had to command his servant be healed for it to happen!

Our Savior was so pleasantly surprised at the commander's profession that he proclaimed he had not found, in all Israel, such great faith in God (Luke 7:9)!

God has always reserved the right, at any time, to limit the use of any of his awesome powers. He limited his ability to know every thought entertained by Adam and Eve in Eden. Jesus was sometimes genuinely surprised at what others said and did. It is certain that God the Father and Christ will continue to exercise their rights in this area for the foreseeable future.

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