Adam Clarke Commentary
Moses is commanded to hew two tables similar to the first, and bring them up to the mount, to get the covenant renewed, Exodus 34:1-3. He prepares the tables and goes up to meet the Lord, Exodus 34:4. The Lord descends, and proclaims his name Jehovah, Exodus 34:5. What this name signifies, Exodus 34:6, Exodus 34:7. Moses worships and intercedes, Exodus 34:8, Exodus 34:9. The Lord promises to renew the covenant, work miracles among the people, and drive out the Canaanites, etc., Exodus 34:10, Exodus 34:11. No covenant to be made with the idolatrous nations, but their altars and images to be destroyed, Exodus 34:12-15. No matrimonial alliances to be contracted with them, Exodus 34:16. The Israelites must have no molten gods, Exodus 34:17. The commandment of the feast of unleavened bread, and of the sanctification of the first-born, renewed, Exodus 34:18-29; as also that of the Sabbath, and the three great annual feasts, Exodus 34:21-23. The promise that the surrounding nations shall not invade their territories, while all the males were at Jerusalem celebrating the annual feasts, Exodus 34:24. Directions concerning the passover, Exodus 34:25; and the first-fruits, Exodus 34:26. Moses is commanded to write all these words, as containing the covenant which God had now renewed with the Israelites, Exodus 34:27. Moses, being forty days with God without eating or drinking, writes the words of the covenant; and the Lord writes the ten commandments upon the tables of stone, Exodus 34:28. Moses descends with the tables; his face shines, Exodus 34:29. Aaron and the people are afraid to approach him, because of his glorious appearance, Exodus 34:30. Moses delivers to them the covenant and commandments of the Lord; and puts a veil over his face while he is speaking, Exodus 34:31-33, but takes it off when he goes to minister before the Lord, Exodus 34:34, Exodus 34:35.
Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first - In Exodus 32:16 we are told that the two first tables were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God; but here Moses is commanded to provide tables of his own workmanship, and God promises to write on them the words which were on the first. That God wrote the first tables himself, see proved by different passages of Scripture at the end of Exodus 32 (Exodus 32:35 (note)). But here, in Exodus 34:27, it seems as if Moses was commanded to write these words, and in Exodus 34:28 it is said, And he wrote upon the tables; but in Deuteronomy 10:1-4 it is expressly said that God wrote the second tables as well as the first.
And the Lord passed by - and proclaimed, The Lord, etc. - It would be much better to read this verse thus: “And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed Jehovah,” that is, showed Moses fully what was implied in this august name. Moses had requested God to show him his glory, (see the preceding chapter, Exodus 33:18 (note)), and God promised to proclaim or fully declare the name Jehovah, (Exodus 33:19); by which proclamation or interpretation Moses should see how God would “be gracious to whom he would be gracious,” and how he would “be merciful to those to whom he would show mercy. Here therefore God fulfils that promise by proclaiming this name. It has long been a question, what is the meaning of the word יהוה (Jehovah), Yehovah, Yehue, Yehveh, or Yeve, Jeue, Jao, Iao, Jhueh, and Jove; for it has been as variously pronounced as it has been differently interpreted. Some have maintained that it is utterly inexplicable; these of course have offered no mode of interpretation. Others say that it implies the essence of the Divine nature. Others, that it expresses the doctrine of the Trinity connected with the incarnation; the letter י (yod) standing for the Father, ה (he) for the Son, and ו (vau) (the connecting particle) for the Holy Spirit: and they add that the ה (he) being repeated in the word, signifies the human nature united to the Divine in the incarnation. These speculations are calculated to give very little satisfaction. How strange is it that none of these learned men have discovered that God himself interprets this name in Exodus 34:6,! “And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed יהוה (Yehovah) the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty.” These words contain the proper interpretation of the venerable and glorious name Jehovah. But it will be necessary to consider them in detail.
2.אל (EL), the strong or mighty God.
11.פקד עון (Poked avon), etc.; he who visits iniquity, who punishes transgressors, and from whose justice no sinner can escape. The God of retributive and vindictive justice.
