In America, our judicial system is built on the idea that a man is assumed innocent, and then proven guilty with evidence.

In contrast, Paul wrote:

Romans 9 10-18: ...there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; 11 for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, 12 it was said to her, “THE OLDER WILL SERVE THE YOUNGER.” 13 Just as it is written, “JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED.”

14 What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! 15 For He says to Moses, “I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION.” 16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “FOR THIS VERY PURPOSE I RAISED YOU UP, TO DEMONSTRATE MY POWER IN YOU, AND THAT MY NAME MIGHT BE PROCLAIMED THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE EARTH.” 18 So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.

One way to defend the Christian God here is to say Paul is just speaking of Jacob and Esau's relative stations in earthly life, and that only that aspect of their lives was predetermined. But that idea is invalid with regard to verses 14-18 which connect Jacob and Esau's example to Pharaohs, in which Pharaoh's damnation was predetermined. Also, the declaration "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy" contradicts that idea. It is clear then, from these verses, that Paul is boasting that God judges people based on his whim, not a trial.

Another way to defend the Christian God, which I've heard, is "God doesn't have to sound fair by human reasoning." But human reasoning is all we have, to use to make decisions about what we believe. Also what's fair or not is known by everyone by instinct. We all know judgement cannot happen without considering some action which is being judged. Not requiring God's judgement to be just according to us is forgoing any understanding of God.

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    How do you know God does not consider man’s deeds in his decisions. Do you know God’s mind? God’s way are not man’s way! God is omnipotent and all knowing.
    – Ken Graham
    Apr 18, 2020 at 23:04
  • @KenGraham The verse: "for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls"
    – Calicoder
    Apr 18, 2020 at 23:06
  • The question is whether what you're referencing here is what the Bible would call God's "judgement" or not. I'd say it isn't, judgement refers to when God does judge us by our actions at the end of time. Why do you think it is judgement?
    – curiousdannii
    Apr 18, 2020 at 23:16
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    No, he's choosing, not judging. If someone God hadn't chosen made it through life without sinning you can be certain that they would be judged righteous and accepted into resurrection life with God in the new earth.
    – curiousdannii
    Apr 19, 2020 at 0:37
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    @Calicocoder I think this is a great question, and I thank you for asking it. I believe that curiousdanii and Mike Borden have answered your original question by showing that Rom 9:10-18 doesn't talk about God's judgment. In your discussions with both of these individuals, you move to Rom 5:19 as a new support to the claim that God is unfair in judging individuals before their deeds. I think that's another great question, but it's outside the scope of your original question posted here. Can you mark this one answered and start a new one (linked back to this one) to talk about Rom 5:19?
    – Tim
    Apr 29, 2020 at 2:37

8 Answers 8


Comparing the representative democracy of America with the kingdom of God is an unparalleled category error. The entire reason American jurisprudence holds a person innocent until proven guilty is because we assume that we are not privy, at the outset, to all of the pertinent facts. You may accept this or not but the Scripture declares that God knows the end from the beginning. God is not awaiting the disclosure of temporal evidence in order to render righteous judgement.

Regarding the specific passages that OP has pointed to, there's a lot going on here that needs to be weighed into the discussion. Primarily, the entire context of chapters 9-11 of Romans has to do with God's sovereign choice of a nation; an entire people group, therefore it is somewhat out of context to reduce what is being said merely to God's judgement of an individual.

I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen. - Romans 9:1-5

Even though individual names are mentioned in the passage it is very common for names to represent entire nations. Israel, in fact, is what Jacob's name was changed to and the Scriptures are replete with examples of the entire nation being referred to by both names. The same is true of Esau. The exact passage from Genesis that Paul refers to in this text is very clear that this is exactly what is going on:

And the LORD said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger.” - Genesis 25:23

It is critical, then, to keep a tight grip on this context as one investigates what Paul is saying. It is clear in Scripture that God did not select Israel to be His chosen people because of any intrinsic quality that they had.

