In Exodus 32:10, after the LORD's brief monologue on the golden calf incident (vv. 7-9), speaking to Moses he says:

וְעַתָּה הַנִּ֣יחָה לִּי וְיִֽחַר־אַפִּ֥י בָהֶם וַאֲכַלֵּ֑ם וְאֶֽעֱשֶׂה אוֹתְךָ לְגוֹי גָדֽוֹל
Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.

Moses has not yet spoken, so הַנִּ֣יחָה לִּי (hannı̂ḥāh lı̂, "let me alone") is a strange request unless we assume some unrecorded objection from him. Because Moses proceeds not to leave Yhwh alone (vv. 11-13), and is rewarded for his objections (v. 14), many have speculated that Yhwh actually wanted Moses to bother him. William Propp sums up this sentiment, apparently also reflected in much of the Rabbinic literature:

God is virtually inviting Moses to intercede on the people's behalf.

He doesn't propose any change in the translation to allow this interpretation, which seems to require a bit of psychoanalysis of Yhwh. On the other hand, I recently ran across a proposal that it should actually be read as a conditional statement:

If you let me alone, then my wrath will burn....

The verb "let me alone" (hannı̂ḥāh) is definitely imperative, but we do have this "conditional/threat" use of the imperative in English:

Track mud onto the carpet, and you'll see me angry =
If you track mud onto the carpet, then you'll see me angry =
Don't track mud onto the carpet!

I don't know if that's plausible in Hebrew. I'm also not sure about construing "that my wrath may burn" (wᵉyiḥar-ʾappı̂) without the jussive sense that it takes from its position in the clause.

Is it possible to read hannı̂ḥāh lı̂ as the protasis (= condition clause) of a conditional statement?

  • 1
    See also Deut 9:12-15, a parallel account that differs in that in Deuteronomy, Moses does leave God alone and goes down the mountain as instructed. Aug 26, 2016 at 21:26
  • @Susan Is "Track mud onto..." actually imperative? Isn't it rather shorthand for "[If you] track mud onto..."?
    – Ruminator
    Sep 4, 2017 at 2:53
  • Agreed (I think it says that above). But the conditional statement itself is functionally a prohibition (i.e. a negated imperative), at least to my ear, despite the verb not being grammatically imperative. (Although I'm not sure it matters, I think I would indeed count that first "track the mud" statement as grammatically imperative, primarily because it doesn't work in anything other than the second person. And we really don't omit the subject in written English much other than in the imperative. I could be wrong though.)
    – Susan
    Sep 4, 2017 at 3:49

5 Answers 5


You appear to have asked and answered your own question?

In exodus 32:10 God is actually urging Moses to encourage him to destroy the entire Israelite people.

Moses is always defending the behaviors of the Israelite's that offend God and this would make someone think that they are somehow wrong? So God is saying to Moses, "defend my cause, defend my reasoning" and I will raise up another nation for you to rule over.


Samson says הניחה אותי leave you.. me God says הניחה לי leave you... to/for me

Perhaps: God is saying: Moses, it's you and me now. I will destroy them, then I will make you into a great nation.

It seems to fit with the last part of the verse.

@Dick Deut 9:14 uses הרף hold back you ממני from me. (Which curiously also means 'from my manna' before they had manna.) But it sure seems to be a more direct command to leave.


Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.

Is functionally equivalent to the conditional statement:

If you now therefore let me alone, t̶h̶a̶t my wrath m̶a̶y will burn hot against them and I m̶a̶y will consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.

As such, if not validly translated thus (and I highly doubt it can be), it can still be taken as implying such: intercession by Moses is not suggested directly, but is implied as the only remedy.

Also, in English:

| Track mud onto the carpet, and you'll see me angry

Is a colloquialism, as far as I'm aware, and simply omits the "if you.." at the beginning (alternatively, you could say, "Tracking mud...you'll see" as a simple description). Unless it is to be taken as an active taunt or invitation to cause trouble: "Go ahead.." instead of "If you.." which is clearly not applicable to God's words here.


When God says "let me alone" He is not encouraging a discourse, but rather He is asserting that He does not want to debate the decision He has made. The safest response for Moses at this juncture would be "May thy will be done." From that point on Moses' life would have been a lot simpler. Instead, Moses emphatically attempts to change God's mind. At great risk to himself, Moses reminds God that He would be breaking promises made to Abraham, Issac, and Jacob, He would lose the respect of the Egyptians, and then Moses labels God's intent to dispense righteous judgement upon the Israelites as evil. I don't know whether to call Moses' response bravery or foolishness, but God received his entreaty and relented.


I will not quote scripture, but I do recommend you start at the beginning of Moses and Israel's retreat out of Egypt and you can piece all of this together yourself with what I am about to say in mind. If you read along, you will see that every time things started to look bad for Israel, they complained about EVERYTHING. They were complaining against God and against Moses, reminiscing about how good they had it in Egypt, but in their current state were fixing to be killed by their enemies. They complained constantly and God wanted to punish them and get rid of them partly because of this. But Moses, reminding God of His promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob(Israel), pleaded with God to preserve this people. So you can find the answer to your question all through the beginning of the story of Moses and the leading of Israel out of captivity and even beyond that.

Simply put: God was tired of putting up with their turning their backs on Him, blaspheming Him, setting up idols of foreign deities, being unappreciative at all of the amazing miracles that He provided for them constantly and He was going to destroy them and make a great nation out of Moses instead because unlike the children of Israel, Moses was very righteous, being the "friend of God", and thankful for everything that God was doing for the children of Israel.

  • Never mind: one verse will I give you. Deuteronomy 9:4-29. Israel was rebellious and God was tired of it. Moses was the only one out of everyone who obeyed God and respected and took into serious consideration His commandments. God wanted Moses not to intercede on Israel's behalf anymore. Israel used Moses and abused him and God seen how Moses took the beating for Israel and how little they appreciated Moses. So God wanted to reward Moses for being so righteous and selfless by making a great nation out of him instead of Israel. Therefore telling Moses to not interfere. Jul 1, 2019 at 17:03

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.