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“Unworthy as they are," he says, in the language of passionate entreaty, “they are still my brethren, the people to whom I am devoted, for prosperity or woe. Forgive them, or renounce me. Restore them to the privileges they have forfeited, or else exclude me too from those privileges; me, who have deserved no such privation.” “ It is enough,” is the reply, “to summon those to the forfeiture, who have committed the crime. You have committed none. Go you, and fulfil your office. As to those who may further deserve punishment, it will be inflicted on them at such time as to my own wisdom shall seem fit.” * "But,” the communication goes on, "let it be distinctly understood by the people, on what terms they are to proceed. Go thou, and lead them to the country to which I promised to their fathers to give them safe conduct. But let them say, whether they will have me in the midst of them as they go; whether, setting up my tabernacle in their camp, I shall appear among them as their king; whether there is not danger, that thus in virtual presence accompanying their march, I shall be provoked by some disloyalty of theirs, (stiff-necked people as they are,) and that, outraged by affronts, aggravated by being thus offered, as it were, to my face, and by unfaithfulness to engagements voluntarily assumed, I shall be tempted to consume them in the way. Let them say, whether it is not safer for them to go without such immediate guidance, than to take the risk of provoking me under such peculiar aggravations, by that perversity which they so continually manifest.” +
* Ex. xxxii. 30-34.
4 xxxiii. 1-3. — I think that the exposition of the phrase God's angel, mentioned above, (page 182,) which represents it as a designation of Moses, derives some confirmation from xxxii. 34, and xxxiii. 1, 2. The import of the former verse, I take to be “Go lead the people to whom I spake concerning thee, · Behold, mine angel shall go before thee,'" &c. And the
This form of remonstrance was obviously suited to move the minds of the people to the result, which we actually read to have been accomplished by it. “The Lord had said further unto Moses, “Say unto the children of Israel, I might [not I will] come into the midst of thee in a moment, and consume thee. But, outraged as I have been, I will take no such summary vengeance. Put off your ornaments, and assume the signs of the selfcondemnation which becomes you. Manifest the penitence which you ought to feel, and I will then announce how I will proceed.?” — The people accordingly mourned, and put off their ornaments; and the lesson needful to be learned by them having been sufficiently enforced, their penitence was accepted.
What we next read of is, I think, the sign which God gave that he was reconciled, and that he consented to take his place in the midst of the people. Moses, we are told, took a tent, and pitched it outside the camp, at a distance, and called it the Tabernacle of the Congregation. By placing it at a distance from the encampment, he tested the question who those were, who, in the character of God's faithful, were disposed to resort to it. “Every one who sought the Lord” accordingly came thither; and, this question tried, they
latter passage, I understand as follows; “Go thou up (addressed to Moses] with the people which thou hast brought up out of the land of Egypt; go thou up with them unto the land which I sware unto Abraham, &c. when I said unto them, •Unto thy seed will I give that land, and will send an angel to give thee guidance to it.' Be thou, Moses, the guide, the angel, whom I then virtually promised.” — But it is an interpretation, for which I am not strenuous.
* Ex. xxxvi. 4-6.
† xxxiii. 7. — The Tabernacle, properly so called, was not yet constructed. The Tent of the Congregation was either so named, because it had been hitherto in use as a place for meetings within the camp ; or, more probably, because now set up for the first time, as the place where God's faithful people were to distinguish themselves by assembling,
appear to have returned to their tents, in order that, standing each in his own door, they might the better see what was to follow. Their penitence having been thus evinced, the sign of its acceptance succeeded. “The cloudy pillar,” the column of vapor which had hitherto betokened the Divine presence on the top of Sinai, “ descended” thence, in the people's view; and now, for the first time, God, who had hitherto but manifested his presence on the distant summit, took his place, as King, in the midst of Israel. “And the Lord talked with Moses,” purposing by this display of familiarity with him, in the people's sight, to impress on them further a conviction of his authority. The Tent of the Congregation continued to stand there, till the Tabernacle, properly so called, was set up; Moses occasionally resorting to it for directions, which there awaited him, while, during his absences, Joshua, for the more security, or the more dignity and state, remained by it, as its guard.*
It is enough to make one weep, to think of the absurd and offensive use, which has been made by Jewish annotators, and Christians, no wiser and more inexcusable than they, of the interesting and instructive passage which next follows. The mind of Moses bad not yet been elevated to the conception of a purely spiritual deity. How should it be? How can we represent to ourselves the probability of such an immense
Ex. xxxiii. 8-11; compare xxiv. 16. - The cloud on Sinai had betokened God's presence on that height. Its transfer to the Tabernacle of the Congregation was now a symbol of his presence there. “The cloudy pillar descended” (9); the language is the same as that which had been used of Moses' coming down from Sinai, (xxxii. 7, 15.)— Is it fanciful to suggest, that nothing was more fit to banish from the minds of the Israelites the idea of making a material image of the Deity, as they had lately done, than for him to manifest himself in the midst of them by a cloud, a wreath of vapor, a shape all vague, indefinite, mutable, unsubstantial ?
