God having in the foregoing chapter intimated to Moses his
reconciliation to Israel, here gives proofs of it, proceeding to settle
his covenant and communion with them. Four instances of the return of
his favour we have in this chapter:--
I. The orders he gives to Moses to come up to the mount, the next
morning, and bring two tables of stone with him,
II. His meeting him there, and the proclamation of his name,
III. The instructions he gave him there, and his converse with him for
forty days together, without intermission,
IV. The honour he put upon him when he sent him down with his face
In all this God dealt with Moses as a public person, and mediator
between him and Israel, and a type of the great Mediator.
|God's Proclamation of Himself.
||B. C. 1491.|
1 And the LORD said unto Moses, Hew thee two tables of stone
like unto the first: and I will write upon these tables the
words that were in the first tables, which thou brakest.
2 And be ready in the morning, and come up in the morning unto
mount Sinai, and present thyself there to me in the top of the
3 And no man shall come up with thee, neither let any man be
seen throughout all the mount; neither let the flocks nor herds
feed before that mount.
4 And he hewed two tables of stone like unto the first; and
Moses rose up early in the morning, and went up unto mount Sinai,
as the LORD had commanded him, and took in his hand the two
tables of stone.
The treaty that was on foot between God and Israel being broken off
abruptly, by their worshipping the golden calf, when peace was made all
must be begun anew, not where they left off, but from the beginning.
Thus backsliders must repent, and do their first works,
I. Moses must prepare for the renewing of the tables,
Before, God himself provided the tables, and wrote on them; now, Moses
must hew out the tables, and God would only write upon them.
Thus, in the first writing of the law upon the heart of man in
innocency, both the tables and the writing were the work of God; but
when those were broken and defaced by sin, and the divine law was to be
preserved in the scriptures, God therein made use of the ministry of
man, and Moses first. But the prophets and apostles did only hew the
tables, as it were; the writing was God's still, for all scripture
is given by inspiration of God. Observe, When God was reconciled to
them, he ordered the tables to be renewed, and wrote his law in them,
which plainly intimates to us,
1. That even under the gospel of peace and reconciliation by Christ (of
which the intercession of Moses was typical) the moral law should
continue to bind believers. Though Christ has redeemed us from the
curse of the law, yet not from the command of it, but still we are
under the law to Christ; when our Saviour, in his sermon on the
mount, expounded the moral law, and vindicated it from the corrupt
glosses with which the scribes and Pharisees had broken it
he did in effect renew the tables, and make them like the first, that
is, reduce the law to its primitive sense and intention.
2. That the best evidence of the pardon of sin and peace with God is
the writing of the law in the heart. The first token God gave of his
reconciliation to Israel was the renewing of the tables of the law;
thus the first article of the new covenant is, I will write my law
in their heart
and it follows
for I will be merciful to their unrighteousness.
3. That, if we would have God to write the law in our hearts, we must
prepare our hearts for the reception of it. The heart of stone must be
hewn by conviction and humiliation for sin
the superfluity of naughtiness must be taken off
the heart made smooth, and laboured with, that the word may have a
place in it. Moses did accordingly hew out the tables of stone,
or slate, for they were so slight and thin that Moses carried them both
in his hand; and, for their dimensions, they must have been somewhat
less, and perhaps not much, than the ark in which they were deposited,
which was a yard and quarter long, and three quarters broad. It should
seem there was nothing particularly curious in the framing of them, for
there was no great time taken; Moses had them ready presently, to take
up with him, next morning. They were to receive their beauty, not from
the art of man, but from the finger of God.
II. Moses must attend again on the top of mount Sinai, and present
himself to God there,
Though the absence of Moses, and his continuance so long on the mount,
had lately occasioned their making the golden calf, yet God did not
therefore alter his measures, but he shall come up and tarry as long as
he had done, to try whether they had learned to wait. To strike an awe
upon the people, they are directed to keep their distance, none must
come up with him,
They had said
We know not what has become of him, and God will not let them
know. Moses, accordingly, rose up early
to go to the place appointed, to show how forward he was to present
himself before God and loth to lose time. It is good to be early at our
devotions. The morning is perhaps as good a friend to the graces as it
is to the muses.
