SynopsisFor the last few chapters, God has been giving His people various commandments, rules, and regulations, on how to run their new nation. In this chapter, there are no rules given, but the LORD is going to meet with the elders of Israel.
The chapter begins with the LORD commanding Moses and the elders to approach Him. However, there’s approaching, and then there’s approaching. Only Moses is allowed to come near to the LORD; the elders are to come closer, but not too close, and the rest of the people are not to approach Him at all.
Before they go, however, Moses has a talk with the people:
When Moses went and told the people all the LORD’s words and laws, they responded with one voice, “Everything the LORD has said we will do.” Moses then wrote down everything the LORD had said.
He got up early the next morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain and set up twelve stone pillars representing the twelve tribes of Israel. Then he sent young Israelite men, and they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as fellowship offerings to the LORD. Moses took half of the blood and put it in bowls, and the other half he sprinkled on the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, “We will do everything the LORD has said; we will obey.”
Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, “This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.”
After this, Moses and the elders approach God, and actually get to see Him. But He doesn’t destroy them; in fact, not only do they get to see God, they actually eat and drink with Him (verse 11).
Moses—and Joshua, his aide—then set out to meet with God. He is going to give them tablets, on which He has written “the law and commands”, for the Israelites (verse 12). Before he leaves, Moses instructs the elders that while he is gone, anyone with a dispute can go to Aaron or Hur. (Whenever I read this little parting message from Moses to the elders, it almost sounds like he’s saying “now be good while I’m gone, and don’t get into any trouble!” But maybe I’m just over thinking it, since I know that they will get into trouble.)
Moses and Joshua then go up onto the mountain, and the glory of the LORD covers it. They wait six days, and on the seventh day the LORD calls to them, and they enter the cloud. The glory of the LORD on the mountain looks like a consuming fire (verse 17).
The passage tells us that, altogether, Moses and Joshua stay in the cloud for 40 days and 40 nights.
ThoughtsThere is one sentence in this chapter that makes me cringe, every time I read it. And, with a slight variation, it’s repeated twice by the Israelites:
When Moses went and told the people all the LORD’s words and laws, they responded with one voice, “Everything the LORD has said we will do.” (verse 3)
Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, “We will do everything the LORD has said; we will obey.” (verse 7)
I cringe because they seem to say it without giving it too much thought. “Yeah, yeah, we’ll do what He says.” But, of course, we know that they won’t do what He says. I don’t mean to foreshadow, but they don’t even last 40 days—when Moses comes down from the mountain, he’ll find them cavorting at the base of it, with their golden calves! (That in itself blows my mind; they’re at the foot of a mountain where they can see the glory of the LORD right there in front of them, covering the mountain, and yet they build false idols! But that’s a story for another chapter…)
I find it interesting that the LORD tells Moses, over and over again, that only he is to approach the mountain, and enter the glory of the LORD, and yet Joshua joins Moses when he goes. I don’t read this as disobedience to God’s word, especially because He doesn’t say anything to them about it; it seems, to me, to just be assumed that Joshua will be able to come with Moses, since he’s Moses’ aide.
In the next few chapters, God will give Moses instructions on how to build the tabernacle, including various implements to go inside it, to be used for worship.