The Renewed Covenant

Exodus 34:1-35

God tells Moses to carve two more tablets of stone like the ones he broke and return to the summit of Mount Sinai. Once there, God reveals to him His thirteen attributes of mercy. Appealing to that mercy, Moses again asks God to promise that He will remain amidst the people. God says He is making a covenant with the people that He will do wonders on their behalf, and drive out their enemies from the Promised Land, on condition that the people wipe out the idolatry from the land. He warns them, too, not to make any treaties with them or intermingle with them, lest they serve as a snare to tempt the Children of Israel away from God.


God then reiterates the command to observe the Pilgrimage holidays, starting with Passover; the Sabbath; and the consecration of the firstborn animals. He commands the nation not to bring sacrifices with leavened bread nor to leave any of the Passover sacrifice until morning. He prohibits cooking a kid in its mother’s milk.


For forty days and nights, Moses remains at the top of the mountain, neither eating nor drinking. When he descends with the new tablets, his face is aglow with the holiness of the experience. The people are blinded by it, and Moses must veil his face at all times unless in the presence of God.


It should be noted, as the Israel Bible points out, the Hebrew phrase which describes Moses’s radiant face is karan-ohr. The same word for ray of light (keren) also means “horn” in Hebrew. It is this dual meaning which led to Michelangelo’s famous, but mistaken, depiction of Moses with horns.


Virtual Classroom Discussion

Why do you think Moses’s face glowed only after he descends with the second set of tablets?

Comments ( 11 )

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  • Herman Arentsen

    G-d is Light and in Him is no darkness. As a consequence of Moshe’s meeting with the Holy One Moshe’s face reflected the Glory of HaShem. (which was repeated at later times when meeting in the Tent of the Meeting) It also points to the future Glory which all of his sons and daughters will have: living close to Torah and doing what it says.

  • Kenneth Osterman

    The giving of the second set was not a surprise to God. In his foreknowledge, he knew that Moses would break the first set when he become angry at the people’s sins. The giving of the second set provided a special revelation of God. This revelation begins in chapter 33:11 “And the LORD spoke unto Moses face to face” in the Tabernacle. There ensues a special conversation between the Lord and Moses. V18 And he said: ‘Show me, I pray Thee, Thy glory.’
    This revelation of glory subsequently happened in the mountain.
    v20 And He said: ‘Thou canst not see My face, for man shall not see Me and live.’
    v23 And I will take away My hand, and thou shalt see My back; but My face shall not be seen.
    When Moses came down from the mountain, his face reflected a portion of the glory of the Lord. As Man can not see God and live, the people could not even look upon Moses face for it reflected a glory that they feared.
    34:30 And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face sent forth beams; and they were afraid to come nigh him.
    This shows the special relationship of the Lord and Moses, but more importantly, it gives us insight into the glory of the Lord and how man can not comprehend it. Yet if one seeks and can approach unto the Lord, his glory and goodness will not only be reflected in some degree in the one, but surprisingly, it will not be pleasing to those who see it for it is enlightening the darkness that is within man and man prefers darkness rather than light.

  • Kenneth Osterman

    Unrelated Question: what is the significance of the large RESH in verse 34:14
    (Masoretic text )?
    On occasion I see letters that are enlarged? Another example Genesis 1:1.

    • Great question! Here’s a link that can help explain the phenomenon a bit.
      Also, an interesting idea to share related to Purim and the scroll of Esther, which was read this past week. In 9:7 there are three small letters-תשז, a taf, shin and a zayin. This verse is the list of Haman’s ten sons who were hanged at the end of the story. The three letters together make up the Hebrew year of 5707, which corresponds to the year 1946 CE. In that year, 23 Nazis were taken to trail in Nuremberg, of which 11 Nazi criminals were sentenced to hanging (and not death by firing squad or electric chair which was usually the case in such situations). However, just before the hanging, one committed suicide, leaving only 10 Nazis (modern-day sons of Haman) to be hanged.

      • Kenneth Osterman

        Thank you for the link and the reference to Esther!!!

    • Brian Malinowski

      The enlarged resh in acher (Ex:34:14) 'for you will worship no other god' is the exact counterpart to the large dalet in the Shema (see below) to ensure that it is read as acher and not accidentally as echad which would, heaven forbid, give the meaning to the sentence of 'and you will not worship the one God'.

    • Brian Malinowski

      See explanation below.

  • Diana Brown

    In His Mercy the Lord still cuts covenant with people that He already knows will break the covenants as soon as their fleshly hearts turn to stone. That is why Shuvee/Turning to God always restarts your journey home to Zion. It is arrogance and error that results in Pride. Un-confessed pride bars our path.
    Torah study teaches us how to see the Enemies of God and our souls, learn to overcome and come Home as the prodigal son did. If we can’t sacrifice or obey because we are happy with God and our circumstances at the time, Moses shows us we can entreat Him because we don’t want God’s Enemies to win by defeating us.

  • Jesse

    The first time Moses received the tablets, he went down knowing that Israel was sinning and that judgment would come. The second time, Moses experienced the mercy of God that comes along with the law. Even when we mess up, God will forgive us if we make true teshuvah. How could that personal connection with God not make you shine?

    • David Spafford

      Well said

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