32:1–34:35 God’s continued mercy shown to the people of Israel in these chapters is striking indeed. Even after His mighty Exodus deliverance and miraculous provisions for them in the wilderness, they responded with complaints, recriminations, and the idolatrous worship of the golden calf (16:2, 3; 17:1–3; 32:1–6). We should note, however, that this section displays not only the treachery of Israel and the kindness of their God, but also the central role of Moses the mediator. Because the Lord was pleased with the mediator, He did not cast off the people and start anew to make a great nation out of Moses (32:10–14).
We should not conclude that Israel’s continuing in God’s favor was due solely to the merit of Moses as God’s mediator. Rather, the ground of Moses’ plea for mercy was his concern for God’s glory and his appeal to the gracious covenant promises God had made to the patriarchs (32:11–14). The crisis of Israel’s disloyalty, and the Lord’s threat to destroy them, is resolved in the faithfulness of God revealed through the successful appeal of the man Moses, who knew and reached the heart of God.