Notes for Exodus 34:1LEB

The restoration of the faltering community continues in this chapter. First, Moses is instructed to make new tablets and take them to the mountain (1–4). Then, through the promised theophany Yahweh proclaims his moral character (5–8). Moses responds with the reiteration of the intercession (8), and Yahweh responds with the renewal of the covenant (10–28). To put these into expository form, as principles, the chapter would run as follows: I. Yahweh provides for spiritual renewal (1–4), II. Yahweh reminds people of his moral standard (5–9), III. Yahweh renews his covenant promises and stipulations (10–28).


The imperative is followed by the preposition with a suffix expressing the ethical dative; it strengthens the instruction for Moses. Interestingly, the verb "cut out, chisel, hew," is the same verb from which the word for a "graven image" is derived – פָּסַל (pasal).


The perfect tense with vav consecutive makes the value of this verb equal to an imperfect tense, probably a simple future here.


Nothing is said of how Yahweh was going to write on these stone tablets at this point, but in the end it is Moses who wrote the words. This is not considered a contradiction, since Yahweh is often credited with things he has people do in his place. There is great symbolism in this command – if ever a command said far more than it actually said, this is it. The instruction means that the covenant had been renewed, or was going to be renewed, and that the sanctuary with the tablets in the ark at its center would be built (see Deut 10:1LEB). The first time Moses went up he was empty-handed; when he came down he smashed the tablets because of the Israelites’ sin. Now the people would see him go up with empty tablets and be uncertain whether he would come back with the tablets inscribed again (B. Jacob, Exodus, 977–78).


Notes for Exodus 34:2LEB

The form is a Niphal participle that means "be prepared, be ready." This probably means that Moses was to do in preparation what the congregation had to do back in Exod 19:11–15LEB.


The same word is used in Exod 33:21LEB. It is as if Moses was to be at his post when Yahweh wanted to communicate to him.


Notes for Exodus 34:4LEB

"he"; the referent has been specified here and the name "Moses," which occurs later in this verse, has been replaced with the pronoun ("he"), both for stylistic reasons.


Deuteronomy says that Moses was also to make an ark of acacia wood before the tablets, apparently to put the tablets in until the sanctuary was built. But this ark may not have been the ark built later; or, it might be the wood box, but Bezalel still had to do all the golden work with it.


The line reads "and Moses got up early in the morning and went up." These verbs likely form a verbal hendiadys, the first one with its prepositional phrase serving in an adverbial sense.


Notes for Exodus 34:5LEB

Some commentaries wish to make Moses the subject of the second and the third verbs, the first because he was told to stand there and this verb suggests he did it, and the last because it sounds like he was worshiping Yahweh (cf. NASB). But it is clear from v. 6 that Yahweh was the subject of the last clause of v. 5 – v. 6 tells how he did it. So if Yahweh is the subject of the first and last clauses of v. 5, it seems simpler that he also be the subject of the second. Moses took his stand there, but Yahweh stood by him (B. Jacob, Exodus, 981; U. Cassuto, Exodus, 439). There is no reason to make Moses the subject in any of the verbs of v. 5.


"And Yahowah (efei) descended (yarad – came down, lowered and diminished Himself, and bowed down) in a cloud (‘anan – surrounded by a visible mass of water vapor) and stood (yasab – made a commitment to appear, present Himself, and take a stand) with (‘im – in association and in a relationship with) him there. And he called out, summoned, and proclaimed (qara’ – he recited aloud, invited, welcomed, and announced) by way of Yahowah’s (efei) personal and proper name (shem)." (Shemowth / Names / Exodus 34:5LEB)


Notes for Exodus 34:6LEB

Here is one of the clearest examples of what it means "to call on the name of the Lord," as that clause has been translated traditionally (וַיִּקְרָא בְשֵׁם יְהוָה, vayyiqra véshem yéhvah). It seems more likely that it means "to make proclamation of Yahweh by name." Yahweh came down and made a proclamation – and the next verses give the content of what he said. This cannot be prayer or praise; it is a proclamation of the nature or attributes of Yahweh (which is what his "name" means throughout the Bible). Attempts to make Moses the subject of the verb are awkward, for the verb is repeated in v. 6 with Yahweh clearly doing the proclaiming.


U. Cassuto (Exodus, 439) suggests that these two names be written as a sentence: "Yahweh, He is Yahweh." In this manner it reflects "I am that I am." It is impossible to define his name in any other way than to make this affirmation and then show what it means.


See Exod 33:19LEB.


This is literally "long of anger." His anger prolongs itself, allowing for people to repent before punishment is inflicted.


These two words ("loyal love" and "truth") are often found together, occasionally in a hendiadys construction. If that is the interpretation here, then it means "faithful covenant love." Even if they are left separate, they are dual elements of a single quality. The first word is Yahweh’s faithful covenant love; the second word is Yahweh’s reliability and faithfulness.


