Saturday, July 7, 2007

What about II Kings 20:1-6?

So far in this series, I have tried to take a fair look at several different biblical texts that are often used to support Arminian viewpoints.

Today's passage is II Kings 20:1-6. This particular text has been employed by Open Theists, in particular, to try to show that A) God changes His mind, and B) God does not know what is going to occur in the future.

In my experience, most Arminians are not Open Theists, but many Open Theists would claim to agree with many Arminian teachings.

Here is the text from II Kings:

In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him and said to him, "Thus says the Lord, ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die; you shall not recover.’” Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, saying, “Now, O Lord, please remember how I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. And before Isaiah had gone out of the middle court, the word of the Lord came to him: “Turn back, and say to Hezekiah the leader of my people, Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold, I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the Lord, and I will add fifteen years to your life. I will deliver you and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria, and I will defend this city for my own sake and for my servant David's sake.”

Quite frankly, this is the easiest of the passages I have had to deal with so far. Let's take a look. Hezekiah is told that he will soon die. He then prays, we can assume, for healing. God responds to Hezekiah's prayer by giving him 15 more years to live.

The two claims of the Open Theists are, again, that God both changes His mind, and that He does not know what will happen in the future.

A clear reading of II Kings 20:1-6 shows that God is not changing His mind. Open Theism claims that God changes His mind toward specific situations. However, God does not do that here. So what is going on? God has decided that Hezekiah will die. The specific situation changes dramatically, however, when Hezekiah prays. Only after the prayer does God say that Hezekiah will get 15 more years of life. These are two different situations because one is before Hezekiah's prayer and one is after. Anyone saying that these are the same situation is discounting the power of prayer.

What about the second claim of Open Theism? This one says that God does not know what will happen in the future. That is clearly refuted here. Notice that God gives Hezekiah not just several more years to live, but specifically 15 more years. If God did not know the future, how could He know that it would be exactly 15 years? Please do not tell me that God is just a really good predictor of future events.

What we do see in this passage is an omnipotent God who listens to and answers prayer. God no where changes His mind. The passage is silent as to whether or not God knew that Hezekiah would pray what he did (however, based on many other biblical texts, we can assume He did). God acted one way in one situation, and another way in another situation. God acted pre- and post-prayer.

We also can clearly see here that God knows not just generalities about the future, but also specifics. More than that, He is in control of what is occurring in the future. Note the specific 15 years.

So we see that this passage does not support any of the claims of Open Theists. Instead, it supports views that uphold God's sovereignty over all things.


IDisposable said...

"you shall not recover" vs. "I will heal you" seems like a rather large switch to me...

Eric said...


Thanks for your comment.

I agree with you that the ultimate outcomes in this passage do switch. However, God is not changing his mind. As I said in the post, God responds differently before and after Hezekiah's prayer. Hezekiah's prayer is what changes the situation.

Do you see God changing his mind? If so, can you elaborate?