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Go to Bible: Exodus 24
“He said to Moses, “Come up to Yahweh.” If not read carefully in context this verse can be confusing because it sounds like God is calling Moses to go up Mount Sinai. But Moses is already up (this is his fourth time up with Yahweh, see Exodus 20:21). God is telling Moses to come up again, but only part way, and bring Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel along too. But those men were down at the foot of the mountain, so Moses has to go down again to get those men and bring them part way up with them. So Moses went back down to get them (Exod. 24:3) and brought them partway up Mount Sinai as God asked him to do (Exod. 24:9).
[For more on Moses’ seven trips up Mount Sinai, see commentary on Exod. 19:3].
“bow down.” The common biblical way of bowing down before people or God was to fall to one’s knees and bow the upper body to the earth. It is the same Hebrew word as “worship.” [For more on bowing down, see commentary on 1 Chron. 29:20].(top)
|Exo 24:2||- (top)|
“Moses came and told the people.” Exodus 24:3 is Moses’ fourth time down Mount Sinai. Moses came down Mount Sinai to the camp of Israel at the foot of the mountain and told all the people what God said, which was all the laws and commandments God had given from Exodus 20:21, when he had gone up Mount Sinai to speak with God (his fourth time up Mount Sinai) until this fourth time down the mountain. Moses wrote down all the things that God had said during that time, (Exod. 24:4), and that scroll of laws that God gave to Moses was called “The Book of the Covenant” (Exod. 24:7).
The laws in the Book of the Covenant, which was what God had said from Exodus 20:22-23:33, are very valuable moral and legal directives on many different aspects of life, and if followed would keep any nation and its people holy before Yahweh and well-positioned to have rewards in the next life. There are parts of it that seem very harsh to us today, but we must remember that on the Day of Judgment we humans will not make the laws by which we will be judged, God makes those laws. There is a spiritual war going on between Good and Evil, and the Devil’s goal is to steal, kill, and destroy God’s people (John 10:10). Most ungodly people today conveniently don’t believe in the Devil and his agenda to make people and nations unholy to God, but their unbelief does not make the Devil disappear, it only distorts their perception of how life really works and what is important. What people believe will not change what God will do on the Day of Judgment. Also, although we may not have to enforce every one of the laws in the Book of the Covenant today, we must realize that only a few of the people of Israel had God’s gift of spirit (cp. Num. 11:16-17; 24-29), and so the most reliable way to keep Israel holy before Yahweh was to give people clear laws on how to live holy before God and get the truly unholy people out of Israel because their evil influence would make it unholy to God and also jeopardize the everlasting life and rewards that people could have in the future. Any Israelite who did not like God’s laws was free to leave Israel, but if they were stubborn and stayed they would be subject to God’s laws.
[For more information on Moses’ seven trips up Mount Sinai, see commentary on Exod. 19:3].(top)
“standing-stones.” It was a common practice to take a very large, long stone and set it upright as recognition of memorial of some event. [For more on standing-stones, see commentary on Gen. 28:18].(top)
|Exo 24:5||- (top)|
|Exo 24:6||- (top)|
“scroll of the covenant.” The scroll of the covenant, often called “the book of the covenant” was the initial part of what we today refer to as “the Old Covenant” or “Old Testament.” It included the Ten Commandments that God had spoken in a loud voice to the people (Exod. 20:1-17) and all the various laws God had Moses write down that God had spoken to Moses in Exodus 21-23. Thus the whole “scroll of the covenant” basically covered the laws in Exodus 20-23, or about 4 chapters. It was this scroll of the covenant that was read to the people of Israel, which they agreed to obey when they made the “Old Covenant” and were sprinkled with the blood of the sacrifices (Exod. 24:5-8).
The scroll of the covenant contains the very essence of the “Law,” which is torah in Hebrew (hence it is often referred to as the “Torah”). It is somewhat unfortunate that the Hebrew word torah became translated and generally understood as meaning “law,” because actually it means “instruction.” Anyone who has been to a legal library in the United States knows that it contains thousands of volumes of “laws.” There is no way that all the individual laws of a society could be written in so few pages as the Law of Moses. The “Law” of Moses is not actually all the “law” of Israel, it is only a small portion of laws, but they act as “instruction” for how to model the laws of a society. The Ten Commandments and Exodus 21-23 are a very solid basis for how to build a godly society.
Because the people agreed to obey the words of Yahweh, and because the other commandments in the Mosaic Law were based upon what was written in the scroll of the covenant, the other commandments in Law are also considered part of the Law and the Old Covenant. The Rabbis teach that the Mosaic Law has a total of 613 commandments.
