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The Command to Leave Sinai

1The Lord said to Moses, “Depart; go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought up out of the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your offspring I will give it.’ 2I will send an angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 3Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.”

4When the people heard this disastrous word, they mourned, and no one put on his ornaments. 5For the Lord had said to Moses, “Say to the people of Israel, ‘You are a stiff-necked people; if for a single moment I should go up among you, I would consume you. So now take off your ornaments, that I may know what to do with you.’” 6Therefore the people of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments, from Mount Horeb onward.

The Tent of Meeting

7Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, far off from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the Lord would go out to the tent of meeting, which was outside the camp. 8Whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people would rise up, and each would stand at his tent door, and watch Moses until he had gone into the tent. 9When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent, and the Lord11Hebrew he would speak with Moses. 10And when all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would rise up and worship, each at his tent door. 11Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses turned again into the camp, his assistant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent.

Moses' Intercession

12Moses said to the Lord, “See, you say to me, ‘Bring up this people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’ 13Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.” 14And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” 15And he said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. 16For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?”

17And the Lord said to Moses, “This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” 18Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” 19And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. 20But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” 21And the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, 22and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”


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12. See, thou, sayest unto me, Bring up this people Moses is still diligently engaged in endeavoring to reconcile the people, for the fuller promise was inserted by way of anticipation. Since the revolt, however, God had promised no more than that He would give the land to the people; but although wishing only to assure them that they should possess the land, He had added that His angel should lead them, still this was but a temporary blessing, and one which He is wont to confer promiscuously on other nations also. Thus Moses saw that he and the people were deprived of a special privilege which they had previously enjoyed; for that same angel who had gone before them was frequently called the God of hosts, in order that they might perceive that God was present with them in a peculiar manner. Hence Moses complains not without cause that God had not signified whom He would send, inasmuch as, when He spoke generally of an ordinary angel, He had withdrawn that special Deliverer, the guardian of the people, and the perpetual maintainer of their safety. He does not, therefore, request that Aaron should be restored to him, or that any companion should be associated with him in his difficult and arduous task; but he desires to be assured of the continuance of God’s previous favor. As the ground of his confidence in asking, he adduces nothing but the promises of God. He rests, then, on no dignity of his own, nor alleges any duties performed, whereby he had merited so great favor; but contents himself with this brief statement, Lord, cause the event to correspond with Thy words. We have already shewn 366366     See ante on Exodus 31:2, p. 291. what it is to “know by name,” viz., to choose from amongst others, or to hold in peculiar honor. After, however, Moses had made mention of what had been promised by God, he implores him by this grace, “if (says he) I have found grace in thy sight,” confirm or ratify it by this proof, i.e., by again undertaking the care of us; for by the way of God he means that guidance in which He had declared that He would go before them to shew them the way. In a word, he requests that this token of favor should be given them, that God should continually guide His people. Therefore, He says, thus shall I know thee, and it will appear that I am acceptable to thee. Finally, he refers to the Covenant of God with the whole people; as much as to say, that although God should be unwilling to grant this to him alone individually, still there was a weightier reason, viz., because God had adopted that people; and, consequently, it was just that he should distinguish it from other nations by peculiar marks.




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