King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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Exodus 33

The Lord refuses to go with Israel. (1-6) The tabernacle of Moses removed without the camp. (7-11) Moses desires to see the glory of God. (12-23)

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The Lord refuses to go with Israel

1 And the LORD said unto Moses, Depart, and go up hence, thou and the people which thou hast brought up out of the land of Egypt, unto the land which I sware unto Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, Unto thy seed will I give it:

2 And I will send an angel before thee; and I will drive out the Canaanite, the Amorite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite:

3 Unto a land flowing with milk and honey: for I will not go up in the midst of thee; for thou art a stiffnecked people: lest I consume thee in the way.

4 And when the people heard these evil tidings, they mourned: and no man did put on him his ornaments.

5 For the LORD had said unto Moses, Say unto the children of Israel, Ye are a stiffnecked people: I will come up into the midst of thee in a moment, and consume thee: therefore now put off thy ornaments from thee, that I may know what to do unto thee.

6 And the children of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments by the mount Horeb.

The tabernacle of Moses removed without the camp

7 And Moses took the tabernacle, and pitched it without the camp, afar off from the camp, and called it the Tabernacle of the congregation. And it came to pass, that every one which sought the LORD went out unto the tabernacle of the congregation, which was without the camp.

8 And it came to pass, when Moses went out unto the tabernacle, that all the people rose up, and stood every man at his tent door, and looked after Moses, until he was gone into the tabernacle.

9 And it came to pass, as Moses entered into the tabernacle, the cloudy pillar descended, and stood at the door of the tabernacle, and the Lord talked with Moses.

10 And all the people saw the cloudy pillar stand at the tabernacle door: and all the people rose up and worshipped, every man in his tent door.

11 And the LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend. And he turned again into the camp: but his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, departed not out of the tabernacle.

Moses desires to see the glory of God

12 And Moses said unto the LORD, See, thou sayest unto me, Bring up this people: and thou hast not let me know whom thou wilt send with me. Yet thou hast said, I know thee by name, and thou hast also found grace in my sight.

13 Now therefore, I pray thee, if I have found grace in thy sight, shew me now thy way, that I may know thee, that I may find grace in thy sight: and consider that this nation is thy people.

14 And he said, My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest.

15 And he said unto him, If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence.

16 For wherein shall it be known here that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight? is it not in that thou goest with us? so shall we be separated, I and thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth.

17 And the LORD said unto Moses, I will do this thing also that thou hast spoken: for thou hast found grace in my sight, and I know thee by name.

18 And he said, I beseech thee, shew me thy glory.

19 And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.

20 And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.

21 And the LORD said, Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock:

22 And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a clift of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by:

23 And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. This place. Mount Sinai, (M.) or the tabernacle, v. 7. C.

Ver. 3. I will not go: “in majesty” (Chal.) and “brightness,” Arab. The angel shall go in his own name, and shall not perform such great miracles. My tabernacle shall be removed to a respectful distance, lest, not being able to endure the barefaced impiety of the people, I slay you in my fury. God addresses Moses, as the representative of the nation, (M.) and adopts the language of men, appearing as a king, who cannot bear to be insulted to his face. H.

Ver. 4. Ornaments. Chal. and Syr. “arms.” They had brought jewels, &c. out of Egypt. M.

Ver. 5. Once, &c. “In a moment.” Pagnin. — Shall destroy, if you prove rebellious any more, as I foresee you will. — Lay aside, as you have done. — To thee, according to the measure of your repentance or negligence. M.

Ver. 6. By Horeb, or at the foot of the mount. Some think they put them on no more in the wilderness; (C.) or at least till they had obtained the tables of the law again, in testimony of God’s reconciliation with them. Salien.

Ver. 7. Tabernacle: not that which God had described, which was set up later, (C. xl.) but one destined for public and private prayer. M. — Afar, a thousand yards. Thalmud and Villet. — Covenant; or alliance, which God had entered into with the people. T. — The Heb. may signify, “of the assembly or congregation,” because there the people met to hear the divine doctrine explained, and to offer up their prayers. — Camp. Thus were the people reminded of their excommunication, or separation, from the God whom they had so wantonly abandoned, and whose protection and presence were their only support and comfort. H. — The record of the covenant was also probably torn, as Moses was ordered to write it again. C. xxxiv. 27. T.

Ver. 8. Rose up, out of respect to their prince, who was not their mediator also. H.

Ver. 9. He spoke. The angel, conducting the pillar, spoke in God’s name. M.

