Exodus 34



                                    THE TWO TABLES RENEWED (vs. 1-4)


The fervent and prolonged intercession of Moses had brought about the pardon of the

people; and that, together with their repentance and their prayers (ch. 33:7), had been

accepted as a renewal of the covenant on their part; but it remained for God to renew

the covenant on His part.  The first step to this was the restoration of the tables, which

were essential to the covenant, as being at once the basis of the law and of the ordained

worship. To mark, however, that something is always forfeited by sin, even when

forgiven, the new tables were made to lose one glory of the first — they were not

shaped by God, as the first were (ch. 32:16), but by Moses.


vs. 1-4 –“And the LORD said unto Moses, Hew thee two tables of stone like

unto the first: and I will write upon these tables the words that were in the first

tables, which thou brakest.  And be ready in the morning, and come up in the

morning unto mount Sinai, and present thyself there to me in the top of the

mount.  And no man shall come up with thee, neither let any man be seen

throughout all the mount; neither let the flocks nor herds feed before that

mount.  And he hewed two tables of stone like unto the first; and Moses

rose up early in the morning, and went up unto mount Sinai, as the LORD

had commanded him, and took in his hand the two tables of stone.” – Moses

obeys all the directions given him to the letter!



The Second Promulgation of the Moral Law – The Renewal of the Two Tables


We are taught that:



            OF THE MORAL LAW. Moses had not asked for a renewal of the tables.

            He had requested the return of God’s favor and the renewal of God’s

            share of the covenant. It was God who made the restoration of the tables a

            condition. God, that is, will not divorce favor from obedience, privilege

            from the keeping of His law. Man desires the rewards that God has to

            bestow, but is not anxious to have the rewards tied to a certain course of

            action. God insists on the combination. He can only enter into covenant

            with those who accept His law as their rule of life. This is not for His own

            sake, but for theirs. They can only be fitted to enjoy His favor, and the

            rewards which He has to bestow on them, by leading a life in accordance

            with His law and acquiring the character which such a life forms in them.



            The broken tables must be restored. In restoring them no change must be

            made. Their very form must resemble as nearly as may be the form of the

            preceding ones. This, of course, was typical. It foreshadowed the further

            — not mere resemblance, but — identity of the words that were to be

            written on the tables. From first to last, “the words were those that were in

            the first table” (v. 1). There is no hint of any alteration. Even Christianity

            changes nothing in the law that is moral. “Think not that I am come to

            destroy the law and the prophets,” says our Lord; “I am not come to

            destroy but to fulfil” (Matthew 5:17-18). No “jot or tittle” of the moral

            law is to pass away. Even with respect to the Sabbath, which verges upon

            positive law, nothing is changed but the day of the week, and to a small

            extent the method of observance. Apostolic writings show us the

            Decalogue as still binding (Romans 13:9; Ephesians 6:2; James 2:11).



      OBLIGATIONS. “Hew thee” — literally, “hew for thyself” — “two tables

            of stone,” said the Lord to Moses; repair the loss caused by thine own

            action. Repentance is no part of man’s original duty to God; but if he once

            break the moral law, it becomes obligatory on him. Every infraction

            involves this new duty; some infractions involve more. Fraud involves the

            duty of restitution; calumny, that of retractation; insult, that of apology;

            and the like. Each of our sins lays upon us as a new burden, not only of

            guilt, but also of labor, to efface it. We had best refrain from evil, even in

            our own interest, or we may increase our burden till we sink under it.





This section coheres closely with the last section of the preceding chapter, and must be

regarded, as the historical account of how God fulfilled the promises there made by

him to Moses (ch. 33:19-23).  The promises were mainly two:


  • That He would proclaim His name to him afresh; and


  • That He would pass by him, and let him see, after He had passed, what

            man might see of His glory. The fulfillment of the first promise appears in

            the long enumeration of attributes contained in vs. 6-7; the fulfillment of

            the second is expressed with extreme brevity in the words — “And the

            Lord passed by before him”. Probably no further description could

            be given of that marvelous manifestation beyond those words in which it

            was promised (ch. 33:21-23). Its effects were seen in that permanent

            reflection of God’s glory on the face of Moses, which thenceforth compelled

            him to wear a veil mostly when he showed himself to the people (vs. 33-35).


