Exodus 34 Study Notes


34:1-4 Writing new tablets signified that God had forgiven Israel and had reinstated his covenant with them.

34:5-7 Rather than providing a new visual description (in contrast with chaps. 3; 13-14; 19-20; 24), the account of the Lord’s display of his glory this time offers his list of a series of invisible qualities. The Lord has the capacity to be compassionate and gracious, to be slow to anger, and to forgive, in addition to exacting punishment (cp. Nm 14:18; Neh 9:17; Ps 86:15; 103:6-14; 145:8; Jl 2:13-14; Jnh 4:2; Nah 1:3).

34:8-9 Nowhere in Moses’s prayers for the Israelites did he point to their repentance or promise any improvement; their future would depend on the Lord’s ongoing favor, forgiveness, and faithfulness.

34:10-13 As v. 1 makes clear, I am making a covenant does not mean this is a new covenant. God is reinstating the original covenant. The verses essentially are a summary of Ex 23:20-33.

34:14 The phrase translated the Lord is jealous is (lit) “The Lord jealous his name.” It reflects the close connection between traits of character and the concept of name or reputation. It can also be rendered, “The Lord’s name is Jealous” or “The Lord is jealous for his name.” It is a forceful assertion that the Lord zealously protects the integrity of his relationships (cp. 20:5; Dt 4:24; 5:9; 6:15; Jos 24:19; Nah 1:2).

34:15-17 The derogatory way of referring to pagan worship and to the Israelites’ possible participation in it shows that it was wrong for both (Nm 25:1-13). The Lord was the only God whom anyone ought to worship, but the Israelites were especially accountable to him because of their covenant relationship with him (Ex 34:10).

34:18-28 These verses reemphasize the laws previously given (23:14-19) with a sampling of instructions.

34:29-35 The veil that Moses put over his face was like the boundaries placed around Mount Sinai (19:21-22; 20:18-19), like the curtain that hung between the holy place and the most holy place (26:31-33), and like the Lord’s hand placed over the rocky crevice where Moses was hidden (33:20-23). All were gracious provisions to protect people from casual and deadly exposure to the glory of God. The shining (Moses’s face was radiant) and the veil demonstrate the success of Moses’s intercession; the Lord had agreed to go with the Israelites in such a gracious way that they could safely see his glory among them, despite their stiff-necked frailty (cp. 2Co 3:13-14).

34:27 While God wrote the Ten Commandments on two stone tablets (31:18; 34:1), Moses is commanded to write down the rest of the words of the covenant.

34:28 This is the second time Moses spent forty days and nights on the mountain. It would only have taken a day or so to write what God spoke. His prolonged fast was an earnest (and successful) appeal for God’s grace in the face of Israel’s rebellion. He wrote probably refers to God (v. 1).