Exodus 33

Listen to Exodus 33

The Command to Leave Sinai

1 The LORD said to Moses, "Depart; go up from here, you 1and the people whom you have brought up out of the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, 'To 2your offspring I will give it.'
2 I will send an 3angel before you, 4and I will drive out the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.
3 5Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; 6but I will not go up among you, 7lest I consume you on the way, for you are a 8stiff-necked people."
4 When the people heard this disastrous word, they 9mourned, and 10no one put on his ornaments.
5 For the LORD had said to Moses, "Say to the people of Israel, 'You are a 11stiff-necked people; if for a single moment I should go up among you, I would 12consume you. So now 13take off your ornaments, that I may know what to do with you.'"
6 Therefore the people of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments, from Mount Horeb onward.

The Tent of Meeting

7 Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, far off from the camp, and 14he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who 15sought the LORD would go out to the tent of meeting, which was outside the camp.
8 Whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people would rise up, and 16each would stand at his tent door, and watch Moses until he had gone into the tent.
9 When Moses entered the tent, the 17pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent, and the LORD [a] would speak with Moses.
10 And when all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would rise up and worship, each at his tent door.
11 Thus 18the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses turned again into the camp, his 19assistant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent.

Moses' Intercession

12 Moses said to the LORD, "See, 20you say to me, 'Bring up this people,' but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, 21'I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.'
13 Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please 22show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is 23your people."
14 And he said, 24"My presence will go with you, and 25I will give you rest."
15 And he said to him, 26"If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here.
16 For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? 27Is it not in your going with us, 28so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?"
17 And the LORD said to Moses, "This very thing that you have spoken I will do, 29for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name."
18 Moses said, "Please 30show me your glory."
19 And he said, 31"I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name 'The LORD.' And 32I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.
20 But," he said, "you cannot see my face, for 33man shall not see me and live."
21 And the LORD said, "Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock,
22 and while my glory passes by I will put you in a 34cleft of the rock, and I will 35cover you with my hand until I have passed by.
23 Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall 36not be seen."

Exodus 33 Commentary

Chapter 33

The Lord refuses to go with Israel. (1-6) The tabernacle of Moses removed without the camp. (7-11) Moses desires to see the glory of God. (12-23)

Verses 1-6 Those whom God pardons, must be made to know what their sin deserved. "Let them go forward as they are;" this was very expressive of God's displeasure. Though he promises to make good his covenant with Abraham, in giving them Canaan, yet he denies them the tokens of his presence they had been blessed with. The people mourned for their sin. Of all the bitter fruits and consequences of sin, true penitents most lament, and dread most, God's departure from them. Canaan itself would be no pleasant land without the Lord's presence. Those who parted with ornaments to maintain sin, could do no less than lay aside ornaments, in token of sorrow and shame for it.

Verses 7-11 Moses took the tabernacle, and pitched it without the camp. This seems to have been a temporary building, set up for worship, and at which he judged disputes among the people. The people looked after him; they were very desirous to be at peace with God, and concerned to know what would come to pass. The cloudy pillar which had withdrawn from the camp when it was polluted with idolatry, now returned. If our hearts go forth toward God to meet him, he will graciously come to meet us.

Verses 12-23 Moses is very earnest with God. Thus, by the intercession of Christ, we are not only saved from ruin, but become entitled to everlasting happiness. Observe here how he pleads. We find grace in God's sight, if we find grace in our hearts to guide and quicken us in the way of our duty. Moses speaks as one who dreaded the thought of going forward without the Lord's presence. God's gracious promises, and mercy towards us, should not only encourage our faith, but also excite our fervency in prayer. Observe how he speeds. See, in a type, Christ's intercession, which he ever lives to make for all that come to God by him; and that it is not by any thing in those for whom he intercedes. Moses then entreats a sight of God's glory, and is heard in that also. A full discovery of the glory of God, would overwhelm even Moses himself. Man is mean, and unworthy of it; weak, and could not bear it; guilty, and could not but dread it. The merciful display which is made in Christ Jesus, alone can be borne by us. The Lord granted that which would abundantly satisfy. God's goodness is his glory; and he will have us to know him by the glory of his mercy, more than by the glory of his majesty. Upon the rock there was a fit place for Moses to view the goodness and glory of God. The rock in Horeb was typical of Christ the Rock; the Rock of refuge, salvation, and strength. Happy are they who stand upon this Rock. The cleft may be an emblem of Christ, as smitten, crucified, wounded, and slain. What follows, denotes the imperfect knowledge of God in the present state, even as revealed in Christ; for this, when compared with the heavenly sight of him. is but like seeing a man that is gone by, whose back only is to be seen. God in Christ, as he is, even the fullest and brightest displays of his glory, grace, and goodness, are reserved to another state.

Cross References 36

  • 1. Exodus 32:7
  • 2. Exodus 32:13; See Genesis 12:7
  • 3. See Exodus 14:19
  • 4. See Exodus 13:5
  • 5. See Exodus 3:8
  • 6. [ver. 15-17]
  • 7. Exodus 32:10; Numbers 16:21, 45
  • 8. See Exodus 32:9
  • 9. Numbers 14:39
  • 10. [Ezekiel 24:17, 23; Ezekiel 26:16]
  • 11. [See ver. 3 above]
  • 12. Exodus 32:12
  • 13. [See ver. 4 above]
  • 14. Exodus 29:42, 43
  • 15. Deuteronomy 4:29; 2 Samuel 21:1; 1 Chronicles 16:10, 11; Psalms 40:16
  • 16. [Numbers 16:27]
  • 17. See Exodus 13:21
  • 18. Numbers 12:8; Deuteronomy 34:10; See Genesis 32:30
  • 19. Exodus 17:9, 10; Exodus 24:13; Exodus 32:17
  • 20. Exodus 32:34
  • 21. ver. 17
  • 22. Psalms 25:4; [Psalms 103:7]
  • 23. Deuteronomy 9:29; [Joel 2:17]
  • 24. Joshua 1:5; Isaiah 63:9; See Exodus 40:34-38
  • 25. Deuteronomy 3:20; Joshua 21:44; Joshua 22:4; Joshua 23:1; [Psalms 95:11]
  • 26. [ver. 1-3]
  • 27. Numbers 14:14
  • 28. Exodus 19:5, 6; 1 Kings 8:53
  • 29. ver. 12, 13
  • 30. [ver. 20; 1 Timothy 6:16]
  • 31. Psalms 31:19; Jeremiah 31:14; [Exodus 34:5-7]
  • 32. Cited Romans 9:15
  • 33. Genesis 32:30; Deuteronomy 5:24; Judges 6:22, 23; Judges 13:22; Isaiah 6:5; Revelation 1:17; [Exodus 24:10, 11]
  • 34. Isaiah 2:21
  • 35. Psalms 91:1, 4
  • 36. ver. 20; John 1:18; 1 Timothy 6:16; 1 John 4:12

Footnotes 1

Chapter Summary


This chapter informs us, that the Lord refusing to go with the people, only sending an angel with them, they are filled with concern, and troubled, Ex 33:1-6. Moses upon this pitched the tabernacle without the camp, where everyone that sought the Lord went; Moses entered into it himself, and the Lord talked to him in a friendly manner in the cloudy pillar that stood at the door of it, and the people worshipped, every man at his own tent door; all which foreboded good, and tended to reconciliation, Ex 33:7-11. Moses improved the opportunity, and entreats the presence of God to go with them, which was granted, Ex 33:12-17 and that he might have a sight of the glory of God; and this is promised to pass before him, he being put into the cleft of the rock, Ex 33:18-23.

Exodus 33 Commentaries

The English Standard Version is published with the permission of Good News Publishers.