1 The Lord said to Moses, “Go up#tn The two imperatives underscore the immediacy of the demand: “go, go up,” meaning “get going up” or “be on your way.” from here, you and the people whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, to the land I promised on oath#tn Or “the land which I swore.” to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’#tn Heb “seed.” 2 I will send an angel#sn This seems not to be the same as the Angel of the Presence introduced before. before you, and I will drive out the Canaanite, the Amorite, the Hittite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite.#sn See T. Ishida, “The Structure and Historical Implications of Lists of Pre-Israelite Nations,” Bib (1979): 461-90. 3 Go up#tn This verse seems to be a continuation of the command to “go up” since it begins with “to a land….” The intervening clauses are therefore parenthetical or relative. But the translation is made simpler by supplying the verb. to a land flowing with milk and honey. But#tn This is a strong adversative here, “but.” I will not go up among you, for you are a stiff-necked people, and I might destroy you#tn The clause is “lest I consume you.” It would go with the decision not to accompany them: “I will not go up with you…lest I consume (destroy) you in the way.” The verse is saying that because of the people’s bent to rebellion, Yahweh would not remain in their midst as he had formerly said he would do. Their lives would be at risk if he did. on the way.”
4 When the people heard this troubling word#tn Or “bad news” (NAB, NCV). they mourned;#sn The people would rather have risked divine discipline than to go without Yahweh in their midst. So they mourned, and they took off the ornaments. Such had been used in making the golden calf, and so because of their association with all of that they were to be removed as a sign of remorse. no one put on his ornaments. 5 For#tn The verse simply begins “And Yahweh said.” But it is clearly meant to be explanatory for the preceding action of the people. the Lord had said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites, ‘You are a stiff-necked people. If I went up among you for a moment,#tn The construction is formed with a simple imperfect in the first half and a perfect tense with vav (ו) in the second half. Heb “[in] one moment I will go up in your midst and I will destroy you.” The verse is certainly not intended to say that God was about to destroy them. That, plus the fact that he has announced he will not go in their midst, leads most commentators to take this as a conditional clause: “If I were to do such and such, then….” I might destroy you. Now take off your ornaments,#tn The Hebrew text also has “from on you.” that I may know#tn The form is the cohortative with a vav (ו) following the imperative; it therefore expresses the purpose or result: “strip off…that I may know.” The call to remove the ornaments must have been perceived as a call to show true repentance for what had happened. If they repented, then God would know how to deal with them. what I should do to you.’”#tn This last clause begins with the interrogative “what,” but it is used here as an indirect interrogative. It introduces a noun clause, the object of the verb “know.” 6 So the Israelites stripped off their ornaments by Mount Horeb.
The Presence of the Lord
7#sn This unit of the book could actually include all of chap. 33, starting with the point of the Lord’s withdrawal from the people. If that section is not part of the exposition, it would have to be explained as the background. The point is that sinfulness prevents the active presence of the Lord leading his people. But then the rest of chap. 33 forms the development. In vv. 7-11 there is the gracious provision: the Lord reveals through his faithful mediator. The Lord was leading his people, but now more remotely because of their sin. Then, in vv. 12-17 Moses intercedes for the people, and the intercession of the mediator guarantees the Lord’s presence. The point of all of this is that God wanted the people to come to know that if he was not with them they should not go. Finally, the presence of the Lord is verified to the mediator by a special revelation (18-23). The point of the whole chapter is that by his grace the Lord renews the promise of his presence by special revelation. Moses took#tn Heb “and Moses took.” the tent#sn A widespread contemporary view is that this section represents a source that thought the tent of meeting was already erected (see S. R. Driver, Exodus, 359). But the better view is that this is a temporary tent used for meeting the Lord. U. Cassuto explains this view very well (Exodus, 429-30), namely, that because the building of the tabernacle was now in doubt if the Lord was not going to be in their midst, another plan seemed necessary. Moses took this tent, his tent, and put some distance between the camp and it. Here he would use the tent as the place to meet God, calling it by the same name since it was a surrogate tent. Thus, the entire section was a temporary means of meeting God, until the current wrath was past. and pitched it outside the camp, at a good distance#tn The infinitive absolute is used here as an adverb (see GKC 341 §113.h). from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. Anyone#tn The clause begins with “and it was,” the perfect tense with the vav conjunction. The imperfect tenses in this section are customary, describing what used to happen (others describe the verbs as frequentative). See GKC 315 §107.e. seeking#tn The form is the Piel participle. The seeking here would indicate seeking an oracle from Yahweh or seeking to find a resolution for some difficulty (as in 2 Sam 21:1) or even perhaps coming with a sacrifice. B. Jacob notes that the tent was even here a place of prayer, for the benefit of the people (Exodus, 961). It is not known how long this location was used. the Lord would go out to the tent of meeting that was outside the camp.