5 And the LORD descended in the cloud, and stood with him
there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD.
6 And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD,
The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant
in goodness and truth,
7 Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and
transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the
guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children,
and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the
8 And Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth,
9 And he said, If now I have found grace in thy sight, O Lord,
let my Lord, I pray thee, go among us; for it is a stiffnecked
people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for
No sooner had Moses got to the top of the mount than God gave him the
The Lord descended, by some sensible token of his presence, and
manifestation of his glory. His descending bespeaks his condescension;
he humbles himself to take cognizance of those that humble themselves
to walk with him.
Lord, what is man, that he should be thus visited? He descended
in the cloud, probably that pillar of cloud which had hitherto
gone before Israel, and had the day before met Moses at the door of the
tabernacle. This cloud was to strike an awe upon Moses, that the
familiarity he was admitted to might not breed contempt. The disciples
feared, when they entered the cloud. His making a cloud his
pavilion intimated that, though he made known much of himself, yet
there was much more concealed. Now observe,
I. How God proclaimed his name
he did it in transitu--as he passed by him. Fixed views of God
are reserved for the future state; the best we have in this world are
transient. God now was performing what he had promised Moses, the day
before, that his glory should pass by,
He proclaimed the name of the Lord, by which he would make
himself known. He had made himself known to Moses in the glory of his
self-existence and self-sufficiency when he proclaimed that name, I
am that I am; now he makes himself known in the glory of his grace,
and goodness, and all-sufficiency to us. Now that God is about to
publish a second edition of the law he prefaces it with this
proclamation; for it is God's grace or goodness that gives the law,
especially the remedial law. The pardon of Israel's sin in worshipping
the calf was now to pass the seals; and God, by this declaration, would
let them know that he pardoned ex mero motu--merely out of his own
good pleasure, not for their merits' sake, but from his own
inclination to forgive. The proclaiming of it denotes the universal
extent of God's mercy. He is not only good to Israel, but good to all;
let all take notice of it. He that hath an ear, let him hear, and know,
1. That the God with whom we have to do is a great God. He is Jehovah,
the Lord, who has his being of himself, and is the fountain of all
being, Jehovah-El, the Lord, the strong God, a God of almighty
power himself, and the original of all power. This is prefixed before
the display of his mercy, to teach us to think and to speak even of
God's grace and goodness with great seriousness and a holy awe, and to
encourage us to depend upon these mercies; they are not the mercies of
a man, that is frail and feeble, false and fickle, but the mercies of
the Lord, the Lord God; therefore sure mercies, and sovereign mercies,
mercies that may be trusted, but not tempted.
2. That he is a good God. His greatness and goodness illustrate and set
off each other. That the terror of his greatness may not make us
afraid, we are told how good he is; and, that we may not presume upon
his goodness, we are told how great he is. Many words are here heaped
up, to acquaint us with, and convince us of, God's goodness, and to
show how much his goodness is both his glory and his delight, yet
without any tautology.
(1.) He is merciful. This bespeaks his tender compassion, like
that of a father to his children. This is put first, because it is the
first wheel in all the instances of God's good-will to fallen man,
whose misery makes him an object of pity,
Let us not then have either hard thoughts of God or hard hearts towards
(2.) He is gracious. This bespeaks both freeness and kindness;
it intimates not only that he has a compassion to his creatures, but a
complacency in them and in doing good to them, and this of his own
good-will, and not for the sake of any thing in them. His mercy is
grace, free grace; this teaches us to be not only pitiful, but
1 Peter 3:8.
(3.) He is long-suffering. This is a branch of God's goodness
which the wickedness of sinners gives occasion for; that of Israel had
done so: they had tried his patience, and experienced it. He is
long-suffering, that is, he is slow to anger, and delays the execution
of his justice; he waits to be gracious, and lengthens out the offers
of his mercy.
(4.) He is abundant in goodness and truth. This bespeaks
plentiful goodness, goodness abounding above our deserts, above our
conception and expression. The springs of mercy are always full, the
streams of mercy always flowing; there is mercy enough in God, enough
for all, enough for each, enough for ever. It bespeaks promised
goodness, goodness and truth put together, goodness engaged by promise,
and his faithfulness pledged for the security of it. He not only does
good, but by his promise he raises our expectation of it, and even
binds himself to show mercy.
(5.) He keepeth mercy for thousands. This denotes,
[1.] Mercy extended to thousands of persons. When he gives to some,
still he keeps for others, and is never exhausted; he has mercy enough
for all the thousands of Israel, when they shall multiply as the
[2.] Mercy entailed upon thousands of generations, even those upon whom
the ends of the world have come; nay, the line of it is drawn parallel
with that of eternity itself.
(6.) He for giveth iniquity, transgression, and sin. Pardoning
mercy is specified, because in this divine grace is most magnified, and
because in this divine grace is most magnified, and because it is this
which opens the door to all other gifts of his divine grace, and
because of this he had lately given a very pregnant proof. He forgives
offences of all sorts--iniquity, transgression, and sin,
multiplies his pardons; and with him is plenteous
3. That he is a just and holy God. For,
(1.) He will by no means clear the guilty. Some read it so as to
express a mitigation of wrath, even when he does punish: When he
empties, he will not make quite desolate; that is, "He does not
proceed to the greatest extremity, till there be no remedy." As we read
it, we must expound it that he will by no means connive at the guilty,
as if he took no notice of their sin. Or, he will not clear the
impenitently guilty, that go on still in their trespasses: he will not
clear the guilty without some satisfaction to his justice, and
necessary vindications of the honour of his government.
(2.) He visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the children. He
may justly do it, for all souls are his, and there is a malignity in
sin that taints the blood. He sometimes will do it, especially for the
punishment of idolaters. Thus he shows his hatred to sin, and
displeasure against it; yet he keepeth not his anger for ever,
but visits to the third and fourth generation only, while he keepeth
his mercy for thousands. Well, this is God's name for ever, and
this is his memorial unto all generations.
II. How Moses received this declaration which God made of himself, and
of his grace and mercy. It should seem as if Moses accepted this as a
sufficient answer to his request that God would show him his
glory; for we read not that he went into the cleft of the rock,
whence to gain a sight of God's back parts. Perhaps this satisfied him,
and he desired no more; as we read not that Thomas did thrust his
hand into Christ's side, though Christ invited him to do it. God
having thus proclaimed his name, Moses says, "It is enough, I expect no
more till I come to heaven;" at least he did not think fit to relate
what he saw. Now we are here told,
1. What impression it made upon him: Moses made haste, and bowed his
Thus he expressed,
(1.) His humble reverence and adoration of God's glory, giving him
the honour due to that name he had thus proclaimed. Even the
goodness of God must be looked upon by us with a profound veneration
and holy awe.
(2.) His joy in this discovery which God had made of himself, and his
thankfulness for it. We have reason gratefully to acknowledge God's
goodness to us, not only in the real instances of it, but in the
declarations he has made of it by his word; not only that he is, and
will be, gracious to us, but that he is pleased to let us know it.
(3.) His holy submission to the will of God, made known in this
declaration, subscribing to his justice as well as mercy, and putting
himself and his people Israel under the government and direction of
such a God as Jehovah had now proclaimed himself to be. Let this God be
our God for ever and ever.
