ON THIS PAGE
Proof Texts That Don't Actually Prove Anything
I Samuel 15:29
Hezekiah, Ezekiel and The Gentile Woman
The Classic Case of Moses
Other Cases of Successful Intercession in Numbers
Too Far Gone For Appeal?
The Unchanging Part of God's Character
Proof Texts That Don't Actually Prove Anything
Classic theism asserts that God cannot be affected by outside influences, does not change His mind, and does not regret decisions He makes. The verses below are probably the most common 'proof texts' used to support this belief.
God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good? (Numbers 23:19 NASB)
the Glory of Israel will not lie or change His mind; for He is not a man that He should change His mind." (1 Samuel 15:29 NASB)
"For I, the Lord, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed. (Malachi 3:6 NASB)
Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. (James 1:17 NASB)
What then are we to make of the many Biblical texts that seem tell us that God "repented" or when an appeal from a human caused Him to change His mind. (Note: God's supposed 'repenting' has been covered on another page. (DETAILS)
However, as you will see, most of the quoted passages are not broad general statements that universally apply to all situations at all times. None of them say that God never changes His mind, but that God was not going to change His mind in that specific situation. The one exception is
Unfortunately we cannot be dogmatic as to what precise metaphor James was using. Albert Barnes explains it thus
The phrase rendered "shadow of turning" would properly refer to the different shade or shadow cast by the sun from an object, in its various revolutions, in rising and setting, and in its changes at the different seasons of the year. God, on the other hand, is as if the sun stood in the meridian at noon-day, and never cast any shadow.
Which is as likely an explanation as I have come across. However, since the context is God's gifts, James was probably stating that His goodness is constant.
"God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good? (Numbers 23:19 NASB)
The historical context of this verse is as follows...
As the children of Israel made their way to the promised land they passed through the land of the Amorites whom they defeated in battle. When they in the plains of Moab the king, heard having heard what had happened to other nations that crossed swords with the Israelis, was exceedingly worried. He sought help from a Prophet-For-Hire named Balaam, requesting him to place a curse on this vast multitude of people.
When Balaam arrived in Moab, he was greeted by King Balak and together they offered a sacrifice of seven bullocks and seven rams on seven altars.
However, when Balaam attempted to curse Israel, the Lord intervened and he pronounced a blessing on them instead. Balak was obviously upset and perhaps thinking the sight of such an immense camp had intimidated Balaam, took him to another place from where he could see only part of the encampment and where he again offered sacrifice. It is then that the Lord instructed Balaam to tell Balak....
"God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?
These words were quite obviously spoken to correct Balak's supposition (or hope) that the Lord would change His mind and allow Balaam to curse the children of Israel.
It is a very specific statement, made under very specific circumstances, and does not say that God never changes His mind. It merely says that God was not going to change His mind in that particular situation.
I Samuel 15:29
So Samuel said to him, "The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to your neighbor, who is better than you. "Also the Glory of Israel will not lie or change His mind; for He is not a man that He should change His mind." (1 Samuel 15:28-29 NASB)
King Saul’s history of disobeying God culminated in his disobedience to the Lord's word to utterly destroy the Amalekites, including all their herds of animals (15:3). However, Saul not only spared the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, and the lambs, but also Agag, king of the Amalekites. Which is when Samuel delivered the terrible message that the Lord God had rejected Saul as king of Israel.
Samuel said, "Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices As in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams. "For rebellion is as the sin of divination, And insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He has also rejected you from being king." (1 Samuel 15:22-23 NASB)
These words were spoken in a very specific context - when Saul was told that the Lord had torn the kingdom of Israel from him and had given it to his neighbor, (Vs. 28), he confessed that he had sinned, possibly in the hope that he would avert the sentence pronounced on him. When Samuel told him that God was not a man to change His mind, he was referring to this particular decision God had made.
In other words, it was too late - the time for repentance had already passed. God would not change His position.
