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The Command to Leave Sinai


The L ord said to Moses, “Go, leave this place, you and the people whom you have brought up out of the land of Egypt, and go to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your descendants 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, or I would consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.”

4 When the people heard these harsh words, they mourned, and no one put on ornaments. 5For the L ord had said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘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, and I will decide what to do to you.’ ” 6Therefore the Israelites stripped themselves of their ornaments, from Mount Horeb onward.

The Tent outside the Camp

7 Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, far off from the camp; he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the L ord 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 and stand, each of them, at the entrance of their tents 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 L ord would speak with Moses. 10When all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would rise and bow down, all of them, at the entrance of their tent. 11Thus the L ord used to speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Then he would return to the camp; but his young assistant, Joshua son of Nun, would not leave the tent.

Moses’ Intercession

12 Moses said to the L ord, “See, you have said 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 if I have found favor in your sight, show me your ways, so that I may know you and find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.” 14He said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” 15And he said to him, “If your presence will not go, do not carry us up from here. 16For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people, unless you go with us? In this way, we shall be distinct, I and your people, from every people on the face of the earth.”

17 The L ord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing that you have asked; for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” 18Moses said, “Show me your glory, I pray.” 19And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you the name, ‘The L ord’; 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 no one shall see me and live.” 21And the L ord continued, “See, 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.”

14. And he said, My presence shall go with thee We gather from this answer what the desire of Moses was, for God, in accepting his prayer, affirms in one word that He will go before them as He was wont, and this was a sure pledge of His presence in no ordinary manner. For although the whole world is governed by His providence, still His face does not therein appear so conspicuously as in His protection of the Church’s welfare. And, in fact, since the same Angel, who had before presided over the camp, now undertakes the charge of guiding the people, the eternal divinity of Christ is clearly proved from hence.

This clause, “My face 367367     “My presence shall go with thee.” — A.V. shall go before,” is equivalent to his saying, I will so go before thee, that thou shalt truly perceive that I am with thee, as if thou shouldst see my face set before thine eyes in a mirror. Now, since this was fulfilled in Christ, it follows that He is the eternal God, whose glory, power, and majesty is far above all creatures. The rest which He promises has reference to the perseverance of His grace, and its final accomplishment, 368368     “Et au but ou Moyse pretendoit;” and to the object at which Moses aimed. — Fr. as if it were said, when the people shall have entered the land, they shall be under God’s protection and guardianship; for what was common to the whole people is ascribed to the person of Moses.

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