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Exodus 32:30--33:6

Context

32:30 The next day Moses said to the people, 1  “You have committed a very serious sin, 2  but now I will go up to the Lord – perhaps I can make atonement 3  on behalf of your sin.”

32:31 So Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Alas, this people has committed a very serious sin, 4  and they have made for themselves gods of gold. 32:32 But now, if you will forgive their sin…, 5  but if not, wipe me out 6  from your book that you have written.” 7  32:33 The Lord said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me – that person I will wipe out of my book. 32:34 So now go, lead the people to the place I have spoken to you about. See, 8  my angel will go before you. But on the day that I punish, I will indeed punish them for their sin.” 9 

32:35 And the Lord sent a plague on the people because they had made the calf 10  – the one Aaron made. 11 

33:1 The Lord said to Moses, “Go up 12  from here, you and the people whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, to the land I promised on oath 13  to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ 14  33:2 I will send an angel 15  before you, and I will drive out the Canaanite, the Amorite, the Hittite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite. 16  33:3 Go up 17  to a land flowing with milk and honey. But 18  I will not go up among you, for you are a stiff-necked people, and I might destroy you 19  on the way.”

33:4 When the people heard this troubling word 20  they mourned; 21  no one put on his ornaments. 33:5 For 22  the Lord had said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites, ‘You are a stiff-necked people. If I went up among you for a moment, 23  I might destroy you. Now take off your ornaments, 24  that I may know 25  what I should do to you.’” 26  33:6 So the Israelites stripped off their ornaments by Mount Horeb.

1 tn Heb “and it was on the morrow and Moses said to the people.”

2 tn The text uses a cognate accusative: “you have sinned a great sin.”

3 tn The form אֲכַפְּרָה (’akhappÿrah) is a Piel cohortative/imperfect. Here with only a possibility of being successful, a potential imperfect nuance works best.

4 tn As before, the cognate accusative is used; it would literally be “this people has sinned a great sin.”

5 tn The apodosis is not expressed; it would be understood as “good.” It is not stated because of the intensity of the expression (the figure is aposiopesis, a sudden silence). It is also possible to take this first clause as a desire and not a conditional clause, rendering it “Oh that you would forgive!”

6 tn The word “wipe” is a figure of speech indicating “remove me” (meaning he wants to die). The translation “blot” is traditional, but not very satisfactory, since it does not convey complete removal.

7 sn The book that is referred to here should not be interpreted as the NT “book of life” which is portrayed (figuratively) as a register of all the names of the saints who are redeemed and will inherit eternal life. Here it refers to the names of those who are living and serving in this life, whose names, it was imagined, were on the roster in the heavenly courts as belonging to the chosen. Moses would rather die than live if these people are not forgiven (S. R. Driver, Exodus, 356).

8 tn Heb “behold, look.” Moses should take this fact into consideration.

9 sn The Law said that God would not clear the guilty. But here the punishment is postponed to some future date when he would revisit this matter. Others have taken the line to mean that whenever a reckoning was considered necessary, then this sin would be included (see B. Jacob, Exodus, 957). The repetition of the verb traditionally rendered “visit” in both clauses puts emphasis on the certainty – so “indeed.”

10 tn The verse is difficult because of the double reference to the making of the calf. The NJPS’s translation tries to reconcile the two by reading “for what they did with the calf that Aaron had made.” B. S. Childs (Exodus [OTL], 557) explains in some detail why this is not a good translation based on syntactical grounds; he opts for the conclusion that the last three words are a clumsy secondary addition. It seems preferable to take the view that both are true, Aaron is singled out for his obvious lead in the sin, but the people sinned by instigating the whole thing.

11 sn Most commentators have difficulty with this verse. W. C. Kaiser says the strict chronology is not always kept, and so the plague here may very well refer to the killing of the three thousand (“Exodus,” EBC 2:481).

12 tn The two imperatives underscore the immediacy of the demand: “go, go up,” meaning “get going up” or “be on your way.”

13 tn Or “the land which I swore.”

14 tn Heb “seed.”

15 sn This seems not to be the same as the Angel of the Presence introduced before.

16 sn See T. Ishida, “The Structure and Historical Implications of Lists of Pre-Israelite Nations,” Bib (1979): 461-90.

17 tn This verse seems to be a continuation of the command to “go up” since it begins with “to a land….” The intervening clauses are therefore parenthetical or relative. But the translation is made simpler by supplying the verb.

18 tn This is a strong adversative here, “but.”

19 tn The clause is “lest I consume you.” It would go with the decision not to accompany them: “I will not go up with you…lest I consume (destroy) you in the way.” The verse is saying that because of the people’s bent to rebellion, Yahweh would not remain in their midst as he had formerly said he would do. Their lives would be at risk if he did.

20 tn Or “bad news” (NAB, NCV).

21 sn The people would rather have risked divine discipline than to go without Yahweh in their midst. So they mourned, and they took off the ornaments. Such had been used in making the golden calf, and so because of their association with all of that they were to be removed as a sign of remorse.

22 tn The verse simply begins “And Yahweh said.” But it is clearly meant to be explanatory for the preceding action of the people.

23 tn The construction is formed with a simple imperfect in the first half and a perfect tense with vav (ו) in the second half. Heb “[in] one moment I will go up in your midst and I will destroy you.” The verse is certainly not intended to say that God was about to destroy them. That, plus the fact that he has announced he will not go in their midst, leads most commentators to take this as a conditional clause: “If I were to do such and such, then….”

24 tn The Hebrew text also has “from on you.”

25 tn The form is the cohortative with a vav (ו) following the imperative; it therefore expresses the purpose or result: “strip off…that I may know.” The call to remove the ornaments must have been perceived as a call to show true repentance for what had happened. If they repented, then God would know how to deal with them.

26 tn This last clause begins with the interrogative “what,” but it is used here as an indirect interrogative. It introduces a noun clause, the object of the verb “know.”



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