Samuel was not saying that as a principle, God never changes His mind, but that Saul's pleading or tears of repentance would not move God (who had given Saul many opportunities to do the right thing). Now God has finally and irrevocably decided that Saul is no longer king of Israel. The final verse in this chapter reads
Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death; for Samuel grieved over Saul. And the Lord regretted that He had made Saul king over Israel. (1 Samuel 15:35 NASB)
"My covenant I will not violate, Nor will I alter the utterance of My lips. (Psalms 89:34 NASB)
Again, one has to look at this verse in context. Verses 89:3 and 4 say
"I have made a covenant with My chosen; I have sworn to David My servant, I will establish your seed forever And build up your throne to all generations." (Psalms 89:3-4 NASB)
This is followed by several verses (5-18) of praise to the Lord The psalmist then goes into more detail of what this covenant with David entailed - David was anointed with "holy oil" (V.20), The Lord's arm would strengthen David (V. 21), He would beat down David's adversaries (V.23), his horn would be exalted (V. 24), David would be the highest of the kings of the earth (V.27), God's loving kindness would stay with him forever and his seed would endure for all eternity (V.28).
It is only after this that the Psalmist has God saying
If his children (David's children) forsake His law, do not walk in His judgments, break His statutes, and do not keep His commandments ; (Vs. 30-31)
Then He would "punish their transgression with the rod and their iniquity with stripes". (V. 32)
But He would not break off His loving kindness from David, violate His covenant nor alter what He had said.(Vs. 33-34)
In other words, this is a specific promise to a specific individual
"I, the Lord, have spoken; it is coming and I will act. I will not relent, and I will not pity and I will not be sorry; according to your ways and according to your deeds I will judge you," declares the Lord God.'" (Ezekiel 24:14 NASB)
The context of this verse is that the Lord instructed Ezekiel, who was already in captivity in Babylon, to write down this specific day (the tenth day of the tenth month in the ninth year) because this was the day that Nebuchadnezzar would lay siege to Jerusalem.
And the word of the Lord came to me in the ninth year, in the tenth month, on the tenth of the month, saying, "Son of man, write the name of the day, this very day. The king of Babylon has laid siege to Jerusalem this very day. (Vs. 1-2)
God would not spare them, He would not repent, and He would not change His mind. There would be no reprieve.
"For I, the Lord, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed. (Malachi 3:6 NASB)
This verse has both specific and general application.
Malachi was a prophet at the time following the return from Babylon and the rebuilding of the Temple. However, a general immorality had set in. The priests had corrupted the covenant of Levi, and the people had intermarried with the pagans around them, divorced their wives and called evil good (2:7-17).
The verse introduces the next paragraph which contrasts God's unchanging nature with the fickleness of the people. They had "turned aside" from His statutes, yet asked the question 'How shall we return?' which was a hypocritical declaration of innocence. In effect, they were asking what need they had to return when they never went astray in the first place.
Verse 3:6 stresses God's faithfulness to His word and that he remains true to His covenant commitment to the fathers of the nation - a fact that was good in Malachi's time and is good now.
Hezekiah, Ezekiel and The Gentile Woman
The three examples below did not impact history but were important to the people concerned.
King Hezekiah was very ill indeed, so much so that the prophet Isaiah told him to set his house in order because he was going to die. Hezekiah then wept before the Lord telling Him, that he had walked before Him with a perfect heart and had done that which was good in God's sight. Apparently all this happened quite quickly, since the next verse tells us that Isaiah, hadn't even left the court when the Lord told him to turn back and tell the king that God had heard his prayer. Not only would He (God) add fifteen years to Hezekiah's life, but would also deliver both him and the city, out of the hand of the king of Assyria. (2 Kings 20:1-7)
A Gentile woman asked Jesus to cure her daughter. Jesus responds by telling her that He "was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel". However, the woman persisted, and seeing her great faith Jesus healed her daughter. (Matthew 15:22-28 and Mark 7:25-30)
Ezekiel: A third instance is when God heeded the protestations of the prophet Ezekiel. God told Ezekiel to cook his bread over human excrement as part of a prophecy of the Hebrew exile. Ezekiel however, rebelled against this, protesting that he had never in his life polluted himself by eating food forbidden in the law. Upon which God allows him to use cow dung instead. (Ezekiel 4:12-15)
I see absolutely no difficulty with the above incidents. Anyone who never considers the opinions, desires and requests of others to at least some degree would probably be perceived as insensitive, indifferent, unsympathetic, callous etc. and our God is certainly none of these. We are not robots and have needs, wants, and desires which God considers (and often grants) as long as they are not asked with a bad intentions. As James wrote
You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. (James 4:3 NASB)
However, this does not mean that God did not foreknow that Hezekiah would pray to be healed, or that the Gentile woman would be so persistent and that He would ultimately, cure her daughter.
Which brings us to the classic case of Moses which is not so easily understood nor explained.
When Moses was receiving the Ten Commandments, he was up on the mountain for so long that the people grew impatient and, since they had no idea what had become of Moses, prevailed upon Aaron to make them 'gods' to go before them, undoubtedly to lead them to the Promised Land. As an aside, what is truly mind-boggling about this entire episode is that not only had the Lord brought them out of Egypt with great supernatural feats, He had, only days earlier given Israel the commandment not have other gods before Him, nor to make idols.
"You shall have no other gods before Me. "You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. (Exodus 20:3-4 NASB)
They could hardly have forgotten because as the account tells us, when Moses went up the mountain, the physical manifestation of God's presence was visible to all.
Then Moses went up to the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. The glory of the Lord rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; and on the seventh day He called to Moses from the midst of the cloud. And to the eyes of the sons of Israel the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a consuming fire on the mountain top. (Exodus 24:15-17 NASB)
Yet the Israelites, pooled their gold ornaments and had Aaron make a golden calf that they then proceeded to worship. Worse, they even credited this man-made idol as being the 'god' that brought them out of Egypt, and were willing to trust it to finish what the Lord had begun. God, seeing this from atop Mt Sinai, was so angry that He told Moses
"Go down at once, for your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. "They have quickly turned aside from the way which I commanded them. They have made for themselves a molten calf, and have worshiped it and have sacrificed to it and said, 'This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!'" The Lord said to Moses, "I have seen this people, and behold, they are an obstinate people. "Now then let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you a great nation." (Exodus 32:7-10 NASB)
In the above verse note that God, pretty much washing His hands of Israel, told Moses "your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt". However, Moses didn't take any credit. He knew these people weren't his and that God, not him, had delivered them. He responded with "O Lord, why does Your anger burn against Your people whom You have brought out from the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? (Exodus 32:11 NASB)
But, although Moses had the ultimate carrot of being the father of a great nation dangled in front of his nose, he did not let the Lord alone. He interceded with God, giving Him two reasons why He should not destroy the Israelites, although they had proven to be faithless and unreliable people.
"Why should the Egyptians speak, saying, 'With evil intent He brought them out to kill them in the mountains and to destroy them from the face of the earth'? Turn from Your burning anger and change Your mind about doing harm to Your people.
"Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants to whom You swore by Yourself, and said to them, 'I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heavens, and all this land of which I have spoken I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.'" (Exodus 32: 12-13 NASB. Emphasis Added).
It is very evident that God's glory was Moses' ultimate concern. After which the Bible says
So the Lord changed His mind (nâcham) about the harm which He said He would do to His people. (Exodus 32:14 NASB)
The passage seems to be quite unambiguous - In His wrath God wanted to obliterate the Israelites. Moses interceded. Allowing Moses to influence His actions, God relented, although He did not let Israel off the hook. The leaders and, possibly, those most flagrant in their idolatry - three thousand in all- were put to death after Moses descended from Sinai.
However, our translations bring up a host of problems.
Changed His Mind?
The Hebrew word nâcham has several shades of meaning. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance says it is "a primitive root; properly to sigh, that is, breathe strongly; by implication to be sorry..." When confronted with nâcham, that occurs quite often in the Old Testament, newer translations tend to use other English words that are believed to more accurately convey the meaning of the particular passage. See More About This Word.
In Exodus 32:14, the KJV translated nâcham as God repented and the NASB says He changed His mind. However, these translations carry negative implications.
Although the word repent can mean simply to change one's mind, it is more commonly associated with feeling sincere remorse or contrition about one's wrongdoing. In any case, to say God changed His mind lends itself to the charge that God's foreknowledge is limited, inasmuch as when He threatened to wipe out the nation, He did not know what Moses' reaction was going to be.
On the other hand, if God's foreknowledge is all-encompassing, He couldn't literally change His mind because He already knew what course of action He was eventually going to take. In other words, it is only human perspective that makes it seem that He changed His mind.
This phrase also introduces the whisper of suspicion that our God is rather impulsive to say nothing of short sighted, and that perhaps Moses caused God to realize something that He hadn't previously thought of, which is that the Egyptians say that God had an evil intent when He bought them out of bondage, and that He (God) would be forgetting His promise to Abraham to multiply his descendants as the stars of the heavens.
