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Shemot/Exodus 33:18 And he said, "Show me, please, Your glory!"
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These are Moshe's words toHaShem, after he has interceded and prevailed for the Israelites following the incident of the Golden Calf. The text records that Moshe pitched a tent outside the camp where he would go to speak with HaShem and "when Moshe entered the Tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the Tent, while He spoke with Moshe" (Shemot 33:9, NJPS). These were serious conversations, as the text tells us: "The L-RD would speak to Moshe face to face, as one man speaks to another" (v. 11, NJPS). Moshe is concerned that without HaShem's presence among His people, no-one will know that they are His people, and HaShem agrees to his request: "I will also do this thing that you have asked; for you have truly gained My favor and I have singled you out by name" (v. 17, NJPS). Then, as Rashi says, "Moshe saw that it was a time of favourable disposition, and his words were being accepted, so he went on to request that the vision of His glory be shown to him."
We have two verbs in the text. The first, , is the Qal 3ms prefix form of the root to say, with a vav-conversive: "and he said". It takes the voicing rather than the more usual because of the atnakh accent under the mem: it is said to be "in pause". The second verb, , is the Hif'il ms imperative form of the root , to see, with a 1cs object pronoun: "show me!" This is softened by the following word, , an interjection "noting respectful entreaty or exhortation" (Davidson) that has the idea of "I pray" or, more simply as here, 'please'. Richard Elliott Friedman explains: "Using the Hebrew >na particle of polite request, Moshe boldly dares to ask to be allowed to see G-d. And see how far Moshe has come: at the burning bush 'Moshe hid his face, because he was afraid of looking at G-d' (Shemot 3:6), but now, after a time of acquaintance with G-d and after seeing and sometimes wielding divine power, he has grown in intimacy with G-d and has grown in his own confidence enough to ask G-d to see the divine form."
Our text ends with the word , an ms noun with a 2ms possessive pronoun, rendered here as "Your glory". The Hebrew word has a spread of meanings, from "glory, majesty" when referring to HaShem - the Israelites said after experiencing the theophany at Mt. Sinai, "The L-RD our G-d has just shown us His majestic Presence, and we have heard His voice out of the fire" (D'varim 5:21, NJPS) - "honour, reputation" when referring to people - here, the prophet speaks against the defiant man, "You will be filled with disgrace rather than honour" (Habbakuk 2:16, NASB) - or "splendour", for example of the Temple (Haggai 2:3). David Clines suggests that it may even refer to "soul or inner being" when Ya'akov uses it in his comments about his sons Simeon and Levi: " Let not my being be counted in their assembly" (B'resheet 49:6, NJPS).1 Given this range of meaning, perhaps we need to ask exactly what Moshe was asking.
Pointing for proof to HaShem's reply a few verses later - "as My Presence passes by, I will put you in a cleft of the rock and shield you with My hand until I have passed by" (Shemot 33:22, NJPS) - where "My Presence" and 'I' are used interchangeably,Ibn Ezra says that "Your glory" is simply 'Yourself'! The Ramban agrees, commenting, "he requested that he might literally see with his own eyes the Presence or Glory of G-d." The Rambam and the Radak take a more figurative approach: "Moshe asks for an intellectual perception of G-d's essential reality, not simply for what is observable through the senses." Rabbi Hirsch is thinking along the same lines when he writes that "Moshe is aiming for direct understanding and knowledge of G-d." On the other hand, Nahum Sarna explains that the word 'glory' "often signifies G-d's self-manifestation, some outward, visible sign of His essential presence," which supports the Rashbam's proposal that "Moshe is asking to see His presence as a confirmation of the agreement that He would go with the Israelites."
Leon Kass makes a strong argument that Moshe is seeking an immediate, full, face to face appearance as a means of answering the question: will HaShem forgive the people - "and, if not now, how can they (we) earn Your forgiveness?" Suggesting that during the course of the conversation so far G-d has - gently but firmly - softened His position four times, but "said nothing about forgiving the people or about their having a chance once again to find favour in His eyes," Kass identifies Moshe's boldness in asking as a need "to know whether G-d is a god of mercy and forgiveness or whether He insists on strict justice and punishment."2 This is a critical question for Moshe and the people: they have to know where they stand. It is all very well Moshe having found favour with HaShem, but as a leader committed to the welfare of his people, one who could offer himself on behalf of his people - "Now, if You will forgive their sin well and good; but if not, erase me from the record which You have written!" (Shemot 32:32, NJPS) - he must have more: he must know. Perhaps this is why Moshe is so persistent, asking a question that pushes the envelope so far.
