Israel Provoked God
1 “Hear, O Israel! You are crossing the Jordan today to go in to dispossess nations greater and more powerful than you, great cities fortified to heaven, 2 a people great and tall, sons of Anakim, whom you know and of whom you have heard it said, ‘Who can stand before the sons of Anak?’ 3 So know today [with confident assurance] that the Lord your God is crossing [the Jordan] before you like a devouring fire. He will destroy them and He will subdue them before you, and you shall drive them out and destroy them quickly, just as the Lord has promised you.
4 “Do not say in your heart when the Lord your God has driven them out before you, ‘Because of my righteousness the Lord has brought me in to possess this land,’ but because of the wickedness of these nations the Lord is dispossessing them before you. 5 It is not for your righteousness or for the uprightness of your heart that you are going to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations the Lord your God is driving them out before you, and to confirm the oath which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
6 “Know [without any doubt], that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stiff-necked (stubborn, obstinate) people. 7 Remember [with remorse] and do not forget how you provoked the Lord your God to wrath in the wilderness; from the day you left the land of Egypt until you arrived in this place, you have been rebellious against the Lord. 8 And at Horeb (Sinai) you provoked the Lord to wrath, and the Lord was so angry with you that He would have destroyed you. 9 When I went up the mountain to receive the tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant which the Lord made with you, I remained on the mountain forty days and forty nights; I did not eat food or drink water. 10 The Lord gave me the two tablets of stone written with the finger of God; and on them were written all the words which the Lord had spoken to you at the mountain from the midst of the fire on the day of the assembly. 11 It came about at the end of forty days and forty nights that the Lord gave me the two tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant. 12 Then the Lord said to me, ‘Arise, go down from here quickly, for your people whom you brought from Egypt have acted corruptly. They have quickly turned aside from the way which I commanded them; they have made (cast) a molten image for themselves.’ 13 Furthermore, the Lord said to me, ‘I have seen this people, and indeed, they are stiff-necked (stubborn, obstinate) people. 14 Let Me alone, so that I may destroy them and wipe out their name from under heaven; and I will make of you a nation mightier and greater than they.’
15 “So I turned and came down from the mountain while the mountain was burning with fire, and the two tablets of the covenant were in my two hands. 16 And I saw that you had indeed sinned against the Lord your God. You had made for yourselves a molten (a)calf (idol). You had turned aside quickly from the way which the Lord had commanded you.(A) 17 So I took hold of the two tablets and threw them from my two hands and smashed them before your very eyes! 18 Then, as before, I fell down before the Lord for [another] forty days and forty nights; I did not eat food or drink water, because of all the sin you had committed by doing (b)what was evil in the sight of the Lord to provoke Him to anger. 19 For I was afraid of the anger and (c)absolute fury which the Lord held against you, [enough divine fury] to destroy you, but the Lord listened to me that time also. 20 The Lord was very angry with Aaron, angry [enough] to destroy him, so I also prayed for Aaron at the same time. 21 I took your sinful thing, the calf which you had made, and burned it in the fire and thoroughly crushed it, grinding the metal thoroughly until it was as fine as dust; and I threw its dust into the brook that came down from the mountain.
22 “At Taberah also and at Massah and at Kibroth-hattaavah you provoked the Lord to wrath. 23 And when the Lord sent you from Kadesh-barnea, saying, ‘Go up and take possession of the land which I have given you,’ then you rebelled against the command of the Lord your God, and you did not believe and rely on Him, nor did you obey His voice. 24 You have been rebellious against the Lord from the [first] day that I knew you.
25 “So I fell down and lay face down before the Lord forty days and nights because the Lord had said He would destroy you. 26 Then I prayed to the Lord and said, ‘O Lord God, do not destroy Your people, even Your inheritance, whom You have redeemed through Your greatness, whom You have brought from Egypt with a mighty hand. 27 Remember [with compassion] Your servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; do not look at the stubbornness of this people or at their wickedness or at their sin, 28 so that the [people of the] land from which You brought us will not say, “Because the Lord was not capable of bringing them into the land which He had promised them and because He hated them He has brought them out to the wilderness [in order] to kill them.” 29 Yet they are Your people and Your inheritance, whom You have brought out by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm.’
a. Deuteronomy 9:16: The selection of a calf-god was probably inspired by the Egyptian bull-god Apis (Hapis), believed to be a living manifestation of the Egyptian god, Ptah. In ancient Egypt, a bull-calf with specific markings was selected from the herd and designated and worshiped as Apis. The Apis was the most important of the sacred animals of Egypt. At the age of twenty-eight the Apis bull was sacrificed and buried in a highly structured ritual and a new bull-calf was selected to take his place. Numerous elaborate burial sites containing the Apis bulls have been discovered in Egypt. Both the Greeks and Romans adopted the cultic worship of Apis and it continued until about a.d. 400.
b. Deuteronomy 9:18: Lit the evil, when the word “evil” (or other such word) is used with the definite article (“the evil”) without any contextual explanation, it refers to the evil of seeking salvation by some other way than that which is offered by God.
c. Deuteronomy 9:19: Lit hot displeasure.