Ver. 10. And worshipped. This the Samaritan copy omits. The people bowed towards Moses and the angel. C.

Ver. 11. Face to face. That is, in a most familiar manner. Though, as we learn from this very chapter, Moses could not see the face of the Lord. Ch. — The angel assumed a human form, (M.) which Moses knew could not fully display the majesty of God; and hence he begs to see his face, or his glory, (v. 13. 18,) which God declares is impossible for any mortal to do, v. 20. H. — He addresses him, however, with unusual condescension, and speaks to him without any ambiguity, “without any medium,” as the Arab. expresses it. Other prophets were instructed by visions, and were filled with terror. Dan. x. 8. — Young man, though 50 years old, and the general who defeated the Amalecites. C. xvii. 13. Puer means a servant also, in which capacity Josue waited on Moses, and was alone allowed to be present with him in the tabernacle. He did not sleep there, (C.) but guarded it from all profanation. Some say he was still called young, because he was unmarried; in which sense the Chal. styles him hullema, which corresponds with the Heb. halma, a virgin. Serarius. T.

Ver. 12. To the Lord. This conversation probably took place on Mount Horeb, (v. 22,) after God had threatened that he would not go up with the people. C. xxxii. 34. And here (v. 3,) Moses, considering that God would thus withdraw his special providence from his people, begins to expostulate with him; and first, having mentioned with gratitude, the repeated kindnesses of God towards himself, he begs to be informed what angel shall accompany him, and then proceeds to beg that God would still shew his wonted favour to the penitent Hebrews, and conduct them himself, as he had done before the transgression. We do not read before, that God said to Moses, I know thee by name; (S. Aug. q. 193,) but he had used that expression in some conversation with him, as he did afterwards, v. 17. H.

Ver. 13. Face. Heb. “way.” Be thou our guide. — Thy people. Acknowledge them again. Moses begs not for any special favour for himself, but only for the Hebrews. Salien.

Ver. 14. Face. Arab. “light.” Syr. “walk in my presence,” and fear not. The Messias is called the angel of his face. Isai. lxiii. 9. — Rest. I will grant thy request. C.

Ver. 15. Thyself. Moses desires a farther explanation, or a positive assurance that God would conduct them. — By all, ab omnibus, distinguished in glory from all others. Chal.

Ver. 18. Glory, or face, v. 13. 20. The angel was robed in darkness, which Moses begs may be removed. Tertullian supposes, he wished to behold the Messias. Many think he desired to contemplate the divine essence. S. Aug. q. 161. Philo, &c. But, could he be ignorant that such a request could not be granted? C. — God promised to shew him all good, or the beatific vision after death. H.

Ver. 19. All good, that could reasonably be desired. “I will pass before thee in all my glory,” (Sept.) and principally in my beneficence. C. xxxiv. 6. 7. C. — I will shew thee what great favours I have in reserve for Israel. Divines dispute whether Moses saw the divine essence. S. Tho. 1, p. q. 12, a. 11. M. — If he requested to do so now, it seems to be denied, v. 20. Jo. i. 17. T. — Proclaim, &c. When I pass, I will repeat some of my glorious titles, and particularly that I am merciful. M. — Yet I will shew mercy with discretion, and will punish some of you. C.

Ver. 20. My face, even in my assumed form. M. — The effulgence would cause death, as was commonly believed. Gen. xiii. 16. To behold the divine essence, we must be divested of our mortal body. 1 Cor. ii. 9. S. Greg. Naz. or. 49. H. — Moses, therefore, did not see it on earth, though he had greater favours shewn to him than the other prophets. Num. xii. 6. Theod. q. 68. S. Chrys. &c. W.

Ver. 23. See my back parts. The Lord, by his angel, usually spoke to Moses in the pillar of the cloud, so that he could not see the glory of Him that spoke familiarly with him. In the vision here mentioned, he was allowed to see something of Him, in an assumed corporeal form: not in the face, the rays of which were too bright for mortal eye to bear, but to view Him as it were behind, when his face was turned from him. Ch. — Thus our curiosity is repressed. D. — Servius observes, on Virgil, that the “gods mostly declare themselves by suddenly disappearing. They will shew their faces.” Iliad. N. Grotius. — The rock was Christ, (D.) in whose sacred humanity we discern, at a distance, the majesty of God. S. Aug. q. 154. Moses saw the hinder parts of God, or what should happen to Jesus Christ in the latter days of the synagogue. Orig. hom. 12. By this wonderful vision, God was pleased to declare that he was appeased. H.