It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. - Deuteronomy 7:7

In fact, it is also clear in Scripture that God's mercy is continually extended towards His people despite their behavior

“For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts. - Malachi 3:6-7

Secondly, it is noteworthy that the passages quoted by the OP have much to do with sovereign choice and mercy. There is no mention of judgement in the strictest sense. What we see is Paul asking a rhetorical question about whether it is unjust of God to sovereignly dispense mercy and compassion. The implication that the flip side (judgement or condemnation) are also in view is not faulty because mercy is always, only given where condemnation is due; mercy is undeserved. Paul's point is that, where perfect justice is represented (remember that Paul has already demonstrated that the whole world is guilty before God), it is not unjust for God to show mercy wherever He will. However, it is faulty to assume that God's withholding of mercy is unfair or unfounded. Mercy deserved is no mercy at all, it is payment.

This is why Paul brings Pharaoh into the conversation. Pharaoh is named as the representative head of Egypt, which nation was raised up by God in order to rescue His people from famine and strengthen them in number and to enslave that same people so that God could demonstrate His power and favor toward Israel in delivering them in miraculous fashion from the power of Pharaoh (Egypt). God hardened Pharaoh's heart and Pharaoh also hardened his own heart but the salient point is that Pharaoh and indeed all of Egypt were wicked and idolatrous. To suppose that God's hardening of Pharaoh's heart, as regarding the release of the enslaved Israelites, was unjust is to completely disregard the baseline condition of enmity towards God which characterized Pharaoh's heart to begin with.

Finally, assuming that a finite, created being can ever comprehend justice on a Divine, omniscient scale and thus rightly use that scale to accurately measure the infinite Creator is the highest hubris. A dog can put it's head out the window and enjoy a car ride but it will never understand the internal combustion engine nor critique it's design or operation.

But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? - Romans 9:20-21

Two different vessels made of the same lump of clay. The vessels have different uses as the Potter sees fit but the formative lump is the same ruined, sinful clay. The giving or withholding of mercy has nothing to do with justice.

  • God's withholding of mercy would be no problem if God did not also make people be born sinners. But, as we can see in Rom 5:19, people are born sinners to no fault of their own. Their path of life, then, is inevitably full of sin, as Jesus said "For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries." Thus, God only judged Adam and Eve fairly. All their children, being heirs of their sin, are damned by default, with slim chance of being saved by Gods whim. Do you see the problem I'm getting at? How do we resolve this problem?
    – Calicoder
    Apr 19, 2020 at 18:42
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    I pre-empted the attempt to dismiss the issue by saying God is simply too complex. This is a cop-out and a sure route to blind faith. Look, no one is demanding that every fact about God be known. But, it is fair to demand that the BASICs be known, especially the justice of God. If anything must be clinged to, and believed fervently about a God, it is his goodness. Sadly his goodness is seriously uncertain due to this doctrine. I hope there is some way to resolve it without just giving up, saying "it's too mysterious, I just have to guess that he's good even though his actions say otherwise."
    – Calicoder
    Apr 19, 2020 at 18:46
  • @Calicoder I think I see what troubles you and it is no small concern but there is a huge difference between faith and intellectual assent. I also still think there is danger in judging an infinite God according to my imperfect, finite understanding. Part of the resolution is understanding just what happened in the Garden of Eden. If you can admit you have inherited a disposition of sin, surely your ability to perfectly comprehend God is tainted as well even beyond the temporal limitations you already possess? Apr 20, 2020 at 12:50
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    @Calicoder Does it help buttress the goodness of God to know that before anything was created God already knew what was going to happen to humanity through Adam and He had already covenanted with His Eternal Son that He would come and offer himself as the atoning sacrifice? God sits outside of time and can see past, present and future alike. Although Jesus came to earth in a specific time God, in eternity, has always seen His Son upon the cross. He did not HAVE to create but He CHOSE to create and it cost Him dearly. Apr 20, 2020 at 12:53

I write from a reformed, Calvinist point of view which includes three things:

  1. I believe in the complete sovereignty of God in all things, he does whatever he pleases in heaven and on earth (Isaiah 46:9-10; Daniel 4:35, 5:21); and

  2. I believe in the responsibility of man, that man is solely to be blamed for all his sins including for his rejection of Christ; and

  3. I make no pretence to be able to reconcile 1. and 2. above, or to be able to bring into harmony these two seemingly contrary truths. If they seem contrary to me then that can only be because of my limitations; what I can see is that they are both fully taught in Scripture.

