In an early interaction, God told Moses that He will send his angel to guide Israel along the way. The people of Israel were warned not to disobey God’s messenger because he would not forgive their transgressions if they rebelled against him. (Ex. 23:21)

Moses approached God with a very bold request indeed; He asked for God to personally accompany Israel instead, refusing to move anywhere without His own personal presence (Ex. 33:12-16). Why did he take the risk of challenging God? Why did Moses disagree with God?

In the end of incredible experience of seeing the back of God, hearing the words that described his fundamentally gracious and forgiving nature (Ex. 34:6), Moses disclosed his reason: “…because this is a stiff-necked people. Pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for Your own!” (Ex.34:9) In other words, Moses’ argument was as follows: God should go with Israel and forgive them, precisely because they are stiff-necked people!

Since God said that angel would not forgive Israel if they rebel against him (Ex. 23:21), Moses knew that his only hope was to persuade God Himself to come instead. While being hidden in the cleft of the Rock, Moses became aware that YHWH (unlike his angel) was able to forgive “iniquity, transgression, and sin” (Ex. 34:7). Moses understood that given Israel’s sins only if God will go with them would Israel have a chance for a future.

Hassidic Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev (who may have been my relative on my mother’s side) once prayed this way:

“Lord of the universe, I want to propose a deal. We have many sins. You have much forgiveness. Let us exchange our sins for Your forgiveness. And if You should say that this is not a fair exchange, then my reply is: If we had no sins, what would You do with all Your forgiveness?”

109 COMMENTS

      • Wow!!! After reading this article I became speechless for 50 minutes .Astonishing insight . It’s staggering to know this one disagreement saved an entire people and just how much of our past, present, and future is hinged on this disagreement .

      • I believe the Angel COULD forgive sins, but WOULD not forgive those who “provoke” Him. The LXX word for “provoke”, is used again in Hebrew 10:38,39. From this and Mark 2:5-10’s light and heavy(qal v’chomer) account of the paralytic, Yeshua proves that He is functioning in the role of the Angel (Metatron), who indeed does forgive sins of those who draw near to Him, thereby solving the Jewish discussion on whether the Angel could forgive sins; Yehsua is the Ben Yah of Reya Mehemnah. Moses didn’t change YHVH’s mind, rather YHVH updated his understanding regarding the Angel’s authority.

  1. Now, imagine if this prayer by Rabbi Yitzchak had been offered by the great comedian and former Rabbi Jackie Mason instead. Nice teaching moment, brother.

  2. And this is what G-d has done by taking the sins of the world on Himself in Yeshua, and giving us not just His forgiveness but His righteousness.

  3. G_d being righteous can never make a mistake. HE said it and HIS WORD had to bring back results. HIS WORD is final and authoritative. To G_d be the glory

    • Yes. But we this does not mean that he tells us from the beginning what his final word is. In the case of Moses it needed to be teased out (so to speak). But since I know theology probably better than a lot of heresy hunters on this forum, I do realize how crazy this sounds (Moses disagreeing with God). :-).

      • Except that perhaps Moses was pretty close to God, so was in a position to ‘disagree’ with Him…I think there are other instances in Scripture where people have ‘taken God on’ as it were (can’t think of particular ones off the top of my head). And very often, it seems, when one does argue or debate with God or ‘disagree’..whether respectfully or disrespectfully, one gets to know Him better…that is, one becomes more aware of his character, wishes…or sometimes He tells one in no uncertain terms that one is wrong!

        • I have known many people who have argued with God. They had a loved one die unexpectedly and they said, “No, God! No!” Didn’t get their loved one back, but that prayer eventually led to God giving them comfort.

  4. I once had an extensive discussion with a man whom claimed that Moshe’ was not allowed to enter the promised land because Moshe’ had committed murder. My argument was that yes Moshe’ had killed an Egyptian soldier in defense of a Hebrew slave being beaten. Did Moshe’ sit down and plan or device a way to take a life? I believe not and this would be considered “Premeditated Murder”. If we walked in our home and found a man attempting to harm our loved ones what would our reaction be?

    • Does not G-d have a reason for everything He does or does not allow? Don’t things happen in life for a reason? Could it also be true that G-d did not allow Moses to enter the promised land because Moses represented the Law? And We cannot enter the promised land based on keeping the Law? Joshua led the children of Israel into the promised land as a representative of Yeshua Messiah. The epitome of G-d’s grace and mercy. Is this not true?

      • First of all if Moses represents the Law it would be a reason. (so your argument does not hold together… I think). Also, I usually prefer to think that the opposite of law is lawlessness, while opposite of grace is disgrace.

        • That’s why I posed it as a question. I know that the reason is because he struck the Rock instead of speaking to the Rock… But was speaking symbolically. I agree with you in the fact that the opposite of the law is lawlessness and that we are able to keep the law now through Yeshua! Thank you so much for your teaching!

          • Thanks, Kathy. I don’t think it was an issue connected with symbolism at all, but to dishonoring God somehow before the people of Israel that needed to be taught to honor Him.

  5. I have been wanting to read back into my Bible “arguing” (the Spirit Himself intercedes). Many have shown me in the Bible that I could not have been saved (TEN COMMANDMENTS) before I converted to Christianity, but I was! Unfortunately, I learned to read without an argument (intercessor). This led to identity problems. Your classes and research have been a big asset in reidentifying Jesus. (Example: In John 3:21 I can now identify with God turning my darkness into light instead of identifying as one who loves the darkness John 3:19.) Thank you!!!!

  6. In have a question . When Moses went up to meet God to receive the Ten Commandments did Joshua go into the cloud with him when he was receiving them and would Joshua have seen God too? The other possibility was that Joshua was further up the mountain than the seventy elders etc but not as far up as Moses. I have been reading it the past few days and I’m just wondering what Joshua was learning in this experience about leadership. Thanks

  7. Dr. Eli, I have read the scripture about Moses not going into the promised land this way; Yes, he disobeyed God, but why? Because he, Moses was angry. God wasn’t. Moses misrepresented God to His people. God is love, merciful and forgiving. Moses had showed God as the rest of the ‘gods’ that had to be appeased to be ‘loved.’ God isn’t performance based as the world thinks He is.

  8. I am sorry! But I feel in my heart and would like your opinion. Doesn’t it seem too harsh considering all Moses did for God that he could not enter with everyone? Why couldn’t God forgive him? I will stop at this point.

      • Since Moses died before the children entered the Promised land. He did not or could not have enter New jerusalem. But he will be raised from the dead along with all in Christ living or dead to meet Jesus in the air as he comes to rule. HERE.

  9. Moses here is reminding the Lord that “He” likened the Israelites to stiff necked people (Ex 32:9). Like the Israelites, we also fall away into sin, we backslide but God is promising restoration through repentance. Moses was given the opportunity to become a great nation (Ex 32:10). Moses smashed the first set of tablets in rage. God called Moses back up the mountain. As the Lord’s inferior Moses petitioned Him for favour. Through humility in prayer and repentance when we put others needs before our own, God’s grace inevitably falls upon us. “I won’t leave or forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

  10. Thanks for the insight. GOD’S is good at putting hidden messages in HIS word. It is only when study HIS word in dept that we find these hidden messages. So when you seek HIS truth you get rewarded with special understanding and blessings. Mosses’ wisdom is underestimated by all of us. Thanks for the insight.

    • That is so true ‘ we do have to study His Word ‘ and not just read it . I used to read the Bible in one year for many years and learned nothing . It was when I prayed , studied and mediated on His word that I received

  11. I believe that the big challenge Moses faced, as many of us Christians do, is moving from a place of salvation to the place of transformation. This is a process, a metamorphosis…shedding the Egypt in us and taking on the beauty of Messiah.

    • Gustavo Perera Amen…if we are merely satisfied with being “saved” we will never take on the image of Messiah. I love the phrasing of your comment, and understand that is our being converted and the renewing of our minds which help us walk in the Way of our Master.

  12. I see this as Moses seeking to understand God better. We cannot question God’s actions but sometimes He does things to train us. Moses needed to have a better understanding of God. He asked who God was sending rather than arguing with God. Moses came to the understanding that these were God’s people which is exactly what God was showing. I don’t think man is going to change God’s mind.

  13. I was just wondering if it were probable that maybe God wanted to see if Moses’ heart was filled with love, patience, and compassion for Him and for His people. I think that could be a possibility. Isn’t God mostly concerned about our attitude of heart? (I am not implying that mine is all that great.) John A

    • Well… I don’t think it is all about the heart. If it was there would be no reason to test Abraham (in binding of Abraham).

      • Amen…He already knows our hearts, but He tests our obedience..make that, our “loving” obedience which is also an act of faith. Thus, Faithful Abraham!

  14. If we understand that God is all-knowing (Ps 147:5, 1Jn 3:20..), we would also understand that in Moses’ request for God to be amidst them was an expectation of God as a test of Moses’ faith especially for the long journey ie( present & future) ahead. Did Moses trust God or was he questioning his own worthiness to lead God’s people or, to obey. God knew what Moses would ask thus confirming his faithfulness. Only God Himself was good enough for Moses.

