Hebrews 8:12

For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.

Does this verse indicate that recall of certain items becomes impossible in the divine mind, that things are legitimately forgotten, or more along the lines of things not actively brought to mind and dwelt upon?

  • 1
    This passage alludes to Jeremiah 31 and זכר there can be also translated as "call to mind" or even "mention." The Greek μιμνῄσκομαι is also reflexive ("remind oneself"). The Hebrew referent had a legal connotation associated with being taken to court and thus punished. So when God remembers sins, he is going to punish them (e.g., Jer. 14:10; Hos. 8:13; 9:9).
    – Dan
    Commented Nov 1, 2023 at 3:37
  • 1
    By not calling them to mind, God agrees not to prosecute and punish them (e.g., Isa. 43:25; Jer. 31:20, 31-34). Jer. 31:31-34 explicitly promises this new covenant, which the author of Hebrews in 8:12 claims is fulfilled in the Christ, Jesus (see also Heb. 10:17). Thus God will not remind himself / call to mind / be concerned about / keep in mind the sins of those in his new covenant.
    – Dan
    Commented Nov 1, 2023 at 3:38
  • @Dan Sounds like a good answer there. Commented Nov 1, 2023 at 12:22
  • 4
    I think this is like the idiom "forgive and forget" -- you don't have to actually forget it, but you act as if it didn't happen.
    – Barmar
    Commented Nov 1, 2023 at 14:00

5 Answers 5


There are occasions in the Bible when "God remembered" seems to mean "he paid attention to something and decided to do something about it".

"God remembered Noah", Genesis ch8 v1 That is, took action to help him. Similarly Rachel,ch30 v22, and other examples.

"God remembered his covenant with Abraham", Exodus ch2 v24. Not that he had forgotten it previously, but now was the moment to take action in accordance with the covenant.

I suggest that "not remembering sin" is the same idea in a negative sense. "Remembering sin" would mean "responding to sin with judgment", whereas the cancellation of judgment counts as "not remembering".


I can say 'I forget' - meaning I cannot, physically, remember.

But that is due to human frailty.

But one can say 'I do not recall' and it is a matter of will - a deliberate act, not to remember.

' ... will I remember no more ...' speaks, to me, of a deliberate act of will.

But it is not unrighteous. The sacrifice of Jesus Christ, in humanity and for humanity, allows a righteous 'not recalling'. There is a composure, a rest and a peace, in 'not recall' which is based on the righteousness of God and not on sentiment.


‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭31‬:‭31‬-‭34‬

31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

It helps tremendously to not impose English connotations on the original language and try to read the English meaning into the text, rather we are to try to read the original language with its own connotations and how it was intended to be used, and this can be understood in the English perfectly fine despite the language barrier.

The Hebrew word אזכר means to bring to remembrance. To call to mind. It’s a deliberate act of the will. This is not referring to the ability to memorize. The information being memorized is inferred and assumed, or if the information was written, it is inferred and assumed that it is available for recollection and accessible for retrieval, meaning it is not lost. It’s to bring attention to, to prioritize, or to focus upon.

The Greek in the NT uses μνησθω and the LXX uses μνησθω, the same word. It means to remind. It too is a deliberate act of the will.

If God says, He will remember no more, it means that He is choosing by a deliberate act of the will to refrain from recalling or reminding Himself about something.

This is not the same as saying God forgets. Rather this is God saying, that He has made a decision to avoid reminding, recalling, or drawing upon a piece of information, that is in His possession, but which He refuses to call upon. In a sense, He is distancing Himself from the information so that He does not look upon it.

The impossibility of recalling this information lies in God’s character, not in the availability or lack of availability of the information, the moment He says He won’t do something, we can be assured that He won’t do it, because it’s impossible for God to lie

Hebrews‬ ‭6‬:‭18‬

in which it is impossible for God to lie,‭

This is a self-imposition that God puts upon Himself. The knowledge and information are not impossible to retrieve, as though God had deleted, lost, or forgotten it, rather He refuses to access it and His refusal makes it therefore by inference and by extension an impossibility for God to recall or remind Himself of those sins.

In Conclusion

No God hasn’t forgotten the sins, He just chooses to never recall, remind or if you prefer, He chooses to never remember those sins literally, forever. It’s a self-imposition and based on His character we can be assured, not only that He won’t mention them, but that He won’t access them for Himself either. It is His deliberate choice to limit His knowledge or awareness of said deeds.


One of the features of what the biblical authors hand down to us is the so-called anthropomorphic (God taking on human attributes) language found especially in the OT writings.

God is spirit. He has no body (excluding the context of the incarnate Christ). And as a result, he is above and apart from his creation. But in very many instances the Holy Spirit has God take on human characteristics. Take, for example, Genesis:

Genesis 6:5–6 CSB17

5 When the LORD saw that human wickedness was widespread on the earth and that every inclination of the human mind was nothing but evil all the time, 6 the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and he was deeply grieved.

God has no eyes with which to see. In his essence God does not change. But here he both regrets and grieves. Later on in the same book, we read:

Genesis 8:1 CSB17

God remembered Noah, as well as all the wildlife and all the livestock that were with him in the ark. God caused a wind to pass over the earth, and the water began to subside.

