וַיֵּרֶד יְהוָה בֶּעָנָן וַיִּתְיַצֵּב עִמּוֹ שָׁם וַיִּקְרָא בְשֵׁם יְהוָה 34:5
Exod. 34:5 Then the Lord descended in a cloud and stood with him there, and he called in the name of the Lord.
וַיַּעֲבֹר יְהוָה עַל־פָּנָיו וַיִּקְרָא יְהוָה יְהוָה אֵל רַחוּם וְחַנּוּן אֶרֶךְ אַפַּיִם וְרַב־חֶסֶד וֶאֱמֶת 34:6
Exod. 34:6 And the Lord passed by over his face, and he proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, patient of anger, and abounding in kindness and truth,
נֹצֵר חֶסֶד לָאֲלָפִים נֹשֵׂא עָוֹן וָפֶשַׁע וְחַטָּאָה וְנַקֵּה לֹא יְנַקֶּה פֹּקֵד עֲוֹן אָבֹות עַל־בָּנִים וְעַל־בְּנֵי בָנִים 34:7
Exod. 34:7 keeping mercy for a thousand generations, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, yet will not acquit innocence, visiting the iniquity of fathers on children and on the children of children, to the third generation and to the fourth generation.”
There is a fair amount of discussion among scholars over the translation of vss. 34:5, 6, and 7. First of all, in v. 34:5, it is uncertain as to who is doing the calling. Some translations have “… stood with him there and proclaimed in the name of the Lord.” In that translation it is God Who is calling or proclaiming. I find that interpretation a bit troubling. Why would God proclaim in the name of the Lord? He doesn’t do it anywhere else in the bible, while on the other hand, many call in the name of the Lord.
In v. 34:6, the same differences exist among the scholars. Is it God or Moses doing the proclaiming? As I see it, the proclamation sounds like boasting if it comes from God. I don’t see that God needs to boast, or resorts to boasting. But Moses, in making this statement, would be showing his appreciation for the Lord by proclaiming these attributes that he’s come to know, and which perhaps the Lord has revealed to him there on Mount Sinai.
[Return to Numbers 14:18]
Finally, in v. 34:7, most, if not all, translations have words similar to “… but will by no means clear the guilty, …” This is difficult to derive from the meaning of the words וְנַקֵּה לֹא יְנַקֶּה, from which the translation comes. Like most Hebrew words, the word נַקֵּה has several different meanings, but guilty is not one of them. More than that, the translation I offer seems to conform better to the meaning of the verse than the more traditional translation, and it flows more logically.
The innocence referred to in this phrase is the innocence of the guilty fathers’ children. If, by the usual translation, God doesn’t clear guilt, what has that got to do with the sins being visited on the children of the guilty? They seem to be two separate ideas. It seems more reasonable to me that the sins of the fathers would be visited on the children only because God does not necessarily acquit innocent children of their fathers’ guilt.