The Kuyperian Commentary

Politics, Economics, Culture, and Theology with a Biblical Viewpoint

Jesus Gave the Ten Commandments To Moses

by Mark Horne

Yesterday I wrote “it was Jesus who met Moses on Mount Sinai.”

Since I’ve been asked about that, I thought I should elaborate a bit.

First of all, I didn’t originate the idea. I learned it from the Christmas carol:

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice, rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, Thou Lord of Might,
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai’s height,
In ancient times didst give the law,
In cloud, and majesty, and awe.

Rejoice, rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

So, is the hymn right or should we revise it?

Here’s the story of Moses receiving the tablets of the law, specifically the second set because he broke the first stone tablets in pieces. I’ve highlighted some things I think will help us:

Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” And the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”

The Lord said to Moses, “Cut for yourself two tablets of stone like the first, and I will write on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke. Be ready by the morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai, and present yourself there to me on the top of the mountain. No one shall come up with you, and let no one be seen throughout all the mountain. Let no flocks or herds graze opposite that mountain.” So Moses cut two tablets of stone like the first. And he rose early in the morning and went up on Mount Sinai, as the Lord had commanded him, and took in his hand two tablets of stone. The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” (Exodus 33:18-34:7, ESV)

A couple of claims about the Hebrew original here:

First, the latter phrase “abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” could easily and accurately be translated as “full of grace and truth.”

Second, the Hebrew has a causal case for verbs. This means that words like “show” or “display” in English aren’t necessary in Hebrew. A Hebrew speaker can use the causal of the root for “to see.” Thus we could translate Moses’ request, “Please show me your glory,” more literally as “Please cause me to see your glory.”

With that in mind, John 1, the famous chapter on the incarnation, includes an obvious reference to this event on Sinai:

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

One other possible relevant point: The word for “dwelt” in “dwelt among us” has Septuagint (Greek translation of OT in Jesus’ day) associations. It can mean “encamped” and would remind John’s first audience of the Tabernacle. Just look up “The Word became flesh and tabernacled among us” for more argument.

All of this puts Jesus on Mount Sinai, passing before Moses, revealing a hint of his glory to Moses, before moving, in a cloud, into the Tabernacle.

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