Exodus 32:32
Yet now, if you will forgive their sin--; and if not, blot me, I pray you, out of your book which you have written.
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(32) If thou wilt forgive their sin.—Supply after the word “sin,” “well and good,” “I am content,” or some such phrase. Similar instances of aposiopesis will be found in Daniel 3:15; Luke 13:9; Luke 19:42; John 6:62; Romans 9:22. The usage is common among Orientals.

Blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book.Comp. Romans 9:1-3. Moses seems to have risen to the same height of self-abnegation as St. Paul, and to have willed to be “accursed from God for his brethren, his kinsmen according to the flesh.” As his sacrifice could not have redeemed them (Psalm 49:7), God did not accept it in the literal sense; but the offer may have availed much towards the pardon of the people, and towards lightening the chastisement which they received (Exodus 32:34-35).

Exodus 32:32. If thou wilt forgive their sin — if not — If the decree be gone forth, and there is no remedy but they must be ruined; blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written — Termed the book of the living, Psalm 69:28; and alluded to Isaiah 4:3, where the prophet speaks of being written among the living in Jerusalem. He evidently means, “Let me die rather than live to see the evils that are coming upon them, if thou shalt think fit to punish them as they deserve: if they must perish, let me perish with them.” God, it must be observed, is here represented after the manner of men, as having all the names of the living enrolled in a book, to signify his particular care and inspection of the sons of men, see Psalm 56:8. So, to blot out of the book of life, or of the living, is to cut one off from the land of the living, equivalent to Moses’s expression, (Numbers 11:15,) If thou deal thus with me, kill me, I pray thee, out of hand. And thus it is understood by the Hebrew doctors. Compare Deuteronomy 25:6; Psalm 87:6; and Ezekiel 13:9. In pursuance of the same allusion, God is represented as enrolling the citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem, or the members of his true church, in a book by themselves, Daniel 12:1; Php 4:3; and Revelation 3:5. Moses’s words may be further illustrated by those of St. Paul, (Romans 9:3,) I could wish myself to be an anathema from Christ, or rather, as the words απο του χριστου may properly be rendered, after Christ, that is, after his example to be consigned to temporal death, and made a curse for my brethren’s sake. In short, Moses here expresses his vehement zeal for God’s glory, and love to his people, signifying that the very thought of their destruction, and the dishonour that would thereby come upon God, was so intolerable to him, that he rather wished, if it were possible, that God would accept of him as a sacrifice in their stead, and by his destruction prevent so great a mischief. Those who understand Moses’s words as if he wished to be excluded from eternal life for the sake of his brethren, make him talk a language quite unnatural, and inconsistent with that desire of self-happiness which is the first law of nature. Besides, it should be remembered, that to be excluded from eternal life, implies not only the loss of heaven and final misery, but also final and desperate enmity against God; and that any man should think a willingness to be eternally wicked, and a desperate hater of God, can spring from love, and be a proper expression of zeal for his glory, is wonderful indeed!32:30-35 Moses calls it a great sin. The work of ministers is to show people the greatness of their sins. The great evil of sin appears in the price of pardon. Moses pleads with God for mercy; he came not to make excuses, but to make atonement. We are not to suppose that Moses means that he would be willing to perish for ever, for the people's sake. We are to love our neighbour as ourselves, and not more than ourselves. But having that mind which was in Christ, he was willing to lay down his life in the most painful manner, if he might thereby preserve the people. Moses could not wholly turn away the wrath of God; which shows that the law of Moses was not able to reconcile men to God, and to perfect our peace with him. In Christ alone, God so pardons sin as to remember it no more. From this history we see, that no unhumbled, carnal heart, can long endure the holy precepts, the humbling truths, and the spiritual worship of God. But a god, a priest, a worship, a doctrine, and a sacrifice, suited to the carnal mind, will ever meet with abundance of worshippers. The very gospel itself may be so perverted as to suit a worldly taste. Well is it for us, that the Prophet like unto Moses, but who is beyond compare more powerful and merciful, has made atonement for our souls, and now intercedes in our behalf. Let us rejoice in his grace.For a similar form of expression, in which the conclusion is left to be supplied by the mind of the reader, see Daniel 3:15; Luke 13:9; Luke 19:42; John 6:62; Romans 9:22. For the same thought, see Romans 9:3. It is for such as Moses and Paul to realize, and to dare to utter, their readiness to be wholly sacrificed for the sake of those whom God has entrusted to their love. This expresses the perfected idea of the whole burnt-offering.

Thy book - The figure is taken from the enrolment of the names of citizens. This is its first occurrence in the Scriptures. See the marginal references. and Isaiah 4:3; Daniel 12:1; Luke 10:20; Philippians 4:3; Revelation 3:5, etc.

32. blot me … out of thy book—an allusion to the registering of the living, and erasing the names of those who die. What warmth of affection did he evince for his brethren! How fully was he animated with the true spirit of a patriot, when he professed his willingness to die for them. But Christ actually died for His people (Ro 5:8). If thou wilt forgive their sin; understand here,

forgive it, or, or it is well, or, I and others shall praise thy name. His great passion for his people stops his words, and makes his speech imperfect.

Out of thy book, i.e. out of the book of life, as appears by comparing this with other places, as Psalm 69:28 Daniel 12:1 Luke 10:20 Philippians 4:3 Revelation 3:5 13:8 20:12; or, out of the catalogue or number of those that shall be saved. I suppose Moses doth not in this case wish his eternal damnation, because that state implies both wickedness in himself, and the dishonour of God, but his annihilation, or the utter loss of this life, and of that to come, and of all the happiness of both of them. Nor doth Moses simply desire this, but only comparatively expresseth his singular zeal for God’s glory, and charity to his people; signifying, that the very thoughts of the destruction of God’s people, and of the reproach and blasphemy which would be cast upon God by means thereof, were so grievous and intolerable to him, that he rather wisheth, if it were possible, that God would accept of him as a sacrifice in their stead, and by his utter destruction prevent so great a mischief. And it is to be considered that Moses speaks this, as also many other things, as the mediator between God and Israel, and as the type of the true Mediator, Jesus Christ, who was in effect to suffer this which Moses was content to suffer. Yet now, if thou will forgive their sin,.... Of thy free grace, good will, and pleasure; it will redound to thy glory, men will praise thy name on account of it; these people will have great reason to be thankful, and will lie under great obligations to thee, to fear, serve, and glorify thee; and in particular it will be regarded by me as the highest favour that can be asked or granted:

and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of the book which thou hast written; not the book of the law, as Jarchi, written with the finger of God, the name of Moses was not written there; nor the book of the just, as the Targum of Jonathan, the list and catalogue of good men, that belonged to the visible church, called in after time "the writing of the house of Israel", Ezekiel 13:9 but rather the book of life, either of this temporal life, and then it means no more than that he wished to die, even immediately by the hand of God, which seems to be countenanced by Numbers 11:15 or else of eternal life, and is no other than the book of life of the Lamb, or God's predestination or choice of men in Christ to everlasting life, which is particular, personal, sure, and certain; and Moses asks for this, not as a thing either desirable or possible, but to express his great affection for this people, and his great concern for the glory of God; and rather than either should suffer, he chose, if it was possible, to be deprived of that eternal happiness he hoped for, and should enjoy.

Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin--; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, {n} out of thy book which thou hast written.

(n) He esteemed the glory of God so much, that he preferred it even to his own salvation.

32. The sin of the Golden Calf, vv. 1–6; Jehovah, having told Moses that it is His intention to destroy the people in consequence, is diverted from His purpose by Moses’ intercession, vv. 7–14; Moses, coming down from the mount, and seeing the calf and the dancing, breaks the tables of stone, and then makes the people drink the powder of the calf, vv. 15–20; Aaron’s excuses, vv. 21–24; the insubordination of the people punished by the sons of Levi, who are rewarded for their zeal by the priesthood, vv. 25–29; Moses intercedes with Jehovah, and obtains from Him the promise that he may lead the people on to Canaan, though without His own personal presence, vv. 30–34; the people plagued for their sin, v. 35.

The account of some of the events narrated in this ch., given in the retrospect of Deuteronomy 9:8-29, deserves to be compared: the reader who will be at the pains to underline in his text of Dt. the passages in vv. 12–17, 21, 26–29 taken verbatim from Exodus 32:7-10; Exodus 32:15; Exodus 32:19-20; Exodus 32:11; Exodus 32:13; Exodus 32:12; Exodus 32:11, will find remarkable resemblances, and also some remarkable differences: in particular (vv. 26–29), words taken from Exodus 32:11-13 (and also from Numbers 14:16), but referred to a different occasion (comp. the writer’s Deut. pp. 10, 112 ff.).

