When I was studying at Seminary, the question arose of whether judgment was truly inevitable. Could the people not still repent? I’ve always leaned towards yes, as this seems to fit with God’s compassion and grace, traits which are emphasized alongside of judgment in the prophetic books. Yet, grace and compassion – and repentance – did not guarantee that the appropriate punishment would not still come.
The following quote highlights the idea that repentance must have always been an option, and as I appreciate the logic of it, I’ve included it here:
“If there are twenty-four prophetic passages in which the people’s failure to repent is given as an explanation to justify their approaching doom, then at some earlier point in these prophets’ministries repentance was not yet a failure, not yet surrendered as an impossibility. The people can be judged for a failure to repent only if they were earlier clearly called to repentance.”
Thomas M Raitt, “The Prophetic Summons to Repentance” ZAW 83.1 (1971): 31-32