A. The signing of the Mosaic covenant.
1. (1-3) Moses relates all the words of the LORD and all the judgments to Israel.
Now He said to Moses, “Come up to the LORD, you and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and worship from afar. And Moses alone shall come near the LORD, but they shall not come near; nor shall the people go up with him.” So Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD and all the judgments. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words which the LORD has said we will do.”
a. Come up to the LORD, you and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel: We are reminded that God spoke Exodus chapters 20:22 through 23:33 to Moses alone. Now others were to come up on the mountain and keep their distance (worship from afar), yet Moses alone shall come near. Moses was allowed special access to God, so God spoke to Moses and Moses spoke to the nation.
b. So Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD and all the judgments: When the people heard the law of God they responded with complete agreement (all the people answered with one voice). Then they verbally agreed to obey the LORD (All the words which the LORD has said we will do).
i. Israel here was perhaps guilty of tremendous over-confidence. The way they seemed to easily say to God, “We will keep Your law” seemed to lack appreciation for how complete and deeply comprehensive God’s law is.
ii. However, a nation that had been terrified by God’s awesome presence at Sinai was in no state of mind to do anything but agree with God.
2. (4-8) The nation confirms their solemn covenant with God.
And Moses wrote all the words of the LORD. And he rose early in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars according to the twelve tribes of Israel. Then he sent young men of the children of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the LORD. And Moses took half the blood and put it in basins, and half the blood he sprinkled on the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the LORD has said we will do, and be obedient.” And Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, “This is the blood of the covenant which the LORD has made with you according to all these words.”
a. And Moses wrote all the words of the LORD: In the previous verse (Exodus 24:3), Israel verbally agreed to a covenant-relationship with God; but there is a sense in which this is simply not good enough. They must do specific things to confirm their covenant with God. First, the word of God must be written: Moses wrote all the words of the LORD. God’s word was important enough that it was not be left up to human recollection and the creative nature of memory. It had to be written down.
i. God did not make an individual covenant with its own arrangement for each Israelite. There was one covenant. The same is true today under the New Covenant. You do have a personal relationship with God; you don’t have your own private agreement with Him that contradicts the revealed words of the LORD.
ii. With the same idea God spoke through Habakkuk: Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it. (Habakkuk 2:2)
b. Who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the LORD: Second, covenant was only made in the context of sacrifice. Sacrifice admits our own sin and failing before God, and it addresses that need through the death of a substitute.
i. He sent the young men: “This is a primitive touch, coming from before the time of a specialized priesthood… There is nothing magical in the choice of young men for the task: it is purely a practical consideration. To bind cattle to a stone altar required strength and agility. A young man was a natural warrior, so he was a natural ‘priest’.” (Cole)
c. He took the Book of the Covenant and read in the hearing of the people: Third, covenant was made when God’s word is heard and responded to. Our covenant with God is based on His words and His terms, not our own words and terms.
i. Additionally, there must be a response to God’s word: All that the LORD has said we will do, and be obedient. Just as much as God would not negotiate His covenant with Israel, neither would He force it upon them. They must freely respond.
ii. Book of the Covenant: “The book (Exodus 24:7) is doubtless the germ of the Old Testament.” (Thomas)
d. Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people: Fourth, covenant was made with the application of blood. As the nation received the blood of the covenant, the covenant was sealed.
i. There was nothing magical about blood, but because it represented the life of a being (For the life of the flesh is in the blood, Leviticus 17:11), blood represents the outpouring of life, of one life being given for another.
ii. “Blood-ritual of some kind is common to most forms of covenant: witness the custom in many lands of making ‘blood-brothers’ by allowing the blood from two persons to mingle and flow together in one.” (Cole)
iii. “Half of the blood being sprinkled on the ALTAR, and half of it sprinkled on the PEOPLE, showed that both GOD and THEY were mutually bound by this covenant.” (Clarke)
iv. Almost a thousand years later, God did not forget the blood of this covenant: Because of the blood of your covenant, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit. (Zechariah 9:11)
v. The blood of Jesus’ covenant saves us: this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. (Matthew 26:28)
vi. The blood of Jesus’ covenant is also the foundation for all our growth and maturity in Christ: Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Hebrews 13:20-21)
iv. Our dealing with God through the New Covenant follows the same covenant pattern:
· Words of God read.
· Sacrifice must be made.
· Receiving God’s words.
· Receiving the Blood of Sacrifice.
B. The elders and priests of Israel with God on Sinai.
1. (9-11) The elders of Israel meet with God.
Then Moses went up, also Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and they saw the God of Israel. And there was under His feet as it were a paved work of sapphire stone, and it was like the very heavens in its clarity. But on the nobles of the children of Israel He did not lay His hand. So they saw God, and they ate and drank.
a. And they saw the God of Israel: It is difficult to say exactly what they saw. What they saw under His feet suggests that at the most they saw the footstool of God. Most likely they saw some aspect of a heavenly vision of God, after the pattern of Isaiah (Isaiah 6) or Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1).
i. “In this verse it is equally stressed that the elders did not dare to raise their eyes above His footstool.” (Cole)
ii. The blue of the sapphire may suggest that the elders saw the sea of glass before the throne of God (Revelation 4:6). “Ezekiel 1:26 sees God as seated on a sapphire throne, over a crystal ‘firmament’ (verse 22), and the thought is taken up again in the book of Revelation.” (Cole)
iii. A paved work of sapphire stone: “To show that God had now changed their condition, their bricks, made in their bondage, to sapphire.” (Trapp)
b. But on the nobles of the children of Israel He did not lay His hand: This indicates that as glorious as this experience was, there was something missing or incomplete in the encounter. This was not a “face-to-face” encounter with God. These elders of Israel could see God, but there was no fellowship or communication between them and God.
