“Unit 11: Day 4, Exodus 33–34,” Old Testament Study Guide for Home-Study Seminary Students (2014)
“Unit 11: Day 4,” Old Testament Study Guide
Because of the Israelites’ sins, the Lord declared that they could not see His face. God commanded Moses to make two new tables, or tablets, of stone and again go up Mount Sinai. The Lord again gave Moses His law, but He withheld the higher priesthood and its ordinances from the children of Israel.
Read the following scenarios concerning two young men, and look for differences in their attitudes and beliefs:
A young man transgresses a commandment. He feels guilt and shame. He believes that Heavenly Father will never forgive him of his sin.
A different young man transgresses the same commandment. He thinks the sin he has committed is not a big deal. He believes that because he is generally a good person, God won’t punish him for his sin.
What error do you notice in the belief of each young man?
Like the first young man, some people falsely believe that God is not forgiving. Other people, like the second young man, falsely believe that God will not hold us accountable for our sins.
- In your scripture study journal, explain what problems can arise from each of these false beliefs.
Read Exodus 33:1–4, looking for why the children of Israel mourned. (It may be helpful to know that “evil tidings” means bad news.)
The Israelites mourned when they learned that the Lord would not be with them as they traveled toward the promised land.
Read Exodus 33:7, looking for what Moses did to show that Israel had lost the blessing of the Lord’s presence.
The tabernacle spoken of in verse 7 was not the tabernacle they were to construct for the performance of priesthood ordinances (see Exodus 25:8–9). It was a different structure called the “tent of meeting” (see verse 7, footnote b).
One truth we can learn from verses 3 and 7 is that sin separates us from the Lord. You may want to write this truth in the margin of your scriptures.
How do we usually feel this separation from the Lord when we sin?
Take a moment to consider times when you have felt the Spirit of the Lord withdraw from you because of your choices.
As you read the following statement by Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, underline what he said we can learn from experiences when we feel the Lord’s Spirit withdraw from us:
“The promised blessing for honoring [the] covenant [of baptism] is that we may always have His Spirit to be with us (see D&C 20:77). …
“… Precisely because the promised blessing is that we may always have His Spirit to be with us, we should attend to and learn from the choices and influences that separate us from the Holy Spirit.
“The standard is clear. If something we think, see, hear, or do distances us from the Holy Ghost, then we should stop thinking, seeing, hearing, or doing that thing. If that which is intended to entertain, for example, alienates us from the Holy Spirit, then certainly that type of entertainment is not for us. Because the Spirit cannot abide that which is vulgar, crude, or immodest, then clearly such things are not for us. Because we estrange the Spirit of the Lord when we engage in activities we know we should shun, then such things definitely are not for us” (“That We May Always Have His Spirit to Be with Us,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2006, 29–30).
- In your scripture study journal, explain what you can learn from choices or influences that separate you from the Spirit of the Lord.
Because Moses had not participated in sin with the children of Israel, he was worthy to be in the Lord’s presence. Read Exodus 33:9–11, looking for words or phrases that describe the relationship Moses had with the Lord. You may want to mark what you find.
What do these descriptions imply about Moses’s worthiness and about his relationship with God?
Exodus 33:12–23 tells that Moses pled with the Lord to be with Israel as they journeyed toward the promised land. Because Moses found favor with the Lord, the Lord promised that He would be with the children of Israel. However, He also indicated that because of their sins, they would not be allowed to see His face at that time (see Joseph Smith Translation, Exodus 33:20 [in the Bible appendix]).
According to Exodus 32:19, what happened to the tables of stone Moses brought down from Mount Sinai?
The Lord commanded Moses to create another set of stone tables. Read Exodus 34:1–2, looking for what the Lord said He would write on the second set.
Notice in verse 1, footnote a, that the Joseph Smith Translation adds an important clarification to Exodus 34:1–2. This addition helps us understand that the Lord said He would not write all of the same things on the second set of tables. Read Joseph Smith Translation, Exodus 34:1–2 (in the Bible appendix), looking for what would be withheld from the writings on the second set of tables. You may want to mark what you find.
The word priesthood in the Joseph Smith Translation of these verses refers to the Melchizedek Priesthood. Although the children of Israel at this time were not given the ordinances and covenants of the Melchizedek Priesthood (which are necessary for us to become like God and dwell in His presence), the Lord allowed the Aaronic Priesthood to continue with them (see D&C 84:25–26).
Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught that although “the performances of the Mosaic law were administered by the Aaronic Priesthood[,] … all of the prophets held the Melchizedek Priesthood” (“The Bible, a Sealed Book,” in Teaching Seminary: Preservice Readings , 130).
The phrase “law of a carnal commandment” (Joseph Smith Translation, Exodus 34:2) refers to a set of laws and performances that came to be known as the law of Moses. This law helped the Israelites learn the principles of obedience and sacrifice and pointed their souls to Christ (see Galatians 3:24; Jacob 4:5). The preparatory gospel administered through the Aaronic Priesthood—meaning “the gospel of repentance and of baptism” (D&C 84:27)—also continued with the children of Israel.
Why do you think it was important at that time for the children of Israel to focus on the principles and ordinances of the Aaronic Priesthood, such as repentance and baptism?
One principle we can learn from the Israelites’ experience is that we must be faithful to the ordinances and covenants of the Aaronic Priesthood to be prepared to receive the ordinances and covenants of the Melchizedek Priesthood.
Turn to the diagram “Moses’s and Israel’s Experiences with Jehovah at Mount Sinai” in the lesson for Exodus 17–19 (Unit 10, Day 3). In the blank space on line 11, write: God writes His law on new stone tables but withholds the higher priesthood and its ordinances.
Exodus 34:3–4 records that Moses made two stone tables and again ascended Mount Sinai, as the Lord had commanded.
Read Exodus 34:5–7, looking for what the Lord taught Moses about His attributes. (In this context the word longsuffering refers to the Lord’s patience with and mercy for His children, and the phrase “by no means clear the guilty” means the Lord is perfectly just and will hold the rebellious accountable for their actions.)
From verses 6–7 we learn that the Lord is merciful and forgiving; He is also perfectly just and will hold us accountable for our sins.
How is it possible for God to be both just and merciful?
- Read again the two scenarios at the beginning of this lesson. In your scripture study journal, explain how knowing the truths about God that were identified in Exodus 34:6–7 could help the young men in these two scenarios.
Ponder how the truths taught in Exodus 34:6–7 can help you as you seek to repent of what you have done wrong.
Read Exodus 34:8–9, looking for what Moses asked of the Lord on behalf of the children of Israel. You may want to mark what you find.
As recorded in Exodus 34:10–35, the Lord responded to Moses’s request by declaring that Israel would be His people if they would cease from making and worshipping idols and would keep His covenant by obeying the commandments. Moses then descended Mount Sinai and taught the Lord’s words to the people.
- Write the following at the bottom of today’s assignments in your scripture study journal:
I have studied Exodus 33–34 and completed this lesson on (date).
Additional questions, thoughts, and insights I would like to share with my teacher: