I was reading through the Exodus story and I couldn't help but notice that in Exodus 32:9-14 God is angry with the Israelites. He tells Moses,

"Now leave me alone so my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them"

Moses corrects him and tells him about the Egyptians' point of view,

"Why should the Egyptians say it was with evil intent that he brought them out"

and reminds God of his promise to Abraham which changes God's mind.

I was a bit confused at the start because I believe God is all-seeing and knowing but after some thought, I came to the conclusion that he was trying to get closer to Moses, though I am not sure. Could someone tell me their point of view or what is thought on this subject?

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    How is this a correction? It’s imploring. Not to mention God is in the habit of testing Deu8:16, he tested Abraham, he tested king Saul, king Ahab, Hezekiah. God is always testing. Jul 12, 2023 at 23:32

2 Answers 2


From the context, it did appear that the Lord relented after hearing Moses' plea for the Israelites. But I don't think his plea was persuasive enough for the Lord changed His mind.

The main points in Moses' plea were;

  1. The Lord brought out the Israelites and killed them in the desert, the Egyptians would rejoice and said the God of Israel had done them harm on purpose. (Exo 32:12)
  2. The Lord had made His promise to Abraham, Isaac and Israel, that their descendants would multiply and inherited the land the Lord promised. (Exo 32:13)

The plea was a response to the Lord proclaim

10 Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.” (Exo 32:10 NIV)

The first point of Moses' plea did not establish, as we did see multiple miserable destruction of Israel, when they turned away from God. Would the Lord mind what people think of Him?

The second point of Moses' plea also did not establish, as the Lord made Moses into a great nation, did not break His promise to Abraham, Isaac and Israel, for Moses was a descendant of them.

It is likely an initial test to Moses by the Lord. We may see this was the first plea, in many subsequent occasions, Moses plead to God again and again for forgiveness to the people. In one occasion, in his deep frustration, anguish that Moses even asked the Lord to take his life.

14 I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me.

15 If this is how you are going to treat me, please go ahead and kill me—if I have found favor in your eyes—and do not let me face my own ruin.” (Num 11:14-15 NIV)

Surely the Lord didn't take his life, and Moses continued to carry the people. If Moses failed the initial test, that he only cared for himself, the Lord would not let him to lead the people for 40 years.

Therefore the Lord relented for He was please to know, Moses did not take His offer "I will make you into a great nation", instead he cared for His people.


Many have asked the same question over the last several millennia. The Cambridge commentary sums this situation up well when it comments upon this passage in Ex 32:14 about God "relenting."

14. And Jehovah repented, &c.] so Genesis 6:7, Jdg 2:18, 1 Samuel 15:11; 1 Samuel 15:35, 2 Samuel 24:16 al. Hebrew writers often express themselves ‘anthropopathically,’ i.e. attribute to God the feelings or emotions of a man. God is thus said to ‘repent,’ not because He really changes His purpose, but because He does so apparently, when, in consequence of a change in the character and conduct of men, He is obliged to make a corresponding change in the purpose towards them which He had previously announced, and adopt towards them a new attitude. See esp. Jeremiah 18, where it is taught that if man repents, a threat may be withdrawn (cf. Jeremiah 26:3; Jeremiah 26:13; Jeremiah 26:19, Jonah 3:9-10), while on the other hand if man turns to evil a promise may be revoked. Here Jehovah ‘repents,’ as a consequence of Moses’ intercession (cf. Amos 7:3; Amos 7:6). God is also said to ‘repent,’ when he stops a judgement in the midst, as it seems, of its course, through compassion (2 Samuel 24:16, Deuteronomy 32:36). Where, however, nothing is likely to occur to cause a change in Jehovah’s declared purpose, He is said to be ‘not a man, that he should repent’ (1 Samuel 15:29; cf. Numbers 23:19).

The Pulpit commentary offers a similar idea:

Verse 14. - The Lord repented of the evil. 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, on which we have already commented. (See the comment on Exodus 2:24, 25; 3:7, 8; 31:17; etc.)

The Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament quote the great church theologian Augustine who also wrestled with the same problem.

"And Jehovah repented of the evil, etc." - On the repentance of God, see at Genesis 6:6. Augustine is substantially correct in saying that "an unexpected change in the things which God has put in His own power is called repentance" (contra adv. leg. 1, 20), but he has failed to grasp the deep spiritual idea of the repentance of God, as an anthropopathic description of the pain which is caused to the love of God by the destruction of His creatures. - Exodus 32:14 contains a remark which anticipates the development of the history, and in which the historian mentions the result of the intercession of Moses, even before Moses had received the assurance of forgiveness, for the purpose of bringing the account of his first negotiations with Jehovah to a close. God let Moses depart without any such assurance, that He might display before the people the full severity of the divine wrath.

This incident recorded in Ex 32 about the LORD God "relenting" is far from isolated. There are many more such as: Gen 6:7, Judg 2:18, Deut 13:17, 32:36, 1 Sam 15:11, 15:35, 2 Sam 24:16, 1 Chron 21:15, 2 Chron 12:12, 29:10, 30:8, Ps 6:4, 7:12, 106:45, Jer 26:3, 13, 31:19, 42:10, Amos 7:3, 6, Jonah 3:9, 10, 4:2, etc.

Perhaps the more important question here is, Why does it surprise us that God relents? But this is outside the scope of the present question.

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