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Bible Commentaries
Exodus 34

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary

Verse 1


1. Hew thee two tables The others were, in Exodus 32:16, called “ the work of God.”

Verse 3

3. No man… with thee As contrasted with Exodus 24:9-13. Not even Joshua accompanied Moses now . He probably remained at the tent of the congregation . Exodus 33:11.

Verse 5

5. Descended… stood… proclaimed There was also, according to the next verse, a movement of the sublime theophany as of one passing by . This was the fulfilment of the promise recorded in Exodus 33:19-23, and was, says Clarke, “the second revelation of the name of the God of Israel to Moses . The first revelation was of Jehovah as the Self-existent One, who purposed to deliver his people with a mighty hand, (Exodus 3:14;) this was of the same Jehovah as a living Saviour, who was now forgiving their sins. The two ideas that mark these revelations are found combined, apart from their historical development, in the second commandment, (Exodus 20:5-6,) where the divine unity is shown on its practical side, in its relation to human obligations . Both in the commandment and in this passage the divine love is associated with the divine justice; but in the former there is a transposition to serve the proper purpose of the commandments, and the justice stands before the love . This is strictly the legal arrangement, brought out in the completed system of the ceremonial law, in which the sin offering, in acknowledgment of the sentence of justice against sin, was offered before the burnt offering and the peace offering. But in this place the truth appears in its essential order; the retributive justice of Jehovah is subordinated to rather, it is made a part of his forgiving love.” Speaker’s Commentary.

Verses 6-7

6, 7. Proclaimed This appears to have been a supernatural communication, in an audible voice, proceeding out of the theophany, as the ten commandments had been spoken out of the midst of the fires of Sinai . Deuteronomy 5:4. As a declaration of divine perfections it is conspicuously complete, but especially emphatic on mercy’s side . Its impressiveness is abiding, and is felt by every devout reader .

Verse 9

9. Go among us… pardon… take us After all the mercy shown, and the assurance of Exodus 33:14, and the fuller revelations that followed, Moses still repeats his cry for the presence of Jehovah among the people . Importunate prayer, and clinging by faith to God! He will not let him go!

Verse 10

10. Before all thy people I will do marvels This refers to the unparalleled displays of divine help during the journey to Palestine, at the crossing of the Jordan, and during the conquest and settlement of the land of promise . These distinguished Israel in all the earth, and put the fear of them upon all the nations that saw or heard . Comp . Joshua 2:9; Joshua 2:11.

Verse 11

11. Drive out Comp . Exodus 33:2, and Exodus 23:23; Exodus 23:28. The frequent repetition of this promise was important, inasmuch as Israel’s greatest danger was from their heathen foes .

Verses 12-26

12-26. Take heed to thyself Here follows a brief resume of the laws previously ordained, and written in the Book of the Covenant, 21-23 . They may be resolved into ten precepts, as follows:

1. Thou shalt make no covenant with the heathen. Exodus 34:12.

2. Thou shalt destroy their altars and images. Exodus 34:18.

3. Thou shalt worship no other god save Jehovah. Exodus 34:14.

4. Thou shalt make no molten gods. Exodus 34:17.

5. Thou shalt keep the feast of unleavened bread. Exodus 34:18.

6. Thou shalt redeem all the firstborn. Exodus 34:19-20.

7. Thou shalt keep the sabbath day. Exodus 34:21.

8. Thou shalt observe the three annual feasts. Exodus 34:22-23.

9. Thou shalt not offer sacrifice with leaven. Exodus 34:25.

10. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in its mother’s milk. Exodus 34:26.

We should lay no stress upon this division into ten commandments; for it is possible, by making separate precepts of the firstfruits, (Exodus 34:26,) and the not appearing empty (Exodus 34:20,) to make more than ten; or by combining several very kindred laws to reduce the number to seven or eight. In no case should this recapitulation of laws be identified with the ten commandments mentioned in Exodus 34:28, for these were identical with those in the first tables. Exodus 34:1.

Verse 13

13. Groves Rather, Asherah, pillars, wooden images of Asherah . See notes on Judges 2:13; Judges 3:7; and 1 Kings 19:15.

Verse 27

27. Write thou these words This narrative very clearly teaches that Moses recorded repeated acts of legislation . The covenant was broken and renewed . A record was made of all the important facts, and such a record, if faithful, must needs have contained various repetitions . Some critics discover different “strata of laws,” but fail to pay proper respect to the fact, that, according to the plain import of the Mosaic narrative, laws were repeatedly given, revised, renewed, and in some instances changed, as the conduct and interests of the people required. The different codes and stages of legislation are not inconsistent with each other, nor of such a nature as to be inconsistent with a Mosaic origin. See our Introduction to the Pentateuch, page 31.

Verse 28

28. Forty days and forty nights Comp . Exodus 24:18. So that Moses passed two periods of this length with the Lord in the mount .

He wrote According to Exodus 34:1, the writer was God himself, so that these second tables, though hewn by Moses, were, like the first, “written with the finger of God . ” Compare Exodus 31:18, with 32:16 .

Verse 29

29. The skin of his face shone The long communion with Jehovah, and beholding so much of his glory, had set upon the face of the lawgiver a brilliancy that was unearthly . This statement is full of suggestion . It declares the spiritual exaltation of Moses . It shows how God may impart his own glory to those to whom he wills to show great favour. Exodus 33:19. It teaches the child of faith that long communion and intimate fellowship with God transfigures into the image of the heavenly. Since the Hebrew word here translated shone ( קרן )is composed of the same letters as the word for horn, the Vulgate has rendered it was horned, and hence the mediaeval notion represented in Angelo’s famous statue, that Moses had horns upon his forehead .

Verse 30

30. They were afraid At a former time (Exodus 20:19) they had said to Moses, “Speak thou with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die . ” Now Moses bears upon his face so much of the divine glory that they fear to talk even with him .

Verse 33

33. Till Moses had done Rather, when he had done speaking, etc . Literally, And Moses ceased from speaking with them, and put upon his face a vail . So the vail was not worn while he was speaking, but when he left off speaking, and until he went into the tabernacle . Exodus 34:34-35. “The brilliant light on Moses’s face,” says Keil, “set forth the glory of the old covenant, and was intended both for Moses and the people as a foresight and a pledge of the glory to which Jehovah had called, and would eventually exalt, the people of his possession.”

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Exodus 34". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/exodus-34.html. 1874-1909.
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