Exodus 33:1-6 The Lord instructs Moses to finally depart from Mt Sinai with the children of Israel to the land God promised to Abraham. God will send an Angel to lead them to drive out the current inhabitants of the land. The Lord Himself will not go with them for He would consume them on the way because of their rebellious nature. When Moses told the people the Lord would not go with them because they were a stiffnecked people and would destroy them along the way, they were saddened. The people were commanded to strip themselves of their ornaments.
Notes: Removal of their jewelry depicted outwardly the people’s sorrow of heart. It was a response analogous to donning sackcloth and ashes.
Exodus 33:7-11 When the people used to seek the Lord’s direction, they would come to Moses in the tent of meeting pitched outside the camp. When Moses entered his tent, everyone would stand by the door of their own tent and watch Moses enter his tent to see the pillar of cloud hovering over Moses’ tent entrance in order to worship the Lord. In Moses’ tent is where the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face.
Notes: This section steps off the main storyline and introduces tension in the narrative related to how the covenant breach and the Lord’s response will affect the existence of the sanctuary that has been described.
Exodus 33:12-17 Moses then sought further instructions from the Lord about their journey to the Promised Land. Moses did not want to depart unless he knew for sure the Lord would go with them. He once again intercedes for the people and asks the Lord to change His mind about not coming with them. The Lord listens to Moses and assures him that His presence would go with him.
Exodus 33:18-23 Moses wanted to see God’s glory. The Lord said He would show Moses all His goodness by passing before him and proclaiming his name, “The LORD.” The Lord, though gracious and merciful to Moses still would not let him see His face, for no man could see the Lord’s face and live. The Lord instructs Moses that He will place him on a rock (Jesus), and while His glory passed by, put Moses into a cleft of the rock, cover him with His hand, and when He removes His hand, Moses will be able to glimpse the Lord’s back.
Notes: Whatever he saw of God’s nature transformed into blazing light is referred to as “God’s back” and was never subsequently described by Moses