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Exodus 33:4-10

Context

33:4 When the people heard this troubling word 1  they mourned; 2  no one put on his ornaments. 33:5 For 3  the Lord had said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites, ‘You are a stiff-necked people. If I went up among you for a moment, 4  I might destroy you. Now take off your ornaments, 5  that I may know 6  what I should do to you.’” 7  33:6 So the Israelites stripped off their ornaments by Mount Horeb.

The Presence of the Lord

33:7 8 Moses took 9  the tent 10  and pitched it outside the camp, at a good distance 11  from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. Anyone 12  seeking 13  the Lord would go out to the tent of meeting that was outside the camp.

33:8 And when Moses went out 14  to the tent, all the people would get up 15  and stand at the entrance to their tents 16  and watch 17  Moses until he entered the tent. 18  33:9 And 19  whenever Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent, and the Lord 20  would speak with Moses. 21  33:10 When all the people would see the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people, each one at the entrance of his own tent, would rise and worship. 22 

1 tn Or “bad news” (NAB, NCV).

2 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.

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

4 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….”

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

6 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.

7 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.”

8 sn This unit of the book could actually include all of chap. 33, starting with the point of the Lord’s withdrawal from the people. If that section is not part of the exposition, it would have to be explained as the background. The point is that sinfulness prevents the active presence of the Lord leading his people. But then the rest of chap. 33 forms the development. In vv. 7-11 there is the gracious provision: the Lord reveals through his faithful mediator. The Lord was leading his people, but now more remotely because of their sin. Then, in vv. 12-17 Moses intercedes for the people, and the intercession of the mediator guarantees the Lord’s presence. The point of all of this is that God wanted the people to come to know that if he was not with them they should not go. Finally, the presence of the Lord is verified to the mediator by a special revelation (18-23). The point of the whole chapter is that by his grace the Lord renews the promise of his presence by special revelation.

9 tn Heb “and Moses took.”

10 sn A widespread contemporary view is that this section represents a source that thought the tent of meeting was already erected (see S. R. Driver, Exodus, 359). But the better view is that this is a temporary tent used for meeting the Lord. U. Cassuto explains this view very well (Exodus, 429-30), namely, that because the building of the tabernacle was now in doubt if the Lord was not going to be in their midst, another plan seemed necessary. Moses took this tent, his tent, and put some distance between the camp and it. Here he would use the tent as the place to meet God, calling it by the same name since it was a surrogate tent. Thus, the entire section was a temporary means of meeting God, until the current wrath was past.

11 tn The infinitive absolute is used here as an adverb (see GKC 341 §113.h).

12 tn The clause begins with “and it was,” the perfect tense with the vav conjunction. The imperfect tenses in this section are customary, describing what used to happen (others describe the verbs as frequentative). See GKC 315 §107.e.

13 tn The form is the Piel participle. The seeking here would indicate seeking an oracle from Yahweh or seeking to find a resolution for some difficulty (as in 2 Sam 21:1) or even perhaps coming with a sacrifice. B. Jacob notes that the tent was even here a place of prayer, for the benefit of the people (Exodus, 961). It is not known how long this location was used.

14 tn The clause is introduced again with “and it was.” The perfect tense here with the vav (ו) is used to continue the sequence of actions that were done repeatedly in the past (see GKC 331-32 §112.e). The temporal clause is then formed with the infinitive construct of יָצָא (yatsa’), with “Moses” as the subjective genitive: “and it was according to the going out of Moses.”

15 tn Or “rise up.”

16 tn The subject of this verb is specified with the individualizing use of “man”: “and all Israel would station themselves, each person (man) at the entrance to his tent.”

17 tn The perfect tense with the vav (ו) continues the sequence of the customary imperfect. The people “would gaze” (after) Moses until he entered the tent.

18 tn This is a temporal clause using an infinitive construct with a suffixed subject.

19 tn Heb “and it was when.”

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

21 tn Both verbs, “stand” and “speak,” are perfect tenses with vav (ו) consecutive.

22 tn All the main verbs in this verse are perfect tenses continuing the customary sequence (see GKC 337 §112.kk). The idea is that the people would get up (rise) when the cloud was there and then worship, meaning in part bow down. When the cloud was not there, there was access to seek God.



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