God is omniscient—He knows everything. We also see in Scripture where God asks questions. In the Garden of Eden, God asks Adam where he is and what he had done (Genesis 3:9, 11). In heaven, He asks Satan where he has been (Job 1:7). In the wilderness, God asks Moses what he holds in his hand (Exodus 4:2). In the crowd on the way to Jarius’s house, Jesus asks who touched Him (Mark 5:30). Being omniscient, God already knew the answers to these questions. “He knows the secrets of the heart” (Psalm 44:21). So why does He ask?
The questions God asks always serve a purpose. He does not ask to obtain information, since He already possesses all information; His questions serve a different purpose, and that purpose varies based on the context of the question and the needs of the one to whom the question is directed.
After Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit and hid themselves from God, God called out, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9). Of course, God knew Adam’s physical location; that wasn’t the point of the question. The question was designed to draw Adam out of hiding. God could have approached His sinful creation in anger, with harsh words of condemnation and instant judgment, but He did not. Instead, God approached Adam with a question and so showed His grace, gentleness, and desire for reconciliation.
When teaching a young student basic arithmetic, a teacher might ask, “What is 2 + 2?” The teacher does not ask this because she doesn’t know the answer but because she wants to focus the student’s thinking on the problem at hand. When God asked Adam, “Where are you?” the question’s purpose was, in part, to focus Adam on the problem he and his wife were tangled in.
Other questions of God in Scripture may have other purposes. In Job 38 — 41, God questions Job relentlessly about everything from Job’s absence when the foundations of the earth were set (Job 38:4) to Job’s inability to fish for sea monsters (Job 41:1). Here, it’s obvious God is using questions as an instructional tool to emphasize His own power and sovereignty.
God’s repeated question to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry?” (Jonah 4:4, 9) was designed to stir self-examination on Jonah’s part. God’s question to Elijah, “What are you doing here?” (1 Kings 19:9) pointed out how Elijah was straying from God’s purpose for him. God’s question in Isaiah’s presence, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” (Isaiah 6:8) had the effect of prompting the prophet to volunteer.
During Jesus’ ministry on earth, He often asked questions. A good teacher will use strategic questions to facilitate the learning process, and Jesus was the Master Teacher. Jesus at times asked questions in order to set up an opportunity for learning: “Who do people say I am?” (Mark 8:27). Or to focus His hearers’ attention on something significant: “What is written in the Law? . . . How do you read it?” (Luke 10:26). Or to prompt introspection: “Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6). Or to prod deeper thinking: “What is the meaning of that which is written: ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’?” (Luke 20:17). Or to bring faith to light: “Who touched me?” (Luke 8:45). Or to set up a big revelation: “Why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” (John 20:15).
God is a Father who uses language to teach within the context of relationship. He is a Teacher who uses questions to involve His students, force them to think, and point them to the truth. When He asks a question, it’s not because He doesn’t know the answer but because He wants us to know.