Exodus 34


Moses is commanded to hew two tables similar to the first, and

bring them up to the mount, to get the covenant renewed, 1-3.

He prepares the tables and goes up to meet the Lord, 4.

The Lord descends, and proclaims his name JEHOVAH, 5.

What this name signifies, 6, 7.

Moses worships and intercedes, 8, 9.

The Lord promises to renew the covenant, work miracles among

the people, and drive out the Canaanites, &c., 10, 11.

No covenant to be made with the idolatrous nations, but their

altars and images to be destroyed, 12-15.

No matrimonial alliances to be contracted with them, 16.

The Israelites must have no molten gods, 17.

The commandment of the feast of unleavened bread, and of the

sanctification of the first-born, renewed, 18-29;

as also that of the Sabbath, and the three great annual feasts, 21-23.

The promise that the surrounding nations shall not invade their

territories, while all the males were at Jerusalem celebrating the

annual feasts, 24.

Directions concerning the passover, 25;

and the first-fruits, 26.

Moses is commanded to write all these words, as containing the

covenant which God had now renewed with the Israelites, 27.

Moses, being forty days with God without eating or drinking, writes

the words of the covenant; and the Lord writes the ten commandments

upon the tables of stone, 28.

Moses descends with the tables; his face shines, 29.

Aaron and the people are afraid to approach him, because of his

glorious appearance, 30.

Moses delivers to them the covenant and commandments of the Lord;

and puts a veil over his face while he is speaking, 31-33,

but takes it off when he goes to minister before the Lord, 34, 35.


Verse 1. Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first] In

Ex 32:16 we are told that the two first

tables were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of

God; but here Moses is commanded to provide tables of his own

workmanship, and God promises to write on them the words which

were on the first. That God wrote the first tables himself, see

proved by different passages of Scripture at the end of

Clarke's note at "Ex 32:35".

But here, in Ex 34:27, it seems as if

Moses was commanded to write these words, and in Ex 34:28 it is

said, And he wrote upon the tables; but in De 10:1-4 it is

expressly said that God wrote the second tables as well as the


In order to reconcile these accounts let us suppose that the ten

words, or ten commandments, were written on both tables by the

hand of God himself, and that what Moses wrote, Ex 34:27, was a

copy of these to be delivered to the people, while the tables

themselves were laid up in the ark before the testimony, whither

the people could not go to consult them, and therefore a copy was

necessary for the use of the congregation; this copy, being taken

off under the direction of God, was authenticated equally with the

original, and the original itself was laid up as a record to which

all succeeding copies might be continually referred, in order to

prevent corruption. This supposition removes the apparent

contradiction; and thus both God and Moses may be said to have

written the covenant and the ten commandments: the former, the

original; the latter, the copy. This supposition is rendered

still more probable by Ex 34:27 itself: "And the Lord said unto

Moses, Write thou these words (that is, as I understand it, a copy

of the words which God had already written;) for AFTER THE TENOR

( al pi, ACCORDING TO THE MOUTH) of these words I have made

a covenant with thee and with Israel." Here the original writing

is represented by an elegant prosopopoesia, or personification, as

speaking and giving out from its own mouth a copy of itself. It

may be supposed that this mode of interpretation is contradicted

by Ex 34:28: AND HE

wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant; but that the

pronoun HE refers to the Lord, and not to Moses, is sufficiently

proved by the parallel place, De 10:1-4:

At that time the Lord said unto me, Hew thee two tables of stone

like unto the first-and I will write on the tables the words that

were in the first tables-and I hewed two tables of stone as at the

first-And HE wrote on the tables according to the first writing.

This determines the business, and proves that God wrote the second

as well as the first tables, and that the pronoun in Ex 34:28

refers to the LORD, and not to Moses. By this mode of

interpretation all contradiction is removed. Houbigant imagines

that the difficulty may be removed by supposing that God wrote the

ten commandments, and that Moses wrote the other parts of the

covenant from Ex 34:11 to Ex 34:26, and thus it might be said

that both God and Moses wrote on the same tables. This is not an

improbable case, and is left to the reader's consideration.

See Clarke on Ex 34:27.

