33:1 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Leave this place, you and the people you brought up out of Egypt, and go up to the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’
33:2 I will send an angel before you and drive out the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites.
33:3 Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way.”
33:4 When the people heard these distressing words, they began to mourn and no one put on any ornaments.
33:5 For the LORD had said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites, ‘You are a stiff-necked people. If I were to go with you even for a moment, I might destroy you. Now take off your ornaments and I will decide what to do with you.’ “
33:6 So the Israelites stripped off their ornaments at Mount Horeb.
33:7 Now Moses used to take a tent and pitch it outside the camp some distance away [the tent of meeting was set apart from the rest of the camp; location of tent underscores the holiness of God; unlike the tent of meeting, the tabernacle stood at the center of the camp (cf. Num. 2)], calling it the “tent of meeting [predated the tabernacle; God met with Moses there in the form of a “pillar of cloud” (33:9); cf. Num. 11:16,24 re: others invited to meet there].” Anyone inquiring of the LORD would go to the tent of meeting outside the camp.
Note: Three tents in the OT
1. The tent of meeting Ex. 33:7
2. The tabernacle Ex. 25–40
3. Tabernacle erected in Jerusalem for the reception of the ark 2 Sam. 6:17
33:8 And whenever Moses went out to the tent, [note reverent attitude of the people when Moses went to meet with God at the tent of meeting…] all the people rose and stood at the entrances to their tents, watching Moses until he entered the tent.
33:9 As Moses went into the tent [to seek the wisdom and strength of God for the task of leading the people], the pillar of cloud [visible evidence of God’s presence during Exodus and wilderness wanderings (cf. Ex. 14:24; 33:9-10; Num. 12:5; Deut. 31:15)] would come down and stay at the entrance [indicated God’s presence with Moses in the tent], while the LORD spoke with Moses.
33:10 Whenever the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance to the tent, they all stood and worshiped, each at the entrance to his tent.
33:11 The LORD would speak to Moses face to face [means directly, clearly, intimately (rather than through dreams and visions); cf. Num. 12:8; Deut. 34:10], as a man speaks with his friend [personal and intimate communication]. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent [Joshua protected and cared for the tent in Moses’ absence; became Moses’ successor at the tent (cf. Deut. 31:14-15)].
33:12 Moses said to the LORD , “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name [intimately] and you have found favor [grace: God’s unmerited favor] with me.’
33:13 If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways [cf. Ps. 103:7] so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people [cf. Ex. 3:7,10].”
33:14 The LORD replied, “My Presence [literally “face”] will go with you, and I will give you rest [quietness; absence of strife].”
33:15 Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence [a request that God himself and not a surrogate would accompany Israel to Canaan] does not go with us, do not send us up from here.
33:16 How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else [other than God’s presence] will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth [cf. Ex. 19:5; Deut. 4:32-34; 7:6]?”
33:17 And the LORD said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked [cf. Ex. 33:15], because I am pleased with you and I know you by name [to know intimately].”
33:18 Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory [God’s manifest presence; from Heb. Word that has root meaning of “heavy” (God is heavy with attributes and characteristics that set Him apart from all other beings)].”
33:19 And the LORD said, “I will cause all my goodness [appears to be a synonym for God’s presence or His glory] to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD [Yahweh; cf. Ex. 3:13-15], in your presence. I will have [God’s mercy is His to give] mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have [God’s compassion is His to give] compassion on whom [in this case Moses] I will have compassion [cf. Rom. 9:13-18].
33:20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face [God’s unveiled glory; cf. 1 Cor. 13:12], for no one may see me and live.”
33:21 Then the LORD said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock.
33:22 When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft [crevice] in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by [cf. Elijah’s experience in 1 Kings 19:11-13].
33:23 Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back [not to be taken in a physical sense; Heb. is best rendered “my afterwards”]; but my face must not be seen [God manifested Himself to Moses in terms he would understand].”