Exodus 33:11
And the LORD spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to 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.
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(11) Face to face.—Comp. Numbers 12:8; Deuteronomy 34:10. This is clearly spoken of as a privilege peculiar to Moses; but in what exactly the peculiarity consisted is not apparent. Some special closeness of approach is no doubt meant—some nearness such as had been enjoyed by no mortal previously. In later times, Isaiah (Isaiah 6:1-5) and Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:28) were perhaps equally favoured.

His servant Joshua.—Comp. Exodus 24:13, where Joshua is called Moses’ “minister,” the word employed in the Hebrew being the same.

Exodus 33:11. The Lord spake unto Moses face to face — Or, mouth to mouth, as in Numbers 12:8. Not that God hath a face or mouth, or that Moses could behold it; which is denied, Exodus 33:20; but the sense is, he spoke with him freely, familiarly, and immediately, and not as he did to other prophets, in dreams, or visions, or by an angel. As a man speaketh unto his friend —Which intimates not only that God revealed himself to Moses with greater clearness than to any other of the prophets, but also with greater expressions of particular kindness than to any other. He spake not as a prince to a subject, but as a man to his friend, whom he loves, and with whom he takes sweet counsel. And he turned again into the camp — To tell the people what hopes he had of bringing this business to a good issue. But his servant Joshua departed not out of the tabernacle — Probably Joshua abode there to assist and direct those who resorted thither to seek God in Moses’s absence. And he seems to have been appointed to this work rather than Aaron, or any other of the elders, because they had, one way or other, been guilty of the late idolatry, and God would hereby punish them with a temporary suspension from his service and their office.33:7-11 Moses took the tabernacle, and pitched it without the camp. This seems to have been a temporary building, set up for worship, and at which he judged disputes among the people. The people looked after him; they were very desirous to be at peace with God, and concerned to know what would come to pass. The cloudy pillar which had withdrawn from the camp when it was polluted with idolatry, now returned. If our hearts go forth toward God to meet him, he will graciously come to meet us.Face to face - See Exodus 33:20 note. 9-11. the cloudy pillar descended, and stood at the door of the tabernacle—How would the downcast hearts of the people revive—how would the tide of joy swell in every bosom, when the symbolic cloud was seen slowly and majestically to descend and stand at the entrance of the tabernacle!

as Moses entered—It was when he appeared as their mediator, when he repaired from day to day to intercede for them, that welcome token of assurance was given that his advocacy prevailed, that Israel's sin was forgiven, and that God would again be gracious.

Face to face, or, mouth to mouth, as Numbers 12:8. Not that God hath face or mouth, or that Moses could behold it, which is denied, Exodus 33:20. But the sense is, he spake with him freely and familiarly, and immediately, not by an angel in a dream or vision, as he did to other prophets. See Deu 34:10.

Joshua abode in the tabernacle, either to keep it from injury or inconvenience; for as it was set up by man’s help, so it needed man’s care to preserve it; or to assist and direct those who resorted thither to seek God in Moses’s absence. And Joshua seems to be appointed for this work rather than Aaron, or any other of the elders, because they had one way or other been guilty of the late idolatry, and God would hereby punish them with a temporary suspension from his service, and their office. And the Lord spake unto Moses face to face,.... Not by an angel, but he himself in person; not by a dream or vision, but apparently, in real visible appearance; not in dark speeches, but clearly in plain words, easy to be understood; and not by a voice from heaven at a distance, but mouth to mouth, being very near, as when on the mount, and now at the door of the tabernacle:

as a man speaketh unto his friend; freely, familiarly, plainly, cordially, openly, without any reserve or show of authority, or causing dread and fear; for he also spake to the children of Israel "face to face", but then it was out of the fire in a terrible manner which they could not bear, Deuteronomy 5:4.

