Genesis 3:9-11, Is God Truly Omniscient?
And YHVH Elohim called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9)
Skeptics cite this verse to levy charges against YHVH, with the accusation that God is not as omniscient as He claims. For example, the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible says, “There are some things that God doesn’t know and can’t see. God couldn’t see Adam and Eve when they hid in the Garden of Eden.”
This is a completely ignorant accusation, because it presumes that there is no logical reason for ever asking a question in which one already knows the answer. However, investigators, lawyers, and other leaders ask these ‘known answer questions’ every day, usually in the context of an investigation, cross-examination, or hiring process. When asked in the right way, these questions help establish truth and/or justice, for through one’s words is he vindicated or condemned (or hired or fired, or rewarded or punished, etc.). This is the same as Yeshua taught: “by your words shall you be justified, and by them shall you be condemned” (Matt. 12:37).
Known answer questions are asked against a backdrop of pre-existing laws, rules, or other expectations, such as in the following examples:
Peter answered [Shappirah], “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” She said, “Yes, for so much.” But Peter asked her, “How is it that you have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? …She fell down immediately at his feet and died… Great fear came on the whole assembly, and on all who heard these things.” (Acts 5:8-11)
“Yeshua …seeing that a great multitude was coming to him, said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, that these may eat?” He said this to try him, for he himself knew what he would do.” (John 6:5-6)
And within our featured context:
God said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat?” (Gen. 3:11)
In these examples, the trying questions established truths included for others’ benefit, based on some preexistent standard. In the case of Shappirah, the standard was “you shall not tempt the LORD your God.” (Deut. 6:16) Peter confirmed her lie through her own words, but the result was a warning for anyone in a new covenant who maybe wanted to tempt God. In the case of Philip, Yeshua was testing him on his faith, based on Yeshua’s recent testimony that all would see “greater works” (cf. John 5:20). Yeshua was looking for someone else knowing “what God was going to do.” Lastly, in our featured context, the standard was YHVH’s previous commandment to not eat from the Tree of Knowledge. The cross examination that followed was a type of trial, to show Adam had transgressed the law by his own words.
If we think bigger, we can see that YHVH and His emissaries asked these questions for our benefit, because they were recorded in the Good Book – that we who follow in Adam and Eve’s footsteps may learn from mistakes of the past.
God knows, and will always know, everything. He will however afford each and every person a trial, in order for him to account of everything he or she has done in this life – even if God already knows. The results of this judgment-to-come prove that YHVH is just, but it also reproves the righteous – that God is serious about His law, which shows who He is and who He’s not.
I wish that skeptics could see that the prototype of the judgment-to-come, when God cross examines Adam in a human-esque form – which I believe is a prophecy of Messiah Yeshua judging humanity in His resurrected body – is not an indication of his lack of omniscience, but rather proof of a trial prosecution – that He will administer to vindicate or condemn every soul according to their works.