Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible, by John Wesley, [1754-65], at sacred-texts.com
exo 33:5I will come up - As if he had said, ye deserve that I should do so. Put off thine ornaments, that I may know what to do with thee - That is, put thyself into the posture of a penitent, that the dispute may be determined in thy favour, and mercy may rejoice against judgment.
exo 33:6And Israel stript themselves of their ornaments, by the mount; or, as some read it, at a distance from the mount - Stand afar off, like the publican, Luk 18:13. God bid them lay aside their ornaments, and they did so; both to shew in general their deep mourning, and in particular to take a holy revenge upon themselves for giving their ear - rings to make the golden calf of.
exo 33:7And Moses took the tabernacle - The tent wherein he gave audience, heard causes, and inquired of God, and pitched it without, afar off from the camp - To signify to them that they were unworthy of it. Perhaps this tabernacle was a model of the tabernacle that was afterwards to be erected, a hasty draught from the pattern shewed him in the mount, designed for direction to the workman, and used in the mean time as a tabernacle of meeting between God and Moses about public affairs.
exo 33:8And when Moses went out to the tabernacle, the people looked after him - In token of their respect to him whom before they had slighted, and their dependence upon his mediation. By this it appeared, that they were full of concern what would be the issue.
exo 33:10And when they saw the cloudy pillar, that symbol of God's presence, give Moses the meeting, they all worshipped every man at his tent door - Thereby they signified, Their humble adoration of the divine majesty. Their thankfulness to God, that he was pleased to shew them this token for good, for if he had been pleased to kill them he would not have shewed them such things as these. And their hearty concurrence with Moses as their advocate, in every thing he should promise for them.
exo 33:11And the Lord spake to Moses face to face as a man speaketh to his friend - Which intimates not only that God revealed himself to Moses with greater clearness than to any other of the prophets, but also with greater expressions of particular kindness than to any other. He spake not as a prince to a subject, but as a man to his friend, whom he loves, and with whom he takes sweet counsel. And he turned again into the camp - To tell the people what hopes he had of bringing this business to a good issue. But because he intended speedily to return to the tabernacle, he left Joshua there.
exo 33:12Moses now returned to the door of the tabernacle, as an important supplicant for two favours, and prevails for both: herein he was a type of Christ the great intercessor, whom the Father heareth always. He is earnest with God for a grant of his presence with Israel in the rest of their march to Canaan. Thou sayst, bring up this people - Lord, it is thou thyself that employest me, and wilt thou not own me? I am in the way of my duty, and shall I not have thy presence with me in that way? Yet, Thou hast said, I know thee by name, as a particular friend, and thou hast also found grace in my sight, above any other.
exo 33:13Now therefore, if I have found grace in thy sight, shew me thy way - What favour God had expressed to the people they had forfeited the benefit of; and therefore Moses lays the stress of his plea upon what God had said to him. By this therefore he takes hold on God, Lord, if thou wilt do any thing for me, do this for the people. Thus our Lord Jesus, in his intercession, presents himself to the Father, as one in whom he is always well - pleased, and so obtains mercy for us with whom he is justly displeased, Shew me thy way, that I may know thee, that I may find grace in thy sight - He insinuates that the people also, though most unworthy, yet were in some relation to God; consider that this nation is thy people; a people that thou hast done great things for, redeemed to thyself, and taken into covenant with thyself; Lord, they are thy own, do not leave them.
exo 33:15And he said, If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence - He speaks as one that dreaded the thought of going forward without God's presence.
exo 33:16Wherein shall it be known to the nations that have their eyes upon us, that I, and thy people, have found grace in thy sight; so as to be separated from all people upon earth? Is it not that thou goest with us? Nothing short of that can answer these characters.
exo 33:17I will do this thing also that thou hast spoken - See the power of prayer! See the riches of God's goodness! See in type the prevalency of Christ's intercession, which he ever lives to make for all those that come to God by him! And the ground of that prevalency, is purely in his own merit, it is because thou hast found grace in my sight. And now God is perfectly reconciled to them, and his presence in the pillar of cloud returns to them.
exo 33:18I beseech thee shew me thy glory - Moses had lately been in the mount with God, and had had as intimate communion with God, as ever any man had on this side heaven, and yet he is still desiring a farther acquaintance. Shew me thy glory - Make me to see it; so the word is: make it some way or other visible, and enable me to bear the sight of it. Not that he was so ignorant as to think God's essence could be seen with bodily eyes, but having hitherto only heard a voice out of a pillar of cloud or fire, he desired to see some representation of the divine glory, such as God saw fit to gratify him with.
exo 33:20Thou canst not see my face - A full discovery of the glory of God would quite overpower the faculties of any mortal man. I will make all my goodness pass before thee - He had given him wonderful instances of his goodness in being reconciled to Israel; but that was only goodness in the stream, he would shew him goodness in the spring. This was a sufficient answer to his request: Shew me thy glory, saith Moses; I will shew thee my goodness, saith God. God's goodness is his glory; and he will have us to know him by the glory of his mercy, more than by the glory of his majesty. And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious - In bestowing his gifts, and is not debtor to any, nor accountable to any; all his reasons of mercy are fetched from within himself, not from any merit in his creatures, and I will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy - For his grace is always free. He never damns by prerogative, but by prerogative he saves.
exo 33:22I will put thee in a cleft of the rock - In that he was to be sheltered from the dazzling light, and devouring fire of God's glory. This was the rock in Horeb, out of which water was brought, of which it is said, That rock was Christ, Co1 10:4. 'Tis in the clefts of this rock that we are secured from the wrath of God, which otherwise would consume us: God himself will protect those that are thus hid: and it is only through Christ that we have the knowledge of the glory of God. None can see that to their comfort, but those that stand upon this rock, and take shelter in it.
exo 33:23And I will take away my hand - Speaking after the manner of men. And thou shalt see my back - parts - The face in man is the seat of majesty, and men are known by their faces, in them we take a full view of men; that sight of God Moses might not have, but such a sight as we have of a man who is gone past us, so that we only see his back. Now Moses was allowed to see this only, but when he was a witness to Christ's transfiguration, he saw his face shine as the sun.