The Lord always forgives repentant sinners.
However, I am not sure this is the case simply because, as the narrative reads, the people had not yet repented. The exchange between God and Moses took place while the people were making offerings to the golden calf, before Moses even came down from the mountain. It seems quite clear that it was not the people's repentance that saved the nation.
I believe that the only purpose that God could have had for giving Moses advance notice that He intended to destroy Israel was to give the people the opportunity to repent. God's words "let Me alone" probably suggested to Moses that leaving God alone was not very good for the health of the people. He probably realized (or at least hoped,) that if he interceded, God would likely turn His wrath from the nation.
Moses' intercession brings to mind a similar situation when, in Amos chapter 7, God shows the prophet in three several visions - the judgments he was about to bring on Israel. The first was a plague of locusts, that threatened the vegetation. The next vision threatened judgment by fire that would consume a great part of the farm land. The third was a total desolation of Israel, who had been found less than straight when measured with a plumb line. In the first two cases, we are told that at the prophet's prayer for the Lord to stop, the Lord relented, saying "this shall not be". We have to believe that if the prophet had not prayed, the Lord would not have stayed His hand.
Psalm 106 is clear that Moses stood in the breach to turn away God's wrath, which tells us that the fervent prayer of a righteous man did, and does, avail much (Emphasis Added)
Therefore He said that He would destroy them, Had not Moses His chosen one stood in the breach before Him, To turn away His wrath from destroying them. (Psalms 106:23 NASB)
Ezekiel 22:30 provides further evidence that, in some circumstances, it is possible to stand between God and man.
"I searched for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, so that I would not destroy it; but I found no one. (Ezekiel 22:30 NASB)
These verses imply that had there been a man to stand in the gap and make intercession for the city, God may have at least modified His judgment, as He did in Numbers 14 (below). The tragedy is that because not one single righteous human being was found in all Israel, the Lord consumed the people and the land with the fire of His wrath. (Vs. 31).
Certainly we have to remember that Moses was not just anyone. He was the man God had hand picked to lead the nation from slavery... the Jewish prophet that the Messiah would resemble (Deuteronomy 18:15). No where is this more apparent than Moses offering himself to die for the sins of the people. (See Moses Great Messianic Prophecy Perhaps the most compelling of all Messianic Prophecy)
And then of course we have the case of God causing the sun to stand still - on the request of one man.
There was no day like that before it or after it, when the Lord listened (Heb. shâma) to the voice of a man; for the Lord fought for Israel. (Joshua 10:14 NASB)
The tenth chapter of the book of Joshua relates the story of the battle between Joshua and five enemy kings. As summarized by Bible commentator Adam Clarke
Adoni-zedec, king of Jerusalem, hearing of the capture of Ai, and that the Gibeonites had made peace with Israel, calls to his assistance four other kings to fight against Gibeon . They join forces, and encamp against Gibeon. The Gibeonites send to Joshua for succor, who immediately marches to their relief, receives encouragement from God, and falls suddenly on the confederate forces and defeats them; they fly, and multitudes of them are slain by a miraculous shower of hail-stones. Joshua, finding that the day began to fail, prayed that the sun and moon might stand still, that they might have time to pursue and utterly destroy these confederate forces. The sun and moon stand still, and make that day as long as two (Joshua 10:1-14)
Joshua, fearing that he would not have the time to decisively conclude the battle, requested the Lord to perform a miracle - arrest the sun in its course, and prolong the day. And, as the Bible says "The Lord listened (Heb. shâma) to the voice of a man"
Note, the Hebrew word shâma is used both in the sense of hearing with one's ears and paying attention to. Also in the sense of hearing and obeying.
Then Joshua said to the sons of Israel, "Come here, and hear (Heb. shâma) the words of the Lord your God." (Joshua 3:9 NASB)
"Just as we obeyed (Heb. shâma) Moses in all things, so we will obey (Heb. shâma) you; only may the Lord your God be with you as He was with Moses. "Anyone who rebels against your command and does not obey (Heb. shâma) your words in all that you command him, shall be put to death; only be strong and courageous." (Joshua 1:17-18 NASB)
Other Cases of Successful Intercession in Numbers
The event related in Exodus 32 was not the only time when one man caused the Lord to relent concerning judgment he had already declared. There are three other times in the book of Numbers alone where one or more of the leaders interceded for the people with the same result.
In Numbers 14, after the spies had gone onto Canaan they reported that the inhabitants were giants and that they themselves were like grasshoppers in comparison. At this, the people started their all too common grumbling and moaning as to how they would all fall by the sword, and how it would be better if they appointed a leader to take them back to Egypt.
Moses, Aaron and Joshua tore their clothes and begged the people not to rebel and to consider that if the Lord was pleased with them there was nothing to fear from the Canaanites. However, the only result was that the people wanted to stone them. At this the glory of the Lord “appeared in the tent of meeting" (Vs. 10) and He once again told Moses that He would destroy these unbelievers. In His words...
"How long will this people spurn Me? And how long will they not believe in Me, despite all the signs which I have performed in their midst? "I will smite them with pestilence and dispossess them, and I will make you into a nation greater and mightier than they." (Numbers 14:11-12 NASB)
A long and impassioned plea from Moses included the fact that the Egyptians would hear that the Lord destroyed His people and would think He did so because He was incapable of bringing them into the land which He had promised them. Moses begged pardon for the people based on the Lord's loving kindness and that He had forgiven them before. Finally the Lord said
But once again, the Lord did not let them off scot-free. The nation was sentenced to wander in the wilderness until that unbelieving generation died off. In other words, the grumblers would never see the promised land, but their children would. The only exception was to be Caleb who had "a different spirit" and would enter the land he had spied on. Although not specifically mentioned, Joshua was also excepted.
The 16th chapter of the book of Numbers tells us about two separate incidents which so displeased God, that He told Moses and Aaron to separate themselves from the congregation that He may consume them (the entire congregation). In the first case, after both the men pleaded with God not to destroy the entire congregation for the sins of one man, God took a softer line, warning the people through Moses to depart from the tents of the transgressors before the earth opened and they went down alive into Sheol.
In the second case, although people were already dying from the plague, (V.46) Aaron, following Moses' instructions "put on the incense, and made atonement for the people" (V.47) and the plague was stayed (V.50).
See More About Sheol and Hades.
The Hebrew Sheol and the Greek Hades and Gehenna were usually translated into the single English word 'hell'. However, what is particularly disturbing is that the original words are proper names and should have been left untranslated. In other words, we have taken several different proper names from two different languages, decided that, in many instances, they have to mean hell, which we associate with the place of the damned, and then translated them as such, without a single care as to what the original words meant, how they were used, and what the differences between them were.
Too Far Gone For Appeal?
But would Moses or any of the other giants of the Old Testament have been able to successfully intercede for the people under all circumstances? The answer, according to Jeremiah 15:1, is an unqualified no …
Then the Lord said to me, "Even though Moses and Samuel were to stand before Me, My heart would not be with this people; send them away from My presence and let them go! (Jeremiah 15:1 NASB)
Also note that God, on one occasion, told Jeremiah NOT to pray for the people as it would do no good, He would not change His mind. The people had apparently gone too far.
"As for you, do not pray for this people, and do not lift up cry or prayer for them, and do not intercede with Me; for I do not hear you. "Do you not see what they are doing in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? "The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead dough to make cakes for the queen of heaven; and they pour out drink offerings to other gods in order to spite Me. "Do they spite Me?" declares the Lord. "Is it not themselves they spite, to their own shame?" Therefore thus says the Lord God, "Behold, My anger and My wrath will be poured out on this place, on man and on beast and on the trees of the field and on the fruit of the ground; and it will burn and not be quenched." (Jeremiah 7:16-20 NASB)
Similar verses include Jeremiah 4:28 and 15:6, Ezekiel. 24:14, Hosea. 13:14 and Zechariah. 8:14.
And again, simply as a matter of considerable interest is a fact that not too many people seem to know about. At one stage the prophet Jeremiah did exactly the opposite of interceding for the people.. (See Footnote 1).
The Unchanging Part of God's Character
Almost every instance of God repenting is related to mercy. It is not as if He were whimsical or capricious, changing His mind about something whenever He feels the notion to do so, which would make Him a most unreliable Being, that man would have little or no reason to trust. On the contrary it is an constant assurance in Scripture that He is the rock without whom we would have nowhere to stand.
However, we have to remember that God's essential personality and characteristics stay the same. An inherent part of His character is that His response to evil never varies, just as His response to good never varies. Therefore when people repent, He stays His wrath, but when they turn from good and do evil, He no longer stays His hand, but punishes (this was especially evident in the Old Testament when divine justice was often swift and apparent to all).
