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The Command to Leave Sinai


The L ord said to Moses, “Go, leave this place, you and the people whom you have brought up out of the land of Egypt, and go to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your descendants I will give it.’ 2I will send an angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 3Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, or I would consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.”

4 When the people heard these harsh words, they mourned, and no one put on ornaments. 5For the L ord had said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘You are a stiff-necked people; if for a single moment I should go up among you, I would consume you. So now take off your ornaments, and I will decide what to do to you.’ ” 6Therefore the Israelites stripped themselves of their ornaments, from Mount Horeb onward.

The Tent outside the Camp

7 Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, far off from the camp; he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the L ord would go out to the tent of meeting, which was outside the camp. 8Whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people would rise and stand, each of them, at the entrance of their tents and watch Moses until he had gone into the tent. 9When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent, and the L ord would speak with Moses. 10When all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would rise and bow down, all of them, at the entrance of their tent. 11Thus the L ord used to speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Then he would return to the camp; but his young assistant, Joshua son of Nun, would not leave the tent.

Moses’ Intercession

12 Moses said to the L ord, “See, you have said to me, ‘Bring up this people’; but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’ 13Now if I have found favor in your sight, show me your ways, so that I may know you and find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.” 14He said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” 15And he said to him, “If your presence will not go, do not carry us up from here. 16For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people, unless you go with us? In this way, we shall be distinct, I and your people, from every people on the face of the earth.”

17 The L ord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing that you have asked; for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” 18Moses said, “Show me your glory, I pray.” 19And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you the name, ‘The L ord’; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. 20But,” he said, “you cannot see my face; for no one shall see me and live.” 21And the L ord continued, “See, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock; 22and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by; 23then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen.”

7. And Moses took the tabernacle This was a sign of the divorce between God and the Israelites, that the tabernacle should be removed from the camp and pitched at a distance, as if God were tired of His connection with them. He had promised as a special blessing that He would dwell in the midst of the people; and now, by departing elsewhere, He declares them to be polluted. In a word, the removal of the tabernacle was like the breaking of the tables; for, just as by the breaking of the tables Moses dissolved the covenant of God, so he thus deprived the Israelites for a time of His company and presence. 361361     So the LXX., Καὶ λαβὼν Μωυσὢς τὴν σκηνὴν αὐτοῦ the Syriac, Grotius, and many other commentators quoted in Poole. The greater number, however, even although disagreeing with C. in his notion that the tabernacle was already built, (see vol. 2, p. 143, et seq.,) are satisfied with his reasons why it should not be the private tent of Moses. “Wherefore, this was some peculiar tabernacle which Moses erected specially for the service of God, as it may appear by the name of it, (for) it hath the same name which the other great tabernacle was to be called by; there was the cloud, the visible sign of God’s presence, and the people worshipped towards that place. Simlerus, Osiander, Tostatus,” in Willet. So also Rosenmuller, “after Michaelis, and some of the Hebrews,” in Brightwell; and Prof. Bush, who adopts C.’s opinion as to the clause, “he called it the Tabernacle of the Congregation.” — Vide infra. The explanation which some give that it was Moses’ own tabernacle, is refuted by many sound arguments. First, it is not said that he took away his own tabernacle, but the word tabernacle is used simply and without any affix, κατ ᾿ ἐξοχήν Secondly, he did not change his own place of habitation, but only went out thither from time to time for the purpose of worshipping, or, at any rate, of consulting God. Thirdly, it would have been by no means lawful to assign the sacred name which God had bestowed on His Sanctuary to a private tabernacle. Fourthly, God, by manifesting His glory there, testified that it was His own dwelling-place. Fifthly, it would have been absurd that the people should have sought God in that direction, unless the place had been sacred. Sixthly, the object (of its removal,) which I have above adverted to, must be taken into consideration, for Moses did not withdraw himself from the people, but rather continued, as was his custom, in the midst of the camp, and merely wished to shew that God withdrew Himself from that profane place lest He should be infected by the contagion; so that it was a kind of excommunication. It is said, indeed, that he pitched it for himself, yet not for his private use, as is plain from the context, but in accordance with the common form of expression, 362362     לו, is properly either. for him, or, for it.W. Ainsworth’s literal translation is, “And Moses took a tent, and pitched it for him.” in which לו, lo, is often redundant; still properly speaking, he did pitch it for himself, for he alone, had access to it, apart from others. Those who understand it to have been his private tabernacle, suppose that their opinion is supported by what follows, viz., that he called it, the tabernacle, Moed; 363363     מועד moed, or, mogned. A.V., “The tabernacle of the congregation.” The noun is formed from יעד to call together, to appoint either a place, or time of meeting; and hence it means either an appointed place, or time of meeting. — W. for they thence infer that it had not before been distinguished by that honorable title. But this objection is easily got over, since it is more probable that this was inserted parenthetically in the text, and therefore may be properly rendered in the pluperfect tense. For by this clause the reason is alleged why God had betaken Himself elsewhere, viz., that the place which He had appointed for covenanting with the people should remain deserted. Nevertheless, if we should refer it to this actual time, it will not be unsuitable that the people, at the present moment, should be reminded of their sad separation, and that Moses, in order to inflict more ignominy and shame upon them, should have called it the tabernacle of convention, though it was now far distant from the camp. As to the word Moed, I will not repeat what I have elsewhere said. Let my readers, therefore, refer to it at the end of chapter 29. 364364     See vol. 2, p. 297, on Exodus 29:42, where C. gives his reason for translating the words, Tabernaculum conventionis.

7 and it came to pass that every one which sought the Lord Some translate it, “asked counsel;” but, in my opinion, the ordinary signification is preferable. Whether, therefore, they desired to testify their piety by public worship, or to pray, or to seek counsel in doubtful matters, they went out towards that sanctuary in order that their eyes might rest upon it. Moses does not mean that they actually came to the place, from access to which they knew themselves to be prohibited on account of their pollution. But their thus going out was in token of repentance; as though they acknowledged that they were unworthy to receive an answer from God, unless they departed from that place which they had defiled by their atrocious crime. Now, it was useful for them to be thus humbled, in order that idolatry might be held in greater detestation. Nor is there any contradiction in what follows, viz., that they “stood, every man at his tent-door,” whenever Moses went out; for the glory of God, which at that time was more manifest, was such as then to inspire them with greater reverence and terror. Whensoever, therefore, the mediator presented himself before God, they were permitted to do no more than behold from afar the pillar of cloud which then enveloped Moses, so as to separate him from them. Meanwhile, it must be observed, that though God at this time departed from them, it was only so far as to reject them from close access to Him, and not that they were altogether alienated. For their worship was a sign of faith; they were allowed to pray to God and implore His favor; and they knew that they were heard in the person of Moses. Their separation, therefore, was not such as totally to cut off the hope of pardon, but such as to quicken their anxiety, and to exercise them to repentance. Thus God often designedly hides His face from sinners in order to invite them to Him in true humiliation. And this we nmst carefully attend to, lest, when He chastises us either by word or deed, terror, or a sense of our criminality, should hinder our prayers; but rather let us seek Him from however great a distance. The object of excommunication is nearly similar; for those whom the Church rejects from the company of the faithful,are delivered to Satan, but only “for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord;” (1 Corinthians 5:5;) and hence Paul would not have them counted as enemies, but admonished as brethren. (2 Thessalonians 3:15.)

When it is said that “the people rose up, and stood every man at his tent-door,” some improperly, as I conceive, refer it to mere respect to him as a civil magistrate, as if honor was thus paid to their leader; but I rather suppose that:, when at stated hours Moses presented himself before God in the name of all, they partook in his service and worship. Wherefore also they followed him with their eyes, until the cloud covered him. To the same effect this rising up is repeated immediately afterwards, where reference is made to the cloudy pillar. Wherefore I have no question but that both verses must be expounded as relating to spiritual worship. But we have elsewhere shewn how they testified their piety before the visible sign, without worshipping God therein in any gross imagination.

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