The New Tablets of the Covenant
1#sn The restoration of the faltering community continues in this chapter. First, Moses is instructed to make new tablets and take them to the mountain (1-4). Then, through the promised theophany God proclaims his moral character (5-8). Moses responds with the reiteration of the intercession (8), and God responds with the renewal of the covenant (10-28). To put these into expository form, as principles, the chapter would run as follows: I. God provides for spiritual renewal (1-4), II. God reminds people of his moral standard (5-9), III. God renews his covenant promises and stipulations (10-28). The Lord said to Moses, “Cut out#tn The imperative is followed by the preposition with a suffix expressing the ethical dative; it strengthens the instruction for Moses. Interestingly, the verb “cut out, chisel, hew,” is the same verb from which the word for a “graven image” is derived – פָּסַל (pasal). two tablets of stone like the first, and I will write#tn The perfect tense with vav consecutive makes the value of this verb equal to an imperfect tense, probably a simple future here. sn Nothing is said of how God was going to write on these stone tablets at this point, but in the end it is Moses who wrote the words. This is not considered a contradiction, since God is often credited with things he has people do in his place. There is great symbolism in this command – if ever a command said far more than it actually said, this is it. The instruction means that the covenant had been renewed, or was going to be renewed, and that the sanctuary with the tablets in the ark at its center would be built (see Deut 10:1). The first time Moses went up he was empty-handed; when he came down he smashed the tablets because of the Israelites’ sin. Now the people would see him go up with empty tablets and be uncertain whether he would come back with the tablets inscribed again (B. Jacob, Exodus, 977-78). on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets, which you smashed. 2 Be prepared#tn The form is a Niphal participle that means “be prepared, be ready.” This probably means that Moses was to do in preparation what the congregation had to do back in Exod 19:11-15. in the morning, and go up in the morning to Mount Sinai, and station yourself#sn The same word is used in Exod 33:21. It is as if Moses was to be at his post when Yahweh wanted to communicate to him. for me there on the top of the mountain. 3 No one is to come up with you; do not let anyone be seen anywhere on the mountain; not even the flocks or the herds may graze in front of that mountain.” 4 So Moses#tn Heb “he”; the referent has been specified here and the name “Moses,” which occurs later in this verse, has been replaced with the pronoun (“he”), both for stylistic reasons. cut out two tablets of stone like the first;#sn Deuteronomy says that Moses was also to make an ark of acacia wood before the tablets, apparently to put the tablets in until the sanctuary was built. But this ark may not have been the ark built later; or, it might be the wood box, but Bezalel still had to do all the golden work with it. early in the morning he went up#tn The line reads “and Moses got up early in the morning and went up.” These verbs likely form a verbal hendiadys, the first one with its prepositional phrase serving in an adverbial sense. to Mount Sinai, just as the Lord had commanded him, and he took in his hand the two tablets of stone.
5 The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there and proclaimed the Lord by name.#tn Some commentaries wish to make Moses the subject of the second and the third verbs, the first because he was told to stand there and this verb suggests he did it, and the last because it sounds like he was worshiping Yahweh (cf. NASB). But it is clear from v. 6 that Yahweh was the subject of the last clause of v. 5 – v. 6 tells how he did it. So if Yahweh is the subject of the first and last clauses of v. 5, it seems simpler that he also be the subject of the second. Moses took his stand there, but God stood by him (B. Jacob, Exodus, 981; U. Cassuto, Exodus, 439). There is no reason to make Moses the subject in any of the verbs of v. 5. 6 The Lord passed by before him and proclaimed:#tn Here is one of the clearest examples of what it means “to call on the name of the Lord,” as that clause has been translated traditionally (וַיִּקְרָא בְשֵׁם יְהוָה, vayyiqra’ vÿshem yÿhvah). It seems more likely that it means “to make proclamation of Yahweh by name.” Yahweh came down and made a proclamation – and the next verses give the content of what he said. This cannot be prayer or praise; it is a proclamation of the nature or attributes of God (which is what his “name” means throughout the Bible). Attempts to make Moses the subject of the verb are awkward, for the verb is repeated in v. 6 with Yahweh clearly doing the proclaiming. “The Lord, the Lord,#sn U. Cassuto (Exodus, 439) suggests that these two names be written as a sentence: “Yahweh, He is Yahweh.” In this manner it reflects “I am that I am.” It is impossible to define his name in any other way than to make this affirmation and then show what it means. the compassionate and gracious#tn See Exod 33:19. God, slow to anger,#sn This is literally “long of anger.” His anger prolongs itself, allowing for people to repent before punishment is inflicted. and abounding in loyal love and faithfulness,#sn These two words (“loyal love” and “truth”) are often found together, occasionally in a hendiadys construction. If that is the interpretation here, then it means “faithful covenant love.” Even if they are left separate, they are dual elements of a single quality. The first word is God’s faithful covenant love; the second word is God’s reliability and faithfulness. 7 keeping loyal love for thousands,#tn That is, “for thousands of generations.” forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin. But he by no means leaves the guilty unpunished, responding to the transgression#sn As in the ten commandments (20:5-6), this expression shows that the iniquity and its punishment will continue in the family if left unchecked. This does not go on as long as the outcomes for good (thousands versus third or fourth generations), and it is limited to those who hate God. of fathers by dealing with children and children’s children, to the third and fourth generation.”
