|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
34:28-35 Near and spiritual communion with God improves the graces of a renewed and holy character. Serious godliness puts a lustre upon a man's countenance, such as commands esteem and affection. The vail which Moses put on, marked the obscurity of that dispensation, compared with the gospel dispensation of the New Testament. It was also an emblem of the natural vail on the hearts of men respecting spiritual things. Also the vail that was and is upon the nation of Israel, which can only be taken away by the Spirit of the Lord showing to them Christ, as the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. Fear and unbelief would put the vail before us, they would hinder our free approach to the mercy-seat above. We should spread our wants, temporal and spiritual, fully before our heavenly Father; we should tell him our hinderances, struggles, trails, and temptations; we should acknowledge our offences.
Verse 29. - The skin of his face shone while he talked with him. Rather, "through his talking with him." The glory of God, as revealed to Moses on this occasion, caused his face to become henceforth radiant. Compare the effect of the transfiguration (Matthew 17:2). The Vulgate wrongly translates haran, "to shine," as if it were derived from keren, "a horn" - whence the painters of mediaeval times commonly represent Moses as horned. St. Paul's words (2 Corinthians 3:7) are conclusive as to the true meaning.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And it came to pass, when Moses came down Mount Sinai,.... Which was on the day of atonement, according to Jarchi, that is, the tenth of Tisri, or September; and so the Jewish chronologers (q) fix his descent on this day:
with the two tables of testimony in Moses's hand; the two tables he carried up, on which God had wrote the law, called "the testimony", being a testification and declaration of his will to the children of Israel:
when he came down from the mount, that Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone, while he talked with him: the Targum of Jonathan is,"Moses knew not that the splendour of the form of his face was become illustrious, which he had from the brightness of the glory of the Shechinah of the Lord, at the time he talked with him.''And this the apostle calls "the glory of his countenance", 2 Corinthians 3:7 the glory of the Lord as it passed before him, when in the cleft of the rock, and that degree of it he was admitted to the sight of, while conversing with God, during his stay on the mount forty days and forty nights, left a shining glory on his countenance; which while he was with God he could not be at all sensible of, the glory of God so infinitely surpassing that; and when he came down the mount, as he could not see his own face without a glass, so though the rays of light and glory that darted from his face were so bright and strong, that they might have been observed by him, yet his mind was so intent on what he had seen and heard, that he took no notice of them. The Vulgate Latin version renders it very wrongly, "that his face was horned", which has given occasion to painters to represent him in a ridiculous manner, as having horns coming out of his forehead; though the word has the signification of an horn, and the meaning of that version, as of others, may only be, that the skin of his face "darted out rays" (r) like horns, such as the rays of the sun appear to be like to the eye, see Habakkuk 3:4 hence Jupiter Ammon, the same with the sun, is described as having horns (s); and so Bacchus, who is supposed to be the same with Moses, is represented as having a horned face (t). Now this glory was left on the countenance of Moses, to show that he had had communion with God, and that the law he brought with him was from him; and to signify the glory of it, and to command awe and reverence, and make men afraid to break it.
(q) Seder Olam Rabba, c. 6. p. 19. (r) "radios ejacularetur", Tigurine version; "in modum cornu radiaret", Munster, Fagius, "vel rediasset", Vatablus; "splendere instar cornu", Drusius; so Karnon * in the Arabic language signifies the rays of the sun. * Golius, col. 1896. Castel. col. 3455. (s) Vid. Diodor. Sicul. l. 3. p. 201. Macrob. Saturnal. l. 1. c. 21. (t) Diodor. Sicul. l. 4. p. 212. so Orpheus calls Bacchus, Hymn. p. 126. and Horace ascribes to him, "cornu decorum", Carmin. l. 2. Ode 19.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
29. Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him—It was an intimation of the exalted presence into which he had been admitted and of the glory he had witnessed (2Co 3:18); and in that view, it was a badge of his high office as the ambassador of God. No testimonial needed to be produced. He bore his credentials on his very face; and whether this extraordinary effulgence was a permanent or merely temporary distinction, it cannot be doubted that this reflected glory was given him as an honor before all the people.
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