Exodus, Lesson 30: God and Moses “Negotiate”

Outside the Camp (610x351)The Israelites had tried to worship Yahweh using the worship forms they were comfortable with because of their time in Egypt.  God called such worship “play” (Exodus 32:6) and a “great sin” (Exodus 32:30-31). 

Yet, Moses implored to God on behalf of the people.  And God responded that He would, based on His earlier promises, still give the people the land (Exodus 3:8, 17; 6:8), drive out its inhabitants (Exodus 23:23, 28-31), and send a “angel” to guide Israel on the way (Exodus 14:19, 23:20, 23). 

But the Lord was still not done having words with them.


God’s Command to Leave to Base of Mt. Sinai

Read Exodus 33:1-6

–          What did God not promise to do (or be) concerning the people of Israel?


–          What are the implications of that?


–          What are the people to learn from God’s “disastrous word”?


–          How did the people respond?


“Ornaments”: God told the people of Israel to take of their “ornaments.”  What that term refers to is uncertain.  If could refer to the jewelry that was left over and was not used to make the golden calf.

After God’s word to them to remove their “ornaments,” the people “stripped themselves” of them.  The ESV does a splendid job of translating the Hebrew verb form.  Moses earlier used that verb to describe the Israelites plundering the Egyptians (Exodus 3:22, 12:36).

Since the “ornaments” the Israelites wore most likely came from the Egyptians, God makes a strong point.  The Israelites deserved to be plundered just as much as the Egyptians, for they had incorporated Egyptian worship forms into their worship of Yahweh.


Excursus: A Way to Understand God Not Dwelling With His People

Sin creates a barrier between people and God.  Yet, we know that God’s response is not just because of the sin of the people, for God later chooses to dwell with a sinful people.  So, it cannot just be the people’s sin, as grave as it was.

When the people of Israel adopted Egyptian worship forms (using a golden calf instead of a God’s mandated tabernacle), they and made a different confession (Exodus 32:4, 23).  Because of that, God not dwelling among His people was for their own well-being.  In such an apostate condition, God’s close presence could destroy them.  God does not want to be confronted with an occasion to exercise divine wrath.

In God’s response, we see a picture of divine reluctance!  If the people continued to see worship of God as something they decided (thus bringing idolatrous worship forms and their preferences “before God’s face”) instead of what God decides, what God mentioned in Exodus 32:9-10 could become a reality.


The Tent Outside the Camp

Read Exodus 33:7-11

We now learn what Moses does instead of building the Tabernacle.  Exodus’ use of the past tense, “Moses used to,” shows that the events described here were written down after these events took place. 

We also find some “word play” going on in the Hebrew.  The standard Hebrew sentence is constructed in a verb-subject-object pattern.  Yet, in Exodus 33:7, we find that verse starting with the subject.  When that happens, it often signals an opposite response of some type. 

Instead of Moses responding with mourning (for Moses didn’t participate in worship “play” and that “great sin,”), Moses responded by putting up a tent outside the camp.  This tent stood in contrast to the Tabernacle that was to be, which would have been in the middle of the camp. 

–          That God’s presence is with Moses and not the people shows what?


–          Yet, the people’s response shows what?


“Face to Face”: This is a Hebrew idiom that expresses the intimacy that existed between Moses and Yahweh.  This was a privilege that God granted to Moses that He shared with no other prophet in Israel (Deuteronomy 34:10).  It also shows that God spoke to Moses through words, not through visions or dreams as He had sometime spoken to other prophets in the history of Israel.


Moses Intercedes for the People

Read Exodus 33:12-16

–          How does God’s response to Moses in verse 14 show what is behind Moses’ requests?


–          Discuss the anxiety behind Moses expressing that if God’s presence would not go with the people, he didn’t want to leave?


Read Exodus 33:17-23

–          Although God and Moses are visiting “face to face,” what does God say that Moses cannot see?


–          What previous scene from earlier in Moses’ life will God reenact?


–          Discuss what this was supposed to do for Moses.


“Hand … Back … Face”:  Not literal descriptions of Yahweh, as if He possessed a body with a head, torso, and limbs.  These are anthropomorphic depictions (remember that from “God’s nose burning” for being angry?) that help emphasize the personal nature of God.  Moses does not see God in all His fullness.  These anthropomorphisms teach us a theological reality: Because of our fallen nature and sin, we can only receive God where He “hides” Himself for our benefit.  If God were not to hide Himself, in His full glory, we would die.


A Reissue of God’s Ten Words

Read Exodus 34:1-3

–          What does God tell Moses to do?


In this account of God reissuing His Ten Words, we see a similar repeat of what happened the first time.

Exodus 19

Exodus 34

The giving of the Ten Words begins in the morning (19:16) Moses ascends Mt. Sinai in the morning (34:2)
No one is to accompany Moses (19:23) No one is to come up with Moses (34:3)
Animals are prohibited from touching Mt. Sinai (19:12-13) Animals may not graze on Mt. Sinai (34:3)


–          When God gave His “Ten Words” to Moses the first time, who then accompanied him?


–          Discuss why, this time, Aaron may have possibly been barred from ascending Mt. Sinai.


Read Exodus 34:4-7

–          What does God do?


–          When God proclaims His name, “the Lord,” what was then taking place that He had earlier promised to Moses?


–          What does God repeat, although not in the same exact words, that He said when He first gave His “Ten Words”?Thousand vs 3-4 (Lesson 30)


–          What does God keeping His loyal love to the “thousandth” but visiting the iniquity of the fathers to the “third and fourth,” say about God’s predisposition toward us?


Read Exodus 34:8-9

Both the Hebrew and the Greek Septuagint then show Moses’ response: He quickly bowed down and prostrated himself before God.  Although “worship” is not specifically stated (as in the what he was doing), the text points to how he was worshiping.  Bowing down and prostrating himself is repeated twice, although using two different words, to emphasize that point.

–          What does Moses’ response show the form of true worship to be in contrast to what the people of Israel did when they went to worship Yahweh through the golden calf? (Exodus 32:5-6)


–          How should this inform our worship of God?


–          What does Moses do for the people of Israel?


–          What three parts make up Moses’ confession?


Part of Confessional Prayer


LSB Divine Services 1-2

Acknowledgment of sin We are a stiff-necked people We confess that we are by nature sinful and unclean.  We have sinned against You in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone.  We have not loved You with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
Request for forgiveness Pardon our iniquity and our sin For the sake of Your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us.  Forgive us …
Request for the result of God’s forgiveness Take us for your inheritance … renew us, and lead us, so that we may delight in Your will and walk in Your ways to the glory of Your holy name.


Click here to go to Lesson 31.