The next woe likens the scribes and Pharisees to whitewashed tombs, which refers to the customs of burial. People were not necessarily buried together in cemeteries; isolated graves might be found in all sorts of places. A grave might not be well kept after a long lapse of time (the relatives of the buried person might all die themselves), and the grave could easily become inconspicuous. People not familiar with the locality but passing through on the way up to Jerusalem for a feast might well accidentally make contact with such a grave, and the contact would make them ceremonially unclean (see Num. 19:11–22; v. 16 explicitly says that anyone who touches a grave is unclean for seven days). As a help for such pilgrims (and others) tombs were whitewashed on the fifteenth of the month Adar, a month before Passover; the tombs would then be conspicuous and anyone passing through would be warned (see Mishnah, Ma‘aś. Sh. 5:1; Sheqal. 1:1; etc.), even though they had little local knowledge. The care with which such tombs were whitewashed made them beautiful, but it did nothing for the fact that inside such tombs there were dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. Nothing could be more “unclean” than the inside of a tomb.
God’s omniscience, like His omnipotence and omnipresence, also relates to time. God’s knowledge is absolute in the sense that He is forever aware of all things. God’s intellect is different from ours in that He does not have to “access” information, like a computer might retrieve a file. All knowledge is always directly before God.
God’s knowledge of all things is a two-edged sword. For the believer the idea offers security—that God is in control, that He understands. God is not puzzled by those problems that puzzle us. For the unbeliever, however, the doctrine highlights the fact that people cannot hide from God. Their sins are exposed. Like Adam, they seek to hide. However, there is no corner of the universe that God’s gaze, either in love or wrath, fails to reach.
The omniscience of God is also a crucial part of God’s promise to bring about justice in the world. For a judge to render a perfectly just verdict he must first know all the facts. No evidence is hidden from the scrutiny of God. All mitigating circumstances are known to Him.