32:9 Then the Lord said to Moses: “I have seen this people. 1 Look 2 what a stiff-necked people they are! 3 32:10 So now, leave me alone 4 so that my anger can burn against them and I can destroy them, and I will make from you a great nation.”
32:11 But Moses sought the favor 5 of the Lord his God and said, “O Lord, why does your anger burn against your people, whom you have brought out from the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? 32:12 Why 6 should the Egyptians say, 7 ‘For evil 8 he led them out to kill them in the mountains and to destroy 9 them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your burning anger, and relent 10 of this evil against your people. 32:13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel your servants, to whom you swore by yourself and told them, ‘I will multiply your descendants 11 like the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken about 12 I will give to your descendants, 13 and they will inherit it forever.’” 32:14 Then the Lord relented over the evil that he had said he would do to his people.
1 sn This is a bold anthropomorphism; it is as if God has now had a chance to get to know these people and has discovered how rebellious they are. The point of the figure is that there has been discernible evidence of their nature.
2 tn Heb “and behold” or “and look.” The expression directs attention in order to persuade the hearer.
3 sn B. Jacob says the image is that of the people walking before God, and when he called to them the directions, they would not bend their neck to listen; they were resolute in doing what they intended to do (Exodus, 943). The figure describes them as refusing to submit, but resisting in pride.
4 tn The imperative, from the word “to rest” (נוּחַ, nuakh), has the sense of “leave me alone, let me be.” It is a directive for Moses not to intercede for the people. B. S. Childs (Exodus [OTL], 567) reflects the Jewish interpretation that there is a profound paradox in God’s words. He vows the severest punishment but then suddenly conditions it on Moses’ agreement. “Let me alone that I may consume them” is the statement, but the effect is that he has left the door open for intercession. He allows himself to be persuaded – that is what a mediator is for. God could have slammed the door (as when Moses wanted to go into the promised land). Moreover, by alluding to the promise to Abraham God gave Moses the strongest reason to intercede.
5 tn S. R. Driver (Exodus, 351) draws on Arabic to show that the meaning of this verb (חָלָה, khalah) was properly “make sweet the face” or “stroke the face”; so here “to entreat, seek to conciliate.” In this prayer, Driver adds, Moses urges four motives for mercy: 1) Israel is Yahweh’s people, 2) Israel’s deliverance has demanded great power, 3) the Egyptians would mock if the people now perished, and 4) the oath God made to the fathers.
6 tn The question is rhetorical; it really forms an affirmation that is used here as a reason for the request (see GKC 474 §150.e).
7 tn Heb “speak, saying.” This is redundant in English and has been simplified in the translation.
8 tn The word “evil” means any kind of life-threatening or fatal calamity. “Evil” is that which hinders life, interrupts life, causes pain to life, or destroys it. The Egyptians would conclude that such a God would have no good intent in taking his people to the desert if now he destroyed them.
9 tn The form is a Piel infinitive construct from כָּלָה (kalah, “to complete, finish”) but in this stem, “bring to an end, destroy.” As a purpose infinitive this expresses what the Egyptians would have thought of God’s motive.
10 tn The verb “repent, relent” when used of God is certainly an anthropomorphism. It expresses the deep pain that one would have over a situation. Earlier God repented that he had made humans (Gen 6:6). Here Moses is asking God to repent/relent over the judgment he was about to bring, meaning that he should be moved by such compassion that there would be no judgment like that. J. P. Hyatt observes that the Bible uses so many anthropomorphisms because the Israelites conceived of God as a dynamic and living person in a vital relationship with people, responding to their needs and attitudes and actions (Exodus [NCBC], 307). See H. V. D. Parunak, “A Semantic Survey of NHM,” Bib 56 (1975): 512-32.
11 tn Heb “your seed.”
12 tn “about” has been supplied.
13 tn Heb “seed.”