Lord, we are sometimes tempted to complain Your withholding of mercy would be no problem if You did not also make people to be born sinners. But, as we can see in Rom 5:19, people are born sinners through no fault of their own. Their path of life, then, is inevitably full of sin..... Thus, You judged Adam and Eve fairly. But as for all their children, being heirs of Adam and Eve's sin, "are damned by default, with slim chance of being saved by Your whim".

What answer is there to this?

My faith in God's goodness should not be shaken by such thoughts:

Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me.

Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother: my soul is even as a weaned child.

Let Israel hope in the Lord from henceforth and for ever. (Psalm 131)

The Psalmist, David, is not going to think he can analyse everything to his own satisfaction: he will be humble, childlike, even as a weaned child, satisfied in the Lord's goodness. (One writer comments on one of the names of God, "El Shaddai":-

"Shaddai" primarily means "Breasted", being formed directly from the Hebrew word "Shad", that is, "the breast" or more exactly, "the woman's breast" (Andrew Jukes, "The Names of God", 1967, p66).

In other words, I will not allow myself to be put into much consternation by perplexities which are beyond me; I will remember the exceeding goodness that God has shown to me and exercise a complacent faith in him.

And then, also, if anything has gone wrong with the world we must believe, by faith in God's word, that it is never God's fault. Perhaps I cannot prove it by any logic of mine, but I can see the goodness of God, especially at the cross of Christ, where the Son of God "loved me and gave himself for me" (Gal 2:20), and therefore I rest in his goodness.

"The just shall live by faith" (Romans 1:17, Habakkuk 2:4):

Where I cannot rationally see God's goodness I still believe in it because the Scriptures proclaim it, and in the cross he placards it to us:

God commends his love toward us, in that, while we were still sinners Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).

I should not let a single, relatively small issue, which threatens to be a problem for my faith to take over the whole horizon of my thinking about my God and my beliefs. I have all the Scriptures to think over; they prove to me God is good. For instance, the whole tenor of the Psalms flatly disprove any evil in God. Just reading through the Scriptures should remind me of this basic fact in the world and in my life and experience: "God is good".

Furthermore, the reason we are born in sin is not because God made us that way, but because Adam and Eve chose that way. God created Adam and Eve in sinless perfection, but they sinned, and that is why we are the way we are. It is not fair to blame God for Adam's choice. The moment they sinned they could have been cast away from God's presence in eternal punishment forever: that would have been the fair thing; the fair thing would have been that you and I had never been born at all.

You could argue that they only fell because God had planned it. The trouble with this line of reasoning is that every criminal the world over could then claim that they only committed their crime because it was in God's eternal plan! Someone robs a bank.. God planned it! Someone knifes you in the back, God's fault!! Does it really make any sense to blame God? No. Our sins are our fault. If a criminal were to blame God for his crimes no court of law in the world would pay any attention. God has not so ordered the world, nor produced his plan, such that we are free from blame, or free from any choice in the matter. We sin because we choose to. God's plan incorporates our sins but he is not to be blamed for any sinfulness of ours within his plan; the blame, the guilt belongs to us, and us alone.

Our Saviour "being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God" was taken "and by wicked hands" was crucified and slain (Acts 2:23). Those men were fulfilling God's plan, but they were still evil in what they did. Just because something is in the plan of God does not mean God is responsible for the evil of it. The evil of crucifying Jesus belonged to men alone, nothing to God; they were guilty of the crime and will be punished for it. God is able to bring good out of man's evil, that is God's speciality. Since all we do is more or less evil God could not even have a plan if he did not incorporate man's evil into it. As Joseph said at the end of the story "But as for you, you thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive." (Genesis 50:20). (In the life of Joseph and in the death of our Lord in the very selfsame act by which men intended evil against God and against their neighbour, God intended good. Surely the same must apply to the sin of Adam

  • though he intended to rebel against God, God had ultimately a good purpose in Adam's fall.

If you think it unfair that God should condemn many because of the sin of the one man Adam, then don't forget that he also brings forgiveness to many by the righteousness of the one man, Jesus Christ (Romans 5:12-21); out of every nation, tribe, language, a vast assembley which no man can number. And how else can sinners like you and me have any hope to be pardoned except by that one Man's righteousness?

If you believe that you are a fallen creature from birth and that only Christ can save you, then you will seek him more fervently than if you were to believe that you are not fallen but that you can save yourself by your own strength. Our fallenness and helplessness, far from being a reason to reject the word of God, is a reason to all the more fervently seek for salvation through Christ. When God says "Seek you the Lord while he may be found" (Isaiah 55:6) when he says "Repent and believe the Gospel" his words are genuine and sincere. No man can say he did not believe because God did not want him to believe, he cannot blame God for his unbelief, it is all his own fault.

When a certain truth had been taught by our Lord Jesus many of his former disciples murmured saying "This is a hard saying, who can believe it?" And many left him and walked no more with him; subsequent to this we read:

And Jesus asked the twelve "Will you also go away?" Peter answered "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that you are the Christ, the Son of the living God." (John 6:60-69)

These are the words of faith, which says "even if this teaching is difficult, I know what I know, and I know that Jesus is the Christ of God, and I will not hear the words of eternal life except from his lips. There is no one else, and no other group of people, who can save us or help us. We will stay with him, even if we do not understand everything.

And then consider, if you decide to give some of your money to charity would it be right of anyone to say "You are being unfair!" If you gave to the poor in, say, Asia; could someone accuse you and say "You are not being fair because you have given nothing to the poor of Africa!! You have not given any of your money to them but all to the people of Asia! You are not doing well, because you are unfair!" Of course, it would not be right for anyone to say so, because you are free to give what is yours to whoever you wish. And God is free to give what is his, forgiveness, to whoever he wishes also. We do not deserve his forgiveness - we all deserve his condemnation and nothing more.

But you will say, but God has made us sinners so our sinfulness is his fault. No, the Scriptures everywhere hold us accountable for our sins. The sole responsibility of men for their own sins is assumed, presumed, and taught throughout all the Scriptures.

So these two things run parallel throughout Scripture, the sovereignty of God, and the free choice of men to choose good or evil. We cannot see how they can both be true, but we must believe in both equally.

Now, according to Calvinism we all suffer the consequences of "Total Depravity" - it is the T in Calvinism's "TULIP". It does not mean that we are all as totally depraved as we possibly could be, the total refers to all the attributes of our being: our affections, our will, our memory are depraved, warped by sin; our consciences (not as accurate as it should be); and this depravity extends to our ability to reason rationally and logically, especially about spiritual things. When we come to Christ our minds begin to be re-educated and taught to think correctly about spiritual things by the Spirit through the Scriptures. So our Lord Jesus said:

It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words which I speak to you, they are spirit and they are life. (John 6:63)

What about our logical faculty? Does what we logically infer spring from the scripture? What if our logic leads to a conclusion contrary to God's word? Surely in such a case our logical faculty is basing its deductions not on Scripture, or the leadings of the Spirit, but on the leadings of the fallen flesh, which cannot be trusted in spiritual things, because it is depraved and fallen along with our whole nature.

God truly, sincerely, desires the salvation of all, and so cannot be held responsible if some are condemned.

See for example:

Ezekiel 33:11 ("I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked... so turn, turn from your evil ways");

Luke 19:41-42; (where Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem) - they were not crocodile tears but true tears; the sovereign saviour gave them the ability to choose or to reject, and they rejected him;

Luke 13:34 ("How often would I have gathered you.. but thou wouldest not!" He would but they would not, so their sinful rejection is their own fault);

1 Timothy 2:4 ("God desires all men to be saved", so unbelief is not God's will, so how can it be his fault?);

Romans 9:2-3 ("I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ...for them, (for the sake of the Jews)" - such a desire is from God the Holy Spirit acting mightily in Paul's heart; Paul's yearning was the yearning of God the Holy Spirit within him; so God yearns for the salvation of the lost too).

