The People Break the Covenant

KEY VERSE: “The LORD said unto Moses, Go get thee down, for thy people which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves.” —Exodus 32:7


WHEN Moses was in Mount Horeb, or Sinai, for forty days receiving the Law from Jehovah, the Israelites rebelled. The Loren reported this to Moses, and said, “I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people: now therefore let me alone, that my wrath wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation.”—Exod. 32:7-10

Here Moses’ true humility, and his great desire that the Lord’s name be glorified, are manifested. We read that he “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? 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.”—vss. 11,12

To this plea on behalf of the people who were almost continuously murmuring against him, Moses added, “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 forever.”—vs. 13

The Lord did ‘repent’, but when Moses returned to the people he found the situation even worse than he supposed, and he became angry himself, and broke the tables of the Law. Seemingly, however, his wrath was expressed more against the sin than against the sinners. He did what he could to cleanse them. It was here that the tribe of Levi took a firm stand on the Lord’s side.

The next day, Moses “returned unto the Lord, and said, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold. Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written.” (vss. 31,32) Here the true character of Moses again reveals itself. Previously God had suggested the blotting out of the entire rebellious nation of Israel and building a new nation under Moses. But now Moses offers his own life to save the people who were continually murmuring against him. The Lord did not accept Moses’ offer, nor did he at once destroy the Israelites, although he did punish them with plagues, and because of their continued rebellious attitude, all the males who were twenty years and over when they left Egypt died before the nation entered the Promised Land.

Whenever God demonstrated his favor upon Moses by miraculous signs, Israel would temporarily cease their murmuring against him, but at the slightest provocation they would begin again. Their complaints seemed generally to follow about the same pattern. They would ask Moses why he brought them out of the land of Egypt into the wilderness to die; or why he did not permit them to return to Egypt.

Doubtless, one of the severest tests upon Moses was the later rebellion of his own brother and sister against him—Aaron and Miriam. As a rule people expect a measure of understanding and sympathy from their own family, but Moses, on one occasion, was disappointed here also. We read that “Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married. … Hath the Lord indeed spoken only by Moses? Hath he not spoken also by us?”—Num. 12:1,2

It is in connection with this trial upon Moses that we are informed concerning his meekness, and consideration for those who opposed him. (Num. 12:2) Certainly Moses needed submission under such circumstances. The evidence is that he accepted the experience without resentment.

The Lord stood by Moses, declaring him to be a faithful servant. The Lord smote Miriam with leprosy, but Moses prayed that she be healed. In these accounts we are reminded of the unselfish attitude of Jesus, the antitypical Moses who actually did give his life for the whole sinful world of mankind that they might be saved and be healed.

Are we not all, as followers of the Master, admonished to pray for those who despitefully use us?

Dawn Bible Students Association
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