Exodus 34:4
And he hewed two tables of stone like to the first; and Moses rose up early in the morning, and went up to mount Sinai, as the LORD had commanded him, and took in his hand the two tables of stone.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
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.

4. Moses … took in his hand the two tables of stone—As Moses had no attendant to divide the labor of carrying them, it is evident that they must have been light, and of no great dimensions—probably flat slabs of shale or slate, such as abound in the mountainous region of Horeb. An additional proof of their comparatively small size appears in the circumstance of their being deposited in the ark of the most holy place (Ex 25:10). No text from Poole on this verse. And he hewed two tables of stone like unto the first,.... Which may be an emblem of the ministry of men, which God makes use of in hewing of his people, and bringing them to a sense of their sins, the breach of his law, and repentance for them, Hosea 6:5,

and Moses rose up early in the morning: which, according to the Jews (g), was the twenty ninth of Ab or July, which showed his ready and cheerful obedience to the divine will, and the quick dispatch he had made in hewing the tables; which whether he did with his own hands only, or made use of others whom he directed, is not very material; though the phrase "hew thee", or "hew unto thee", seems as if he were to do it himself, and not another:

and went up unto Mount Sinai, as the Lord had commanded him; which was the third time of his going there, and every time he continued forty days and forty nights, as Aben Ezra observes, see Deuteronomy 9:18,

and took in his hand the two tables of stone; which could not be very thick and heavy to carry in one hand up a mountain, but must be a sort of marble slab or slate: at this same time an ark was ordered to be made, and was made, to put the tables into, which was a type of Christ, the fulfilling end of the law for righteousness, Deuteronomy 10:1.

(g) Seder Olam Rabba, c. 6. p. 19.

And he hewed two tables of stone like unto the first; and Moses rose up early in the morning, and went up unto mount Sinai, as the LORD had commanded him, and took in his hand the two tables of stone.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Verse 4. - Moses obeys all the directions given him to the letter - hews, or causes to be hewn, the two tables, making them as like as he can to the former ones - rises early, and ascends the mountain to the appointed spot - and takes with him the tables, for God to perform his promise (ver. 1)of writing the commandments upon them. It has been questioned whether God did actually write the words upon the second tables; but Kurtz's arguments upon the point are unanswerable. (History of the Old Covenant, vol. 3. p. 186, E. T.)

CHAPTER 34:5-8 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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