Exodus 34

Second Giving of the Law
Exodus 34
Exodus 34. In this chapter we have the second giving of the law. Previously we had the law given in Exodus 20 – 23, then the instructions for the tabernacle. Afterwards Moses came down from the mountain and found Israel committing the sin of the golden calf, and Moses then broke the tables and interceded for the people. Now Moses goes again up to Mount Sinai, where the law was given a second time, and a second set of tables were inscribed. However, this time the law was given mixed with mercy. Moses does not ask for Jehovah’s presence on the ground of Israel’s faithfulness, but on the ground Jehovah’s goodness (vv.5-7) and because they were a stiff-necked people. The law does not lose its force, but mercy is added to it, or else the people would have to be cut off. It is God’s mercy and goodness, but to a people under legal government; “keeping mercy unto thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but by no means clearing the guilty”.1 The great point in this account is when Jehovah declares His name to Moses, and unfolds the two great principles of His character: “abundant in goodness and truth”.

Preparation (34:1-4)

And Jehovah said to Moses, Hew for thyself two tables of stone like the first; and I will write upon the tables the words that were upon the first tables, which thou hast broken. 2 And be ready for the morning, and go up in the morning to mount Sinai, and stand there before me on the top of the mountain. 3 And let no man go up with thee, neither shall any man be seen on all the mountain; neither shall sheep and oxen feed in front of that mountain. vv.1-3 Preparations. The response to the first set of tables being broken by Moses due to Israel’s sin was simply to hew another set just like the first. Jehovah would write the same words in the new tables as on the first. The breaking of the tables did not change the law. Moses was to come early in the morning to Sinai and stand before the Lord. He was to go up alone, while special care was to be had that no one else went up with him, and even animals be kept away from the mountain.
4 And he hewed two tables of stone like the first; and Moses rose up early in the morning and went up to mount Sinai, as Jehovah had commanded him, and took in his hand the two tables of stone. v.4 Moses Obeys. Moses obeys the divine commandments. It is nice to see that the Lord had told him to “be read in the morning” and here we see that “Moses rose up early in the morning”. Rising early to do the will of God displays the energy of faith!

The Name of Jehovah Declared (34:5-9)

5 And Jehovah came down in the cloud, and stood beside him there, and proclaimed the name of Jehovah. 6 And Jehovah passed by before his face, and proclaimed, Jehovah, Jehovah GOD [‘El’] merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abundant in goodness and truth, 7 keeping mercy unto thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but by no means clearing the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, upon the third and upon the fourth generation. vv.5-7 Jehovah Pronounces His Name. Jehovah came down in the cloud on top of Sinai and stood right beside Moses! What amazing grace that Jehovah would come so close to Moses! Yet He came incomparably lower in incarnation. He pronounces His name, the special covenant-name, Jehovah. This is similar to when a great king is introduced, and their titles follow; e.g. “I am Xerxes, Great King, and King of Kings”. In a parallel way Jehovah introduces Himself by name, and then gives a statement about His character; “Jehovah, Jehovah GOD merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abundant in goodness and truth, etc.”. The name “Jehovah” or Yahweh, is God’s name in relationship with men, especially with Israel (compared to “Elohim”, the Creator). Jehovah means, Him who IS (Exodus 3:14). In other words, “the One who exists”. He declares His character, full of mercy, etc. He would establish this aspect of His character first, as it was the only grounds of blessing to man. But there is a second aspect or character; “abundant in goodness and truth“. How this reminds us of the Word become flesh; He was “full of grace and truth”. He is not only merciful to thousands, “forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin”, but He is also righteous, “by no means clearing the guilty”. Israel was still a people under law, and therefore the expression regarding the government of God follows; “visiting the iniquity”, etc. It is interesting to compare Ex.20:5-6 with Ex. 34:6-7. There are a number of contrasts! First, the part about “keeping mercy unto thousands” comes before the part about “visiting the iniquity”, where earlier the order was reversed. Mercy now is emphasized! Second, in ch.20 the mercy was shown to “thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments”. The part about loving Jehovah and keeping His commandments is dropped in ch.34, because Israel had shown that they were disobedient, yet the Lord was still merciful! In ch.34 the following is added; “forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but by no means clearing the guilty”. This now is added because of the great sin of Israel. They might wonder, How can God forgive sin and yet not clear the guilty? The answer is seen at the cross, where “Mercy and truth are met together” (Psa. 85:10).
8 And Moses made haste, and bowed his head to the earth and worshipped, 9 and said, If indeed I have found grace in thine eyes, Lord [Adonai], let the Lord [Adonai], I pray thee, go in our midst; for it is a stiff-necked people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for an inheritance! vv.8-9 Moses Speaks. Moses immediate reaction to the declaration of the name of Jehovah was too bow his head down to the Earth. How could he not prostrate himself before this One who had come down in the cloud to stand beside him, and declare His great name and His character to Moses. He worshiped the Lord. Worship seems to have to do with the overflow of the heart in adoration for a Divine Person for their attributes, glory, character and worth. Then Moses speaks as one who had “found grace”, and is whose heart grace had worked. He really knew the Lord. Earlier, the Lord had cited the stiff-necked character of the people as the reason why He should destroy them (Ex. 32:9-10). Now Moses cites the very same thing, “for it is a stiff-necked people”, as a reason for the Lord to go up in their midst! This is what grace does. He expressed what he knew, that Israel could not go without the Lord. The Lord had just declared Himself “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy unto thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin”, and Moses wastes no time in leaning on that aspect of Jehovah’s character to pardon Israel’s iniquity and sin. Yet, Moses does not say “Jehovah”, but “Adonai”, a title used to address Deity that indicates submission and reverence, and professes acknowledging lordship.2 He was not content to go on with his Adonai holding the people at a distance from Himself; “and take us for an inheritance!” This is true intercession; to know the Lord’s heart such that we can ask Him to do in grace what we know He longs to do, in spite of His government which we justly deserve.

A Fresh Covenant Given (34:10-28)

