Good morning! In today’s passage (Exodus 33-35) God, Moses and the Hebrew people must figure out what they’re going to do to repair their breach. After chapters of God’s rhapsodic descriptions of the beautiful tabernacle, the people lost patience and decided to create other gods, which evoked slaughter and divine plague in response. The relationship between God and people is sometimes described in the Bible as like a marriage, so what to do now when one’s vows have been betrayed?
That’s where we start in chapter 33—God is mad and the people are sad. God’s not content to journey farther with the people, but will send an angel instead. Yet Moses is dogged in his pursuit of God on behalf of the people. Like the psalmists will do later on, Moses implores God to remember the original divine love, and not to forsake God’s earlier promises. Moses has not lost favor with God, and it might even be said that his faith in the people (or his faith in God’s original blessing) is what calls God to reconsider abandoning the people. 33:20 is where we get the idea that one can’t look at God and live, but Moses is so special that God lets him see the divine backside! 🙂
Chapter 34 describes the reconciliation that God offers the people through their emissary. Moses recreates the stone tablets and God promises blessing for a thousand generations of those who do good, while hardship will yet be visited on the third and fourth generation of those who do wrong. The covenant renewal that follows sounds a bit like a renewal of vows on a wedding anniversary. Years down the road into a relationship, both God and the people are wiser for having been together long enough to get the true measure of each other. So perhaps that’s why God is more explicit this time in the list of expectations for the Hebrews. Got still promises the marvels, protection, and land, but also gives a much longer and specific list of what’s required on the human end of the covenant. There’s an agenda behind these covenant descriptions—they foreshadow just the sort of wrongdoings the people will commit when they come into the land of Canaan. God wants to make it all the more clear what’s involved with keeping the covenant. When Moses returns down the mountain with a new covenant in hand (literally), his face shines because of all the time he spent in God’s presence, making it necessary for him to wear a veil most of the time.
With a renewed covenant assuring the Hebrews of a future with God, Moses sets about receiving donations for the tabernacle and priest clothing, then arranging for their construction to take place. Two things are of note here. First, the offering is not compulsory, but comes from each willing heart. And second, note that talent and time offerings were given as well as money. People who could offered riches, while others gave of their skills and labor to build the tabernacle. The rift is mended between God and the Hebrew people (at least for a time), thanks to God’s forgiveness and the persistence of their loyal leader. I have a feeling that while they worked at least some of the artisans were singing, “What a Friend We Have in Moses”. Happy reading!
Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. Tomorrow’s passage is Exodus 36-37. Thanks for reading!