Exodus Chapter 34

Moses and the children of Israel were encamped at the base of Mount Sinai. Moses had received the law of God while speaking with the Lord in the mount. Meanwhile, the Israelites had taken to idolatry since they did not know if and when Moses would return to lead them. When he was commanded to go down to them, he found them and broke the first tablets of stone which the Lord had written His law upon. Moses purged the Israelites of the rebellious, and raised the tabernacle outside of the camp. There, Moses spoke again with the Lord and the people witnessed it. Moses was commanded to lead the people, and so he asked the Lord to show him the way. The book of Exodus continues:

1 And the Lord said unto Moses, Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first: and I will write upon these tables the words that were in the first tables, which thou brakest.
2 And be ready in the morning, and come up in the morning unto mount Sinai, and present thyself there to me in the top of the mount.
3 And no man shall come up with thee, neither let any man be seen throughout all the mount; neither let the flocks nor herds feed before that mount.

The Joseph Smith Translation of verses 1 and 2 read as follows:

1 And the Lord said unto Moses, Hew thee two other tables of stone, like unto the first, and I will write upon them also, the words of the law, according as they were written at the first on the tables which thou brakest; but it shall not be according to the first, for I will take away the priesthood out of their midst; therefore my holy order, and the ordinances thereof, shall not go before them; for my presence shall not go up in their midst, lest I destroy them.
2 But I will give unto them the law as at the first, but it shall be after the law of a carnal commandment; for I have sworn in my wrath, that they shall not enter into my presence, into my rest, in the days of their pilgrimage. Therefore do as I have commanded thee, and be ready in the morning, and come up in the morning unto mount Sinai, and present thyself there to me, in the top of the mount.

Moses was commanded to make two new tablets for the law of God to be written upon. From the Joseph Smith Translation, we learn that the Lord told Moses he would not allow his priesthood to stay with them. I believe that we read eventually, that the Melchizedek priesthood did not remain with the Israelites once Moses was no longer with them. The Lord also told Moses that the law given to the Israelites, would be one of carnal commandment. He could not remain in their presence because of their iniquities, so they would not be able to perform higher ordinances with the Lord. Moses was also told to return alone into the mount.

4 And he hewed two tables of stone like unto the first; and Moses rose up early in the morning, and went up unto mount Sinai, as the Lord had commanded him, and took in his hand the two tables of stone.
5 And the Lord descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord.
6 And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth,
7 Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.
8 And Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshipped.
9 And he said, If now I have found grace in thy sight, O Lord, let my Lord, I pray thee, go among us; for it is a stiffnecked people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for thine inheritance.

Moses did as he was commanded and the Lord was there with him. I’m not sure what the significance is of the Lord proclaiming the name of the Lord, but is sounds like it was of great significance. It mentions some of the great and godly attributes of the Lord. The Lord is merciful, gracious, long-suffering, full of goodness, perfect in truth, forgiving, and just. It is so good that we are told here, that the Lord is forgiving, but will not clear the “guilty”. The Joseph Smith Translation, says that the word is not guilty, but rebellious. I think this makes more sense according to the gospel as I understand it. We can all be guilty of those things we do wrong, but the Lord will only clear those who know that what they do is wrong. We can be guilty and yet not understand that we are doing wrong. Those who unknowingly do wrong, will be shown mercy for their lack of knowledge. It is those who openly rebel against the truth they know, who will not be cleared from that iniquity.

Moses quickly bowed and worshipped the Lord. He asked the Lord to be forgiving of the sin of the Israelites and to be with them. Moses asked the Lord to make these people an inheritance of the Lord. I wonder if I would live my life differently if I thought of myself as belonging to the Lord, more often. Those who covenant with Him and live faithful, are His inheritance. He desires to have us return to Him, all of us. I hope to be sanctified and purified through His atonement, so that I can be a part of His inheritance.

10 And he said, Behold, I make a covenant: before all thy people I will do marvels, such as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation: and all the people among which thou art shall see the work of the Lord: for it is a terrible thing that I will do with thee.
11 Observe thou that which I command thee this day: behold, I drive out before thee the Amorite, and the Canaanite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, and the Hivite, and the Jebusite.
12 Take heed to thyself, lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither thou goest, lest it be for a snare in the midst of thee:
13 But ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves:
14 For thou shalt worship no other god: for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God:
15 Lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they go a whoring after their gods, and do sacrifice unto their gods, and one call thee, and thou eat of his sacrifice;
16 And thou take of their daughters unto thy sons, and their daughters go a whoring after their gods, and make thy sons go a whoring after their gods.
17 Thou shalt make thee no molten gods.

The Lord promises to do many marvels or miracles, among the Israelites. These miracles included the driving out of other nations from the land of their inheritance, the they would obey the commandments. He commanded Moses that they were not to make any covenants with others who lived in the land, so they would not become trapped by those nations. Instead, they were to destroy those things of idolatry that others had placed in the land. The land had been sanctified by the Lord for His people. Moses was reminded of the commandment not to worship idols and false gods as the Israelites had recently done. In verse 14, it says the Lord’s name is Jealous, but the Joseph Smith Translation of this says Jehovah. He is a jealous God. Not in the sense that we think of jealous today, but rather, He is a sensitive God and putting false gods above Him, is offensive. To covenant with other nations, was to separate themselves from the Lord. In no doubt, it would lead them away from their covenants with God and they would loose truth and light.

