34:4 So Moses 4 cut out two tablets of stone like the first; 5 early in the morning he went up 6 to Mount Sinai, just as the Lord had commanded him, and he took in his hand the two tablets of stone.
1 sn The restoration of the faltering community continues in this chapter. First, Moses is instructed to make new tablets and take them to the mountain (1-4). Then, through the promised theophany God proclaims his moral character (5-8). Moses responds with the reiteration of the intercession (8), and God responds with the renewal of the covenant (10-28). To put these into expository form, as principles, the chapter would run as follows: I. God provides for spiritual renewal (1-4), II. God reminds people of his moral standard (5-9), III. God renews his covenant promises and stipulations (10-28).
2 tn The imperative is followed by the preposition with a suffix expressing the ethical dative; it strengthens the instruction for Moses. Interestingly, the verb “cut out, chisel, hew,” is the same verb from which the word for a “graven image” is derived – פָּסַל (pasal).
3 tn The perfect tense with vav consecutive makes the value of this verb equal to an imperfect tense, probably a simple future here.
sn Nothing is said of how God was going to write on these stone tablets at this point, but in the end it is Moses who wrote the words. This is not considered a contradiction, since God is often credited with things he has people do in his place. There is great symbolism in this command – if ever a command said far more than it actually said, this is it. The instruction means that the covenant had been renewed, or was going to be renewed, and that the sanctuary with the tablets in the ark at its center would be built (see Deut 10:1). The first time Moses went up he was empty-handed; when he came down he smashed the tablets because of the Israelites’ sin. Now the people would see him go up with empty tablets and be uncertain whether he would come back with the tablets inscribed again (B. Jacob, Exodus, 977-78).
4 tn Heb “he”; the referent has been specified here and the name “Moses,” which occurs later in this verse, has been replaced with the pronoun (“he”), both for stylistic reasons.
5 sn Deuteronomy says that Moses was also to make an ark of acacia wood before the tablets, apparently to put the tablets in until the sanctuary was built. But this ark may not have been the ark built later; or, it might be the wood box, but Bezalel still had to do all the golden work with it.
6 tn The line reads “and Moses got up early in the morning and went up.” These verbs likely form a verbal hendiadys, the first one with its prepositional phrase serving in an adverbial sense.