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Exodus 33:12-23

Context

33:12 Moses said to the Lord, “See, you have been saying to me, ‘Bring this people up,’ 1  but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. But you said, ‘I know you by name, 2  and also you have found favor in my sight.’ 33:13 Now if I have found favor in your sight, show me 3  your way, that I may know you, 4  that I may continue to find 5  favor in your sight. And see 6  that this nation is your people.”

33:14 And the Lord 7  said, “My presence 8  will go with you, 9  and I will give you rest.” 10 

33:15 And Moses 11  said to him, “If your presence does not go 12  with us, 13  do not take us up from here. 14  33:16 For how will it be known then that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not by your going with us, so that we will be distinguished, I and your people, from all the people who are on the face of the earth?” 15 

33:17 The Lord said to Moses, “I will do this thing also that you have requested, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know 16  you by name.”

33:18 And Moses 17  said, “Show me your glory.” 18 

33:19 And the Lord 19  said, “I will make all my goodness 20  pass before your face, and I will proclaim the Lord by name 21  before you; I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, I will show mercy to whom I will show mercy.” 22  33:20 But he added, “You cannot see my face, for no one can 23  see me and live.” 24  33:21 The Lord said, “Here 25  is a place by me; you will station yourself 26  on a rock. 33:22 When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and will cover 27  you with my hand 28  while I pass by. 29  33:23 Then I will take away my hand, and you will see my back, 30  but my face must not be seen.” 31 

1 tn The Hiphil imperative is from the same verb that has been used before for bringing the people up from Egypt and leading them to Canaan.

2 tn That is, “chosen you.”

3 tn The prayer uses the Hiphil imperative of the verb “to know.” “Cause me to know” is “show me, reveal to me, teach or inform me.” Moses wanted to know more of God’s dealings with people, especially after all that has happened in the preceding chapter.

4 tn The imperfect tense of the verb “to know” with the vav follows the imperative of this root, and so this indicates the purpose clause (final imperfect): “in order that I may know you.” S. R. Driver summarizes it this way: that I may understand what your nature and character is, and shape my petitions accordingly, so that I may find grace in your sight, and my future prayers may be answered (Exodus, 361).

5 tn The purpose clause simply uses the imperfect, “that I may find.” But since he already has found favor in God’s eyes, he is clearly praying that it be so in the future as well as now.

6 tn The verb “see” (an imperative) is a request for God to acknowledge Israel as his people by providing the divine leadership needed. So his main appeal will be for the people and not himself. To underscore this, he repeats “see” the way the section opened.

7 tn Heb “and he said”; the referent (the Lord) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

8 sn Heb “my face.” This represents the presence of Yahweh going with the people (see 2 Sam 17:11 for an illustration). The “presence” probably refers to the angel of the presence or some similar manifestation of God’s leading and caring for his people.

9 tn The phrase “with you” is not in the Hebrew text, but is implied.

10 sn The expression certainly refers to the peace of mind and security of knowing that God was with them. But the expression came to mean “settle them in the land of promise” and give them rest and peace from their enemies. U. Cassuto (Exodus, 434) observes how in 32:10 God had told Moses, “Leave me alone” (“give me rest”), but now he promises to give them rest. The parallelism underscores the great transition through intercession.

11 tn Heb “and he said”; the referent (Moses) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

12 tn The construction uses the active participle to stress the continual going of the presence: if there is not your face going.

13 tn “with us” has been supplied.

14 tn Heb “from this.”

15 sn See W. Brueggemann, “The Crisis and Promise of Presence in Israel,” HBT 1 (1979): 47-86; and N. M. Waldman, “God’s Ways – A Comparative Note,” JQR 70 (1979): 67-70.

16 tn The verb in this place is a preterite with the vav (ו) consecutive, judging from the pointing. It then follows in sequence the verb “you have found favor,” meaning you stand in that favor, and so it means “I have known you” and still do (equal to the present perfect). The emphasis, however, is on the results of the action, and so “I know you.”

