Read the Passage: Exodus 34
Tablets Remade (Exod. 34:1–9)
After Israel’s rebellion, apostasy, and consequent judgment by God (cf. Exod. 32:1–35), the Lord commanded Israel to proceed to the Promised Land. Yet, God stated, “I will not go up in your midst, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people” (Exod. 33:3). Understandably, this declaration caused the people to mourn (cf. Exod. 33:4–6) and prompted Moses to intercede for the nation (cf. Exod. 33:7–17). This resulted in God saying, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest. . . for you have found grace in My sight, and I know you by name” (Exod. 33:14, 17). Furthermore, Moses requested of God, “Please show me Your glory” (Exod. 33:18). Since Moses had already spoken to God face-to-face, this request is best understood as Moses’ desire to see the fullness of God’s nature, perhaps even including Christ (cf. Matt. 13:17).
After Moses’ first 40-day period on Mount Sinai, which was presumably cut short by the people’s apostasy, Moses had thrown and shattered the copy of the Decalogue that God had written (cf. Exod. 32:19). This act was an object lesson that depicted Israel’s breaking of the law in their worship of the golden calf. After promising His presence to Moses at Exod. 33:19, God directed Moses to cut two more stone tablets and to ascend Mt. Sinai again. This trek would once again be 40-days in duration (cf. Exod. 34:28). While God’s wrath over sin had been on display, as Moses ascended Mount Sinai God reminded him that He is “merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgressions and sin, [but] by no means clearing the guilty” (Exod. 34:6–7). Indeed, by nature God is as loving as He is just.
Covenant Renewed (Exod. 34:10–28)
In Exod. 34:10–28 God renewed His covenant with Israel and, at Exod. 34:28, re-issued the Ten Commandments. In this passage God reiterated the importance of driving the pagan nations from the land (cf. Exod. 34:11–16). These verses, as well as their reiteration at Deut. 7:1–4; 20:16–18, are important, for they give the rationale for the Canaanite genocide that would unfold when Israel entered Canaan. In the rest of this passage, God re-states the first commandment of the Decalogue (cf. Exod. 34:17), cites the importance of Jewish holidays and sacrifices (cf. Exod. 34:18, 22–25), reminds Israel that the firstborn, as well as that the first-fruits, belong to God (cf. Exod. 34:19–20, 26), and discusses the fourth commandment (cf. Exod. 34:21). These issues are a sample of the obligations explained in the Pentateuch that flow from Israel’s relationship with God.
Moses Revived (Exod. 34:29–35)
Exod. 34:29–35 is an interesting passage in which we learn that after spending over a month in God’s presence, miraculously not eating or drinking (cf. Exod. 34:28), the skin on Moses’ face shone (cf. Exod. 34:29). It seems best to understand this shining or glowing phenomenon, of which Moses was initially unaware, to be the radiance of God’s glory reflecting off Moses’ face. Note the similar description in the Gospels of Jesus’ appearance during his transfiguration, ironically when Moses was present, as Matt. 17:2 records that Jesus “was transfigured before them [and] His face shone like the sun.” Just as Peter, James, and John were afraid at Jesus’ transfiguration (cf. Matt. 17:6; Mark 9:6), so the people of Israel were afraid of Moses’ transformation after being on Mt. Sinai. Consequently, whenever he would speak to the people, Moses would wear a veil over his face after meeting with God.
In 2 Cor. 3:7–18 Paul refers to Exod. 34:29–35. Here Paul discusses the convictional use of the law as he writes that “the children of Israel could not look at the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance” (2 Cor. 3:7). In other words, the conviction that came from God’s law was too much to bear, and this conviction can lead to a hardening of heart. Paul explains, “Moses . . . put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts” (2 Cor. 3:13–15). Paul writes, however, that “when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away” (2 Cor. 3:16). This allows for one to have liberty and freedom, as well as to glory in the content of the law (cf. 2 Cor. 3:17–18).
- After you sin against someone and repent, perhaps having been caught in your sin, do find it awkward to resume your relationship? Is this true of your walk with God?
- If Moses had already seen God face-to-face (cf. Exod. 33:11), why did he request to see God’s glory in this passage?
- Why did God remind Moses of His mercy and love as Moses ascended Sinai? Why can God not just ignore or overlook our sins (cf. 2 Cor. 5:21)?
- Why did God claim ownership of the firstborn of all creatures, as well as the first-fruits of the harvest, even requiring Israel to redeem the firstborn?
- Why did Moses’ face shine after being in God’s presence? Why had Moses’ face not shone earlier? What was it about Moses’ shining face that caused fear?