Moses, who was not on the mountain as God spoke, was told by the Lord to cut out two tablets of stone (the first two being broken by Moses, 32:19). Having cut them out, he arose and went up on the mountain to meet God. On this occasion, with the commandments at hand, the Lord reveals “His thirteen attributes of mercy” (Chumash, p. 508), though I only counted nine (seven were positive and two negative). In any case, the glory and qualities of the Lord are proclaimed, and Moses reverently bows before Him (34:8-9).
As Moses is on the mountain, the Lord reminds him of his and the nation of Israel’s obligations in keeping this covenant before God, giving them warning once again about and against idolatry (34:10-17). Moreover, there is a reminder of the sacredness of the festival mentioned, and a charge from the Lord (34:18-28). When Moses descends from the mountain, unbeknownst to him, his face is rather brilliant; so bright was it that he had to have a veil over his face when amongst the Israelites. However, when he spoke with the Lord and when he spoke with the Israelites (when he spoke the Lord’s will and judgments), he was unveiled (34:32-33). What is the meaning of this radiance of Moses? Jews interpret it as Moses’ closeness to the Lord could have been theirs, but for their departure from the Lord in the golden-calf incident (Chumash, p. 515).
Application: I think an application should come from 34:20, and that each male, on the day of the feast of unleavened bread, should not come before the Lord empty. When we present ourselves to the Lord today, are we empty? If we are empty, why it that? Is it the fault of someone else, or our own? To ask is to answer. When we come before the Lord let us come with a heart full of praise, giving Him all our attention. Worship, in such a state of mind, can never be empty and we will never be able to say, “I did not get much out of it today.”
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