The narrative of 1 Shmuel 15 has to do with Shaul forfeiting his kingship because of his mercy to Agag. The root nun-het-mem (I'm seeing it translated as "repent" or "relent") appears three times, with seemingly contradictory meanings:

  1. Verse 11: Hashem "repents" from having made Shaul king.
  2. Verse 29: Shmuel says that "Hashem is not a man, that he should repent"
  3. Verse 35: Hashem again repents from having made Shaul king

Why is a description of Hashem repenting juxtaposed with Shmuel's insistence that this is not an attribute of Hashem?

  • 2
    the n-ch-m root is translated as "regret" and is the root of "console". Cf Gen 6:6 when god "regrets" making mankind. Rashi there explains "And the Lord regretted that He had made: Heb. וַיִנָּחֶם. It was a consolation to Him that He had created him [man] of the earthly beings, for had he been one of the heavenly beings, he would have caused them to rebel. This appears in Genesis Rabbah (27:40)." In terms of Saul, god says (according to rashi) "I regret: A thought has arisen in my heart concerning the kingdom of Saul, whom I have appointed king." Sam says god doesn't regret punishing Saul.
    – rosends
    Aug 2, 2013 at 16:44
  • The title doesn't seem to match the question in the body.
    – Double AA
    Aug 4, 2013 at 4:34
  • 1
    Ibn Ezra (Sh'mos 32:14) explains per the context that the word in verse 11 should be anthropopathically interpreted to mean "regret," whereas the word verse 29 literally means "renege." Radak (Sh'muel I 15:11,29) implies a similar distinction based on the different verb conjugations used in each verse, and further points out that the word cannot mean "renege" in verse 11, since HaShem never guaranteed Sha'ul a permanent dynasty.
    – Fred
    May 2, 2014 at 23:40
  • I will ponder this question
    – Aaron
    Jun 11, 2021 at 0:37

1 Answer 1


"Hashem is not a man, that he should repent." Should G-d repent? Is He a man?

If Hashem is not able to repent then why do we pray for mercy, why pray at all? If He is not able to repent then is He able to forgive or to have mercy or can He accept our repentance?

Jer 18:4-6 And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make [it]. Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay [is] in the potter's hand, so [are] ye in mine hand, O house of Israel.

He is able to give us a new start... to reshape our heart if we let Him. The L-rd is able to repent, but he is not obliged to us to repent. We are His workmanship and can not demand that He repent to us as we may demand to a man to repent. There are times where He has repented (to be sorry, be moved to pity, have compassion, suffer grief, repent) and times where He has not.

Consider these verses as well:

Gen 6:6 And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.

Exd 32:14 And the LORD repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people.

2Sa 24:16 And when the angel stretched out his hand upon Jerusalem to destroy it, the LORD repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed the people, It is enough: stay now thine hand. And the angel of the LORD was by the threshingplace of Araunah the Jebusite.

1Ch 21:15 And God sent an angel unto Jerusalem to destroy it: and as he was destroying, the LORD beheld, and he repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed, It is enough, stay now thine hand. And the angel of the LORD stood by the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite.

Jer 26:19 Did Hezekiah king of Judah and all Judah put him at all to death? did he not fear the LORD, and besought the LORD, and the LORD repented him of the evil which he had pronounced against them? Thus might we procure great evil against our souls.

Amo 7:3 The LORD repented for this: It shall not be, saith the LORD.

Amo 7:6 The LORD repented for this: This also shall not be, saith the Lord GOD.

Gen 6:6 And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.

Jdg 2:18 And when the LORD raised them up judges, then the LORD was with the judge, and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge: for it repented the LORD because of their groanings by reason of them that oppressed them and vexed them.

Jer 20:16 And let that man be as the cities which the LORD overthrew, and repented not: and let him hear the cry in the morning, and the shouting at noontide;

Zec 8:14 For thus saith the LORD of hosts; As I thought to punish you, when your fathers provoked me to wrath, saith the LORD of hosts, and I repented not:

  • I would like to know why 2 people hated my answer? Maybe they can answer better?
    – WillieNAz
    Aug 4, 2013 at 17:58
  • You didn't answer the question. Aug 6, 2013 at 20:18

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