The glorious vision. — V.1. And the Lord said unto Moses, Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first, which the Lord Himself had fashioned: and I will write upon these tables the words that were in the first tables, which thou brakest. Moses was familiar with the form and workmanship of the original tables, and could therefore make the second set after that pattern. V.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 mount. The covenant relation between God and the people having been restored by the Lord’s pardon, the giving of the covenant ordinances could now be resumed. V.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 the mount, that is. anywhere in its neighborhood. The entire mountain was again shut off to the people, as before the giving of the Law. chap. 19, 12. 13. 20–23. V.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, all ready for the engraving by the hand of God. V.5. And the Lord descended in the cloud, in the pillar in which His glory usually was hidden, and stood with him there, outside the cloud, and proclaimed the name of the Lord, called out and explained the name Jehovah. All this while He covered Moses with His hand. as the latter stood in the cleft of the rock. V.6. And the Lord passed by before him and proclaimed, delivered His great sermon on the name of the Lord, as Luther says. The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, v.7. keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin. That is the one side of the Lord’s essence: Jehovah, the mighty God. the same yesterday and today and forever. whose loving-kindness is shown in compassion on the miserable. in grace toward the repentant sinners, in patience toward human weakness. in truth and faithfulness in the keeping of His gracious promises. But the other side is also brought out: 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 fourth generation. To those that reject His mercy the Lord proves Himself a stern Judge, who does not let the least offense go unpunished, but avenges the insults to His holiness not only upon the fathers. but also upon the children that follow in the footsteps of their wicked parents. and that down to the great-grandchildren. Cp. chap. 20, 5. This proclamation of the goodness, the mercy, the grace, the truth and faithfulness of God continues throughout the period of the New Testament; it is a testimony of the living God, who, however, states, on the other hand, as well: He who rejects His grace will receive everlasting condemnation. V.8. And Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped, overcome by the glory of the vision. What he saw is not described in detail, for it is beyond human understanding, even as Paul heard words which no man can utter. God here gave to Moses a taste of the future glory which will be revealed to all those who remain faithful to the end. V.9. And he said, If now I have found grace in Thy sight, O Lord, let my Lord, I pray thee, go among us; he pleaded for the personal presence of God in the midst of the people; for it is a sti1f-necked people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for Thine inheritance. Note that Moses includes himself with the people, placing himself under their guilt, in order to make his prayer all the more fervent. The Lord should once more regard Israel as His peculiar people, to consider and to treat them as His own. He wanted to make assurance doubly sure, for the sake of the Messianic promise. Such clinging trust should be found in the Christians at all times, for that is the power which vanquished even the Lord.
The gracious promise. — V.10. And He said, Behold, I make a covenant, in the place of or in addition to that which had been broken by Israel’s idolatry: Before all the people, in their presence, in their sight, I will do marvels, such as have not been done in all the earth nor in any nation, namely, in bringing His people safely into the Land of Promise. 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, a thing which would strike fear and terror to the hearts of all enemies and adversaries, as the majesty of the mighty God would sweep them away. V.11. Observe thou (Israel) 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. V.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. All intimate alliances were absolutely forbidden at the outset, because the danger of introducing heathen abominations and thus repeating the offense of Mount Horeb was too great. V.13. But ye shall destroy their altars, which were devoted to the worship of false gods, break their images, the statues or pillars erected in honor of their idols, and cut down their groves, the pillarlike tree-trunks devoted to the service of Asherah or Astarte, whose voluptuous worship was found throughout Canaan. V.14. For thou shalt worship no other god, idols to which the divine name was applied by the heathen; for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God, having revealed Himself as such in the recent transgression of the people; v.15. lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they go a-whoring after their gods, idolatry being considered throughout Scriptures as spiritual adultery, and do sacrifice unto their gods, and one call, that is, invite, thee to the idolatrous feast, and thou eat of his sacrifice; v.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, the husbands being led into idolatry, into spiritual unfaithfulness, by their wives. V.17. Thou shalt make thee no molten gods, idols cast out of any metal. While the participation in sacrificial meals of the heathen and intermarriages with heathen women only led to idolatry, the making of images was in itself a transgression of the First Commandment and a breaking of God’s covenant. That is the distinct command of the Lord, that he who has forgiveness of sins should fear God and guard against backsliding, also by avoiding social intimacy with the godless world.
