“Then God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the animals that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters subsided.” (Gen. 8:1)
The verse above is just one of several passages where we’re told that “God remembered” one of His people, or a promise He had made.
And to us this may seem like a strange or disconcerting statement…does God forget about us from time to time, we might ask? You know, He has a lot on His plate, many people have bigger problems, and maybe He “back-burners” us?
Or, maybe we read that kind of statement and just gloss over it as one of those weird old-timey language things in the bible that doesn’t translate in quite the same way today.
We’re used to humans forgetting things, it’s just in our nature. Some of us forget facts and knowledge, others can’t remember names or birthdays, and most of us get distracted mid-task and forget what we were doing.
So we may read a verse that tells us “God remembered” someone and accidentally take away an idea about the nature of God that isn’t accurate, or dismiss the statement as an irrelevant ancient turn of phrase. And in both cases we’d be missing something powerful.
Bible verses about God remembering
The statement “God remembered” (or Him stating “I will remember”) is a common theme through the Old Testament…here are the key passages, including one from the New Testament:
- Gen. 8:1 – “Then God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the animals that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters subsided.”
- Gen. 9:15 – “(book-ending Noah’s story)…And I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh”
- Gen. 19:29 – “And it came to pass, when God destroyed the cities of the plain, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow”
- Gen. 30:22 – “Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb”
- Ex. 2:23-25 – “Then the children of Israel groaned because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry came up to God because of the bondage. So God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and with Jacob”
- Lev. 26:42 – (telling of future events)“…then I will remember My covenant with Jacob, and My covenant with Isaac, and my covenant with Abraham will I remember; I will remember the land”
- Ex. 6:5 – “And I have also heard the groaning of the children of Israel whom the Egyptians keep in bondage, and I have remembered My covenant”
- I Sam. 1:19 “…And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the Lord remembered her” (she had been crying out in anguish for a child)
- Ezek. 16:60 – “Nevertheless I will remember My covenant with you in the days of your youth”
- Rev. 18:15 “(of Babylon the Great) For her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities”
It’s a lot! This could be quite distressing if we believed this meant that God had forgotten and then remembered in all these examples. But this phrase is a good example of where the English translation is a pale depiction of the Hebrew word’s intent. So what does this actually mean?
Zakar ayth: to bring to mind and act
In all those examples in the Old Testament, the word used is zakar (H2142), and specifically the compound phrase zakar ayth (H2142, H853).
Zakar means to bring to mind or recall, to remember, mention, recount, or think on. It also means “to make a memorial” (more on that later). It’s used a couple hundred times in the Old Testament, but only about 50+ of those include “ayth”.
Ayth is additive, used thousands of times in the bible, and basically provides a sense of entity, indicating the self and adding emphasis to what’s being remembered. I’m not a Hebrew scholar in any sense, but the way that I think of is like “recalled to Himself” or “brought to His mind”.
Specifically, this “remembering” precedes acting on someone’s behalf—remembering with a purpose or intent. It’s remembrance as a full-being activity, using mind and body rather than a simple head exercise. When applied to God, it’s usually in response to a commitment He had previously made (Ps. 105:42, Ex. 6:5), or to the longing and pleading of His people (Gen. 30:22, I Sam. 1:19).
So we’re not talking “remembering” that’s simply the retention of information, the way you remember your spouse’s birthday, the family pancake recipe, or every lyric to “Bohemian Rhapsody”.
It’s not simply recollection or not-forgetting, like when you remember to pick up milk on the way home or remember that you’d promised to call a friend.
Instead, zakar ayth calls our attention to how God focuses on something or someone in a way that entails action or response. When we’re told that “God remembered” in the bible, it’s to showcase an example of God’s consistent faithfulness to His chosen people…through ACTING on His promises.
So let’s go back to the original question…does God occasionally forget about us?