"At one moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to uproot, to pull down, or to destroy it; if that nation against which I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent concerning the calamity I planned to bring on it. "Or at another moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to build up or to plant it; if it does evil in My sight by not obeying My voice, then I will think better of the good with which I had promised to bless it. (Jeremiah 18:7-10 NASB)
"When I say to the righteous he will surely live, and he so trusts in his righteousness that he commits iniquity, none of his righteous deeds will be remembered; but in that same iniquity of his which he has committed he will die. "But when I say to the wicked, 'You will surely die,' and he turns from his sin and practices justice and righteousness, if a wicked man restores a pledge, pays back what he has taken by robbery, walks by the statutes which ensure life without committing iniquity, he shall surely live; he shall not die. "None of his sins that he has committed will be remembered against him. He has practiced justice and righteousness; he shall surely live. (Ezekiel 33:13-16 NASB)
"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. "But you say, 'How shall we return?' (Malachi 3:7 NASB)
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9 NASB)
An outstanding example is the Assyrian capital of Nineveh.
Jonah knew that God always acted consistently with His character, and His response was (and is) always favorable when people repent. Which is why he, by taking off in the opposite direction, tried to avoid God's command to prophesy to the city of Nineveh. The Ninevites were infamous for their cruelty and, judging from Jonah’s own words, he did not want them forgiven, since many of his countrymen had already experienced the carnage they could, and did, wreak.
He prayed to the Lord and said, "Please Lord, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in loving kindness, and one who relents concerning calamity.” (Jonah 4:2 NASB)
His words are actually a testament to the goodness and mercy of God. God's character was no different before or after Jonah's preaching. But when the Ninevites repented, God's dealings with them had to change. The people changed, not God.
(As an aside, history tells us the Ninevites repentance was fairly short-lived and the prophet Nahum was then sent to them. They ignored Nahum's message, failed to repent and were destroyed in 612 BC.).
The very concept of 'God' is difficult for any person to imagine.. How can we comprehend all knowing, or all powerful? How can any human wrap their minds around God sitting on the circle of the earth, commanding the morning and causing the dawn to know its place? We cannot even begin to grasp God weighing the mountains in scales and calling out each star by name.
But yet we wind up seeing God as embodying the highest concepts we can imagine, and attempt to defend what we perceive His character and attributes to be. For example, Calvinism is so intent on preserving the 'sovereignty' of God that it has made man into a mere puppet instead of the free will creature God created. In ascribing to God the properties they think He should have, Western philosophers and theologians have turned the God of justice into an unfair and unjust tyrant. (See Doctrines of Grace Or Calvinism )
There is no question that God is unchanging inasmuch as His character, responses and judgments have been exactly the same over the 6000 years of His dealings with man. They will still be unchanged over the next two years, or two hundred million years. Unlike man who can vary in his response to similar situations, depending on which side of the bed he got out of that morning or what kind of day he is having, God is always the same. While people mature as they get older, and often see things differently at different times in their lives, God has no need to mature and has always had exactly the same view of things..
However, none of this means that this God of ours is so 'sovereign' that He cannot be influenced by humans. While no one can change His ultimate and overall blueprint, God does respond to us.
We have legitimate needs, wants, and desires which if taken to God in prayer, He will grant depending on whether it is the right thing to do in the long run.
There is NO record of the Lord hauling Jeremiah over the coals for asking the Him not to forgive the iniquity of the people and not to blot out the sins, but to deal with them in His time of anger.
Do give heed to me, O Lord, And listen to what my opponents are saying! Should good be repaid with evil? For they have dug a pit for me. Remember how I stood before You To speak good on their behalf, So as to turn away Your wrath from them. Therefore, give their children over to famine And deliver them up to the power of the sword; And let their wives become childless and widowed. Let their men also be smitten to death, Their young men struck down by the sword in battle. May an outcry be heard from their houses, When You suddenly bring raiders upon them; For they have dug a pit to capture me And hidden snares for my feet. Yet You, O Lord, know All their deadly designs against me; Do not forgive their iniquity Or blot out their sin from Your sight. But may they be overthrown before You; Deal with them in the time of Your anger! (Jeremiah 18:19-23 NASB Emphasis added) (PLACE IN TEXT)