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Bible: What Does Exodus 33-34 Teach Us About Moses, the Glory of God, and Covenant Renewal?

Updated on September 9, 2016

The Angel of Yahweh

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The Pillar of Cloud

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The Forbidden Vision


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Moses Talks to the LORD

God reiterates His command for Moses to lead Israel to the promised Land, but He also promises to send His Angel ahead to drive out its pagan inhabitants (vv. 1-2).

He, however, refuses to go up in their midst, because their stubbornness would cause Him to “consume” them (v. 3).

Having stripped themselves of jewelry at Yahweh’s command, the people mourn that He plans not to go with them (vv. 4-6).

Moses situates his personal tent far outside the camp, and calls it the “tabernacle of meeting”; this shelter cannot be the one specially constructed for Israel’s worship (v. 7).

When Moses goes to talk with the LORD there, the people look on (v. 8).

As the pillar of cloud descends and stands at the tabernacle door, they worship afar off by their tent door (vv. 9-10).

Moses’ description of the scene depicts the intimate relationship he enjoyed with Yahweh; as Israel’s future leader, Joshua also shares in this fellowship (v. 11).

Having found grace with Yahweh, Moses feels comfortable to express his ignorance of God’s plan/way, as well as his need to know Him better and find still more grace to lead His people (vv. 12-13).

In answer to His man’s question, “Who will go with me?” the LORD not only promises that His presence would be with Moses, but that He would give Moses rest (v. 14).

[The NIV editors’ additions in verses 14 and 15 seem to indicate their belief that Moses wished Yahweh to go up with the entire nation, not just with himself].

Moses expresses confusion about God’s intentions.

How will other peoples know that Yahweh has favored Israel unless He goes with them (v. 16)?

Again, the LORD assents to Moses’ wishes (v. 17).

[To a Western ear, it seems odd to hear Moses seemingly persuade God to do something that He is unwilling to do.

But such is the powerful role of intercession].

Now the prophet boldly asks God to show him His glory (v. 18).

[Why? What brought on this desire to see the LORD?]

God seems to equate His goodness and His gracious, compassionate “Name” with His glory (v. 19).

To prevent and protect Moses from seeing His Face—His consuming Essence?—the LORD places him in the cleft of a large crag and covers him with His hand as His glory passes by (vv. 20-22; cf. Rev. 22:4).

Only after He passes by does He remove His hand so that Moses can see His back (v. 23).

Moses and the Tablets

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Exodus 34

The LORD now instructs Moses to cut out two more stone tablets to replace the ones he had broken, so that He could rewrite His commandments for the people (v. 1).

God requires complete privacy with Moses on the mount on the next morning (vv. 2-3).

The prophet does as Yahweh told him, and meets with Him the next day, enveloped in the Cloud (vv. 4-5).

There God proclaims His Name—the quality of His personal character—and Moses worships Him, near Eastern-style (vv. 6-8).

Believing himself to be “graced,” Moses asks God to pardon Israel, go with them, and take them as His inheritance (v. 9).

[Yahweh’s Name includes the attributes of mercy, grace, longsuffering, goodness, truth, and justice.

The LORD appears to emphasize His mercy and forgiveness].

The Jealousy of God


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The "Jealousy" of the LORD

In a long discourse Yahweh renews His covenant with Israel, laying down many stipulations (vv. 10-26).

First, He states that He is making a covenant with them, and promises to do great marvels (an “awesome thing”) with them (v. 10).

One such marvel happens to be His driving out the pagans from His Land (v. 11).

He warns Israel not to covenant with any nation in that Land (v. 12), but to destroy every piece of their cultic apparatus (v. 13).

Yahweh is “jealous”; that is to say, He wants His people all for Himself.

Therefore, He commands Israel not to covenant with them, lest they begin to “play the harlot” with their molded idols and intermarry with them (vv. 14-17).

[“Playing the harlot” is a figure of speech for spiritual unfaithfulness].

Yahweh reminds them of their obligation to keep the Feasts: Unleavened Bread (v. 18), Weeks (v. 22), First Fruits [of wheat harvest] (v. 22), and Ingathering (v. 22).

He specifies the correct procedure and timing of Unleavened Bread (v. 18), and then repeats the law of the consecration of the firstborn and the law of redemption (vv. 19-20; cf. Ex. 13:11-13; 23:15ff).

The LORD mentions the commandment regarding keeping the Sabbath (v. 21).

Only males appear before God for these latter three feasts, and the LORD will protect their land (vv. 23-24).

He finishes with three warnings and an exhortation:

(1) Do not offer blood with leaven (v. 25a);

(2) Do not leave Passover sacrifices overnight (v. 25b);

(3) Offer the first fruits of the Land at the house of God (v. 26a);

(4) Do not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk (v. 26b).

[Since this section is a covenant renewal, Yahweh reiterates His prior instructions, perhaps highlighting certain ones].

For forty days and forty nights (a familiar time period; cf. Gen. 7:4; Ex. 24:18), Moses fellowships with the LORD, and the LORD supernaturally sustains Moses’ body.

During this session both he (v. 27) and God (v. 28) write the Ten Words and the Book of the Covenant.

Unknown to Moses, who carries the two tablets, his face shines with God’s glory as he approaches the now frightened people (vv. 29-30).

Calling to Aaron and the rulers, he nonthelesss encourages them to come and talk; later, he delivers the commandments to the people (vv. 31-32).

When Moses speaks with them, he wears a veil over his face; but when speaking to God in the tent, he removes the veil (vv. 33-35; cf. 2 Cor. 3:7-18).

© 2013 glynch1

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