Is our God afflicted with Dementia so that he forgets? No, here Moses is having God taking on a human attribute. The final example is the one that the pastor to the Hebrews is most likely referencing in Hebrews 8:

Jeremiah 31:34 CSB17

“No longer will one teach his neighbor or his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they will all know me, from the least to the greatest of them”—this is the LORD’s declaration. “For I will forgive their iniquity and never again remember their sin."

So that is what the biblical authors are doing. That then opens up for us the avenue to ask "why". What is the purpose of doing this?

  1. It is the Holy Spirit's way of helping us to understand the mind/heart of God. He condescends, speaking to us like a parent speaking to toddlers, using language we understand for our sakes.
  2. When the biblical authors use this language (esp. Moses), we find the pattern that, usually right after he speaks this way, the Lord does something unusual and amazing.

As examples of point 2, look at the examples in Genesis:

  • The Lord is grieved --> He sends the flood
  • The Lord 'remembers' Noah --> He sends the wind to dry the ground and the rainbow to promise that water would not destroy that way again
  • Genesis 18:21: The Lord expresses his eagerness (cohortative) that he would go down and see the people of Sodom, whether the cry (heard in ears) is really that bad. --> He demolishes the valley with fire
  • In Jeremiah 31, the amazing action is the fulfillment of the gracious covenant, completely in line with God's mercy (not one's work done with hearts or hands) where he forgives their sins apart from their works. Jesus (in Matt. 26:28) fulfills this in his institution of the Lord's Supper, where, along with bread and wine, Jesus gives them his own body and blood for the forgiveness of their sins as a fulfillment of this Jeremian 31 section of scripture.

The first time we bump into these anthropomorphisms they are somewhat jarring. But when you see them hundreds of times, you begin to see not just the what but also the why of their use.

  • 1
    Nice +1 Your point, anthropomorphisms help man to understand, is insightful. In terms accessible to people of the time perhaps culturally and intellectually limited. Yet it is God's accommodation to man to be perceived this way. It defines man's perception of God's 'character'. One solution to paradox of God's OT vs NT character as decisively revealed in Christ Heb 1:3 lies in understanding the role of God's stooping to accommodate or 'condescension' as you put it, IMHO.
    – user59096
    Commented Oct 31, 2023 at 16:11
  • 1
    +1. Good answer. Well expressed.
    – Dottard
    Commented Oct 31, 2023 at 19:29
  • 2
    Comments have been moved to chat; please do not continue the discussion here. Before posting a comment below this one, please review the purposes of comments. Comments that do not request clarification or suggest improvements usually belong as an answer, on Biblical Hermeneutics Meta, or in Biblical Hermeneutics Chat. Comments continuing discussion may be removed.
    – Jesse
    Commented Nov 18, 2023 at 3:26

The OP asks, “Does this verse indicate that recall of certain items becomes impossible in the divine mind, that things are legitimately forgotten, or more along the lines of things not actively brought to mind and dwelt upon?” Based on the grammatical construction of the clause οὐ μή μνησθῶ in Hebrews 8:12, I believe the last option is closer to the intended meaning of the text.

Hebrews 8:12, Interlinear

τῶν    ἀνομιῶν (Noun - Genitive Feminine Plural)  αὐτῶν    
the    iniquities                                 of them   

οὐ     μὴ     μνησθῶ (Verb - Aorist Subjunctive Passive)    ἔτι
no     not    I shall remember                              more

Looking at the text from a grammatical standpoint, a number things are worthy of note. First is the passive voice of the verb μνησθῶ. With the passive construction, “to remember” has the sense of “to be reminded of something by oneself.” Note also that the noun ἀνομιῶν is declined in the genitive rather than the accusative case. Because it does not function as a direct object, the meaning of the clause is more along the lines of “to remind oneself of something” rather than “to remember something.” Hebrews 8:12 can thus be understood as saying that God will not remind himself of our sins/iniquities.

Something else that also stands out are the two negatives οὐ μή. When used in combination, they signify an emphatic form of negation.

Strong’s G3361: Thayer’s Greek Lexicon

µή, the Septuagint for אַל , אַיִן , אֵין, a particle of negation, which differs from οὐ (which is always an adverb) in that οὐ denies the thing itself (or to speak technically, denies simply, absolutely, categorically, directly, objectively), but µή denies the thought of the thing, or the thing according to the judgment, opinion, will, purpose, preference, of someone (hence, as we say technically, indirectly, hypothetically, subjectively)...

IV. The particles οὐ μή in combination augment the force of the negation, and signify not at all, in no wise, by no means

Moreover, when οὐ μή is attached to the aorist subjunctive of μνησθῶ, as they are in Heb 8:12, they form a construction called the Subjunctive of Emphatic Negation. This combination of οὐ μή and the aorist subjunctive is the strongest way of negating something in Greek, even stronger than when it is attached to the indicative mood.

Daniel Wallace, Greek Grammar: Beyond the Basics

One might think that the negative with the subjunctive could not be as strong as the negative with the indicative. However, while οὐ + the indicative denies the certainty, οὐ μή + subjunctive denies a potentiality.

Does God forget? Does he obliterate memories as though they never happened? We cannot answer these questions based on Heb 8:12. What it does tell us in the strongest of terms is that under the terms of the new covenant, God will not remember our sins. While it may not help us to understand the process by which He keeps his promise, it does give us every reason to trust that God is true.

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