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3. The renewal of the covenant ch. 34
Moses had obtained God’s promise to renew the covenant bond with Israel (Exodus 33:14). Now God directed him to restore the covenant revelation by recopying the Ten Commandments on two new stone tablets. God both provided and wrote on the first tablets, but Moses provided and God wrote on the second set of tablets.
"As Moses had restored the covenant through his energetic intercession, he should also provide the materials for the renewal of the covenant record, and bring them to God, for Him to complete and confirm the record by writing the covenant words upon the tables." [Note: Keil and Delitzsch, 2:240.]
Again Moses stayed 40 days and nights in the mountain (Exodus 34:28), but this time Joshua did not accompany him.
"Israel’s initial relationship with God at Sinai, characterized by the patriarchal simplicity of the Covenant Code [Exodus 20:22 to Exodus 23:33], is now represented by the complex and restrictive laws of the Code of the Priests [Exodus 35 -Leviticus 16]." [Note: Sailhamer, The Pentateuch . . ., p. 48.]
The text does not record what Moses saw of God’s self-revelation (Exodus 33:18), but it does tell us what he heard. Moses stressed the mercy of God in this exposition of God’s name, Yahweh (cf. Exodus 29:5-6).
"There is nothing more terrible than the way in which sin clings to a man and dogs his footsteps. Let a man once steal, and he is never trusted again, even though he has made reparation for it. Men look at their fallen brothers through their sin; but God looks at man through the idealised [sic] life, with a love that imputes to him every virtue for Christ’s sake." [Note: Meyer, pp. 448-49.]
Moses’ response to God’s gracious revelation was submission and worship (Exodus 34:8). [Note: See J. Carl Laney, "God’s Self-Revelation in Exodus 34:6-8," Bibliotheca Sacra 158:629 (January-March 2001):36-51.]
Encouraged by this revelation Moses requested again (cf. Exodus 33:15) that God would dwell in the midst of Israel and lead His people into the Promised Land (Exodus 34:9). He besought the Lord again to re-establish His covenant acknowledging the sinfulness of the Israelites with whom he humbly identified.
In response God announced that He would restore the covenant. That is, He would establish the covenant again. Furthermore He would perform miracles never before seen, namely, driving out the Canaanites (Exodus 34:1).
To remind the Israelites of their duties in the covenant relationship, God repeated two of the fundamental ordinances (chs. 21-23) that would determine their attitude toward Him.
1. They were to make no covenants with the Canaanites but drive them out completely (Exodus 34:11-16). The Israelites were to live by only one covenant: their covenant with Yahweh at Sinai.
2. They were to worship God as He had specified (Exodus 34:17-26) rather than as they thought best. Their failure in this had resulted in the worship of the golden calf.
God re-established the Mosaic Covenant when He had set these principles forth.
"The tangible token of the renewal is the handing over of two tables of the testimony like the first, which had been shattered at the time when the original covenant had been annulled. The ceremony was to be similar to the first one, but not so festive, just as the second wedding of one who marries his divorced wife is not quite the same as the first. The break has been healed, but it is not possible to undo the fact that at some time the break had existed." [Note: Cassuto, pp. 437-38. On the practice of fasting, see Kent D. Berghuis, "A Biblical Perspective on Fasting," Bibliotheca Sacra 158:629 (January-March 2001):86-103.]
The transformation that Moses experienced as a result of his close fellowship with God showed in his physical appearance, particularly on his face (cf. Matthew 17:1-3). This change made the other Israelites uncomfortable around him. The evidence of his close relationship with God convicted them. Evidently Moses’ shining face was evidence to the Israelites that he had been in the Lord’s presence and that what he told them was an oracle from God. The purpose of the veil that Moses wore over his face while speaking with the Israelites at other times was to hide the fact that the glory was fading (2 Corinthians 3:13).
"The physical nature of this phenomenon must remain a mystery, but its theological meaning is crystal clear. Moses, as covenant mediator, was authenticated as such by his resemblance to the God of glory whom he represented. It is precisely for this reason that Moses and Elijah shared the radiance of the transfigured Jesus (Luke 9:31-32)." [Note: Merrill, "A Theology . . .," p. 56. Cf. Durham, p. 468.]
The Hebrew word translated "shone" is unusual and is related to the word translated "horn," meaning "rayed." In the Latin Vulgate, Jerome translated the clause in light of the basic meaning of the root word: "horned." This led some ancient painters to represent Moses in art with horns coming out of his head.
"Henceforth, the covenant that God makes with Israel will focus on the role of the mediator. Through him God will display his glory to his people." [Note: Sailhamer, The Pentateuch . . ., p. 317.]
The covenant as renewed rested on the separation of the people from the nations that God would drive out. The realization of the blessings that God promised depended on the Israelites’ obedience to this command.
The blessing of God’s people rests on the faithful lovingkindness of God and the intercession of their leaders, Jesus Christ and human leaders. We cannot stress too much the importance of the kind of intercession that Moses modeled on this occasion. If God has given you a ministry of leadership, your intercession for those you lead or your lack of it will directly affect their welfare.
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Exodus 34". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20