Deuteronomy 9:19-20 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

Deu 9:19 For I was afraid of the anger and hot displeasure with which the LORD was angry with you, to destroy you. But the LORD listened to me at that time also.
Deu 9:20 And the LORD was very angry with Aaron and would have destroyed him; so I prayed for Aaron also at the same time.

The context of Deuteronomy 9 is Moses recounting to Israel their journey from Egypt. Moses consistently reminds Israel that they have “provoked” God through their entire journey. God is giving Israel the Promised Land, not due to their own righteousness, but due to the wickedness of the inhabitants. Moses reminds the people that they never turned to God, and to illustrate this principle, he highlights the fact that God has only refrained from destroying Israel due to Moses’ intervention.

Deuteronomy 9 serves as a commentary on Exodus 32. This is a later account summarizing the earlier account. Note how the later recounting reinforces the events in the original account. Moses is with God on Mount Sinai. God sees Israel rebel. God becomes angry. Moses sees this anger and attempts to abate it. God changes and listens to Moses’ pleas not to destroy the people. The account continues to highlight another change in God’s mind, God would have destroyed Aaron. But God repented, not due to any action on Aaron’s part, but because of the pleas of Moses.

The next verse highlights that God was even going to kill Aaron. The NKJV reads:

Deu 9:20 And the LORD was very angry with Aaron and would have destroyed him; so I prayed for Aaron also at the same time.

The ESV translation shows a slight Calvinist bias as God is “ready to destroy Aaron”, giving a mental picture that God might just be preparing for something He knows will never happen. This is not Moses’ picture. Instead God is “angry” and this anger results in wanting to kill Aaron. Moses abates God’s anger through reasoning and intervention. Not even Aaron is saved on his own merit.

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