Brueggemann on Moses Subverting God’s Plan to Restart Israel

In Numbers 14, Yahweh is completely provoked by Israel, who endlessly complains about its treatment by Yahweh. Yahweh’s patience with Israel is exhausted. In weariness, Yahweh confides in Moses that Yahweh would like simply to destroy Israel and to start over with only Moses (v. 12). Moses seeks to talk Yahweh out of this declared destructive intention. Moses employs two strategies in seeking to persuade Yahweh not to act in rage. First, Moses appeals to Yahweh’s pride, shaming Yahweh in the eyes of the Egyptians and in the eyes of the inhabitants of the land (vv. 13– 16). Second, Moses makes an alternative suggestion to Yahweh, proposing that instead of destroying recalcitrant Israel, Yahweh forgive (vv. 17– 19). The basis of this daring appeal is a direct and complete quotation of Exod 34: 6– 7, which Moses now quotes as a prayer, concerning Yahweh’s self-commitment to Israel made at Sinai, which Yahweh proposes to disregard.

Brueggemann, Walter. Theology of the Old Testament: Testimony, Dispute, Advocacy (p. 219). Fortress Press. Kindle Edition.

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