Exodus 33

 

וַיְדַבֵּר יְהוָה אֶל־מֹשֶׁה לֵךְ עֲלֵה מִזֶּה אַתָּה וְהָעָם אֲשֶׁר הֶעֱלִיתָ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם אֶל־הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר   33:1

נִשְׁבַּעְתִּי לְאַבְרָהָם לְיִצְחָק וּלְיַעֲקֹב לֵאמֹר לְזַרְעֲךָ אֶתְּנֶנָּה

Exod. 33:1  And the Lord said to Moses, “Go, depart from here, you and the people whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob saying, ‘To your seed shall I give it.’”

Is it my imagination, or is the Lord expressing His “regret” in this verse?  Notice that He now says that Moses brought the people up from Egypt, not He.

וְשָׁלַחְתִּי לְפָנֶיךָ מַלְאָךְ וְגֵרַשְׁתִּי אֶת־הַכְּנַעֲנִי הָאֱמֹרִי וְהַחִתִּי וְהַפְּרִזִּי הַחִוִּי וְהַיְבוּסִי   33:2

Exod. 33:2  “And I will send an angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanite, the Amorite and the Hittite and the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite

אֶל־אֶרֶץ זָבַת חָלָב וּדְבָשׁ כִּי לֹא אֶעֱלֶה בְּקִרְבְּךָ כִּי עַם־קְשֵׁה־עֹרֶף אַתָּה פֶּן־אֲכֶלְךָ בַּדָּרֶךְ   33:3

Exod. 33:3  -- to a land gushing milk and honey, for I will not go up in your midst, lest I would consume you along the way, because you are such an obstinate people.”

Two remarks about the two verses 33:2 and 3:  First, note that the angel of which I have remarked before, is mentioned again, but no more can be learned from this mention.  Second, it seems to me that the Lord doesn’t have to “accompany” the people in order to destroy them out of His great “anger.”  When Moses was on the mountain with Him (in the last chapter), He was angry enough to utterly destroy them.  Because of this, I imagine -- with utter humility -- that on the surface, this statement seems almost silly.  I suspect, as I have expressed before, that such statements in the bible are made in order to convey a message.  In this case, I believe it might indicate the reason for the references to the angel mentioned here and across several chapters.  As a result, the Lord here exhibits His omniscience in recognizing and prophesying the need for an angel to go before the people.

וַיִּשְׁמַע הָעָם אֶת־הַדָּבָר הָרָע הַזֶּה וַיִּתְאַבָּלוּ וְלֹא־שָׁתוּ אִישׁ עֶדְיֹו עָלָיו   33:4

Exod. 33:4  When the people heard this distressing word, then they mourned and no one put his ornaments on himself.

וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל־מֹשֶׁה אֱמֹר אֶל־בְּנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵל אַתֶּם עַם־קְשֵׁה־עֹרֶף רֶגַע אֶחָד אֶעֱלֶה בְקִרְבְּךָ 33:5

וְכִלִּיתִיךָ וְעַתָּה הֹורֵד עֶדְיְךָ מֵעָלֶיךָ וְאֵדְעָה מָה אֶעֱשֶׂה־לָּךְ

Exod. 33:5  And the Lord said to Moses, “Say to the children of Israel, ‘You are an obstinate people.  I could come up in your midst in a single moment and consume you, so now put off your ornaments from yourselves, that I may know what I should do to you.’”

וַיִּתְנַצְּלוּ בְנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶת־עֶדְיָם מֵהַר חֹורֵב   33:6

Exod. 33:6  And the children of Israel stripped off their ornaments from Mount Horeb.

The Hebrew of this verse indicates that the people didn’t wear their ornaments again until at least the later time that this verse was inscribed.

וּמֹשֶׁה יִקַּח אֶת־הָאֹהֶל וְנָטָה־לֹו מִחוּץ לַמַּחֲנֶה הַרְחֵק מִן־הַמַּחֲנֶה וְקָרָא לֹו אֹהֶל מֹועֵד וְהָיָה    33:7

כָּל־מְבַקֵּשׁ יְהוָה יֵצֵא אֶל־אֹהֶל מֹועֵד אֲשֶׁר מִחוּץ לַמַּחֲנֶה

Exod. 33:7  And Moses would take the tent and pitch it outside of the camp at a distance from the camp, and he would call it the tent of meeting.  And it would be, anyone seeking the Lord would go out to the tent of meeting that was outside of the camp.

Other bible translators have ignored the grammar of this and the next few verses (to v. 33:11) and interpreted them to be a narrative of actual single events that followed the event of v. 33:6.  I firmly believe that this is in error.  I am pretty sure that this is another of those situations where imperfect (future) tense verbs describe ongoing repetitive events, not single events.  I think the verses from this one to v. 33:11 comprise an aside by the scribe that relates the consequence of the Lord’s warning in v. 33:5, then v. 33:12 continues from v. 33:5.

