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Bible Commentaries
Exodus 34

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-3


Verses 1-3:

Moses’ intercession secured pardon for Israel. God accepted their repentance and prayers (Ex 33:7) as a renewal of the covenant on their part. He than renewed the covenant on His part. He first restored the tables of the Law, by summoning Moses once more to the peak of Sinai.

God instructed Moses to hew two tables (tablets) of stone similar to the first two, which he had broken. The language implies these were two separate stones.

This illustrates that something is always lost by sin, even though it may be forgiven. The new tablets lost some of the glory of the first in that Moses shaped the latter, while God Himself shaped the first (Ex 32:16).

Jehovah wrote upon the new tablets "the words" which appeared on the first. They included the "Ten Commandments" (verse 28; De 10:4), but were likely not limited to these.

On the first occasion, Joshua was allowed to accompany Moses part of the way up Sinai. This time no one, not even Joshua, could go with him. This manifestation of God’s Presence was to be to Moses alone.

Compare the orders concerning animals "before the mount" with those given earlier, Ex 19:12, 13.

Verses 4-9

Verses 4-9:

Moses followed Jehovah’s instructions to the letter. He hewed (or caused to be hewed) the two tablets of stone, arose early, ascended Sinai, and met Jehovah at the appointed place. He took the tablets with him.

The pillar of cloud withdrew from Moses’ tent, and met him on the mountain, symbolic of Jehovah’s Presence.

"The Lord passed by him," see Ex 33:18-23.

In this Presence, Jehovah proclaimed not merely His Name as at the burning bush (Ex 3;13, 14); He described His attributes and character, compare Ex 20:5, 6. Seven attributes which are almost synonymous are listed:

1. Merciful (full of pity).

2. Gracious.

3. Long-suffering.

4. Abundant in goodness.

5. Keeping mercy for thousands.

6. Forgiving iniquity, transgression, sin.

7. Unerring justice, not ignoring the impenitent guilty.

Moses fell to the ground in awe before the Presence of Jehovah. At this point he became aware of Divine mercy for himself. He then asked for pardon for Israel’s sin and transgression, and a renewal of the promise that they were indeed His chosen people.

God’s mercy and grace are evident even in His righteous Law. Though the penalty of the broken Law was severe, and by the Law comes the knowledge of sin (Ro 3:20), God’s grace provides a means of satisfying the broken Law in the vicarious substitute of the innocent for the guilty.

Verses 10-17

Verses 10-17:

Verse 10: Jehovah begins His reply to Moses’ request for renewal of grace. This was not a new covenant, but a renewal of the promises made earlier to Israel. The conditions are the same; this re-affirmation is more detailed than the original covenant.

As a token of this covenant, Jehovah promises to demonstrate His power in a miraculous way.

"Marvels," pala, "to be wonderful," translated "miracle" in Jg 6:13. One such "marvel" would be that Jehovah would drive out the nations from Canaan. Verses 12-26 list twelve points of positive observance that Jehovah required of Israel, in addition to the moral and ceremonial code of the Law. The first three are in verses 12-17:

1. No peace treaty is to be made with the Canaanites.

2. All temples, idols, altars, and artifacts pertaining to the Canaanites’ worship must be completely destroyed, see Ex 23:24.

3. Israel must make no molten image as a representation of God, see Ex 20:3, 4.

"Groves" (v. 13) asherah, a modification of the name Ashtoreth. These were structures of wood or metal, resembling trees, emblems of nature deities, especially Baal and Astarte (Ashtoreth). Worship of these gods was often accompanied with sex orgies.

Intermarriage with the Canaanites was expressly forbidden,

because this would eventually lead Israel’s sons and daughters into idolatry.

Verses 18-20

Verses 18-20:

These verses continue the list of points Israel must observe.

4. The Passover must be faithfully observed, as God had commanded, see Ex 12:14-20; 13:3-10; 23:15.

5. The dedication or redemption of the first-born male, see Ex 13:12, 13; Le 27:26, 27.

Verse 21

Verse 21:

6. The Sabbath rest must be observed. This is a repetition of Ex 20:8-10; 23:12, with an addition: God commands Sabbath observance at all seasons of the year, with no exceptions for busy times.

"Earing time," charish, "ploughing, cutting." The expression "to ear" is Old English for "to plough."

