24:16 The glory of the Lord resided 1 on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days. 2 On the seventh day he called to Moses from within the cloud. 24:17 Now the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in plain view 3 of the people. 24:18 Moses went into the cloud when he went up 4 the mountain, and Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights. 5
1 sn The verb is וַיִּשְׁכֹּן (vayyishkon, “and dwelt, abode”). From this is derived the epithet “the Shekinah Glory,” the dwelling or abiding glory. The “glory of Yahweh” was a display visible at a distance, clearly in view of the Israelites. To them it was like a consuming fire in the midst of the cloud that covered the mountain. That fire indicated that Yahweh wished to accept their sacrifice, as if it were a pleasant aroma to him, as Leviticus would say. This “appearance” indicated that the phenomena represented a shimmer of the likeness of his glory (B. Jacob, Exodus, 749). The verb, according to U. Cassuto (Exodus, 316), also gives an inkling of the next section of the book, the building of the “tabernacle,” the dwelling place, the מִשְׁכָּן (mishkan). The vision of the glory of Yahweh confirmed the authority of the revelation of the Law given to Israel. This chapter is the climax of God’s bringing people into covenant with himself, the completion of his revelation to them, a completion that is authenticated with the miraculous. It ends with the mediator going up in the clouds to be with God, and the people down below eagerly awaiting his return. The message of the whole chapter could be worded this way: Those whom God sanctifies by the blood of the covenant and instructs by the book of the covenant may enjoy fellowship with him and anticipate a far more glorious fellowship. So too in the NT the commandments and teachings of Jesus are confirmed by his miraculous deeds and by his glorious manifestation on the Mount of the Transfiguration, where a few who represented the disciples would see his glory and be able to teach others. The people of the new covenant have been brought into fellowship with God through the blood of the covenant; they wait eagerly for his return from heaven in the clouds.
2 tn This is an adverbial accusative of time.
3 tn Heb “to the eyes of” which could mean in their opinion.
4 tn The verb is a preterite with vav (ו) consecutive; here, the second clause, is subordinated to the first preterite, because it seems that the entering into the cloud is the dominant point in this section of the chapter.
5 sn B. Jacob (Exodus, 750) offers this description of some of the mystery involved in Moses’ ascending into the cloud: Moses ascended into the presence of God, but remained on earth. He did not rise to heaven – the ground remained firmly under his feet. But he clearly was brought into God’s presence; he was like a heavenly servant before God’s throne, like the angels, and he consumed neither bread nor water. The purpose of his being there was to become familiar with all God’s demands and purposes. He would receive the tablets of stone and all the instructions for the tabernacle that was to be built (beginning in chap. 25). He would not descend until the sin of the golden calf.