Does God tempt (Gen. 22:1), or does he not? (Jam. 1:13)


Verses in question:

Genesis 22:1: “And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.”

James 1:13: “I am being tempted by God; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.”

So, does God tempt or does he not, is this a contradiction?

A response:

According to the original Hebrew text the world “tempted” is nacah which means “to test, try, prove, tempt, assay, put to the proof or test.”

The Hebrew language has many meanings for single words, for instance, the word ‘yom’ could designate a long period of time, a 24 hour day, or the good old proverbial phrase as “in my grandfather’s day.” Likewise, nacah can constitute various meanings.

But what is the context of the verse? As it is clear that God did not intend for Abraham to sacrifice his son as Abraham was provided a lamb instead. Rather God tested Abraham to see his dedication to the Lord. It is also crucial for us to let the text speak for itself as a unified whole, so what do other surrounding texts have to say on God’s testing of Abraham?

In Hebrews 11:17-19 we see that Abraham knew that if he had to go through with sacrificing his son God could bring him back to life:Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.” (Hebrew 11:17-19)

Also, we see that James writes: “I am being tempted by God; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.” (James 1:13) Here obviously James his meaning something else, otherwise he is contradicting himself in the same sentence. In this case God tests James, just as Abraham was tested (nacah), as one commentary reads:

“He tests to prove them and not to make them fail. God himself tempts no one to do what is wrong. It is not possible that *temptation to *sin could come from him.”

Such is supported in James 1:3 where he writes; “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into various trials; Knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.”

Testing produces faith, such strengthens one’s character and relationship with God. So no, God does not tempt anyone to do evil, nor are the verses in question contradictory when we consider the text as a unified whole, as well as understand the original Hebrew in context.


One response to “Does God tempt (Gen. 22:1), or does he not? (Jam. 1:13)

  1. I’m studying Biblical interpretation, and reconciling perceived contradictions in Scripture, and I had a question regarding your translation of James 1:13, since mine all read quite differently: ‘”let NO ONE say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God” ” (English Standard Version; emphasis mine).

    The KJV, NKJV, NASV and the NIV all have similar texts, each one saying the opposite of what your text here says. What translation are you consulting, and can you explain the difference in translation?

    Thanks for your hard work, James. I’ve found your commentary to be a valuable resource in my studies.

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