2. What improvement he made of it. He immediately grounded a prayer
and a more earnest affectionate prayer it is,
(1.) For the presence of God with his people Israel in the wilderness:
"I pray thee, go among us, for thy presence is all in all to our
safety and success."
(2.) For pardon of sin: "O pardon our iniquity and our sin, else
we cannot expect thee to go among us." And,
(3.) For the privileges of a peculiar people: "Take us for thy
inheritance, which thou wilt have a particular eye to, and concern
for, and delight in." These things God had already promised, and given
Moses assurances of, and yet he prays for them, not as doubting the
sincerity of God's grants, but as one solicitous for the ratification
of them. God's promises are intended, not to supersede, but to direct
and encourage, prayer. Those who have some good hopes, through grace,
that their sins are pardoned, must yet continue to pray for pardon, for
the renewing of their pardon, and the clearing of it more and more to
their souls. The more we see of God's goodness the more ashamed we
should be of our own sins, and the more earnest for an interest in it.
God had said, in the close of the proclamation, that he would visit
the iniquity upon the children; and Moses here deprecates that.
"Lord, do not only pardon it to them, but to their children, and let
our covenant-relation to thee be entailed upon our posterity, as an
inheritance." Thus Moses, like a man of a truly public spirit,
intercedes even for the children that should be born. But it is a
strange plea he urges: For it is a stiff-necked people. God had
given this as a reason why he would not go along with them,
"Yea," says Moses, "the rather go along with us; for the worse they are
the more need they have of thy presence and grace to make them better."
Moses sees them so stiff-necked that, for his part, he has neither
patience nor power enough to deal with them. "Therefore, Lord, do thou
go among us, else they will never be kept in awe. Thou wilt spare, and
bear with them, for thou art God, and not man,"
|A Caution Against Idolatry.
||B. C. 1491.|
10 And he said, Behold, I make a covenant: before all thy
people I will do marvels, such as have not been done in all the
earth, nor in any nation: and all the people among which thou
art shall see the work of the LORD: for it is a terrible
thing that I will do with thee.
11 Observe thou that which I command thee this day: behold, I
drive out before thee the Amorite, and the Canaanite, and the
Hittite, and the Perizzite, and the Hivite, and the Jebusite.
12 Take heed to thyself, lest thou make a covenant with the
inhabitants of the land whither thou goest, lest it be for a
snare in the midst of thee:
13 But ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and
cut down their groves:
14 For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose
name is Jealous, is a jealous God:
15 Lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land,
and they go a whoring after their gods, and do sacrifice unto
their gods, and one call thee, and thou eat of his sacrifice;
16 And thou take of their daughters unto thy sons, and their
daughters go a whoring after their gods, and make thy sons go a
whoring after their gods.
17 Thou shalt make thee no molten gods.
Reconciliation being made, a covenant of friendship is here settled
between God and Israel. The traitors are not only pardoned, but
preferred and made favourites again. Well may the assurances of this be
ushered in with a behold, a word commanding attention and
admiration: Behold, I make a covenant. When the covenant was
broken, it was Israel that broke it; now that it comes to be renewed,
it is God that makes it. If there be quarrels, we must bear all the
blame; if there be peace, God must have all the glory. Here is,
I. God's part of this covenant, what he would do for them,
1. In general: Before all thy people, I will do marvels. Note,
Covenant-blessings are marvellous things
marvels in the kingdom of grace; those mentioned here were marvels in
the kingdom of nature, the drying up of Jordan, the standing still of
the sun, &c. Marvels indeed, for they were without precedent, such
as have not been done in all the earth. They were the joy of
Israel, and the confirmation of their faith: Thy people shall
see, and own the work of the Lord. And they were the terror
of their enemies: It is a terrible thing that I will do. Nay,
even God's own people should see them with astonishment.
