From the Bible, I know that Jacob and Esau were sons of Isaac, but God chose Jacob to be one of the ancestors of Jesus' 'line'. After Jacob, I know that the 'line' went to Judah and so on, as recorded in Matthew 1. It is also said that the roles of Jacob and Esau were predestined before birth. My question is: After Esau and Jacob were born, which of the following is true (unless only God knows)? (1) Jacob's decisions in his life (as well as Esau's and others') could not possibly have changed his role since God had made a choice. That is, Jacob's role was predetermined unconditionally. (2) Jacob's decisions in his life (as well as Esau's and others') could possibly have been changed, since God is a living God, interacting with his people. That is, it is possible that He may change His mind in certain cases. -- Kenneth (Hong Kong)

This is deep stuff, Kenneth! I appreciate your specifying the predestination of Jacob's role, as opposed to that of his salvation, since for God to have predestined Jacob to salvation, in addition to being the misreading of Malachi 1, would have been patently unfair. I believe that, when we keep in mind that God's decisions are based on his foreknowledge, it is easier to accept God's decisions without struggling.

Since God's foreknowledge depends on our own free-will choices, it is an academic question whether God's choice could have been different. Since God knows the future, though he does not determine it (being outside our dimension of time), in his wisdom he is able to make choices through which good comes to men and glory is brought to him - choices based squarely on his certainty of how we will choose.

In other words, I cannot see how God's omniscience is compatible with any sort of limited knowledge. I also realize that your question goes over the heads of many readers - perhaps my response does, too. Still, I feel it is an important one. I would recommend you read some C. S. Lewis, perhaps The Problem of Pain or Miracles, if you have not already learned to appreciate Lewis' writings. Most confusion about God's sovereign choices and our free will is compounded by failure to appreciate what it means for God to be outside our dimension of time. This is understandable, given the difficulty sometimes of getting our finite minds around these lofty concepts!

To answer your question, I go with neither (1) nor (2). God's choice was based on his advance knowledge of Jacob's choices, so (1) is ruled out. And yet (2) also falls short since, as Numbers 23:19 reads, God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Even when the scriptures speak as though God changed his mind, we must always remember that the "change" is change only from our (limited, time-bound) perspective. God does, indeed, interact, and his relationship with us is personal, not mechanical. However, his wisdom is infinite and eternal. What we experience, and what is described anthropomorphically for our benefit, never proves a reduction in God's knowledge -- no fickleness, no surprises, no change (James 1:17; Malachi 3:6). 

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