Exodus 34: The Glory of the LORD
In the last chapter, Moses asked God to see His Glory. God told Moses that he could, but that he couldn’t see God’s face, because nobody can see that and live.
Funnily enough—at least to me—before Moses can see God’s face, God instructs him to carve out two new stone tablets, to replace the ones that he smashed. When he has done so, God will write on them the same words which had been written on the last ones. Moses is then to present himself to the LORD at the top of Mount Sinai. Nobody else is to come with Moses; even the flocks are to stay away from the mountain.
Once Moses has done this, the LORD comes down and proclaims His name:
And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.” (verses 6–7)
Moses then does what anyone does, when confronted with the LORD: he bows down and worships. He then asks the LORD again to come with the Israelites; even though they are stiff-necked, he asks God to forgive their “wickedness and [their] sin” (verse 9). God responds thusly:
Then the LORD said: “I am making a covenant with you. Before all your people I will do wonders never before done in any nation in all the world. The people you live among will see how awesome is the work that I, the LORD, will do for you. Obey what I command you today. I will drive out before you the Amorites, Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land where you are going, or they will be a snare among you. Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and cut down their Asherah poles. Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.
“Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land; for when they prostitute themselves to their gods and sacrifice to them, they will invite you and you will eat their sacrifices. And when you choose some of their daughters as wives for your sons and those daughters prostitute themselves to their gods, they will lead your sons to do the same.”
It’s important to remember this reasoning, when the Israelites make it to the Promised Land, and are supposed to wipe out all of the people there: God warned them that if they didn’t, they would end up worshiping other gods. (There are also sins the peoples have committed, which is a second reason God is wiping them out.) As you probably know, the Israelites will not wipe out the peoples in the Promised Land, like they’re supposed to, and they will be ensnared by other gods, as God has warned them. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
After this message, God reiterates some of the commands he has already given the Israelites:
- They are not to make idols
- They are to celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the appointed time in the month of Abib, to commemorate God saving them from the Egyptians
- Every firstborn creature, from every womb, belongs to God. Donkeys are to be redeemed with lambs, and first-born sons are also to be redeemed.
- Nobody is to appear before the LORD empty-handed
- They are to observe the Sabbath day—even during the plowing and harvest seasons
- They are to celebrate the Feast of Weeks and the Feast of Ingathering.
- Three times a year all of the Israelites—it actually says “all your men”, in verse 23—are to appear before the LORD. If they do, He will enlarge their territory, and nobody will covet their territory.
- Sacrifices are never to be combined with anything containing yeast, and sacrifices from the Passover Feast are not to be left to remain until the next morning.
- The best of the firstfruits from their soil are to be brought to the house of the LORD
- They are not to cook a young goat in its mother’s milk
God then commands Moses to write all of this down, for it is in accordance with these words that He is making His covenant with Israel (verse 27). Moses stays with the LORD for forty days and forty nights, without eating or drinking, and the LORD wrote on the tablets “the words of the covenant—the Ten Commandments” (verse 28). (It actually says “he wrote on the tablets”, but I assume that the “he” refers to God. Unfortunately, on the Bible Gateway, words like “he” and “him” are not capitalized, when referring to God, as they are in other Bibles I have, so I can’t tell if this particular “he” is supposed to be capitalized, thus referring to God. However, earlier, God had said that He would write on the tablets, so I assume that this is the case.)
When Moses comes down from the mountain, his face is radiant, from speaking with the LORD, so the Israelites are afraid to come near him. He convinces them to come near, and tells them all that the LORD has spoken to him, and then puts a veil over his face, to hide the radiance.
From that point on, Moses continues to wear a veil, except when he goes to talk with the LORD, when he takes it off. But when he is done talking with the LORD, he puts the veil back on again.
When it comes to the stone tablets, I can’t tell if God is angry with Moses for smashing them or not. Also, I quoted verse 28 above, which says that God wrote on the tablets “the words of the covenant—the Ten Commandments”, so I guess that answers my earlier question: It really was the Ten Commandments which was written on the stone tablets.