Exodus 34:6-7 is the first description of God’s attributes found in the Bible, and it’s also the most referenced passage in the Bible. Here we learn that all of God’s actions are an expression of these attributes: compassion, grace, patience, loyal love, and faithfulness. This list of God’s character traits has been carefully designed to help us see the meaning and importance of each trait in relation to the others.
How does God’s mercy relate to his passion for justice? Sometimes God brings severe consequences in response to human evil. But how does God’s mercy and love balance with his anger at destructive human behavior? These are crucial questions that the biblical authors love to explore in narrative, poetry, and in the literary design of this Exodus passage.
The passage tells us that God’s core character traits are rooted in generous mercy and loyal love, which means that God’s anger is not a primary attribute. It’s a divine reaction to selfish and destructive human decisions, and it’s rooted in God’s love. Just like you would get angry if you saw a beautiful work of art being vandalized, so God’s anger is a response to evil done to or by his human images. God would not be good if he didn’t get angry at evil.
God’s anger and judgment is a really important theme in the Bible, but it’s not the whole story. God’s core character is one of generous love that created the world, and he plans to rescue and restore his creation from human evil. Exodus 34:6-7 invites us into a lifetime of pondering the depths and mysteries of the character of God.