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The Two Tablets Replaced Moses Makes New Tablets The Renewal of the Covenant The Second Set of Stone Tablets The Covenant Renewed; the Tablets of the Law
34:1-9 34:1-3 34:1-9 34:1-4 34:1-5
34:5-7 God Appears
(6-7) 34:6-9
The Covenant Renewed The Covenant Renewed The Covenant Renewed The Covenant
34:10 34:10-17 34:10 34:10-13 34:10-16
34:11-17 34:11-16
34:17 34:17 34:17
34:18 34:18-20 34:18 34:18 34:18
34:19-20 34:19-20a 34:19-20a 34:19-20a
34:20b 34:20b 34:20b
34:21-24 34:21-24 34:21-24 34:21 34:21
34:22 34:22
34:23-24 34:23-24
34:25 34:25-26 34:25 34:25 34:25
34:26a 34:26a 34:26 34:26
34:26b 34:26b
34:27-28 34:27-28 34:27-28 34:27-28 34:27
Moses' Face Shines The Shining Face of Moses Moses Goes Down from Mount Sinai Moses Comes Down from the Mountain
34:29-35 34:29-35 34:29-35 34:29-35 34:29-35

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Bible Interpretation Seminar")

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.
  1. First paragraph
  2. Second paragraph
  3. Etc.


  1. This is the first renewal ceremony of the covenant (later in Jos. 24:19; 2 Chr. 29:10). The first covenant of Exodus 20-24 was made null and void because of Israel's rebellion with the golden calf (Exodus 32). The breaking of the two tablets was a visible sign of its nullification.
    Notice disobedience breaks the covenant. Israel was continually unfaithful in the future, but this special renewal was a way of assuring faithless Israel of YHWH's faithful presence.
    1. for Moses' sake (Exod. 32:27-23)
    2. for YHWH's promise to the Patriarchs (cf. Exod. 34:11)
    3. for YHWH's eternal redemptive purposes (see SPECIAL TOPIC: YHWH'S ETERNAL REDEMPTIVE PLAN)

  2. This chapter also renews some of the commands from the book of the covenant (i.e., Exodus 21-23).
    1. make no covenant with the people of Canaan, Exod. 34:12 - cf. Exod. 23:32-33
    2. no sacrifice to other gods, Exod. 34:14-16 - cf. Exod. 22:20
    3. no idols, Exod. 34:17 - cf. Exod. 20:23
    4. offering of the
      1. firstborn, Exod. 34:19-20 - cf. Exod. 22:29
      2. first fruits, Exod. 34:26 - cf. Exod. 23:19
    5. three mandatory annual feast days, Exod. 34:23 - cf. Exod. 23:14-17 (cf. Lev. 23:5-8; Deut. 16:1-8; see SPECIAL TOPIC: THE FEASTS OF ISRAEL)
      1. Feast of Unleavened Bread (Passover)
      2. Feast of Weeks, Exod. 34:22 - cf. Exod. 23:16
      3. Feast of Ingathering
    6. no sacrifice with leavened bread, Exod. 34:25 - cf. Exod. 23:18

  3. The new tablets and the second forty days on the mountain, Exod. 34:27-35


1Now the Lord said to Moses, "Cut out for yourself two stone tablets like the former ones, and I will write on the tablets the words that were on the former tablets which you shattered. 2So be ready by morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai, and present yourself there to Me on the top of the mountain. 3No man is to come up with you, nor let any man be seen anywhere on the mountain; even the flocks and the herds may not graze in front of that mountain." 4So he cut out two stone tablets like the former ones, and Moses rose up early in the morning and went up to Mount Sinai, as the Lord had commanded him, and he took two stone tablets in his hand. 5The Lord descended in the cloud and stood there with him as he called upon the name of the Lord. 6Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, "The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; 7who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations." 8Moses made haste to bow low toward the earth and worship. 9He said, "If now I have found favor in Your sight, O Lord, I pray, let the Lord go along in our midst, even though the people are so obstinate, and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us as Your own possession."

34:1-2 "Cut out" In Exod. 32:15-16 the two tablets are described as "God's work" (Exod. 34:16; Deut. 4:13; 9:10). The VERB "cut out" (BDB 820, KB 949) does not appear. How Moses hewed out/chiseled (Exod. 34:1,4) these tablets so quickly (i.e., one night) is unknown. Deuteronomy 10 repeats this account.
There are four commands.