All these Scriptures prove that God cannot be blamed for the eternal punishment of those not elect, because God takes no pleasure in their death nor in punishing them.


"Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man, what God has prepared for those that love him" (1 Corinthians 2:9).

God's plan is huge and will result in a measure of glory in the eternal realms we cannot yet imagine. The whole scheme is way beyond our limited minds, and the glory that will be ours who believe will be on a scale so vast it is beyond our comprehension. So we ought not to think we can make judgements on the plan while the plan is still in progress. Let us wait until the whole plan is completed: wait till glory, then we shall be better able to judge.

Consider a building company building a vast building on a huge building site in the remotest most unreached part of the jungle of the Amazon; the construction being watched (and scorned) by a bunch of tribesmen who only have their own experience to go by. They look and see the building site and its a terrible, terrible mess; it looks a real mess for so long in their eyes; only at the end do they realize what it was all about; the building was far bigger, far more complex, on a much vaster scale than anything they have ever even thought about, much less attempted.

So now, it might be tempting to doubt God and God's ways (but "You [God] are good and do good" (Psalm 119:68)). Shouldn't we, then, refrain from judging God and God's plan? That is, we should not judge until we reach the glory where we shall see what he was constructing, the City of God, the New Jerusalem, the vast numbers, the eternal safety, the glory of its inhabitants, the wonderful love and union that exists between all, where there is no more sin and even no more temptation; and more, more than our fallen minds can even begin to imagine.

  • You giving money to some people and not others is nothing at all like Gods "gift" of salvation for two reasons. First, God has unlimited resources and you do not. When he gives, he has no less ability to give. When he saves, he has no less ability to save again. Second, God made us be born sinners before we did any good or evil. You did not make anyone poor, bu if you had done, you would owe it to them to restore them to their former status. For these reasons, the example is wholly invalid.
    – Calicoder
    Apr 29, 2020 at 1:32
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    @Calicoder - I won't be trying to answer all your objections but it seems to me you are putting a "blind faith" in your own fallen (depraved) powers of logic, and a faith in yourself more than in the Word of the Living God. If God tells us anything (eg about original sin, hardening of hearts,etc) it must be for the good of his elect people because "He works all thing together for our good who are the called according to his purpose." - Romans 8:28. We are the rebels, we are thus no longer entitled to explanations from God. The first thing Adam did was try to shift the blame on God... Apr 29, 2020 at 3:56
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    @Calicoder - the blame on God: "the woman you gave to be with me etc (Gen 3:12). Adam's attempt to shift his guilt off himself was entirely rejected: our's will be too. Pharoah and we ourselves are not entitled to a soft heart: we have sinned, not only because we have a sinful nature from birth but because we ourselves have chosen to sin. If God had sent him straight to hell it would have no less than what Pharoah deserved... instead God hardened his heart for His own good purposes; to show His mighty power, exercising it in love to His own people, over the evil powers of the world. Apr 29, 2020 at 4:15
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    @Calicoder - ..of the world. You have taken up your 'laws of noncontradiction' and put down "the law of the LORD", the Word of God, which "is perfect converting the soul", and "makes wise the simple" (Psalm 19:7). God reveals to babes what he hides from "the wise" Matt 11:25-26. "God in His wisdom chose that the world by wisdom would not know not God" (1 Cor 1:21)...."that no flesh should boast in His presence" (1:29) so that "our boast should not be in our flesh but in the Lord" (1:31). Your laws of noncontradiction, can they save you or anyone? Can they deliver from the power of sin? Apr 29, 2020 at 4:31
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    @Calicoder - the power of sin? .. Can they put your feet upon a Rock (Christ Jesus) (Ps 40:2)? Can they make "the rain to fall on the just and the unjust" (Matt 5:45)? Can they bring a Universe into being out of absolute nothingness or make life out of dust? Or can they make us zealous for God, or turn a persecuting Saul into a mighty Apostle, or "turn the world upside down" (Acts 17:6)? Or can they build schools & hospitals & missions & lead to democracy & to cultures which seek to irradicate illiteracy and pursue scientific knowledge? (cf "The Book that made your World" by Mangalwadi). Apr 29, 2020 at 4:57

Were Esau and Pharaoh judged by God without consideration of their deeds?

