Ex 33:1-23. The Lord
Refuses to Go with the People.
1. the Lord said—rather "had" said unto
Moses. The conference detailed in this chapter must be considered as
having occurred prior to the pathetic intercession of Moses, recorded
at the close of the preceding chapter; and the historian, having
mentioned the fact of his earnest and painful anxiety, under the
overwhelming pressure of which he poured forth that intercessory prayer
for his apostate countrymen, now enters on a detailed account of the
3. I will not go up … lest I consume
thee—Here the Lord is represented as determined to do what He
afterwards did not. (See on Ex 32:7).
4. when the people heard these evil
tidings—from Moses on his descent from the mount.
5. put off thy ornaments—In seasons of
mourning, it is customary with Eastern people to lay aside all gewgaws
and divest themselves of their jewels, their gold, and every thing rich
and splendid in their dress. This token of their sorrow the Lord
required of His offending people.
that I may know what to do unto
thee—The language is accommodated to the feeble apprehensions
of men. God judges the state of the heart by the tenor of the conduct.
In the case of the Israelites, He cherished a design of mercy; and the
moment He discerned the first symptoms of contrition, by their
stripping off their ornaments, as penitents conscious of their error
and sincerely sorrowful, this fact added its weight to the fervency of
Moses' prayers, and gave them prevalence with God in behalf of the
7. Moses took the tabernacle, and pitched it
without the camp—Not the tabernacle, of which a pattern had
been given him, for it was not yet erected, but his own
tent—conspicuous as that of the leader—in a part of which
he heard cases and communed with God about the people's interests;
hence called "the tabernacle of the congregation," and the withdrawal
of which, in abhorrence from a polluted camp, was regarded as the first
step in the total abandonment with which God had threatened them.
8. all the people rose up, and stood every man at
his tent door—Its removal produced deep and universal
consternation; and it is easy to conceive how anxiously all eyes would
be directed towards it; how rapidly the happy intelligence would
spread, when a phenomenon was witnessed from which an encouraging hope
could be founded.
9-11. the cloudy pillar descended, and stood at
the door of the tabernacle—How would the downcast hearts of
the people revive—how would the tide of joy swell in every bosom,
when the symbolic cloud was seen slowly and majestically to descend and
stand at the entrance of the tabernacle!
as Moses entered—It was when he
appeared as their mediator, when he repaired from day to day to
intercede for them, that welcome token of assurance was given that his
advocacy prevailed, that Israel's sin was forgiven, and that God would
again be gracious.
18-23. I beseech thee, show me thy
glory—This is one of the most mysterious scenes described in
the Bible: he had, for his comfort and encouragement, a splendid and
full display of the divine majesty, not in its unveiled effulgence, but
as far as the weakness of humanity would admit. The face, hand, back
parts, are to be understood figuratively.