Exodus 33

1 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Leave this place, you and the people you brought up out of Egypt, and go up to the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’
2 I will send an angel before you and drive out the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites.
3 Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way.”
4 When the people heard these distressing words, they began to mourn and no one put on any ornaments.
5 For the LORD had said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites, ‘You are a stiff-necked people. If I were to go with you even for a moment, I might destroy you. Now take off your ornaments and I will decide what to do with you.’ ”
6 So the Israelites stripped off their ornaments at Mount Horeb.

The Tent of Meeting

7 Now Moses used to take a tent and pitch it outside the camp some distance away, calling it the “tent of meeting.” Anyone inquiring of the LORD would go to the tent of meeting outside the camp.
8 And whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people rose and stood at the entrances to their tents, watching Moses until he entered the tent.
9 As Moses went into the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and stay at the entrance, while the LORD spoke with Moses.
10 Whenever the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance to the tent, they all stood and worshiped, each at the entrance to their tent.
11 The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent.

Moses and the Glory of the LORD

12 Moses said to the LORD, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’
13 If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”
14 The LORD replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
15 Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.
16 How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”
17 And the LORD said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”
18 Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”
19 And the LORD said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.
20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”
21 Then the LORD said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock.
22 When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by.
23 Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not 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 38

  • 1. S Exodus 13:11; S Numbers 14:23; Hebrews 6:13
  • 2. S Genesis 12:7
  • 3. S Exodus 14:19; Exodus 32:34
  • 4. S Exodus 23:28; Exodus 23:27-31; Joshua 24:11
  • 5. S Exodus 3:8
  • 6. Exodus 32:9; Acts 7:51
  • 7. S Exodus 32:10
  • 8. Numbers 14:39; Ezra 9:3; Esther 4:1; Psalms 119:53
  • 9. S Exodus 32:9
  • 10. S Exodus 32:10
  • 11. S Exodus 3:1
  • 12. S Exodus 27:21; Exodus 29:42-43
  • 13. S Genesis 25:22; S 1 Kings 22:5
  • 14. ver 10; Numbers 16:27
  • 15. Exodus 13:21; S Exodus 19:9; Deuteronomy 31:15; 1 Corinthians 10:1
  • 16. S Exodus 29:42; Exodus 31:18; Psalms 99:7
  • 17. S ver 8
  • 18. Numbers 12:8; Deuteronomy 5:4; Deuteronomy 34:10
  • 19. S Exodus 17:9
  • 20. Exodus 3:10; S Exodus 15:17
  • 21. ver 17; Isaiah 43:1; Isaiah 45:3; Isaiah 49:1; John 10:14-15; 2 Timothy 2:19
  • 22. S Genesis 6:8
  • 23. Psalms 25:4; Psalms 27:11; Psalms 51:13; Psalms 86:11; Psalms 103:7; Psalms 143:8; Psalms 119:33
  • 24. Exodus 3:7; Exodus 34:9; Deuteronomy 9:26,29; Psalms 77:15
  • 25. S Exodus 13:21; Deuteronomy 4:37; Isaiah 63:9; Haggai 1:13; Haggai 2:4
  • 26. Deuteronomy 12:9,10; Deuteronomy 25:19; Joshua 1:13; Joshua 11:23; Joshua 21:44; Joshua 22:4; Joshua 23:1; 1 Kings 8:56; Isaiah 63:14; Jeremiah 31:2; Matthew 11:28; Hebrews 4:1-11
  • 27. ver 3; Exodus 34:9; 2 Kings 13:23; 2 Kings 17:18; 2 Kings 23:27; 2 Kings 24:20; Psalms 51:11; Psalms 80:3,7,19; Jeremiah 7:15; Jeremiah 52:3
  • 28. Exodus 34:5; Exodus 40:34,35; Numbers 9:15; Numbers 14:14
  • 29. Exodus 34:10; Leviticus 20:24,26; Numbers 23:9; Dt 4:7,32,34; Deuteronomy 32:9; Deuteronomy 33:28
  • 30. Exodus 34:28; Deuteronomy 9:18,25; Deuteronomy 10:10; James 5:16
  • 31. S Genesis 6:8
  • 32. S Exodus 16:7; John 1:14; John 12:41; 1 Timothy 6:16; Revelation 15:8
  • 33. 1 Kings 19:11
  • 34. Exodus 6:3; Exodus 34:5-7
  • 35. Romans 9:15*
  • 36. S Genesis 16:13; S Exodus 3:6; S Deuteronomy 5:26; S John 1:18; Genesis 32:30; Isaiah 6:5
  • 37. Genesis 49:24; 1 Kings 19:9; Psalms 27:5; Psalms 31:20; Psalms 62:7; Psalms 91:1; Isaiah 2:21; Jeremiah 4:29
  • 38. Psalms 91:4; Isaiah 49:2; Isaiah 51:16

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

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