It is worth noting that when Israel made the “Old Covenant” with God, the Ten Commandments had been spoken by God audibly and written down by Moses. Only after Israel made the Old Covenant with God did Moses go up Mount Sinai and get the Ten Commandments on stone (Exod. 31:18).(top)
“sprinkled it on the people.” “The people” here refers to the representatives of the people, not all the millions of Israelites, but nevertheless there would have been lots of people involved. This was the blood part of the blood covenant that we know as the “Old Covenant,” usually, but less accurately, known as the “Old Testament.” God expected the people to know and follow the covenant that they had agreed to, and here we can see one reason why. When the people agreed to obey God, and entered into a covenant with Him, animals were killed, and their blood was sprinkled on both God and the people (Exod. 24:6, 8). This would have been a very memorable event, and it is likely that the bloodstains of that covenant were on the clothes of many people for a long time. Furthermore, this event was then to be spoken of from generation to generation, which is why, many hundreds of years later, the prophets were still reminding the Israelites about the covenant (cp. Isa. 24:5; Jer. 11:10; Ezek. 44:7; Hos. 8:1).(top)
“and seventy of the elders of Israel went up.” Moses and some of the main leaders of Israel went part way up Mount Sinai. They did not go all the way up the mountain, only far enough to see that God was indeed on the mountain (Exod. 24:1-2; 9-11).
[For more information on Moses’ seven trips up Mount Sinai, see commentary on Exod. 19:3].(top)
“They saw the God of Israel.” The Hebrew word “saw” is the common verb ra'ah (#07200 רָאָה), to see with the physical eye.(top)
“lay his hand on.” This is an idiom meaning “to harm.” God did not harm these leaders even though they saw him.
“they saw God.” The Hebrew word “saw” is the verb chazah (#02372 חָזָה), to see, but often to perceive, to see with the mental eye. When contrasted with Exodus 24:11, chazah means more to mentally perceive. The leaders of Israel saw Yahweh with their eyes (Exod. 24:10) and understood what they saw (Exod. 24:11).(top)
|Exo 24:12||- (top)|
|Exo 24:13||- (top)|
|Exo 24:14||- (top)|
“And Moses went up on the mountain.” This is Moses’ fifth time up Mount Sinai to be with God. First, he walked up close to the cloud that covered the mountain, then after six days of waiting there, he walked into the cloud where God was (Exod. 24:13-18). This fifth time Moses was on Mount Sinai lasted 40 days and 40 nights (v. 18), and it was during that time that God gave Moses all the detailed revelation about how to build the Tent of Meeting (the “Tabernacle”). Moses did not come down the mountain until Exodus 32:15, so God gave Moses more than seven chapters of detailed information about the Tent of Meeting. But even those seven chapters are not all the information God gave Moses, because there is not enough detail in those chapters to completely construct Moses’ Tent of Meeting, and archaeologists and architects have been arguing about exactly how it should be constructed for years.
In general, there is so much focus on the fact that Moses got the Ten Commandments on stone tablets on this trip up Mount Sinai that no one pays attention to the real reason Moses made this trip and was gone so long—which was to get the details of the Tent of Meeting! The people already had the Ten Commandments and more than three chapters of laws from God. What they did not have was a proper dwelling place for God to live among them, and the Tent of Meeting provided that. But the Tent of Meeting provided so much more than just a “tent” where God could live and meet the people of Israel. Everything about the Tent of Meeting was redemptive, symbolic, or taught a lesson. The size, the shape, the colors, the material and metals used—everything was important. Furthermore, much of the symbolism pointed to the work of Christ and the need for his life and work. The very fact that the walls and curtains of the Tent of Meeting separated God from the people showed the great need for the work of Christ to reconcile God and people back together. The people could not see over the tall outer courtyard curtains that enclosed the Tent of Meeting and the things in its courtyard, and curtains in front of the Holy Place and Holy of Holies ensured that the people never could see the dwelling place of the Most High God. Indeed, without the work of Christ, humankind would never see God or be redeemed and as a race would be doomed to everlasting death. No wonder God was so picky about every detail of the Tent of Meeting—those details pointed to His Son and the eventual restoration of the human race that God created and loved.
[For more information on Moses’ seven trips up Mount Sinai, see commentary on Exod. 19:3. For more on God speaking directly to Israel with a loud voice from the top of Mount Sinai, see commentary on Exodus 19:9].(top)
“The glory of Yahweh settled on Mount Sinai.” God was in the middle of the glory, which is why He called out from the middle of “the cloud,” which was not a normal cloud, but the cloud of light that surrounded God. The “cloud” around God is similar to what Ezekiel saw (Ezek. 1:4). In this context, “the glory of Yahweh” was the glorious light that surrounded Him. [For more on “the glory of Yahweh,” see commentary on Ezekiel 1:28].(top)
|Exo 24:17||- (top)|
“And Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights.” On this fifth trip up Mount Sinai, Moses was there for 40 days and nights, and he was there 40 days and nights again on his seventh trip up the mountain (Exod. 34:28).(top)