Deuteronomy 8:2 Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.

Doesn't this contradict the fact that God is all knowing?


4 Answers 4


I used to work as a baker. One of the steps in baking (most) bread is "proving". The bread rises, develops, and its chemical structure changes - while still in a very malleable state - before being finalized in the oven.

I do not claim to be the originator of the analogy below.

"Proving" is a process in which both of following happen:

  1. The yeast is demonstrated to be good
  2. The bread is transformed

Granting (on the basis of numerous other passages) that God is omniscient, when He tests or proves things, both of the above happen:

  1. We find out what we're made of (God already knows)
  2. We are transformed

When a parent tests a child the test is for the child's benefit. I believe God tests or proves us not because He's curious but because He cares about what we will become through the process.

A comparable analogy was given by Malachi: "He is like a refiner's fire".


The test wasn't to let God know. It was for Israel to know. Without the test they didn't know their own hearts. Do you think the children of Israel knew their fear would stop them from entering their destination when they left Egypt? See the bolded part of the passage below: to teach and to discipline.

2Remember the long way that the LORD your God has made you travel in the wilderness these past forty years, that He might test you by hardships to learn what was in your hearts: whether you would keep His commandments or not. 3He subjected you to the hardship of hunger and then gave you manna to eat, which neither you nor your fathers had ever known, in order to teach you that man does not live on bread alone, but that man may live on anything that the LORD decrees. 4The clothes upon you did not wear out, nor did your feet swell these forty years. 5Bear in mind that the LORD your God disciplines you just as a man disciplines his son. 6Therefore keep the commandments of the LORD your God: walk in His ways and revere Him. (Deut. 8:2–6, JPS)

עַנֹּֽתְךָ֜ "by harship" -- some translations "to humble you" lit. "for you to bow down"

לָדַ֜עַת "to learn" -- lit. "to know" grammatically does not tell who is to know, but "to teach you" in verse 3 means for Israel to know. It was not trusting God that got them 40 years in the desert. They got what they wished for to die in the desert.

The whole community broke into loud cries, and the people wept that night. 2All the Israelites railed against Moses and Aaron. “If only we had died in the land of Egypt,” the whole community shouted at them, “or if only we might die in this wilderness! 3Why is the LORD taking us to that land to fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be carried off! It would be better for us to go back to Egypt!” 4And they said to one another, “Let us head back for Egypt.” (Num. 14:1–4, JPS)

Say to them: ‘As I live,’ says the LORD, ‘I will do to you just as you have urged Me. 29In this very wilderness shall your carcasses drop. Of all of you who were recorded in your various lists from the age of twenty years up, you who have muttered against Me, 30not one shall enter the land in which I swore to settle you—save Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun. 31Your children who, you said, would be carried off—these will I allow to enter; they shall know the land that you have rejected. 32But your carcasses shall drop in this wilderness, 33while your children roam the wilderness for forty years, suffering for your faithlessness, until the last of your carcasses is down in the wilderness. 34You shall bear your punishment for forty years, corresponding to the number of days—forty days—that you scouted the land: a year for each day. Thus you shall know what it means to thwart Me. 35I the LORD have spoken: Thus will I do to all that wicked band that has banded together against Me: in this very wilderness they shall die to the last man.’ ” (Num. 14:28–35, JPS)

God knows the heart:

7But the LORD said to Samuel, “Pay no attention to his appearance or his stature, for I have rejected him. For not as man sees [does the LORD see]; man sees only what is visible, but the LORD sees into the heart.” (1 Sam. 16:7, JPS)


I am going to add an answer that will seem way offtopic, but it's actually not. If I had the mind of God, I think I would end up in a mental institution. I dont think we can ever truly grasp the enormity of what having the mind of God really means. Trying to understand the concept of "all-knowing" will never yield satisfactory answers to a human mind as we have only selfish use for such power and so we place it in that context...ie what we could do with it. God's mind to a sinful being is a burden beyond that which we can mentally cope with.


The instances of God asking Adam "where are you?"(Gen 3:9), or this instance of testing men to know what is in their heart reveals the anthropomorphic literary tool to communicate the divine in our human language. God has even been depicted as regretting for creating man (Gen 6:7), or having human emotions and body parts, it doesn't mean he really regrets or have human emotions, but it only conveys his intention or will on our level. It is only a way of communication for our purpose to reveal the divine, it is not a contradiction with his divine attributes.

Anthropomorphism in the International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia:

  1. Definition of the Term:

By this term is meant, conformably with its etymological signification, i.e. as being in the form or likeness of man, the attribution to God of human form, parts or passions, and the taking of Scripture passages which speak of God as having hands, or eyes, or ears, in a literal sense. This anthropomorphic procedure called forth Divine rebuke so early as Ps 50:21: "Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such a one as thyself."

  1. Old Testament Anthropomorphisms:

Fear of the charge of anthropomorphism has had a strangely deterrent effect upon many minds, but very needlessly so. Even that rich storehouse of apparently crude anthropomorphisms, the Old Testament, when it ascribes to Deity physical characters, mental and moral attributes, like those of man, merely means to make the Divine nature and operations intelligible, not to transfer to Him the defects and limitations of human character and life.

  1. In What Senses an Anthropomorphic Element Is Necessity:

In all really theistic forms of religion, there is an anthropomorphic element present, for they all presuppose the psychological truth of a certain essential likeness between God and man. Nor, perfect as we may our theistic idea or conception of Deity, can we, in the realm of spirit, ever wholly eliminate the anthropomorphic element involved in this assumption, without which religion itself were not. It is of the essence of the religious consciousness to recognize the analogy subsisting between God's relations to man, and man's relations to his fellow. We are warned off from speaking of "the Divine will" or "the Divine purpose," as too anthropomorphic-savoring too much of simple humanity and human psychology-and are bidden speak only of "the Divine immanence" or "the Divine ground of our being."

God sends trials and tribulation to test and refines the believers to perseverance and endurance.

[ESV Jamess 1:2-4] 2Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

[ESV Romans 5:3-4] 3Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,

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