Bible Contradictions: Micah 7:18 vs. Jeremiah 17:4

It’s time to answer another quick Bible contradiction offered by the skeptics. This one is on the issue of God’s anger.

Micah 7:8, “….he retaineth not his anger for ever because he delighteth in mercy.

Jeremiah 17:4, “…. for ye have kindled a fire in mine anger, which shall burn for ever.”

So is God angry forever or not? This one is simple if we look at the text in context. The context, in this case, being the literary device used by Jeremiah in verse 4. Jeremiah’s use of “forever” should be regarded as hyperbole. It’s a form of language commonly used in ancient literature, which some scholars refer to as “dramatic orientation.”

But one doesn’t need to study ancient culture and literature to realize this. The context of Jeremiah’s verse is that God’s anger is set towards the people of Judah, people who will not literally live forever. In the end, the solution to this contradiction becomes quite obvious when the text is read with a little more care.



5 thoughts on “Bible Contradictions: Micah 7:18 vs. Jeremiah 17:4

  1. Hey Lucas, good seeing you again, just another atheist wolf here (I am strongly considering changing my blog to atheist wolf, it sounds so much cooler than black sheep). A couple of questions for you. So my father died almost 10 years ago. Does this mean I don’t love him anymore? I thought I did, but you are suggesting that when someone dies your emotions for those individuals simply cease to exist, or at least God’s does. Also how does this play out with that whole eternal life thing? The people of Judah, and everybody else will supposedly live forever, its just a question of where you are going to spend it. Speaking of, God’s anger is going to burn forever, he is going to cast people into the lake of fire, that actually seems rather fitting and not hyperbolic at all.

    1. I’m not going to answer the question about your father as that isn’t my business, and I am sorry for your loss (I mean it), but no, one’s emotions don’t cease to exist towards an individual when they die.

      Like most atheists, it seems you hold to a fundamentalist view of Hell which isn’t Biblical. It does raise a question about your familiarity with Biblical culture, but I won’t get into that here. What is essentially needed is to understand that there is no fire or literal burning, rather it’s an existence of shame apart from God’s honor (which reflects an honor-shame based society that the ancients lived in and understood the doctrine of hell as). God still loves them, but it’s an impossibility to bring them into Heaven (which is a place of honor). I’m sure you’ve read it, but C.S. Lewis’ the Great Divorce is the book to begin with in order to understand. Hell is not an expression of God’s anger as you seem to think it is, but a state of being shamed. I’ve written in detail about Hell here: It may be of some interest. One’s punishment depends on the wrongs he has committed here. With this view, your objection using emotion becomes moot, as shame and anger aren’t mutually exclusive terms.

      1. From what I’ve read on your blog (admittedly I haven’t dived too deeply into it yet), but your version of Christianity is very foreign to me. It is definitely not the Christianity I was raised in. So yes, i’m not very familiar with “Biblical culture” outside of the concept in general, and yes I have a very fundamentalist view of the bible, being raised a Baptist, it kind of goes with the territory. Although as far as baptists go my church was fairly liberal (and by that I mean card games were not against the rules and dancing in its own right wasn’t forbidden, but prom was still a no-no). So I am definitely interested in your thoughts, but that doesn’t mean I am just going to sit back and not point out the issues I see in your apologetics. If you can’t handle that without referring to me as lazy and incompetent, or dismissing me as something less than human (for instance a wolf), then no, don’t post my comments.

        Atheist Wolf though would make an awesome blog name, do I have permission to use it? I am kind of attached to byblacksheep, but now I can be a wolf in sheep’s clothing, its brilliant.

        Let’s talk about the atheist wolf thing, in all sincerity, for a second though, you may run a “christian site” but I didn’t go looking for some christian to start an argument with. You are posting on the atheist channel, which stands to reason then that you expect atheists to read it and comment on it. I mean that is part of the whole purpose of running a blog right? Your post discussed hyperbole in the bible, to me whether or not genocide in the Bible is hyperbole is very relevant. I hadn’t yet realized that hyperbole is your answer to many sticky issues with the Bible. Had I known I would have saved my questions of genocide for a more genocide-relevant, hyperbole post. I apologize. As for the book, I have a list of books to read a mile long and not enough hours in the day. I am not going to add a book to the list because some blogger whose post I commented on once told me to read it, I have higher priorities than that, if we strike up some cordial blogging relationship, that might get bumped up the list. If you dismiss me as less than human, it sure as hell isn’t going on the list.

