Exodus 34:29-35 - Wearing the face of Yahweh
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Moses came down from Mount Sinai. As he came down from the mountain with the two tablets of the covenant in his hand, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, the skin of his face was shining, and they were afraid to come near him. But Moses called to them; and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses spoke with them. Afterward all the Israelites came near, and he gave them in commandment all that Yahweh had spoken with him on Mount Sinai. When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil on his face; but whenever Moses went in before Yahweh to speak with him, he would take the veil off, until he came out; and when he came out, and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, the Israelites would see the face of Moses, that the skin of his face was shining; and Moses would put the veil on his face again, until he went in to speak with him.
This is the Old Testament selection that will be read aloud on the last Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C, according to the lectionary for the Episcopal Church. It will precede a singing of Psalm 99, where David wrote, “Yahweh is King; let the people tremble; he is enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth shake.” That pair will be followed by a reading from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian Christians, where he wrote: “We have such a hope, we act with great boldness, not like Moses, who put a veil over his face to keep the people of Israel from gazing at the end of the glory that was being set aside.” All will accompany the Gospel reading from Luke, which is generally called “the Transfiguration.” There Luke wrote, “Peter said to Jesus, "Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah"--not knowing what he said. While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud.”
In these selected verses read aloud today, it is important to realize that chapter thirty-four of Exodus begins with the story that tells of Yahweh commanding Moses to come back up the mountain and the tablets which he broke will be replaced. This is ten chapters after we are told that Moses spent forty days on the mountain (Exodus 24:18), which is information that follows Moses reading from the “book of the covenant” (Exodus 24:7) to the elders, with everything agreed to by holy sacrifices on an altar fire. The following chapter then tells the details of the Covenant, which pertained to the Tabernacle, an Ark for the Covenant, and the priests who would maintain the Tabernacle. Then there is a magical jump to Moses being back on the mountain, when he sees the waywardness of the Israelites and he brakes the tablets after coming down from the mountain (Exodus 32:15-19).
One has to see this as a prophecy of the coming of Jesus and the New Covenant, rather than a historical repeating of an event that happened already. The breaking of the tablets must be seen as the actions of the Israelite people, who later acted in ways that broke their agreement with Yahweh. The return of Moses to the mountain needs to then be seen as Moses dying and going to heaven.
Because Moses was a Yahweh elohim, he was essentially the soul of Adam resurrected within his soul that was named Moses. The soul of Adam is, of course, the one we call Jesus. This means this reading (when understood in this light) is a perfect match for the Gospel reading that tells of the Transfiguration, when Jesus’ soul appeared with the souls of Moses and Elijah, as a gathering of the souls who were all reborn Adams, with Jesus himself being the second set of tablets written by Yahweh on the mountain. The Holy mountain is wherever Yahweh is; so, Mount Sinai and Mount Hermon (the “high mountain” that overlooks the Syrian plain) were physical locations that were Spiritually identical.
To drive this point home, the three yearly feasts that the Israelites (thus all afterwards that would be equally considered to be "children of God" … including Jews and Christians) were commanded to recognize includes the times of the Passover escape from Egyptian bondage, the feast of harvesting the first fruits, and the feast of harvest at the end of the growing season. In that, the Passover is a set date each year, with the feast of the first fruits gathered being fifty days after Passover [15 Nisan]. That number of days is based on symbolizing the ten days it took the Israelites to reach Mount Sinai and then forty days with Moses on the mountain, when he came down with the Law on the fiftieth day. There is no Yahweh-commanded recognition of a second coming down of Moses, with a second set of tablets. There is no New festivals commanded by God to remember, although the Jews have added a few on their own. Still, a second set of stone tablets would seem like a good one to commemorate; and, there is no such date set aside each year to recognize [the festival of the Golden Calf?]. This means this second set of Holy Tablets has to be relative to the coming down of Moses as Jesus.
