For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2005 James Melough

33:1.  “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:”


In spite of their great sin God remained true to the promise He had given the patriarchs; and so is it still: in spite of the sins we continue to commit since becoming believers, He remains faithful to His word: He will bring us safely to heaven, because all our sins - those we will yet commit as well as those already committed - have all been atoned for by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.  It shouldn’t be forgotten that all our sins were future when the Lord died to expiate them.  This however, should not be taken as license to sin, and anyone who construes it as such is revealing that he is still unsaved, for to the genuine believer sin is abhorrent.


Since Egypt is a type of the world of business and pleasure living in blatant defiance of God, Israel’s deliverance from it is a typological picture of our own release from the power of that same evil world, relative to which the warning is given, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.  If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.  And the world passes away, and the lust thereof: but he who does the will of God abides for ever,” 1 John 2:15-17.


33:2.  “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:”


It isn’t said that the angel would drive out the Canaanites, but that he would simply go before the people to lead them into the land.  It was God Himself Who would destroy the enemy, something He did at Calvary.  Satan is a defeated foe.  In the present context the angel is a type of the Holy Spirit, and the lesson being taught in their having to follow the angel is that we are to follow, i.e., obey the Holy Spirit, the warning being given that we are not to quench or grieve Him, He being quenched when we refuse to do what He commands; and grieved when we do what He forbids.


Relative to Israel’s experience, the angel was represented by the pillar of cloud which led them in the daytime, and by the pillar of fire which led them during the night.  The type is fulfilled as we obey the Holy Spirit, His leading being portrayed by the cloud when the way lies clear before us; and represented by the pillar of fire during the night, i.e., when we know not what the next moment may bring.


The six enemies represent the spiritual foes against whom we are to wage a relentless war, their being six, the number of imperfection and incompleteness, teaching us in symbol that there is a seventh: their head, Satan, who completes and guides the confederation of evil arrayed against us.


Further instruction is furnished in the meanings of their names, for Canaanite means a trafficker; Amorite a sayer; Hittite terror: fear; Perizzite rustic: squatter; Hivite showers of life: livers; Jebusite he will be trodden down.  These all represent the principal spiritual foes seeking our destruction.


The Canaanite a trafficker typifies the attempt of Satan to entice us into trafficking with the world: its business, pleasure, learning, politics, religion, art, music, etc.


The Amorite a sayer portrays Satan’s effort to have us be sayers rather than doers of the Word, but God commands us, “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves,” James 1:22.


The Hittite terror, fear represents the fear of man which keeps our lips sealed when we ought to be confessing Christ as Lord, and presenting Him to the world as Savior, through the fearless proclamation of the gospel.


Perizzite meaning rustic: squatter depicts the mere professor who is ignorant of spiritual matters.  He is a mere religious squatter occupying a position that belongs only to the genuine believer, and the churches of Christendom are filled with his spiritual counterparts.


The churches of Christendom are likewise filled with spiritual Hivites showers of life: livers, those who call themselves Christians, and who presume to teach others the way to heaven, while they themselves are on the road to hell, never having been born again, true believers being a small minority in the midst of the apostate mass.


The Jebusite he will be trodden down, represents the whole mass of professing but unbelieving Christendom, of whom God declares, “I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment,” Isaiah 63:3.  They constitute the great harlot church that will be left on earth after the true Church has been raptured home to heaven.


33:3.  “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.”


“... flowing with milk and honey” is a metaphor for the abundant fertility of the land God was giving them, and is a picture of the spiritual abundance available to the obedient believer of this present dispensation.  His threat not to go with them was left unfulfilled in response to Moses’ pleading, see verse 17.


33:4.  “And when the people heard these evil tidings, they mourned: and no man did put on him his ornaments.”


33:5.  “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 put off thy ornaments from thee, that I may know what to do unto thee.”


“... ornaments” is also translated armour: jewelry.  Their mode of dress reflected their contrition.  The Christian’s attire should also be without ostentation, the commands given the woman relative to dress in 1 Peter 3:3-4 applying also to the man.


“... that I may know what to do unto thee,” doesn’t mean that God was undecided as to how to deal with them: He wasn’t.  He sought evidence of genuine contrition that would permit Him to bless rather than punish them; nor has anything changed since that day: God still wants evidence of true repentance in the form of a changed attitude or lifestyle, so that He may bless rather then chastise us.  It isn’t enough to say, “I’m sorry,” and then to continue in disobedience.  That will simply add hypocrisy to the original offence, and increase the castigation.


