Exodus 32:9
And the LORD said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people:
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(9) It is a stiff-necked people.—This phrase, afterwards so common (Exodus 33:3; Exodus 33:5; Exodus 34:5; Deuteronomy 9:6; Deuteronomy 9:13; Deuteronomy 10:16; 2Chronicles 30:8; 2Chronicles 36:13; Psalm 75:5; Jeremiah 17:23; Acts 7:51), occurs here for the first time. It is generally explained as “obstinate,” but rather means “perverse,” the metaphor being taken from the horse that stiffens his neck against the pull of the rein, and will not be guided by the rider. The LXX. omit the verse, for no intelligible reason.

Exodus 32:9. A stiff-necked people — Untractable, wilful, and stubborn; unapt to come under the yoke of the divine law, averse from all good, and prone to all evil, incorrigible by judgments, and obstinate to all the methods of cure.

32:7-14 God says to Moses, that the Israelites had corrupted themselves. Sin is the corruption of the sinner, and it is a self-corruption; every man is tempted when he is drawn aside of his own lust. They had turned aside out of the way. Sin is a departing from the way of duty into a by-path. They soon forgot God's works. He sees what they cannot discover, nor is any wickedness of the world hid from him. We could not bear to see the thousandth part of that evil which God sees every day. God expresses the greatness of his just displeasure, after the manner of men who would have prayer of Moses could save them from ruin; thus he was a type of Christ, by whose mediation alone, God would reconcile the world to himself. Moses pleads God's glory. The glorifying God's name, as it ought to be our first petition, and it is so in the Lord's prayer, so it ought to be our great plea. And God's promises are to be our pleas in prayer; for what he has promised he is able to perform. See the power of prayer. In answer to the prayers of Moses, God showed his purpose of sparing the people, as he had before seemed determined on their destruction; which change of the outward discovery of his purpose, is called repenting of the evil.These be thy gods ... have brought - This is thy god, O Israel, who has brought ...7-14. the Lord said unto Moses, Go, get thee down—Intelligence of the idolatrous scene enacted at the foot of the mount was communicated to Moses in language borrowed from human passions and feelings, and the judgment of a justly offended God was pronounced in terms of just indignation against the gross violation of the so recently promulgated laws. Untractable, wilful, and stubborn, incorrigible by my judgments, ungovernable by mine or by any laws. A metaphor from those beasts that will not bend their necks to receive the yoke or bridle.

And the Lord said unto Moses, I have seen this people,.... He had observed their ways and works, their carriage and behaviour; he had seen them before this time; he knew from all eternity what they would be, that their neck would be as an iron sinew, and their brow brass; but now he saw that in fact which he before saw as future, and they proved to be the people he knew they would be; besides, this is said to give Moses the true character of them, which might be depended upon, since it was founded upon divine knowledge and observation:

and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people; obstinate and self-willed, resolute in their own ways, and will not be reclaimed, inflexible and not subjected to the yoke of the divine law; a metaphor taken from such creatures as will not submit their necks or suffer the yoke or bridle to be put upon them, but draw back and slip away; or, as Aben Ezra thinks, to a man that goes on his way upon a run, and will not turn his neck to him that calls him, so disobedient and irreclaimable were these people.

And the LORD said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people:
9. stiffnecked] so Exodus 33:3; Exodus 33:5; Exodus 34:9; Deuteronomy 9:6; Deuteronomy 9:13 (repeated from here)†.

9–14. Jehovah declares that He will exterminate the people: but allows Himself to be diverted from His purpose by Moses’ intercession.

Verse 9.- A stiffnecked people. This epithet, which becomes epitheton usitatum, is here used for the first time. It does not so much mean "obstinate" as "perverse" like a hExodus 32:9"Behold, it is a stiff-necked people (a people with a hard neck, that will not bend to the commandment of God; cf. Exodus 33:3, Exodus 33:5; Exodus 34:9; Deuteronomy 9:6, etc.): now therefore suffer Me, that My wrath may burn against them, and I may consume them, and I will make of thee a great nation." Jehovah, as the unchangeably true and faithful God, would not, and could not, retract the promises which He had given to the patriarchs, or leave them unfulfilled; and therefore if in His wrath He should destroy the nation, which had shown the obduracy of its nature in its speedy apostasy, He would still fulfil His promise in the person of Moses, and make of him a great nation, as He had promised Abraham in Genesis 12:2. When God says to Moses, "Leave Me, allow Me, that My wrath may burn," this is only done, as Gregory the Great expresses it, deprecandi ansam praebere. God puts the fate of the nation into the hand of Moses, that he may remember his mediatorial office, and show himself worthy of his calling. This condescension on the part of God, which placed the preservation or destruction of Israel in the hands of Moses, coupled with a promise, which left the fullest freedom to his decision, viz., that after the destruction of the people he should himself be made a great nation, constituted a great test for Moses, whether he would be willing to give up his own people, laden as they were with guilt, as the price of his own exaltation. And Moses stood the test. The preservation of Israel was dearer to him than the honour of becoming the head and founder of a new kingdom of God. True to his calling as mediator, he entered the breach before God, to turn away His wrath, that He might not destroy the sinful nation (Psalm 106:23). - But what if Moses had not stood the test, had not offered his soul for the preservation of his people, as he is said to have done in Exodus 32:32? Would God in that case have thought him fit to make into a great nation? Unquestionably, if this had occurred, he would not have proved himself fit or worthy of such a call; but as God does not call those who are fit and worthy in themselves, for the accomplishment of His purposes of salvation, but chooses rather the unworthy, and makes them fit for His purposes (2 Corinthians 3:5-6), He might have made even Moses into a great nation. The possibility of such a thing, however, is altogether an abstract thought: the case supposed could not possibly have occurred, since God knows the hearts of His servants, and foresees what they will do, though, notwithstanding His omniscience, He gives to human freedom room enough for self-determination, that He may test the fidelity of His servants. No human speculation, however, can fully explain the conflict between divine providence and human freedom. This promise is referred to by Moses in Deuteronomy 9:14, when he adds the words which God made use of on a subsequent occasion of a similar kind (Numbers 14:12), "I will make of thee a nation stronger and more numerous than this."
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