vs. 5-8 – “And the LORD descended in the cloud, and stood with him there,

and proclaimed the name of the LORD.  And the LORD passed by before him,

and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious,

longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth,  Keeping mercy for thousands,

forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the

guilty; visiting the iniquity” - While setting forth His attribute of mercy in all its fullness,

God will not have His attribute of justice forgotten (compare ch. 20:5) – “of the

fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to

the fourth generation.” - God did as He had promised in ch. 33:22-23. He made His

glory pass by, Moses, as he stood in a “clift of the rock,” and “covered him with His

hand as He passed by,” and, when He had passed, “took away His hand,” and allowed

Moses to look after Him, and see a glorious and transcendent vision — a vision so bright

and radiant, and so real, that the light which streamed from it settled on Moses face, and

remained there (v. 20)  In this passage God proclaimed His name; not however, as in the

burning bush, an actual name contained in a single word — but a description in many words

of His essential nature — a description setting forth especially His three qualities of mercy,

 truth, and justice, but dwelling most upon the first of the three — perhaps, as most

essential, for “God is love” (I John 4:8) — certainly, as most needing to be prominently

set forth at the time, when His favor had been justly forfeited, and but for His mercy could

not have been restored. Note the accumulation of terms that are nearly synonymous:


Ø      Merciful (or pitiful);

Ø      Gracious;

Ø      Long-suffering;

Ø      Abundant in goodness;

Ø      Keeping mercy for thousands: and

Ø      Forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin


An accumulation for the purpose of emphasis — to assure Moses, and through him

mankind at large, of the reality of this attribute, on which the possibility of our

salvation depends, and which had never hitherto been set forth with anything like

such fullness.  (I would like to emphasize the remarkable revelation also, that God

is “abundant in TRUTH” – what a concept! – CY – 2010) – “And Moses made

haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshipped.” - Worshipping the

glory that had passed by, and accepting the gracious words addressed to him.


                        The Second Proclamation of God’s Name


God had proclaimed His name to Moses, when He spoke with him out of the burning

bush. He had declared it to be JEHOVAH, “the Self-Existent One.” Under this

name the people of Israel had known Him from the time of Moses’ return to Egypt from

Midian, until that of which He is here speaking. Hitherto it had sufficed for them. It

had marked Him as:


Ø      Eternal;

Ø      Uncaused;

Ø      Unconditioned;

Ø      Self-sufficient;

Ø      All-powerful


But it had not revealed His moral nature. Something of that had always been known to man.

Something more had become known to Israel through the law already given from Sinai.

But in their present state of sorrow and depression (ch. 33:4-6) something further was

needed. God accordingly “proclaimed his name” afresh. Of this second proclamation

we may note:


  • THAT IT CANCELS NOTHING, BUT ADDS. The first words of the

            name are Jehovah, Jehovah El,” or “the Self-Existent, the Self-Existent

            God.” What had been revealed before is confirmed; nay, is still put in the

            forefront, as the proper foundation of all the rest. For a true knowledge of

            God, we must, first and foremost, have the conviction that there is a

            self-existent being, eternal, uncaused, the cause of all things, and therefore

             of our own existence, on whom we are absolutely dependent. It follows, after

            this, to inquire and learn the moral character of this Eternal One.



      The Jewish commentators make out thirteen epithets of God in these two

      verses, and say that all but one are epithets of mercy. This seems to be an         

      overstatement of the actual fact, that the epithets of mercy form a large

      numerical majority. They are:


ü      Rakhum, “the tender or pitiful one,” who is full of kindness and



ü      Khannun, “the gracious one,” who bestows His benefits out of mere

                        favor, without obligation;


ü      Erek appayim, “the long-suffering one,” who is not easily provoked,

      but “suffers long and is kind”;


ü      Rab-khesed, “the great in mercy” which needs no explanation;


ü      Notser-khesed, “the keeper of mercy,” He who does not desert those

      He loves, but is merciful to them, and their children, from generation to



ü      Nose ‘avon, vapesha vekhattaah, “the forgiver of iniquity and

                        transgression and sin” the being who alone can forgive sin and give

                        peace to the guilty soul. Moses did well to make appeal to this                                              

                        description of Himself by God Himself, when Israel had a second

                        time provoked God to destroy them (Numbers 14:17-18). We shall do

                        well to make our appeal to the same, whenever we have offended our

                        Lord and Master by our faults and shortcomings, our “sins,

                         negligences, and ignorances.”  Conjured by this “name,” God can                                    

                        scarcely refuse to reply, as He replied to Moses, “I have pardoned                            

                        according to thy word” (Numbers 14:20).



