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The reply is still to the same effect; “You have found favor with me, and you shall have my presence, which you speak of; do not fear but I will conduct you as I promised.” * Then Moses ventures at last to propound his request, and with the abruptness which so naturally succeeds to hesitation from such a
“I beseech thee,” he says, “show me thy glorious self.” | The reply is ;
The reply is ; " In your blindness, you sue for an impossibility ; you cannot see my face ; you may not, no living man may, look on that. Let it suffice you to see me in my goodness; I have proclaimed the name of the Lord before thee; [I have disclosed myself in my attributes ;] and I will continue to be gracious and merciful to you and yours as heretofore. I And the Lord said, Behold, there is with me a place [that is a place of favor for thee], and thus thou hast been set as on a rock. But still, as to any sensual view of my glorious presence, that is not even for thee. When my glory passes before thee, I have placed thee, as it were, in a dark cleft of that rock, and veiled thy vision with my hand.|| Yet, so far as this I have taken away my hand, - so far I have removed that veil, — that thou hast seen of me that which comes after, that which follows in my train ;” viz. what are my purposes for the future, 1 (which in fact had been revealed, through God's special favor to Moses,] or, perhaps, what are the results, what is the sequence, of my present, though invisible agency.
It has been remarked, that the descent of the vapory column from the top of Sinai to the Tabernacle of the Congregation, appears to have been designed as significant of God's acceptance of the people's penitence, and of their restoration to his favor. It was, however, accompanied by no explicit declaration to that effect. This was probably reserved, and the anxiety, into which they had been thrown,* protracted, in order to give them further time for reflection and remorse, and for fortifying themselves with better resolutions against future temptation. In the next chapter we read of that reconciliation being formally announced to Moses, accompanied with a repeated admonition of the terms, on which the continuance of its benefits was to be secured. He was directed to come again into the mountain, unattended, and bring with him two tablets, to be inscribed anew with the precepts of the Decalogue, and preserved in the place of those which he had broken in his anger. Having arrived there, and been addressed, for his encouragement, by a voice which proclaimed God's immutable designs of mercy,t he offered, prostrate on the earth, his supplication for his people, that they might be pardoned their iniquity and their sin, and reinstated in their place as God's inheritance, and was answered by the annunciation of observances, all previously enjoined, which, thus reinstated, they would be required to keep; observances, all of them, let it
* Ex. xxxiii. 17.
f xxxiii. 18.
xxxiii. 19, 20. § xxxiii. 21. See Psalm xxvii. 5. xl. 2. || Ex. xxxiii. 22.
I xxxiii. 23. The word is often used for futurity. See Iş. xli. 23, xlii. 23. Compare 1 Kings i. 24; Eccles. x. 14, where one vowel point is different. - In the last three verses, I request it may be observed how the sense is cleared by a literal translation of the præter tense, which stands in the Hebrew, instead of rendering it as future.
6 will by
* Ex. xxxiii. 5,
† xxxiv. 5-7. This is, I think, Moses' summary statement of that assurance of God's renewed favor to the people, given at length in 10-27. In form, the statement refers to xxxiii. 19.
, no means utterly destroy." Zech. v. 3.
| xxxiv. 8, 9. Moses had lately asked (xxxiii. 13), “If I have found favor in thy sight, show me thy way.” He now desists from this request, having been taught better, and urges his suit only for the people ; “ If I have found favor in thy sight, let my Lord, I pray thee, go among us.” He repeats parts of God's words in xxxii. 3, and prays that the threat there held out may be revoked.
be remarked, having special reference to their protection against that sin of idolatry, into whích, by making a material representation of the true God, they had lately exposed themselves to fall.*
Having now received all the directions necessary to the immediate institution of divine worship, Moses
* Ex. xxxiv. 10-28. — “I make a covenant”; (v. 10;) that is, I promising to dispossess the idolatrous nations, and the people promising not to harbour them.-- The direction in verse 12, was called for by the late exhibition of the people's fickleness; and the same is true of verse 17.- The omission in verse 13 of any mention of temples, points to an earlier time, than that in which temples for worship were in general use, and so bears on the question of the Mosaic origin of the book. — With 18 – 26, compare xxiii. 13-19. The provisions are the same. The repetition of rules, intended for protection against idolatry, was called for by the recent lapse. - In xxxiv, 20, as in xiii. 13, what is said of the ass, is meant to apply to all unclean animals. See Numb. xviii. 15. — “I will cast out the nations before thee, and enlarge thy borders; neither shall any man desire thy land, when thou shalt go up to appear before the Lord thy God thrice in the year.” (24.) This has been commonly understood as if, during the three weeks of every year, that the Jews should be assembled for the solemnities of the great festivals, at their capital city, their country should be miraculously protected. Michaelis, by way of explanation, appeals to a practice of the Orientals, of the nature of a conventional truce on such occasions. But I submit whether the first part of the verse does not fully explain the last. The humbled neighbours of the Jews would not even venture to attack their homes, when left for a time defenceless. Moses was himself to make the record of this communication, though, for distinction's sake, he received the Decalogue already written. (27.) - Some critics have thought that, as the directions in 12-26 are ten in number, verse 28 relates to them. But compare Deut. x. 1-4.
