6 The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ex 34:5–7). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
34:6 The Hebrew verb translated passed (’abar, “to cross over”) is the same verb that describes Abram’s journey through the land of Canaan (Gen. 12:6). The name Hebrew is probably derived from this verb. Here the word speaks of the “movement” of the Lord before Moses. As the Lord moved by Moses, He proclaimed the meaning of His name Yahweh (Ex. 3:14, 15), revealing His gracious character in an unforgettable manner. Indeed, this verse is the foundation for understanding the character of the Lord. The words merciful and gracious convey the idea of “overwhelmingly gracious.” long-suffering: The idea of the Hebrew idiom is that God is very slow to anger. In our idiom, we would say He has “a very long fuse.” The Hebrew word for goodness means “loyal love”; the word for truth means “faithfulness,” “truth,” and “constancy.” When the Gospel of John introduces Jesus as the Word, there is celebration of the fact that He is “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14, 17). In this way John echoes the words of this passage. To see Jesus is to see the Father! (John 1:18).
34:6–7 The Lord’s proclamation of his name and the declaration of his character becomes a central confessional passage for the OT (e.g., see Neh. 9:17, 31; Ps. 86:15; 103:8; Jonah 4:2; Joel 2:13). This confession describes the Lord’s gracious character in preserving Israel as a whole for the sake of God’s overall purpose and in sparing those individuals who look to him in true faith (e.g., see note on Ps. 32:1–5). Moses will argue these very words back to the Lord when he intercedes for the people after their rebellion following the spies’ report on Canaan (see Num. 14:18–19). The description emphasizes the merciful and gracious character of the Lord (see Ex. 33:19), whose steadfast love and forgiveness extends to thousands (probably of generations, cf. Deut. 7:9; and note on Ex. 20:5–6) in contrast to the few generations upon whom he visits iniquity. Moses will appeal to Israel’s need for the Lord’s gracious and merciful presence so that he might forgive them and take them as his inheritance (see 34:9). On visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, see notes on 20:5–6 and Deut. 5:9–10.
34:6 Yahweh passed over before him In passing, God—whose name Moses already knew (3:14)—calls out His name, Yahweh, along with a list of attributes in accordance with 33:19–23.
Yahweh told Moses that He would place him in a cleft in the rock and then shelter him with His own hand so that Moses would not see His presence (panim in Hebrew, which may be literally rendered as “face”). Yahweh would then remove His hand once He had passed by Moses so that Moses could see His back (33:23). The biblical writers use the language of anthropomorphism and embodiment when referring to God as having a face or a hand.
Yahweh, Yahweh In Hebrew, the first use of the divine name Yahweh can be the subject of the verb “to proclaim.” The result is the rendering, “Yahweh proclaimed, ‘Yahweh, the compassionate and gracious God’”—which creates the impression that Yahweh is using the third-person voice to refer to himself. Either way is consistent with 33:19.
compassionate and gracious The attributes listed here emphasize God’s benevolent character. These characteristics explain why—despite Israel’s apostasy with the golden calf (ch. 32) and the breaking of the covenant (32:19)—God will forgive and renew the covenant in this chapter.
loyal love The Hebrew term used here, chesed, is directly associated with God’s covenant love for Israel and is frequently paired with the Hebrew word emeth (which may be rendered as “faithfulness”). Used together, these words convey God’s reliability to fulfil His promises. See note on 15:13.
34:6, 7 This description of God is foundational for later Israelite piety (Num. 14:18; Neh. 9:17; Ps. 86:15; 103:8; 145:8; Joel 2:13; Jon. 4:2; Nah. 1:3). God’s mercy is still proclaimed toward Israel despite her dismal failure (Hos. 11:8).
34:6 abounding in steadfast love. “Steadfast love” here translates the Hebrew term (ḥesed) denoting God’s covenant faithfulness and devotion to His people (15:13 note). Because of God’s love and faithfulness, He will not abandon His people, but dwell among them in His tabernacle.
34:6, 7 Jewish scholars look to these verses as a key statement of the attributes of God. There is a remarkable balance between forgiveness and punishment which defines Yahweh’s character in terms of “righteous love.” No man can sin and hurt only himself. There are always extended relationships which are affected.
34:5–7 Rather than providing a new visual description (in contrast with chaps. 3; 13–14; 19–20; 24), the account of the Lord’s display of his glory this time offers his list of a series of invisible qualities. The Lord has the capacity to be compassionate and gracious, to be slow to anger, and to forgive, in addition to exacting punishment (cp. Nm 14:18; Neh 9:17; Ps 86:15; 103:6–14; 145:8; Jl 2:13–14; Jnh 4:2; Nah 1:3).
 Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 144). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.
 Criswell, W. A., Patterson, P., Clendenen, E. R., Akin, D. L., Chamberlin, M., Patterson, D. K., & Pogue, J. (Eds.). (1991). Believer’s Study Bible (electronic ed., Ex 34:6). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.