18 The feast of unleavened bread shalt thou keep. Seven days thou shalt eat unleavened bread, as I commanded thee, in the time of the month Abib: for in the month Abib thou camest out from Egypt.
19 All that openeth the matrix is mine; and every firstling among thy cattle, whether ox or sheep, that is male.
20 But the firstling of an ass thou shalt redeem with a lamb: and if thou redeem him not, then shalt thou break his neck. All the firstborn of thy sons thou shalt redeem. And none shall appear before me empty.

Moses is reminded again, of the law to participate in the feast of unleavened bread and to make holy sacrifices and offerings to the Lord. Also, the firstling and firstborn were to be sanctified and consecrated to the Lord.

21 Six days thou shalt work, but on the seventh day thou shalt rest: in earing time and in harvest thou shalt rest.

Again, they are told to work for six days and take a day of rest on the seventh day, the sabbath day. They were told to rest, even in harvest. I am sure that the idea of letting a day go by, when the fields are ready to harvest, would be difficult for a farmer, but the Lord would bless those who kept this commandment at all times of the year.

22 And thou shalt observe the feast of weeks, of the firstfruits of wheat harvest, and the feast of ingathering at the year’s end.

They were commanded to have the feast of weeks, when the harvest was to be gathered and to feast at the end of harvest.

23 Thrice in the year shall all your men children appear before the Lord God, the God of Israel.
24 For I will cast out the nations before thee, and enlarge thy borders: neither shall any man desire thy land, when thou shalt go up to appear before the Lord thy God thrice in the year.
25 Thou shalt not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leaven; neither shall the sacrifice of the feast of the passover be left unto the morning.
26 The first of the firstfruits of thy land thou shalt bring unto the house of the Lord thy God. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother’s milk.
27 And the Lord said unto Moses, Write thou these words: for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel.
28 And he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.

Once again, they are commanded to have the men dedicated themselves to the Lord, three times in the year. For the Lord’s side of this covenant, he would removed all other nations from before the Israelites. The Lord blesses those who keep His commandments. We can be blessed with peace from our enemies, if we follow the commandments as well. In Proverbs 16:7 we read, “When a man’s ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.” I think the key to this, is that we will be blessed with a perspective, that all will be right when we do what is right and leave those things that are out of our control, up to God. Moses is told again of how to participate in the passover feast. And all these things were to be written as a record of the covenant of the Israelites with the Lord. We are told here, that Moses was there with the Lord in fasting, for forty days and forty nights. I have heard recently, that when this phrase was said (forty days or forty days and forty nights), it meant a long while, not specifically forty days. I think that this makes sense and that Moses was gone to receive instruction for many days and nights, it doesn’t matter if it was actually for forty days and nights. The new tablets contained the law of Moses and the ten commandments.

29 And it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses’ hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him.
30 And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come nigh him.
31 And Moses called unto them; and Aaron and all the rulers of the congregation returned unto him: and Moses talked with them.
32 And afterward all the children of Israel came nigh: and he gave them in commandment all that the Lord had spoken with him in mount Sinai.
33 And till Moses had done speaking with them, he put a veil on his face.
34 But when Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him, he took the veil off, until he came out. And he came out, and spake unto the children of Israel that which he was commanded.
35 And the children of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone: and Moses put the veil upon his face again, until he went in to speak with him.

Moses returned to the people with the two new tablets of the Lord’s law and covenant. Moses’ face was shining, but he did not know that it was. We read and hear of this happening as part of being transfigured before the Lord. It seems like, those who are transfigured, take upon themselves a certain portion of the glory of the Lord, so that they can live through the experience. Because of this radiance, the people were afraid to get near Moses. Moses called the leaders to him and after he spoke to them, all the Israelites came closer. Moses told them the commandments of the Lord and while he delivered this message from the Lord, he veiled his face since his face was shining. When he spoke with the Lord, Moses unveiled his face.

This chapter teaches me just how important it was for the children of Israel to have the law of Moses and the commandments. There were not committed to memory, for Moses to teach and pass down in hopes that the generations would know them. They were recorded in stone. They were written by the hand of the Lord, to be kept sacred by the priests. On these second plates, the Lord removed those things that were sacred regarding the priesthood and certain covenants they had been given. Instead they were left with the carnal commandments or what we sometimes call, the lesser law. They would only have the strict laws regarding their mortal desires and appetites, which needed to be controlled or stopped. The Israelites needed these statutes, to keep them in line with what God wanted for them. They still had their agency, which I believe would lead them to a level of apostasy and eventually the sacrifice of the Savior. The Savior brought with him a higher law, which we have today. We have been given commandments and direction to follow, so that we can safely return to our Father in Heaven as well. We hear them often, because they are so sacred and important to the salvation of mankind. I am glad that we have the commandments to follow today. I know that if we follow them to the best of our ability and understanding, repenting when necessary, we will be blessed to find ourselves with all the blessings that God has promised to the faithful.

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I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I love the scriptures, but I am not a scriptorian. I've been told that I'm too "deep" for some, but if you are willing, I'd love to have others join me in my quest for a greater understanding of the gospel. Please feel free to leave me comments and hopefully we can help each other to learn.
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