The second festivals. — V.18. The Feast of Unleavened Bread shalt thou keep. Cp. chap. 23, 15. 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 Egypt. Because of the defection of the Israelites the Lord here repents the ordinances regarding the chief festival days and seasons. V.19. All that openeth the matrix is Mine, all the firstborn sons of the children of Israel; and every firstling among thy cattle, whether ox or sheep, that is male. This precept is here stated on account of its close connection with the Passover and its significance. V.20. But the firstling of an ass thou shalt redeem with a lamb, ransom by the payment of a lamb or a kid; and if thou redeem him not, then shalt thou break his neck. All the first-born of thy sons thou shalt redeem. And none shall appear before Me empty. Cp. chap. 23, 15. V.21. Six days thou shalt work, but on the seventh day thou shalt rest, cp. chap. 20, 9; 23, 12; in earing time and in harvest thou shalt rest, these two seasons being mentioned since they were the busiest season for the farmer, when he would be inclined to use also the Sabbath for work. V.22. And thou shalt observe the Feast of Weeks, of the first-fruits of wheat harvest, namely, Pentecost, and the Feast of Ingathering at the year’s end, the Feast of Tabernacles at the end of the season. V.23. Thrice in the year shall all your men-children, all the males, the men, appear before the Lord God, the God of Israel. On these three great festivals the attendance of all Israelites was commanded; they were obliged to meet, first at the Sanctuary, and later in the Temple. V.24. For I will cast out the nations before thee, and enlarge thy borders, cp. chap. 23, 31; neither shall any man desire thy land when thou shalt go up to appear before the Lord, thy God, thrice in the year; the Lord promised to keep away all enemies at these times, so that they would not take advantage of the men’s absence to invade the country. V.25. Thou shalt not offer the blood of My sacrifice, of the Passover lamb, with leaven; neither shall the sacrifice of the Feast of the Passover be left unto the morning; it should either be eaten to the last fragment, or the remainder burned with fire, chap. 12, 10. V.26. The first of the first-fruits of thy land thou shalt bring unto the house of the Lord, thy God, this being the most prominent rite of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother’s milk. Cp. chap. 23, 19. V.27. And the Lord said unto Moses, Write thou these words, the ordinances were to be preserved in writing; for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel. The first covenant had hereby been renewed or reinstituted. V.28. And he (Moses) was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights, as he had been the first time, chap. 24, 18; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water, being miraculously sustained by the Lord. And He (God) wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments, the Decalog. The true hallowing of God’s name in the New Testament consists in this, that we gladly hear and learn the Word of God, and help to uphold the ministry in our midst and to spread the Gospel-news.
The shining face of Moses. — V.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 (knew) not that the skin of his face shone while He (God) talked with him. This wonderful brilliancy was caused by the vision of God on Mount Sinai. A reflection of the divine glory lingered in the face of Moses for some time after his return from the mountain. V.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 nigh him. Even the reflection of the glory of the Lord is too much for sinners. V.31. And Moses called unto them, encouraged first the leaders of the people to hear the precepts of the Lord; and Aaron and all the rulers of the congregation returned unto him. And Moses talked with them. V.32. And afterward all the children of Israel came nigh, having been inspired with some measure of courage by the action of the rulers; and he gave them in commandment all that the Lord had spoken with him in Mount Sinai, all the people thus hearing Jehovah’s precepts, with which He had again established the covenant. V.33. And till Moses had done speaking with them, while he was laying the ordinances of the Lord before them, he put a veil on his face. V.34. But when Moses went in before the Lord to speak with Him, in the tent and afterwards in the Tabernacle, he took the veil off until he came out. And he came out and spake unto the children of Israel that which he was commanded; he transmitted to them the Lord’s commandments. V.35. And the children of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone, the splendor being renewed whenever Moses appeared before the Lord. And Moses put the veil upon his face again, until he went in to speak with Him. This splendor of Moses’ face symbolized the glory of the Mosaic office, 2 Cor. 3, 5 if. Since the Law was the Word of God, it also had a glory. But the glory of the New Testament office, that of the Gospel, exceeds it in beauty. For the Law is the letter that killeth, but the Gospel is the spirit that maketh alive. And the glory of the Old Testament passed away, while the glory of the Gospel remains forever. All fear and terror is driven out of the heart by the comforting assurances of the Gospel, by its promises of life and salvation.