10 And he said, Behold, I make a covenant: before all thy people I will do marvels that have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation; and all the people in the midst of which thou art shall see the work of Jehovah; for a terrible thing it shall be that I will do with thee. 11 Observe what I command thee this day: behold, I will drive out before thee the Amorite, and the Canaanite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, and the Hivite, and the Jebusite. vv.10-11 The Lord’s Part. The Lord now gives a new covenant to Moses. It is not the same new covenant that we have in Jeremiah 31, but it is the old covenant given a second time, now mixed with grace. We have the Lord’s part first, what He would do. He would do marvels, marvels had not been done in all the earth, and all nations would see that Israel was His people, exactly as Moses had prayed. He would bring them into Canaan and He would drive out the inhabitants. All of this was on the basis of the intercession and mediation of Moses. It is made clear in v.28 that second giving of the law did not repeal the first. The ten commandments were still in force, and Moses would write the them on the new tables.3
12 Take heed to thyself, that thou make no covenant with the inhabitants of the land to which thou shalt come, lest it be a snare in the midst of thee; 13 but ye shall demolish their altars, shatter their statues, and hew down their Asherahs. 14 For thou shalt worship no other GOD; for Jehovah — Jealous is his name — is a jealous GOD; 15 lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and then, when they go a whoring after their gods, and sacrifice unto their gods, thou be invited, and eat of their sacrifice, 16 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. 17 — Thou shalt make thyself no molten gods. 18 — The feast of the unleavened bread shalt thou keep: seven days shalt thou eat unleavened bread, as I have commanded thee, at the appointed time of the month Abib; for in the month Abib thou camest out from Egypt. 19 — All that openeth the womb is mine; and all the cattle that is born a male, the firstling of ox and sheep. 20 But the firstling of an ass thou shalt ransom with a lamb; and if thou ransom it not, then shalt thou break its neck. All the first-born of thy sons thou shalt ransom; and none shall appear before me empty. 21 — Six days shalt thou work, but on the seventh day thou shalt rest; in ploughing time and in harvest thou shalt rest. 22 — And thou shalt observe the feast of weeks, of the first-fruits of wheat-harvest, and the feast of ingathering at the turn of the year. 23 Thrice in the year shall all thy males appear before the Lord Jehovah, the God of Israel. 24 For I will dispossess the nations before thee, and enlarge thy border, and no man shall desire thy land, when thou goest up to appear before the face of Jehovah thy God thrice in the year. 25 — Thou shalt not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leaven; neither shall the sacrifice of the feast of the passover be left over night until the morning. 26 — The first of the first-fruits of thy land shalt thou bring into the house of Jehovah thy God. Thou shalt not boil a kid in its mother’s milk. vv.12-25 The People’s Part. Now comes the part of the covenant where the Lord gives His expectations for the people. The covenant centers around Israel being separate from the nations and keeping themselves from idolatry. Israel was to give Jehovah the first place in everything, and keep sacred the things that He held sacred, etc. As Christians, we are not in a covenant relationship with God, nevertheless there is much instruction by way of typical teaching in these verses for us. There is a high degree of overlap with the first giving of the law (Ex. 20-23), therefore I would direct the reader to my notes on those chapters for a deeper look at the law on those points. Following is a comparison between this covenant and the first giving of the law, highlighting only the differences.
Topic Separation from Canaanites
Parallel Passages Ex. 34:12-13
Ex. 23:24, 32-33
Comparison Very similar language.
Topic Fidelity to Jehovah (Idolatry)
Parallel Passages Ex. 34:14-17
Ex. 20:3-5
Comparison Earlier He had said “I, Jehovah thy God, am a jealous God”, now He adds “Jealous is His Name”. The jealousy of God was not weakened by Israel’s sin. They needed to understand that if He would take them again for His inheritance, He would be jealous of them. A lot of detail is added about how idolatry would be a snare to them; i.e. eating of sacrifices, intermarriage, making molten gods. Israel fell into this very pattern in Num. 25:2. “Graven image” is replaced with “molten”, because that is what Israel had done!
Topic The Feast of Unleavened Bread
Parallel Passages Ex. 34:18
Ex. 23:15
Comparison Very similar language.
Topic The Firstborn
Parallel Passages Ex. 34:19-20
Ex. 13:12-13
Ex. 23:15
Comparison Very similar language.
Topic The Sabbath
Parallel Passages Ex. 34:21
Ex. 23:12
Comparison Two activities are specified in which the people would tend to be the most busy, and feel the urgency to work on the seventh day; in ploughing time and in harvest thou shalt rest. “
Topic Three Pilgrimage Fests
Parallel Passages Ex. 34:22-24
Ex. 23:14-17
Comparison Additionally, v.24 is appended to the section; “For I will dispossess the nations before thee, and enlarge thy border, and no man shall desire thy land, when thou goest up to appear before the face of Jehovah thy God thrice in the year”. Governmentally, the Lord would make it so no one would take their property while they were away from home, keeping the three pilgrimage feasts!
Topic Sacred Things
Parallel Passages Ex. 34:25-26
Ex. 23:18-19
Comparison Very similar language is used. The words “the fat of my feast” is changed to “the sacrifice of the feast of the passover” making clear that Ex. 23:18 refers to the Passover.
27 And Jehovah said to Moses, Write thee these words; for after the tenor of these words have I made a covenant with thee and with Israel. 28 — And he was there with Jehovah forty days and forty nights; he ate no bread, and drank no water. — And he wrote on the tables the words of the covenant, the ten words. vv.27-28 Words Written, the New Tables. The words of the covenant were written by Moses, and the fresh set of tables were inscribed with the ten commandments. While here it is not clear who wrote the ten commandments, in Deut. 10:4 it is made plain that the Lord wrote the words on the tables of stone. The authority of the law was not diminished by grace! We find that once again, Moses was on the mountain forty days and nights without food or water, sustained miraculously by the power of God (Ex. 24:18).

Moses’ Returns, His Face Shining (34:29-35)

29 And it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai — and the two tables of testimony were in Moses’ hand, when he came down from the mountain — that Moses knew not that the skin of his face shone through his talking with him. 30 And Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, and behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come near him. 31 And Moses called to them; and they turned to him, — Aaron and all the principal men of the assembly; and Moses talked with them. 32 And afterwards, all the children of Israel came near; and he gave them in commandment all that Jehovah had spoken with him on mount Sinai. 33 And Moses ended speaking with them; and he had put on his face a veil. 34 And when Moses went in before Jehovah to speak with him, he took the veil off, until he came out; and he came out, and spoke to the children of Israel what he was commanded. 35 And the children of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone; and Moses put the veil on his face again, until he went in to speak with him. vv.29-35 Moses’ Face. When Moses returned to the people there was a change in his appearance. Though he was not conscious of it, his face shone brilliantly. What was this phenomena? It was the result of communion with God, and seeing the “goodness” of Jehovah pass before him, and hearing that wonderful name declared. The people were not allowed (or not able) to look at Moses face with it shining, and he had to veil it. Paul, in 2 Corinthians 3 takes up this account and brings out typical teaching. Like Moses when he went out to the people, Israel has a veil on their heart whenever Moses is read. They do not see Christ in the Old Testament passages. When they turn to the Lord, the veil will be taken away (future). But also, as Moses face shone, we also are transformed into Christ’s image from glory to glory as we focus on Him. If we spend time in the Lord’s presence our countenance will be altered. Not a physically shining face, but a joy, peace, and Christ-likeness that is reflected in our expressions, words, and actions. It is a moral transformation that begins now, and goes on as we walk in communion with Christ, but it will be completed at the rapture when we are made morally and physically like Himself!
The Ministry of Death
Given by Moses
The Ministry of the Spirit
Given by Christ
Moses compared to Christ (2 Cor. 3:10, 13, 18; 4:6)
The reflection Moses face was a partial reflection of God’s glory  The face of Jesus Christ reveals all the glory of God 
The effect The people had to avert their gaze We gaze continually at the Lord’s face
The veil Moses put a veil over his face We look on the glory of the Lord with unveiled face
Moses compared to the believer (Ex. 33:23; 34:35; 2 Cor. 3:7, 18; 4:2-4)
The glory Moses saw the Lord from behind only We look on the Lord’s face directly
The access Only Moses saw the glory of the Lord We “all” see the glory of the Lord
The effect Only the face of Moses shown We are transformed into the image of Christ
The veil When Moses went out to the people he put on the veil. We manifest the truth everywhere we go, commending ourselves to every conscience, and our gospel is veiled only in those that are lost because the god of this world has blinded their thoughts.
Moses compared to Israel (2 Cor. 3:14-15)
The people Moses put on the veil, so the people could not see his face. Israel did not receive Christ, and God has governmentally blinded them.
The veil When Moses went out to the people, he put the veil on. When he went in to the Lord, he took the veil off. Whenever Moses is read, the people have a veil on their heart. When they turn to the Lord, the veil will be taken away!
  1. This is the peculiarity. What we find here then is not law pure and simple, but law with mercy and goodness and long-suffering in the government of God — His condescending love and patience mingled along with law. Hence we see its character and the reason why it appears here. Without it the guilty people never could have been spared, but must have perished root and branch, as it was in consequence of this change that a new generation of the people of Israel entered into the land at all. Had He dealt on the ground of pure law, how could it have been? They were guilty, and must have been cut off. – Kelly, W. Exodus.
  2. It is to be remarked that, save the cases noticed, Lord is Adonai, not Jehovah. This is not the same as Jehovah, that is, the covenant name of God with Israel in eternal faithfulness — here Adonai, one who has taken power and is in the relationship of lordship to those who call. Hence in fact we own Christ to be in this place — “our Lord Jesus Christ”; and so it will be for Jews, though, till they see Him, they will not own Him fully thus. – Darby, J.N. Synopsis of the Books of the Bible. Psalm 86.
  3. What we do see in the rest of this chapter is that this fresh covenant was of a subsidiary nature, and did not in any wise cancel or modify the covenant of law which had just been established, since certain enactments of the law are freshly enforced. – Hole, F.B. Exodus.
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