Divine “Regrets”



I have some confusion reading the book of Samuel.

Using the premise that God knows the past and future. (Isaiah 46:10)

Here is confusion: God chose Saul to be king, later God says he is grieved that he made Saul king. How can God grieve a decision to make Saul king when He knew already Saul would be a bad choice for king?

Human example: Let’s say a person wanted to buy a home on a particular river and did not want it to be ever flooded. So he finds a lot available for sale on the river. Now this person knows that in the future the river will flood that lot every year for the next 10 years because he knows the future that it will flood.

How could that person grieve his choice to buy the lot knowing it will flood???

It just makes no sense to me.






  1. Your question is one that the the commentaries have asked and delved into! As you write, God is Omniscient and nothing is unknown to Him. More than that, the past and the present and the future are not a part of God’s existence. Why, then, does it sound as if God regrets having made Saul king?

    The commentaries explain that this is one of the many places in Tanach where the language used is anthropomorphic, to give humans the ability to try and understand the text. One of the commentaries describes God’s “regret” as being akin to a person who plants a tree and nurtures it and tends to it, even though he knows that eventually it will be cut down and used for lumber. He truly loves the tree, and he has invested a huge amount of time and effort to bring it to the moment that it will be cut down.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team