6. I will pronounce a limit to a nation or also to a kingdom. It may appear that the term limit is said simply, but it does express something such as this: In the text, I will pronounce to the nation or kingdom, limit means the following: I will demolish is said as the limit for the first nation; I will rebuild you for the second nation. And again, I will uproot is said to the first, and I will plant to the second.
(2) Since then the limit has been spoken, does the limit need to happen? God, who does not repent, is said to repent according to the Scripture,63 and let us pay close attention to the text, so that if we can defend how this is said, we may grasp the meaning. I will pronounce, he says, a limit to a nation or a kingdom by cutting off and destroying them, and if that nation turns back from their evils which I have pronounced on it, I will also repent for the evils which I intended to do to them. And I will pronounce an end to a nation or to a kingdom in order to rebuild and plant, and they will do evil before me in order not to hear my voice, and I will repent about the good which I decreed to do to them. Concerning the repentance of God, we are demanded to defend ourselves. For to repent seems to be culpable and unworthy not only of God but also of the wise man. For I cannot conceive of a wise man repenting; rather when a man repents, supposing the customary use of the word, he repents for not having decided to be good. But God, a foreknower of what happens in the future, is unable not to have decided to be good and to repent for this. How then has the Scripture brought forth this phrase which says, I will repent? I am not yet saying. And in Kings it is mentioned in the text, I have repented that I anointed Saul as king, and it is generally said concerning him, And he repents for evils.
(3) But see what we are generally taught about God. Where God is not as a man to be deceived nor as the son of man to be threatened, we learn through this text that God is not as man, but through another text that God is as a man, when it says, For the Lord your God has taught you as a man teaches his son, and again, As a man he takes on the manners of his son. Hence whenever the Scriptures speak theologically about God in relation to himself and do not involve his plan for human matters, they say that he is not as a man. For there will be no limit to his greatness, and he is more feared than all of the gods, and praise him, all you angels of God; praise him, all his hosts; praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all stars and light. You can find numerous other passages, when you select from the sacred Scriptures, to which you can relate the words, God is not as a man.
(4) But whenever the divine plan involves human matters, it carries the human intellect and manners and way of speaking. And just as we, if we are talking with a two-year-old child, speak inarticulately because of the child—for it is impossible, if we observe what is fitting for the age of a full-grown man, and when talking to children, to understand the children without condescending to their mode of speech— something of this sort also seems to me the case with God whenever he manages the race of men and especially those still infants. See also how we, mature men, change the name of things for babies, and we call “food” in a special way for them, and we call “drink” in another way of speaking, not using a vocabulary of adults which we use for adults of our age but a kind of childlike or babyish way of speaking. And if we name garments for children, we put upon them other names, as if we form a childlike name. Are we then for this reason immature? And if any of us should hear those who talk to children, will he say that this old man has become senseless, this man has forgotten his beard, the age of a man? Or is it granted that out of consideration when he converses with the child he does not speak in an elderly or adult language, but in a childlike language?
(5) Now God also speaks to children. Even the Savior says, Behold, I and the children which God has given me.80 It may be said to the old man who talks with the child in a childish way, or, to speak more dramatically, as a baby,81 that he has taken on the manners of his son and has taken on the manners of babes and has taken up its state. Likewise then, understand the Scripture when it says, The Lord your God took on your manners as a man would take on the manners of his son. And those who have translated from the Hebrew, failing to find a suitable Greek term, seem to have concocted one, as in many other places, and to have represented it as, The Lord your God took on your manners, (that is, he has taken on your manners) as if some man would take on the manners of (in light of this example which I have mentioned) his son. Since we really do repent, when he talks with us who repent God says, “I repent,” and when he threatens us, he does not pretend to be a foreknower, but he threatens as one speaking to babes. He does not pretend that he foreknows all things before their generation, but as one who, so to speak, plays the part of a babe, he pretends not to know the future. And he threatens the nation on account of its sins and he says, If the nation repents, I will repent. O God, when you were threatening, did you not foreknow whether the nation will or will not repent? When you were promising, did you not know whether the man or the nation to whom the word is directed does not remain worthy of the promises? Yes of course, but he pretends.
(6) But you can find many such anthropomorphic expressions in the Scripture, as also in the words: Speak to the sons of Israel. Perhaps they will hear and repent. God has said, Perhaps they will hear, not as one who doubts. For God does not doubt in order that he may say, Perhaps they will listen and repent, but in order that he might reveal to a great degree your self-determination and you not say: “If he foreknows that I am going to perish, it is a necessity that I perish. If he foreknows that I will be saved, I must surely be saved.”
(7) He pretends then that he does not see your future so that he may preserve your self-determination by not foretelling or foreknowing whether you will repent or not, and he says to the Prophet, Speak, perhaps they will repent. For you will find numerous other passages where it talks about God taking on the manners of man. If you hear of the anger of God and his wrath, do not suppose that anger and wrath are passions of God. The purposes 90 of using this way of speaking are for converting and bettering the infant, since we also use a fearful expression with children, not from an actual state of mind but because of a purpose to cause fear. If we maintain what is kindly for the soul in our expression toward the babe, and we show the affection which we have for it, since we have not altered ourselves nor changed for the conversion of that one, we lose him and make him worse. So then it states that God is also said to be angry and wrathful in order that you can convert and become better. And he is truly neither angry nor wrathful, but you experience the effects of anger and wrath when you are in unbearable pains because of evil, whenever he disciplines by what is called the anger of God.