  1. Esau

    • God's words, "Esau have I hated," appear in Malachi 1:3, and were written literally centuries after Esau lived.

    • The Greek word Paul used for "hated" in Romans 9:13 [G3404, Strong's] means what we typically consider when we think of "hate."

    • God's assessment--judgment--of Esau is based entirely on his deeds.

    • Esau despised his birthright [Genesis 25:29-34].

    • As the firstborn of two sons, Esau was slated to receive two-thirds of father Isaac's wealth [Genesis 48:22--the son receiving the birthright received one additional share of the father's wealth.]

    • Esau was also to be the designated head of the family; responsible for all major decisions.

    • He thought so little of this great honor, he traded it for a bowl of bean soup. The book of Hebrews describes him as "sexually immoral" and "profane" [Hebrews 12:16, MEV]; because he so lightly regarded what God had for him. He did not have a sense of what was truly valuable, and readily traded eternal honor for a single meal. [The remainder of the Old Testament could have spoken of "The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Esau."]

    • Esau did not truly honor his father; though he was Isaac's favorite [Genesis 25:28].

    • Esau, knowing his father did not want his sons marrying heathen women, deliberately went against his father's command, and married one [Genesis 28:6-9].

  2. Pharaoh

    • Pharaoh's damnation was not pre-determined; it was foreknown: the distinction is significant. God knew what Pharaoh would do; He didn't "force" or "pre-program" him to do it.

    • The words of Paul in Romans 9:17, quoting God's message to Pharaoh, are from Exodus 9:16, given just before the plague of hail.

    • By my count, Pharaoh had already lived through six plagues, and six warnings from God regarding what he was expected to do, and what would happen if he didn't.

    • That the seventh plague came speaks to his mindset and the quality of his deeds.

    • The first words Pharaoh had for Moses and Aaron reveal the attitude and disposition of the ruler: "Who is the Lord that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, nor will I let Israel go" [Exodus 5:2, MEV].

    • Pharaoh felt no obligation to honor or obey the God of the Hebrews; he was the ruler of Egypt. From that point, we read of Pharaoh hardening his heart [Exodus 7:13, 14, 22; 8:15, 19, 32; 9:7, 34, 35] and God hardening Pharaoh's heart [Exodus 4:21; 7:3; 9:12; 10:1, 20, 27; 11:10; 14:4, 8]. It will be noted that most of these occurred prior to God's words to Pharaoh in Exodus 9:16.

After giving these men plenty of opportunities to change the course of their lives, God judged them on both their words and deeds. They were not "presumed guilty;" they were given [many] chances to do what was right.

It could be argued that God is not "fair"--He does not treat everyone exactly the same--; He is, however, "just"--He applies the same principles of righteousness to all.

Those principles are declared in His Word.


The OP ideas of injustice and whimsical mercy are unfounded and show a perspective often spoken of when one misunderstands God's plan for man. God is love 1 John 4:16 and He has no evil within Him. But in His wisdom, He allows evil to intersect creation for a time to perfect us.

Through the interaction of evil and the resistance thereof, Jesus was also perfected or completed as we will be. Being the first-fruit of this process.

Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. 9 And having been perfected, He became the source of eternal salvation for all those who obey Him Heb 5:8-9

But each in his own turn: Christ the first-fruits; then at His coming, those who belong to Him. 1 Cor 15:23, 1 Cor 15:20

God is using evil as a means to an end. Without evil, the end result would not be as grand as God has planned. He is making us to be in His image. He placed evil within the garden to shape and affect all our lives since Adam. While He could make perfect humans who could not sin, they would not be made is His image in the fullest sense.

He wants us to choose good over evil - not be made to do good by default.

That Jesus was foreknown from the foundation of the world, shows God's plan included Jesus' sacrifice from before Adam and Eve existed.