These eleven attributes, as they have been termed, are all included in the name Jehovah, and are, as we have before seen, the proper interpretation of it; but the meaning of several of these words has been variously understood.
That will by no means clear the guilty - This last clause is rather difficult; literally translated it signifies, in clearing he will not clear. But the Samaritan, reading לו (lo), to him, instead of the negative לא (lo), not, renders the clause thus: With whom the innocent shall be innocent; i.e., an innocent or holy person shall never be treated as if he were a transgressor, by this just and holy God. The Arabic version has it, He justifies and is not justified; and the Septuagint is nearly as our English text, και ου καθαριει τον ενοχον , and he doth not purify the guilty. The Alexandrian copy of the Septuagint, edited by Dr. Grabe, has και τον ενοχον καθαρισμῳ ου καθαριει , and the guilty he will not cleanse with a purification-offering. The Coptic is to the same purpose. The Vulgate is a paraphrase: nullusque apud te per se innocens est, “and no person is innocent by or of himself before thee.” This gives a sound theological sense, stating a great truth, That no man can make an atonement for his own sins, or purify his own heart; and that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.
O Lord, let my Lord, I pray thee, go among us - The original is not יהוה (Jehovah), but אדני (Adonai) in both these places, and seems to refer particularly to the Angel of the Covenant, the Messiah. See Clarke‘s note on Genesis 15:8.
I will do marvels - This seems to refer to what God did in putting them in possession of the land of Canaan, causing the walls of Jericho to fall down; making the sun and moon to stand still, etc. And thus God made his covenant with them; binding himself to put them in possession of the promised land, and binding them to observe the precepts laid down in the following verses, from Exodus 34:11-26 inclusive.
Ye shall destroy their images - See the subjects of this and all the following verses, to Exodus 34:28, treated at large in the notes on Exodus 23 (note).
In earing time and in harvest thou shalt rest - This commandment is worthy of especial note; many break the Sabbath on the pretense of absolute necessity, because, if in harvest time the weather happens to be what is called bad, and the Sabbath day be fair and fine, they judge it perfectly lawful to employ that day in endeavoring to save the fruits of the field, and think that the goodness of the day beyond the preceding, is an indication from Providence that it should be thus employed. But is not the above command pointed directly against this? I have known this law often broken on this pretense, and have never been able to discover a single instance where the persons who acted thus succeeded one whit better than their more conscientious neighbors, who availed themselves of no such favorable circumstances, being determined to keep God‘s law, even to the prejudice of their secular interests; but no man ever yet ultimately suffered loss by a conscientious attachment to his duty to God. He who is willing and obedient, shall eat the good of the land; but God will ever distinguish those in his providence who respect his commandments.
Neither shall any man desire thy land - What a manifest proof was this of the power and particular providence of God! How easy would it have been for the surrounding nations to have taken possession of the whole Israelitish land, with all their fenced cities, when there were none left to protect them but women and children! Was not this a standing proof of the Divine origin of their religion, and a barrier which no deistical mind could possibly surmount! Thrice every year did God work an especial miracle for the protection of his people; controlling even the very desires of their enemies, that they might not so much as meditate evil against them. They who have God for their protector have a sure refuge; and how true is the proverb, The path of duty is the way of safety! While these people went up to Jerusalem to keep the Lord‘s ordinances, he kept their families in peace, and their land in safety.
The blood of my sacrifice - That is, the paschal lamb. See Clarke on Exodus 23:18 (note).
Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother‘s milk - See this amply considered Exodus 23:19 (note).
Write thou these words - Either a transcript of the whole law now delivered, or the words included from Exodus 34:11 to Exodus 34:26. God certainly wrote the ten words on both sets of tables. Moses either wrote a transcript of these and the accompanying precepts for the use of the people, or he wrote the precepts themselves in addition to the ten commandments which were written by the finger of God. See Clarke on Exodus 34:1 (note). Allowing this mode of interpretation, the accompanying precepts were, probably, what was written on the back side of the tables by Moses; the ten commandments, what were written on the front by the finger of Jehovah: for we must pay but little attention to the supposition of the rabbins, that the letters on each table were cut through the stone, so as to be legible on each side. See Clarke on Exodus 32:15 (note).