Of the passage xxxiv. 29 – 35, in the uncertainty respecting the two principal words 7/09 (translated veil, but used nowhere else, and not explained by its etymology), and 122. (translated shone, but found only in one other place, Ps. Ixix. 32, and there rendered to hare horns, as it is also, in this passage, in the Vulgate version), it seems unsafe to say any thing more, than that, as part of the arrangement for impressing the minds of the Israelites, Moses, when he came down from the mountain, was made to carry his commission visibly about him, by some extraordinary token of his having just stood in the Divine presence. Even this is by no means clear. It is better to say at once, that we cannot translate the passage. It is one of not a few cases in the interpretation of these books, in which a confession of ignorance is at once most fair, most modest, and most safe.
descended from the mountain, and communicated them to the people, renewing the command not to work on the Sabbath day, which otherwise, in their zeal for the speedy execution of a sacred work, they might have supposed they were justified in doing. *
I have before proposed the question, how, if the author of the book of Exodus had written, while the Tabernacle stood in its completeness, or at a time when memory, or tradition, or history, retained the record of its appearance, it is natural to suppose, that he would have described that structure. I will not venture to reply, that he would certainly have contented himself with merely delineating the proportions, and descanting on the effect of the one finished whole; that he would have stopped short in a picturesque description. What he might have done, and the very extent, I think, of what is supposable that he would have done, is indicated to us in the account actually given, by a writer so circumstanced, of the erection of Solomon's Temple. That operation too is regarded by its narrator with the utmost interest ; and accordingly he records every step and method of it with great particularity. But he records them only once.
How different the account in Exodus; and how difficult to conceive that it should have proceeded from any writer, except one circumstanced as Moses is described to have been. Before any thing had been done towards the building of the Tabernacle, — while all, in relation to it, was future, minute directions respecting that edifice are conveyed to him. All of them were important; and that no one might be lost from his memory, or misunderstood, he records them successively as they are given. The
* Ex. xxxv. 2, 3; compare xxxi. 12-17. The opportunity seems to have been used to improve upon the rule, by prescribing (3) a stricter domestic observance than as yet had been required.
record is at length completed, and is preserved in its finished state, in what are now, according to our division, the twenty-fifth, twenty-sixth, and twentyseventh chapters of Exodus. Next, its contents are communicated to the artisans, and the work is begun. Another subject of interest now occurs. It is, the correspondence of the work, as it proceeds, with the directions which have been given relating to its several parts. These parts are successively brought to Moses, as they are finished; and as they are brought, they are, for greater exactness and security, compared with the directions for them, and a note of their correspondence, in all particulars, with those directions, is made. Thus grows up an inventory of the Tabernacle and its furniture, which, in its terms, is little more than a repetition of the original orders, and which we have, in its complete state, in the thirty-sixth and thirty-seventh chapters. — Under the circumstances, in which Moses is represented to have been, it was the most natural thing possible, that he should thus first record his directions, and then record severally, successively, and circumstantially, the manner of their execution.* But who can conceive of the state of a mind, which, in a later age, would produce a composition in such a form ? +
It is obvious that similar remarks apply to the directions given respecting the attire and consecration of the priests, compared with the later record of their execu
Compare Ex. xxxix. 32 - 43. † As we have seen above, what, if I may use such language, looks like the Order and Account Book, so, who does not recognise the form of journal-entry in xxxvi. 4-7?_ Again; in the heading of the passage, beginning xxxviii. 21, we seem to trace the entry by Moses, in its place, of a written report, " by the hand of Ithamar, son to Aaron the priest,” of the state of the property which he had been appointed to inspect. The word 729 (to visit, hence to inspect) used in this verse, with its derivative noun, is peculiar.