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.”
32:14 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.