  1. cut out for yourself two stone tablets - BDB 820, KB 949, Qal IMPERATIVE
  2. be ready by morning - BDB 224, KB 243, Qal IMPERATIVE
  3. come up - BDB 748, KB 826, Qal PERFECT with waw used as an IMPERATIVE
  4. present yourself - BDB 662, KB 714, Niphal PERFECT with waw used as an IMPERATIVE; one wonders if this involved some kind of "spiritual" preparation, as in Exod. 19:11,15

34:2 "I will write on the tablets" The revelation itself is always YHWH's work (cf. Exod. 32:16; 34:1; Deut. 10:2,4).

34:3 These restrictions are the same as Exod. 19:12,13 (i.e., the first covenant ceremony).

34:5 "The Lord descended in the cloud and stood there with him" This refers to the "pillar of cloud" (cf. Exod. 13:21 and many other times during this period).

▣ "he called. . ." The JPSOA, like most English versions, translates this as if YHWH was speaking (cf. Exod. 34:6). It is this "name" that represents YHWH's character which is extolled in Exod. 34:6-7 (and repeated often throughout the OT). See SPECIAL TOPIC: "THE NAME" OF YHWH.

34:6-7 For a composite list of the revealed characteristics/name of Israel's God, see SPECIAL TOPIC: CHARACTERISTICS OF ISRAEL'S GOD (OT). Notice He is both gracious and just! These must not be separated. This list of YHWH's characteristics/names is alluded to many times.

  1. Num. 14:18
  2. Deut. 4:31
  3. 2 Chr. 30:9
  4. Neh. 9:17
  5. Ps. 86:15; 103:8; 112:4; 116:5
  6. Joel 2:13
  7. Jonah 4:2
  8. Nahum 1:3

34:6 "the Lord passed by in front of him" This VERB (BDB 716, KB 778) links to Exod. 33:19,22. There is purposeful parallelism between

  1. My goodness, Exod. 32:19
  2. My glory, Exod. 32:22
  3. My name

▣ "The Lord, the Lord God" There are several titles/names/characteristics stated in this chapter.

  1. The Lord, Exod. 34:6 - YHWH (see SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY, D.)
  2. The Lord God, Exod. 34:6 - lit. YHWH, YHWH, El (see SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY, A)
  3. The Lord God, Exod. 34:23 - Adon, see SPECIAL TOPIC: LORD (kurios) and YHWH
  4. The God of Israel, Exod. 34:23 - Eloah, SINGULAR form of Elohim (see SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY, C.)
  5. The Lord, your God - YHWH, your Elohim
In this context the variety is literary, not theological.

▣ "lovingkindness" This is a key aspect of God's character (cf. Psalm 136)! See SPECIAL TOPIC: LOVINGKINDNESS (hesed).

▣ "slow to anger" In Hebrew anger is often expressed idiomatically in relationship to one's "nose." This phrase is literally, "long of nostrils" (UBS Handbook, p. 800).

  1. ADJECTIVE, "long" - BDB 74
  2. NOUN, "nose" - BDB 60, here dual form, "two nostrils"

34:7 "iniquity. . .transgression. . .sin" These are the three main terms for covenant violations (BDB 730, BDB 833, BDB 308). They occur together in six other texts (cf. Lev. 16:21; Job 13:23; Ps. 32:5; Isa. 59:12; Ezek. 21:24; Dan. 9:24). Humans are morally broken (see SPECIAL TOPIC: THE FALL)!

▣ "yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished" It should be noted that YHWH is merciful and forgives sin, but there is still justice (cf. Num. 14:18; Nah. 1:3).

  1. for forgiveness the person must repent, see SPECIAL TOPIC: REPENTANCE (OT)
  2. must approach and worship YHWH (cf. Deut. 6:4-6; 30:6)
  3. if no repentance or worship, then judgment surely follows
  4. sin has consequences (even forgiven sin, cf. Psalm 32; 51)
The mystery of YHWH's mercy and justice often collide - Jer. 3:12-14; Hos. 11:8-9. The question is highlighted by
  1. punishment for sin over generations - Exod. 20:5-6; Deut. 5:9-10; Exod. 34:7; Num. 14:18; Jer. 31:29
  2. individual responsibility only - Deut. 24:16 quoted in 2 Kgs. 14:6 and 2 Chr. 25:4; as well as the powerful statements of Ezekiel 18.

