Exodus 33-36: the other Ten Commandments

God refuses to dwell in the midst of the Israelites.  The Tent of Meeting was set up outside the camp, and whenever Moses went in, God would descend in a pillar of cloud to speak with Moses face to face.  Moses negotiates with God, managing to gain more and more concessions from him.  First, he agrees to send an angel to lead the Israelites; then he agrees to help the Israelites personally; then he agrees to dwell among the Israelites personally.  God tells Moses to ascend the mountain with 2 stone tablets, to replace the ones Moses broke in anger.  The next day, God gives him ten commandments that are completely different from the first Ten Commandments.  The new commandments include: you shall smash the altars of the Canaanites; all firstborn male cows and sheep shall be sacrificed; you shall not offer sacrifices with leaven.  After Moses descended from the mountain, his face was radiant, so he veiled it to avoid frightening the Israelites.

Moses commands the Israelites to observe the Sabbath–whoever does work on the Sabbath will be executed.  He then solicits donations to construct the Tabernacle.

Commentary:

  • The new set of Ten Commandments is known as the Ritual Decalogue, because of its heavy emphasis on ritual.  The old set is known as the Ethical Decalogue.  The documentary hypothesis assigns these decalogues to different sources: the ritual to J, the ethical to E.
  • God and Moses talk face to face in 33:11, but in 33:23, God insists that “My face must not be seen.”  These two verses are probably from different sources.  The same is true for 34:1, where God says he will write the commandments on stone himself, and 34:28, where Moses writes the commandments.
  • Moses calls God “a God compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in kindness and faithfulness, extending kindness to the thousandth generation […] He does not remit all punishment, but visits the iniquity of parents upon children and children’s children, upon the third and fourth generations.”  Here, there is no requirement for future generations to also be righteous or evil–he punishes them for the actions of their ancestors.
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