Monday, June 22, 2009

Explain This Verse

A reader of my blog e-mailed me the following: "If Calvinism is true, please explain this verse:"

"But the LORD said to Moses, "Whoever has sinned against me, I will blot out of my book."
-Exodus 32:33

I'm running full speed at Bible camp this week, and don't have much free time to interact. Perhaps some of the blog readers would like to respond. I did look up John Gill's comments on this passage, but wasn't fully satisfied with his answer.

John Gill on this passage:
"...not that anyone that is really in the book of life is ever blotted out, or that anyone predestinated or ordained to eternal life ever perish: but some persons may think themselves, and they may seem to be written in that book, or to be among the number of God's elect, but are not, and turn out obstinate impenitent sinners, and live and die in impenitence and unbelief; when it will appear that their names were never written in it, which, is the same thing as to be blotted."


  1. A couple of thoughts.

    First, God is spirit so I don't think that there is a literal book that He whites out when someone makes Him mad.

    Second, that passage seems perfectly compatible with Calvinism in that anyone who sins against God indeed is blotted out, i.e. all have sinned. The difference of course is in the substitutionary death of Christ who became sin for us.

    Say hi to the various Foote kids for me!

  2. First of all, of course, is context:

    "The next day Moses said to the people, “You have sinned a great sin. And now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” 31 So Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Alas, this people has sinned a great sin. They have made for themselves gods of gold. 32 But now, if you will forgive their sin—but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written.” 33 But the Lord said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me, I will blot out of my book. 34 But now go, lead the people to the place about which I have spoken to you; behold, my angel shall go before you. Nevertheless, in the day when I visit, I will visit their sin upon them.”
    Ex 32:30-34 (ESV)

    It sounds like your questioner has made the assumption that "the book" has to be "the book" of names destined for Heaven. Psalm 69:28 says, "Let them be blotted out of the book of the living;
    let them not be enrolled among the righteous."(ESV) Is there not a parallel here with Paul's statement in Romans 9:3, where he is, in essence, willing to be a substitutionary sacrifice for his fellow Jews?: "For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh." (ESV) Paul is not only willing to die, as Moses was, but was willing to give up his salvation for his Jewish brethren.

    The NET Bible Translator's notes and study notes state (and the translation itself): "The next day Moses said to the people,65 “You have committed a very serious sin,66 but now I will go up to the Lord – perhaps I can make atonement67 on behalf of your sin.”

    32:31 So Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Alas, this people has committed a very serious sin,68 and they have made for themselves gods of gold. 32:32 But now, if you will forgive their sin…,69 but if not, wipe me out70 from your book that you have written.”71 32:33 The Lord said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me – that person I will wipe out of my book. 32:34 So now go, lead the people to the place I have spoken to you about. See,72 my angel will go before you. But on the day that I punish, I will indeed punish them for their sin.”73

    70tn The word “wipe” is a figure of speech indicating “remove me” (meaning he wants to die). The translation “blot” is traditional, but not very satisfactory, since it does not convey complete removal.

    71sn The book that is referred to here should not be interpreted as the NT “book of life” which is portrayed (figuratively) as a register of all the names of the saints who are redeemed and will inherit eternal life. Here it refers to the names of those who are living and serving in this life, whose names, it was imagined, were on the roster in the heavenly courts as belonging to the chosen. Moses would rather die than live if these people are not forgiven (S. R. Driver, Exodus, 356).

    Also, cannot God do in time what He purposed in eternity past? Such as the God "repenting" or "changing His mind" passages? (Especially since Num. 23:19, 1 Sam 15:29 and Ezek. 24:14 are true) Isn't that the way all of history plays out?

  3. Who said that this was the book of life? Does anyone know any Amorites? They were 'blotted out' of the books of history.

    Also it is Moses who mentions blotting out, God simply responds in like manner.