For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you 1 Pet 1:20

According to the bible, deeds are irrelevant regarding salvation. We may be 'rewarded' according to our works, but not saved. The NT is explicit about this.

By one man all die, by the last Adam all are made righteous. Rom 5:12-21

that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their wrongdoings against them 2 Cor 5:19

No one may live without sin as we are all sinners under the sin of Adam - hence why we are all 'dead men walking'. NO amount of good deeds will address that!

Jesus is the only way to salvation

I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. John 14:6, (also 3:16)

God is responsible for the entry of evil into the world and He will/ already has addressed it perfectly in Jesus as promised, with nothing else needing to be done - except we believe (by faith) and live accordingly out of love and gratitude.

We must consider that all men and their wildly varying lives of much riches or desperate poverty is all included in God's plan and Jesus sacrifice. None need it any less or any more, but each will have to choose Christ over everything else. This age is but a twinkle in the grand scheme of eternity, and must always be seen in relation to the sacrifice of the Holy and sinless Jesus who willingly gave his life for all.

  • "By one man all die, by the last Adam all are made righteous" - God does not damn based solely on ones own deeds. He uses their parents deeds.
    – Calicoder
    Apr 7, 2021 at 21:18
  • God doesn’t damn, the law damns. That’s why we need Christ who fulfilled the law and paid its penalty.
    – steveowen
    Apr 7, 2021 at 21:56
  • Who made the law? The devil, perhaps?
    – Calicoder
    Apr 7, 2021 at 22:34
  • Making the law isn't the problem - it was made for good. Sin is the problem - that's where the devil comes in.
    – steveowen
    Apr 7, 2021 at 22:36
  • So Yahweh made the law? And the law damns. Yahweh made the law that damns people based on their parents deeds.
    – Calicoder
    Apr 7, 2021 at 22:51

OP: How is God's judgement of man fair when he judges them without considering their deeds?

God is more than willing to let you present your works as a means to salvation. There's a complete record awaiting them.

And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. Rev 20:12

Alternatively, you can admit our works are as filthy rags (you know that's an euphemism) and look at His grace offer.


Here is a simple concise way to consider it:

God's primary wish (desire, will, whatever human proclivity you can assign to God) is for us to be reconciled with him. He loves us, but sometimes this love requires Him to cause us pain and suffering. The last thing He wants is for humans to become so comfortable on Earth that they forget about Him entirely. To do otherwise would be to condemn us to the abyss without interceding on our behalf. So he MUST pass judgment upon us lest we be lost forever. It is far better for us to suffer His judgment now than for all eternity. So what you see as arbitrarily passing judgment upon people for things they did not do, I see as the loving actions of a benefactor who can see the entire breadth of human existence in an instant. I don't need to have God's understanding of why mankind has fallen or why bad things happen to good people, I just need to have faith that God is in control and does not dole out "justice" in the same sense that humans consider the concept. While God's actions might seem inconsistent, we are all separated from God by a great chasm of Adam's making and the goal is to bring us back to the fold.

Obviously, the story of Adam and Eve is allegorical on many levels. But the bottom line is, we gained knowledge and self-awareness but that separated us from God. God wants us back. If He has to make us suffer to bring us back, then it is his prerogative to do so.

Here's another point to consider: Maybe God knew Adam would fall and allowed him to fall anyway. Perhaps God was giving us a taste of His divinity by making us in His image, but our human frailties came along for the ride. No other being of which we are aware has the capacity for love or hatred as do humans. So we ARE all guilty in a sense and God allowed us to be guilty so that we might someday also be reconciled like the prodigal sons we are.


We all know judgement cannot happen without considering some action which is being judged.
Not requiring God's judgement to be just according to us is forgoing any understanding of God.

The various denominations have different views of the eventual fate of people that "God is unfair to", ranging from their having to suffer extreme torture for all infinity to their simply ceasing to exist following their death.

The Bible tells a different story though.

It says that God is not trying to save everyone during this age; only the "elect", a chosen few, will be offered salvation. Those few will be resurrected as immortal spirit beings at Christ's return, and will work with him for a thousand years in the Kingdom of God.