Why, it may be asked, was the figure of a bull chosen to represent Jehovah? The same figure, it will be remembered, was chosen also by Jeroboam I, when he set up the two ‘calves’ in Bethel and Dan (1 Kings 12:28 f., cf. 32), in order to divert the people from going up on pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and told the Israelites that they were the gods who had brought them up out of the land of Egypt: and the worship of these calves continued till the fall of the N. kingdom in b.c. 722 (2 Kings 10:29, Hosea 8:5-6; Hosea 10:5; Hosea 13:2, 2 Kings 17:16). From the time of Philo on wards it has commonly been supposed that the symbolism was derived from Egypt, where the bull Apis was revered in the temple at Heliopolis as the incarnation of Osiris, and the bull Mnevis in the temple of Ptah at Memphis, as the incarnation of the sun-god (Erman, Eg. Relig. 1907, p. 22; cf. Wilk.-Birch, iii. 86–95, 306 f.). There are however objections to this view. (1) The Egyptians worshipped only the living animals, not images of them; (2) it is unlikely that an image reflecting an Egyptian deity would have been chosen as the symbol of the national God, Jehovah, or have been represented as the deity who had delivered Israel from Egypt; (3) it is equally unlikely that Jeroboam should have sought to secure his throne by inviting his people to adopt the symbolism of a foreign cult. For these reasons most recent writers (including Di.) prefer to seek the origin of the bull-symbolism in the native beliefs either of the Israelites themselves, or of the Semitic nations allied to them. In Israel itself traces of bull-symbolism, other than that in question, are few and uncertain: not much can be built upon either the use of the term ’abbîr, ‘mighty one,’ both of bulls (Psalm 50:13 al.), and (in the form ’âbîr, const. ’ǎbîr) of the ‘Mighty one of Jacob’ (Genesis 49:24), or upon the oxen which supported Solomon’s molten sea, or which ornamented the panels of the bases of the lavers in the Temple (1 Kings 7:25; 1 Kings 7:29). But many representations have been found of Hadad, the Syrian storm-god, with lightnings in his hand, standing upon a bull; and a bull seems often also to have been regarded as a symbol of the Phoenician Baal (see particulars in Baudissin’s art. Kalb, goldenes, in PRE.3[217] ix. (1901), 708–710): in Assyria, also, though nothing is known of the bull as the material image of a deity, the bull in the Zodiac symbolized Marduk; and the huge winged bull-colossi, with human heads, which guarded the gates of Assyrian temples, are an indication that some mythological significance was attached to the animal. Among an agricultural people, also, a young bull would be a very natural symbol of strength and vital energy (cf. Deuteronomy 33:17). These facts make it not improbable that in the popular religion of Israel the bull may have been regarded as an emblem of divine might, and even perhaps used to represent Jehovah; and that this popular belief may have supplied the antecedents for the bull-worship which is actually mentioned in the OT., and which prevailed in the N. kingdom from the time of Jeroboam to its close in b.c. 722. The popular belief itself may have been derived from Israel’s nearest neighbours, the Canaanites, or (p. 416 f.) brought by the N. tribes directly from the East.

[217] Realencyklopädie für Protestantische Theologie und Kirche, ed. 3, edited by A. Hauck, 1896–1909.

The narrative represents Aaron as the first to suggest the worship of Jehovah under the form of a bull. This was the popular worship of the N. kingdom: it is not explicitly condemned by Amos; but Hosea inveighs against it strongly, on account of its unspirituality, and the ease with which Jehovah’s distinctive character might in consequence become obliterated, and His rites assimilated to those of Baal. The writers whose narratives stand combined in Exodus 32 stand on the side of the image-less worship of the Temple at Jerusalem: their standpoint was in principle the same as that of the Second Commandment and Hosea. In recording the condemnation of Aaron, they condemned at the same time the recognized worship of the N. kingdom. It is possible that—although Jeroboam himself appointed non-Levitical priests (1 Kings 12:31)—there may have been among the priests of the calves some who traced their ancestry to Aaron, and claimed him as the founder of the calf-worship in Israel. If this were the case, it would make Aaron’s condemnation the more pointed. But, however that may be, the chapter remains an emphatic protest against any attempt to represent Jehovah under a material form. See further Ew. Hist. ii. 182–185; Kennedy, art. Calf, Golden Calf in DB. i.; and Baudissin as cited above.

