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The New Oxford Annotated Bible New Revised Standard Study Bible that provides essential scholarship and guidance for Bible readers.

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Commentary on Exodus

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33.1–23 : Will God be with Israel or not?

Moses seeks assurance that God will accompany the people despite their attempt to force God to be present on their own terms.

1–3 :

The angel is God's representative ( 32.34 ), showing that the people will not be completely forsaken by the deity. God will not, however, accompany the stubborn people directly, as was true from Egypt to Sinai ( 13.21–22; 17.1,6 ), so that divine holiness does not consume them. Perhaps God is (temporarily) canceling the instructions to build the tabernacle.

1 :

You have brought up, 32.7n.

2 :

3.8n.

4–6 :

The people remove their ornaments, their victors' plunder, to show contrition and try to persuade God to decide favorably ( 3.21–22n. ).

7–11 :

The tent of meeting, the depiction of the tent here contrasts sharply with the elaborate structure of chs 25–31 , and it functions chiefly as a place where God speaks to Moses (Num 11.16–17,24–26; 12.1–8; Deut 31.14–15 ). Since God has now refused to be present among the people (v. 3 ), Moses pitches a tent far off from the camp. There is no priest or ritual. Instead, Moses and his assistant, Joshua (v. 11; 17.9–13n. ) are in charge, and anyone can come to seek an oracle from God.

8 :

The people's disrespect for Moses ( 32.1 ) is gone completely.

9–10 :

Pillar of cloud, 13.21–22n. Even though God's presence is now distant and intermittent, it commands utter respect from the people.

11 :

Moses' role as mediator ( 19.9; 20.19 ) is indicated by the fact that God speaks to him face to face, as one speaks to a friend (Num 12.7–8; Deut 34.10–12 ).

12–16 :

Because of the people's change of heart (vv. 4–6,8,10 ) Moses intercedes a third time, and because of his special relationship with God, he succeeds.

13 :

Your people (and twice in v. 16 ), in contrast to v. 1 (32.11–14n.).

16 :

Israel is a unique people because they undertake a special journey with God leading them into the future ( 15.13–18n. ).

17–23 :

This paragraph anticipates the theophany of 34.5–7 , the fifth divine appearance of the book.

18 :

Having asked for a display of God's “ways” (v. 13; Ps 103.7–14 ) or manner of action in the world, Moses now asks for more: a manifestation of God's glory, the visible radiance and majesty of God ( 16.6–7n. ).

19 :

As God knows Moses “by name” (vv. 12,17 ), God will proclaim to him the divine name, “YHWH” ( 3.14n. ), which is tantamount to disclosing the character or identity of God (Gen 32.27–29 ). I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, the structure of the sentence is similar to that of “I AM WHO I AM” ( 3.14 ), emphasizing divine freedom. God's actions, while free, are not capricious, however, but express divine “goodness” ( 34.6–7 ).

23 :

Although using bold anthropomorphisms (the LORD's hand and back), the narrator stresses that God remains hidden (v. 20 ), even when most palpably present.

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