▣ "visiting the iniquity of fathers. . ." Acts of disobedience quickly become lifestyle patterns and family traditions that are passed on to future generations. Remember, several generations lived together (cf. Exod. 20:5-6).
However, the great promise of God to faithful families is that faithfulness also has consequences which move through time (cf. Deut. 7:9)!
The rabbis interpret this phrase as referring to YHWH's mercy.

  1. not allowing the full judgment to fall immediately (i.e., 1 Kgs. 21:29-30)
  2. as aspect of "long suffering" in allowing time for repentance (cf. Rom. 2:4; 1 Pet. 3:20)

34:8 The only proper response to this kind of God is respect and worship.

34:9 "If" This hypothetical PARTICLE (BDB 49) also occurs in Exod. 32:32; 33:13,15. This verse relates to Exod. 33:13-15. For Israel to be a distinct, special nation (cf. Exod. 19:5-6), YHWH must accompany them personally.

▣ "the people are so obstinate" See note at Exod. 32:9. God's faithful character is highlighted in His relationship with a "stiff-necked" people.

▣ "take us as Your possession" This NOUN (BDB 635), translated by NASB as "possession," literally means "inheritance." It is used in two senses.

  1. Israel as God's unique people - Deut. 4:20; 7:6; 9:26,29; 32:9; 1 Sam. 10:1; 1 Kgs. 8:51,53; 2 Kgs. 21:14; Ps. 28:9; 33:12; 78:71; 106:5,40; Isa. 19:25; Jer. 10:16; Mic. 7:18
  2. Israel receiving the land of Canaan as a gift from YHWH - Deut. 4:21; 15:4; 19:10; 20:16; 21:28; 24:4; 25:19; 26:1
This is family imagery. This imagery is expanded.
  1. Gentiles given as inheritance to the Davidic Messiah, Ps. 2:8
  2. the Messiah/Jesus as heir of all things, Heb. 2:2; Matt. 28:18
  3. believers are co-heirs through Jesus - Rom. 8:17

10Then God said, "Behold, I am going to make a covenant. Before all your people I will perform miracles which have not been produced in all the earth nor among any of the nations; and all the people among whom you live will see the working of the Lord, for it is a fearful thing that I am going to perform with you.

34:10 This seems to refer to the divine conquest of Canaan (cf. Exod. 23:27; 15:16; Deut. 2:25; 11:25; Jos. 2:9; 24:31; Jdgs. 2:7, as earlier in the humbling of Egypt, cf. Exod. 15:11). The victories were YHWH's, not Israel's military (cf. Exod. 34:11; 23:27-31; 33:2).
Notice there is no "if" here. YHWH has a redemptive plan that includes faithless Israel. A plan for the world (see SPECIAL TOPIC: YHWH'S ETERNAL REDEMPTIVE PLAN).


11"Be sure to observe what I am commanding you this day: behold, I am going to drive out the Amorite before you, and the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite. 12Watch yourself that you make no covenant with the inhabitants of the land into which you are going, or it will become a snare in your midst. 13But rather, you are to tear down their altars and smash their sacred pillars and cut down their Asherim 14 —for you shall not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God— 15otherwise you might make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land and they would play the harlot with their gods and sacrifice to their gods, and someone might invite you to eat of his sacrifice, 16and you might take some of his daughters for your sons, and his daughters might play the harlot with their gods and cause your sons also to play the harlot with their gods. 17You shall make for yourself no molten gods.

34:11 "Be sure to observe" Obedience is crucial (BDB 1036, KB 1581, Qal IMPERATIVE; see SPECIAL TOPIC: KEEP). The covenant is conditional (see SPECIAL TOPIC: COVENANT).

