World Wide Study Bible
a Bible passage
The Shining Face of Moses
29 Moses came down from Mount Sinai. As he came down from the mountain with the two tablets of the covenant in his hand, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God.
29. And it came to pass when Moses came down Another remarkable honor given to the Law is here narrated, viz., that the brightness of the heavenly glory appeared in the face of Moses; for it is said that his face gave forth rays, or was irradiated. The word is derived from קרן keren, a horn; and therefore it is probable that rays shone forth from his face, which rendered it luminous; and this effulgence God shed upon him, whilst He was speaking to him in the mount. It is not certain what was the reason why Moses himself was ignorant that he was thus illumined by God, except that it seems probable that it was concealed from him for a short time, in order that he might approach the people with more freedom, and thus that the miracle might be more evident from close inspection. When it is said afterwards, that Aaron and the children of Israel were so alarmed at the brightness, that “they were afraid to come nigh him,” I do not understand it, as if they fled from him immediately; for, since they were recalled by his voice, undoubtedly they had not seen the rays from a distance, but when they were in the act of receiving him, and he, on his part, delivering to them the commands of God. Therefore, what follows soon afterwards, that, when he had done speaking, he covered his face with a vail, 389389 “Till Moses had done speaking with them, he put,” etc. — A. V. Rosenmuller translates it with C. and the LXX., “and, when,” etc. “We need not (says Willet) with Oleaster to transpose the words, ‘he put a vail upon his face, and so finished to speak unto the people;’ but either we may read with Junius,’ While he had finished to speak unto the people, he put a vail:’ or rather to read it in the praeter-pluperfect tense, with the Genevan version, ‘So Moses made an end of communing with them, and he had put a covering upon his face.’” I refer to his first address, which He was obliged to break off on account of the departure or flight of the people, so that the meaning is, when He knew the cause of their alarm, He left off speaking, and covered his face with a vail; for he could not have known the reason of their flying except by inquiry. Some, in order to avoid the difficulty, separate the second clause from the first, and transpose their order; but this exposition appears to me to be forced. It seems, however, in my opinion, to be perfectly consistent that Moses, after he saw them departing in consternation, ceased from speaking, because they did not listen to him, and, when he discovered the reason, put on the vail. Hence arises a question, viz., How Moses could have borne the brightness of God’s glory, whilst the people could not bear the rays which shone from his face? But this is easily answered: that they were branded with this mark of disgrace, in order that they might confess how far by their ingratitude they had departed from God, since they were terrified at the sight of this servant. They were, therefore, humbled by this difference between them, that, whilst Moses securely advanced to them from his conference with God, although he bore upon him the indications of God’s terrible power, they, in fear and astonishment, recoiled from the sight of a mortal man.
After Paul has shewn the genuine object of this brightness, viz., that the Law should be glorious, he proceeds further, and shews that it was a presage of the future blindness which awaited the Jews. (2 Corinthians 3:13.) He begins, therefore, by saying, that although the Law was only a dead letter, and the ministration of death, yet it was graced with its own peculiar glory; and then adds what is accidental, that there was a vail before the face of Moses, because it would be the case that the Jews would not be able to see what is the main thing in the Law, nor to pay attention to its true end; and so it actually is, that since the coming of Christ, their senses have been blinded, and the vail is upon them, until Moses shall be 390390 So C. translates the words in his Comment. on 2 Corinthians 3:16, ”and when he (i.e., Moses,) shall have turned to the Lord,” and thus defends it: “This passage has hitherto been badly rendered, for both Greek and Latin writers have thought that the word Israel was to be understoon, whereas Paul is speaking of Moses. he had said that a vial is upon the hearts of the Jews when Moses is read. He immediately adds, As soon as he will have turned to the Lord, the vial will be taken away. Who does not that this is said of Moses, that is, of the Law? For as Christ is the end of it, (Romans 10:4,) to which it ought to be referred, it was turned away in another direction, when the Jews shut out Christ from it.” Calvin Society edition, vol. 2, p. 183. Camerarius, in Poole, remarks on the difficulty of the passage, arising from the fact that the verb ἐπιστρέψὟ may either be the third person singular subjunctive active, or the second person singular of the first future middle; but he concludes, that “it seems somewhat harsh to apply it to Moses.” turned by them to Christ, who is the soul of the Law. But, since now in the Gospel God presents Himself with open face, we must take care that the prince of this world does not darken our minds, but rather that we may be transformed from glory to glory.