2. In particular: I drive out before thee the Amorite. God, as
King of nations, plucks up some, to plant others, as it pleases him; as
King of saints, he made room for the vine he brought out of Egypt,
Kingdoms are sacrificed to Israel's interests,
II. Their part of the covenant: Observe that which I command
thee. We cannot expect the benefit of the promises unless we make
conscience of the precepts.
1. The two great precepts are,
(1.) Thou shalt worship no other gods
not give divine honour to any creature, or any name whatsoever, the
creature of fancy. A good reason is annexed. It is at thy peril if thou
do: For the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God, as
tender in the matters of his worship as the husband is of the honour of
the marriage-bed. Jealousy is called the rage of a man
but it is God's holy and just displeasure. Those cannot worship
God aright who do not worship him alone.
(2.) "Thou shalt make thee no molten god
thou shalt not worship the true God by images." This was the sin they
had lately fallen into, which therefore they are particularly cautioned
2. Fences are here erected about these two precepts by two others:
(1.) That they might not be tempted to worship other gods, they must
not join in affinity or friendship with those that did
"Take heed to thyself, for thou art upon thy good behaviour. It
is a sin that thou art prone to and that will easily beset thee, and
therefore be very cautious, and carefully abstain from all appearances
of it and advances towards it. Make no covenant with the inhabitants
of the land." If God, in kindness to them, drove out the
Canaanites, they ought, in duty to God, not to harbour them. What could
be insisted on more reasonable than this? If God make war with the
Canaanites, let not Israel make peace with them. If God take care that
the Canaanites be not their lords, let them take care that they be not
their snares. It was for their civil interest to complete the conquest
of the land; so much does God consult our benefit in the laws he gives
us. They must particularly take heed of intermarrying with them,
If they espoused their children, they would be in danger of espousing
their gods; such is the corruption of nature that the bad are much more
likely to debauch the good than the good to reform the bad. The way of
sin is downhill: those that are in league with idolaters will come by
degrees to be in love with idolatry; and those that are prevailed upon
to eat of the idolatrous sacrifice will come at length to offer it.
Obsta principiis--Nip the mischief in the bud.
(2.) That they might not be tempted to make molten gods, they must
utterly destroy those they found and all that belong to them, the
altars and groves
lest, if these were left standing, they should be brought, in process
of time, either to use them or to take pattern by them, or to abate in
their detestation and dread of idolatry. The relics of idolatry ought
to be abolished as affronts to the holy God and a great reproach to
human nature. Let it never be said that men who pretend to reason were
ever guilty of such absurdities as to make gods of their own and
|Solemn Feasts Appointed.
||B. C. 1491.|
18 The feast of unleavened bread shalt thou keep. Seven days
thou shalt eat unleavened bread, as I commanded thee, in the time
of the month Abib: for in the month Abib thou camest out from
19 All that openeth the matrix is mine; and every firstling
among thy cattle, whether ox or sheep, that is male.
20 But the firstling of an ass thou shalt redeem with a lamb:
and if thou redeem him not, then shalt thou break his neck. All
the firstborn of thy sons thou shalt redeem. And none shall
appear before me empty.
21 Six days thou shalt work, but on the seventh day thou shalt
rest: in earing time and in harvest thou shalt rest.
22 And thou shalt observe the feast of weeks, of the
firstfruits of wheat harvest, and the feast of ingathering at the
23 Thrice in the year shall all your men children appear before
the Lord GOD, the God of Israel.
24 For I will cast out the nations before thee, and enlarge thy
borders: neither shall any man desire thy land, when thou shalt
go up to appear before the LORD thy God thrice in the year.
25 Thou shalt not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leaven;
neither shall the sacrifice of the feast of the passover be left
unto the morning.
26 The first of the firstfruits of thy land thou shalt bring
unto the house of the LORD thy God. Thou shalt not seethe a kid
in his mother's milk.
27 And the LORD said unto Moses, Write thou these words: for
after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee
and with Israel.
