The Second Book of Moses, Called Exodus

Chapter 33

The Lord refuses to go as he had promised with the people, 1-3. The people mourn thereat, 4-6. The tabernacle is moved out of the camp, 7, 8. The Lord talks familiarly with Moses, 9-11. Moses prevails with God and desires to see his glory, 12-23.

1 And the LORD said to Moses, "Depart and go up from here—you and the people which you have conducted from the land of Egypt—to the land which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, 'To your offspring I will give it.' 2 And I will send an angel before you and will drive out the Canaanite, the Amorite, the Hittite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite. 3 Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go up in the midst of you, for you are a stiff-necked people, lest I consume you in the way."

4 And when the people heard these evil tidings, they mourned, and no man put on his ornaments. 5 For the LORD had said to Moses, "Say to the children of Israel, 'You are a stiff-necked people. I will come up into the midst of you in a moment and consume you. And now, take off your ornaments from you so that I may know what to do to you.'" 6 And the children of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments by the mount Horeb.

7 And Moses took the tabernacle and pitched it outside the camp far from the camp and called it the Tabernacle of the Congregation. And it came to pass, that everyone who sought the LORD went out to the Tabernacle of the Congregation, which was outside the camp. 8 And it came to pass when Moses went out to the tabernacle, that all the people rose, and each stood at his tent-door and looked after Moses until he had gone into the tabernacle. 9 And it came to pass, as Moses entered into the tabernacle, the cloudy pillar descended and stood at the door of the tabernacle, and the LORD talked with Moses. 10 And all the people saw the cloudy pillar stand at the tabernacle door, and all the people rose and worshiped, each in his tent-door. 11 And the LORD spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. And he turned back into the camp, but his servant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, did not depart out of the tabernacle.

12 And Moses said to the LORD, "Behold, you say to me, 'Bring up this people,' and you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, 'I know you by name and you have also found grace in my sight.' 13 Now therefore, I pray you, if I have found grace in your sight, show me now your way so that I may know you and that I may find grace in your sight. And consider that this nation is your people." 14 And [the LORD] said, "My presence shall attend you and I will give you rest." 15 And [Moses] said to him, "If your presence shall not attend me, do not conduct us from here. 16 For wherein shall it be known here that I and your people have found grace in your sight? Is it not in your going with us? So we shall be separated—I and your people—from all the people who are upon the face of the earth."

17 And the LORD said to Moses, "I will do this thing also that you have spoken, for you have found grace in my sight and I know you by name." 18 And [Moses] said, "I implore you, show me your glory." 19 And [the LORD] said, "I will make all my goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy." 20 And he said, "You cannot see my face, for no man shall see me and live." 21 And the LORD said, "Behold, there is a place by me, and you shall stand upon a rock. 22 And it shall come to pass, while my glory passes by, that I will put you in a cleft of the rock and will cover you with my hand while I pass by. 23 Then I will take away my hand and you shall see my back parts, but my face shall not be seen."


Matthew Henry Commentary - Exodus, Chapter 33[➚]


[v.1] - Reference, Genesis 12:7, 13:14-17, 15:18.

[v.7] - Reference, Hebrews 13:12-13.

[v.8] - From Matthew Henry's Commentary: "When Moses went out to go to the tabernacle, the people looked after him, in token of their respect to him whom before they had slighted, and their entire dependence upon his mediation. By this it appeared that they were very solicitous about this matter, desirous to be at peace with God and concerned to know what would be the issue. Thus the disciples looked after our Lord Jesus, when he ascended on high to enter into the holy place not made with hands, until a cloud received him out of their sight, as Moses here. And we must with an eye of faith follow him likewise there, where he is appearing in the presence of God for us; then shall we have the benefit of his mediation." Reference, Acts 1:9-11.

[v.9] - Reference, Numbers 12:8.

[v.10] - From Robert Hawker's Commentary: "Observe the sweet fruits of grace. Zechariah 12:10. It should seem that the cloudy pillar had withdrawn from the camp during their idol worship, and now again returned. When the Lord inclines our hearts to seek him, he comes to bless us. James 4:8."

[v.11] - From John Gill's Exposition: "Not by an angel, but he himself in person; not by a dream or vision, but apparently, in real visible appearance; not in dark speeches, but clearly in plain words, easy to be understood; and not by a voice from heaven at a distance, but mouth to mouth, being very near, as when on the mount, and now at the door of the tabernacle." From Robert Hawker's Commentary: "Is it not probable that this was the Lord Jesus in a visible form, as the covenant man? See Genesis 17:1, 18:1-2."

[v.12] - "you have not let me know whom you will send with me" - From John Gill's Exposition: "He had told him that the uncreated Angel, in whom his name and he himself were, should go with them; but now it had been declared that he would not go up in the midst of them himself, but send an angel, a created one, but who that was he knew not; he thought he had reason to expect the pillar of the cloud and fire by day and night; but that had had so many motions that he could not be assured of the continuance of it."

[v.14-15] - Text in square brackets added for implied meaning. This was added to clarify who is speaking. Originally, only the pronoun, he, was used.

[v.14a] - "My presence shall attend you" - From John Gill's Exposition: "Or [go] before you, both with Moses and before the people; meaning the Angel of his presence he had before promised, the eternal Word and Son of God, who saved them, redeemed them, bore and carried them all the days of old: or 'my faces shall go'; all the three divine Persons, Father, Son, and Spirit; there was [Yahweh] the Father, whose the Angel of his presence was; and there was [Yahweh] the Son, Christ, whom they tempted in the wilderness; and there was [Yahweh] the Holy Spirit, whom they vexed (see Isaiah 63:9-11)."

