Jan. 29 Reading: Exodus 33-35 Commentary

Below is our Exodus 33-35 commentary from our Beginning to End Bible reading program. You can find an email link at the end of this page to share your thoughts or comments with us.

Key Verse(s):

“Then Moses 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 grace in My sight.’ Now therefore, I pray, if I have found grace in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight. And consider that this nation is Your people.” (Ex. 33:12-13)

Exodus 33 – Moses Sees God…Sort of

commentaryThe golden calf incident of Exodus 32 caused great damage to the people’s relationship with God. They had sinned greatly by creating an image and worshipping it. Now as they get ready to leave Mt. Sinai, God gave Moses and the people some devastating news – He would not go up into their midst as they traveled to the Promised Land (v. 3).

Why is this happening? God says it’s because their pride and stubbornness, calling them “a stiff-necked people” (v. 3). And, if they did act this way again, God said he might “come up into your midst in one moment and consume you” (v. 5).

Needless to say the people are crushed by this. Even though they had sinned, they couldn’t imagine reaching Canaan and conquering it without the hand of God at their side. So in a genuine sign of repentance, they stripped themselves of the ornaments they had worn during the golden calf fiasco and waited to see what God would do.

To symbolize God’s departure from Israel, Moses moved his own tent far outside the camp. It essentially became a tabernacle-like structure where the people went to inquire of God’s will through Moses. Moses spoke to the Lord there “face to face, as a man speaks to a friend” (v. 11). Joshua also accompanied Moses there and he himself did not depart from the tent (v. 11).

Moses Sees God

Moses is distraught. God has abandoned the people. So Moses wants to know the plan. If God isn’t going to go with them and be an aid to Moses, then who will?

He asks God,

“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 grace in My sight.’…if I have found grace in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight. And consider that this nation is Your people.” (Ex. 33:12-13)

What Moses is really saying – “God, you said we have a special relationship. You promised to go with us. Remember, You said this nation would be your people. So show me the way if your not going to help.” It’s a very strategic but sincere way of reminding God about all the promises He had made to them.

Moses’ plea worked. God says in verse 14, “My Presence [literally “My Face”] will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Additionally, God said that He would do this thing specifically for Moses sake because “you have found grace in My sight, and I know you by name” (v. 17).

That last statement (knowing Moses by name) speaks to the intimacy they shared. But God’s not done in showing Moses how close they are. At Moses’ request, God allows Moses to see what no human had seen – God in all His glory. This reveal wasn’t face to face though because God said no man could see His face and live. So, with Moses standing in the cleft of a rock, God turned His back and passed before Moses in that manner (v. 18-23).

Exodus 34 – New Tablets

Exodus 34 details two important events. First, Moses cuts a new set of stone tablets on which God will rewrite the law. Remember that Moses broke the first two tablets upon his descent of Mt. Sinai when he saw the people’s sin in relation to the golden calf (Exodus 32).

Secondly, and probably more importantly, God renewed His covenant with the people. Because of their sin, it seemed like the covenant was teetering on the edge. The people weren’t sure yet if God would follow through with His earlier covenant declaration in Ex. 23:14-19.

Now, God reassures them and leaves no doubt in this covenant renewal that He will be with them. He says,

“Behold, I make a covenant. Before all your people I will do marvels such as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation; and all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the Lord. For it is an awesome thing that I will do with you” (Ex. 34:10).

The awesome thing God would do was of course bring them into and give them the land He’d promised. God would be responsible for driving out the inhabitants of the land and securing Israel’s legacy in that space.

Moses was on the mountain again 40 days and 40 nights receiving the Ten Commandments and the covenant words of the Lord (v. 28). When he came down, the Bible says his face shone, so much so that the people were afraid to look at him. From that point forward, Moses wore a veil when he returned to the people from talking with God (v. 29-35).

Exodus 35 – Offerings for the Tabernacle

Perhaps one of the greatest offerings ever given occurs in Exodus 35 and 36. It’s time to build the tabernacle and supplies and workers are needed.

So Moses approached the people and said,

“This is the thing which the Lord commanded, saying: ‘Take from among you an offering to the Lord. Whoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it as an offering to the Lord: gold, silver, and bronze; blue, purple, and scarlet thread, fine linen, and goats’ hair; ram skins dyed red, badger skins, and acacia wood; oil for the light, and spices for the anointing oil and for the sweet incense; onyx stones, and stones to be set in the ephod and in the breastplate.'” (vv. 4-9)

This is no ordinary list. Some of these things would have been very valuable to the people giving them. As is the key in all giving though, it was to be done by those who had a willing heart. It seems, God left the door open for those who did not have a willing heart to not give.

Did the people respond? Verse 21 tells us everyone came “whose heart was stirred”, both men and women alike. Additionally, individual artisans stepped forward to donate their time and talents to the actual construction of the tabernacle (vv. 25, 30-35).

The fact the people’s giving comes on the heals of God renewing His covenant with them cannot be overlooked. The people were grateful God did not abandon them despite their sin. They worshipped Him through their giving and demonstrated their appreciation for His goodness.

Sometimes you may feel alone. It may seem like no one cares. People may even abandon you. But God’s presence remains. He will go before you and give you peace, hope and rest.

Questions to Consider:

How has God spoken to you? Do you struggle with talking to God because he seems so distant? Or is prayer something that comes naturally to you because you know He is always there to listen? 

The people of Israel were different. They stood out among other people groups because of God’s presence with them. What distinguishes you from others? Do your words and actions reflect the character of God working itself out in your life?

What other points would you want to know about in our Exodus 33-35 commentary? Email us here with questions or comments.