Exodus 34:1
And the LORD said to Moses, Hew you two tables of stone like to the first: and I will write on these tables the words that were in the first tables, which you brake.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
XXXIV.

PREPARATIONS FOR A RENEWAL OF THE COVENANT.

(1-4) Before the covenant could be formally reestablished, before Israel could be replaced in the position forfeited by the idolatry of the golden calf, it was necessary that the conditions on which God consented to establish His covenant with them should be set forth afresh. Moses had asked for the return of God’s favour, but had said nothing of these conditions. It is God who insists on them. “Hew thee two tables.” The moral law must be delivered afresh—delivered in its completeness—exactly as at the first (Exodus 34:1), and even the ceremonial law must be reimposed in its main items (Exodus 34:12-26), or no return to favour is possible. Hence Moses is summoned once more to the top of Sinai, where the Law is to be delivered afresh to him, and is ordered to bring with him tables of stone like the former ones, to receive their written contents from God’s hand.

(1) Hew thee two tables.—Something is always lost by sin, even when it is forgiven. The first tables were “the work of God” (Exodus 32:16). the second were hewn by the hand of Moses.

Of stone.—Literally, of stones—hewn, i.e., out of two separate stones, which could not be said of the first tables, since none knew how God had fashioned them.

I will write.—It is quite clear, though some have maintained the contrary, that the second tables, equally with the first, were inscribed “with the finger of God.” (Comp. Deuteronomy 4:13; Deuteronomy 10:2; Deuteronomy 10:4.) It is also quite clear that exactly the same words were written on each.

Upon these tables.—Heb., upon the tables.

Exodus 34:1. Hew thee two tables of stone like the first — Before, God himself both provided the tables and wrote on them; now, Moses must prepare the tables, and God would only write upon them. This might be intended partly to signify God’s displeasure on account of their sin; for though he had pardoned them, the wound was not, healed without a scar; and partly to show, that although the covenant of grace was first made without man’s care and counsel, yet it should not be renewed without man’s repentance. And as the tables of stone were emblematical of the hardness of their heart, so the hewing of them by Moses, and writing on them by the Lord, might denote that circumcision and renovation of their hearts by the ministry of God’s word, and the influence of his Spirit, which were necessary to prepare them for receiving God’s mercies and the performance of their duties. We may observe also, that although the first tables were broken, to show that there was no hope for mankind to be saved by their innocence, yet God would have the law to be in force still as a rule of obedience, and therefore, as soon as he was reconciled to them, ordered the tables to be renewed, and wrote his law on them. This plainly intimates, that even under the gospel (of which the intercession of Moses was typical) the moral law continues to oblige believers. For though Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, yet not from the command of it, but still we are under the law to Christ. When our Saviour, in his sermon on the mount, expounded the moral law, and vindicated it from the corrupt glosses with which the scribes and Pharisees had obliterated and broken it, he did, in effect, renew the tables, and make them like the first, that is, reduce the law to its primitive sense and intention. And by his writing it on our hearts by his Spirit, as he wrote it on the tables by his finger or power, we may be enabled to conform our lives to it.34:1-4 When God made man in his own image, the moral law was written in his heart, by the finger of God, without outward means. But since the covenant then made with man was broken, the Lord has used the ministry of men, both in writing the law in the Scriptures, and in writing it in the heart. When God was reconciled to the Israelites, he ordered the tables to be renewed, and wrote his law in them. Even under the gospel of peace by Christ, the moral law continues to bind believers. Though Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, yet not from the commands of it. The first and the best evidence of the pardon of sin, and peace with God, is the writing the law in the heart.Hew thee - The former tables are called "the work of God;" compare Exodus 32:16.

The words - See Exodus 34:28.

CHAPTER 34

Ex 34:1-35. The Tables Are Renewed.

1. the like unto the first—God having been reconciled to repentant Israel, through the earnest intercession, the successful mediation of Moses, means were to be taken for the restoration of the broken covenant. Intimation was given, however, in a most intelligible and expressive manner, that the favor was to be restored with some memento of the rupture; for at the former time God Himself had provided the materials, as well as written upon them. Now, Moses was to prepare the stone tables, and God was only to retrace the characters originally inscribed for the use and guidance of the people.God commands Moses to hew two tables of stone like the former, wherein he promises to write, Exodus 34:1. Moses goes with these tables up to the mount, Exodus 34:4. God descends in a cloud, Exodus 24:5. He proclaims his name, Exodus 34:6,7. Moses worships, Exodus 34:8,9. God making a covenant with the people, commands them not to make a covenant with their enemies, Exodus 34:10-12; bids them beware of molten gods, Exodus 34:13-17. The feast of unleavened bread, Exodus 34:18. To rest on the sabbath day, Exodus 34:21. Other laws, Exodus 34:22-26. Moses wrote these words, Exodus 34:27. The time of Moses’s abode on the mount. Exodus 34:28. Moses’s face shining, Exodus 34:29, is covered, Exodus 34:33-35. He acquaints the people with what the Lord told him, Exodus 34:31,32.

