Exodus 34:29

The Face of Moses Shines

29 Moses came down from Mount Sinai. He had the two tablets of the covenant in his hands. His face was shining because he had spoken with the Lord. But he didn't realize it.

Exodus 34:29 Meaning and Commentary

Exodus 34:29

And it came to pass, when Moses came down Mount Sinai,
&c.] Which was on the day of atonement, according to Jarchi, that is, the tenth of Tisri, or September; and so the Jewish chronologers F17 fix his descent on this day:

with the two tables of testimony in Moses's hand;
the two tables he carried up, on which God had wrote the law, called "the testimony", being a testification and declaration of his will to the children of Israel:

when he came down from the mount, that Moses wist not that the
skin of his face shone, while he talked with him:
the Targum of Jonathan is,

``Moses knew not that the splendour of the form of his face was become illustrious, which he had from the brightness of the glory of the Shechinah of the Lord, at the time he talked with him.''

And this the apostle calls "the glory of his countenance", ( 2 Corinthians 3:7 ) the glory of the Lord as it passed before him, when in the cleft of the rock, and that degree of it he was admitted to the sight of, while conversing with God, during his stay on the mount forty days and forty nights, left a shining glory on his countenance; which while he was with God he could not be at all sensible of, the glory of God so infinitely surpassing that; and when he came down the mount, as he could not see his own face without a glass, so though the rays of light and glory that darted from his face were so bright and strong, that they might have been observed by him, yet his mind was so intent on what he had seen and heard, that he took no notice of them. The Vulgate Latin version renders it very wrongly, "that his face was horned", which has given occasion to painters to represent him in a ridiculous manner, as having horns coming out of his forehead; though the word has the signification of an horn, and the meaning of that version, as of others, may only be, that the skin of his face "darted out rays" F18 like horns, such as the rays of the sun appear to be like to the eye, see ( Habakkuk 3:4 ) hence Jupiter Ammon, the same with the sun, is described as having horns F19; and so Bacchus, who is supposed to be the same with Moses, is represented as having a horned face F20. Now this glory was left on the countenance of Moses, to show that he had had communion with God, and that the law he brought with him was from him; and to signify the glory of it, and to command awe and reverence, and make men afraid to break it.


F17 Seder Olam Rabba, c. 6. p. 19.
F18 (Nrq) "radios ejacularetur", Tigurine version; "in modum cornu radiaret", Munster, Fagius, "[vel] rediasset", Vatablus; "splendere instar cornu", Drusius; so <arabic> Karnon * in the Arabic language signifies the rays of the sun. * Golius, col. 1896. Castel. col. 3455.
F19 Vid. Diodor. Sicul. l. 3. p. 201. Macrob. Saturnal. l. 1. c. 21.
F20 Diodor. Sicul. l. 4. p. 212. so Orpheus calls Bacchus, (dikerwta) , Hymn. p. 126. and Horace ascribes to him, "cornu decorum", Carmin. l. 2. Ode 19.

Exodus 34:29 In-Context

27 Then the LORD said to Moses, "Write down the words I have spoken. I have made a covenant with you and with Israel in keeping with those words."
28 Moses was there with the LORD for 40 days and 40 nights. He didn't eat any food or drink any water. The LORD wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant. Those words are the Ten Commandments.
29 Moses came down from Mount Sinai. He had the two tablets of the covenant in his hands. His face was shining because he had spoken with the Lord. But he didn't realize it.
30 Aaron and all of the people of Israel saw Moses. His face was shining. So they were afraid to come near him.
31 But Moses called out to them. So Aaron and all of the leaders of the community came to him. And Moses spoke to them.
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