        Another problem with dismissing me as less than human is, now when you say that you are sorry for my loss, I have issues trusting the sincerity of that statement.

        I’m sorry for such a long preface, but I felt like if you and I were going to have a successful relationship, the air needed to be clear. But let me dive into your comments now.

        I know how I feel about my father, so that was more of a rhetorical question. You have ceded that emotions don’t just cease to exist towards an individual when they die. But you still seem to be holding anger off to the side and I’m not sure what your reasoning is as to why we should treat anger differently from other emotions like love. You seem to suggest in your post that God’s anger could not possible burn forever against the people of Judah because the people of Judah can’t live forever. But we’ve agreed that emotions can linger after the death of an individual, so right now I have no reason to believe that God’s anger cannot burn forever against individuals who have died. The issue is further complicated when the issue of eternal life is considered. As far as God is concerned the people of Judah never actually die.

        So I remain skeptical when you suggest in your final paragraph that it should be obvious that Jeremiah’s use of the word “forever” should be considered hyperbole because it is in the context of a group who will not literally live forever. I don’t see how (A) that matters to people who can still feel emotions for individuals after they die, and (B) how that matters to God, who in his perspective, the people of Judah will continue to exist even after they die on Earth. In light of (A) and (B), I don’t think the reasoning you used to determine that Micah 7:18 and Jeremiah 17:4 are not contradictions holds any water. I am not saying that they are definitely in fact contradictions, but I am saying I don’t think this line of reasoning definitely proves they are not contractions.

        I read your blog post on Hell. You offer three verses where Hell is described with fire, and only two verses where it is described as darkness, yet you think because it is dark there can’t be literal fire. I’m not sure why you chose darkness as more true than fire. Also with the burning bush we see God creating fire that acts against its natural properties, that is, its need to consume, so I see no reason why hell can’t exist with a fire that acts against its natural properties to produce light. There is more we could talk about, but I don’t think we need to get into that here.

        When you say shame and anger are not mutually exclusive, I think you mean to say that are not mutually inclusive. Mutually exclusive means if you have one you can’t have the other. Mutually inclusive means if you have one you necessarily have to have the other.

        So if shame and anger are not mutually inclusive that means just because I am shaming you, it doesn’t mean I am necessarily angry with you. which I believe is your point. God shaming someone for all eternity is not a reflection of his anger.

        I would counter with that love and anger are not mutually exclusive terms. Just because my wife makes me angry sometimes, doesn’t mean I don’t love her or stop loving her. Frequently throughout the Bible we see God direct his wrath towards people his loves. So I’m not seeing why God’s anger HAS to be hyperbole. This of course, again, doesn’t mean that Micah and Jeremiah are contradictions, perhaps you will have better luck if you tried to prove Micah is the hyperbole.

      2. Black, I never meant to put you on the level of an animal by that label, I meant it strictly in metaphorical terms, and I’m sure that’s something you would have understood. As for tagging posts with atheism, I simply want my site to be found by as many as possible. As you used this against the atheist wolf label I do need to ask why one would search for atheism in the first place? Most atheists sites have debunking religion as their core, so either you’re not content in your atheism (which judging by your site is unlikely) or you’re seeking those who agree with you in debunking religion. Either way, it doesn’t help your case, nor does using a recycled canard (the Bible should be easy) help matters. In regards to future comments, I may post some commenting guidelines (which I have now done on my about page).