All the rest are not being judged for their actions in this age. The vast majority of everyone that has ever lived, whether chosen by God to play the part of the bad-guy, or simply left in ignorance far from any possible knowledge of God's way, will be resurrected as physical human beings at the end of the Millennium. It is then, as part of the Kingdom, that they will be taught God's way, be offered his salvation, and finally be judged on what they knowingly choose to do with this knowledge and offer.

Almost all people will eventually join Jesus as his immortal siblings. Those few that still refuse to accept God's salvation will be annihilated and will cease to exist.

Is it fair that some few individuals are offered salvation now, while most people aren't?
Is it fair that some few individuals are forced to be the bad guys, while most people aren't?

Obviously not, and life really isn't fair, but it doesn't matter.

What really counts is that eventually every individual (including Pharaoh, Judas, and Hitler), will eventually be shown God's way, and will be offered salvation, regardless of past behaviour.

Remember, God's way is one of love and forgiveness, not of sadistic vindictiveness.


The real answer is much simpler than you think in light of God's sovereignty: Fate, and Fiat. ===FATE: God's sovereignty, according to every definition in western theology, means pantocracy: controlling everything. IF God is truly sovereign over everything, THEN our wills are bound to what they're bound to, and God makes us saved; God knows the end of all things, and exactly what path all things take to their end. Foreknowledge upon starting the timeflow is the same thing as foreordination, which is the exact same thing as fate. To foresee and then startup- is to cause. You are responsible for what happens when you tip the first domino. Allowance is causation. Remember, anything other than total fatalism means that God is not in charge. IF God doesn't deliberately refuse to know everything about the future, THEN we're all part of a script carved into stone. God arranged the fall, arranged our birth as sinners, arranged our actions and wills, and arranged the infinite torture he will inflict on most of us by keeping us alive in hell (immortality isn't conditional, but it isn't innate either.) Now the normal Calvinist sees God ordaining sin and it then being our faults, and plays the mystery card, because he knows God logically blaming us a self-contradition, not a mystery or paradox. (One God who is three persons is a mystery; one God who is three Gods is a self-contradiction. Being dead in myself but alive in Christ is a paradox; being dead in the flesh and alive in the flesh is a self-contradiction.) They know, but deny, that it means God is the author of sin and that he's fating us to do what we can't help, but punishing us for it to make a statement (Romans 9:22) because it would make God unjust, and we can't have that. The Calvinist simply hesitates to take that last leap of faith into God's sovereignty. Thus, ===FIAT: The simple truth is, He is unjust, and he is the author of sin, but he isn't to be blamed or condemned or resented, because he says he is just. It's not logical, but it doesn't matter. The Calvinist pretends that God's justice is fixed to logic and therefore his actions are mysterious and beyond human understanding. The truth is that God doesn't care about logic at all. He's the boss: he can do anything and make us do anything, and not only 'get away' with it, but make it our fault before blaming us.

God can't logically tell light to make itself exist: he doesn't care; he did it anyway. God can't logically make us sin and rightly blame us; he doesn't care; he does it anyway. God can't logically judge infinite punishment for finite and ignorant transgression: he doesn't care; he does it anyway. God doesn't logically damn most of us for his good pleasure while finding no pleasure in it: he doesn't care; he does it anyway. God doesn't logically create vessels, fit them for destruction, and accomplish anything profitable by displaying his patience on them for doing what they were meant to do and then destroying them as planned: he doesn't care; he does it anyway. God can't tell us to love others and reduse to love some of his creation without being a hypocrite: he doesn't care; he does it anyway. God can't be loving or merciful while putting his enemies into an infinitely merciless and unloving fate: he doesn't care; he does it anyway. And all of it is perfect, just, good, holy, and loving, not because it is sensibly so, but because he says it is so. He can speak nothing into something. It doesn't make sense. It's not suppossd to make sense. If it did, theology wouldn't be a thing trying to track God in his footsteps.

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    This entry in the Encyclopedia of Philosophy, iep.utm.edu/foreknow, explains how foreknowledge does not eradicate free choice. Assuming it does is a modal error in logic. I hope it helps. Apr 6, 2021 at 11:56

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