i. Nobles: “Literally ‘corner pegs’, an unusual and archaic word, whose meaning is clear from the context. Similar metaphors will be used elsewhere in the Old Testament (Isaiah 22:23; Zechariah 10:4).” (Cole)
c. So they saw God: God allowed the elders of Israel to see such a spectacular vision to impress on them the reality of God’s presence. After this experience they would be more likely to trust God when He spoke through Moses.
i. “The account of this experience is reverently reticent. No description is given of the form which the manifestation took. All the description attempted is that of the footstool of Deity.” (Morgan)
ii. “It is impossible to say what is meant by ‘they saw God.’ It was some appearance of the divine presence (Numbers 12:8; Isaiah 6:1; Ezekiel 1:26).” (Thomas)
iii. “That Moses and his company ‘saw the God of Israel’ at first appears to contradict Exodus 33:20; John 1:18; and 1 Timothy 6:16; but what they saw was a ‘form [‘similitude’] of the LORD’ (Numbers 12:8, just as Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:26) and Isaiah (Isaiah 6:1) saw an approximation, a faint resemblance and a sensible adumbration of the incarnate Christ who was to come.” (Kaiser)
d. And they ate and drank: God wanted them to eat and drink in His presence because He wanted to communicate a sense of fellowship with these leaders of Israel.
i. “Seventy-four men were gathered together around the manifested presence of God, and in that Presence they did eat and drink.” (Morgan)
ii. “It is true that a shared meal (especially involving salt) was a common way of sealing a covenant, from biblical times to modern days. However, it is also true that any form of worship which involved the sacrifice of ‘peace offerings’ (Exodus 24:5) would be naturally followed by a sacrificial feast.” (Cole)
iii. F.B. Meyer noted that eating and drinking are entirely normal, daily activities and that these men experienced God profoundly in something so normal. He then observed:
· Some eat and drink, and do not behold God.
· Some behold God, and do not eat and drink.
· Some behold God and eat and drink.
2. (12-18) Moses goes up on the mountain to meet with God and to receive the tablets of the Ten Commandments.
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Come up to Me on the mountain and be there; and I will give you tablets of stone, and the law and commandments which I have written, that you may teach them.” So Moses arose with his assistant Joshua, and Moses went up to the mountain of God. And he said to the elders, “Wait here for us until we come back to you. Indeed Aaron and Hur are with you. If any man has a difficulty, let him go to them.” Then Moses went up into the mountain, and a cloud covered the mountain. Now the glory of the LORD rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day He called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud. The sight of the glory of the LORD was like a consuming fire on the top of the mountain in the eyes of the children of Israel. So Moses went into the midst of the cloud and went up into the mountain. And Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights.
a. Come up to Me on the mountain and be there: Moses went up at God’s invitation and he also brought with him his assistant Joshua. This same Joshua became the great leader God used to bring Israel into the Promised Land, but he began as Moses’ assistant – first, helping Moses in battle (Exodus 17:8-16), then by assisting him here in spiritual things.
i. “Joshua accompanied Moses for a distance and there waited six days (a solemn reminder of God’s unapproachableness), when Moses was called higher to a personal and private interview with God, which lasted nearly six weeks (Deuteronomy 9:9).” (Thomas)
ii. The nation of Israel were assembled at the foot of the mountain. Aaron, his sons, and the seventy elders of Israel were half-way up the mountain. Joshua and Moses went up further, and Moses alone met with God.
b. Indeed Aaron and Hur are with you: Moses had good reason to believe that these two men could supervise the camp of Israel. They already proved themselves as men capable of assisting Moses in prayer (Exodus 17:10-13). Yet Aaron and Hur didn’t do a good job guarding the camp – as will be demonstrated in the following chapters.
c. The sight of the glory of the LORD was like a consuming fire on the top of the mountain in the eyes of the children of Israel: Perhaps this looked like glowing, radiant embers of a hot fire (a consuming fire). The glorious presence of God on Sinai lingered the forty days Moses was on the mount. Though the people could not see God, and could not see Moses, God left them reminders of His glory and presence, to help them trust what they could not see.
i. Rested on Mount Sinai: “The Hebrew verb is ‘dwelt’. It is used in a technical sense later of God’s ‘shekinah’, the outward manifestation of His presence to men.” (Cole)
ii. “When the glory of God ‘settled’ on the mountain, the same word (sakan) is used as the ‘shekinah’ glory (cf. John 1:14, the Word ‘tabernacling’ among us).” The ancient Greek word for dwelt in John 1:14 sounds very much like the Hebrew sakan. (Kaiser)
d. He called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud: This was not a welcoming place; the harsh and dangerous environment said, “Stay away.” But God called to Moses and told him, “Come close to me.”
i. As harsh and as dangerous as the environment was, there was something of the glory of God in it. These images of the cloud, the smoke, and the fire are all Biblical images of God’s revealed glory. They are connected to His cloud of shekinah glory, and also with Jesus’ presence among men.
ii. In all of this God said to Moses, “You can draw near. I will keep you safe and reveal Myself to you.” Under the New Covenant, in light of the Word of God, and under the sacrifice of Jesus, God dares us to draw near to Him.
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission