Exodus 33:3—Did God change His mind about going with the Israelites into the Land of Promise?

Problem: Here God declares “I will not go up in your midst.” Yet later God did go with them in a mighty and victorious way, leading them to victory under Joshua (see Josh. 1–11).

Solution: These passages speak of different times. The first addresses the first generation of rebellious Israelites, and the second speaks about the second generation who believed God and followed Joshua into the land. Not all of God’s threats (or promises) are unconditional. This one was conditional. God would go with them if and when they trusted Him (which the second generation did), but He would not go with them if and when they did not (which the first generation did). God’s irreversible purpose to bring them into the land allowed for some temporarily reversible conditions in attaining this end.

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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.