Thoughts on Today’s Text
Moses’ shining face embodies God’s steadfast love and faithfulness to Israel, despite the Israelites’ confused and rebellious worship of the image of a calf they proclaim as “the gods who brought you up out of the land of Egypt” (Exodus 32:5). A traditional declaration earlier in Exodus 34 emphasizes that covenant renewal is in keeping with God’s essential character:
“The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, yet by no means clearing the guilty, but visiting the iniquity of the parents upon the children and the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation” (Exodus 34:6-7).1
The light of divine presence transforms Moses’ appearance on an ongoing basis, whenever he emerges from the tent of meeting after speaking with God “face to face, as one speaks to a friend” (Exodus 33:7-11; cf., Numbers 12:8; Deuteronomy 34:10). Moses’ dazzling face confirms that his plea for God’s presence among the Israelites as they leave Sinai (Exodus 34:9) has been answered, even before the tabernacle is built and filled with glory (Exodus 40:34-38).