34:12 "Watch yourself" This is another IMPERATIVE using the same VERB as the previous verse (here, Niphal IMPERATIVE). Here the command relates specifically to Canaanite fertility worship (see SPECIAL TOPIC: FERTILITY WORSHIP OF THE ANE).
If Israel does not obey, the Canaanite worship will corrupt them (cf. Exod. 23:32-33; Num. 33:55; Deut. 7:1-5,16; Jos. 23:13).


▣ "their" The NASB change is COLLECTIVE SINGULAR of the MT (i.e., Exod. 34:13-16). UBS Text Project (p. 148) gives the SINGULAR a "B" rating (some doubt).

34:14 "for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God" The NRSV and NJB have this phrase in parentheses.
This ADJECTIVE (BDB 888, twice) is used only of YHWH (cf. Exod. 20:5; Deut. 4:24; 5:9; 6:15). This anthropomorphic word, denoting strong human emotions, can be understood as

  1. jealous, a love word, familial imagery
  2. jealous (i.e., for no rivals)
Number 1 fits this context best. Idolatry was viewed as "spiritual adultery" (cf. Lev. 17:7; 20:5,6; Num. 15:39; Deut. 31:16; Jdgs. 2:17; 8:27,33; 1 Chr.5:25; Ezek. 20:30). YHWH as husband; Israel as wife (cf. Exod. 34:15-16; Hosea 1-3).
The VERB "harlotry" (BDB 275, KB 275) is used three times in Exod. 34:15-16.

34:15-16 This ban on religious and social contact is repeated in Deut. 7:3-4. This intermarriage corrupted the purity of YHWH's covenant people! This is exactly the problem found in

  1. the reign of Solomon, cf. 1 Kgs. 11:1-8,9-11
  2. the post-exilic period (Ezra, Nehemiah, Malachi).
Many of the "strange" laws found in Exodus - Deuteronomy refer to Canaanite customs, by providing them, the Israelites were protected from Canaanite influence. Obviously this attempt failed. Israel became as corrupt as her neighbors, especially in idolatry and fertility worship.

34:17 This reflects

  1. Exod. 20:4 - no graven image
  2. Exod. 32:4 - Aaron's graven image
This would incite YHWH's jealousy!

18"You shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread. For seven days you are to eat unleavened bread, as I commanded you, at the appointed time in the month of Abib, for in the month of Abib you came out of Egypt.

34:18-26 See Contextual Insights, B. and the SPECIAL TOPIC: THE FEASTS OF ISRAEL.


19"The first offspring from every womb belongs to Me, and all your male livestock, the first offspring from cattle and sheep. 20You shall redeem with a lamb the first offspring from a donkey; and if you do not redeem it, then you shall break its neck. You shall redeem all the firstborn of your sons. None shall appear before Me empty-handed.

34:19 The MT's VERB (חוכר, BDB 269, KB 269, Niphal IMPERFECT) does not fit this context, so scholars suggest another root (הוכר), which means "male," and this fits (see JPSOA, following the Targums and Vulgate).


21"You shall work six days, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during plowing time and harvest you shall rest. 22You shall celebrate the Feast of Weeks, that is, the first fruits of the wheat harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering at the turn of the year. 23Three times a year all your males are to appear before the Lord God, the God of Israel. 24For I will drive out nations before you and enlarge your borders, and no man shall covet your land when you go up three times a year to appear before the Lord your God.

34:21 This reflects Exod. 20:8-11, esp. 20:9, cf. Exod. 35:2-3. The Sabbath was a major weekly time of worship. It was not optional. It was crucial for covenant people to stay in fellowship with their God. See SPECIAL TOPIC: SABBATH (OT). Also see NIDOTTE, vol. 4, pp. 1157-1162, for a good brief overview.

34:23 This is a repeat of Exod. 23:17. All English translations have the VERB "appear" from the NOUN (BDB 909), but the MT has "see" (BDB 906, KB 1157, Niphal IMPERFECT). The context is referring to the three main annual feast days at the central shrine. However, because of the contextual aspect of "seeing" God (see notes at Exod. 33:11,20), this may simply be imagery of approaching God with a sacrifice.

34:24 This is if Israel is obedient to YHWH's covenant, but they never were! This verse could be understood in two senses.