            God gives it as part of His name, that He “will by no means clear the guilty,”

            or rather perhaps that He will not “always” do so (Kalisch). There is some

            guilt that He will not, cannot pardon. “There is a sin unto death — I do not

            say that a man shall pray for it” (I John 5:16). Unrepented sin cannot

            be forgiven. “Blasphemy against the Holy Ghost” cannot be forgiven.

            (Mark 3:29) - God’s justice is an essential part of His nature, no less than His   

            mercy; and is perhaps, as has been argued, a necessary consequence of His love.

            Again, God is true — “abundant in truth” (v. 6). There can be no trust in

            any being who is not true. Truth lies at the root of all moral goodness; and

            the truth of God is pre-supposed in any revealed religion, since without it

            revelation could have no force or value. Further, both in the Old and the

            New Testament, God reveals Himself as “true,” or sometimes as “the

            truth.” “Thy truth reacheth unto the clouds” (Psalm 108:4). “The truth

            of the Lord endureth for ever” (Psalm 117:2). “God is true.” “I am the

            truth.” It is essential to a right conception of Him that we should believe in

            His absolute veracity. If we “make him a liar,” (I John 1:10) and we ruin our          

            whole idea of Him. We might as well make Him non-existent??????????



                        THE RENEWAL OF THE COVENANT (vs. 9-26)


Dazed, as it would seem, by the splendor of the vision which he had beheld, Moses

forgot that God had already pledged Himself to renew the covenant, and lead the

people in person to Canaan. In his forgetfulness, he once more set himself to intercede

with God on their behalf, and besought him:


  • That He would go up with them;


  • That He would pardon them; and


  • That He would once more take them as His inheritance (v. 9). [I would like

      to highly recommend – Deuteronomy ch 32 v 9 – God’s Inheritance by

      Arthur Pink – this web site – CY – 2010) – Without replying separately to

      these requests, God formally renews the covenant; promises not only to go up  

      with the people, but to work miracles for them (v. 10), and to drive out the

      nations before them when they have arrived (v. 11); and makes a brief

      summary of the chief points of positive observance, which He requires of

      them in addition to the moral law. These points may be reduced to twelve:


Ø      That no treaty of peace should be made with the Canaanite nations (v.12).

Ø      That all their images, altars, and groves should be destroyed (v.13).

Ø      That no molten image should be made to represent God (v.17).

Ø      That the Passover festival should be observed as previously commanded


Ø      That the first-born should be dedicated, or redeemed (vs. 19-20).

Ø      That the Sabbath rest should be observed at all times of the year (v. 21).

Ø      That the feast of Pentecost (weeks) should be observed regularly (v. 22).

Ø      That the feast of tabernacles should also be observed (ibid).

Ø      That at all the three great festivals all the males should appear before

                        God (v.23).

Ø      That no leaven should be used with any sacrifice (v.25).

Ø      That first-fruits of all things should be offered to God (v.26).

Ø      That no kid should be seethed in her mother’s milk (v.26).


vs. 9-26 – “And he said, If now I have found grace in thy sight” - The vision

vouchsafed him makes Moses feel that he has indeed been received into favor with

God. The first use which it occurs to him to make of his position is to intercede anew

for his people, he, apparently, forgets that God has already promised to go with them

(ch.  33:17), and prefers exactly the same request which he had made on the preceding

day, and which had been granted. To this he adds a prayer for pardon, and a request

that God would take Israelfor his inheritance” – (see above recommendation of

piece by Arthur Pink – CY – 2010) – O LORD, let my LORD, I pray thee, go

among us; for it is a stiff-necked people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin,

and take us for thine inheritance.   And He said, Behold, I make a covenant:

before all thy people I will do marvels” - As the drying up of the Jordan

(Joshua 3:16-17); the falling down of the walls of Jericho (Joshua 6:20), the

slaughter of the army of the five kings by hailstones (Joshua 10:11), and the like

“such as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation: and all the

people among which thou art shall see the work of the LORD: for it is a terrible

thing that I will do with thee.  Observe thou that which I command thee this day:

behold, I drive out before thee the Amorite, and the Canaanite, and the Hittite,

and the Perizzite, and the Hivite, and the Jebusite.  Take heed to thyself, lest

thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither thou goest, lest it be

for a snare in the midst of thee:  (ch. 23:33)  But ye shall destroy their altars,

break their images” - This command is more sweeping than the corresponding one

in the “Book of the Covenant” (ch. 23:24), which expressly mentions only the

“images.” Here the destruction of idol-altars and idol-groves is further commanded.

(Judges 2:2) – “and cut down their groves:  For thou shalt worship no other

God: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God:  Lest thou make

a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they go a whoring after their

gods, and do sacrifice unto their gods, and one call thee, and thou eat of his

sacrifice; And thou take of their daughters unto thy sons, and their daughters

go a whoring after their gods, and make thy sons go a whoring after their gods.” –

The probable consequences of making treaties with the Canaanite nations, alluded to

in v.12, and in ch. 23:33, are here fully set forth. They include:


ü      Joining in their idol-feasts;

ü      Intermarriages;

ü      The actual apostasy of. those who married idolatrous wives.


The event fully justified the warning here given. See Judges 2:2,11-13, 17; 6:25;

10:6.   They go a whoring” – Mentioned three times here, this expression, so

common in the later books, is here used for the first time It implies that the relation

between man and God is analogous to that of the marriage-bond, so that deserting

Him for other gods is a species of adultery. Compare the frequent representations

in the New Testament of Christ as the “Bridegroom” and the Church as His “Bride.”

“Thou shalt make thee no molten gods.  The feast of unleavened bread shalt

thou keep. Seven days thou shalt eat unleavened bread, as I commanded thee,

in the time of the month Abib: for in the month Abib thou camest out from Egypt.

 All that openeth the matrix is mine; and every firstling among thy cattle,

whether ox or sheep, that is male.  But the firstling of an ass thou shalt redeem

with a lamb: and if thou redeem him not, then shalt thou break his neck. All the

firstborn of thy sons thou shalt redeem. And none shall appear before me empty.

 Six days thou shalt work, but on the seventh day thou shalt rest: in earing time

and in harvest thou shalt rest.” - This is repeated from the “Book of the Covenant”

 (ch. 23:12), but with a remarkable addition — “in earing time and in harvest thou

shalt rest.”  (An emphatic command of which to ignore must mean that, by so

doing, one does not believe that God will provide – CY – 2010)  And thou

shalt observe the feast of weeks, of the first-fruits of wheat harvest, and the

feast of ingathering at the year’s end.  Thrice in the year shall all your men

children appear before the LORD God, the God of Israel.  For I will cast out

the nations before thee, and enlarge thy borders:” - The original promise to

Abraham was to give to his seed “the land of Canaan (Genesis 12:5-7). Afterwards

this promise was enlarged, and he was told that the land assigned them was the entire

tract between the Nile and the Euphrates (Genesis 15:18). And practically, they took

possession first of the one, while at a later date their border was enlarged, and they

became masters of the other.  See I Kings 4:21,24; II Chronicles 9:26 – neither shall

any man desire thy land, when thou shalt go up to appear before the LORD thy

God thrice in the year.”  This promise is nowhere else made. It would serve as a great

encouragement to the proper observance of the festivals. “Thou shalt not offer the blood

of my sacrifice with leaven; neither shall the sacrifice of the feast of the passover

be left unto the morning.  The first of the firstfruits of thy land thou shalt bring unto

the house of the LORD thy God.” – (repeated from ch. 23:18-19) -  “Thou shalt not

seethe a kid in his mother’s milk.” - It is remarkable that both legislations terminate

with the same, somewhat strange, proviso. There must have been an intention of impressing

strongly upon the people the principle of tenderness involved in it.


                                    The Covenant Renewed


That God should have consented to renew the covenant with Israel after it

had been violated so flagrantly is evidence of two things:  (1) His faithfulness

towards His true followers, which makes Him “merciful unto thousands of

 those that love Him,” and renders Him tender to the children for the sake of the

fathers;  (2)  The value that he sets on intercessory prayer, when offered earnestly

by a believer. In the renewal itself we may notice:




      been promised; help in driving out the nations had been promised; the

      possession of Canaan had been promised. But not “marvels such as had

      not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation” (v.10) -  not an

      enlargement of the nation’s boundaries beyond the limits of Canaan

            (v. 24) — not security against their land being invaded when they went

            up to the three great festivals (ibid.). These, so far as the people were

            concerned, were new and additional pledges. God is apt “to do exceeding

            abundantly beyond all that we ask or think.” (Ephesians 3:20) - He ties      

            Himself down to perform certain promises; but He does not tie Himself down

            not to do more than He has promised. He will give to man ultimately, not only   

            more than He is bound to give, but more than “it has entered into the heart of          

            man to conceive.”  (I Corinthians 2:9)



      STRINGENT THAN BEFORE. According to the former covenant,

            idolatrous images were not to be spared; according to this neither images,

            nor altars, nor groves (v.13); according to that, the Sabbath rest was not

            to be infringed, as a general rule — according to this, not even on account

            of the most necessary operations of husbandry (v. 21); according to that,

            treaties were not to be made with the Canaanitish nations — according to

            this, neither treaties nor matrimonial alliances. To balance the greater

            favors, there were imposed greater obligations, whereby was inculcated

            the lesson that the two are correlative.




was the attraction of a corrupt worship which had caused Israel to fall

away. Their best security against a second similar fall would be careful and

constant observance of the pure worship prescribed to them. If they kept

properly the Sabbath, the great festivals, the laws of sacrifice, of

redemption, of first fruits, and whatever was similar to these, it might well

content their religious aspirations, and leave no such vacuum in their lives

as they had hoped to fill with their calf-worship. True, that many of the

precepts could not be observed until they reached Canaan; but, as a

compensation, they would have in the wilderness the daily worship —

morning and evening — of the tabernacle, and the near presence of God in

the pillar of the cloud, not henceforth to be withdrawn from them. The true

spiritual life could be amply sustained on these — it was only a pseudo-

spiritualism that the calf-worship would have exercised.




            FINAL DESCENT OF MOSES FROM SINAI (vs. 27-35)


The covenant having been renewed, Moses prepared to descend, having first

however received a command to commit to writing the words of this second

covenant (v. 27). He received back the tables from God, inscribed with the Ten

Commandments, and after a stay in Sinai of equal duration with the former one

(v.28), descended, having the tables in his hands. He was not aware that the skin

of his face had become radiant (v.29), and first learnt the fact by the rulers being

afraid to come near him (v.30).  After conversing with them and with the people he

resolved to “put a vail on his face” ordinarily, only taking it off when he “went in

before the Lord” into the “tent of meeting,” and when, having received a message

from the Lord to the people, he came out to deliver it.


vs. 27-35 – “And the LORD said unto Moses, Write thou these words: for after

the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee” - That is, “the

 covenant on my part is conditional on the observance of ‘these words’  on the

 part of Israel.”  The “words” intended are those of vs. 10-26 – “and with Israel. 

And he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights” – As on the

former occasion (ch. 24:18). The patience and faith of the people was tested by this

second long delay. Happily, they stood the test; and on Moses’ final descent from

Sinai the Israelites were found expectant and obedient (vs. 30-32) – “he did neither

eat bread, nor drink water.” – This was so also on the former occasion

(Deuteronomy 9:9), though it is not mentioned in Exodus. The near presence of God

sustained the vital powers and made food unnecessary. Moses, Elijah (I Kings 19:8),

and our Lord (Matthew 4:1-2) have alone accomplished a fast of this duration. 

And He wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.”

- It has been argued from this expression that Moses wrote the words on the second tables;

and it would be natural so to understand the passage, had nothing else been said on the

subject. But in v. 1 we are told that “God said, I will write upon these tables;” and the

same is repeated in Deuteronomy 10:2. Moreover in v. 4 (ibid), it is distinctly declared

“He” (i.e. God) “wrote on the tables according to the first writing.” We must

therefore regard “He” in this passage as meaning “the Lord,” which is quite possible

according to the Hebrew idiom.  And it came to pass, when Moses came down from

mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses’ hand, when he came down

from the mount, that Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked

with Him.”  The glory of God, as revealed to Moses on this occasion, caused his face to

become henceforth radiant.  Compare the effect of the transfiguration (Matthew 17:2). 

And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his

face shone; and they were afraid to come nigh him.  And Moses called unto them” –

Moses bade them approach — no doubt assured them that there was no cause for fear

(Luke 24:38-39) — and by his manner and familiar voice dispelled their fears and reassured

them - “and Aaron and all the rulers of the congregation returned unto him: and

Moses talked with them.  And afterward all the children of Israel came nigh: and

he gave them in commandment all that the LORD had spoken with him in mount

Sinai.” “All,” i.e., “that the Lord had commanded him to enjoin upon them”

especially the precepts in vs.10-26 — not all that he had heard from God in the space of

forty days and forty nights – “And till Moses had done speaking with them, he put a

vail on his face.  But when Moses went in before the LORD to speak with Him, he

took the vail off, until he came out. And he came out, and spake unto the children

of Israel that which he was commanded.  And the children of Israel saw the face

of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone: and Moses put the vail upon his

face again, until he went in to speak with Him.”



                                    The Shining of Moses’ Face


This strange phenomenon, one of the distinctive marks which most closely assimilate

the Jewish with the Christian lawgiver, is well worthy of our attentive consideration:


  • AS TO ITS ORIGIN. Admission to the Divine presence within the cloud

            had not, on the former occasion, left any such visible trace. It cannot,

            therefore, be ascribed simply to communion with God for a period of a

            certain duration. We must endeavor to see how the second sojourn in

            Sinai was differentiated from the first, if we would discover the real cause

            of the wonder. Now the difference was mainly this: that Moses in the

            interval had been severely tried, and had emerged from the trial better,

            purer, fitter for close intercourse with the Supreme. He had shown zeal,

            fervor, promptness, in checking the revolt against Jehovah; he had shown

            a spirit of extraordinary self-sacrifice in refusing to become the sole male

            progenitor of a people whom God would substitute for the existing Israel

            (ch. 32:10), and in offering himself as an atonement for the people’s sins

            (ib, 32); and he had shown that persistent importunity in kindly intercession

            for others (ch. 33:12-16) with which God is especially pleased. Under these     

            circumstances — thus elevated above his former self — he had been admitted,

            not only to a second conference of forty days’ duration, but also to a special     

            vision — never vouchsafed to any but him of the Divine glory (ib, 8-23;   

            34:5-6). The radiance that rested on his face is ascribed especially to his long    

            “talk” with God (v.29); but we can scarcely doubt that a portion of it was due

            to the transcendent vision which passed before him prior to the forty days’

            conference. The brightness then shed upon his face increased from day to

            day during the long and close communion closer now than before, from his

            greater fitness; and he, “with open face beholding the glory of the Lord,

            was changed into the same image from glory to glory” (II Corinthians

            3:18), until his countenance was such that it could not be steadfastly beheld

            for long; and he, in mercy to his people, veiled it.




ü      Its immediate effect was to alarm. “Aaron and the elders were afraid to

                        come nigh him.” The unknown and unexpected is always fearful to man;

                        and this was a novelty which might well startle. What did the sight

                        portend? Certainly, an increase of supernatural power. Would this power

                        be used to punish and avenge? Would the radiance burn like fire, or scathe

                        like the thunder-bolt? They could not tell. Knowing their own sinfulness,

                        they trembled, conscience making cowards of them, as it does of us all.

                        And they feared to approach — nay, they drew back — perhaps fled.


ü      Its after effect was to increase Moses’ authority. The glow was a

                        perpetual credential of his Divine mission. Like the moon, it witnessed,

                        whenever seen, to the absent sun. Always beheld, whenever Moses had                                   

                        any new orders to give, it was a sanction to his entire legislation, and                             

                        caused the laws which were least palatable to be accepted without                                           

                        resistance.  Though it did not prevent partial revolts, it kept the bulk of

                        the nation faithful to their leader for forty years. Even when they did not                         

                        see the brightness, the veil that hid it showed that it was there. Its

                        presence could never be forgotten. Moses was exalted by it into a                                            

                        condition half-Divine, half-human; and was felt to be marked out by                              

                        Heaven as the supreme chief of the nation.


  • AS TO ITS INTENT. Its intent would seem to have been:


ü      To strengthen and support Moses in his difficult position as leader of a

                        wayward and “stiff-necked” people.


ü      To impress the people, and render them more submissive and obedient.