        I know hyperbole and ancient rhetoric in the Bible is an often-avoided subject, and I will probably write a post in detail about it sometime. What I can assure you is that it isn’t a cop out. As I said in your first post comparing war texts to Jesus is that it comes down to the genre of the document at hand. You said I use it to avoid sticky situations in the Bible. This is far from the truth, as there are plenty of troubling texts (i.e. Sodom and Gomorra) that give no evidence or reason to conclude they’re hyperbolic. If there’s no sign hyperbole is used in a text, we don’t conclude the author used it in a particular passage. Books such as Samuel and Judges have a lot in common with ANE (Ancient Near Eastern) war inscriptions. The text about Pharoah I gave you is one such example. This genre consistently used hyperbole and there’s no reason why the Bible writers couldn’t utilize this as well. So when studying Biblical texts, it’s important to do so with its genre in mind and ancient context. To fail to do so falls into a fallacy scholar David Fischer calls “the fallacy of misplaced literalism.”

        “You seem to suggest in your post that God’s anger could not possible burn forever against the people of Judah because the people of Judah can’t live forever. But we’ve agreed that emotions can linger after the death of an individual, so right now I have no reason to believe that God’s anger cannot burn forever against individuals who have died.”

        There’s a simple mistake here (one I probably should have made clear in the post). You mention individuals. God wasn’t angry at individuals but rather the people of Judah as a group. The ancient world was a collectivist society, individualism was placed on the bottom of their priorities, so it’s not the individuals God was angry with, rather the entire collective group, and it’s the collective group that didn’t last forever, not the individuals themselves. This is why it’s vitally important to understand the social context of the Bible before making criticisms. But speaking in the context of a more general term, what about an individual like Stalin? Would God stay angry at him forever for what he did? It’s certainly possible, but as said, it’s not because of anger that an individual like Stalin would be excluded from honor. He’s excluded simply because he refused to enter a covenantal relationship through the covenant broker (Jesus). May God be angry forever? it’s certainly possible, and in a case like Stalin or Hitler, maybe even certain. The post wasn’t on this subject in a general sense, but the subject in a specific context.

        Just to comment quickly on Hell here. It’s quite simple if we understand the honor shame way of life in an agnostic culture, but even without this it’s clear literal burning isn’t the case. Glenn Miller in his post here: says this:

        “The ‘logic’ of hell in the bible is surprisingly simple: You receive back the treatment/effects you gave other agents (including God and yourself) with some kind of multiplier effect. [The bible is full of images of this reciprocity concept: reaping what you sow, being paid back, suffering loss as you had despoiled others, unkindness for unkindness shown, apathy for apathy rendered, ‘eye for an eye’, proportional judgement, etc]”

        This is suited to what the ancients called “honor debts” and shame as a response. The fundamental view of Hell is one that wasn’t even considered in the ancient world. There was no need to mention honor and shame in a high context society that used those concepts the same as we today put on our clothes. Today we live in a low context society, which explains our modern thinking on these issues. The torment is relational in nature, not because one is burning. The number of times something is said in Scripture doesn’t dictate what’s true, but rather it can be argued it shows what’s more important. The image of fire symbolizes final judgement and the pain of relational exclusion and shame which is more important than pointing out that it’s a dark place. As for the burning bush, based on what we know, is an irrelevant comparison and bares no context to the doctrine of hell whatsoever.

        On my usage of mutally exclusive, that was a mistake on my part, so thank you for the correction. That they are not mutally inclusive is what I meant.

        “So if shame and anger are not mutually inclusive that means just because I am shaming you, it doesn’t mean I am necessarily angry with you.”

        As God is final judge, this is the correct view. Shaming doesn’t always have to include anger, however, that doesn’t mean anger is always non-existent, it simply means exclusion isn’t based on emotion.

        “Frequently throughout the Bible we see God direct his wrath towards people his loves. So I’m not seeing why God’s anger HAS to be hyperbole.”

        God’s anger doesn’t always have to be hyperbole, and I never argued that. I’m sure we would agree there are many times God shows anger and it’s not hyperbolic at all. In this case, being angry forever at a specific group of people is what is considered hyperbole. God was certainly angry, but it’s unreasonable to claim He’s literally angry forever at a group who would not last forever.

        Thanks for the comments, Black.

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