33:6.  “And the children of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments by the mount Horeb.”


For the spiritual significance of Horeb, see comments on 17:6.


33:7.  “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.”


This tabernacle or tent of meeting was not the one mentioned later in the book.  Moses’ pitching it “outside the camp, afar off from the camp” is the symbolic proclamation of the truth that God will not dwell with disobedience.  If we would enjoy His presence with us in the form of the ungrieved and unquenched Holy Spirit, we must be obedient to His Word. 


As has been discussed already, it was the small believing remnant within the apostate mass of the nation that God regarded as the true Israel, that small minority being the OT type of the genuine believers found today in the midst of Christendom; and in Moses’ pitching the Tabernacle “outside the camp, afar off from the camp,” we have the OT type of the command given believers today to be separate from that professing but apostate mass, see Hebrews 13:13-14, “Let us go forth therefore unto him outside the camp, bearing his reproach.  For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.”


As God was not to be found in the midst of apostate Israel, neither is He to be found today in the midst of equally apostate Christendom.  We should not be deceived by the imposing outward magnificence of the professing “church,” Roman Catholic or Protestant.  Both are an abomination to God, and are soon to be destroyed, His call to His own being, “Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues,” Revelation 18:4.


33:8.  “And it came to pass, when Moses went out into 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.”


This entry of Moses into the Tabernacle may well be a type of the ascent of the Lord Jesus Christ to heaven as recorded in Luke 24:51, “And it came to pass, while He blessed them, He was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.”


33:9.  “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.”


It is generally accepted that the cloudy pillar was that which went before Israel, leading them through the wilderness during the day, as the pillar of fire led them throughout the night.  It is clearly a type of the Holy Spirit Who is our comforter and guide today, as we traverse the wilderness of this world on our way home to heaven; and as He talked with Moses so does He also talk with us through the written Word.


33:10.  “And the people saw the cloudy pillar stand at the tabernacle door: and all the people rose up and worshiped, every man in his tent door.”


This miraculous manifestation of Jehovah evoked the worship of all the people; and we shouldn’t miss the significance of their worshiping “every man in his tent door,” for it signified their readiness to depart as the pillar might lead them.  Their attitude ought to be the adumbration of ours: we should be equally ready to follow the Holy Spirit’s leading, both as to anticipating the Lord’s return, and also as to walking in the path of His choosing.


33:11.  “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.”


Its being said that “the Lord spake unto Moses face to face” doesn’t mean that Moses actually saw God’s face, for it is written, “... there shall no man see me and live,” verse 20, and again, “No man hath seen God at any time,” 1 John 4:12.  It means that He spoke with Moses as a man would speak with his friend, but He did so without revealing His face.


This indicates the high degree of favor with which the Lord regarded Moses; and Joshua’s remaining in the tabernacle points to him as being a young man who earnestly sought the presence of God.  It is to be regretted that very few young men today evince a similar desire to spend time there, a possible cause being the rarity of older men to set an example.


As has been noted already Joshua means Jehovah is salvation; and Nun perpetuity, the former acknowledging God as the Author of salvation; and the latter proclaiming His eternality.


33:12.  “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.”


Moses lack of faith is disclosed in his complaint “thou hast not let me know whom thou wilt send with me.”  He didn’t comprehend the magnitude of the honor being conferred upon him, because he failed to remember that God is omnipotent, His power being ample for each task assigned, whether exercised through one agent or a thousand.  What he also failed to grasp was the fact that God was testing his faith, as He does that of every one of His own, for the faith that can’t stand testing is worthless: it isn’t faith at all.


The words, “I know thee by name” are synonymous with intimacy, for while God knows every person’s name, He knows believers in a special way: they are His children.  The Lord’s final words to unbelievers will be “... I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity,” Matthew 7:23, and again, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlating fire, prepared for the devil and his angels,” Matthew 25:41.  Very different however, will be His words to believers, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world,” Matthew 25:34.


“... thou hast also found grace in my sight.”  Grace and mercy are not to be confused.  Mercy is the withholding of deserved punishment; grace is the bestowing of undeserved blessing.  Moses didn’t comprehend the full compass of the blessings being conferred; nor do we grasp the full extent of those He has bestowed upon us, as it is written, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for those who love Him,” 1 Corinthians 2:9.


33:13.  “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.”


“... shew me thy way” is also translated teach me Thy way: guide me clearly along the way You want me to travel: let me understand thy ways with men: manifest thyself to me in an evident manner: make thy presence known to me.  We should have the same desire to know God’s will, and to do it.


