- Four instances of the return of God's 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, verse 1-4.
- II. His meeting him there, and the proclamation of his name, verse 6-9.
- III. The instructions he gave him there, and his converse with him forty days, verse 10-28.
- IV. The honour he put upon him when he sent him down with his face shining, verse 29-35.
- In all which God dealt with Moses as a mediator between him and Israel, and a type of the great Mediator.
Moses must prepare for the renewing of the tables. Before God himself provided the tables, and wrote on them; now Moses must hew him out the tables, and God would only write upon them. When God was reconciled to them, he ordered the tables to be renewed, and wrote his law in them, which plainly intimates to us, that even under the gospel (of which the intercession of Moses was typical) the moral law should continue to oblige 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.
The Lord descended - By some sensible token of his presence, and manifestation of his glory. 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.
And the Lord passed by before him - Fixed views of God are reserved for the future state; the best we have in this world are transient. And 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. The proclaiming of it notes the universal extent of God's mercy; he is not only good to Israel, but good to all. The God with whom we have to do is a great God. He is Jehovah, the Lord, that hath 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 goodness with a holy awe, and to encourage us to depend upon these mercies. He is a good God. His greatness and goodness illustrate each other. That 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. 1st, He is merciful, This speaks his pity, and tender companion, 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. 2ndly, He is gracious. This speaks both freeness, and kindness: it speaks him not only to have a compassion to his creatures, but a complacency in them, and in doing good to them; and this of his own good-will, not for the sake of any thing in them. 3dly, He is long-suffering. This is a branch of God's goodness which our wickedness gives occasion for. He is long-suffering, that is, he is slow to anger, and delays the executions of his justice, he waits to be gracious, and lengthens out the offers of his mercy. 4thly, He is abundant in goodness and truth. This speaks plentiful goodness; it abounds above our deserts, above our conception. 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 speaks promised goodness, goodness and truth put together, goodness engaged by promise. 5thly, He keepeth mercy for thousands. This speaks, 1. Mercy extended to thousands of persons. When he gives to some, still he keeps for others, and is never exhausted: 2. Mercy entailed upon thousands of generations, even to those upon whom the ends of the world are come; nay, the line of it is drawn parallel with that of eternity itself. 6thly, He forgiveth iniquity, transgression and sin - Pardoning mercy is instanced in, because in that divine grace is most magnified, and because that it is that opens the door to all other gifts of grace. He forgives offences of all sorts, iniquity, transgression and sin, multiplies his pardons, and with him is plenteous redemption. He is a just and holy God. For, 1st, He will by no means clear the guilty. He will not clear the impenitently guilty, those that go on still in their trespasses; he will not clear the guilty without satisfaction to his justice. 2dly, He visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the children -Especially for the punishment of idolaters. Yet he keepeth not his anger for ever, but visits to the third and fourth generation only, while he keeps mercy for thousands - This is God's name for ever, and this is his memorial unto all generations.
And Moses made haste, and bowed his head - Thus he expressed his humble reverence and adoration of God's glory, together with his joy in this discovery God had made of himself, and his thankfulness for it. Then likewise he expressed 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 of such a God as Jehovah had now proclaimed himself to be. Let this God be our God for ever and ever!
And he said, I pray thee go among us - For thy presence is all to our safety and success. And pardon our iniquity and our sin - Else we cannot expect thee to go among us. And take us for thine inheritance -Which thou wilt have a particular eye to, and concern for. These things God had already promised Moses; and yet he prays for them, not as doubting the sincerity of God's grants, but as one solicitous for the ratification of them. 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, Exodus 33:3. Yea, saith Moses, the rather go along with us; for the worse they are, the more need they have of thy presence. Moses sees them so stiff-necked, that 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.
Behold I make a covenant - When the covenant was broke, it was Israel that broke it; now 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. Before all thy people I will do marvels -Such as the drying up of Jordan, the standing still of the sun. Marvels indeed, for they were without precedent, such as have not been done in all the earth; the 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.
Observe that which I command thee - We cannot expect the benefit of the promises, unless we make conscience of the precepts. The two great precepts are, 1. Thou shalt worship no other gods - A good reason is annexed; 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. 2. Thou shalt make thee no molten gods - Thou shalt not worship the true God by images. This was the sin they had lately fallen into, which therefore they are particularly cautioned against. 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 - It is a sin thou art prone to, and that will easily beset thee; carefully abstain from all 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: If they espoused their children they would be in danger of espousing their gods. That they might not be tempted to make molten gods, they must utterly destroy those they found, and all that belonged to them, the altars and groves, lest, if they were left standing, they should be brought in process of time either to use them, or to take pattern by them.
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. Thou shalt rest, even in earing-time and in harvest - The most busy times of the year. All wordly business must give way to that holy rest: harvest-work will prosper the better for the religious observation of the sabbath-day in harvest-time. Hereby we must shew that we prefer our communion with God, before either the business or the joy of harvest.
Thrice in the year shall all the men-children appear - But it might be suggested, when all the males slain every part were gone up to worship in the place that God should chuse, the country would he left exposed to the insults of their neighbours; and what would become of the poor women and children? Trust God with them.
Neither shalt any man desire thy land - Not only they shall not invade it, but they shall not so much as think of invading it. What a standing Miracle was this, for so many Generations?
He wrote - God.
The skin of his face shone - This time of his being in the mount he heard only the same 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. This was a great honour done to Moses, that the people might never again question his mission, or think or speak slightly of him. He carried his credentials in his very countenance, some think as long as he lived, he retained 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 wrinkle which had shone with his glory.
And Aaron and the children of Israel saw it, and were afraid - It not only dazzled their eyes, but struck such an awe upon them as obliged them to retire. Probably they doubted whether it was a token of God's favour, or of his displeasure.
And Moses put a veil upon his face - This veil signified the darkness of that dispensation; the ceremonial institutions had in them much of Christ and the gospel, but a veil was drawn over it, so that the children of Israel could not distinctly and steadfastly see those good things to come which the law had a shadow of. It was beauty veiled, gold in the mine, a pearl in the shell; but thanks be to God, by the gospel, 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.
When he went before the Lord, he put off the veil - Every veil must be thrown aside when we go 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, that with open face it may behold his glory.