There still remains a controversy whether what are called the

ten commandments were at all written on the first tables, those

tables containing, according to some, only the terms of the

covenant without the ten words, which are supposed to be added

here for the first time. "The following is a general view of this

subject. In chap. xx. the ten commandments are given; and at the

same time various political and ecclesiastical statutes, which are

detailed in chapters xxi., xxii., and xxiii. To receive these,

Moses had drawn near unto the thick darkness where God was,

Ex 20:21, and having received them he came again with them to

the people, according to their request before expressed,

Ex 20:19:

Speak thou with us-but let not the Lord speak with us, lest we

die, for they had been terrified by the manner in which God had

uttered the ten commandments; see Ex 20:18. After this Moses,

with Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and the seventy elders, went up to

the mountain; and on his return he announced all these laws unto

the people, Ex 24:1-3, &c., and they promised obedience. Still

there is no word of the tables of stone. Then he wrote all in a

book, Ex 24:4, which was called the book of the covenant,

Ex 24:7. After this there was a second going up of Moses, Aaron,

Nadab, Abihu, and the seventy elders, Ex 24:9, when that glorious

discovery of God mentioned in Ex 24:10, 11 took place. After

their coming down Moses is again commanded to go up; and God

promises to give him tables of stone, containing a law and

precepts, Ex 24:12. This is the first place these tables of

stone are mentioned; and thus it appears that the ten

commandments, and several other precepts, were given to and

accepted by the people, and the covenant sacrifice offered,

Ex 24:5, before the

tables of stone were either written or mentioned." It is very

likely that the commandments, laws, &c., were first published by

the Lord in the hearing of the people; repeated afterwards by

Moses; and the ten words or commandments, containing the sum and

substance of the whole, afterwards written on the first tables of

stone, to be kept for a record in the ark. These being broken, as

is related Ex 32:19, Moses is commanded to hew out two tables

like to the first, and bring them up to the mountain, that God

might write upon them what he had written on the former, Ex 34:1.

And that this was accordingly done, see the preceding part of

this note.

Verse 6. And the Lord passed by-and proclaimed, The Lord, &c.]

It would be much better to read this verse thus: "And the Lord

passed by before him, and proclaimed JEHOVAH," that is, showed

Moses fully what was implied in this august name. Moses had

requested God to show him his glory, (see the preceding chapter,

Ex 33:18,) and God promised to proclaim or fully declare the

name JEHOVAH, (Ex 33:19;) by which proclamation or

interpretation Moses should see how God would "be gracious to whom

he would be gracious," and how he would "be merciful to those to

whom he would show mercy. Here therefore God fulfils that promise

by proclaiming this name. It has long been a question, what is

the meaning of the word JEHOVAH, Yehovah, Yehue, Yehveh, or

Yeve, Jeue, Jao, Iao, Jhueh, and Jove; for it has been as

variously pronounced as it has been differently interpreted. Some

have maintained that it is utterly inexplicable; these of course

have offered no mode of interpretation. Others say that it

implies the essence of the Divine nature. Others, that it

expresses the doctrine of the Trinity connected with the

incarnation; the letter yod standing for the Father, he

for the Son, and vau (the connecting particle) for the Holy

Spirit: and they add that the he being repeated in the word,

signifies the human nature united to the Divine in the

incarnation. These speculations are calculated to give very

little satisfaction. How strange is it that none of these learned

men have discovered that God himself interprets this name in

Ex 34:6,!

"And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed YEHOVAH

the LORD GOD, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and

abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands,

forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no

means clear the guilty." These words contain the proper

interpretation of the venerable and glorious name JEHOVAH. But it

will be necessary to consider them in detail.

The different names in this and the following verse have been

considered as so many attributes of the Divine nature.

Commentators divide them into eleven, thus:-1. JEHOVAH. 2.

EL, the strong or mighty God. 3. RACHUM, the merciful

Being, who is full of tenderness and compassion. 4. CHANNUN,

the gracious One; he whose nature is goodness itself; the loving

God. 5. ERECH APPAYIM, long-suffering; the Being who,

because of his goodness and tenderness, is not easily irritated,

but suffers long and is kind. 6. RAB, the great or mighty One.

7. CHESED, the bountiful Being; he who is exuberant in his

beneficence. 8. EMETH, the truth or true One; he alone who

can neither deceive nor be deceived, who is the fountain of truth,

and from whom all wisdom and knowledge must be derived. 9.

NOTSER CHESED, the preserver of bountifulness; he whose

beneficence never ends, keeping mercy for thousands of

generations, showing compassion and mercy while the world endures.

10. NOSE avon vaphesha vechattaah, he who

bears away iniquity and transgression and sin: properly, the

REDEEMER, the Pardoner, the Forgiver; the Being whose prerogative

alone it is to forgive sin and save the soul. ()

NAKKEH lo yenakkeh, the righteous Judge, who distributes justice

with an impartial hand, with whom no innocent person can ever be

condemned. And, 11. POKED avon, &c.; he who visits

iniquity, who punishes transgressors, and from whose justice no

sinner can escape. The God of retributive and vindictive justice.

These eleven attributes, as they have been termed, are all

included in the name JEHOVAH, and are, as we have before seen, the

proper interpretation of it; but the meaning of several of these

words has been variously understood.

Verse 7. That will by no means clear the guilty] This last

clause is rather difficult; literally translated it signifies, in

clearing he will not clear. But the Samaritan, reading lo,

to him, instead of the negative lo, not, renders the clause

thus: With whom the innocent shall be innocent; i.e., an innocent

or holy person shall never be treated as if he were a

transgressor, by this just and holy God. The Arabic version has

it, He justifies and is not justified; and the Septuagint is

nearly as our English text, καιουκαθαριειτονενοχον, and he

doth not purify the guilty. The Alexandrian copy of the

Septuagint, edited by Dr. Grabe, has καιτονενοχονκαθαρισμωου

καθαριει, and the guilty he will not cleanse with a

purification-offering. The Coptic is to the same purpose. The

Vulgate is a paraphrase: nullusque apud te per se innocens est,

"and no person is innocent by or of himself before thee." This

gives a sound theologic sense, stating a great truth, That no man

can make an atonement for his own sins, or purify his own heart;

and that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.

Verse 9. O Lord, let my Lord, I pray thee, go among us] The

original is not Jehovah, but Adonai in both these

places, and seems to refer particularly to the Angel of the

Covenant, the Messiah. See Clarke on Ge 15:8.

Verse 10. I will do marvels] This seems to refer to what God

did in putting them in possession of the land of Canaan, causing

the walls of Jericho to fall down; making the sun and moon to

stand still, &c. And thus God made his covenant with them;

binding himself to put them in possession of the promised land,

and binding them to observe the precepts laid down in the

following verses, from Ex 34:11-26 inclusive.

Verse 13. Ye shall destroy their images] See the subjects of

this and all the following verses, to Ex 34:28, treated at large

in the notes on "Ex 23:24".

Verse 21. In earing time and in harvest thou shalt rest.] This

commandment is worthy of especial note; many break the Sabbath on

the pretense of absolute necessity, because, if in harvest time

the weather happens to be what is called bad, and the Sabbath day

be fair and fine, they judge it perfectly lawful to employ that

day in endeavouring to save the fruits of the field, and think

that the goodness of the day beyond the preceding, is an

indication from Providence that it should be thus employed. But

is not the above command pointed directly against this? I have

known this law often broken on this pretence, and have never been

able to discover a single instance where the persons who acted

thus succeeded one whit better than their more conscientious

neighbors, who availed themselves of no such favourable

circumstances, being determined to keep God's law, even to the

prejudice of their secular interests; but no man ever yet

ultimately suffered loss by a conscientious attachment to his duty

to God. He who is willing and obedient, shall eat the good of the

land; but God will ever distinguish those in his providence who

respect his commandments.

Verse 24. Neither shall any man desire thy land] What a

manifest proof was this of the power and particular providence of

God! How easy would it have been for the surrounding nations to

have taken possession of the whole Israelitish land, with all

their fenced cities, when there were none left to protect them but

women and children! Was not this a standing proof of the Divine

origin of their religion, and a barrier which no deistical mind

could possibly surmount! Thrice every year did God work an

especial miracle for the protection of his people; controlling

even the very desires of their enemies, that they might not so

much as meditate evil against them. They who have God for their

protector have a sure refuge; and how true is the proverb, The

path of duty is the way of safety! While these people went up to

Jerusalem to keep the Lord's ordinances, he kept their families in

peace, and their land in safety.

Verse 25. The blood of my sacrifice] That is, the paschal lamb.

See Clarke on Ex 23:18.

Verse 26. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother's milk.]

See this amply considered Ex 23:19.

See Clarke on Ex 23:19.

Verse 27. Write thou these words] Either a transcript of the

whole law now delivered, or the words included from Ex 34:11 to

Ex 34:26. God certainly wrote the

ten words on both sets of tables. Moses either wrote a

transcript of these and the accompanying precepts for the use of

the people, or he wrote the precepts themselves in addition to the

ten commandments which were written by the finger of God.

See Clarke on Ex 34:1. Allowing this mode of interpretation, the

accompanying precepts were, probably, what was written on the back

side of the tables by Moses; the ten commandments, what were

written on the front by the finger of Jehovah: for we must pay but

little attention to the supposition of the rabbins, that the

letters on each table were cut through the stone, so as to be

legible on each side. See Clarke on Ex 32:15.

Verse 28. Forty days and forty nights]

See Clarke on Ex 24:18.