8 Moses quickly bowed#tn The first two verbs form a hendiadys: “he hurried…he bowed,” meaning “he quickly bowed down.” to the ground and worshiped 9 and said, “If now I have found favor in your sight, O Lord, let my Lord#tn The Hebrew term translated “Lord” two times here is אֲדֹנָי (’adonay). go among us, for we#tn Heb “it is.” Hebrew uses the third person masculine singular pronoun here in agreement with the noun “people.” are a stiff-necked people; pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for your inheritance.”
10 He said, “See, I am going to make#tn Here again is a use of the futur instans participle; the deictic particle plus the pronoun precedes the participle, showing what is about to happen. a covenant before all your people. I will do wonders such as have not been done#tn The verb here is בָּרָא (bara’, “to create”). The choice of this verb is to stress that these wonders would be supernaturally performed, for the verb is used only with God as the subject. in all the earth, nor in any nation. All the people among whom you live will see the work of the Lord, for it is a fearful thing that I am doing with you.#sn The idea is that God will be doing awesome things in dealing with them, i.e., to fulfill his program.
11 “Obey#tn The covenant duties begin with this command to “keep well” what is being commanded. The Hebrew expression is “keep for you”; the preposition and the suffix form the ethical dative, adding strength to the imperative. what I am commanding you this day. I am going to drive out#tn Again, this is the futur instans use of the participle. before you the Amorite, the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite. 12 Be careful not to make#tn The exact expression is “take heed to yourself lest you make.” It is the second use of this verb in the duties, now in the Niphal stem. To take heed to yourself means to watch yourself, be sure not to do something. Here, if they failed to do this, they would end up making entangling treaties. a covenant with the inhabitants of the land where you are going, lest it become a snare#sn A snare would be a trap, an allurement to ruin. See Exod 23:33. among you. 13 Rather you must destroy their altars, smash their images, and cut down their Asherah poles.#tn Or “images of Asherah”; ASV, NASB “their Asherim”; NCV “their Asherah idols.”sn Asherah was a leading deity of the Canaanite pantheon, wife/sister of El and goddess of fertility. She was commonly worshiped at shrines in or near groves of evergreen trees, or, failing that, at places marked by wooden poles. These were to be burned or cut down (Deut 12:3; 16:21; Judg 6:25, 28, 30; 2 Kgs 18:4). 14 For you must not worship#tn Heb “bow down.” any other god,#sn In Exod 20:3 it was “gods.” for the Lord, whose name#sn Here, too, the emphasis on God’s being a jealous God is repeated (see Exod 20:5). The use of “name” here is to stress that this is his nature, his character. is Jealous, is a jealous God. 15 Be careful#tn The sentence begins simply “lest you make a covenant”; it is undoubtedly a continuation of the imperative introduced earlier, and so that is supplied here. not to make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, for when#tn The verb is a perfect with a vav consecutive. In the literal form of the sentence, this clause tells what might happen if the people made a covenant with the inhabitants of the land: “Take heed…lest you make a covenant…and then they prostitute themselves…and sacrifice…and invite…and you eat.” The sequence lays out an entire scenario. they prostitute themselves#tn The verb זָנָה (zanah) means “to play the prostitute; to commit whoredom; to be a harlot” or something similar. It is used here and elsewhere in the Bible for departing from pure religion and engaging in pagan religion. The use of the word in this figurative sense is fitting, because the relationship between God and his people is pictured as a marriage, and to be unfaithful to it was a sin. This is also why God is described as a “jealous” or “impassioned” God. The figure may not be merely a metaphorical use, but perhaps a metonymy, since there actually was sexual immorality at the Canaanite altars and poles. to their gods and sacrifice to their gods, and someone invites you,#tn There is no subject for the verb. It could be rendered “and one invites you,” or it could be made a passive. you will eat from his sacrifice; 16 and you then take#tn In the construction this verb would follow as a possible outcome of the last event, and so remain in the verbal sequence. If the people participate in the festivals of the land, then they will intermarry, and that could lead to further involvement with idolatry. his daughters for your sons, and when his daughters prostitute themselves to their gods, they will make your sons prostitute themselves to their gods as well. 17 You must not make yourselves molten gods.
