The Pillar of Cloud speaks to Moses and comes to the door of its tent just like everyone else. Hold that thought, I think... We're aren't quite half way through this monumental foreign library. And it may hang together in ways that we cannot anticipate (unless of course we want to be told the score before the end of the game). But... who really knows the score ...
The prior chapter contains the incident of the golden calf, perhaps referred to as the זה of verse 1. The finery or trappings (for the horse of Psalm 32) seems out of the blue, occurring only here in Exodus. Do we build golden calves during the week and then put on our Sunday best? Intransigent scruff (trad. stiff necked) that we are.
|וַיְדַבֵּ֨ר יְהוָ֤ה אֶל־מֹשֶׁה֙ לֵ֣ךְ עֲלֵ֣ה מִזֶּ֔ה אַתָּ֣ה וְהָעָ֔ם אֲשֶׁ֥ר הֶֽעֱלִ֖יתָ מֵאֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרָ֑יִם |
אֶל־הָאָ֗רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֣ר נִ֠שְׁבַּעְתִּי לְאַבְרָהָ֨ם לְיִצְחָ֤ק וּֽלְיַעֲקֹב֙ לֵאמֹ֔ר לְזַרְעֲךָ֖ אֶתְּנֶֽנָּה
|1||And Yahweh spoke to Moses, Go and ascend from this, you and the people whom you have brought up from the land of Egypt, |
to the land that I swore to Abraham, to Yitschaq, and to Jacob, saying, To your seed I will give it.
|וְשָׁלַחְתִּ֥י לְפָנֶ֖יךָ מַלְאָ֑ךְ |
וְגֵֽרַשְׁתִּ֗י אֶת־הַֽכְּנַעֲנִי֙ הָֽאֱמֹרִ֔י וְהַֽחִתִּי֙ וְהַפְּרִזִּ֔י הַחִוִּ֖י וְהַיְבוּסִֽי
|2||And I will send before you, an angel, |
and I will expel the Canaanite, the Amorite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, the Hivites and the Jebusites.
|אֶל־אֶ֛רֶץ זָבַ֥ת חָלָ֖ב וּדְבָ֑שׁ |
כִּי֩ לֹ֨א אֶֽעֱלֶ֜ה בְּקִרְבְּךָ֗ כִּ֤י עַם־קְשֵׁה־עֹ֙רֶף֙ אַ֔תָּה פֶּן־אֲכֶלְךָ֖ בַּדָּֽרֶךְ
|3||To a land gushing with milk and honey. |
For I will not ascend among you, for a people of intransigent scruff, you are, lest I devour you in the way.
|וַיִּשְׁמַ֣ע הָעָ֗ם אֶת־הַדָּבָ֥ר הָרָ֛ע הַזֶּ֖ה וַיִּתְאַבָּ֑לוּ |
וְלֹא־שָׁ֛תוּ אִ֥ישׁ עֶדְי֖וֹ עָלָֽיו
|4||When the people of heard this evil matter, |
they lamented and no-one put their finery on them.
|וַיֹּ֨אמֶר יְהוָ֜ה אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֗ה אֱמֹ֤ר אֶל־בְּנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ אַתֶּ֣ם עַם־קְשֵׁה־עֹ֔רֶף רֶ֧גַע אֶחָ֛ד אֶֽעֱלֶ֥ה בְקִרְבְּךָ֖ וְכִלִּיתִ֑יךָ |
וְעַתָּ֗ה הוֹרֵ֤ד עֶדְיְךָ֙ מֵֽעָלֶ֔יךָ וְאֵדְעָ֖ה מָ֥ה אֶֽעֱשֶׂה־לָּֽךְ
|5||And Yahweh said to Moses, Say to the children of Israel, You are a people of intransigent scruff. In one moment I would ascend among you, but I might consume you, |
so now let your finery come down from you, and I will know what will I do for you.
|וַיִּֽתְנַצְּל֧וּ בְנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֛ל אֶת־עֶדְיָ֖ם מֵהַ֥ר חוֹרֵֽב||6||And the children of Israel removed their finery at mount Horeb.||3c||3g||16|
|וּמֹשֶׁה֩ יִקַּ֨ח אֶת־הָאֹ֜הֶל וְנָֽטָה־ל֣וֹ ׀ מִח֣וּץ לַֽמַּחֲנֶ֗ה הַרְחֵק֙ מִן־הַֽמַּחֲנֶ֔ה וְקָ֥רָא ל֖וֹ אֹ֣הֶל מוֹעֵ֑ד |
וְהָיָה֙ כָּל־מְבַקֵּ֣שׁ יְהוָ֔ה יֵצֵא֙ אֶל־אֹ֣הֶל מוֹעֵ֔ד אֲשֶׁ֖ר מִח֥וּץ לַֽמַּחֲנֶֽה
|7||And Moses took the tent and erected it outside the camp, far from the camp, and called it the tent of engagement, |
and it happened that anyone seeking Yahweh came out to the tent of engagement that was outside the camp.