  1. there will be no invasions (TEV, NJB)
  2. covenant partners will not "covet" (same word as Exod. 20:17; NEB, REB)
This verse implies the need to travel a long distance to a central shrine, if so, then there must be a later addition reflecting life in Canaan.

25"You shall not offer the blood of My sacrifice with leavened bread, nor is the sacrifice of the Feast of the Passover to be left over until morning.

34:25 "nor is the sacrifice. . .to be left over until morning" This is first mentioned in Exod. 12:10. It is repeated in Exod. 23:18, and mentioned again in Deut. 16:4.
The meat had a special sacred aspect. It could not become just another meal (i.e., leftovers). However, like many of these cultic regulations, one wonders if they are

  1. hygienic
  2. again Canaanite customs

26"You shall bring the very first of the first fruits of your soil into the house of the Lord your God.

34:26a "the very first of the first fruits" This is first mentioned in Exod. 23:19 (also note Lev. 2:12,14). By offering "these first of the first," Israel recognized that all the harvest belonged to God. Same imagery as the "firstborn" and "tithing," as well as the Sabbath. God is the owner of all things because He is the creator of all things!

26b"You shall not boil a young goat in its mother's milk."

34:26b "You shall not boil a young goat in its mother's milk" See note at Exod. 23:19.

27Then the Lord said to Moses, "Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel." 28So he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he did not eat bread or drink water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.

34:27 "Write down" This is a Qal IMPERATIVE, cf. Exod. 17:14; 24:4. Moses obviously is commanded to write something, but what? Did YHWH write the ten words on the stone tablets (cf. Exod. 24:12; 31:18; 32:15-16; 34:1,18) and Moses wrote the other laws connected to "the Book of the Covenant) (i.e., Exodus 21-23, cf. Exod. 24:4,7)?

34:28 Israel's patience is tested a second time. There is an obvious connection between Moses and Jesus (cf. Matt. 4:2). The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) is the new law.

▣ "forty days and forty nights" See SPECIAL TOPIC: SYMBOLIC NUMBERS IN SCRIPTURE.

29It came about when Moses was coming down from Mount Sinai (and the two tablets of the testimony were in Moses' hand as he was coming down from the mountain), that Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because of his speaking with Him. 30So when Aaron and all the sons of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. 31Then Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the rulers in the congregation returned to him; and Moses spoke to them. 32Afterward all the sons of Israel came near, and he commanded them to do everything that the Lord had spoken to him on Mount Sinai. 33When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face. 34But whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with Him, he would take off the veil until he came out; and whenever he came out and spoke to the sons of Israel what he had been commanded, 35the sons of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses' face shone. So Moses would replace the veil over his face until he went in to speak with Him.

34:29 "the skin of his face shone" This is a new element not found in Exodus 20-24. It served as a way to affirm YHWH's direct communication with Moses (i.e., "face to face," cf. Exod. 33:11; Num. 12:8; Deut. 34:10).
Paul, in 2 Cor. 3:1-11, interprets this as a covering to hide the fact that the "shine" did not last. He is using this imagery as a way to compare the revelation of Moses to the NT gospel revelation in Christ! This does not seem to be the intent of Exodus 34 (see Brevard S. Childs, The Book of Exodus, pp. 620-624)!
The VERB "shone" (BDB 902, KB 1144, Qal PERFECT, used three times) is basically the word used of "horns" spreading, but here it must denote rays extending (i.e., BDB 901). LXX, Peshitta, Targums all have "shine." Some scholars emend it from רוק to יקר (BDB 429), which denotes splendor or glory (possibly NJB and JPSOA).
As Jesus is the new lawgiver, the transfiguration of Matthew 17 is the superior "shining" of Moses' face.

34:33 "veil" The NOUN (BDB 691, KB 605) occurs only here. From context it must denote some type of face covering. Another Hebrew root (BDB 712) in Job 24:15 also means a face covering. How the terms are to be distinguished or described is uncertain.


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

  1. Did YHWH write the ten words on the tablets or did Moses?
  2. Why is Exod. 34:6-7 so theologically significant?
  3. What exactly did Moses want YHWH to do in Exod. 34:9?
  4. How would the Canaanites become "a snare to Israel"?
  5. Is Exodus 34 an exact repeat of Exodus 20-23?
  6. Why did Moses' face shine? Why did he cover it?

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