Here is a repetition of several appointments made before, especially
relating to their solemn feasts. When they had made the calf, they
proclaimed a feast in honour of it; now, that they might never do so
again, they are here charged with the observance of the feasts which
God had instituted. Note, Men need not be drawn from their religion by
the temptation of mirth, for we serve a Master that has abundantly
provided for the joy of his servants: serious godliness is a continual
feast, and joy in God always.
I. Once a week they must rest
even in earing time, and in harvest, the most busy times of the
year. All worldly business must give way to that holy rest;
harvest-work will prosper the better for the religious observance of
the sabbath-day in harvest-time. Hereby we must show that we prefer our
communion with God, and our duty to him, before either the business or
the joy of harvest.
II. Thrice a year they must feast
they must then appear before the Lord, God, the God of Israel.
In all our religious approaches to God, we must eye him as the Lord
God, infinitely blessed, great, and glorious, that we may worship him
with reverence and godly fear, as the God of Israel, a God in covenant
with us, that we may be encouraged to trust in him, and to serve him
cheerfully. We always are before God; but, in holy duties, we present
ourselves before him, as servants to receive commands, as petitioners
to sue for favours, and we have reason to do both with joy. But it
might be suggested that, when all the males from every part of the
country had gone up to worship in the place that God should choose, the
country would be left exposed to the insults of their neighbours; and
what would become of the poor women and children, and sick and aged,
that were left at home? Trust God with them
Neither shall any man desire thy land; not only they shall not
invade it, but they shall not so much as think of invading it. Note,
1. All hearts are in God's hands, and under his check; he can lay a
restraint, not only upon men's actions, but upon their desires. Canaan
was a desirable land, and the neighbouring nations were greedy enough;
and yet God says, "They shall not desire it." Let us check all sinful
desires in our own hearts against God and his glory, and then trust him
to check all sinful desires in the hearts of others against us and our
2. The way of duty is the way of safety. If we serve God, he will
preserve us; and those that venture for him shall never lose by him.
While we are employed in God's work, and are attending upon him, we are
taken under special protection, as noblemen and members of parliament
are privileged from arrests.
III. The three feasts are here mentioned, with their appendages.
1. The passover, and the feast of unleavened bread, in remembrance of
their deliverance out of Egypt; and to this is annexed the law of the
redemption of the first-born,
This feast was instituted,
and urged again,
2. The feast of weeks, that is, that of pentecost, seven weeks after
the passover; and to this is annexed the law of the first-fruits.
3. The feast of in-gathering at the year's end, which was the feast of
of these also he had spoken before,
As to those laws repeated here
that against leaven relates to the passover, that of the first-fruits
to the feast of pentecost, and therefore that against seething the kid
in his mother's milk in all probability relates to the feast of
in-gathering, at which God would not have them use that superstitious
ceremony, which probably they had seen the Egyptians, or some other of
the neighbouring nations, bless their harvests with.
IV. With these laws, here repeated, it is probable all that was said to
him when he was before upon the mount was repeated likewise, and the
model of the tabernacle shown him again, lest the ruffle and
discomposure, which the golden calf had put him in to should have
bereaved him of the ideas he had in mind of what he had seen and heard;
also in token of a complete reconciliation, and to show that not one
jot or tittle of the law should pass away, but that all should be
carefully preserved by the great Mediator, who came not to destroy, but
And in the close,
1. Moses is ordered to write these words
that the people might be the better acquainted with them by a frequent
perusal, and that they might be transmitted to the generations to come.
We can never be enough thankful to God for the written word.
2. He is told that according to the tenour of these words God would
make a covenant with Moses and Israel; not with Israel immediately, but
with them in Moses a mediator. Thus the covenant of grace is made with
believers through Christ, who is given for a covenant to the
And, as here the covenant was made according to the tenour of the
command, so it is still; for we are by baptism brought into covenant,
that we may be taught to observe all things whatsoever Christ has
|The Veil of Moses.
||B. C. 1491.|
28 And he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights;
he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the
tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.
