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FRAMEWORKS: Exodus 33: Instructions & Petitions


v.1-3 The Lord instructs Moses to move on from Sinai

v.4-6 The People are chastised

v.7-11 Moses at the Tent of Meeting

v.12-16 Moses petitions the Lord

v.17-23 Moses asks to see the Lord's Glory



v.1-3 The Lord instructs Moses to move on from Sinai


v.1 Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Leave this place, you and the people you brought up out of Egypt, and go up to the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying, “I will give it to your descendants.”

v.2 I will send an angel before you and drive out the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites.

v.3 Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way.'


[Notes: Sinai has been a place of incredible revelation and incredible failure, but now it is time to move on. The Lord's twofold goal had been clearly declared several times – to deliver Israel OUT of Egypt and lead them INTO the Promised Land of Canaan. He now instructs Moses to leave. Note also in His description of what He will do, His first use of the words ‘drive out' since chapter 23 – see notes at end of that chapter.]



v.4-6 The People are chastised


v.4 When the people heard these distressing words, they began to mourn and no one put on any ornaments.

v.5 For the Lord had said to Moses, ‘Tell the Israelites, “You are a stiff-necked people. If I were to go with you even for a moment, I might destroy you. Now take off your ornaments and I will decide what to do with you.”'

v.6 So the Israelites stripped off their ornaments at Mount Horeb.


[Notes: The Lord has said He will not go with this foolish people and so, despite what has just recently gone on, they are distressed at the thought of going without His Protection. To avoid any repetition of what has just happened and to act as a warning and reminder the Lord requires all of their jewelry be confiscated.]



v.7-11 Moses at the Tent of Meeting


v.7 Now Moses used to take a tent and pitch it outside the camp some distance away, calling it the ‘tent of meeting'. Anyone enquiring of the Lord would go to the tent of meeting outside the camp.

v.8 And whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people rose and stood at the entrances to their tents, watching Moses until he entered the tent.

v.9 As Moses went into the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and stay at the entrance, while the Lord spoke with Moses.

v.10 Whenever the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance to the tent, they all stood and worshipped, each at the entrance to their tent.

v.11 The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young assistant Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent.


[Notes: We now see a regular occurrence that perhaps helped to settle the people. Having made a [what appears to be] temporary tent of meeting set up outside the camp [for the construction of the Tabernacle is yet to follow] Moses would regularly go out to it to meet with the Lord. When he did, the guiding cloud in the form of a pillar, stood at the entrance of the tent and whenever it happened the people bowed in awe. What follows, however, appears in the course of his second forty days on the mountain. – see 34:28]



v.12-16 Moses First Petition – to be taught God's ways


v.12 Moses said to the Lord, ‘You have been telling me, “Lead these people,” but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, “I know you by name and you have found favour with me.”

v.13 If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favour with you. Remember that this nation is your people.'

v.14 The Lord replied, ‘My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.'

v.15 Then Moses said to him, ‘If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.

v.16 How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?'


[Notes: Moses makes a first petition: teach me your ways, teach me how you work, what are your expectations and so on. Now note that the Lord does not give a list but simply says He will go with him. That is God's answer always – not for academic answers but His own presence.]



v.17-23 Moses Second Petition - to see the Lord's Glory


v.17 And the Lord said to Moses, ‘I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.'

v.18 Then Moses said, ‘Now show me your glory.'

v.19 And the Lord said, ‘I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.

v.20 But,' he said, ‘you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.'

v.21 Then the Lord said, ‘There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock.

v.22 When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by.

v.23 Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.'


[Notes: Moses has wondered what will mark him out and his people out. Then comes the second petition: show me your glory or your splendour. The Lord responds that He will reveal to Moses His goodness, His mercy and His compassion, but NOT let him see Him face to face, for [implied] His glory would blind and kill Moses. He will come and give him a sense of seeing His back, and this will be enough.]



Continue to Chapter 34