7 April 2011

Exodus 32:7-14

"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?'" (v. 11)


Exodus charts Moses' difficult journey from his earliest days as an adopted child in Pharaoh's palace to the time when he leads his people through the Red Sea and out of slavery. It describes the many years of desert wandering that followed their escape and the various challenges and miracles experienced as God's laws are made known to them and leads them into a new future.

At the beginning of chapter 32, Moses finds himself at a crucial point in the history of Israel's relationship with God. Having been rescued from slavery in Egypt, the people wandered through the desert for many weeks (Exodus 19:1) facing many challenges. Inchapter 19 Moses meets with God on Mount Sinai and is given the ten commandments and in the chapters that follow he is given many detailed instructions as to the construction and contents of the tabernacle which will be the Israelites' portable place of worship. In chapter 32, Moses is told that while he has been on the mountain the people have rebelled. They have constructed a golden calf and are worshipping it in the absence of Moses' guidance. God threatens disaster and destruction promising to raise up later a new greater generation of God's people in their place. But Moses intercedes on their behalf pleading with God to forgive them, and the people are spared God's wrath.

This conversation between Moses and God raises some fascinating questions about God and about prayer. Does Moses truly change God's mind or is there subtler reason for this threat of destruction? After all it is the threat of punishment by God that forces Moses to recognise the miraculous help he has received in the past. This same threat causes Moses to say to God that the Egyptians will remember an angry, punishing God not a redeeming loving one if the people are punished for their sin.

To Ponder

To what extent is prayer a means of changing the world and to what extent is it about deepening our understanding of God?

What might you have done in Moses' place?

Bible notes author

The Revd Jenny Pryde

Jenny Pryde studied at the Wesley Study Centre in Durham. She is stationed to the United North East Circuit and was ordained in July 2009.