and he turned again into the camp; to acquaint the people, the heads and elders of them, what discourse he had with God, what success he had met with on their behalf, and how the Lord stood affected to them, or what was his will concerning them:

but his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, departed not out of the tabernacle; who is here described by his name, Joshua; by his descent, the son of Nun; by his relation to Moses, a servant of his, who waited on him wherever he went, when upon the mount and now at the tabernacle; and by his age, a young man, as he was in comparison of Moses, and is so called chiefly because he was his servant, it being usual to call servants young men, of whatsoever age; for Joshua, strictly speaking, could not be a young man in years; he was the general of the army at the battle with Amalek; and, according to Aben Ezra, was now fifty six years of age, which he collects from his living to the age of one hundred and ten years; now to fifty six add the forty years in the wilderness, seven years, in which he subdued the land of Canaan, and seven more in dividing it, as say their wise men, the sum is one hundred an ten years: and it not being easy to account for it, that Moses should depart alone, unaccompanied by Joshua, who always attended him, and no sufficient reason is given why he should stay behind in the tabernacle; as for private devotion, which this was not a place for; or for judging the causes of the people in the absence of Moses, which we never find he did or to guard the tabernacle, to be a watchman in it, or even at the head of a watch over it, which, as it seemed unnecessary, so was an employment too mean for him; the words therefore may be rendered as they are by some, and the rather, as there is an accent which makes a considerable stop on the word translated a "young man" (w), "and he turned again to the camp", and "his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man"; that is, along with him; they both returned to the camp, and then it follows, "he", i.e. the Lord, "departed not out of the tabernacle", but continued there; to whom Moses afterwards returned and had the following discourse: a learned man (x) thinks that the grand tabernacle is here meant, yet unfinished, though not the final erection of it; and that here is a dislocation in the history, and supposes that Moses having been forty days absent, found upon his return a good progress made in the work of the tabernacle, and the ornaments and utensils belonging thereunto: and as soon as the wood work of the tabernacle was finished, he ordered it to be put together; but because the tabernacle had neither a door to it, nor were the hangings of the outer court finished, therefore Joshua the servant of Moses, the son of Nun, a young man, departed not out of the tabernacle, but remained there to preserve it from being polluted: but it is a mistake of his that the tabernacle had not a door to it, and it is strange he should make it, when it is twice mentioned in the preceding verses; and since the pillar of cloud and the Lord in it were there, no man durst draw near to pollute it, so that there was no need of Joshua's being there to preserve it; and besides, it was after this Moses went up to the mount and stayed another forty days and forty nights, see Exodus 34:4.

(w) So Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Rivet. (x) Clayton's Chronology of the Hebrew Bible, p. 343.

And the LORD spake unto Moses {d} 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.

(d) Most clearly and familiarly of all others, Nu 12:7,8 De 34:10

11. would speak unto Moses face to face] not from the distant heaven, or with the comparative indistinctness of a vision or a dream (Numbers 12:8), but ‘face to face’ (so Deuteronomy 34:10; cf. Deuteronomy 5:4), or ‘mouth to mouth’ (Nu. l.c.), like one friend speaking to another. Moses would then return into the camp; but his minister (Exodus 24:13), Joshua, remained permanently in charge of the Tent (cf. Samuel, 1 Samuel 3:3; 1 Samuel 3:15).Verse 11. - The Lord spake unto Moses face to face. As one present - not as one at a distance - "month to mouth," as we read in Numbers 12:8 - but not under any visible form (see vers. 20, 23, and compare Deuteronomy 4:12, 15). He turned again. After each conference, Moses returned to the camp, where, no doubt, he had put up for himself another tent, and where his presence was needed He left, however, his personal attendant ("minister"), Joshua, to watch and guard the sacred structure during his absence. It is remarkable that the trust was committed to Joshua, rather than to Aaron, or any of the Levites. Probably the reason of this was, that Joshua alone had had no paw in the idolatry of the calf. (See Exodus 32:17.)

CHAPTER 33:12-17 That this good beginning of repentance might lead to a true and permanent change of heart, Jehovah repeated His threat in a most emphatic manner: "Thou art a stiff-necked people; if I go a moment in the midst of thee, I destroy thee:" i.e., if I were to go up in the midst of thee for only a single moment, I should be compelled to destroy thee because of thine obduracy. He then issued this command: "Throw thine ornament away from thee, and I shall know (by that) what to do to thee."
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