What is the significance of Exodus 32:14?

The Lord states his intention to destroy Israelites because of their wickedness: “Now let me alone,” he says to Moses, “so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them” (vs. 10). Moses “implored the Lord” (vs. 11) and, as a result, “the Lord changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people” (vs. 14).

If the classical view of divine foreknowledge is correct, God would already have been certain that he wasn’t going to “consume” the Israelites and his statement to Moses regarding his plan to do just this would be disingenuous. Scripture’s teaching that God “changed his mind” about the matter would be inaccurate as well. If God’s declared intention and Scripture’s teaching are true, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that God’s mind was not eternally settled regarding the fate of Israel at this time.

Some theologians have tried to avoid this conclusion by suggesting that God can make plans in time which go directly against what he eternally foreknows and can even eternally foreknow that he will change his mind. But it is difficult, to say the least, to get a coherent conception of God genuinely planning something he is certain will not be, or genuinely changing his mind to arrive at a conclusion he eternally foreknew.

As far as I can discern, the concept of God foreknowing he will change his mind is self-contradictory. It is like saying, “God has an eternally unchanging mind which knows that he will someday change his mind.” If God’s mind really changes, it can’t really be eternally unchanging. If it’s really eternally unchanging, he can’t really change it. Think about it.

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