Chapter 34:29-35:3 (ESV) - When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. Aaron and all the people of Israel saw Moses, and behold, the skin of his face shone, 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 talked with them. Afterward all the people of Israel came near, and he commanded them all that the LORD had spoken with him in Mount Sinai. And when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face.
Whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he would remove the veil, until he came out. And when he came out and told the people of Israel what he was commanded, the people of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses' face was shining. And Moses would put the veil over his face again, until he went in to speak with him.
Moses assembled all the congregation of the people of Israel and said to them, “These are the things that the LORD has commanded you to do. Six days work shall be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death. You shall kindle no fire in all your dwelling places on the Sabbath day.”
Question to consider: Why does Moses put on the veil?
If you have ever seen Michelangelo’s statue of Moses bearing the ten commandments, it is rather shocking to see that he molded horns coming out of the top of Moses’ head. There are other similar renderings of Moses in artwork from that era. The idea came from the Latin Vulgate which used the Hebrew qeren (horned) rather than qaran (shined) to get “Moses’ face was horned” instead of “Moses’ face was shining.” Today, we look at horns as a Satanic symbol whereas Michelangelo would have seen horns as a symbol of power and glory. Unfortunately, because of this depiction, there are those who actually try to further the idea that Moses was convening with Satan rather than God when he received the renewed covenant.
Given that Jesus met with Moses and Elijah on the mountain in which He was transfigured before Peter, James and John, the idea of Moses being a Satanic influence is rather ridiculous. In the transfiguration, Jesus shone like the sun, and the disciples cowered in fear. It is understandable that when Moses gathered with the LORD on the mountain, he would have manifested an afterglow which caused the people to fear him.
The apostle Paul makes a reference to this scene in his response to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians chapter 3). Paul wrote that Moses wore the veil, not to keep the people from seeing the glow and being afraid, but to keep them from seeing it fade as he spent time away from the mountain. So Paul understood the passage as referring to a glow rather than horns which makes sense because Paul’s biblical source was the Septuagint which was a Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures and would have removed any confusion.
The emphasis here is that this time, while Moses was gone, the people remained faithful and feared the LORD. Beginning with the Sabbath, Moses was able to finally give all of the detailed instructions on the building of the tabernacle.
Dear heavenly father, thank You that Your will always comes to pass despite our nature to oppose the Holy Spirit every step of the way. Help us to shine with the glory of Christ so that others may come to know You as well. Amen.