Ex 32:1-34:35

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Home > The Old Testament > Exodus > Chapters 32-34
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This section is for detailed discussion such as the meaning of a symbol, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout a passage, or insights that can be further developed in the future. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

  • Ex 32:1-8: Israelites reject the king and law of Zion. Zion can be thought of as requiring four components: (1) a king; (2) a people; (3) a place; and (4) a law. (See the discussion of the components of Zion at Deuteronomy). Here at Mount Sinai, the 1st Generation that Moses led out of Egypt rejects both the king and the law of Zion when they make a golden calf to worship, instead of God, and in violation of the very first of the Ten Commandments that have just been received. (Ex 32:1-8). Later in Numbers, still less than two years out of Egypt, the 1st Generation will also reject the place of Zion (Num 14:1-4, 10), prompting the Lord's rejection of the 1st Generation as his people. (Num 14:12-35 (discussion)).
  • Ex 33:11. This verse tells us that Moses and Lord spoke face to face the way someone speaks to their friend. Verses 20-23 suggest that Moses was not yet ready to see God's face. How can we explain the apparent contradiction in these passages of scripture in the same chapter? One possible explanation is that though Moses spoke face to face with the Lord he didn't actually see his face in doing so. This would be possible if their faces were separated by the vail of the temple (see Exodus 26:31-33).
Another possibility is that the verses were written by different authors with differing viewpoints on the ability of prophets to actually see God.
While this verse provides obvious theological support for the LDS doctrines surrounding the nature of God (i.e., God as a tangible, exalted man), it also provides insights into the nature of a prophet. Moses enjoys dialogue with God similar to dialogue between friends. This seems similar to the relationship Joseph Smith had with the Lord. In fact, in several revelations the Lord refers to Joseph (and others) as his friends (see, e.g., D&C 84:77, 93:45, 94:1). But such special relationships with the Lord (extending to being physically in his presence) appear rare. It highlights the importance of the position of a prophet. While spiritual gifts are available to all, prophets apparently have special access.
  • Ex 33:20. This verse tells us that no man can see the face of the Lord and live. Other scriptures (e.g. [[Moses 1:11], Ether 3:13) teach us that some people have seen the face of God. (Is verse 11 of this same chapter one of those?) D&C 84:21-23 explains that it is through the ordinances and authority of the priesthood that we can see the face of God. Further these verses explain that Moses worked so that his people could share in this blessing, i.e. so they also could see the face of God.
  • Ex 34:12: A covenant with the inhabitants of the land. See Judg 2:2 when Israel made a league with the Canaanites.

Unanswered questions[edit]

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Prompts for further study[edit]

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  • Ex 33:21-23: Though we know from other scriptures that people can see God D&C 84:21-23 these verses suggest that Moses was not yet prepared to see God's face. Thus we know through the ordinances of the priesthood that people can see God. In light of this, how do we make sense of these verses?
  • Ex 34:7: What does it mean for the Lord to "visit the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon he children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation?"


This section is for listing links and print resources, including those that are also cited elsewhere on this page. A short comment about the particular strengths of a resource can be helpful. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

  • Ex 34:27-28. See this comment and many other comments in this longish thread regarding how these two verses might be read from a literary vs. Documentary Hypothesis perspective.


Footnotes are not required but are encouraged for factual assertions that average readers cannot easily evaluate for themselves (such as the date of King Solomon’s death or the nuanced definition of a Greek word). In contrast, insights rarely benefit from footnoting, and the focus of this page should always remain on the scriptures themselves rather than what someone has said about them. Links are actively encouraged on all sections of this page, and links to authoritative sources (such as Strong's Bible Concordance or the Joseph Smith Papers) are preferable to footnotes.

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