|וְהָיָ֗ה כְּצֵ֤את מֹשֶׁה֙ אֶל־הָאֹ֔הֶל יָק֙וּמוּ֙ כָּל־הָעָ֔ם וְנִ֨צְּב֔וּ אִ֖ישׁ פֶּ֣תַח אָהֳל֑וֹ |
וְהִבִּ֙יטוּ֙ אַחֲרֵ֣י מֹשֶׁ֔ה עַד־בֹּא֖וֹ הָאֹֽהֱלָה
|8||And it happened that as Moses went out to the tent, all the people arose and each took a stand at the door of his tent, |
and took note after Moses until he came towards the tent.
|וְהָיָ֗ה כְּבֹ֤א מֹשֶׁה֙ הָאֹ֔הֱלָה יֵרֵד֙ עַמּ֣וּד הֶֽעָנָ֔ן וְעָמַ֖ד פֶּ֣תַח הָאֹ֑הֶל |
|9||And it happened that as Moses came towards the tent, the pillar of cloud descended and stood at the door of the tent, |
and spoke with Moses.
|וְרָאָ֤ה כָל־הָעָם֙ אֶת־עַמּ֣וּד הֶֽעָנָ֔ן עֹמֵ֖ד פֶּ֣תַח הָאֹ֑הֶל |
וְקָ֤ם כָּל־הָעָם֙ וְהִֽשְׁתַּחֲוּ֔וּ אִ֖ישׁ פֶּ֥תַח אָהֳלֽוֹ
|10||And all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the door of the tent, |
and all the people arose and worshiped, each at the door of its tent.
|וְדִבֶּ֨ר יְהוָ֤ה אֶל־מֹשֶׁה֙ פָּנִ֣ים אֶל־פָּנִ֔ים כַּאֲשֶׁ֛ר יְדַבֵּ֥ר אִ֖ישׁ אֶל־רֵעֵ֑הוּ |
וְשָׁב֙ אֶל־הַֽמַּחֲנֶ֔ה וּמְשָׁ֨רְת֜וֹ יְהוֹשֻׁ֤עַ בִּן־נוּן֙ נַ֔עַר לֹ֥א יָמִ֖ישׁ מִתּ֥וֹךְ הָאֹֽהֶל
|11||And Yahweh spoke to Moses face to face as each speaks to its friend, |
and he returned to the camp, and his minister Joshua, child of Nun, a youth, did not deviate from the midst of the tent.
|וַיֹּ֨אמֶר מֹשֶׁ֜ה אֶל־יְהוָ֗ה רְ֠אֵה אַתָּ֞ה אֹמֵ֤ר אֵלַי֙ הַ֚עַל אֶת־הָעָ֣ם הַזֶּ֔ה וְאַתָּה֙ לֹ֣א הֽוֹדַעְתַּ֔נִי אֵ֥ת אֲשֶׁר־תִּשְׁלַ֖ח עִמִּ֑י |
וְאַתָּ֤ה אָמַ֙רְתָּ֙ יְדַעְתִּ֣יךָֽ בְשֵׁ֔ם וְגַם־מָצָ֥אתָ חֵ֖ן בְּעֵינָֽי
|12||And Moses said to Yahweh, See, you said to me, Bring up this people, but you have not let me know whom you will send with me, |
and you, yourself, said, I know you by name, and moreover you have found grace in my eyes.
|וְעַתָּ֡ה אִם־נָא֩ מָצָ֨אתִי חֵ֜ן בְּעֵינֶ֗יךָ הוֹדִעֵ֤נִי נָא֙ אֶת־דְּרָכֶ֔ךָ וְאֵדָ֣עֲךָ֔ לְמַ֥עַן אֶמְצָא־חֵ֖ן בְּעֵינֶ֑יךָ |
וּרְאֵ֕ה כִּ֥י עַמְּךָ֖ הַגּ֥וֹי הַזֶּֽה
|13||So now, if, please, I have found grace in your eyes, let me know, please, your way, that I may know you, in order to find grace in your eyes, |
and show that with you, is this nation.
