ABC:Exodus 32

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Verse 14: Does God Change His Mind? (FFRF)[edit]

Dan Barker of FFRF claims there is a contradiction here and makes the following comments (italicized):[1]

Does God Change His Mind?
Malachi 3:6 For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.
Numbers 23:19 God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?
Ezekiel 24:14 I the LORD have spoken it: it shall come to pass, and I will do it; I will not go back, neither will I spare, neither will I repent; according to thy ways, and according to thy doings, shall they judge thee, saith the Lord GOD.
James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
Exodus 32:14 And the LORD repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people.
Genesis 6:6-7 ¶ And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.
Jonah 3:10 Jon 3:10 And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.
See Genesis 18:23-33, where Abraham gets God to change his mind about the minimum number of righteous people in Sodom required to avoid destruction, bargaining down from fifty to ten. (An omniscient God must have known that he was playing with Abraham's hopes for mercy--he destroyed the city anyway.)

Clearly God by saying "I change not" is referring to His covenants with Abraham, Jacob, and David to preserve a lineage as His chosen people. God does not change His covenants and promises, and this is repeated throughout the Bible. Nonetheless, God can be seen numerous times to change His mind or regret His decisions. (e.g. Ge. 6:6; 1 Sam. 15:11,35; Jon. 3:10) While God does not regret doing wrong (since God does not sin or do wrong), He can be seen to regret justifiable punishments enacted on evil human beings.

Some of the confusion may be caused the archaic usage by the KJV of the word "repent" which is used to mean God simply being sorrowful, even for executing just punishments, and usage of the word "evil" which is used simply to mean a harsh punishment. See for example its usage in Jeremiah 18:8-13 where God says He will "repent of the evil" He does in punishing evil nations as long as they turn from their evil, and that if they do evil then He will "repent of the good."

Verse 27, Should We Kill?[edit]

Dan Barker of FFRF claims there is a contradiction here and makes the following comments (italicized):[1]

Should We Kill?

Exodus 20:13 Thou shalt not kill.

Leviticus 24:17 And he that killeth any man shall surely be put to death.


Exodus 32:27 And he said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour.

1 Samuel 6:19 ¶ And he smote the men of Bethshemesh, because they had looked into the ark of the LORD, even he smote of the people fifty thousand and threescore and ten men: and the people lamented, because the LORD had smitten many of the people with a great slaughter.

1 Samuel 15:2-8 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way when he came up from Egypt. Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass. And Saul gathered the people together and numbered them in Telaim, two hundred thousand footmen, and ten thousand men of Judah. And Saul came to a city of Amalek and laid wait in the valley. And Saul said unto the Kenites, Go, depart, get you down from among the Amalekites, lest I destroy you with them: for ye shewed kindness to all the children of Israel when they came up out of Egypt. So the Kenites departed from among the Amalekites. And Saul smote the Amalekites from Havilah until thou comest to Shur, that is over against Egypt. And he took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword.

Numbers 15:36 And all the congregation brought him without the camp, and stoned him with stones, and he died; as the LORD commanded Moses.

Hosea 13:16 Samaria shall become desolate; for she hath rebelled against her God: they shall fall by the sword: their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up.

For a discussion of the defense that the Commandments prohibit only murder, see "Murder, He Wrote", chapter 27 (Losing Faith In Faith: From Preacher To Atheist).

The Hebrew word translated "kill" in Exodus 20:13, ratsach, is translated as "murder" or "murderer" 17 out of the 47 times it is used in the Old Testament by the KJV. It is also translated "slayer," "slain," or "slayeth" 21 times, and twice it is translated as manslayer. Only 5 times is it translated as "kill."[2] The confusion is in large part caused by the KJV not translating the same Hebrew words identically throughout the New Testament, and the word ratsach, had it been correctly translated into English as murder, would have removed any confusion.

God allows killing to stop, punish, or deter evil in cases of war or judicial punishment. See e.g. the commandment of "eye for an eye." However, harming others without provocation or even out of vengeance is prohibited; for God has always commanded that "vengeance is mine, I will repay." (Leviticus 19:18) The cases mentioned above do not violate the Biblical prohibition against murder; and were all judicial punishments ordained by God. In Exodus 32:7 the Israelites were sacrificing their own children alive to a golden calf to honor Baal and Molech while committing sexual perversions, so God ordered those responsible destroyed to prevent the spread of wickedly immoral practices.

In 1 Samuel 15:2-8 God ordered the destruction of a wicked group of people that had attacked the Israelites, murdering Israel's feeble rather than fighting Israel's warriors, presumably women, children, and the elderly. (cp. Deuteronomy 25:18) In the case of Hosea 13:16 the sins of Israel included idolatry involving child sacrifice (Ezekiel 16:20), for which they were punished horribly as a nation by God allowing their enemies to destroy them. The cases of 1 Samuel 6:19 and Numbers 15:36 were similarly judicial punishments commanded by God for disobedience, specifically working on the Sabbath and looking into the Ark of the Covenant, which represented God's Holy of Holies. At any rate, none of the cases could be considered murder as they clearly involved God-directed punishments through God's governance/government, not willful decisions by individuals to harm others without provocation or take vengeance into their own hands.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Barker, D. (2019). "Bible Contradictions." FFRF.
  2. Brown, Driver, Briggs, and Gesenius (2019). "Ratsach." BibleStudyTools.