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Exodus 34:1-4

Context
The New Tablets of the Covenant

34:1 1 The Lord said to Moses, “Cut out 2  two tablets of stone like the first, and I will write 3  on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets, which you smashed. 34:2 Be prepared 4  in the morning, and go up in the morning to Mount Sinai, and station yourself 5  for me there on the top of the mountain. 34:3 No one is to come up with you; do not let anyone be seen anywhere on the mountain; not even the flocks or the herds may graze in front of that mountain.” 34:4 So Moses 6  cut out two tablets of stone like the first; 7  early in the morning he went up 8  to Mount Sinai, just as the Lord had commanded him, and he took in his hand the two tablets of stone.

Exodus 34:28-29

Context
34:28 So he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; 9  he did not eat bread, and he did not drink water. He wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the ten commandments. 10 

The Radiant Face of Moses

34:29 11 Now when Moses came down 12  from Mount Sinai with 13  the two tablets of the testimony in his hand 14  – when he came down 15  from the mountain, Moses 16  did not know that the skin of his face shone 17  while he talked with him.

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 The form is a Niphal participle that means “be prepared, be ready.” This probably means that Moses was to do in preparation what the congregation had to do back in Exod 19:11-15.

5 sn The same word is used in Exod 33:21. It is as if Moses was to be at his post when Yahweh wanted to communicate to him.

6 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.

7 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.

8 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.

9 tn These too are adverbial in relation to the main clause, telling how long Moses was with Yahweh on the mountain.

10 tn Heb “the ten words,” though “commandments” is traditional.

11 sn Now, at the culmination of the renewing of the covenant, comes the account of Moses’ shining face. It is important to read this in its context first, holding off on the connection to Paul’s discussion in 2 Corinthians. There is a delicate balance here in Exodus. On the one hand Moses’ shining face served to authenticate the message, but on the other hand Moses prevented the people from seeing more than they could handle. The subject matter in the OT, then, is how to authenticate the message. The section again can be subdivided into three points that develop the whole idea: I. The one who spends time with God reflects his glory (29-30). It will not always be as Moses; rather, the glory of the Lord is reflected differently today, but nonetheless reflected. II. The glory of Yahweh authenticates the message (31-32). III. The authentication of the message must be used cautiously with the weak and immature (33-35).

12 tn The temporal clause is composed of the temporal indicator (“and it happened”), followed by the temporal preposition, infinitive construct, and subjective genitive (“Moses”).

13 tn The second clause begins with “and/now”; it is a circumstantial clause explaining that the tablets were in his hand. It repeats the temporal clause at the end.

14 tn Heb “in the hand of Moses.”

15 tn The temporal clause parallels the first temporal clause; it uses the same infinitive construct, but now with a suffix referring to Moses.

16 tn Heb “and Moses.”

17 tn The word קָרַן (qaran) is derived from the noun קֶרֶן (qeren) in the sense of a “ray of light” (see Hab 3:4). Something of the divine glory remained with Moses. The Greek translation of Aquila and the Latin Vulgate convey the idea that he had horns, the primary meaning of the word from which this word is derived. Some have tried to defend this, saying that the glory appeared like horns or that Moses covered his face with a mask adorned with horns. But in the text the subject of the verb is the skin of Moses’ face (see U. Cassuto, Exodus, 449).



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