*From the Navarre Bible Commentary
First Reading: From: Exodus 32:7-14*
The Lord’s Ire
 And the LORD said to Moses, “Go down; for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves;  they have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them; they have made for themselves a molten calf, and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, 'These are your gods, 0 Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!”’  And the Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people;  now therefore let me atone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; but of you I willmake a great nation.”
Moses’ Prayer for Israel
 But Moses besought the Lord his God, and said, “0 Lord, why does thy wrath burn hot against thy people, whom thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand?  Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent did he bring them forth, to stay 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.  Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou didst swear by thine own self, and didst say to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’”  And the Lord repented of the evil which he thought to do to his people.
32:7-14. The Lord’s dialogue with Moses contains the doctrinal bases of salvation history–Covenant, sin, mercy. Only the Lord knows just how serious this sin is: by adoring the golden calf the people have taken the wrong road and have vitiated the whole meaning of the Exodus; but most of all, they have rebelled against God and turned their backs on him, breaking the Covenant (cf. Deut 9:7-14). God no longer calls them my people" (cf lbs 2:8) but “your people” (Moses’) (v. 7). That is, he shows him that they have acted like anyone else, guided by human leaders.
The punishment that the sin deserves is their destruction (v. 10), for this is a stiff-necked nation (cf. 33:3; 34:9; Deut 9:13). The sin deserves death, as the first sin did (Gen 3:19) and the sin which gave rise to the flood (cf. Gen 6:6-7). However, mercy always prevails over the offense.
As Abraham did in another time on behalf of Sodom (Gen 18:22-23), Moses intercedes with the Lord. But this time intercession proves successful, because Israel is the people that God has made his own; he chose it, bringing it out of Egypt in a mighty way; so. he cannot turn back now; in fact, he chose it ever since he swore his oath to Abraham (cf. Gen 15:5; 22:16-17; 35:11-12). He established the Covenant with Israel, as Moses reminds him when he refers to “thy people, whom thou has brought forth out of the land of Egypt” (v. 11). Thus, promise, election and Covenant form the foundation which guarantees that God’s forgiveness will be forthcoming, even if they commit the gravest of sins.
God forgives his people (v. 14) not because they deserve to be forgiven, but out of pure mercy and moved by Moses’ intercession. Thus God’s forgiveness and the people’s conversion are, both of them, a divine initiative.
Source: “The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries”. Biblical text from the
Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries by members of
the Faculty of Theology, University of Navarre, Spain.
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