18 “You must keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread. For seven days#tn This is an adverbial accusative of time. you must eat bread made without yeast, as I commanded you; do this#tn The words “do this” have been supplied. at the appointed time of the month Abib, for in the month Abib you came out of Egypt.
19 “Every firstborn of the womb#tn Heb “everything that opens the womb.” belongs to me, even every firstborn#tn Here too: everything that “opens [the womb].” of your cattle that is a male,#tn The verb basically means “that drops a male.” The verb is feminine, referring to the cattle. whether ox or sheep. 20 Now the firstling#tn Heb “and the one that opens [the womb of] the donkey.” of a donkey you may redeem with a lamb, but if you do not redeem it, then break its neck.#sn See G. Brin, “The Firstling of Unclean Animals,” JQR 68 (1971): 1-15. You must redeem all the firstborn of your sons.
“No one will appear before me empty-handed.#tn The form is the adverb “empty.”
21 “On six days#tn This is an adverbial accusative of time. you may labor, but on the seventh day you must rest;#tn Or “cease” (i.e., from the labors). even at the time of plowing and of harvest#sn See M. Dahood, “Vocative lamed in Exodus 2,4 and Merismus in 34,21,” Bib 62 (1981): 413-15. you are to rest.#tn The imperfect tense expresses injunction or instruction.
22 “You must observe#tn The imperfect tense means “you will do”; it is followed by the preposition with a suffix to express the ethical dative to stress the subject. the Feast of Weeks – the firstfruits of the harvest of wheat – and the Feast of Ingathering at the end#tn The expression is “the turn of the year,” which is parallel to “the going out of the year,” and means the end of the agricultural season. of the year. 23 At three times#tn “Three times” is an adverbial accusative. in the year all your men#tn Heb “all your males.” must appear before the Lord God,#tn Here the divine name reads in Hebrew הָאָדֹן יְהוָה (ha’adon yÿhvah), which if rendered according to the traditional scheme of “Lord” for “Yahweh” would result in “Lord Lord.” A number of English versions therefore render this phrase “Lord God,” and that convention has been followed here.sn The title “Lord” is included here before the divine name (translated “God” here; see Exod 23:17), perhaps to form a contrast with Baal (which means “lord” as well) and to show the sovereignty of Yahweh. But the distinct designation “the God of Israel” is certainly the point of the renewed covenant relationship. the God of Israel. 24 For I will drive out#tn The verb is a Hiphil imperfect of יָרַשׁ (yarash), which means “to possess.” In the causative stem it can mean “dispossess” or “drive out.” the nations before you and enlarge your borders; no one will covet#sn The verb “covet” means more than desire; it means that some action will be taken to try to acquire the land that is being coveted. It is one thing to envy someone for their land; it is another to be consumed by the desire that stops at nothing to get it (it, not something like it). your land when you go up#tn The construction uses the infinitive construct with a preposition and a suffixed subject to form the temporal clause. to appear before the Lord your God three times#tn The expression “three times” is an adverbial accusative of time. in the year.
25 “You must not offer the blood of my sacrifice with yeast; the sacrifice from the feast of Passover must not remain until the following morning.#sn See M. Haran, “The Passover Sacrifice,” Studies in the Religion of Ancient Israel (VTSup), 86-116.