1–6 The people, disheartened by the length of Moses’ absence on the mount, induce Aaron to make them a god, who may act as their visible leader. The invisible, spiritual leadership of Jehovah is an idea to which evidently they have not risen. Cf. Acts 7:40-41.

32. Moses’ love for his people finds here noble and pathetic expression.

if thou wilt forgive their sin—] For the aposiopesis, comp. Genesis 30:27; Genesis 38:17, Daniel 3:15, Luke 13:9. LXX., Sam., Ps.-Jon. supply ‘forgive.’

and if not, blot me, &c.] i.e. let me die (cf. Numbers 11:15): Moses would rather not live than that his people should remain unforgiven. The ‘book’ which God has written is the ‘book of life,’ or ‘of the living’ (Psalm 69:28; cf. Isaiah 4:3), i.e. the book in which the names of the living are said metaphorically to be inscribed. The figure is borrowed from the custom of keeping registers of citizens (Jeremiah 22:30, Eze Exo 13:9). The ‘book’ is not to be understood in the NT. sense of the expression ‘book of life’ (Php 4:3, Revelation 3:5; Revelation 13:8; Revelation 17:8; Revelation 20:12; Revelation 20:15; Revelation 21:27), i.e. the register of the saints ordained to eternal life. Cf. Kirkpatrick’s note on Psalm 69:28 (in the Camb. Bible).Verse 32. - If thou wilt forgive their sin. The ellipsis which follows, is to be supplied by some such words, as "well and good" - "I am content" - "I have no more to say." Similar cases of ellipses will be found in Danial 3:5; Luke 13:9; Luke 19:42; John 6:62; Romans 9:22. And if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book. Some interpret this as merely equivalent to, "Blot me out of the book of the living," and explain that phrase as meaning simply - "Take my life - kill me instead of them" - but something more seems to be meant. "The book of the living" - "the book of life" - the book of God's writing - is not merely a register of those who happen to be alive at any given time. It "contains the list of the righteous, and ensures to those whose names are written therein, life before God, first in the earthly kingdom of God, and then eternal life also" (Keil). Thus Moses declared his willingness - nay, his wish - that God would visit on him the guilt of his people, both in this world and the next, so that he would thereupon forgive them. St. Paul has a similar burst of feeling (Romans 9:1-3); but it does not involve a formal offer - it is simply the expression of a willingness. Ordinary men are scarcely competent to judge these sayings of great saints. As Bengel says - "It is not easy to estimate the measure of love in a Moses and a Paul; for the narrow boundary of our reasoning powers does not comprehend it, as the little child is unable to comprehend the courage of heroes." Both were willing - felt willing, at any rate - to sacrifice their own future for their countrymen - and Moses made the offer. Of all the noble acts in Moses' life it is perhaps the noblest; and no correct estimate of his character can be formed which does not base itself to a large extent on his conduct at this crisis. Moses then turned to the unbridled nation, whom Aaron had set free from all restraint, "for a reproach among their foes," inasmuch as they would necessarily become an object of scorn and derision among the heathen on account of the punishment which their conduct would bring down upon them from God (compare Exodus 32:12 and Deuteronomy 28:37), and sought to restrain their licentiousness and ward off the threatened destruction of the nation through the infliction of a terrible punishment. If the effect of this punishment should show that there were still some remains of obedience and faithfulness towards God left in the nation, Moses might then hope, that in accordance with the pleading of Abraham in Genesis 18:23., he should obtain mercy from God for the whole nation for the sake of those who were righteous. He therefore went into the gate of the camp (the entrance to the camp) and cried out: "Whoever (belongs) to the Lord, (come) to me?" and his hope was not disappointed. "All the Levites gathered together to him." Why the Levites? Certainly not merely, nor chiefly, "because the Levites for the most part had not assented to the people's sin and the worship of the calf, but had been displeased on account of it" (C. a Lapide); but partly because the Levites were more prompt in their determination to confess their crime, and return with penitence, and partly out of regard to Moses, who belonged to their tribe, in connection with which it must be borne in mind that the resolution and example of a few distinguished men was sure to be followed by all the rest of their tribe. The reason why no one came over to the side of Moses from any of the other tribes, must also be attributed, to some extent, to the bond that existed among members of the same tribe, and is not sufficiently explained by Calvin's hypothesis, that "they were held back, not by contempt or obstinacy, so much as by shame, and that they were all so paralyzed by their alarm, that they waited to see what Moses was about to do and to what length he would proceed."
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