“Even if you gave me a million dollars I still wouldn’t [fill in the blank]” – that’s an expression that people use to stress how definite their “no” is. It might be surprising to learn that God had an expression of His own to stress how definite the coming judgment on Judah was. To be sure, there’s more to this statement than simply an affirmation of the unrelenting nature of God’s promised wrath on the southern kingdom, but before we see what’s implicit lets understand what’s explicit.
When reading through Exodus 32 it is normal for someone to ask the question, “Did God change His mind when speaking to Moses?” Or, perhaps even more specifically, “Did Moses change God’s mind?” The question, though legitimate, if incorrectly answered, can have potentially blasphemous ramifications. We’ll see some of them shortly.
The context of the passage we’re considering is when the children of Israel began to worship a golden calf in the wilderness (Ex. 32:1-6). God told Moses to go down from the Mount because the people had corrupted themselves (32:7). But He didn’t stop there. In light of the wickedness that the people displayed, God told Moses:
6 Furthermore the Lord said to him, “Now put your hand in your bosom.” And he put his hand in his bosom, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous, like snow. 7 And He said, “Put your hand in your bosom again.” So he put his hand in his bosom again, and drew it out of his bosom, and behold, it was restored like his other flesh. 8 “Then it will be, if they do not believe you, nor heed the message of the first sign, that they may believe the message of the latter sign. 9 And it shall be, if they do not believe even these two signs, or listen to your voice, that you shall take water from the river and pour it on the dry land. The water which you take from the river will become blood on the dry land.” (Ex 4:6-9)
The controversy behind this passage is found in verses eight and nine. The argument is: God told Moses what to do if Pharaoh and the Egyptians did not believe the first two signs; thus, since God didn’t tell Moses what to do, but only how to respond to however the Egyptians reacted, it must mean that God did not know what their response would be.