When this concept has been grasped, one can then see this glow on the face of Moses was not something that he is shown to have displayed prior. The “skin of his face shone” needs to be seen as a halo, in a similar way one is depicted around the heads of saints in early Christian artwork. It is this “shining” that denotes the presence of the Adam soul (now called Jesus, meaning “Yahweh Saves”), that is the Doubly Fruitful presence of the Yahweh elohim soul. A natural soul in a body of flesh produces an aura that surrounds itself; but a divine possession by the Son of Yahweh radiates more greatly, as a halo.
We read verse thirty saying [NRSV]: “When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, the skin of his face was shining, and they were afraid to come near him.” Here, one should realize Aaron held the position of High Priest of the Tabernacle; but, in this second version of Moses bringing down new tablets, it was Aaron who coordinated the collection of gold (jewelry), when worry about Moses being gone so long led the rabble to control the leader to be filled with fear. The gold collected was then melted down and formed into the idol of a golden calf. That means Aaron is metaphor in this second telling for the later human beings who would be put in Aaronic positions of leadership, leading the Israelites away from Yahweh, towards the worship of Baals. So, when Aaron became just like all the other Israelites who saw Moses as shining like Yahweh in their presence, it was their fear that becomes synonymous with the rejection of Jesus when he was in the midst of the elders and high priests of Jerusalem.
[Aside: When Exodus 32 tells of Moses breaking the tablets, there then was an order given to the "sons of Levi" to take swords and kill those who caused the idol to be erected. We are told three thousand were executed for this, with Aaron called shameful for not controlling those actors. It would make sense that Aaron would be among the first executed; but his not being one of those killed says this is a prophecy of future kings, whose fates would be determined by Yahweh after their natural deaths.]
In the verses that speak of the “face” of Moses, it becomes worthwhile to go back to Exodus 20, where the “Ten Commandments” are stated. In these selected verses the Hebrew words “pā·nāw” and “pə·nê” are written six times (four times and two times, respectively). All are rooted in the Hebrew word “paneh,” which mean “face.” Still, this exact same word – “pā·nāw” – is found used in Exodus 34:6, where the NRSV translations shows, “Yahweh passed before him,” where the word that means “face” is translated as “him,” a reference to Moses [from “al-pā·nāw” saying “before him”]. This is where the First Commandment needs to be shown in the Hebrew, as: “lō yih·yeh- lə·ḵā ’ĕ·lō·hîm ’ă·ḥê·rîm al-pā·nā·ya.” The NRSV translates this as saying, “you shall have no other gods before me.” The reality is this says, “not shall have you elohim others before my face.” The Hebrew word “pā·nā·ya” is a construct of “paneh,” just as are “pā·nāw” and “pə·nê.”
In addition to these clearly translated words that say “face,” verse 34 is shown by the NRSV to say: “but whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him.” Here, the Hebrew shows: “ū·ḇə·ḇō mō·šeh lip̄·nê Yah-weh lə·ḏab·bêr ’it·tōw,” where “lip̄·nê” is yet another construct of “paneh,” now translated as “before.” The Hebrew literally translates to state, “but whenever came into Moses the face of Yahweh to speak to him”. This says that Yahweh was not holding shop on top of Mount Sinai, but within Moses, because Moses was one of Yahweh’s elohim. Whenever Moses spoke to Yahweh, Moses wore “the face” of Yahweh “before” Yahweh.
When this is realized, all uses of “face” – from the root “paneh” – should be read in Hebrew Scripture as relative to this Commandment. The “face” a soul that is married to Yahweh wears must be the “face” of Yahweh. That “face” is then the projection made by a Yahweh elohim, where an elohim can be any other gods – self included (because a soul is a ‘minor’ elohim), but most dangerously is the “face” worn by a soul possessed by a demon elohim. Thus, when Moses spoke to Yahweh, he did so wearing Yahweh’s “face upon” his [when “al-pā·nāw” says “upon face.”].