Sabbath observance was a test of faith. In the East, it is necessary to complete the ploughing of the fields before the end of the Spring rains. These rains come in a short period of time, and once they are over there is no promise of additional showers until harvest. Thus it would be a real temptation to break the Sabbath rest in order to take advantage of the season. It required strong faith to trust God to provide, as one obeyed His will.

Verse 22

Verse 22:

7. The Feast of Pentecost must be observed annually.

This verse does not designate three separate festivals. In reality, the feast of weeks is the same as the firstfruits of wheat harvest, Le 23:17; Nu 28:26.

8. the Feast of Tabernacles must also be observed. The command to observe this festival, as well as Pentecost, is in Ex 23:16.

Verses 23-24

Verses 23, 24:

9. Three feasts or holy festivals were mandatory for all Israeli men who were ceremonially clean and physically able to attend:

1. The Passover, or Feast of Unleavened Bread, celebrated the first month of the religious year, Nisan 14 (April. Ex 23:17; De 16:16; Le 25:5-8.

2. The Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost, celebrated on the Sivan (June), the sixth day, De 16:9-12.

3. the Feast of Tabernacles (Booths), or Ingathering, celebrated in the month Tishri (October), five days after Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), Le 23:34; De 16:13.

These verses are a repetition of Ex 23:17.

The original land grant to Abraham was the "Land of Canaan," Ge 12:5-7. Later, God expanded this to include the entire territory between the Euphrates and the "River of Egypt," Ge 15:18. Israel’s possession of this territory and their observance of the Lord’s holy festivals, are linked in this text.

Verses 25-26

Verses 25, 26:

10. No leaven was to be found in any sacrifice.

11. The first-fruits of all things are God’s.

12. A kid (goat) was not to be seethed in his mother’s miLu

These verses are a repetition of Ex 23:18, 19.

Verses 27-28

Verses 27, 28:

Verse 27: "These words" refers to the clause following, not to the entire Law. Moses was to write for himself and for Israel: "After the tenor (peh, "mouth," purpose or character) of these words, I have made a covenant with you." The meaning: the Mosaic Covenant was conditional upon Israel’s observance of "these words." This was the prologue which Moses was to write.

Moses was on Sinai’s peak for forty days. He fasted during this entire period, neither eating nor drinking. God’s presence sustained his life, making eating and drinking unnecessary. Scripture tells of only three who accomplished a fast of this duration: Moses, Elijah (1 Kings 19:8), and Jesus (Mt 4:2).

Verse 28: "He wrote. . ." Some say that Moses wrote the words of the Law upon the second set of two tablets of stone. This is not the case, however. Verse 1 of this chapter. "The Lord said. . .I will write upon these tables." This is confirmed in De 10:2, 4: The pronoun "he refers to Jehovah, not to Moses.

"Commandments, " debar, "words." (Sept., logos.) The "Ten Commandments" are the "Ten Words" which express God’s eternal righteous principles.

Verses 29-35

Verses 29-35:

Israel was patient during Moses’ second stay of 40 days on Sinai. They did not turn away again to idolatry.

Moses’ meeting with Jehovah on Sinai had a profound effect upon his outward appearance, although he was unaware of this until he came down from the mountain.

"Shone," qaran is from the root word for "horn." In one form, the word means "to have horns." In another form it means "to emit rays." The Vulgate mistakenly translates this word as "horn," giving rise to the tradition that pictures Moses as having horns when he brought the tablets of the Law down from Sinai. Paul confirms that the accurate meaning is, "to shine, to emit rays of light," see 2Co 3:13, 14.

An accurate rendering: "(Moses) was unaware that the skin of his face shined with rays of light by reason of his speaking with Jehovah."

This teaches that one who is in God’s presence, truly focusing upon His will, may be unaware of the outward reflection of God’s character in his life and the effect this has on others. There is no boasting, "Look how my face shines with God’s glory because I have had an experience with Him!"

Aaron and Israel’s rulers were filled with fear at the glory which shined from Moses’ face. The text implies that they shrank from his presence. Moses called out to them, and they came near to hear him.

Moses put a veil over his face as he spoke to Israel and gave them the commandments God had written on the stone tablets. But when he went into the "tent" where he met with Jehovah, Moses removed this veil.

Paul explains the significance of this event, 2Co 3:13, 14.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Exodus 34". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/exodus-34.html. 1985.
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