Notes for Exodus 34:7LEB

That is, "for thousands of generations."


As in the ten commandments (Exodus 20:5–6LEB), this expression shows that the iniquity and its punishment will continue in the family if left unchecked. This does not go on as long as the outcomes for good (thousands versus third or fourth generations), and it is limited to those who hate Yahweh.


Notes for Exodus 34:8LEB

The first two verbs form a hendiadys: "he hurried…he bowed," meaning "he quickly bowed down."


Notes for Exodus 34:9LEB

The Hebrew term translated "Lord" two times here is אֲדֹנָי (’adonay).


"it is." Hebrew uses the third person masculine singular pronoun here in agreement with the noun "people."


Notes for Exodus 34:10LEB

Here again is a use of the futur instans participle; the deictic particle plus the pronoun precedes the participle, showing what is about to happen.


The verb here is בָּרָא (bara’, "to create"). The choice of this verb is to stress that these wonders would be supernaturally performed, for the verb is used only with Yahweh as the subject.


The idea is that Yahweh will be doing awesome things in dealing with them, i.e., to fulfill his program.


Notes for Exodus 34:11LEB

The covenant duties begin with this command to "keep well" what is being commanded. The Hebrew expression is "keep for you"; the preposition and the suffix form the ethical dative, adding strength to the imperative.


Again, this is the futur instans use of the participle.


Notes for Exodus 34:12LEB

The exact expression is "take heed to yourself lest you make." It is the second use of this verb in the duties, now in the Niphal stem. To take heed to yourself means to watch yourself, be sure not to do something. Here, if they failed to do this, they would end up making entangling treaties.


A snare would be a trap, an allurement to ruin. See Exod 23:33LEB.


Notes for Exodus 34:13LEB

Or "images of Asherah"; ASV, NASB "their Asherim"; NCV "their Asherah idols."


Asherah was a leading deity of the Canaanite pantheon, wife/sister of El and goddess of fertility. She was commonly worshiped at shrines in or near groves of evergreen trees, or, failing that, at places marked by wooden poles. These were to be burned or cut down (Deut 12:3LEB; Deut 16:21LEB; Judg 6:25-30LEB; 2 Kgs 18:4LEB).


Notes for Exodus 34:14LEB

"bow down."


In Exod 20:3LEB it was "gods."


Here, too, the emphasis on Yahweh’s being a jealous Yahweh is repeated (see Exod 20:5LEB). The use of "name" here is to stress that this is his nature, his character.


Notes for Exodus 34:15LEB

The sentence begins simply "lest you make a covenant"; it is undoubtedly a continuation of the imperative introduced earlier, and so that is supplied here.


The verb is a perfect with a vav consecutive. In the literal form of the sentence, this clause tells what might happen if the people made a covenant with the inhabitants of the land: "Take heed…lest you make a covenant…and then they prostitute themselves…and sacrifice…and invite…and you eat." The sequence lays out an entire scenario.


The verb זָנָה (zanah) means "to play the prostitute; to commit whoredom; to be a harlot" or something similar. It is used here and elsewhere in the Bible for departing from pure religion and engaging in pagan religion. The use of the word in this figurative sense is fitting, because the relationship between Yahweh and his people is pictured as a marriage, and to be unfaithful to it was a sin. This is also why Yahweh is described as a "jealous" or "impassioned" Yahweh. The figure may not be merely a metaphorical use, but perhaps a metonymy, since there actually was sexual immorality at the Canaanite altars and poles.


There is no subject for the verb. It could be rendered "and one invites you," or it could be made a passive.


Notes for Exodus 34:16LEB

In the construction this verb would follow as a possible outcome of the last event, and so remain in the verbal sequence. If the people participate in the festivals of the land, then they will intermarry, and that could lead to further involvement with idolatry.


Notes for Exodus 34:18LEB

This is an adverbial accusative of time.


The words "do this" have been supplied.


Notes for Exodus 34:19LEB

"everything that opens the womb."


Here too: everything that "opens [the womb]."


The verb basically means "that drops a male." The verb is feminine, referring to the cattle.


Notes for Exodus 34:20LEB

"and the one that opens [the womb of] the donkey."


See G. Brin, "The Firstling of Unclean Animals," JQR 68 (1971): 1-15.


The form is the adverb "empty."


Notes for Exodus 34:21LEB

This is an adverbial accusative of time.


Or "cease" (i.e., from the labors).


See M. Dahood, "Vocative lamed in Exodus 2, 4 and Merismus in 34, 21, " Bib 62 (1981): 413-15.


The imperfect tense expresses injunction or instruction.


Notes for Exodus 34:22LEB

The imperfect tense means "you will do"; it is followed by the preposition with a suffix to express the ethical dative to stress the subject.


