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Bible Commentaries
Exodus 33

Poole's English Annotations on the Holy BiblePoole's Annotations



God refuseth to go with the people as formerly, Exodus 33:1-3.

The people mourn, Exodus 33:4.

God’s command what to say to the children of Israel, Exodus 33:5.

They mourn, and lay by their ornaments, Exodus 33:6.

Moses pitcheth the tabernacle without the camp, Exodus 33:7; and going in, God speaks to him, Exodus 33:8,Exodus 33:9. A cloudy pillar descendeth on it, Exodus 33:10.

God speaks to Moses face to face, Exodus 33:11.

He prays for his guidance and presence, Exodus 33:12-16.

God promises him, Exodus 33:14,Exodus 33:17; proclaims his name, Exodus 33:19.

His face can be seen by no man, Exodus 33:20-23.

Verse 3

I will not go up in the midst of thee by my own special and gracious presence, as hitherto I have done, but I will depart from thee. In pursuance hereof God removes his tabernacle without the camp, Exodus 33:7. I will only make good my promise to thy fathers, and send an angel to accomplish it, but I will show no peculiar and further kindness to thee.

Lest I consume thee in the way; lest thy sins should be aggravated by my presence and favour, and thereby I should be provoked utterly to destroy thee. So he shows that their perverseness makes this severity necessary for them, and that God even in his judgment remembers mercy to them.

Verse 4

Their precious garments or jewels, which the women reserved, as we saw, Exodus 33:3. This was a visible sign and profession of their inward humiliation and repentance for their sin, and of their deep sense of God’s displeasure.

Verse 5

I will come up into the midst of thee, to wit, in anger; not in favour, Exodus 33:3, where the words are the same, but the sense differing,

and consume thee.

Object. But God had promised he would not do so, Exodus 33:3.

Answ. That was signified to Moses, not to the people, to whom the threatening was most proper and profitable; and this threatening hath a condition implied, to wit, except they repent, as the next words plainly show.

That I may know what to do unto thee; that I may either inflict my judgments, or suspend them, as thou art penitent or impenitent.

Verse 7

The tabernacle was a tent set up by Moses for the people to meet in for sacrifice and seeking of God, and other parts of God’s worship, until the great tabernacle should be finished; for such a place was necessary, or highly expedient for that use, and therefore it is not probable they would be without it for a year’s space.

Afar off from the camp; in testimony of God’s alienation from them, and displeasure against them, this being a kind of excommunication; and all was too little to bring them to a thorough repentance.

The tabernacle of the congregation; it was so before, but he called it so now, to show that God had not wholly forsaken them; and that if they truly repented, he still permitted them to come into his presence, and to seek the Lord.

Every one which sought the Lord; either for his favour, or for counsel and direction. See Exodus 18:15,Exodus 18:19,Exodus 18:20.

Verse 8

Testifying their grief for God’s departure, their respect to Moses, whom they had lately despised, their earnest desire of his intercession for them, their longing for God’s favour, and their humble expectation of a gracious return from God by the hands of Moses.

Verse 9

Whereby God testified his approbation of Moses, and of that which Moses had done, which might seem to some severe and cruel.

Verse 11

Face to face, or, mouth to mouth, as Numbers 12:8. Not that God hath face or mouth, or that Moses could behold it, which is denied, Exodus 33:20. But the sense is, he spake with him freely and familiarly, and immediately, not by an angel in a dream or vision, as he did to other prophets. See Deuteronomy 34:10.

Joshua abode in the tabernacle, either to keep it from injury or inconvenience; for as it was set up by man’s help, so it needed man’s care to preserve it; or to assist and direct those who resorted thither to seek God in Moses’s absence. And Joshua seems to be appointed for this work rather than Aaron, or any other of the elders, because they had one way or other been guilty of the late idolatry, and God would hereby punish them with a temporary suspension from his service, and their office.

Verse 12

Whom thou wilt send with me, i.e. what angel it is, whether it be a created angel, for then I profess I am unsatisfied with him, Exodus 33:15; or the same uncreated Angel Christ, who hath hitherto accompanied us, and then I am content. But I am at a great loss by thy withdrawing thy cloudy pillar from the people to whom it is to be a guide.

I know thee by name, i.e. distinctly and familiarly, as one whom I have much converse with, and great kindness for; thy name is written in my book. Compare Exodus 32:32,Exodus 32:33; Psalms 87:5,Psalms 87:6; Philippians 4:3. And

knowing here notes approbation and affection, as Psalms 1:6; Matthew 7:23 compare Jeremiah 1:5.

Verse 13

Show me now thy way; the course and manner of thy dealings with men, and particularly thy purpose and will concerning me and thy people, and the method which thou wilt choose for the fulfilling of thy promise, and the course which thou wouldst have me take, and the way by which I shall conduct thy people to the Promised Land.