On another point in this verse, I feel fairly certain that the tent of meeting mentioned here is not the tent of meeting which is synonymous with the tabernacle.  The implication is that Moses called it the tent of meeting because he would meet with the Lord in this tent until the Tabernacle was erected.  It also seems to have been the location where the people’s offerings for building the tabernacle were brought.                            [Return to Exod. 38:8]

וְהָיָה כְּצֵאת מֹשֶׁה אֶל־הָאֹהֶל יָקוּמוּ כָּל־הָעָם וְנִצְּבוּ אִישׁ פֶּתַח אָהֳלֹו וְהִבִּיטוּ אַחֲרֵי מֹשֶׁה עַד־   33:8

בֹּאֹו הָאֹהֱלָה

Exod. 33:8  And it would be, when Moses was going out to the tent, all the people would rise and stand, each at the door of his tent, and they would look after Moses until his entering the tent.

וְהָיָה כְּבֹא מֹשֶׁה הָאֹהֱלָה יֵרֵד עַמּוּד הֶעָןָן וְעָמַד פֶּתַח הָאֹהֶל וְדִבֶּר עִם־מֹשֶׁה   33:9

Exod. 33:9  And it would be, as Moses was entering the tent, the column of cloud would come down and remain at the entrance of the tent, and He would speak with Moses.

וְרָאָה כָל־הָעָם אֶת־עַמּוּד הֶעָןָן עֹמֵד פֶּתַח הָאֹהֶל וְקָם כָּל־הָעָם וְהִשְׁתַּחֲוּוּ אִישׁ פֶּתַח אָהֳלֹו   33:10

Exod. 33:10   When all the people would see the column of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, then all the people would rise and they would worship, each at the door of his tent.

וְדִבֶּר יְהוָה אֶל־מֹשֶׁה פָּנִים אֶל־פָּנִים כַּאֲשֶׁר יְדַבֵּר אִישׁ אֶל־רֵעֵהוּ וְשָׁב אֶל־הַמַּחֲנֶה וּמְשָׁרְתֹו   33:11

יְהֹושֻׁעַ בִּן־נוּן נַעַר לֹא יָמִישׁ מִתֹּוךְ הָאֹהֶל

Exod. 33:11   And the Lord would speak to Moses face to face as a man would speak to his friend.  Then he would return to the camp, but his minister, Joshua son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from within the tent.

Joshua would remain in the tent, although we are missing two facts.  For one, what is this “tent of meeting?”.  It could not have been the tabernacle, which is also called the tent of meeting.     More >>

וַיֹּאמֶר מֹשֶׁה אֶל־יְהוָה רְאֵה אַתָּה אֹמֵר אֵלַי הַעַל אֶת־הָעָם הַזֶּה וְאַתָּה לֹא הֹודַעְתַּנִי אֵת    33:12

אֲשֶׁר־תִּשְׁלַח עִמִּי וְאַתָּה אָמַרְתָּ יְדַעְתִּיךָ בְשֵׁם וְגַם־מָצָאתָ חֵן בְּעֵינָי

Exod. 33:12   And Moses said to the Lord, “See, You said to me, ‘Bring up this people.’  But You had not shown me whom you would let go with me.  Yet you have said, ‘I have known you by name and you have also found grace in My sight.’”

It sounds to me as if Moses is complaining here that the Lord had not been intimate or honest enough with him:  “But You had not shown me ...”?  That sounds like carping to me.  What else could Moses mean by this statement?  Obviously he is referring to the obstinate, stubborn, and rebellious nature of this people, which he was finding extremely difficult to stomach.  In effect, the implication is that God tricked him.  Ironic that, with this complaint,  Moses is showing his genetic connection to the people he apparently disliked or even hated.  Isn’t that so typical?  We tend to dislike the traits in others that we suspect we exhibit as well.  In many cases, we don’t even recognize a particularly distasteful trait in others in ourselves.

וְעַתָּה אִם־נָא מָצָאתִי חֵן בְּעֵינֶיךָ הֹודִעֵנִי נָא אֶת־דְּרָךֶךָ וְאֵדָעֲךָ לְמַעַן אֶמְצָא־חֵן בְּעֵינֶיךָ   33:13

וּרְאֵה כִּי עַמְּךָ הַגֹּוי הַזֶּה

Exod. 33:13   “So now, please, if I have found grace in Your sight, show me Your way now so I may know You, to the end that I will find grace in Your sight and will understand that this nation is Your people.”

Believe me, the word of God seems difficult to understand at times.  Even Moses, who has been shown so much, asks for the Lord to be close and for help in understanding.  I will have much more to write on this subject when we get to Deuteronomy.  Incidentally, the fifth word from the end of the top line, translated as so I may know You, is a first-person imperfect verb with a non-inverting vav.

וַיֹּאמַר פָּנַי יֵלֵכוּ וַהֲנִחֹתִי לָךְ   33:14

Exod. 33:14   And He said, “My Presence shall follow and I shall give rest to you.”

An interesting observation about the Hebrew grammar in this verse:  The words WkleyE yn:P, “My Presence shall follow,” are both plural.  And the word ytixonIh]w:, ”… and I shall give rest…” is singular.  So the Lord’s Presence is plural, but the Lord is singular.  You might recognize that the root of the word yn:P, translated here as My Presence, is one of those words that is always in the plural form that I discussed in relation to Gene. 1:1.

וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו אִם־אֵין פָּנֶיךָ הֹלְכִים אַל־תַּעֲלֵנוּ מִזֶּה   33:15

Exod. 33:15   And he said to Him, “If Your presence would not be proceeding, You should not carry us up from here.”

Do you detect the trace of doubt or misgivings in Moses’ words, as I have?  I get the distinct impression that he doesn’t want to lead the people by himself.  They’re too much for him alone.

וּבַמֶּה יִוָּדַע אֵפֹוא כִּי־מָצָאתִי חֵן בְּעֵינֶיךָ אֲנִי וְעַמֶּךָ הֲלֹוא בְּלֶכְתְּךָ עִמָּנוּ וְנִפְלֵינוּ אֲנִי וְעַמְּךָ   33:16

מִכָּל־הָעָם אֲשֶׁר עַל־פְּנֵי הָאֲדָמָה

Exod. 33:16   “For by what shall it be known then that I have found grace in Your sight, I and Your people?  Is it not by Your going with us so that we can be distinguished, I and Your people, from all the people that are on the face of the earth?”

וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל־מֹשֶׁה גַּם אֶת־הַדָּבָר הַזֶּה אֲשֶׁר דִּבַּרְתָּ אֶעֱשֶׂה כִּי־מָצָאתָ חֵן בְּעֵינַי וָאֵדָעֲךָ בְּשֵׁם   33:17

Exod. 33:17   And the Lord said to Moses, “This thing that you have spoken, I shall also do, for you have found grace in My sight and I have known you by name.”

The phrase “... and I have known you by name” at the end of the verse could contain the only instance in the entire bible of what might be an exception to my rule about non-inverting vav prefixes to first-person imperfect verbs.  In it there is a first-person imperfect verb prefixed by an inverting vav.  As I stated in the page About Hebrew, except for this one possible exception, all the vav prefixes to first-person imperfect verbs are non-inverting.  However, I have to add that this may not be such an exception; the translation for the final phrase in this verse could instead be “.. and I will have known you by name,” which would make the vav non-inverting.

וַיֹּאמַר הַרְאֵנִי נָא אֶת־כְּבֹדֶךָ   33:18

Exod. 33:18   And he said, “I pray You, show me Your glory.”

וַיֹּאמֶר אֲנִי אַעֲבִיר כָּל־טוּבִי עַל־פָּנֶיךָ וְקָרָאתִי בְשֵׁם יְהוָה לְפָנֶיךָ וְחַנֹּתִי אֶת־אֲשֶׁר אָחֹן וְרִחַמְתִּי   33:19

אֶת־אֲשֶׁר אֲרַחֵם

Exod. 33:19   And He said, “I will make all My goodness to pass across your face and will proclaim in the name of the Lord before you, that I will favor whom I will favor, and I will love whom I will love.”

This verse contains a well-known expression.  It is normally translated as “… I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.”  However, this is an inaccurate translation of the Hebrew.  My translation is more grammatically correct, as it takes into account the two direct object indicators, ta,, and avoids the insertion of words for the nonexistent prepositions to and on.          [Return to Levi. 10:9]

וַיֹּאמֶר לֹא תוּכַל לִרְאֹת אֶת־פָּנָי כִּי לֹא־יִרְאַנִי הָאָדָם וָחָי   33:20

Exod. 33:20   And He said, “You will not be allowed to view My presence, for no human shall see Me and live.”

וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה הִנֵּה מָקֹום אִתִּי וְנִצַּבְתָּ עַל־הַצּוּר   33:21

Exod. 33:21   And the Lord said, “Behold, a place with Me, and you shall station yourself against the rock.”

וְהָיָה בַּעֲבֹר כְּבֹדִי וְשַׂמְתִּיךָ בְּנִקְרַת הַצּוּר וְשַׂכֹּתִי כַפִּי עָלֶיךָ עַד־עָבְרִי   33:22

Exod. 33:22   “And it shall be, while My Glory is passing by, then I will set you in a cleft of the rock and place the cover of My ‘hand’ over you until My passing.”

וַהֲסִרֹתִי אֶת־כַּפִּי וְרָאִיתָ אֶת־אֲחֹרָי וּפָנַי לֹא יֵרָאוּ   33:23

Exod. 33:23   “Then I will remove My ‘hand’ and you can see My Afterglow, but My face shall not be seen.”

As closure to this chapter, I would like to say that I am deeply impressed by the love and tenderness that the Lord is showing to Moses, as expressed in v. 33:14 and from v. 33:17 to the last verse.  Let’s face it.  As I interpret the events of Exodus so far, I see that Moses has not been an ideal servant.  He has doubted the Lord; he has shown reduced faith in the Lord’s ability; he has distorted the Lord’s instructions; he has whined; he has cursed his fate, and he has disliked the task the Lord gave him, and readily complained about it.  Still the Lord shows him extreme tenderness and forbearance.  What an awesome God!

 

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