Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible

Exodus 33

Verses 1-23


The Intercession of Moses (continued)

6. By the mount Horeb] RV 'from mount Horeb onward': this implies that they ceased wearing their ornaments. Their humiliation was lasting. Horeb] i.e. Sinai: see on Exodus 3:1.

7. Moses took the tabernacle] RV 'Moses used to take the tent,.. and he called it, The tent of meeting': see on Exodus 25:22. The tent here is most probably not the Tabernacle whose construction is prescribed in Exodus 25-31. The words describe the practice of Moses before its erection, the account of which follows in Exodus 35-40.

9. Descended] from the top of the mount. After the erection of the Tabernacle the cloud rested upon it: see Exodus 40:34-38.

10. Worshipped] bowed themselves to the ground.

11. Face to face] A peculiar privilege: cp. Exodus 19:9; Numbers 12:6-8; Deuteronomy 34:10. Exodus 33:23 shows that the expression 'face to face' is not to be pressed literally, but to be understood as distinct from a revelation by means of dreams or visions: see especially Numbers 12:6-8. Joshua] see on Exodus 17:9. The priests and Levites were not yet formally consecrated to the service of the sanctuary.

12-17. The promise of God to go with the people is renewed.

12. Thou hast not let me know] The whole of this passage from Exodus 33:7 may be independent of what goes before (cp. the expression 'used to take' in Exodus 33:7). Otherwise we must suppose that Moses has not clearly understood the meaning of the promise 'I will send an angel before thee' in Exodus 33:2. I know thee by name] see on Exodus 31:2.

13. Thy way] thy purpose. Thy people] see on Exodus 32:7, Exodus 32:11

14. My presence] lit. 'my face.' The expression is equivalent to 'myself in person': cp. e.g. 2 Samuel 17:11, where the words are literally 'and that thy face go into battle.' The 'angel of God's presence' (cp. Isaiah 63:9) is not the angel that stands in the presence of God but in whom the personal presence of God is manifested: see on Exodus 3:2. Will give thee rest] i.e. a peaceful settlement in Canaan: cp. Deuteronomy 3:20; Joshua 21:44; Joshua 23:1.

16. Separated] see on Joshua 19:4-6; Numbers 23:9.

18-23. A divine manifestation asked and promised.

18. Shew me thy glory] What Moses asks, not out of curiosity but as a confirmation of the promise in Exodus 33:14, is impossible. No man can look upon God's unveiled glory and live (Exodus 33:20 : see on Exodus 19:9; Exodus 24:9-11). Even the angels cannot do so (Isaiah 6:2).

19. My goodness] A revelation is vouchsafed, but it is one accommodated to human capacity. It is not further described, but probably consisted in the proclamation in the following chapter, Exodus 33:6, Exodus 33:7. This gracious veiling of the ineffable glory and the revelation of God in mercy are both fuifilled in the person of Christ: see John 1:14; 2 Corinthians 4:6.

23. My back parts] Not the full manifestation of the divine radiance, but its afterglow. The most that human faculties can comprehend of God even in their exalted moments is a faint reflection of His essential glory: cp. 1 Corinthians 13:12.

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Bibliographical Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Exodus 33". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcb/exodus-33.html. 1909.