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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Exodus 34

 

 

Introduction

III. Israel at Sinai (XIX.-XL.).

The division Num 19-40 presents difficulties due to its very importance, see introduction to Ex. (last paragraph). But Num 25-31, 35-40 readily fall apart from the rest, as containing P's account of the Tabernacle (see on Exodus 25:1), the introduction to which is found in Exodus 19:1-2 a and Exodus 24:15 b - Exodus 24:18 a, Exodus 34:29-35 being a link section. All critics confess that in the remainder many details must remain doubtful. The Oxf. Hex. is for the most part followed here. It does not differ very widely from Baentsch, who has made a special study of this part. Gressmann's drastic reconstruction is highly suggestive in particulars, but as a whole is over-bold. The noteworthy fact is that both J and E preserve important traditions. In each there is an older stratum preserving these elements of the national memory of the religious and political confederation of the tribes: an awful appearance of God upon Sinai-Horeb (Exodus 19 JE, Exodus 20:18-21 E), and the giving of a sacred code, the (Ten) Covenant Words, inscribed upon stone tablets (Exodus 31:18 b E, Exodus 34:28 J) and sealed by a solemn sacrificial feast (Exodus 24:5 E, Exodus 24:11 J). Now these passages concur in presenting a favourable view of Israel at this period: he is the son gratefully responding to the compassionate love of his Father (cf. Exodus 4:22*), or the lowly bride returning the affection of her Husband. And this agrees with the view of the period taken by all the pre-exilic prophets who refer to it (see Hosea 2:15; Hosea 11:1; Hosea 11:3 f., Hosea 12:9; Hosea 12:13, Amos 2:9-11; Amos 3:1 f., Jeremiah 2:1-3; Jeremiah 2:34). Even Ezekiel's severe view rather points to the ancestral heathenism of the tribes (Egyptian, Exodus 23:3, but Canaanite or Amorite-Hittite, Exodus 16:3) than to any apostasy just at this epoch. Only Hosea 9:11, if it refers to the incident Numbers 25:1-5 JE, implies such a lapse. On these grounds it is probable that Numbers 32 JE (the Golden Calf and its destruction E, and the vengeance of the Levites J), together with not a little expansion elsewhere, belongs to a later stage in the moulding of the tradition. The order of incidents is hard to follow, because the editor who united J and E, in his care to preserve as much as possible of both, took the story of the tablets in J as a re-giving and rewriting of them with a renewal of the broken covenant. Much of Numbers 33 containing the colloquies with the Divine Leader belongs to this stage. All this, of course, involves a considerable disturbance of the Bible order and representation in Ex., which, but for one section, is substantially followed by D. But the essence of the great religious facts is irrefragably secure: Israel did, by whatever stages short or long, emerge from a condition little removed from contemporary heathenism, and learned to worship one gracious and holy God (p. 84). Differences concern only the manner and form of events, and their times. Later historians have so accustomed us to having at least the main events fitted neatly into their centuries B.C. or A.D. that we find it hard to think that serious writers could be centuries out in their reckoning. But just as prophets saw future events near and distant in a foreshortened perspective, so it may be that the Bible historians—called "the former prophets" (pp. 38, 244) by the Jews—saw their instances of the nation's glory and shame as more closely crowded together than they actually were. The main thing is that they actually saw them, and that, too, in the mirror of eternity." Throughout the whole we see the material, as it were, in a plastic state. As older conceptions were outgrown new touches could modify the details, though, fortunately for our chances of recognising the earlier levels of inspiration, traces of the old were not always obliterated. Sometimes we must suppose that these modifications had already been made during the period of oral tradition.


Verses 1-35

Exodus 34:1-28 J. The Covenant Words.—After removing Exodus 34:5-9, the sublime account of the revelation of Yahweh's nature as "mercy and truth" in their unity, which follows on Exodus 33:23, the remainder is the sequel of J's account of the descent upon Sinai in Exodus 19, and the clauses (Exodus 34:1; Exodus 34:3) referring to "the first (tables)" are glosses of the editor who displaced this section (cf. p. 183). And it may be that originally, as in Deuteronomy 10:1-3, the construction of the Ark was included here. The announcement of the covenant in Exodus 34:10 leads up to its conclusion in Exodus 34:27 f., and the ratifying covenant- feast in J is described in Exodus 24:1 f., Exodus 24:9 f.* The Words have been, as in the case of the Decalogue and E's Covenant Book, freely glossed, Exodus 34:10 b - Exodus 34:13, Exodus 34:15 f., Exodus 34:18 b, Exodus 34:24, at least being additions. The several laws are parallel to others already given in E: i.e. Exodus 34:14 a || Exodus 20:3; Exodus 20:23 a; Exodus 34:17 || Exodus 20:4; Exodus 20:23 b; Exodus 34:18 || Exodus 23:15; Exodus 34:19-20 a || Exodus 22:30; Exodus 34:20 b || Exodus 22:29 b; Exodus 34:20 c || Exodus 23:15; Exodus 34:21 || Exodus 23:12; Exodus 34:22 ab || Exodus 23:16 ab; Exodus 34:23 || Exodus 23:17; Exodus 34:25 ab || Exodus 23:18 ab; Exodus 34:26 ab || Exodus 23:19 ab. It is probable that the original "Ten Words" (Exodus 34:28) have been increased by additions from E. The peculiarity of this code is that it is exclusively concerned with religion. As, however, morality rests on religion, and religion is weakened by disunion, the importance for morals of wise and generally accepted regulations for religious practice is obvious.

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Exodus 34:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/exodus-34.html. 1919.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, December 8th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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