Because this element of “face” needs to be seen as that worn by all saints-apostles reborn as Jesus, each soul resurrected in his name, each soul designated a Christ by Yahweh, this becomes fulfilling the first of the marriage vows that are represented in the Covenant. Because Moses only went up Mount Sinai one time and only came down with the Law one time, this facial glow of Moses must be seen as Jesus promising that the Law would be written on the hearts [i.e.: souls] of those who followed him [became him resurrected within their souls]. One becomes a walking, talking Moses reincarnated [a true Lawyer] when Jesus is within one’s soul; so, the shine is wearing the “face” of Yahweh. The “veil” is then no one seeing all that presence visibly. The “veil” is then all Saints and Apostles looking like normal people; but remove the “veil” and one finds the truth of Yahweh’s Spirit within.
The element of a “veil” needs to be seen as a symbol of a bride. As such, Moses’ soul was married to Yahweh. The glow on a face can also be seen as the beauty of his divine pregnancy, carrying the soul of Adam within his 'womb.' This makes a “veil” be the covering that says to others, “I am taken.” Some believe the tradition of a bride wearing a veil was to hide herself away from demon spirits, to keep evil from interfering with the happiness of divine marriage. The fact that Moses wore a veil can then be seen as a statement of the femininity of all souls in human flesh (regardless of human gender). All are then brides-to-be, in waiting for their most holy Husband. The use of veils in human marriage ceremonies, where the bride is the one wearing the veil, to be removed after the wedding is official, says all who are truly engaged to Yahweh will wear a symbol that says, “I am Yahweh’s bride.”
In the symbolism of the tent of meeting [“mishkān”], this needs to be seen as the body of flesh, where the body is a soul’s “covering, place of dwelling, residence.” When Moses would enter into this place, so the veil could be removed, the symbolism that must be understood today is a state of reverence for Yahweh. This can come about as visions or dreams, when one is alone with one's thoughts. This means one has designated one’s body as a temple unto Yahweh, making one’s body become “Holy ground.” More than some external building, the “tent of meeting” is when one enters a state of prayer … an opening of the heart and mind to Yahweh … at which time the veil of human flesh is dropped and it becomes a soul speaking with the Father Spirit, as the Son reborn.
In the Gospel reading connected to this reading, on the last Sunday after the Epiphany, Peter, James and John witnessed the glowing presence of Moses, Elijah and Jesus, prompting Peter to ask if he should pitch a tent for the guests. There, he spoke from fear, just as did the Israelites who saw the skin of Moses' face shining. The three witnessing that says they too were in a divine state being, one that connected their souls to Yahweh. Thus, when Peter spoke, Yahweh spoke back … loudly and clearly. For Yahweh to say, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” that says Peter, James, and John were all chosen by Yahweh to become His servants. They were instructed to listen to their inner voice, who was known to be the soul of Adam, as Jesus reborn. So, in effect, each had become themselves tabernacles – tents of meeting – in whom all would have the ability to speak with Yahweh, through being the Son Jesus reborn.
As the Old Testament reading choice for the last Sunday after the Epiphany, in the Year C, this says Moses was the model for all the Israelites to follow, in the same way Jesus was the model for all Christians to follow. The point is to become Jesus, not keep him external to oneself out of fear that seeing Yahweh will mean one’s death. It is true that all who look upon Yahweh must die; but that death is the sacrifice of oneself (submission of one’s soul) to forever serve Yahweh. To serve Yahweh, one must die of self so one’s “face” of ego does not attempt to “face” Yahweh. That cannot happen. That would mean the marriage of a soul to Yahweh will cease and the soul will experience death when the body dies. One has to figuratively die (permanently of self-importance) and shine the brightness that is Yahweh’s truth – the light of Christ to lead the world to salvation. That shining light has to come from within one’s soul, so that becomes the halo of a Saint.