Thursday, August 05, 2004

Exodus 33

This chapter begins with a puzzling duplication. In the first statement, God tells Moses to go to Canaan, that an angel will lead them, but that God will not go because He might destroy them because they are stiff-necked (Hebrew qasheh, also meaning hard, severe, fierce, or vehement). The people begin to mourn and don't put on ornaments. In the reprise, God adds that He might destroy them if He were with them for even a moment and commands them to remove their ornaments.

And the Tent of Meeting appears in a new form. In preceding chapters, the specifications for the Tent of Meeting are described to Moses as part of the construction of the Tabernacle. In Ex. 33, it becomes a tent that Moses habitually erects outside the encampment for meeting with God. Moses and the Lord would confer face to face (Hebrew paniym, meaning face or countenance) in the presence of Joshua, while the pillar of cloud stood guard outside the Tent.

Finally, we learn the precise relationship between Moses and the Lord. God knows Moses by name, with the implication that the rest of humanity is merely an amorphous herd. The Lord promises that His Presence (paniym) will go with the Israelites. And, although God has just said that He would not accompany the Israelites, He agrees that the Presence will do precisely that. Finally, since Moses begs to see God's glory (Hebrew kabowd in the Strong concordance or kavod, as described below), God tells Moses to enter a crack in the rocks, which God will cover with His hand as he passes by. Then, when His face is no longer visible, he will let Moses see His back. For none may see the Lord's face and live, God explains.

David J. A. Clines sees this latter dialogue as a daring act of demanding from the Lord ( But of course God does not grant much of Moses' requests, beyond accompanying the Israelites. He agrees only to show His goodness and proclaim His name. So, we see Moses' childlike sincerity in wanting to know God, but also his incapacity.

Rabbi Josh Zeibach ( connects the glory (Kavod) to Kaved (the liver as an organ), and to the adjective heavy.


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