Verse 29. The skin of his face shone] karan, was horned:

having been long in familiar intercourse with his Maker, his

flesh, as well as his soul, was penetrated with the effulgence

of the Divine glory, and his looks expressed the light and life

which dwelt within. Probably Moses appeared now as he did when,

in our Lord's transfiguration, he was seen with Elijah on the

mount, Mt 17:2, 3. As the original word karan signifies

to shine out, to dart forth, as horns on the head of an animal,

or rays of light reflected from a polished surface, we may suppose

that the heavenly glory which filled the soul of this holy man

darted out from his face in coruscations, in that manner in which

light is generally represented. The Vulgate renders the passage,

et ignorabat quod cornuta esset facies sua, "and he did not know

that his face was horned;" which version, misunderstood, has

induced painters in general to represent Moses with two very large

horns, one proceeding from each temple. But we might naturally

ask, while they were indulging themselves in such fancies, why

only two horns? for it is very likely that there were hundreds of

these radiations, proceeding at once from the face of Moses. It

was no doubt from this very circumstance that almost all the

nations of the world who have heard of this transaction, have

agreed in representing those men to whom they attributed

extraordinary sanctity, and whom they supposed to have had

familiar intercourse with the Deity, with a lucid nimbus or glory

round their heads. This has prevailed both in the east and in the

west; not only the Greek and Roman saints, or eminent persons, are

thus represented, but those also among the Mohammedans, Hindoos,

and Chinese.

Verse 30. They were afraid to come nigh him.] A sight of his

face alarmed them; their consciences were still guilty from their

late transgression, and they had not yet received the atonement.

The very appearance of superior sanctity often awes the guilty

into respect.

Verse 33. And till Moses had done speaking] The meaning of the

verse appears to be this: As often as Moses spoke in public to the

people, he put the veil on his face, because they could not bear

to look on the brightness of his countenance; but when he entered

into the tabernacle to converse with the Lord, he removed this

veil, Ex 34:34. St. Paul, 2Co 3:7, &c., makes a very important

use of the transactions recorded in this place. He represents the

brightness of the face of Moses as emblematical of the glory or

excellence of that dispensation; but he shows that however

glorious or excellent that was, it had no glory when compared with

the superior excellence of the Gospel. As Moses was glorious in

the eyes of the Israelites, but that glory was absorbed and lost

in the splendour of God when he entered into the tabernacle, or

went to meet the Lord upon the mount; so the brightness and

excellence of the Mosaic dispensation are eclipsed and absorbed in

the transcendent brightness or excellence of the Gospel of Christ.

One was the shadow, the other is the substance. One showed SIN

in its exceeding sinfulness, together with the justice and

immaculate purity of God; but, in and of itself, made no

provision for pardon or sanctification. The other exhibits Jesus,

the Lamb of God, typified by all the sacrifices under the law,

putting away sin by the sacrifice of himself, reconciling God to

man and man to God, diffusing his Spirit through the souls of

believers, and cleansing the very thoughts of their hearts by his

inspiration, and causing them to perfect holiness in the fear of

God. The one seems to shut heaven against mankind, because by the

law was the knowledge, not the cure, of SIN; the other opens the

kingdom of heaven to all believers. The former was a ministration

of death, the latter a dispensation of life. The former

ministered terror, so that even the high priest was afraid to

approach, the people withdrew and stood afar off, and even Moses,

the mediator of it, exceedingly feared and trembled; by the latter

we have boldness to enter into the holiest through the blood of

Jesus, who is the end of the law for righteousness-justification,

to every one that believeth. The former gives a partial view of

the Divine nature; the latter shows God as he is,

"Full orbed, in his whole round of rays complete."

The apostle farther considers the veil on the face of Moses, as

being emblematical of the metaphorical nature of the different

rites and ceremonies of the Mosaic dispensation, each covering

some spiritual meaning or a spiritual subject; and that the Jews

did not lift the veil to penetrate the spiritual sense, and did

not look to the end of the commandment, which was to be abolished,

but rested in the letter or literal meaning, which conferred

neither light nor life.

He considers the veil also as being emblematical of that state

of intellectual darkness into which the Jewish people, by their

rejection of the Gospel, were plunged, and from which they have

never yet been recovered. When a Jew, even at the present day,

reads the law in the synagogue, he puts over his head an oblong

woollen veil, with four tassels at the four corners, which is

called the taled or thaled. This is a very remarkable

circumstance, as it appears to be an emblem of the intellectual

veil referred to by the apostle, which is still upon their hearts

when Moses is read, and which prevents them from looking to the

end of that which God designed should be abrogated, and which has

been abolished by the introduction of the Gospel. The veil is

upon their hearts, and prevents the light of the glory of God from

shining into them; but we all, says the apostle, speaking of

believers in Christ, with open face, without any veil, beholding

as in a glass the glory of God, are changed into the same image,

from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord; 2Co 3:18.

Reader, dost thou know this excellence of the religion of Christ?

Once thou wert darkness; art thou now light in the Lord? Art thou

still under the letter that killeth, or under the Spirit that

giveth life? Art thou a slave to sin or a servant of Christ? Is

the veil on thy heart, or hast thou found redemption in his blood,

the remission of sins? Knowest thou not these things? Then may

God pity, enlighten, and save thee!

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