The first tables were made immediately by God, who of his own mere grace and good pleasure, and without man’s merit or contrivance, entered into covenant with Abraham and his seed. These tables must be made by Moses, partly in token of God’s displeasure for their sin, and partly to signify, that though the covenant of grace was first made without man’s care and counsel, yet it should not be renewed but by man’s repentance. And as the tables of stone signified the hardness of their hearts, so the hewing of them by Moses might signify the circumcision and ploughing up of their hearts, that they might be fit for the receiving of God’s mercies, and the performance of their duties.

The words that were in the first tables; to show God’s reception of Israel into his favour, and their former state, and that the law and covenant of God was neither abolished nor changed by their sin.

And the Lord said unto Moses,.... Out of the cloudy pillar, at the door of the tabernacle, where he had been conversing with him in the most friendly manner, as related in the preceding chapter:

hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first; of the same form, and of the same dimensions, and it may be of the same sort of stone, which perhaps was marble, there being great plenty of that kind on Mount Sinai. Now Moses being ordered to hew these tables, whereas the former were the work of God himself, as well as the writing, shows that the law was to be the ministration of Moses, and be ordained in the hand of him as a mediator, who had been praying and interceding for the people; and as a token of the reconciliation made, the tables were to be renewed, yet with some difference, that there might be some remembrance of their crime, and of their loss by it, not having the law on tables of stone, which were the work of God, but which were the work of man:

and I will write upon these tables the words that were in the first tables which thou brakest; the writing of these was by the Lord himself, as the former, shows that the law itself was of God, though the tables were hewn by Moses, and that he would have it known and observed as such; and the same being written on these tables, as on the former, shows the unchangeableness of the law of God, as given to the people of Israel, that he would have nothing added to it, or taken from it; and the writing of it over again may have respect to the reinscribing it on the hearts of his people in regeneration, according to the tenor of the new covenant: the phrase, "which thou brakest", is not used as expressing any displeasure at Moses for that act of his, but to describe the former tables; and the breaking of them might not be the effect of passion, at least of any criminal passion, but of zeal for the glory of God, and the honour of his law, which was broken by the Israelites, and therefore unworthy of it; and might be according to the counsel of the divine will, and the secret direction of his providence.

And the LORD said unto Moses, Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first: and I will write upon these tables the words that were in the first tables, which thou brakest.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1–5. Moses is commanded to hew two tables of stone, similar to those which he had broken (Exodus 32:19), and bring them up Sinai to Jehovah. The former tables are said (Exodus 32:16) to have been themselves God’s handiwork: in the new tables only the writing is to be His.Verse 1. - Hew thee two tables of stone. Literally, "of stones" - two separate tables, i.e., made of two separate stones. Moses is required to do this with strict justice, since it was by his act that the former tables were broken (Exodus 32:19). Upon these tables. Literally," upon the tables," which has exactly the same force. The words that were in the first tables. It is quite true that we have not yet been explicitly told what these words were. (See Exodus 31:18; Exodus 32:15, 16, 19.) It has been left to our natural intelligence to understand that they must have been the "ten words" uttered in the ears of all the people amid the thunders of Sinai, as recorded in Exodus 20:1-19, which are the evident basis of all the later legislation. We have, however, in ver. 28, and still more plainly in Deuteronomy 10:4, and Deuteronomy 5:22, the desired statement. The fiction of a double decalogue, invented by Goethe and supported by Hitzig, and even Ewald, is absolutely without foundation in fact. Moses was emboldened by this, and now prayed to the Lord, "Let me see Thy glory." What Moses desired to see, as the answer of God clearly shows, must have been something surpassing all former revelations of the glory of Jehovah (Exodus 16:7, Exodus 16:10; Exodus 24:16-17), and even going beyond Jehovah's talking with him face to face (Exodus 33:11). When God talked with him face to face, or mouth to mouth, he merely saw a "similitude of Jehovah" (Numbers 12:8), a form which rendered the invisible being of God visible to the human eye, i.e., a manifestation of the divine glory in a certain form, and not the direct or essential glory of Jehovah, whilst the people saw this glory under the veil of a dark cloud, rendered luminous by fire, that is to say, they only saw its splendour as it shone through the cloud; and even the elders, at the time when the covenant was made, only saw the God of Israel in a certain form which hid from their eyes the essential being of God (Exodus 24:10-11). What Moses desired, therefore, was a sight of the glory or essential being of God, without any figure, and without a veil.

