Exodus 33:12-23

12 Moses said to God, "Look, you tell me, 'Lead this people,' but you don't let me know whom you're going to send with me. You tell me, 'I know you well and you are special to me.'
13 If I am so special to you, let me in on your plans. That way, I will continue being special to you. Don't forget, this is your people, your responsibility."
14 God said, "My presence will go with you. I'll see the journey to the end."
15 Moses said, "If your presence doesn't take the lead here, call this trip off right now.
16 How else will it be known that you're with me in this, with me and your people? Are you traveling with us or not? How else will we know that we're special, I and your people, among all other people on this planet Earth?"
17 God said to Moses: "All right. Just as you say; this also I will do, for I know you well and you are special to me. I know you by name."
18 Moses said, "Please. Let me see your Glory."
19 God said, "I will make my Goodness pass right in front of you; I'll call out the name, God, right before you. I'll treat well whomever I want to treat well and I'll be kind to whomever I want to be kind."
20 God continued, "But you may not see my face. No one can see me and live."
21 God said, "Look, here is a place right beside me. Put yourself on this rock.
22 When my Glory passes by, I'll put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with my hand until I've passed by.
23 Then I'll take my hand away and you'll see my back. But you won't see my face."

Exodus 33:12-23 Meaning and Commentary

INTRODUCTION TO EXODUS 33

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 33:12-23 In-Context

10 All the people would see the Pillar of Cloud at the entrance to the Tent, stand at attention, and then bow down in worship, each man at the entrance to his tent.
11 And God spoke with Moses face-to-face, as neighbors speak to one another. When he would return to the camp, his attendant, the young man Joshua, stayed - he didn't leave the Tent.
12 Moses said to God, "Look, you tell me, 'Lead this people,' but you don't let me know whom you're going to send with me. You tell me, 'I know you well and you are special to me.'
13 If I am so special to you, let me in on your plans. That way, I will continue being special to you. Don't forget, this is your people, your responsibility."
14 God said, "My presence will go with you. I'll see the journey to the end."
15 Moses said, "If your presence doesn't take the lead here, call this trip off right now.
16 How else will it be known that you're with me in this, with me and your people? Are you traveling with us or not? How else will we know that we're special, I and your people, among all other people on this planet Earth?"
17 God said to Moses: "All right. Just as you say; this also I will do, for I know you well and you are special to me. I know you by name."
18 Moses said, "Please. Let me see your Glory."
19 God said, "I will make my Goodness pass right in front of you; I'll call out the name, God, right before you. I'll treat well whomever I want to treat well and I'll be kind to whomever I want to be kind."
20 God continued, "But you may not see my face. No one can see me and live."
21 God said, "Look, here is a place right beside me. Put yourself on this rock.
22 When my Glory passes by, I'll put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with my hand until I've passed by.
23 Then I'll take my hand away and you'll see my back. But you won't see my face."
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved.