Friday 04 May 2012

Bible Book:

"The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name, 'The Lord.' The Lord passed before him, and proclaimed, 'The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, yet by no means clearing the guilty, but visiting the iniquity of the parents upon the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation.'" (vv. 5-7)

Exodus 34:1-35 Friday 4 May 2012


Today's passage forms a climax to the chapters that we read overthe last couple of days. In this story the relationship between Godand Moses and the people of Israel is both restored and takenfurther.

There is an element of restoration here in that the chapter beginswith the command to take two tablets of stone like the former ones(verse 1). We are reminded that Moses came down from the mountainholding two tablets of the covenant that God had given him (Exodus31:18) but broke those tablets when he discovered that thepeople were worshipping the golden calf (Exodus32:19). Although the experience of God's presence is for Mosesalone, the covenant is restored with Moses and with Israel (verse27).

The great encounter with God is not described as visual. Godproclaims - first God's name (verse 5) and then God's nature(verses 6-7). Ancient Hebrew was written without vowels and God'sname in Hebrew is YHWH. When vowels are add this becomes YAHWEH.This seems to be a form of the verb 'to be' - thus the name meanssomething like 'I am' or 'I will be what I will be'. The firstanswer to Moses' request to see God's glory is the proclamation 'Iam'. The second is a description of what God is like. In Exodus33:12, Moses asked to know God's ways and to be assured ofGod's favour - now he hears that God is merciful and gracious andforgives, but also again there is a reminder that sins are notalways forgiven. We can find the idea that the sins of the parentsare visited on the children shocking. This is a difficult passage,but we need to remember that it comes from a time which emphasisedthe individual less and membership of groups (including families)more.

The fact that Moses' face shines at the end of the chapter (verse29) is slightly mysterious but does, at very least, tell us thatthe encounter with God has changed Moses and that Aaron and theIsraelites could see the effect.

To Ponder

  • The first time God made a covenant (promise) with Israel, thepeople promised to obey and promptly made a golden calf (Exodus32:1-6). This time there is no mention of the people doinganything. What significance do you see in this?
  • How do you understand the idea of a God who makes a covenantwith one people in the context of the Christian understanding thatGod loves all people?

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