That I may know thee, i.e. thy mind herein; men are said to know God when they know his mind and will; or that I may experimentally know thee to be what thou hast promised thou wilt be to me and to thy people; or rather,

that I may thereby know thee, namely, that I shall find grace

in thy sight, as it follows; that I may be assured that thou wilt be reconciled to and present with me and thy people.

Thy people, both by thy own choice and purpose, and promise to their parents, and by their recognition of thee for their God, and their returning to thee again.

Verse 14

My presence, Heb. my face, i.e. I myself, by comparing this with 2 Samuel 17:11. The Angel of my presence, Isaiah 63:9; the pledge of my presence, the cloudy pillar; and I will not turn thee over to an angel, as I threatened, Exodus 34:2. See Deuteronomy 4:34.

I will give thee rest; not only rest from thy present anguish and perplexity of mind for thy people, but in due time I will bring them to their resting-place and settled habitation; for it is evident from Exodus 34:15,Exodus 34:16, that Moses’s care and prayer was more for the people than for himself.

Verse 15

Let us rather live and die in the wilderness with thy presence and favour, than go into Canaan without it; for even that promise of rest I value not without thy presence. So he echoes back God’s words to himself, and turns God’s promise into a prayer.

Verse 16

Wherein shall it be known here? by what other token shall other nations and after-ages know?

So shall we be separated, i.e. distinguished by thy peculiar kindness and privileges afforded to us. Or,

be made wonderful, or eminent, or glorious above all other people.

Verse 18

i.e. Thy glorious majesty, the brightness of thy countenance, some such manifestation of thyself as becomes thy excellency, and such as shall be seen in the other life; or that glorious shape which, together with a human voice, thou hast now assumed. But for the essence of God, as that was and is and ever will be invisible to bodily eyes, 1 Timothy 6:16, so a man of such great reason and deep knowledge in Divine things, and universal learning, could not be ignorant of it, and therefore would not desire it.

Verse 19

All my goodness, or, my beauty; for so that Hebrew word is sometimes used, Genesis 6:2; 1 Samuel 9:2; or my excellency, or my glory, as appears from Exodus 33:22, which was the thing Moses desired to see; and the difference between his request and God’s answer doth not lie

in glory and goodness, but in showing his glory so as Moses might gaze upon it, and making it only, as it follows, to

pass before him, to wit, in a sudden and very transitory vision; though it may be understood properly of God’s goodness and kindness to men, of which the following words speak, and that was the great, if not the only thing ascribed to God, Exodus 34:6,Exodus 34:7.

The name of the Lord, i.e. my name; the noun for the pronoun, as is very frequent. I will give thee notice when I come, that thou mayst attend; I will not surprise thee, nor steal by thee. Or will proclaim, or publish of the name of the Lord, or of my name, i.e. some part of it, especially my goodness, which may seem to be here principally intended,

1. By comparing this with Exodus 34:6,Exodus 34:7.

2. By the following words, which seem a limitation of this general expression: q.d. I will proclaim, manifest, and impart my goodness, but with a difference, not to all men, but to whom I please.

3. By other places, where the

name of the Lord is principally, if not solely, understood of his goodness, as Isaiah 1:10, and in many places of the Psalms. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious: this may seem to be added, with reference to the people for whom Moses is interceding, lest Moses should misunderstand or misapply what is said here, and Exodus 34:6,Exodus 34:7. The sense is, I will show this peculiar favour to thee, I will also be gracious towards the people thou pleadest for, but not promiscuously. Some of them I will severely and eternally punish for this and their other sins; and some of them I will pardon and save, not because they are righteous, or innocent, or less sinners than the rest, but merely out of my own good pleasure and most free grace, whereby I will show mercy to some, when I will not show mercy to others. Thus this place is interpreted by the apostle, Romans 9:16, &c.

Verse 20

My face; either,

1. My essence. But that no man can see, neither in this life, nor in the next. Or rather,

2. My glorious presence. This may note either,

1. God’s purpose that that blissful vision of God in glory shall be given to no man here, but is reserved for the future life. Or rather,

2. The impossibility of the thing from man’s weakness, which is such, that if God should display all the beams of his glory to him, it would certainly astonish, overwhelm, and destroy him.

Verse 21

There is a place by me, in this mountain where my residence and glorious presence now is, and in that part of it whence my voice now cometh to thine ears.

Verse 22

That thou mayst not be undone by thy own desires, nor swallowed up with the sight of my glory.

Verse 23

My back parts, i.e. imperfectly and in part, as when we see only a man’s back parts, and not his face. Thou shalt see a shadow or obscure delineation of my glory, as much as thou canst bear, though not as much as thou dost desire.

Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Exodus 33". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mpc/exodus-33.html. 1685.
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