When Moses led the people of Israel through the desert, there were two interesting occasions when God wanted to destroy the people of Israel and start over. (There may be more occasions that I don't know of.)

The first one is when Moses went up on mount Sinai and stayed there for 40 days and 40 nights. During that time, the people of Israel grew weary and made themselves a golden calf to worship, since they believed God had deserted them. This made God very angry (and would have made me very angry too) and he told Moses this:

“I have seen these people,” the LORD said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people. Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.” (Exodus 32:9-10, NIV)

In verses 11-14, Moses replies:

But Moses sought the favor of the LORD his God. “LORD,” he said, “why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.’” Then the LORD relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.

Some time later, some of the Levites rose up against Moses and were then destroyed by God. The day after, this happened:

The next day the whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. “You have killed the LORD’s people,” they said.

But when the assembly gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron and turned toward the tent of meeting, suddenly the cloud covered it and the glory of the LORD appeared. Then Moses and Aaron went to the front of the tent of meeting, and the LORD said to Moses, “Get away from this assembly so I can put an end to them at once.” And they fell facedown.

Then Moses said to Aaron, “Take your censer and put incense in it, along with burning coals from the altar, and hurry to the assembly to make atonement for them. Wrath has come out from the LORD; the plague has started.” So Aaron did as Moses said, and ran into the midst of the assembly. The plague had already started among the people, but Aaron offered the incense and made atonement for them. He stood between the living and the dead, and the plague stopped. But 14,700 people died from the plague, in addition to those who had died because of Korah. Then Aaron returned to Moses at the entrance to the tent of meeting, for the plague had stopped. (Numbers 16:41-45, NIV)

So, the question is: Did God REALLY want to destroy the people of Israel? I certainly would, but would God really? If Moses had said: "Okay, go ahead", would God have done it? Moses reminded God of the promise he gave to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I know that the sum of the Bible is true, thus it is important to understand a passage in its context and the Bible in its entirety. I have a little problem of getting God's unlimited love and grace to sum up with these two places where he wants to destroy the people of Israel.

  • "God's unlimited love and grace." If you have a problem with that, then how about God's justice? Don't make Him into a 2D cardboard cutout! :)
    – Steve
    Apr 2, 2014 at 4:03
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    Question : Did God REALLY want to destroy the people of Israel? Me answer : Yes He did. God has plan-B ---> "Then I will make you into a great nation". If the wiping a whole nation happen, there is one Israel people left who is Moses. So the covenant can still bind as Moses is descendant of Abraham.
    – karma
    Feb 20, 2018 at 18:41

6 Answers 6


If Moses had said: "Okay, go ahead", would God have done it?

You can take a look at the narrative of Abraham and Sodom (Genesis 18:16-33) as an example of this opposite case. Abraham, of course, doesn't say "Okay, go ahead and destroy Sodom"—but he doesn't ask for mercy either. His intercession is based on justice instead: it would be unjust, he argues, to destroy righteous people along with wicked people. He talks God down to the idea of saving an entire city full of unrighteous men, women, and children for the sake of ten hypothetical righteous ones—but can we doubt that if Abraham had been bold enough to ask for mercy instead, God would have spared them altogether? (Moses, who surely knew the story of Sodom—if he didn't write it himself—knew better than to base his pleas for mercy on the righteousness of the Israelites. Likewise, we ourselves cannot be saved on our own merits.)

So, the question is: Did God REALLY want to destroy the people of Israel? I certainly would, but would God really? [...] I have a little problem of getting God's unlimited love and grace to sum up with these two places where he wants to destroy the people of Israel.

It does look bad—to understate it—to see the one we recognize as a God of love and grace calling for genocide. But the real issue is an even bigger one: we as humans "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23), and "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23). We all face judgment, not just the Israelites in the wilderness—they just happened to be faced with receiving it early.

Did God really want to destroy the people of Israel? Well, does God really want to destroy any of us? The answer to that is surely in the negative. In 2 Peter 3:9 we read that God is "not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance". We're told that God says "I desire mercy, not sacrifice" (Hosea 6:6, Matthew 9:13). We're told that God loves the world—so much so "that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16) If God must destroy anyone, it is surely with regret, not with relish.

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    If God doesn't want to, then why does he? Being omnipotent, he should have plenty of other options at his disposal.
    – hammar
    Jan 2, 2012 at 21:54
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    @Hammar That there is definitely a whole question to itself! I doubt an answer would fit in a comment (I don't have one offhand) and I don't think it'd be on-topic to address in my answer to this page's question.
    – Muke Tever
    Jan 2, 2012 at 23:04

-We learn quite a bit about God's mercy from Paul in Romans 9. Here we actually see that God does not feel at all obligated to dole out mercy, but instead simply does so as it suits Him. If you do not read Romans 9 and finish it a little disconcerted, then you probably didn't read it right. Paul anticipates that you will not like what he is trying to teach you about God, so maybe we all are afraid to accept Paul's doctrine? -(read it yet?) The mistake Christian scholarship makes is to look at God through human "lenses." Perhaps the passage means what it appears to mean and God was really considering destroying all of Israel except Moses. He sure didn't hesitate to flood the earth and start over w/ Noah... I don't believe this passage is telling us that Moses changed God's mind. Rather, we see that, as the one God preferred to lead his "chosen people," he deferred to Moses' wish to do so though the lives at the bottom of the mountain rather than God's consideration of doing so through a new Mosaic bloodline.


God wanted Moses to pray for his people.By doing so,Moses was showing love for them.On verse 7(Genesis 32.7),God himself tells Moses what is going on.God knew it,it was no surprise to him , but for sure it would be a great surprise and disappointment to Moses if God had not prepared him for what was about to come.God knew Moses,He knew Moses would probably grow weary.God was not lying,as some may think,but he was coaching Moses,more than that he was leading him,teaching him at a level of understanding which Moses could graspIf that conversation had not happened ,Moses himself might have destroyed everyone and given up on his mission at his moment of fury.


Whether or not God wanted to destroy Israel may be overstating the case. He may have felt he had to, in order to maintain his justness. My answer here would be the same answer in this case.

The fact that Moses "reminds" God of God's own nature is keeping with the tradition of Abraham interceding for Sodom. God understands that he is compelled to show justice. But, if those for whom he must be just intercede to request mercy, God may be less obligated to do so.


This was to teach mankind James Madison's Law: No leader is an angel. A great Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights was made from this ancient precept.

God, in surprising essence, played the role of "Holy Fool" (look it up in Wikipedia, the Russian Orthodox faith knows about such people!) and reversed roles with Moses.

God said He would do what was in Moses' heart, hidden heart! He made Moses see that even he, yes, Moses... was subject to Lord Acton's saying: "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

Mankind would later figure all this out. In other words, you can have good kings, but when the bad kings come along, the unholy terror they bring negates all the good king stuff.

America's Founding Fathers learned to pit evil against evil, so that three branches of government could shoot down any one branch that takes too much power and renders itself corrupt and obnoxious. (Later, in modern America... the three branches learned to simply shoot down all power of states and individuals.... the answer will be a states convention to amend the Constitution back unto its limited power-box.)

So, NO! God would not have killed the Hebrews. He was teaching how leaders wish to do so, and thereby save mankind from itself by creating limited government to protect maximum liberty. Maximum liberty is necessary so that Christ-in-You can come quickly at maximum percentages.

See www.inthatdayteachings.com

  • 2
    Welcome to C.SE. Not a bad first post, although it would be better with sourcing. When you get the chance, please check out how we are different than other sites. On a second note, it will be very easy for people to read this as turning America and its founding fathers as if they were reliable sources of Christian theology. Be careful with that... Sep 12, 2014 at 18:05
  • @AffableGeek We could argue a few were amateur theologians, I think. Much like most of us on this site. lol. Most notable would be Jefferson and Franklin. However, I challenge the premise that they had religious motives for drafting the constitution and such in the way they did.
    – user3961
    Sep 12, 2014 at 18:49
  • I always get scared when someone posts about the bible and then jumps to the founding fathers. The US Constitution is nice, but it isn't a biblical thing :). I'm going to hide now. Sep 12, 2014 at 18:51
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    Here's some problems with this post: 1) I don't think that power quote is from the Bible. 2) Christian culture, especially regarding political topics, are not well received by this community. I'm personally in favor of exploring this odd form of American Christianity, but the community is not.
    – user3961
    Sep 12, 2014 at 18:54

God is all knowing, He knew all that the Israelites would do even before he created the universe. God knew that Moses would intercede as he did, God chose Moses, He knew Moses' heart, so no God would not have destroyed the Israelites completely or God would have chose a prophet whom would not interceded for the Israelites as Moses did.

Its also worth mentioning that God did fulfill that word and create a line of Kings from Moses' loins according to the ancient Israelite historian Josephus whom stated that in the midst of war between Egypt and Ethiopia Moses was a great military leader and Moses married the Queen of Ethiopia and she bore a son by Moses (prior to exodus) , Her and Moses' son became king of Ethiopia creating a line of Ethiopian kings of Moses' bloodline whom the Queen of Sheba was a descendant of ( the Queen who was acquinted with King Solomon).

(Josephus, Antiquities ||, x)

If God had destroyed the Israelites then he still would have been merciful and just in Christ because God knew that they would have a chance to recieve salvation in the future when Christ descends into the Earth and proclaims the Good news to the past generations who were in the Earth and as many as recieved the Son were saved. (thats if you believe that Christ descended into the Earth after dieing on the cross before he ascended).

Ephesians 4:9, acts 2:24, 1 Peter 3:19

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