when the jews were embarrassed by God

In Exodus 32, Moses encounters God on Mount Sinai. God burns in wrath over Israel, who was turning to false gods at the foot of the mountain below. In the text, God wants to destroy Israel, but Moses lays out a rational argument as to why God should spare Israel. God acquiesces Moses and spares Israel:

Exo 32:9 And the LORD said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people:
Exo 32:10 Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation.
Exo 32:11 And Moses besought the LORD his God, and said, LORD, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people, which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand?
Exo 32:12 Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, and say, For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth? Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people.
Exo 32:13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou swarest by thine own self, and saidst unto them, I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of will I give unto your seed, and they shall inherit it for ever.
Exo 32:14 And the LORD repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people.

Around 329BC, Alexander the Great conquered Israel. Alexander’s main push in his conquered territories was supplanting native customs with Greek customs. This is called Hellenization. After his death, Israel was first ruled over the Ptolemaic Kingdom and then the Seleucid Empire. Both of these forces were Hellenized.

Somewhere in this timeframe, a book was written called Jubilees. The author’s intent seems to have been to advocate the use of a solar calendar (as opposed to a lunar calendar). In this book, the author recounts the story of creation through Moses using this solar calendar methodology. What is interesting to note is how the author departs from the text of the Bible with his own version of events. One such passage is this confrontation with God at Mount Sinai.

Whereas in the Biblical text, God is resolved on an action, persuaded by Moses to change, and then later angered by Israel’s continued rebellion, in the book of Jubilees God predicts everything that is going to happen and Moses does not prevail on God to change.

The author must have seen God responding to Moses (changing His mind) as degrading to God. When God is depicted as not knowing how Israel will behave in the future, and continually wanting to destroy them, the author replaces this with a calm version of God who incorporates Israel’s rebellion into an overall plan:

7. And do thou write for thyself all these words which I declare unto thee this day, for I know their rebellion and their stiff neck, before I bring them into the land of which I sware to their fathers, to Abraham and to Isaac and to Jacob, saying: “Unto your seed will I give a land flowing with milk and honey.
8. And they will eat and be satisfied, and they will turn to strange gods, to (gods) which cannot deliver them from aught of their tribulation: “and this witness shall be heard for a witness against them.
9. For they will forget all My commandments, (even) all that I command them, and they will walk after the Gentiles, and after their uncleanness, and after their shame, and will serve their gods, and these will prove unto them an offence and a tribulation and an affliction and a snare.
10. And many will perish and they will be taken captive, and will fall into the hands of the enemy, because they have forsaken My ordinances and My commandments, and the festivals of My covenant, and My sabbaths, and My holy place which I have hallowed for Myself in their midst, and My tabernacle, and My sanctuary, which I have hallowed for Myself in the midst of the land, that I should set My name upon it, and that it should dwell (there).
11. And they will make to themselves high places and groves and graven images, and they will worship, each his own (graven image), so as to go astray, and they will sacrifice their children to demons, and to all the works of the error of their hearts.
12. And I will send witnesses unto them, that I may witness against them, but they will not hear, and will slay the witnesses also, and they will persecute those who seek the law, and they will abrogate and change everything so as to work evil before My eyes.
13. And I shall hide My face from them, and I shall deliver them into the hand of the Gentiles for captivity, and for a prey, and for devouring, and I shall remove them from the midst of the land, and I shall scatter them amongst the Gentiles.
14. And they will forget all My law and all My commandments and all My judgments, and will go astray as to new moons, and sabbaths, and festivals, and jubilees, and ordinances.
15. And after this they will turn to Me from amongst the Gentiles with all their heart and with all their soul and with all their strength, and I shall gather them from amongst all the Gentiles, and they will seek Me, so that I shall be found of them, when they seek Me with all their heart and with all their soul.
16. And I shall disclose to them abounding peace with righteousness, and I shall remove them the plant of uprightness†, 1 with all My heart and with all My soul, and they will be for a blessing and not for a curse, and they will be the head and not the tail.
17. And I shall build My sanctuary in their midst, and I shall dwell with them, and I shall be their God and they will be My people in truth and righteousness.
18. And I shall not forsake them nor fail them; for I am the Lord their God.”

Moses responds:

19. And Moses fell on his face and prayed and said, “O Lord my God, do not forsake Thy people and Thy inheritance, so that they should wander in the error of their hearts, and do not deliver them into the hands of their enemies, the Gentiles, lest they should rule over them and cause them to sin against Thee.
20. Let Thy mercy, O Lord, be lifted up upon Thy people, and create in them an upright spirit, and let not the spirit of Beliar rule over them to accuse them before Thee, and to ensnare them from all the paths of righteousness, so that they may perish from before Thy face.
21. But they are Thy people and Thy inheritance, which Thou hast delivered with Thy great power from the hands of the Egyptians: create in them a clean heart and a holy Spirit, and let them not be ensnared in their sins from henceforth until eternity.”

But in this version, Moses is overruled.

22. And the Lord said unto Moses: “I know their contrariness and their thoughts and their stiffneckedness, and they will not be obedient till they confess their own sin and the sin of their fathers.
23. And after this they will turn to Me in all uprightness and with all (their) heart and with all (their) soul, and I shall circumcise the foreskin of their heart and the foreskin of the heart of their seed, and I shall create in them a holy spirit, and I shall cleanse them so that they shall not turn away from Me from that day unto eternity.

The author of Jubilees was ashamed of God as depicted in Exodus 32. As such, the author created a new version in which God predicts everything that would happen, and is not convinced by Moses’ pleading. There is no reason not to think that this was a common Jewish view in the first four centuries BC. The Jews were embarrassed by God.

About christopher fisher

The blog is meant for educational/entertainment purposes. All material can be used and reproduced in any length for any purpose as long as I am cited as the source.
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1 Response to when the jews were embarrassed by God

  1. Pingback: Apologetics Thursday – Much Ado About Judaism | God is Open

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