[v.14b] - "I will give you rest" - From John Gill's Exposition: "Not ease, and peace and tranquility of mind, or a freedom from the fear of enemies, and all dangers by them, much less rest in the grave, before Israel should be brought into Canaan's land; but rather the promised land itself, which was 'the rest' that was promised, and would be given, and was typical of that eternal rest which remains for the people of God in heaven, and is a pure gift; for this promise is not personal and peculiar to Moses, but belonged to all the people, to whom God would give the typical rest (see Deuteronomy 12:9)."

[v.16] - From Matthew Henry's Commentary: "God's special presence with us in this wilderness, by his Spirit and grace, to direct, defend, and comfort us, is the surest pledge of his special love to us and will redound to his glory as well as our benefit."

[v.18-19] - Text in square brackets added for implied meaning. This was added to clarify who is speaking. Originally, only the pronoun, he, was used.

[v.18] - "show me your glory" - From John Gill's Exposition: "He seems to mean some visible glorious representation of God, such as he had never seen, though he had been with him so long on the mount in the cloud, and heard his voice, and saw some appearances of brightness and glory, yet not in any form that he could frame any idea of; perhaps he may mean the Angel of God's presence, called his face, the promised Messiah and glorious Redeemer and Savior, in whom there is such a bright display of the glory of the divine perfections; indeed, [it] is the brightness of his Father's glory, and the express image of his person; and this favor was granted him, with some proper limitations and restrictions; for though this request was, no doubt, sincere and upright, it might be attended with frailty and weakness; yet it is not utterly denied, but with some explanation is allowed, and perhaps was the highest favor ever granted to [anyone] before the incarnation of our Lord, at least in so full and glorious a manner as this was; Moses having by his appeal obtained much, wants more and is emboldened to ask it, and in a good measure had it, as the following words show."

[v.19a] - "I will make all my goodness pass before you" - From John Gill's Exposition: "Which is his glory; the glory of the Lord lies in his goodness, and that appears in the works of his hands, in the methods of his providence, especially in the distribution of his sovereign grace and mercy, and particularly in his pardoning grace and mercy, through the blood of Christ; for as it is 'the glory' of a man 'to pass over a transgression' (Proverbs 19:11), much more it is the glory of God, of which this goodness is afterward interpreted; and may be understood of Christ himself, who is the goodness of God itself, is not only good, but the Lord's good One, emphatically good; as he is called his holy One, so his good One; because all his goodness is laid up in him, is prevented and filled as Mediator, with the blessings of his goodness; all are proclaimed in him, displayed through him, and communicated by him; and he is that glorious Personage that Moses might be desirous of having a view of, and was favored with; however, with a view of the divine goodness, as it is conspicuous in him, in what he is, and has done for his people; for God has shown forth the exceeding riches of his grace and goodness in him."

[v.19b] - "I will proclaim the name of the LORD before you" - From John Gill's Exposition: "His name and his nature, his perfections, and the glory of them, as displayed in Christ; or when he is about to pass, or while he is passing by, lest he should pass by unobserved, 'I will proclaim aloud and give you notice that he is now passing by you, whose name is [Yahweh], and whose nature, glory, and goodness, are as follow.'"

[v.19c] - "will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy" - From John Gill's Exposition: "Signifying that notwithstanding the children of Israel had sinned against him in such a manner as they had, yet he should show favor, grace, and mercy to them, in pardoning their sins; and it should be distributed, not according to any merits of theirs, but according to his sovereign will and pleasure, and not to all, but to whomever he thought fit; and in this would be seen his glory: and so it is with respect to grace and mercy, as displayed in Christ to sinful men; it is not in proportion to their merits, but according to the purpose and good will of God, and that not to all, but to some whom he has appointed, not to wrath, but to salvation by Jesus Christ, and which is to the glory of his grace; and the more enlarged view men have of this, the more clearly and fully does the goodness and glory of God pass before them."

[v.19d] - Quoted in Romans 9:15. Reference, Hebrews 1:3.

[v.20] - Reference, John 1:18; 1st Timothy 6:16.

[v.21] - "a rock" - From John Gill's Exposition: "In Horeb, typical of Christ the rock, the rock of Israel, and the rock of ages, the rock of refuge, salvation, and strength; comparable to one for shelter, solidity, firmness, strength, and duration; and happy are they who stand upon this rock; they are safe and secure, they stand on high, and have noble prospects of the perfections of God, and of the riches of his grace and goodness (see Psalm 50:2-3; Isaiah 33:16-17; Matthew 7:24-25)." Reference, 2nd Samuel 22:47, 23:3; Psalm 62:7, 89:26, 94:22, 95:1; 1st Corinthians 10:4.

[v.22] - "in a cleft of the rock" - From John Gill's Exposition: "In one of the clefts, made by smiting it, through which the waters gushed out for the relief of the Israelites, and their flocks... Now this cleft may be an emblem of Christ, as crucified, smitten, wounded and slain; who was smitten by the law and justice of God, as this rock was smitten by the rod of Moses: and had gashes and wounds made in him like the clefts of a rock, being pierced with the nails and spear: and in these clefts of the rock saints dwell by faith (Song of Solomon 2:14)."