  15. Contd from previous post.. Ex33:17. So the Lord said to Moses, “I will also do this thing that you have spoken; for you have found grace in My sight, and I know you by name. God knows each one of His children by name. He tests our faith to the uttermost but we know He always provides a way out. Praise the Lord

  16. As The Living Bible translates Romans 5:19-20 19 Adam caused many to be sinners because he disobeyed God, and Christ caused many to be made acceptable to God because he obeyed. 20 The Ten Commandments were given so that all could see the extent of their failure to obey God’s laws. But the more we see our sinfulness, the more we see God’s abounding grace forgiving us. G-d’s grace is more bountiful than our sins. It seems Moses may have had an understanding of this.

  17. I can’t imagine anyone coming out alive if God didn’t lead his people out himself. Only God would be able to forgive them. Moses understood that. He knew that his people are stiff necks, stubborn and they needed the grace of God.

  18. Wow! Im really staggered to note and now know this particular disagreement, as it dearly saved an entire chosen race & come to think of it- just how much of human beings status is hinged on this disagreement?

  19. This part of Exodus has always fascinated me. The conversations between Moses and God, The covenant dinner with the 70 elders. However what has baffled me is the concept that ‘no man can see God and live’. It is expressed throughout the OT. Theologians have conceptualized this into the the doctrine of original sin and the separation of man from God. Yet there are countless examples throughout the old and new Testaments where men have seen God and lived. In fact when Jesus came many people saw him and lived. I would like your views on this Dr. Eli.

  20. I love the fact that when God’s appointed held a discussion with Him they used His very words for the discussion and since God is not a man that He should lie He has to honor His word. I believe He wants to hold these discussions with us.

  21. That is one ‘awesome’ prayer!!! Thank God that HIS LOVE and FORGIVENESS is available 24/7. El Shaddai! Shalom!

  22. I would like to get more information about your program. What I am interested in doing individual studies in certain areas. For example, the life Of The Apostle Paul or the Book Of Genesis. Primarily seeking study guide books or individual topical studies. I am 73 years old and not necessarily interested in a formal structered program. Your advise and guidance is appreciated.

  23. Moses was talking to Satan,Satan was thrown out of heaven & Moses knew this.The Commandments were told by Satan b/c he knew it would be extremely difficult to follow & Satan wanted us in likeness of him faultering.Christ was even tormented by him.Satan=Cain Christ=Able

  24. Thanks for the sharing. I think, Moses really had a close relationship with God and therefore knows God in a much deeper way.

  25. I think Moses struck the rock simply because he was human with human emotions. He was tired, frustrated, and angry. G_d had already provided so much and the people never appreciated it. However, I still felt that he should have been able to go although I understand/feel that he was unable to go because he displayed dishonor/disrespect to G_d by disobeying. However my human emotions felt bad for him.

  26. Wow, mind blown. Thank you Holy Spirit for bringing me here to learn. I have read exodus scripture so many times and today I learned something I didnt know. Amazing.
    Love the prayer, thank you for sharing.
    God Bless

  27. Amen to this Dr. Eli. Had the opportunity to listen to your whole discussion on the matter in my curriculum. Praise to our ever forgiving YHWH. Thank you.

    • God bless you, Neil. We’re happy to have you part of the IBC learning community. I’m so glad that you are doing deep into the courses.

  28. Are you forgetting that God was originally going to go in the midst of Israel, but because of their sin He said that He would not go in their midst because He would destroy them.

    Agape

    • Are you forgetting that that isn’t the end of the story? 🙂 The existence of the Tabernacle was for God to dwell in the midst of Israel, and that did happen.

  29. You miss a great point here. When one is in the military they follow orders of their commanding officer. When God sends an angel to accomplish a certain task they are not allowed to reinterpret those orders and do something else…. They obey even if it means bringing judgment on a stubborn people when they disobey. God, however, is a loving God and can be persuaded to rescind His judgment whereas an angel cannot (2 Kings 20:1-6)

  30. Dr Eli, I am deeply rereading Christian Bible, am at Second Samuel. Fascinating. I came across Moses being disallowed by God not to enter P/Land I deeply question it: reason being disobeying God’s command hitting the stone twice – disrespect to God. Wasn’t it unfair after Moses came that close.

    • This story really highlights how much higher of a standard that leaders are held to, doesn’t it?

  31. Thank you Dr Eli for sharing these revelations. I understand scriptures much better from the Hebrew translations . Much appreciated. Shalom from.South Africa.

  32. I do not agree at all!!! Moses did not disagree with God. He simply realised that the Angel WAS God (Malak Yahweh) and then thanked God that His presence should go with them otherwise they would never succeed.In Exodus 23 God specifically say “my Name is in him” (the Angel).

    • Thank you for commenting. I see your point, but I also see a progression. In ch.23 God promises to lead Israel with an angel that doesn’t forgive sins, then after several chapters of God laying out what Israel should do, they respond with a golden calf (Ex.32). In chapter 33, Moses is pleading that God himself lead Israel because (ch.34) He is “slow to anger,” “merciful” and “forgiving iniquity”.

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