I am currently following one of those reading plans to complete the entire bible in one year. The first and only time I did this was in 2000. I remember getting really bogged down in the Old Testament at times. This particular plan has me reading from four different books concurrently. For example, today’s reading is Exodus 32-33, Psalm 35, Acts 21:1-26, and Matthew 15:1-20. This method helps break up the pace a bit, but it chops the New Testament up into such small pieces that it’s hard to retain the flow from day to day.
I find that I have many things on my mind, wanting to write in this blog about topics concerning my spiritual journey, and wondering if “The Evil Sorcerer Zyll” is the right pseudonym to conduct that discussion? Today, in chapter 32 of Exodus, The Israelites are wondering what happened to Moses and Joshua, because they had gone up on Mount Horeb for 40 days. I’ve been to Mt. Sinai/Horeb, and there isn’t much in the way of food or water up there. I can imagine that the Israelites would start to wonder if Moses was coming back at all, since a forty-day fast is quite unusual. So Aaron the priest panics and fashions a golden calf (the Egyptian idol Apis who interceded for the dead), saying “these are your gods who delivered you out of Egypt!”
Now Moses is busy getting the instructions on how to build the Lost Ark, receiving the Decalogue, and transcribing the book of Genesis. But God sees the Apis-orgy going on in the base camp, and tells Moses he’s going to wipe out Israel and start all over with Moses, like a second Abraham. God has established a precedent for doing this type of thing, with Noah’s Flood. I won’t get into the details of how Apis is an incarnation of Osiris, who is the same demonic entity as Apollo, Gilgamesh, and the Antichrist; but suffice to say, while God is never caught by surprise, he’s very angry that they’ve chosen the same demonic worship that necessitated the Great Flood.
Now comes the part I’m struggling with in Exodus 32, verses 7-14 (NASB):
7 The Lord said to Moses, “Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely; 8 they have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them; they have cast for themselves an image of a calf, and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’” 9 The Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are. 10 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.”
11 But Moses implored the Lord his God, and said, “O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? 12 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’? Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people. 13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, how you swore to them by your own self, saying to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’” 14 And the Lord changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.
This translation (NASB) that I have been referring to when I’m not quite understanding the King James language changes a certain phrase that was in the KJV. Ex. 32:14 says “And the Lord repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people.” There’s my problem. Why would the Lord God repent of evil thoughts? God is totally good and totally just in all he does. So why would his thoughts or actions ever be sinful? He is omniscient and knows the end from the beginning. Clearly I need to research it, taking my friend Tim’s “eyes-wide-open” approach to my reading.
In an article called “Does God Repent?”, Matthew Halsted refines and examines the issue with great clarity by defining the underlying thought that I am struggling with: is there ever a reason for God to “repent?” At its core, this is a theological position that assumes God somehow “messed up” along the way and needed to change His mind. This position would necessarily contradict Numbers 23:19, “God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?”
According to this article concerning Exodus 32:14, Thomas Whitelaw claims that a hermeneutical principle of anthropomorphism is needed here. Says Whitelaw,
Changes of purpose are, of course, attributed to God by an “economy,” or accommodation of the truth to human modes of speech and conception. “God is not a man that he should repent.” He “knows the end from the beginning.” When he threatened to destroy Israel, he knew that he would spare; but, as he communicated to Moses, first his anger, and then, at a later period, his intention to spare, he is said to have “repented.” The expression is an anthropomorphic one, like so many others…
So the Hebrew word for “repent” is נָחַם (nacham) and it is used here as a metaphor, to help us understand God’s heart by using emotional language that is clearly human. It seems natural to me, then, that different Bible translations would interpret this verse differently. The NASB says, “the Lord changed His mind.” The NIV and NKJV say “The Lord relented.” And the KJV, RSV, and the 1901 ASV say, “The Lord repented.” According to Strong’s Concordance, there are 108 occurrences of nacham in the Old Testament. The KJV translates it as “comfort” 57 times, “repent” 41 times, “comforter” nine times, and “ease” once.
Halsted’s article is really good for explaining the side theological questions that arise when we consider if we’re being arbitrary when applying a metaphoric lens to an otherwise literal passage. I don’t have a problem with this; my own studies into this topic have really been a wonderful journey of faith and truth, and I can talk more about specific examples at some other time (such as the “a thousand years are as a day” rabbit hole).
Moses, then, appears to be a prototype of Jesus in this passage, interceding on behalf of God’s people. The golden calf (Apis, the Antichrist) was the false intercessor that Israel chose when Moses tarried and Satan succeeded in planting doubt. When reading another article on this passage called “the Lord changed His mind”, Matt Slick says:
Moses then ordered the Levites to kill those who opposed God, and about 3,000 fell that day (Exodus 32:28). It is interesting to note that in Acts, when Peter preached and the Spirit of God moved on people and they were saved, 3,000 were added that day to the church (Acts 2:41). When the Law was given, 3,000 died. When the gospel was given, 3,000 were saved.
The law condemns, and the gospel saves from our condemnation. This account of Moses, like everything else in the Old Testament, points to Jesus. Christ Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega, and I am in awe that if we truly seek the Lord with an open heart, He will reveal Himself. I am not afraid to struggle with God, because I know deep down that He is not a God of doubt. I know that truth is waiting around the corner because He is trustworthy and true.