There is, in this passage, an interesting small but important detail that I have never really noticed before. It lies behind the widely recognized, though certainly bizarre, fact that Moses’ face acquired an intense radiance as a result of close time spent in the physical presence of God. The people were quite terrified by this radiance in Moses’ face. (They were constantly terrified by anything like a close encounter with God, though in times when they perceived him to be absent, their fears evaporated and were replaced by narcissistic self-concern mostly in the form of complaining.) The suggestion is that the glow in Moses’ face was most intense after he had be in conversation with God.
Here’s how it worked out in practice, and this will lead us to the surprising little detail. In verse 34, we’re told that whenever Moses went to speak with God, he would unveil his face. That’s not surprising. In some sense, basic politeness and respect would require it. In verse 35, we’re told that during his regular, everyday comings and goings among the people, Moses kept his face veiled in order to spare the people. His radiant face scared the people, as I mentioned above. And apparently, Moses didn’t want to cause the people unnecessary distress. Again, that’s not surprising. As infuriated as he could become toward the people, the fact remains that Moses loved them enormously.
Now for the surprising — to me, as least– detail, we’re told here that when Moses came back to the people after his conversations with God, he left his face unveiled during the report he gave them about what God had said to him. Moses made the people look at the radiance of his face while he reported the words of God to the people. It was only after he had finished speaking the words of God to the people that he then put the veil back on his face.
I find that strange little fact to be very interesting and likely very fruitful for meditation and reflection.
©2012 Gary A. Chorpenning; all rights reserved.