29 And it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai
with the two tables of testimony in Moses' hand, when he came
down from the mount, that Moses wist not that the skin of his
face shone while he talked with him.
30 And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses,
behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come
31 And Moses called unto them; and Aaron and all the rulers of
the congregation returned unto him: and Moses talked with them.
32 And afterward all the children of Israel came nigh: and he
gave them in commandment all that the LORD had spoken with him in
33 And till Moses had done speaking with them, he put a vail
on his face.
34 But when Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he
took the vail off, until he came out. And he came out, and spake
unto the children of Israel that which he was commanded.
35 And the children of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the
skin of Moses' face shone: and Moses put the vail upon his face
again, until he went in to speak with him.
I. The continuance of Moses in the mount, where he was miraculously
He was there in very intimate communion with God, without interruption,
forty days and forty nights, and did not think it long. When we are
weary of an hour or two spent in attendance upon God and adoration of
him, we should think how many days and nights Moses spent with him, and
of the eternal day we hope to spend in praising him. During all this
time Moses did neither eat nor drink. Though he had before been kept so
long fasting, yet he did not, this second time, take up so many days'
provision along with him, but believed that man lives not by bread
alone, and encouraged himself with the experience he had of the
truth of it. So long he continued without meat and drink (and probably
without sleep too), for,
1. The power of God supported him, that he did not need it. He who made
the body can nourish it without ordinary means, which he uses, but is
not tied to. The life is more than meat.
2. His communion with God entertained him, so that he did not desire
it. He had meat to eat which the world knew not of, for it was his meat
and drink to hear the word of God and pray. The abundant satisfaction
his soul had in the word of God and the visions of the Almighty made
him forget the body and the pleasures of it. When God would treat his
favourite Moses, it was not with meat and drink, but with his light,
law, and love, with the knowledge of himself and his will; then man did
indeed eat angels' food. See what we should value as the truest
pleasure. The kingdom of God is not meat and drink, neither the
abundance nor delicacy of food, but righteousness and peace and joy
in the Holy Ghost. As Moses, so Elijah and Christ, fasted forty
days and forty nights. The more dead we are to the delights of sense
the better prepared we are for the pleasures of heaven.
II. The coming down of Moses from the mount, greatly enriched and
1. He came down enriched with the best treasure; for he brought in his
hands the two tables of the law, written with the finger of God,
It is a great favour to have the law given us; this favour was shown to
It is a great honour to be employed in delivering God's law to others;
this honour was done to Moses.
2. He came down adorned with the best beauty; for the skin of his
This time of his being in the mount he heard only what he had heard
before, but he saw more of the glory of God, which having with open
face beheld, he was in some measure changed into the same image from
glory to glory,
2 Corinthians 3:18.
The last time he came down from the mount with the glory of a
magistrate, to frown upon and chastise Israel's idolatry; now with the
glory of an angel, with tidings of peace and reconciliation. Then he
came with a rod, now with the spirit of meekness. Now,
(1.) This may be looked upon,
[1.] As a great honour done to Moses, that the people might never again
question his mission nor think nor speak lightly of him. He carried his
credentials in his very countenance, which, some think, retained, as
long as he lived, some remainders of this glory, which perhaps
contributed to the vigour of his old age; that eye could not wax dim
which had seen God, nor that face become wrinkled which had shone with
his glory. The Israelites could not look him in the face but they must
there read his commission. Thus it was done to the man whom the King
of kings did delight to honour. Yet, after this, they murmured against
him; for the most sensible proofs will not of themselves conquer an
obstinate infidelity. The shining of Moses's face was a great honour
to him; yet that was no glory, in comparison with the glory which
excelled. We read of our Lord Jesus, not only that his face
shone as the sun, but his whole body also, for his raiment was
white and glistering,
But, when he came down from the mount, he quite laid aside that glory,
it being his will that we should walk by faith, not by sight.
