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.