One very strong reoccurring theme in the Bible is that God knows what men do. In Ezekiel 8, there occurs a very telling illustration of man’s denial of this and God’s hatred of this belief. Ezekiel is called by God. God brings him to a wall, from which Ezekiel digs out a door. This might have been a secret passage or divinely created door. Ezekiel enters and sees seventy elders of Israel surrounded by idols. The great men of Israel are worshiping false gods, and they do so explicitly because they do not believe God will know what they do in secret rooms:
Eze 8:6 Furthermore He said to me, “Son of man, do you see what they are doing, the great abominations that the house of Israel commits here, to make Me go far away from My sanctuary? Now turn again, you will see greater abominations.”
Eze 8:7 So He brought me to the door of the court; and when I looked, there was a hole in the wall.
Eze 8:8 Then He said to me, “Son of man, dig into the wall”; and when I dug into the wall, there was a door.
Eze 8:9 And He said to me, “Go in, and see the wicked abominations which they are doing there.”
Eze 8:10 So I went in and saw, and there—every sort of creeping thing, abominable beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel, portrayed all around on the walls.
Eze 8:11 And there stood before them seventy men of the elders of the house of Israel, and in their midst stood Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan. Each man had a censer in his hand, and a thick cloud of incense went up.
Eze 8:12 Then He said to me, “Son of man, have you seen what the elders of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in the room of his idols? For they say, ‘The LORD does not see us, the LORD has forsaken the land.’ “
Claims like this were very common in ancient Israel. The theology of Israel had no familiarity with themes such as omnipresence or omniscience. They were not taught and did not believe that God always saw “everything”, “everywhere”. The judges and prophets did not teach these concepts. Instead, the counter-claim by the prophets is always: God can see and you will be punished. The counter-claim is not a description of omnipresence or omniscience, but an assurance that God knows what people do.
In the very next chapter, God’s anger is again kindled against this belief of ignorance:
Eze 9:9 Then He said to me, “The iniquity of the house of Israel and Judah is exceedingly great, and the land is full of bloodshed, and the city full of perversity; for they say, ‘The LORD has forsaken the land, and the LORD does not see!’
When people believe God will not know what they do, then people become wicked. This belief was common enough in Israel that God singles it out for condemnation. In modern America, people do not sin because “God will not see it”. Americans have been raised in a culture where “if God exists, God is omniscient and omnipresent.” There is no strong evidence to conclude that these were theological options in Israel.
We see the same counter testimony against God throughout the Bible:
Psa 10:11 He has said in his heart, “God has forgotten; He hides His face; He will never see.”
Psa 10:12 Arise, O LORD! O God, lift up Your hand! Do not forget the humble.
Psa 10:13 Why do the wicked renounce God? He has said in his heart, “You will not require an account.”
In Psalms 10, the author asks God where God is. The author wants God to act. To stir God into action, the author presents the claims of God’s detractors. They say “God doesn’t see what we do”, “God will not act”, and “God will not punish us.” The author is using these words against God to get God to act, and prove these statements wrong. The author seeks to overturn the sentiments with clear divine acts.
Psa 59:7 Indeed, they belch with their mouth; Swords are in their lips; For they say, “Who hears?”
In Psalms 59:7, David represents the evil people as sinning with their lips. Their claim is that God does not hear them. God will not know that they said these evil things. David is confident that God will destroy them for these words. David asks God to destroy them slowly to reinforce to others how wrong they are.
Psa 64:5 They encourage themselves in an evil matter; They talk of laying snares secretly; They say, “Who will see them?”
In Psalms 64, David again tackles these enemies of God. This time David’s enemies are building secret traps against David. David is assured that God sees these schemes and will foil these schemes.
Psa 73:11 And they say, “How does God know? And is there knowledge in the Most High?”
In Psalms 73, Asaph wonders why the wicked prosper. The wicked increase in riches through evil, claiming God does not see their acts. Asaph’s hope is in God, that God will lead these people to their demise.
Psa 94:7 Yet they say, “The LORD does not see, Nor does the God of Jacob understand.”
Psa 94:8 Understand, you senseless among the people; And you fools, when will you be wise?
Psa 94:9 He who planted the ear, shall He not hear? He who formed the eye, shall He not see?
In Psalms 94, the author confronts the wicked people who claim that God cannot see their works. His response is that God does in fact see their works. Not only does God see, but God will destroy them for evil.
In the Bible, God is the God who sees:
Gen 16:13 Then she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, You-Are- the-God-Who-Sees; for she said, “Have I also here seen Him who sees me?”
In Genesis 16, Sarah is in pain because she is barren. God hears her prayers and then gives her a child. Because God saw her desires and fulfilled them, Sarah calls Yahweh the God-Who-Sees. God watches prayers.
Pro 15:3 The eyes of the LORD are in every place, Keeping watch on the evil and the good.
In Proverbs, all people are said to be watched by God. Although “Eyes of the Lord” are sometimes used to mean angels, angels could very well be the mechanism by which God sees every one’s actions. The idea of Proverbs 15:3 is that when people do good or evil, God will know and reward appropriately.
Psa 14:2 The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men, To see if there are any who understand, who seek God.
In Psalms 14, David relates God as searching the Earth from heaven to find righteous men. God is actively watching the actions of men and evaluating them.
Psa 33:13 The LORD looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men.
Psa 33:14 From the place of His dwelling He looks On all the inhabitants of the earth;
Psa 33:15 He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works.
In Psalms 33, the idea is repeated. God is in heaven looking over the Earth. God sees individuals and how they act. God individually judges those people.
Jer 16:17 For My eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from My face, nor is their iniquity hidden from My eyes.
In Jeremiah 16, God makes the simple claim that He sees the actions of the wicked. This is in context of predicting a coming judgment.
Jer 23:24 Can anyone hide himself in secret places, So I shall not see him?” says the LORD; “Do I not fill heaven and earth?” says the LORD.
In Jeremiah 23, God makes the claim that people cannot hide. Although many of the people were under the impression they could hide in secret rooms, God says that there is no secret place where they cannot be seen.
“Do I not fill heaven and earth” should not be taken as some sort of claim for omnipresence. This would be an unprecedented claim. Rather, it is more probably a figure of speech. The idea would be that God fills heaven and earth in that He can see anywhere. Alternatively, God is saying that He created all living things on Earth. Can He not then see what they are doing?
Heb 4:13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.
In Hebrews 4, God is said to see all creatures. The creatures will then account to God. It is probable but not necessary that the author was including normal animals in the blanket “creature” category.
The theme that God can see everyone’s actions, including the secret actions of men, is a constant and reoccurring theme in the Bible. This concept is subtly embedded in countless texts. It is not the idea that God knows what people will do in the future (although God predicts quite a few behaviors in the Bible), but that God knows what people are doing or have done. People will not get away with sin.
God “looks” from heaven. God’s “eyes” watch people. There is no presumption of innate knowledge. A Biblical theology is one in which one of God’s important attributes is being the God-Who-Sees. Claiming God cannot see is akin the atheism and punished by God in the Bible.