[2.] It was also a great favour to the people, and an encouragement to
them, that God put this glory upon him, who was their intercessor,
thereby giving them assurance that he was accepted, and they through
him. Thus the advancement of Christ, our advocate with the Father, is
the great support of our faith.
[3.] It was the effect of his sight of God. Communion with God,
First, Makes the face to shine in true honour. Serious godliness
puts a lustre upon a man's countenance, such as commands esteem and
affection. Secondly, It should make the face to shine in
universal holiness. When we have been in the mount with God, we should
let our light shine before men, in humility, meekness, and all
the instances of a heavenly conversation; thus must the beauty of
the Lord our God be upon us, even the beauty of holiness,
that all we converse with may take knowledge of us that we have been
(2.) Concerning the shining of Moses's face observe here,
[1.] Moses was not aware of it himself: He wist not that the skin of
his face shone,
Thus, First, It is the infelicity of some that, though their
faces shine in true grace, yet they do not know it, to take the comfort
of it. Their friends see much of God in them, but they themselves are
ready to think they have no grace. Secondly, It is the humility
of others that, though their faces shine in eminent gifts and
usefulness, yet they do not know it, to be puffed up with it. Whatever
beauty God puts upon us, we should still be filled with a humble sense
of our own unworthiness, and manifold infirmities, as will make us even
overlook and forget that which makes our faces shine.
[2.] Aaron and the children of Israel saw it, and were afraid,
The truth of it was attested by a multitude of witnesses, who were also
conscious of the terror of it. It not only dazzled their eyes, but
struck such an awe upon them as obliged them to retire. Probably they
doubted whether it were a token of God's favour or of his displeasure;
and, though it seemed most likely to be a good omen, yet, being
conscious of guilt, they feared the worst, especially remembering the
posture Moses found them in when he came last down from the mount.
Holiness will command reverence; but the sense of sin makes men afraid
of their friends, and even of that which really is a favour to them.
[3.] Moses put a veil upon his face, when he perceived that it
First, This teaches us all a lesson of modesty and humility. We
must be content to have our excellences obscured, and a veil drawn over
them, not coveting to make a fair show in the flesh. Those that
are truly desirous to be owned and accepted of God will likewise desire
not to be taken notice of nor applauded by men. Qui bene latuit,
bene vixit--There is a laudable concealment. Secondly, It teaches
ministers to accommodate themselves to the capacities of people, and to
preach to them as they are able to bear it. Let all that art and all
that learning be veiled which tend to amusement rather than
edification, and let the strong condescend to the infirmities of the
weak. Thirdly, This veil signified the darkness of that
dispensation. The ceremonial institutions had in them much of Christ,
much of the grace of the gospel, but a veil was drawn over it, so that
the children of Israel could not distinctly and stedfastly see those
good things to come which the law had the shadow of. It was beauty
veiled, gold in the mine, a pearl in the shell; but, thanks be to God,
by the gospel life and immortality are brought to light, the veil is
taken away from off the Old Testament; yet still it remains upon the
hearts of those who shut their eyes against the light. Thus the apostle
expounds this passage,
2 Corinthians 3:13-15.
[4.] When Moses went in before the Lord, to speak with him in
the tabernacle of meeting, he put off the veil,
Then there was no occasion for it, and, before God, every man does and
must appear unveiled; for all things are naked and open before the
eyes of him with whom we have to do, and it is folly for us to
think of concealing or disguising any thing. Every veil must be thrown
aside when we come to present ourselves unto the Lord. This signified
also, as it is explained
(2 Corinthians 3:16),
that when a soul turns to the Lord the veil shall be taken away, and
with open face it may behold his glory. And when we shall come before
the Lord in heaven, to be there for ever speaking with him, the veil
shall not only be taken off from the divine glory, but from our hearts
and eyes, that we may see as we are seen, and know as we are known.