ü      To symbolize the great truth, that by drawing near to God, by

                        communion with Him, we become like Him — like Him and ever more                         

                        like; changing “from glory to glory;” reflecting His attributes, as snow-                                   

                        summits reflect the sunset; receiving from Him a real effluence, which                            

                        shows itself in our lives, in our acts, in our very features. There is in the                          

                        countenances of God’s most advanced servants a brightness, a gladness, a                               

                        beaming radiance, which can come only of long communion with Him,                          

                        and which is a sensible evidence, to those who “have eyes to see,” that                                 

                        they are indeed His friends, His favored ones. The best artists —

                        Perugino, Francia, Rafaelle sometimes, Fra Angelico, Fra Bartolomeo,                         

                        Bellini, Luini, Basaiti — express this in their pictures. But it is not a

                        grace that has passed away.  The eye that has true spiritual vision may

                        still see among those who walk the earth faces with such unmistakable                          

                        glow of true piety upon them as marks their owners for God’s friends,                          

                        Christ’s loved ones, souls constant in their communion with Him who

                        is “the Light of the world,” and “in whose light we shall see light.”





                                    The Symbolism of the Veil on Moses’ Face


The veil upon Moses’ face shrouded the glory of his countenance from Israel, except

at such times as he spake to them the commands of God. So God Himself shrouds His glory

from us ordinarily, and only at rare intervals, when He would impress us most deeply, lifts

the veil and lets the brightness flash forth. So Christ, when He came on earth, emptied

Himself of the glory which He had with the Father, hid it away, and seldom let it be seen. 

Tenderness and compassion for man’s weakness is the cause of the concealment in such case.

Human nature, while we are in the flesh, cannot bear the blinding light of Divine glory,

any more than the eye can bear to gaze upon the noonday sun. The veil was thus, primarily,

a token of Moses’ love for Israel; but it was also a token of many other things besides:




            Trinity, the Incarnation, the Atonement, Justification, Sanctification, even

            Immortality — all the great doctrines which constitute the heart and kernel

            of true religion, though in a certain sense contained in Mosaism, were

            concealed, hidden away, wrapped in a veil. Men “saw through a glass darkly”

            (I Corinthians 13:12) fewer or more of these truths — had, that is, some dim    

            conception of them, but saw none of them clearly till they were “brought to     

            light” by the Gospel. (I Timothy 1:10) - “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant           

            depart in peace, according to thy word, for mine eyes have seen thy

             salvation,” said Simeon, (Luke 2:25-32) when he looked upon the Lord,

            then first having made plain to him what had been darkness and cloud

            previously. Much of the Divine scheme of man’s salvation had been a

            mystery even to angels until it was revealed to them by and through the

            Church (Ephesians 3:4-11). When Christ came, and lived, and preached,

            “the people which sat in darkness saw great light, and to them which sat

            in the region and shadow of death light sprang up”- (Matthew 4:16). A

            solemn thought to Christians that this is so; for responsibility is in proportion

            to the light vouchsafed. “He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy

            under two or three witnesses. Of how much sorer punishment shall he be            

            thought worthy who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath

            counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an

            unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?”

            (Hebrews 10:28-29).



            HEARTS AND MINDS OF THE JEWS. The veil of obstinate unbelief has

            so shrouded, and still so shrouds, the intelligence of the race, that, though

            Moses is read to them every Sabbath day, and the words of the prophets

            are continually sounded in their ears, they cannot see or understand. Still

            they remain “fools and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have

            spoken” (Luke 24:25). Like the Ethiopian eunuch, they “understand

            not what they read” (Acts 8:30-31); but, unlike him, they will not accept

            guidance. “The veil is upon their heart” (IICorinthians 3:15). Christians

            should ever pray that the time may come, and come speedily, when “the

            veil shall be taken away” (ibid. v. 16), and so “all Israel shall be saved”  

            (Romans 11:26). Hopeless as the task seems, Christians should still labor for

            the conversion of the eight millions (who knows the number today as this

            was written 200 years ago – CY – 2010) of Jews dispersed throughout the

            world.  Christians should beware lest they themselves, by their sinful lives,        

            intensify and prolong the blindness of Israel, pressing the veil down upon the   

            brows that otherwise might have cast it off, and dimming the brightness of

            the Gospel of Christ that otherwise might have pierced through the veil’s

            folds, and have given sight to the shrouded eyes.



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