פָּנַ֥י יֵלֵ֖כוּ וַהֲנִחֹ֥תִי לָֽךְ
|14||And he said, |
My presence will go, and I will give rest for you.
|וַיֹּ֖אמֶר אֵלָ֑יו |
אִם־אֵ֤ין פָּנֶ֙יךָ֙ הֹלְכִ֔ים אַֽל־תַּעֲלֵ֖נוּ מִזֶּֽה
|15||And he said to him, |
If there is nothing of your presence for those going, do not bring us up from this.
|וּבַמֶּ֣ה ׀ יִוָּדַ֣ע אֵפ֗וֹא כִּֽי־מָצָ֨אתִי חֵ֤ן בְּעֵינֶ֙יךָ֙ אֲנִ֣י וְעַמֶּ֔ךָ הֲל֖וֹא בְּלֶכְתְּךָ֣ עִמָּ֑נוּ |
וְנִפְלֵ֙ינוּ֙ אֲנִ֣י וְעַמְּךָ֔ מִכָּ֨ל־הָעָ֔ם אֲשֶׁ֖ר עַל־פְּנֵ֥י הָאֲדָמָֽה
|16||And how will it be known here that I find grace in your eyes, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us? |
And we will fall out, I and your people, from all the people that are on the face of the ground.
|וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהוָה֙ אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֔ה גַּ֣ם אֶת־הַדָּבָ֥ר הַזֶּ֛ה אֲשֶׁ֥ר דִּבַּ֖רְתָּ אֶֽעֱשֶׂ֑ה |
כִּֽי־מָצָ֤אתָ חֵן֙ בְּעֵינַ֔י וָאֵדָעֲךָ֖ בְּשֵֽׁם
|17||And Yahweh said to Moses, Even this word that you spoke I will do, |
for you have found grace in my eyes, and I know you by name.
הַרְאֵ֥נִי נָ֖א אֶת־כְּבֹדֶֽךָ
|18||And he said, |
Show me, please, your glory.
|וַיֹּ֗אמֶר אֲנִ֨י אַעֲבִ֤יר כָּל־טוּבִי֙ עַל־פָּנֶ֔יךָ וְקָרָ֧אתִֽי בְשֵׁ֛ם יְהוָ֖ה לְפָנֶ֑יךָ |
וְחַנֹּתִי֙ אֶת־אֲשֶׁ֣ר אָחֹ֔ן וְרִחַמְתִּ֖י אֶת־אֲשֶׁ֥ר אֲרַחֵֽם
|19||And he said, I myself will make all my good pass over your face, and I will call in the name of Yahweh in your presence. |
And I am gracious with whom I will be gracious, and I have compassion on whom I will have compassion.
|וַיֹּ֕אמֶר לֹ֥א תוּכַ֖ל לִרְאֹ֣ת אֶת־פָּנָ֑י |
כִּ֛י לֹֽא־יִרְאַ֥נִי הָאָדָ֖ם וָחָֽי
|20||And he said, You will not endure to see my face, |
for the human will not see me and live.
|וַיֹּ֣אמֶר יְהוָ֔ה הִנֵּ֥ה מָק֖וֹם אִתִּ֑י |
|21||And Yahweh said, behold the place with me, |
and you will stand firm on the rock.
|וְהָיָה֙ בַּעֲבֹ֣ר כְּבֹדִ֔י וְשַׂמְתִּ֖יךָ בְּנִקְרַ֣ת הַצּ֑וּר |
וְשַׂכֹּתִ֥י כַפִּ֛י עָלֶ֖יךָ עַד־עָבְרִֽי
|22||And it will be when my glory passes, I will have put you in the crevice of the rock, |
and I will overshadow, with my palm over you, until I have passed.
|וַהֲסִרֹתִי֙ אֶת־כַּפִּ֔י וְרָאִ֖יתָ אֶת־אֲחֹרָ֑י |
וּפָנַ֖י לֹ֥א יֵרָאֽוּ
|23||And I will put aside my palm, and you will see after me, |
but my face will not be seen.
It is instructive that given these questions, which I find unanswered in this text, Moses' questions are about presence. They are fundamental existential questions that occur to anyone who seeks seriously. Perhaps then we can reframe the tents, anticipating Paul's identification of tent and body (2 Corinthians 5:1).
פנה, presence, face, or just the preposition before? Which of these might do in the places you find it below? The final verse is telling. Clearly it is not the preposition, but is it presence or face? See is operative. Seeing is what we prefer over hearing. Seeing increases our sense of control. Control is something we do not have. Our self-deception that we do have control leads to violence and idolatry. But we can look, after the presence has passed, and see without dying.
All this passage is self-reflective and independent of sequential logic. Imagine your conversation face to face.