17 tn Heb “and he said”; the referent (Moses) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

18 sn Moses now wanted to see the glory of Yahweh, more than what he had already seen and experienced. He wanted to see God in all his majesty. The LXX chose to translate this without a word for “glory” or “honor”; instead they used the pronoun seautou, “yourself” – show me the real You. God tells him that he cannot see it fully, but in part. It will be enough for Moses to disclose to him the reality of the divine presence as well as God’s moral nature. It would be impossible for Moses to comprehend all of the nature of God, for there is a boundary between God and man. But God would let him see his goodness, the sum of his nature, pass by in a flash. B. Jacob (Exodus, 972) says that the glory refers to God’s majesty, might, and glory, as manifested in nature, in his providence, his laws, and his judgments. He adds that this glory should and would be made visible to man – that was its purpose in the world.

19 tn Heb “and he said”; the referent (the Lord) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

20 sn The word “goodness” refers to the divine appearance in summary fashion.

21 tn The expression “make proclamation in the name of Yahweh” (here a perfect tense with vav [ו] consecutive for future) means to declare, reveal, or otherwise make proclamation of who Yahweh is. The “name of Yahweh” (rendered “the name of the Lord” throughout) refers to his divine attributes revealed to his people, either in word or deed. What will be focused on first will be his grace and compassion.

22 sn God declares his mercy and grace in similar terms to his earlier self-revelation (“I am that I am”): “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious.” In other words, the grace and mercy of God are bound up in his own will. Obviously, in this passage the recipients of that favor are the penitent Israelites who were forgiven through Moses’ intercession. The two words are at the heart of God’s dealings with people. The first is חָנַן (khanan, “to be gracious, show favor”). It means to grant favor or grace to someone, grace meaning unmerited favor. All of God’s dealings are gracious, but especially in forgiving sins and granting salvation it is critical. Parallel to this is רָחַם (rakham), a word that means “show compassion, tender mercy.” It is a word that is related to the noun “womb,” the connection being in providing care and protection for that which is helpless and dependent – a motherly quality. In both of these constructions the verbs simply express what God will do, without explaining why. See further, J. R. Lundbom, “God’s Use of the Idem per idem to Terminate Debate,” HTR 71 (1978): 193-201; and J. Piper, “Prolegomena to Understanding Romans 9:14-15: An Interpretation of Exodus 33:19,” JETS 22 (1979): 203-16.

23 tn In view of the use of the verb “can, be able to” in the first clause, this imperfect tense is given a potential nuance.

24 tn Gesenius notes that sometimes a negative statement takes the place of a conditional clause; here it is equal to “if a man sees me he does not live” (GKC 498 §159.gg). The other passages that teach this are Gen 32:30; Deut 4:33, 5:24, 26; Judg 6:22, 13:22, and Isa 6:5.

25 tn The deictic particle is used here simply to call attention to a place of God’s knowing and choosing.

26 tn Heb “and you will,” or interpretively, “where you will.”

27 sn Note the use in Exod 40:3, “and you will screen the ark with the curtain.” The glory is covered, veiled from being seen.

28 tn The circumstantial clause is simply, “my hand [being] over you.” This protecting hand of Yahweh represents a fairly common theme in the Bible.

29 tn The construction has a preposition with an infinitive construct and a suffix: “while [or until] I pass by” (Heb “in the passing by of me”).

30 tn The plural “my backs” is according to Gesenius an extension plural (compare “face,” a dual in Hebrew). The word denotes a locality in general, but that is composed of numerous parts (see GKC 397 §124.b). W. C. Kaiser says that since God is a spirit, the meaning of this word could just as easily be rendered “after effects” of his presence (“Exodus,” EBC 2:484). As S. R. Driver says, though, while this may indicate just the “afterglow” that he leaves behind him, it was enough to suggest what the full brilliancy of his presence must be (Exodus, 363; see also Job 26:14).

31 tn The Niphal imperfect could simply be rendered “will not be seen,” but given the emphasis of the preceding verses, it is more binding than that, and so a negated obligatory imperfect fits better: “it must not be seen.” It would also be possible to render it with a potential imperfect tense: “it cannot be seen.”



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