What is the significance of Psalm 106:23?

“Therefore he said he would destroy them—
had not Moses, his chosen one,
stood in the breach before him,
to turn away his wrath from destroying them.”

Moses (on several occasions, we have seen) persuaded God to change his mind regarding his plan to judge Israel. This inspired verse explicitly says that God “would destroy them…had not Moses…stood in the breach.” If God always foreknew that Moses was going to stand in the breach and thus that he wasn’t going to destroy Israel, can we avoid concluding that his declaration to Moses that he was going to destroy Israel was somewhat duplicitous? If the outcome was eternally known to God, can we avoid getting the impression that he was playing a Machiavellian game with his prophet?

If we trust that God is above such antics, however, we must accept the straightforward meaning of this verse. Accepting this view has the added advantage of accentuating the importance and urgency of intercessory prayer in a way that is, I believe, impossible if we believe the future is exhaustively settled in God’s mind (cf. Ezek. 22:29–31).

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