8 And when Moses went out#tn The clause is introduced again with “and it was.” The perfect tense here with the vav (ו) is used to continue the sequence of actions that were done repeatedly in the past (see GKC 331-32 §112.e). The temporal clause is then formed with the infinitive construct of יָצָא (yatsa’), with “Moses” as the subjective genitive: “and it was according to the going out of Moses.” to the tent, all the people would get up#tn Or “rise up.” and stand at the entrance to their tents#tn The subject of this verb is specified with the individualizing use of “man”: “and all Israel would station themselves, each person (man) at the entrance to his tent.” and watch#tn The perfect tense with the vav (ו) continues the sequence of the customary imperfect. The people “would gaze” (after) Moses until he entered the tent. Moses until he entered the tent.#tn This is a temporal clause using an infinitive construct with a suffixed subject. 9 And#tn Heb “and it was when.” whenever Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent, and the Lord#tn Heb “and he”; the referent (the Lord) has been specified in the translation for clarity. would speak with Moses.#tn Both verbs, “stand” and “speak,” are perfect tenses with vav (ו) consecutive. 10 When all the people would see the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people, each one at the entrance of his own tent, would rise and worship.#tn All the main verbs in this verse are perfect tenses continuing the customary sequence (see GKC 337 §112.kk). The idea is that the people would get up (rise) when the cloud was there and then worship, meaning in part bow down. When the cloud was not there, there was access to seek God. 11 The Lord would speak to Moses face to face,#tn “Face to face” is circumstantial to the action of the verb, explaining how they spoke (see GKC 489-90 §156.c). The point of this note of friendly relationship with Moses is that Moses was “at home” in this tent speaking with God. Moses would derive courage from this when he interceded for the people (B. Jacob, Exodus, 966). the way a person speaks#tn The verb in this clause is a progressive imperfect. to a friend. Then Moses#tn Heb “he”; the referent (Moses) has been specified in the translation for clarity. would return to the camp, but his servant, Joshua son of Nun, a young man, did not leave the tent.#sn Moses did not live in the tent. But Joshua remained there most of the time to guard the tent, it seems, lest any of the people approach it out of curiosity.
12 Moses said to the Lord, “See, you have been saying to me, ‘Bring this people up,’#tn The Hiphil imperative is from the same verb that has been used before for bringing the people up from Egypt and leading them to Canaan. but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. But you said, ‘I know you by name,#tn That is, “chosen you.” and also you have found favor in my sight.’ 13 Now if I have found favor in your sight, show me#tn The prayer uses the Hiphil imperative of the verb “to know.” “Cause me to know” is “show me, reveal to me, teach or inform me.” Moses wanted to know more of God’s dealings with people, especially after all that has happened in the preceding chapter. your way, that I may know you,#tn The imperfect tense of the verb “to know” with the vav follows the imperative of this root, and so this indicates the purpose clause (final imperfect): “in order that I may know you.” S. R. Driver summarizes it this way: that I may understand what your nature and character is, and shape my petitions accordingly, so that I may find grace in your sight, and my future prayers may be answered (Exodus, 361). that I may continue to find#tn The purpose clause simply uses the imperfect, “that I may find.” But since he already has found favor in God’s eyes, he is clearly praying that it be so in the future as well as now. favor in your sight. And see#tn The verb “see” (an imperative) is a request for God to acknowledge Israel as his people by providing the divine leadership needed. So his main appeal will be for the people and not himself. To underscore this, he repeats “see” the way the section opened. that this nation is your people.”
14 And the Lord#tn Heb “and he said”; the referent (the Lord) has been specified in the translation for clarity. said, “My presence#sn Heb “my face.” This represents the presence of Yahweh going with the people (see 2 Sam 17:11 for an illustration). The “presence” probably refers to the angel of the presence or some similar manifestation of God’s leading and caring for his people. will go with you,#tn The phrase “with you” is not in the Hebrew text, but is implied. and I will give you rest.”#sn The expression certainly refers to the peace of mind and security of knowing that God was with them. But the expression came to mean “settle them in the land of promise” and give them rest and peace from their enemies. U. Cassuto (Exodus, 434) observes how in 32:10 God had told Moses, “Leave me alone” (“give me rest”), but now he promises to give them rest. The parallelism underscores the great transition through intercession.
15 And Moses#tn Heb “and he said”; the referent (Moses) has been specified in the translation for clarity. said to him, “If your presence does not go#tn The construction uses the active participle to stress the continual going of the presence: if there is not your face going. with us,#tn “with us” has been supplied. do not take us up from here.#tn Heb “from this.” 16 For how will it be known then that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not by your going with us, so that we will be distinguished, I and your people, from all the people who are on the face of the earth?”#sn See W. Brueggemann, “The Crisis and Promise of Presence in Israel,” HBT 1 (1979): 47-86; and N. M. Waldman, “God’s Ways – A Comparative Note,” JQR 70 (1979): 67-70.
17 The Lord said to Moses, “I will do this thing also that you have requested, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know#tn The verb in this place is a preterite with the vav (ו) consecutive, judging from the pointing. It then follows in sequence the verb “you have found favor,” meaning you stand in that favor, and so it means “I have known you” and still do (equal to the present perfect). The emphasis, however, is on the results of the action, and so “I know you.” you by name.”
18 And Moses#tn Heb “and he said”; the referent (Moses) has been specified in the translation for clarity. said, “Show me your glory.”#sn Moses now wanted to see the glory of Yahweh, more than what he had already seen and experienced. He wanted to see God in all his majesty. The LXX chose to translate this without a word for “glory” or “honor”; instead they used the pronoun seautou, “yourself” – show me the real You. God tells him that he cannot see it fully, but in part. It will be enough for Moses to disclose to him the reality of the divine presence as well as God’s moral nature. It would be impossible for Moses to comprehend all of the nature of God, for there is a boundary between God and man. But God would let him see his goodness, the sum of his nature, pass by in a flash. B. Jacob (Exodus, 972) says that the glory refers to God’s majesty, might, and glory, as manifested in nature, in his providence, his laws, and his judgments. He adds that this glory should and would be made visible to man – that was its purpose in the world.
19 And the Lord#tn Heb “and he said”; the referent (the Lord) has been specified in the translation for clarity. said, “I will make all my goodness#sn The word “goodness” refers to the divine appearance in summary fashion. pass before your face, and I will proclaim the Lord by name#tn The expression “make proclamation in the name of Yahweh” (here a perfect tense with vav [ו] consecutive for future) means to declare, reveal, or otherwise make proclamation of who Yahweh is. The “name of Yahweh” (rendered “the name of the Lord” throughout) refers to his divine attributes revealed to his people, either in word or deed. What will be focused on first will be his grace and compassion. before you; I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, I will show mercy to whom I will show mercy.”#sn God declares his mercy and grace in similar terms to his earlier self-revelation (“I am that I am”): “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious.” In other words, the grace and mercy of God are bound up in his own will. Obviously, in this passage the recipients of that favor are the penitent Israelites who were forgiven through Moses’ intercession. The two words are at the heart of God’s dealings with people. The first is חָנַן (khanan, “to be gracious, show favor”). It means to grant favor or grace to someone, grace meaning unmerited favor. All of God’s dealings are gracious, but especially in forgiving sins and granting salvation it is critical. Parallel to this is רָחַם (rakham), a word that means “show compassion, tender mercy.” It is a word that is related to the noun “womb,” the connection being in providing care and protection for that which is helpless and dependent – a motherly quality. In both of these constructions the verbs simply express what God will do, without explaining why. See further, J. R. Lundbom, “God’s Use of the Idem per idem to Terminate Debate,” HTR 71 (1978): 193-201; and J. Piper, “Prolegomena to Understanding Romans 9:14-15: An Interpretation of Exodus 33:19,” JETS 22 (1979): 203-16. 20 But he added, “You cannot see my face, for no one can#tn In view of the use of the verb “can, be able to” in the first clause, this imperfect tense is given a potential nuance. see me and live.”#tn Gesenius notes that sometimes a negative statement takes the place of a conditional clause; here it is equal to “if a man sees me he does not live” (GKC 498 §159.gg). The other passages that teach this are Gen 32:30; Deut 4:33, 5:24, 26; Judg 6:22, 13:22, and Isa 6:5. 21 The Lord said, “Here#tn The deictic particle is used here simply to call attention to a place of God’s knowing and choosing. is a place by me; you will station yourself#tn Heb “and you will,” or interpretively, “where you will.” on a rock. 22 When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and will cover#sn Note the use in Exod 40:3, “and you will screen the ark with the curtain.” The glory is covered, veiled from being seen. you with my hand#tn The circumstantial clause is simply, “my hand [being] over you.” This protecting hand of Yahweh represents a fairly common theme in the Bible. while I pass by.#tn The construction has a preposition with an infinitive construct and a suffix: “while [or until] I pass by” (Heb “in the passing by of me”). 23 Then I will take away my hand, and you will see my back,#tn The plural “my backs” is according to Gesenius an extension plural (compare “face,” a dual in Hebrew). The word denotes a locality in general, but that is composed of numerous parts (see GKC 397 §124.b). W. C. Kaiser says that since God is a spirit, the meaning of this word could just as easily be rendered “after effects” of his presence (“Exodus,” EBC 2:484). As S. R. Driver says, though, while this may indicate just the “afterglow” that he leaves behind him, it was enough to suggest what the full brilliancy of his presence must be (Exodus, 363; see also Job 26:14). but my face must not be seen.”#tn The Niphal imperfect could simply be rendered “will not be seen,” but given the emphasis of the preceding verses, it is more binding than that, and so a negated obligatory imperfect fits better: “it must not be seen.” It would also be possible to render it with a potential imperfect tense: “it cannot be seen.”