26 “The first of the firstfruits of your soil you must bring to the house of the Lord your God.
You must not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.”#sn See the note on this same command in 23:19.
27 The Lord said to Moses, “Write down#tn Once again the preposition with the suffix follows the imperative, adding some emphasis to the subject of the verb. these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” 28 So he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights;#tn These too are adverbial in relation to the main clause, telling how long Moses was with Yahweh on the mountain. he did not eat bread, and he did not drink water. He wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.#tn Heb “the ten words,” though “commandments” is traditional.
The Radiant Face of Moses
29#sn Now, at the culmination of the renewing of the covenant, comes the account of Moses’ shining face. It is important to read this in its context first, holding off on the connection to Paul’s discussion in 2 Corinthians. There is a delicate balance here in Exodus. On the one hand Moses’ shining face served to authenticate the message, but on the other hand Moses prevented the people from seeing more than they could handle. The subject matter in the OT, then, is how to authenticate the message. The section again can be subdivided into three points that develop the whole idea: I. The one who spends time with God reflects his glory (29-30). It will not always be as Moses; rather, the glory of the Lord is reflected differently today, but nonetheless reflected. II. The glory of Yahweh authenticates the message (31-32). III. The authentication of the message must be used cautiously with the weak and immature (33-35). Now when Moses came down#tn The temporal clause is composed of the temporal indicator (“and it happened”), followed by the temporal preposition, infinitive construct, and subjective genitive (“Moses”). from Mount Sinai with#tn The second clause begins with “and/now”; it is a circumstantial clause explaining that the tablets were in his hand. It repeats the temporal clause at the end. the two tablets of the testimony in his hand#tn Heb “in the hand of Moses.” – when he came down#tn The temporal clause parallels the first temporal clause; it uses the same infinitive construct, but now with a suffix referring to Moses. from the mountain, Moses#tn Heb “and Moses.” did not know that the skin of his face shone#tn The word קָרַן (qaran) is derived from the noun קֶרֶן (qeren) in the sense of a “ray of light” (see Hab 3:4). Something of the divine glory remained with Moses. The Greek translation of Aquila and the Latin Vulgate convey the idea that he had horns, the primary meaning of the word from which this word is derived. Some have tried to defend this, saying that the glory appeared like horns or that Moses covered his face with a mask adorned with horns. But in the text the subject of the verb is the skin of Moses’ face (see U. Cassuto, Exodus, 449). while he talked with him. 30 When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, the skin of his face shone;#tn This clause is introduced by the deictic particle הִנֵּה (hinneh); it has the force of pointing to something surprising or sudden. and they were afraid to approach him. 31 But Moses called to them, so Aaron and all the leaders of the community came back to him, and Moses spoke to them. 32 After this all the Israelites approached, and he commanded them all that the Lord had spoken to him on Mount Sinai. 33 When Moses finished#tn Heb “and Moses finished”; the clause is subordinated as a temporal clause to the next clause. speaking#tn The Piel infinitive construct is the object of the preposition; the whole phrase serves as the direct object of the verb “finished.” with them, he would#tn Throughout this section the actions of Moses and the people are frequentative. The text tells what happened regularly. put a veil on his face. 34 But when Moses went in#tn The construction uses a infinitive construct for the temporal clause; it is prefixed with the temporal preposition: “and in the going in of Moses.” before the Lord to speak with him, he would remove the veil until he came out.#tn The temporal clause begins with the temporal preposition “until,” followed by an infinitive construct with the suffixed subjective genitive. Then he would come out and tell the Israelites what he had been commanded.#tn The form is the Pual imperfect, but since the context demands a past tense here, in fact a past perfect tense, this is probably an old preterite form without a vav consecutive. 35 When the Israelites would see#tn Now the perfect tense with vav consecutive is subordinated to the next clause, “Moses returned the veil….” the face of Moses, that#tn Verbs of seeing often take two accusatives. Here, the second is the noun clause explaining what it was about the face that they saw. the skin of Moses’ face shone, Moses would put the veil on his face again, until he went in to speak with the Lord.#tn Heb “with him”; the referent (the Lord) has been specified in the translation for clarity.