Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
Hew thee - The former tables are called "the work of God;" compare Exo 32:16.
The words - See Exo 34:28.
This was the second revelation of the name of the God of Israel to Moses. The first revelation was of Yahweh as the self-existent One, who purposed to deliver His people with a mighty hand Exo 3:14; this was of the same Yahweh as a loving Saviour who was now forgiving their sins. The two ideas that mark these revelations are found combined, apart from their historical development, in the second commandment, where the divine unity is shown on its practical side, in its relation to human obligations (compare Exo 34:14; Exo 20:4). Both in the commandment and in this passage, the divine love is associated with the divine justice; but in the former there is a transposition to serve the proper purpose of the commandments, and the justice stands before the love. This is strictly the legal arrangement, brought out in the completed system of the ceremonial law, in which the sin-offering, in acknowledgment of the sentence of justice against sin, was offered before the burnt-offering and the peace-offering. But in this place the truth appears in its essential order; the retributive justice of Yahweh is subordinated to, rather it is made a part of, His forgiving Love (see Exo 32:14 note). The visitation of God, whatever form it may wear, is in all ages the working out purposes of Love toward His children. The diverse aspects of the divine nature, to separate which is the tendency of the unregenerate mind of man and of all paganism, are united in perfect harmony in the Lord Yahweh, of whom the saying is true in all its length and breadth, "God is love" Jo1 4:8. It was the sense of this, in the degree to which it was now revealed to him, that caused Moses to bow his head and worship Exo 34:8. But the perfect revelation of the harmony was reserved for the fulness of time when "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" Rev 13:8 was made known to us in the flesh as both our Saviour and our Judge.
This yearning struggle after assurance is like the often-repeated utterance of the heart, when it receives a blessing beyond its hopes, "can this be real?"
Marvels - Explained in the following verse. Compare Sa2 7:23; Psa 77:14.
The precepts contained in these verses are, for the most part, identical in substance with some of those which follow the Ten Commandments and are recorded in "the Book of the covenant" (Exo. 20-23; see Exo 24:7).
Cut down their groves - This is the first reference to what is commonly known as grove-worship. The original word for "grove" in this connection אשׁרה 'ăshêrāh is different from that so rendered in Gen 21:33. Our translators supposed that what the law commands is the destruction of groves dedicated to the worship of false deities Jdg 6:25; Kg2 18:4; but inasmuch as the worship of asherah is found associated with that of Astarte, or Ashtoreth Jdg 2:13; Jdg 10:6; Sa1 7:4, it seems probable that while Astarte was the personal name of the goddess, the asherah was a symbol of her, probably in some one of her characters, made in wood in some conventional form.
An expansion of Exo 34:12. The unfaithfulness of the nation to its covenant with Yahweh is here for the first time spoken of as a breach of the marriage bond. The metaphor is, in any case, a natural one, but it seems to gain point, if we suppose it to convey an allusion to the abominations connected with pagan worship, such as are spoken of in Num 25:1-3.
See Exo 20:9; Exo 23:12. There is here added to the commandment a particular caution respecting those times of year when the land calls for most labor. The old verb "to ear" (i. e. to plow) is genuine English.
Neither shall any man desire etc. - Intended to encourage such as might fear the consequences of obeying the divine law in attending to their religious duties. Compare Pro 16:7.
He wrote - i. e. Yahweh wrote Exo 34:1.
The two tables of testimony - Compare Exo 31:18.
The skin of his face shone - Compare Mat 17:2. The brightness of the Eternal Glory, though Moses had witnessed it only in a modified manner Exo 33:22-23, was so reflected in his face, that Aaron and the people were stricken with awe, and feared to approach him until he gave them words of encouragement.
The word translated "shine" is closely connected with a word translated "horn"; and hence, the Latin version and others have rendered the verb "to be horned." From this rendering of the word has arisen the popular representation of Moses with horns on his forehead; e. g. in Michaelangelo's statue at Rome.
Paul refers to this passage as showing forth the glory of the law, though it was but a "ministration of condemnation," and was to be done away, in order to enhance the glory of the gospel, "the ministration of the spirit," which is concealed by no veil from the eyes of believers, and is to last forever Co2 3:7-15.
When rather than until should be supplied. Moses did not wear the veil when he was speaking to the people, but when he was silent. See Exo 34:35.
Moses went in - i. e. to the tent of meeting.