Forty days and forty nights - See Clarke‘s note on Exodus 24:18.
The skin of his face shone - קרן (karan), was horned: having been long in familiar intercourse with his Maker, his flesh, as well as his soul, was penetrated with the effulgence of the Divine glory, and his looks expressed the light and life which dwelt within. Probably Moses appeared now as he did when, in our Lord‘s transfiguration, he was seen with Elijah on the mount, Matthew 17. As the original word קרן (karan) signifies to shine out, to dart forth, as horns on the head of an animal, or rays of light reflected from a polished surface, we may suppose that the heavenly glory which filled the soul of this holy man darted out from his face in coruscations, in that manner in which light is generally represented. The Vulgate renders the passage, et ignorabat quod cornuta esset facies sua, “and he did not know that his face was horned;” which version, misunderstood, has induced painters in general to represent Moses with two very large horns, one proceeding from each temple. But we might naturally ask, while they were indulging themselves in such fancies, why only two horns? for it is very likely that there were hundreds of these radiations, proceeding at once from the face of Moses. It was no doubt from this very circumstance that almost all the nations of the world who have heard of this transaction, have agreed in representing those men to whom they attributed extraordinary sanctity, and whom they supposed to have had familiar intercourse with the Deity, with a lucid nimbus or glory round their heads. This has prevailed both in the east and in the west; not only the Greek and Roman saints, or eminent persons, are thus represented, but those also among the Mohammedans, Hindoos, and Chinese.
They were afraid to come nigh him - A sight of his face alarmed them; their consciences were still guilty from their late transgression, and they had not yet received the atonement. The very appearance of superior sanctity often awes the guilty into respect.
And till Moses had done speaking - The meaning of the verse appears to be this: As often as Moses spoke in public to the people, he put the veil on his face, because they could not bear to look on the brightness of his countenance; but when he entered into the tabernacle to converse with the Lord, he removed this veil, Exodus 34:34. St. Paul, 2 Corinthians 3:7, etc., makes a very important use of the transactions recorded in this place. He represents the brightness of the face of Moses as emblematical of the glory or excellence of that dispensation; but he shows that however glorious or excellent that was, it had no glory when compared with the superior excellence of the Gospel. As Moses was glorious in the eyes of the Israelites, but that glory was absorbed and lost in the splendor of God when he entered into the tabernacle, or went to meet the Lord upon the mount; so the brightness and excellence of the Mosaic dispensation are eclipsed and absorbed in the transcendent brightness or excellence of the Gospel of Christ. One was the shadow, the other is the substance. One showed Sin in its exceeding sinfulness, together with the justice and immaculate purity of God; but, in and of itself, made no provision for pardon or sanctification. The other exhibits Jesus, the Lamb of God, typified by all the sacrifices under the law, putting away sin by the sacrifice of himself, reconciling God to man and man to God, diffusing his Spirit through the souls of believers, and cleansing the very thoughts of their hearts by his inspiration, and causing them to perfect holiness in the fear of God. The one seems to shut heaven against mankind, because by the law was the knowledge, not the cure, of Sin; the other opens the kingdom of heaven to all believers. The former was a ministration of death, the latter a dispensation of life. The former ministered terror, so that even the high priest was afraid to approach, the people withdrew and stood afar off, and even Moses, the mediator of it, exceedingly feared and trembled; by the latter we have boldness to enter into the holiest through the blood of Jesus, who is the end of the law for righteousness - justification, to every one that believeth. The former gives a partial view of the Divine nature; the latter shows God as he is,
The apostle farther considers the veil on the face of Moses, as being emblematical of the metaphorical nature of the different rites and ceremonies of the Mosaic dispensation, each covering some spiritual meaning or a spiritual subject; and that the Jews did not lift the veil to penetrate the spiritual sense, and did not look to the end of the commandment, which was to be abolished, but rested in the letter or literal meaning, which conferred neither light nor life.
Visit Our Sponsors
Search This Commentary