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Exodus 34:1-9

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.

34:5 The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there and proclaimed the Lord by name. 9  34:6 The Lord passed by before him and proclaimed: 10  “The Lord, the Lord, 11  the compassionate and gracious 12  God, slow to anger, 13  and abounding in loyal love and faithfulness, 14  34:7 keeping loyal love for thousands, 15  forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin. But he by no means leaves the guilty unpunished, responding to the transgression 16  of fathers by dealing with children and children’s children, to the third and fourth generation.”

34:8 Moses quickly bowed 17  to the ground and worshiped 34:9 and said, “If now I have found favor in your sight, O Lord, let my Lord 18  go among us, for we 19  are a stiff-necked people; pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for your inheritance.”

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 Some commentaries wish to make Moses the subject of the second and the third verbs, the first because he was told to stand there and this verb suggests he did it, and the last because it sounds like he was worshiping Yahweh (cf. NASB). But it is clear from v. 6 that Yahweh was the subject of the last clause of v. 5 – v. 6 tells how he did it. So if Yahweh is the subject of the first and last clauses of v. 5, it seems simpler that he also be the subject of the second. Moses took his stand there, but God stood by him (B. Jacob, Exodus, 981; U. Cassuto, Exodus, 439). There is no reason to make Moses the subject in any of the verbs of v. 5.

10 tn Here is one of the clearest examples of what it means “to call on the name of the Lord,” as that clause has been translated traditionally (וַיִּקְרָא בְשֵׁם יְהוָה, vayyiqravÿshem yÿhvah). It seems more likely that it means “to make proclamation of Yahweh by name.” Yahweh came down and made a proclamation – and the next verses give the content of what he said. This cannot be prayer or praise; it is a proclamation of the nature or attributes of God (which is what his “name” means throughout the Bible). Attempts to make Moses the subject of the verb are awkward, for the verb is repeated in v. 6 with Yahweh clearly doing the proclaiming.

11 sn U. Cassuto (Exodus, 439) suggests that these two names be written as a sentence: “Yahweh, He is Yahweh.” In this manner it reflects “I am that I am.” It is impossible to define his name in any other way than to make this affirmation and then show what it means.

12 tn See Exod 33:19.

13 sn This is literally “long of anger.” His anger prolongs itself, allowing for people to repent before punishment is inflicted.

14 sn These two words (“loyal love” and “truth”) are often found together, occasionally in a hendiadys construction. If that is the interpretation here, then it means “faithful covenant love.” Even if they are left separate, they are dual elements of a single quality. The first word is God’s faithful covenant love; the second word is God’s reliability and faithfulness.

15 tn That is, “for thousands of generations.”

16 sn As in the ten commandments (20:5-6), this expression shows that the iniquity and its punishment will continue in the family if left unchecked. This does not go on as long as the outcomes for good (thousands versus third or fourth generations), and it is limited to those who hate God.

17 tn The first two verbs form a hendiadys: “he hurried…he bowed,” meaning “he quickly bowed down.”

18 tn The Hebrew term translated “Lord” two times here is אֲדֹנָי (’adonay).

19 tn Heb “it is.” Hebrew uses the third person masculine singular pronoun here in agreement with the noun “people.”



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