The expression is "the turn of the year," which is parallel to "the going out of the year," and means the end of the agricultural season.


Notes for Exodus 34:23LEB

"Three times" is an adverbial accusative.


"all your males."


Here the divine name reads in Hebrew הָאָדֹן יְהוָה (haadon yéhvah), which if rendered according to the traditional scheme of "Lord" for "Yahweh" would result in "Lord Lord." A number of English versions therefore render this phrase "Lord Yahweh, " and that convention has been followed here.


The title "Lord" is included here before the divine name (translated "Yahweh" here; see Exod 23:17LEB), perhaps to form a contrast with Baal (which means "lord" as well) and to show the sovereignty of Yahweh. But the distinct designation "the Yahweh of Israel" is certainly the point of the renewed covenant relationship.


Notes for Exodus 34:24LEB

The verb is a Hiphil imperfect of יָרַשׁ (yarash), which means "to possess." In the causative stem it can mean "dispossess" or "drive out."


The verb "covet" means more than desire; it means that some action will be taken to try to acquire the land that is being coveted. It is one thing to envy someone for their land; it is another to be consumed by the desire that stops at nothing to get it (it, not something like it).


The construction uses the infinitive construct with a preposition and a suffixed subject to form the temporal clause.


The expression "three times" is an adverbial accusative of time.


Notes for Exodus 34:25LEB

See M. Haran, "The Passover Sacrifice," Studies in the Religion of Ancient Israel (VTSup), 86–116.


Notes for Exodus 34:26LEB

See the note on this same command in Exodus 23:19LEB.


Notes for Exodus 34:27LEB

Once again the preposition with the suffix follows the imperative, adding some emphasis to the subject of the verb.


Notes for Exodus 34:28LEB

These too are adverbial in relation to the main clause, telling how long Moses was with Yahweh on the mountain.


"the ten words," though "commandments" is traditional.


Notes for Exodus 34:29LEB

Now, at the culmination of the renewing of the covenant, comes the account of Moses’ shining face. It is important to read this in its context first, holding off on the connection to Paul’s discussion in 2 Corinthians. There is a delicate balance here in Exodus. On the one hand Moses’ shining face served to authenticate the message, but on the other hand Moses prevented the people from seeing more than they could handle. The subject matter in the OT, then, is how to authenticate the message. The section again can be subdivided into three points that develop the whole idea: I. The one who spends time with Yahweh reflects his glory (29–30). It will not always be as Moses; rather, the glory of the Yahweh is reflected differently today, but nonetheless reflected. II. The glory of Yahweh authenticates the message (31–32). III. The authentication of the message must be used cautiously with the weak and immature (33–35).


The temporal clause is composed of the temporal indicator ("and it happened"), followed by the temporal preposition, infinitive construct, and subjective genitive ("Moses").


The second clause begins with "and/now"; it is a circumstantial clause explaining that the tablets were in his hand. It repeats the temporal clause at the end.


"in the hand of Moses."


The temporal clause parallels the first temporal clause; it uses the same infinitive construct, but now with a suffix referring to Moses.


"and Moses."


The word קָרַן (qaran) is derived from the noun קֶרֶן (qeren) in the sense of a "ray of light" (see Hab 3:4LEB). Something of the divine glory remained with Moses. The Greek translation of Aquila and the Latin Vulgate convey the idea that he had horns, the primary meaning of the word from which this word is derived. Some have tried to defend this, saying that the glory appeared like horns or that Moses covered his face with a mask adorned with horns. But in the text the subject of the verb is the skin of Moses’ face (see U. Cassuto, Exodus, 449).


Notes for Exodus 34:30LEB

This clause is introduced by the deictic particle הִנֵּה (hinneh); it has the force of pointing to something surprising or sudden.


Notes for Exodus 34:33LEB

"and Moses finished"; the clause is subordinated as a temporal clause to the next clause.


The Piel infinitive construct is the object of the preposition; the whole phrase serves as the direct object of the verb "finished."


Throughout this section the actions of Moses and the people are frequentative. The text tells what happened regularly.


Notes for Exodus 34:34LEB

The construction uses a infinitive construct for the temporal clause; it is prefixed with the temporal preposition: "and in the going in of Moses."


The temporal clause begins with the temporal preposition "until," followed by an infinitive construct with the suffixed subjective genitive.


The form is the Pual imperfect, but since the context demands a past tense here, in fact a past perfect tense, this is probably an old preterite form without a vav consecutive.


Notes for Exodus 34:35LEB

Now the perfect tense with vav consecutive is subordinated to the next clause, "Moses returned the veil…."


Verbs of seeing often take two accusatives. Here, the second is the noun clause explaining what it was about the face that they saw.


"with him"; the referent (Yahweh) has been specified in the translation for clarity.