New English Translation
19 And the Lord[a] said, “I will make all my goodness[b] pass before your face, and I will proclaim the Lord by name[c] before you; I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious; I will show mercy to whom I will show mercy.”[d] 20 But he added, “You cannot see my face, for no one can[e] see me and live.”[f] 21 The Lord said, “Here[g] is a place by me; you will station yourself[h] on a rock. 22 When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and will cover[i] you with my hand[j] while I pass by.[k] 23 Then I will take away my hand, and you will see my back,[l] but my face must not be seen.”[m]Read full chapter
- Exodus 33:19 tn Heb “and he said”; the referent (the Lord) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
- Exodus 33:19 sn The word “goodness” refers to the divine appearance in summary fashion.
- Exodus 33:19 tn The expression “make proclamation in the name of Yahweh” (here a perfect tense with vav [ו] consecutive for future) means to declare, reveal, or otherwise make proclamation of who Yahweh is. The “name of Yahweh” (rendered “the name of the Lord” throughout) refers to his divine attributes revealed to his people, either in word or deed. What will be focused on first will be his grace and compassion.
- Exodus 33:19 sn God declares his mercy and grace in similar terms to his earlier self-revelation (“I am that I am”): “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious.” In other words, the grace and mercy of God are bound up in his own will. Obviously, in this passage the recipients of that favor are the penitent Israelites who were forgiven through Moses’ intercession. The two words are at the heart of God’s dealings with people. The first is חָנַן (khanan, “to be gracious, show favor”). It means to grant favor or grace to someone, grace meaning unmerited favor. All of God’s dealings are gracious, but especially in forgiving sins and granting salvation it is critical. Parallel to this is רָחַם (rakham), a word that means “show compassion, tender mercy.” It is a word that is related to the noun “womb,” the connection being in providing care and protection for that which is helpless and dependent—a motherly quality. In both of these constructions the verbs simply express what God will do, without explaining why. See further, J. R. Lundbom, “God’s Use of the Idem per idem to Terminate Debate,” HTR 71 (1978): 193-201; and J. Piper, “Prolegomena to Understanding Romans 9:14-15: An Interpretation of Exodus 33:19, ” JETS 22 (1979): 203-16.
- Exodus 33:20 tn In view of the use of the verb “can, be able to” in the first clause, this imperfect tense is given a potential nuance.
- Exodus 33:20 tn Gesenius notes that sometimes a negative statement takes the place of a conditional clause; here it is equal to “if a man sees me he does not live” (GKC 498 §159.gg). The other passages that teach this are Gen 32:30; Deut 4:33; 5:24, 26; Judg 6:22; 13:22, and Isa 6:5.
- Exodus 33:21 tn The deictic particle is used here simply to call attention to a place of God’s knowing and choosing.
- Exodus 33:21 tn Heb “and you will,” or interpretively, “where you will.”
- Exodus 33:22 sn Note the use in Exod 40:3, “and you will screen the ark with the curtain.” The glory is covered, veiled from being seen.
- Exodus 33:22 tn The circumstantial clause is simply, “my hand [being] over you.” This protecting hand of Yahweh represents a fairly common theme in the Bible.
- Exodus 33:22 tn The construction has a preposition with an infinitive construct and a suffix: “while [or until] I pass by” (Heb “in the passing by of me”).
- Exodus 33:23 tn The plural “my backs” is according to Gesenius an extension plural (compare “face,” a dual in Hebrew). The word denotes a locality in general, but that is composed of numerous parts (see GKC 397 §124.b). W. C. Kaiser says that since God is a spirit, the meaning of this word could just as easily be rendered “after effects” of his presence (“Exodus,” EBC 2:484). As S. R. Driver says, though, while this may indicate just the “afterglow” that he leaves behind him, it was enough to suggest what the full brilliancy of his presence must be (Exodus, 363; see also Job 26:14).
- Exodus 33:23 tn The Niphal imperfect could simply be rendered “will not be seen,” but given the emphasis of the preceding verses, it is more binding than that, and so a negated obligatory imperfect fits better: “it must not be seen.” It would also be possible to render it with a potential imperfect tense: “it cannot be seen.”