A year ago, Shabir Ally and James White debated the topic Did the original Disciples of Jesus consider him God?
One of Ally’s arguments was that Numbers 23:19 says that “God is not a man.” He repeated this snippet on several occasions. White rebutted that when God took on a human nature in the person of the Son, He did not cease to be God and so even though he took on human nature, he remains God. Ally, like all Muslims, regards the divine nature of God in three divine persons like something being both a square and a circle.
White also said, in passing, that Numbers 23:19 says “God is not a man that he should lie.” He could have spent a little more time on the connection between “God is not a man” and the bit Ally omitted – “that he should lie.”
The complete verse runs:
God is not a man, that he should lie,
or a son of man, that he should change his mind.
Has he said, and will he not do it?
Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?
Jews argue like Ally. On several occasions, I’ve responded to my Jewish kith that the conjunction “that,” which connects 1. “God is not man,” to 2. “he should lie” means that whereas man is (by nature) a liar, God is not. Numbers 23;19 has nothing to do with the nature of God’s being, namely, whether he has a divine or a human nature, or both. Therefore, it’s illegitimate to chop the verse into two chunks and present them as two separate arguments. It’s a bit like slicing up Raphael – the Ninja turtle – and ending up with Picasso.
“[God’s] mind and counsel is one; one and the same, ‘yesterday, to-day, and for ever.’ Therefore the apostle speaks of God, that there is no shadow of change or turning in him, James i. 17. He is not a man that he should lie, neither the son of man that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it?’ Numb. xxiii. 19. And shall he decree, and not execute it? Shall he purpose, and not perform it? ‘I am the Lord, I change not;’ that is his name, Mal. iii. 6. ‘The counsel of the Lord standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations,’ Psal. xxxiii. 1]. Men change their mind oftener than their garments. Poor vain man, even in his best estate, is changeableness, and vicissitude itself, altogether vanity! And this ariseth, partly from the imperfection of his understanding, and his ignorance, because he does not understand what may fall out. There are many things secret and hidden, which if he discovered, he would not be of that judgment; and many things may fall out which may give ground of another resolution: and partly from the weakness and perverseness of his will, that cannot be constant in any good thing, and is not so closely united to it, as that no fear or terror can separate from it. But there is no such imperfection in him, neither ignorance nor weakness. ‘All things are naked’ before him; all their natures, their circumstances, all events, all emergencies, known to him are they, and ‘all his works from the beginning,’ as perfectly as in the end. And therefore he may come to a fixed resolution from all eternity; and being resolved, he can see no reason of change, because there can nothing appear after, which he did not perfectly discover from the beginning. Therefore, whenever ye read in the Scripture of the Lord’s repenting – as Gen. vi. 7. Jer. xviii. 8. – ye should remember that the Lord speaks in our terms, and, like nurses with their children, uses our own dialect, to point out to us our great ignorance of his majesty, that cannot conceive more honourably of him, nor more distinctly of ourselves. When he changeth all things about him, he is not changed, for all these changes were at once in his mind; but when he changeth his outward dispensations, he is said to repent of what he is doing, because we use not to change our manner of dealing, without some conceived grief, or repentance and change of mind.”