The gospels give us two snapshots of people who were desperate for an answer from Yeshua. At the beginning of His ministry, in Capernaum and around the Galilee, the reports of healing were so dramatic and powerful that "His fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee" (Mark 1:28, ESV). Matthew tells us that "His fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought Him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, epileptics, and paralytics, and He healed them. And great crowds followed Him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan" (Matthew 4:24-25, ESV). So much so that "Yeshua could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter" (Mark 1:45, ESV).
Against that backdrop, the first snapshot is of a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years. This made her ritually unclean so that she was excluded from almost everything in life: relationships, company and - most of all - any physical touch and contact with other people. One of the synagogue leaders, Jairus was his name, had just come to Yeshua to ask Him to come and heal his daughter who was close to death. Mark explains that "a great crowd followed him and thronged about Him" (Mark 5:24, ESV). Undeterred, however, and with scant regard to the other people in that crowd who would technically become unclean because of being touched by her or her clothes, the woman pushes and forces her way through the crowd until she "came up behind Him in the crowd and touched His garment" (v. 27, ESV) and was instantly healed. Yeshua knows what has happened and asks who touched Him, to be greeted with amazement as the difficulty of the crowd is emphasised again: "You see the crowd pressing around You, and yet You say, 'Who touched Me?'" (v. 30, ESV). The woman would not be put off, she would not allow the crowd to get between her and what she needed: a touch from Yeshua. Her persistence was rewarded, for not only was she healed, but she heard Him tell her, "your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease" (v. 34, ESV). Not just physical healing, but peace and salvation as her faith is recognised and rewarded. She knew what she needed and she did everything she could to make sure she got it.
Matthew provides our second vignette; this time a mother whose daughter was oppressed by a demon. Matthew tells us that "a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying" (Matthew 15:22, ESV). The word 'crying' is perhaps an understatement; the Greek word means to cry out or scream and other versions offer 'shouting' (NJB, NRSV) and 'pleading' (CJB, NLT). The disciples try to fend her off, asking Yeshua to send her away, but she not only refuses but pushes past them to kneel at His feet and beg for His help. Even though He tells her that His mission is only to the Jewish people, she replies that "even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table" (v. 27, ESV). At that, Yeshua tells her, "O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire" (v. 28, ESV) and Matthew adds that her daughter is instantly healed. The woman overcame racial tensions, societal gender expectations and the disciples to push through to Yeshua and get the answer she and her family needed.
So here's the question for us today: do we really want to see G-d? Are we going to be like Nathanael, whose first response was, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" (John 1:46, ESV), or are we going to be like the Greeks in Jerusalem for the festival of Sukkot who went to one of the disciples and asked, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus" (John 12:21, ESV). There is clearly lots of opposition around, who want to prevent us from make that life connection: the enemy, his forces, plus all the people and circumstances he seems able to muster each day to discourage us and put us off. But if we really want to see G-d, He will reveal Himself to us and we will be able to push through into his presence and see His glory.
1. - David J. A. Clines (ed.) The Concise Dictionary of Classical Hebrew, (Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2009), page 171.
2. - Leon R. Kass, Founding G-d's Nation - Reading Exodus (New Haven, Yale University press, 2021), page 557.
Further Study: Luke 19:1-10; Luke 23:6-12
Application: Do you want to see Yeshua badly enough to be able to brush aside the opposition, push through the crowds and force your way into His presence? Know that you will receive a broad smile and a warm embrace for your persistence. More, you will hear His words of life for you: your faith has made you whole!"
Comment - 09:29 01Mar21 Kate: Thank you for this beautiful encouragement to be determined and not give up in seeking His presence, to know Him. Sometimes the effort required to get past everything else feels so great, and there is always the temptation to quit, but once we taste and see that He is good ... nothing else satisfies!
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© Jonathan Allen, 2021
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