Moses was urged to offer this prayer, as Calvin truly says, not by "stulta curiositas, quae ut plurimum titillat hominum mentes, ut audacter penetrare tentent usque ad ultima caelorum arcana," but by "a desire to cross the chasm which had been made by the apostasy of the nation, that for the future he might have a firmer footing than the previous history had given him. As so great a stress had been laid upon his own person in his present task of mediation between the offended Jehovah and the apostate nation, he felt that the separation, which existed between himself and Jehovah, introduced a disturbing element into his office. For if his own personal fellowship with Jehovah was not fully established, and raised above all possibility of disturbance, there could be no eternal foundation for the perpetuity of his mediation" (Baumgarten). As a man called by God to be His servant, he was not yet the perfect mediator; but although he was faithful in all his house, it was only as a servant, called εἰς μαρτύριον τῶν λαληθησομένων (Hebrews 3:5), i.e., as a herald of the saving revelations of God, preparing the way for the coming of the perfect Mediator. Jehovah therefore granted his request, but only so far as the limit existing between the infinite and holy God and finite and sinful man allowed. "I will make all My goodness pass before thy face, and proclaim the name of Jehovah before thee (בּשׁם קרא see at Genesis 4:26), and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. Thou canst not see My face, for man cannot see Me and live." The words וגו וחנּתי, although only connected with the previous clause by the cop. ו, are to be understood in a causative sense, as expressing the reason why Moses' request was granted, viz., that it was an act of unconditional grace and compassion on the part of God, to which no man, not even Moses, could lay any just claim. The apostle Paul uses the words in the same sense in Romans 9:15, for the purpose of overthrowing the claims of self-righteous Jews to participate in the Messianic salvation. - No mortal man can see the face of God and remain alive; for not only is the holy God a consuming fire to unholy man, but a limit has been set, in and with the σῶμα χοΐκόν and ψυχικόν (the earthly and psychical body) of man, between the infinite God, the absolute Spirit, and the human spirit clothed in an earthly body, which will only be removed by the "redemption of our body," and our being clothed in a "spiritual body," and which, so long as it lasts, renders a direct sight of the glory of God impossible. As our bodily eye is dazzled, and its power of vision destroyed, by looking directly at the brightness of the sun, so would our whole nature be destroyed by an unveiled sight of the brilliancy of the glory of God. So long as we are clothed with this body, which was destined, indeed, from the very first to be transformed into the glorified state of the immortality of the spirit, but has become through the fall a prey to the corruption of death, we can only walk in faith, and only see God with the eye of faith, so far as He has revealed His glory to us in His works and His word. When we have become like God, and have been transformed into the "divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4), then, and not till then, shall we see Him as He is; then we shall see His glory without a veil, and live before Him for ever. For this reason Moses had to content himself with the passing by of the glory of God before his face, and with the revelation of the name of Jehovah through the medium of the word, in which God discloses His inmost being, and, so to speak, His whole heart to faith. In Exodus 33:22 "My glory" is used for "all My goodness," and in Exodus 34:6 it is stated that Jehovah passed by before the face of Moses. טוּב is not to be understood in the sense of beautiful, or beauty, but signifies goodness; not the brilliancy which strikes the senses, but the spiritual and ethical nature of the Divine Being. For the manifestation of Jehovah, which passed before Moses, was intended unquestionably to reveal nothing else than what Jehovah expressed in the proclamation of His name.

The manifested glory of the Lord would so surely be followed by the destruction of man, that even Moses needed to be protected before it (Exodus 33:21, Exodus 33:22). Whilst Jehovah, therefore, allowed him to come to a place upon the rock near Him, i.e., upon the summit of Sinai (Exodus 34:2), He said that He would put him in a cleft of the rock whilst He was passing by, and cover him with His hand when He had gone by, that he might see His back, because His face could not be seen. The back, as contrasted with the face, signifies the reflection of the glory of God that had just passed by. The words are transferred anthropomorphically from man to God, because human language and human thought can only conceive of the nature of the absolute Spirit according to the analogy of the human form. As the inward nature of man manifests itself in his face, and the sight of his back gives only an imperfect and outward view of him, so Moses saw only the back and not the face of Jehovah. It is impossible to put more into human words concerning this unparalleled vision, which far surpasses all human thought and comprehension. According to Exodus 34:2, the place where Moses stood by the Lord was at the top (the head) of Sinai, and no more can be determined with certainty concerning it. The cleft in the rock (Exodus 33:22) has been supposed by some to be the same place as the "cave" in which Elijah lodged at Horeb, and where the Lord appeared to him in the still small voice (1 Kings 19:9.). The real summit of the Jebel Musa consists of "a small area of huge rocks, about 80 feet in diameter," upon which there is now a chapel that has almost fallen down, and about 40 feet to the south-west a dilapidated mosque (Robinson, Palestine, vol. i. p. 153). Below this mosque, according to Seetzen (Reise iii. pp. 83, 84), there is a very small grotto, into which you descend by several steps, and to which a large block of granite, about a fathom and a half long and six spans in height, serves as a roof. According to the Mussulman tradition, which the Greek monks also accept, it was in this small grotto that Moses received the law; though other monks point out a "hole, just large enough for a man," near the altar of the Elijah chapel, on the small plain upon the ridge of Sinai, above which the loftier peak rises about 700 feet, as the cave in which Elijah lodged on Horeb (Robinson, Pal. ut supra).

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