progress having been made by him beyond the universal apprehensions of bis age? What was the training, by which his mind had been made receptive of such a revelation ? And, if his mind could have embraced it, where is the record that any such revelation had been made? Moses could have had no idea but of a deity with a body ; a body glorious, indeed, but definite, limited, and visible. The deity he adored had held intimate communication with him ; had signalized him with peculiar favor; had appointed him to an honorable office; but as yet, had only appeared to him in manifestations which were not himself; in flame, in vapor, in thunders, by a voice. He was moved with a strange desire to look on the imperial form ; to gaze, though it should be but once, on the present mystery of divinity ; and he ventured to hope, that, when so much had been shown and been given to him, not even this would be denied. At first, as if oppressed by the awe which might well accompany such a proposal, he made it timidly and cautiously ; and when, no notice being taken of it, he proceeded to urge it in less equivocal words, he was answered by the magnificent declaration, that the Deity was only to be seen in his doings; and that it was enough for Moses and his people to know him in the works of mercy, in which he designed to appear in their behalf.
Of this sublime passage, I need not explain what hideous havoc has been made by bad translation, and
worse could be) worse commentary. Let me follow it, with a few remarks, from verse to verse. Moses begins, circumspectly and reservedly, by saying; “Thou hast appointed me to the high office of guide of this people; but thou hast never yet made me know him, whom [or that, which] thou designest to send with me; [the language is intentionally general and indirect, but
Moses understood that God designed to be the people's companion, and the reference could only be to him ;] thou hast never brought me to his (or its] acquaintance, though thou hast assured me of thy peculiar confidence and friendship, and hast said, I have known thee by name, and thou hast favor in my sight.'* Now there. fore, if I have found favor in thy sight, give me proof of it, by showing me thy way, (rather, thy step,t thine own movement, which implies visible presence;] that I too may know thee, [having seen thy form,) and may truly enjoy that favor which thou hast assured me, that I possess; and further, consider that this nation is thine; [intimating, that it was fit therefore that God should reveal himself to their delegated guide.]” | The language of Moses has hitherto been all indefinite and timid, as that of a person urging such a suit might be expected to be; and the answer merely is, “ As to my presence, be assured of it, till you are brought to a place of repose.” S Not discouraged, Moses proceeds; " Truly, if that were not so, we had best advance no further.|| But [not for] how am I, and how are thy people to know, that thou art our friend, when we are separated from all other nations, and without thy guidance should be forlorn ? Is it not by thine own presence being with us?"1- words which indicate his continued hesitation to express the wish which occupied his mind.
* Ex. xxxiii. 12.
† For 77777 IP717, the Septuagint has, içávicón por osavráv, and the Vulgate, “ ostende mihi faciem tuam."
| xxxiii. 13.
§ xxxiii. 14. — Readers acquainted with Hebrew will not fail to observe the humble, shrinking tone of Moses' request, which the translation
; ? ; ; || xxxiii. 15. Or; “If that were not so, thou wilt not lead us up hence," and thy promise to do so will not be kept; intimating, that the mere fact of God's presence among the people was a thing already understood.
1 xxxiii. 16.
,כִּי יַיִךְ הַנוֹי הַזה ; הודינִי נָא ; אִם־נָא מָצָאתִי חֵן ;very imperfectly conveys