[b-hebrew] Exodus 33:11-23
Harold R. Holmyard III
hholmyard at ont.com
Thu Sep 8 08:34:43 EDT 2005
>Would someone be so kind as to help me out with Exodus
HH: Why start with verse 12? The puzzle starts at
least in verse 11 (as you yourself notice below),
and it continues after verse 23, since the climax
is in 34:6-7.
>Moses: I am uncomfortable being the leader of these people
>because I am uncertain if I really know how to continue to
>please you, no matter how much success I have had in the
>past. Teach me your ways so I can always please you.
>Yahweh: My FACE (presence) will go with you, which will
>make you comfortable.
>Moses: But what if your FACE does not go with me, how will
>people know you favor me? How will our people be
>distinguished from the other people on the FACE of the
>Yahweh: I will do what you ask because you please me. [At
>this point the only thing Moses has asked is to be taught
HH: Moses has also by implication asked that God
go with Him and Israel (33:15-16), and that is
part of what God responds to in saying that He
would do what Moses asked.
>Moses: Show me your glory. [This seems like a non-
>sequitur unless it means to be taught Yahweh?s ways]
HH: And it does. But Moses has already hinted that He wants to know God better:
Ex. 33:12 ¶ Moses said to the LORD, "You have
been telling me, 'Lead these people,' but you
have not let me know whom you will send with me.
You have said, 'I know you by name and you have
found favor with me.'
HH: God knows Moses, but Moses wants to know the
one who will go with him. Verse 12 probably
arises because of verse 2:
Ex. 33:2 I will send an angel before you and
drive out the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites,
Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites.
HH: The word "angel" is ML)K, or messenger, a
somewhat ambivalent word in Hebrew. Seeing God's
glory would help Moses to know God better.
Wanting to know God's ways includes wanting to
know God better. This messenger is later defined
as the messenger (angel) of God's FACE, really
Is. 63:9 In all their distress he too was
distressed, and the angel of his presence saved
them. In his love and mercy he redeemed them; he
lifted them up and carried them all the days of
>Yahweh: I will pass my goodness by your FACE and cry out by
>the name Yahweh to your FACE. [Moses did not ask to see
>his goodness or hear him cry out].
HH: His goodness is part of His glory. His name is expression of his Person.
>I favor who is the favorite (vehanotiy et-asher ahon) and I
>love who is the beloved (verihametiy et-asher arahem).
>[This seems to parallel Ex 3:14 eheyeh asher eheyeh.]
HH: This is not a good translation. The standard
translations are correct. The phrasing alludes to
the Lord's liberty in showing favor and
compassion. It is an idiomatic expression. Here
it particularly refers to His liberty in showing
favor to Moses and Israel, despite the fact that
Israel might deserve His wrath:
Ex. 33:3 Go up to the land flowing with milk and
honey. But I will not go with you, because you
are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you
on the way."
>No man may see my FACE and live. [Yet in Ex 33:11, just a
>few passages earlier Yahweh and Moses spoke paniym el-
>paniym as a man does with a friend]
HH: This just shows that the word FACE is used
more than one way (see below). In verse 11 it is
evidently part of an idiom "face to face" (one
that we still use today), but in the OT the idiom
is applied to human relations with God:
Gen. 32:30 ¶ So Jacob called the place Peniel,
saying, "It is because I saw God face to face,
and yet my life was spared."
Ex. 33:11 The LORD would speak to Moses face to
face, as a man speaks with his friend. Then Moses
would return to the camp, but his young aide
Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent.
Deut. 34:10 ¶ Since then, no prophet has risen in
Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to
Judg. 6:22 When Gideon realized that it was the
angel of the LORD, he exclaimed, "Ah, Sovereign
LORD! I have seen the angel of the LORD face to
Ezek. 20:35 I will bring you into the desert of
the nations and there, face to face, I will
execute judgment upon you.
>Stand on this rock near me. When my glory passes I will
>put you into a crevice (fissure or hole) in the rock and
>cover you with my hand.
>When I finish passing by I will remove my hand you can see
>my backside but not my FACE.
>Yahweh is pleased with Moses and will grant his wish.
>Moses asked to be taught the ways of Yahweh or to see his
>glory. Moses wasn?t taught anything and did not see
HH: Actually, God did see the glory of God,
although He did not see His face. And he did
learn about God, since God declared to him key
characteristics of His nature (Ex 34:6-7).
> God went to great lengths to ensure that
>Moses did not see Yahweh?s face despite the fact Moses did
>not ask to see it (although Moses seems to have seen in Ex
>33:11 and Deu 34:10).
HH: Ex. 33:11 evidently involves an idiom for a
personal, direct interchange, but something short
of the sight of God's face that would cause death
(a direct perception of the unveiled glory of
> Moses did see Yahweh?s goodness,
>hear Yahweh cry out, and saw his backside from a hole in a
>What happened here? Did I mistranslate something or do I
>simply not understand what the words mean? Is there some
>literary or historical context I missing? Also, there has
>to be some reason the author used the word FACE (paniy,
>paneyka) at every possible opportunity. Thanks in advance.
HH: I don't know how important some occurrences
of the word FACE are, because it is an
exceedingly common word, especially in the
prepositional form it has in verse 19. But if
anything, it suggests how close God draws near to
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