And the LORD said unto Moses, Depart, and go up hence, thou and the people which thou hast brought up out of the land of Egypt, unto the land which I sware unto Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, Unto thy seed will I give it:
And I will send an angel before thee; and I will drive out the Canaanite, the Amorite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite:
See Exodus 3:8.
For I will not go up in the midst of thee - The covenant on which the original promise Exodus 23:20-23 was based had been broken by the people. Yahweh now therefore declared that though His Angel should go before Moses, He would withhold His own favoring presence. The nation should be put on a level with other nations, to lose its character as the people in special covenant with Yahweh (see the note at Exodus 33:16). Thus were the people forcibly warned that His presence could prove a blessing to them only on condition of their keeping their part of the covenant Exodus 33:3. If they failed in this, His presence would be to them "a consuming fire" (Deuteronomy 4:24; compare Exodus 32:10).
Unto a land flowing with milk and honey: for I will not go up in the midst of thee; for thou art a stiffnecked people: lest I consume thee in the way.
And when the people heard these evil tidings, they mourned: and no man did put on him his ornaments.
For the LORD had said unto Moses, Say unto the children of Israel, Ye are a stiffnecked people: I will come up into the midst of thee in a moment, and consume thee: therefore now put off thy ornaments from thee, that I may know what to do unto thee.
I will come up ... - Better; If I were to go up for one moment in the midst of thee, I should consume thee.
That I may know ... - By that sign of their repentance Yahweh would decide in what way they were to be punished.
And the children of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments by the mount Horeb.
By the mount Horeb - From Mount Horeb onward. They ceased to wear their ornaments from the time they were at Mount Horeb.
And Moses took the tabernacle, and pitched it without the camp, afar off from the camp, and called it the Tabernacle of the congregation. And it came to pass, that every one which sought the LORD went out unto the tabernacle of the congregation, which was without the camp.
The tabernacle - The tent. The only word in the Old Testament which ought to be rendered "tabernacle" משׁכן mı̂shkān does not occur once in this narrative Exodus 26:1. What is here meant is a tent appointed for this temporary purpose by Moses, possibly that in which he was accustomed to dwell.
Pitched it without the camp, afar off from the camp - That the people might feel that they had forfeited the divine presence (see Exodus 25:8). This tent was to be a place for meeting with Yahweh, like the tabernacle which was about to be constructed.
The tent of meeting (as it should be called, see Exodus 27:21 note, and note at end of Exodus 40) was placed "afar off from the camp," and the mediator and his faithful servant Joshua were alone admitted to it Exodus 33:11.
And it came to pass, when Moses went out unto the tabernacle, that all the people rose up, and stood every man at his tent door, and looked after Moses, until he was gone into the tabernacle.
And it came to pass, as Moses entered into the tabernacle, the cloudy pillar descended, and stood at the door of the tabernacle, and the LORD talked with Moses.
And all the people saw the cloudy pillar stand at the tabernacle door: and all the people rose up and worshipped, every man in his tent door.
The tabernacle door - The entrance of the tent.
The people by their act of worship gave another proof of their penitence.
And the LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend. And he turned again into the camp: but his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, departed not out of the tabernacle.
Face to face - See Exodus 33:20 note.
And Moses said unto the LORD, See, thou sayest unto me, Bring up this people: and thou hast not let me know whom thou wilt send with me. Yet thou hast said, I know thee by name, and thou hast also found grace in my sight.
Now therefore, I pray thee, if I have found grace in thy sight, shew me now thy way, that I may know thee, that I may find grace in thy sight: and consider that this nation is thy people.
Thy way - He desires not to be left in uncertainty, but to be assured, by Yahweh's mode of proceeding, of the reality of the promises that had been made to him.
And he said, My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest.
Rest - This was the common expression for the possession of the promised land. Deuteronomy 3:20; Joshua 1:13, Joshua 1:15; compare Hebrews 4:8.
And he said unto him, If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence.
For wherein shall it be known here that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight? is it not in that thou goest with us? so shall we be separated, I and thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth.
Thou goest with us - It was this which alone distinguished (rather than "separated") them from other nations, and which alone would render the land of promise a home to be desired. Compare 2 Samuel 7:23.
And the LORD said unto Moses, I will do this thing also that thou hast spoken: for thou hast found grace in my sight, and I know thee by name.
Compare Exodus 33:13. His petition for the nation, and his own claims as a mediator, are now granted to the full.
And he said, I beseech thee, shew me thy glory.
Shew me thy glory - The faithful servant of Yahweh, now assured by the success of his mediation, yearns, with the proper tendency of a devout spirit, for a more intimate communion with his divine Master than he had yet enjoyed. He seeks for something surpassing all former revelations.
And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.
But his request could not be granted in accordance with the conditions of human existence. The glory of the Almighty in its fulness is not to be revealed to the eye of man. Compare Judges 6:22; Isaiah 6:5. A further revelation of the divine goodness was however possible (see Exodus 33:6-7).
It was vouchsafed to Paul, as it had been to Moses, to have special "visions and revelations of the Lord" 2 Corinthians 12:1-4. But he had, also like Moses, to find the narrow reach of the intellect of man in the region of Godhead 1 Timothy 6:16. However intimate may be our communion with the Holy One, we are still, as long as we are in the flesh, "to see through a glass darkly," waiting for the time when we shall see, with no figure of speech, "face to face" 1 Corinthians 13:12. Then we know "that we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is" 1 John 3:2.
Will be gracious ... - Yahweh declares His own will to be the ground of the grace which He is going to show the nation. Paul applies these words to the election of Jacob in order to overthrow the self-righteous boasting of the Jews Romans 9:15.
And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.
Such passages as this, being clearly in accordance with what we know of the relation of spiritual existence to the human senses, show how we are to interpret the expressions "face to face" Exodus 33:11; Deuteronomy 34:10, "mouth to mouth" Numbers 12:8, and others of the like kind. See Exodus 24:10; Isaiah 6:1; and compare John 14:9.
And the LORD said, Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock:
And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a clift of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by:
And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen.