These are some of my notes for Sunday, May 2, 2010 in the Lifeway Explore the Bible Sunday School series.
Books referenced in these notes are:
1. New American Commentary: Exodus by Douglas Stuart
2. IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament by Walton, Matthews, and Chavalas
3. The Stone Chumash, edited by Nosson Scherman
The people gathered: The Hebrew behind “gathered” is ambiguous, and may mean more “gathered against” (Num 16:3, 42; 20:2) which somewhat explains Aaron’s action, especially in context with the description “this/this fellow Moses” which definitely implies hostility from the crowd. Aaron had already shared leadership with Moses throughout the Exodus, and Ex 19:22 and 24 speak of some priestly group existing even before the Law defined the priestly function for Israel.(Stuart)
a god who will go before us: “God” in Hebrew is elohim, which might be either plural or singular. Translations that use the plural are attempting to match the plural verb form after it (go before).(NET)
Moses was the intermediary between God and the Israelites, and now he seemed dead. Thus the Israelites now ask for a new divine intermediary.(BBCOT)
all the people took off the gold…:This doesn’t mean everyone participated in the idolatry, for the Hebrew kol is often used for “all kinds” as well as “every one of”.(Stuart)
molten calf: Egel is a Hebrew term for a young bull, as old as three years. Bulls were a common Canaanite symbol of strength and fertility in the second millenium BC. The idol itself was not completely gold, as often depicted, but rather a wooden bull figure around which gold plates were shaped.(BBCOT, NET, Stuart)
There is some debate as to whether the calf idol was supposed to represent a divine intermediary god effectively replacing Moses as God’s leader of Israel, or a sort of footstool or pedestal for God himself, like the Ark of Covenant and other bull idols, which often had god figures atop them. Ancient evidence exists for both ideas. (BBCOT, Stuart)
The next day: The day after the Levites executed the idolators. The events of chapter 32 seem to take place over three days at least. The death of three companies or three thousand idolatrous Israelites is only a beginning of reconciling God to Israel.(Stuart)
Moses doesn’t attempt to minimize the people’s sin before God. True confession of sin and its full extent is part of real repentance. Weaseling out of sin by underplaying it is not genuine repentance. The people have violated the first two commandments, and Moses’ confession reflects Ex 20:23.(Stuart)
Moses’ request to be erased from God’s book is not a plea to be killed in Israel’s place as a substitute, but rather as part of the people, and also a reminder of Moses’ function as God’s intermediary to Israel. No Israel requires no Moses.(Stuart)
Book: Book of Life
(ספר חיּים, sepher hayyim; η βίβλος της ζωης, he bíblos tés zoés, “book of life”): The phrase is derived from the custom of the ancients of keeping genealogical records (Neh_7:5, Neh_7:64; Neh_12:22, Neh_12:23) and of enrolling citizens for various purposes (Jer_22:30; Eze_13:9). So, God is represented as having a record of all who are under His special care and guardianship. To be blotted out of the Book of Life is to be cut off from God’s favor, to suffer an untimely death, as when Moses pleads that he be blotted out of God’s book – that he might die, rather than that Israel should be destroyed (Exo_32:32; Psa_69:28). In the New Testament it is the record of the righteous who are to inherit eternal life (Phi_4:3; Rev_3:5; Rev_13:8; Rev_17:8; Rev_21:27). In the apocalyptic writings there is the conception of a book or of books, that are in God’s keeping, and upon which the final judgment is to be based (Dan_7:10; Dan_12:1; Rev_20:12, Rev_20:15; compare Book Jubilees 39:6; Rev_19:9). (ISBE 1st edition)
Book of Life, or of the Living, Ps 69:28. It is probable that these descriptive phrases are taken from the custom observed in the courts of princes, of keeping a list of persons who are in their service, of the provinces which they govern, of the officers of their armies, of the number of their troops, and sometimes even of the names of their soldiers. In the figurative style of oriental poetry, God is represented as inscribing the names, acts, and destinies of men in volumes; and the volume in which are thus entered the names of those who are chosen to salvation, is “the book of life,” Php 4:3.(American Tract Society Dictionary)
This appearance of God is the fulfillment of a request and promise made in Ex 33:18-23.
Attributes of God: Jews count thirteen attributes here, Christians eleven or fewer.
Jews count them so:
1.LORD: The divine name, in its first statement, is mercy toward men, even though God knows they will sin, or have not merited any favor by good deeds.
2.LORD: Mercy to forgive even after one sins and thus deserves punishment, even if one is repentent.
3.God: Elohim, the powerful one.
4.Compassionate: God lessens punishment and eases temptation.
5.Gracious: He saves sinners from their problems, even though they are undeserving.
6.Slow to Anger: God is patient, not punishing sin immediately but allowing time for repentance and changing to doing good.
7.Abundant in Kindness/Goodness: God judges even the most undeserving in a better light than they deserve.
8. Truth: God keeps His word.
9.Preserving kindnesses: In Jewish thought, God remembers the good deeds of people, so that their descendants are forgiven or even rewarded for the actions of their predecessors.
10.Forgiver of Iniquity: this being intentional sin, forgiven with repentance.
11.Forgiver of Willful Sin: This being sin meant to anger God, again forgiven with repentance.
12.Forgiver of Careless Sin: That is, sins committed which one would not do if he contemplated the results.
13.The Cleanser of Sin: God wipes away the sin of the repentent as if it never happened. Or he reduces the punishment of sin, if it is impossible to completely forgive sin (there’s some debate over the possibility of completely forgiving sin in Jewish thought, juding by my scanty resources).(Stone Chumash)
Douglas Stuart counts the attributes thus:
1.Compassionate: God cares
2.Gracious: God does good things to people even though they have done nothing to merit goodness
3.Slow to anger: God puts up with sin far longer than anyone can imagine
4.Abounding in loyal love: Hebrew hesed, long-term loyalty from one covenant member to another
5.Abounding in truth: God is truthful and trustworthy
6.Maintaining loyal love to thousands: Thousands of generations, as long as the people do not violate the covenant and thus invoke the covenant penalties. Even then, the previous attributes delay and reduce the penalties.
7.Forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin: It is God’s nature to forgive sin, and these three terms mean He forgives all the kinds of sin one can commit, as in Matt 12:31.(Stuart)
But God does not condone sin, nor can mankind expect(demand?) forgiveness for sin because forgiveness is part of God’s nature. Unrepentant sin will be punished (not least in its corrosive effect on the sinner and all his family, thus “the third and fourth generation, all the household) and sin learned from parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents are not excused.(Stuart)
Moses’ natural response to God’s revelation of His glory and attributes was to bow and worship. And this humbling of himself and exalting of God in worship came before Moses’ appeal for God to continue to take Israel as His own people.(Stuart)
Moses has been pleading repeatedly (32:11-13, 31-32; 33:12-16,18) for Israel, almost in the ANE bargaining style where one starts small and works his way up to his full request as the smaller requests are granted. Here Moses acknowledges the people’s sin one more time, yet asks God to continue or renew the covenant that the people have blatantly broken.(Stuart)