Exodus 32 part 1: Changing His Mind

Have you ever read Exodus 32? This chapter is INSANE! I am splitting my response to it into two sections because there is no way 500 words could do it justice.

A golden calf. A heated argument. A change of mind. A shocking sight. A murderous rampage. A plea for grace.

Not bad.

A Golden Calf

“Where’s Moses?” The people want a leader and none is to be found.

“Where’s God?” The people want to worship but don’t know where to direct it.

So Aaron steps in and leads them in the most ironic worship service they have ever participated in.

They make things with gold. They speak priestly things to one another. They build an altar. They have a festival. The make burnt offerings and sacrifices of well being. And they eat and drink.

These are all things that God told them to do in the Law.

It would seem that much in the law is fairly intuitive. No one had to tell them to do these things. They just did them.

Which would lead me to believe that the craziest part in the law was that whole “don’t worship other gods and don’t build idols” part. 

A Heated Argument.

What do you think- Is Moses vs. God a better argument than Abraham vs. God?

I am going with Moses. Here’s why:

1) God tries to shirk off responsibility of the people to Moses.

‘Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely

Really? Your people? Listen God, I am pretty sure you were very clear about the fact that you brought those people out of Egypt and that they are actually your people. Don’t try and get out of this one. They are here because of you.

2) God finds a loophole in his promise

Now let me alone, so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; and of you I will make a great nation.’

God made that promise to Abraham. Moses is technically a descendant of Abraham so the promise still works. It is just a really shady way of making it happen.

3) Moses appeals to God’s honor

Why should the Egyptians say, “It was with evil intent that he brought them out to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth”?

In other words: This is going to make you look really bad! Don’t do it! It is a stupid idea!

That takes some serious guts. God is burning hot with anger and hell-bent on wiping these people out and Moses says “no.”

Question: One of God’s complaints about the Israelites was that they were “stiff-necked.” Is Moses being stiff-necked and disobedient? What do you do with that?!

A Change Of Mind

Depending on your translation, at the end of the argument, God repents.

Mind. Blown.

He turns from what he was going to do. He changes his course of direction. That’s what repentance means.

I have heard a lot of people try to say that this was just a test for Moses. A bit like when God tested Abraham. I don’t buy it.

There is nothing in here, nothing, that makes me think this was a test. God was going to wipe his people off the face of the earth and because of a fight with Moses, changed his mind.

Mind. Blown.

So what about you? What are your thoughts on Exodus 32? Does it challenge any of your preconceptions or understanding about the God of the Bible?

4 responses

  1. It does the challenge the whole “God never changes his mind” thing. Hmm I was always taught that God does not waver in his decisions or change his mind. I don’t think he is testing Moses here either. I truly believe he was angry and was going to wipe them out and Moses made him see another way. So many thoughts for so early, not done with my coffee. I will steal two of your words here…

    Mind. Blown.

  2. i think we need to remember there’s a difference between God choosing a different path than His original one and changing His mind because He thought was wrong.

    two very different things.

    Moses petitioned God for mercy and God choose to let him have it. the prayers of a righteous man availeth much and all that.

    great post Ben.

  3. Aristotle saw God as an “unmoved mover” . . . entirely incapable of being affected by anything other than himself.

    In this view, God cannot change his mind (because he cannot change). He also cannot react to anything humans do, either for worse (smiting people down for their deeds) or for better (being pleased by someone, delighting in some created thing). He cannot be affected in any way.

    But throughout the whole Bible God is (or seems to be) affected by humans . . . he delights in some, he is dismayed by others, he changes his mind, he loves, he envies, he grieves. He is affected by his creation, through and through . . . and Jesus, too, continues this picture of God, telling people to pray until God changes his mind, weeping at the death of a friend, angry at the stubbornness of selfish authority, etc, etc.

    All this to say maybe Aristotle didn’t have the right picture of God in the first place.

  4. I havent studied this out but so often we come across the Lord changing His mind and repenting – like Jonah when he gets mad at God for repenting from promised doom when the people repented!
    I think in the case of Abraham and Isaac – God wanted abrahams obedience and full devotion and tested it but always intended on providing the ram sacrifice and never wanted Isaac in the 1st place. It was Abraham he wanted(at heart level)
    Noah – being righteous in his generation meant God coudn’t wipe out even an undeserving(of punishment) family and so repented then..
    in the new testiment we see that the unified and praying church/bride can hasten Jesus return… (HUGE) therefore affecting the ‘plan’
    I think – again I have not studied this – but God uses very inclusive language when talking about his beloved human creation… marriage – bridegroom and bride…co-heirs… adopted in to His family… sons and so on…..this language speaks of wanting to have us involved on a greater level than we ever think – I mean he gave adam dominion over all the creation below him…thats huge!
    so my thought is – not that we are Gods or equal, please dont get me wrong, but that the Lord wants to show us that he wants more from us than just service, he wants us involved – that we can move His heart. Our prayer can affect change – he listens.

    His ultimate plan is imoveable, i believe, as it has to come about – but we can affect some things along the way by championing things close to his heart. He is merciful, therefore when we show a love of mercy before Him as moses did, it moves him to respond??

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