“... that I may know thee” is also rendered see thee: acknowledge thee: understand thy nature: progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with You, perceiving and recognizing and understanding more strongly and clearly.”  This too should be our foremost ambition, the sincerity of our desire being measured by the time we are willing to spend in studying His Word, for it is there that His will and way are revealed.


“... this nation is thy people.”  With these words Moses confessed that the people weren’t his, but God’s. 


33:14.  “And he said, My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest.”


“... and I will give thee rest” is also rendered bring thee to thy resting place: will lighten your burden: put you at ease: settle you safe: give you success: lead you.


Moses’ earnest intercession on behalf of the people had succeeded, reminding us of what is written concerning prayer, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much,” James 5:16; and the value of persistent prayer is declared in the Lord’s words relative to the importunate host in Luke 11:8, “Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many (loaves) as he needs.”


Moses had secured the assurance of God’s presence with the people all the way to Canaan.  Without our even asking, we have the pledge of His presence with us all the way to heaven, as declared in Matthew 28:20, “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world (age),” and again “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee,” Hebrews 13:5, He, through the Holy Spirit, indwelling us; the further assurance of His peace being given in Philippians 4:7 “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”   How different is the lot of the unbeliever, of whom it is written, “There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked,” Isaiah 57:21.


33:15.  “And he said unto him, If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence.”


Moses was afraid to take another step without the assurance of God’s presence with him, his timidity rebuking the temerity with which we all too often formulate plans without first seeking His approval and blessing.  “God willing,” or “if the Lord will” are words that have all but disappeared from our vocabulary.


33:16.  “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.”


His burning desire was that he and the people might render such obedience as would secure God’s blessing, and thus make manifest to the nations the fact that they were indeed God’s people.  Sadly, there is little evidence that that is the consuming passion of believers today, our conformity to the ways of the world being so complete as to obscure our heavenly origin and character.  The tragedy is that all too many professing Christians equate blessing with multiplication of earthly riches, the worst possible criterion by which to measure God’s favor.


33:17.  “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.”


This confirms what has been discussed already, “The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much,” James 5:16; and as has also been noted, grace confers undeserved blessing, whereas mercy withholds deserved punishment.  See comments on verse 12 relative to God’s knowing Moses by name.


33:18.  “And he said, I beseech thee, show me thy glory.”


In the present context glory means honor: majesty: presence: person.  It seems that Moses wanted something more than he already possessed by faith, i.e., belief in God’s existence: he wanted some sensory evidence that would confirm his faith.  He was like Thomas who said, “Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe,” John 20:25; but the Lord’s words to that doubting disciple were, “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed,” John 20:29.


The privilege of beholding the Lord’s glory is reserved for that moment when we will enter heaven.  Until then “... we walk by faith, not by sight,” 2 Corinthians 5:7.


33:19.  “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.”


“... goodness” is also translated glory: splendor: light of my being: excellency: beauty; and “proclaim the name of the Lord” is also rendered I will pronounce, in thy presence, my own divine name: I will announce to you the meaning of My name Jehovah, the Lord: manifest to you what the Eternal is.


“... will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy” is not to be understood as saying that God ever acts capriciously or indiscriminately: He doesn’t.  In one sense He is gracious and merciful to all men in attempting to lead them to put their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior, but in the present context He extends these blessings only to those who exercise that faith and trust.


33:20.  “And he said Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.”


See comments on verse 11 relative to God’s speaking with Moses face to face.


33:21.  “And the Lord said, Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock: “


33:22.  “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:”


The veil here between the literal and the typological language is so gossamery as to be virtually nonexistent.  The rock is a type of Christ, see Matthew 16:18, “... upon this rock I will build my church,” and 1 Corinthians 10:4, “... that rock was Christ,” the “cleaving” of the Rock being His vicarious death. 


This is typologically the experience of every believer here on earth: we who are “in” Christ now see “as through a glass darkly,” 1 Corinthians 13:13, “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord,” 2 Corinthians 3:18.  His hand today covers us, for the effulgence of the Divine glory would destroy these bodies of clay.                      


33:23.  “And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts; but my face shall not be seen.”


Earth is not the place for men to look on the unveiled face of God.  Here we see as it were His “back parts,” i.e., the revelation of Him given in Scripture; but surely there isn’t a genuine believer who doesn’t look forward with glad and eager anticipation to that moment when we shall see Him face to face, all the events now occurring in the world pointing to the imminence of that glorious manifestation.

[Exodus 34]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough