THE PENTATEUCH PART II: EXODUS
Exodus chapters 24:1-18
The Ratification of the Sinai Covenant
Lord of Faithfulness and Mercy,
On the night Christ first offered the faithful His Body and Blood He spoke of the New Covenant in His blood. As people who were bound to Yahweh through the blood of the sacrifice poured out on Yahweh's altar and sprinkled on the people in the covenant ratification ceremony at Mt. Sinai all those centuries earlier, the words Jesus spoke were a signal to His disciples that what was begun in that Old Covenant was now completed in a New and everlasting Covenant that had been promised by the prophet Jeremiah. Lord, may we have the courage to keep our oaths of allegiance as we commit ourselves, like the faithful of the community of the Sinai Covenant, saying: "We shall do everything that Christ has said "we shall obey" the covenant that is our inheritance, not through the blood of animals but through the blood of our precious Savior. Send Your Holy Spirit to guide us, Lord, in our study of the first corporate covenant that was a precursor to our universal New Covenant in Christ Jesus. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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That is why even the earlier covenant was inaugurated with blood, and why, after Moses had promulgated all the commandments of the Law to the people he took the calves' blood, the goats' blood and some water, and with these he sprinkled the book itself and all the people, using scarlet wool and hyssop: saying as he did so: This is the blood of the covenant that God has made with you. Hebrews 9:18-20
Look, the days are coming, Yahweh declares, when I shall make a new covenant with the House of Israel (and the House of Judah), but not like the covenant I made with their ancestors the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of Egypt, a covenant which they broke, even though I was their Master, Yahweh declares. No, this is the covenant I shall make with the House of Israel when those days have come, Yahweh declares. Within them I shall plant my Law, writing it on their hearts. Then I shall be their God and they will be my people. Jeremiah 31:31-33
Then he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me. He did the same with the cup after supper, and said, This cup is the new covenant in my blood poured out for you. Luke 22:19-20
At the rendezvous at Mt. Sinai the Israelites were prepared to receive the promises Yahweh made to Abraham: land, many descendants to form a nation, and a worldwide blessing. But why was Mt. Sinai the designated site to transform the twelve tribes of Israel into a holy covenant nation and not Mt. Moriah in the Land of Promise? For the Israelites to become the personal possession of a holy and righteous God, who intended to dwell among His people for the first time since the garden Sanctuary in Eden, it was a transformation that was not without its dangers.
Answer: The sacred nature of God forbids contamination by the profane. No man or woman tainted by sin can enter the presence of God and live; therefore, the people were endangered by their sinful human nature if the came into the presence of God.
In order for God to safely dwell among His people adequate preparations had to be made. The long term solution was going to be the sacred dwelling place of God above the Mercy Seat of the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies of the desert Tabernacle and the Law of the Covenant that would establish religious and civil laws to guide a holy people who would continually cleanse their sinfulness and consecrate their lives to Yahweh through ritual purification and blood sacrifice. Until those rites could be established and God's sacred dwelling place could be prepared, Yahweh needed a place where He could safely address His people and prepare them for their journey into covenant holiness and continued communion with their God. Mt. Sinai, divided into three dimensions of sacred space (the summit of God's presence, the mid-way space for a select few, and the base of the mountain for the people) became the prototype of the Tabernacle and the safe vehicle of union with God until the earthly copy of the heavenly Sanctuary could be built. Like the future Tabernacle (and later the Temple), Mt. Sinai offered a physical and temporal separation which allowed Yahweh to come to His people and for His people to safely draw near to Him (see Num 8:19).
As a people committed a holy union with a just God, the Israelites had to agree to be committed to Yahweh's laws governing their lives and to understand that to love Yahweh was the essence of the Law. Coming immediately after the Ten Words/ Commandments God spoke in the presence of the people from the summit of Sinai, Exodus 20:22-23:19 listed the commandments of the law given to Moses that continued the Ethical Stipulations of the covenant treaty: the social, moral and religious laws by which the people must agree to live. Included in these laws were:
In addition to the laws that comprised the Ethical Stipulations Moses was given the fourth part of the covenant treaty formulary "the Sanctions: blessings for obedience and judgments for disobedience.
Question: The Sanctions section began with a renewal of what promise made to Abraham? What was the condition bound to the promise? See Exodus 23:20-33.
Answer: The promise that they will inherit the land of Canaan along with the promise of blessings of fertility and prosperity if the people will be obedient to Yahweh's laws and commandments.
This section restates the promises made to the Patriarchs that their many descendants would inherit the land of Canaan (Ex 23:23) along with eight promised blessings for covenant obedience and four warnings of judgments in the event the people were unfaithful to the covenant treaty.
Question: What is the final warning of the Sanctions section?
Answer: The Israelites must not make any treaties with the inhabitants of Canaan, and they must drive all the pagan inhabitants out of Canaan or their pagan practices will become a cause for the people to fall into sin.
The Sanctions were the last of the words Moses received from God on the summit of the mountain before returning to the people to prepare for the formal ratification of the Sinai Covenant Treaty. That Israel in her nation status should receive codified law did not make the Israelites unique among the contemporary city-states and nations of the ancient Near East. What made Israel unique was that the Law of the Sinai Covenant was not a series of impersonal commandments formulated by men to govern and administer justice to a people but that the people's commitment to the codified Law of the Sinai Covenant was the means of maintaining a relationship with a loving and personal God. The Pentateuch's testimony that these laws were given to Israel through Moses by the Supreme Being elevated the law from the human dimension into the divine dimension were the Law became the personal commandments of Yahweh that were intended to create a holy people who were to continue to live in communion with a holy God who had come to dwell among them. Jewish scholar Jon Levenson writes: The energy and spiritual power of Torah flows in no small measure from its insistence on holding these two dimensions, the outer and the inner, the legal and the affective, in a tight unity, refusing to sacrifice the one on the altar of the other (Levenson, Sinai and Zion: An Entry into the Jewish Bible, page 50). There could be no separation of Church and State. The people's civil life could not be separated from their religious life "the entire focus of the lives of the Israelites, civil and religious, was bound by the personal commands of a righteous and holy God who bound His people to Himself in the Law of the covenant.
Please read Exodus 24:1-11: The Ratification Ceremony and
the Sacred Meal
24:1He then said to Moses, Come up to Yahweh, you and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel and bow down at a distance. 2Moses alone will approach Yahweh; the others will not approach, nor will the people come up with him.' 3Moses went and told the people all Yahweh's words and all the laws, and all the people answered with one voice, All the words Yahweh has spoken we will carry out!' 4Moses put all Yahweh's words into writing, and early next morning he built an altar at the foot of the mountain, with twelve standing-stones for the twelve tribes of Israel. 5Then he sent certain young Israelites to offer burnt offerings and sacrifice bullocks to Yahweh as communion sacrifices. 6Moses then took half the blood and put it into basins, and the other half he sprinkled on the altar. 7Then, taking the Book of the Covenant, he read it to the listening people, who then said, We shall do everything that Yahweh has said; we shall obey.' 8Moses then took the blood and sprinkled it over the people, saying, This is the blood of the covenant which Yahweh has made with you, entailing all these stipulations.' 9Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu and seventy elders of Israel then went up, 10and they saw the God of Israel beneath whose feet there was what looked like a sapphire pavement pure as the heavens themselves, 11but he did no harm to the Israelite notables; they actually gazed on God and then ate and drank.
Moses, Aaron, the two eldest of Aaron's four sons (Nadab and Abihu), and the seventy elders of the twelve tribes (who represent the entire people) were invited to come mid-way up the mountain closer to Yahweh's presence where they prostrated themselves before God. The division establishes the governing hierarchy of the Old Covenant Church at this time: Moses, the three chief priests, the twelve tribes (descended from the twelve sons of Israel who are the physical fathers of the Old Covenant Church) and the most important seventy elders of the judicial authority who as representatives of the twelve tribes assisted Moses in governing the Old Covenant Church.
Question: Where is a similar division of this hierarchy repeated in the New Testament Gospels?
Answer: Jesus, the three Apostles: Peter, James and John Zebedee, who are chosen to accompany Jesus on certain occasions without the other Apostles (i.e., Mt 17:1; 26:37; Mk 5:37; 14:33), the twelve Apostles (spiritual fathers of the New Covenant Church) and Jesus' seventy disciples (some texts read seventy-two).
The seventy elders will not be mentioned again until Numbers 11:16, 24-25 and Ezekiel 8:11. In the Bible the number seventy has symbolic significance. It is the product of seven (spiritual perfection) and ten (perfection of divine order). Seventy is a number signifying totality and comprehensiveness. The seventy elders represent the entire community of Israel as they bow before God.
Question: Where did seventy men represent the entire community of the children of Israel previously in the Pentateuch?
Moses alone was commanded ascend to the summit to approach Yahweh to receive the Law. Moses then carried all of Yahweh's words of the Law back to the people.
Question: What part did Moses play in the formulation of the covenant document? See Ex 24:4.
Answer: Moses was Yahweh's covenant mediator, and it was Moses who put all Yahweh's words into writing.
Question: How did the people respond to the articles of Law written in the Book of the Covenant? See Exodus 24:3
Answer: They unanimously accept the conditions of the covenant treaty with Yahweh.
The Book of the Covenant will be kept beside the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies when the Tabernacle is built.(1) The discovery of Hittite treaty texts has shown that a public reading of the terms of the covenant treaty in front of the vassal and his people was a necessary part of covenant formation and covenant renewal. Moses' reading of the Book of the Covenant in the presence of the people was a typical part of a covenant ratification ceremony (Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, page 205).
Question: The rites of the ratification ceremony began the next morning. What were the three commands that Moses gave in preparation for the ceremony?
Question: Who were the young Israelites who were called to serve at God's altar in Exodus 24:5? What service did they perform?
Answer: The text does not reveal their identity but it is likely that they are the younger generation of the firstborn sons who were redeemed by the blood of the Passover lambs the night of the tenth plague. They offered Yahweh whole burnt offerings and communion sacrifices (bulls, sheep, and goats) according to the previous custom in the time of their ancestors and in accordance with the laws of the covenant.
The young men doing priestly service offered two types of blood sacrifices: the olah (whole burnt offerings) which were the sin sacrifices and the shelamim (peace sacrifices) which were the communion sacrifices. A communion sacrifice and the following sacred meal cannot take place without first offering a sacrifice in atonement for sins "a holy God can only receive a spiritually purified believer into fellowship in the sacred meal of the communion sacrifice in which "peace" is re-established with God.
Question: Is this practice any different for us in the rites of New Covenant worship? See 1 Cor 11:23-32 and quote the significant passage. Compare the Mass to the three part division of the desert Sanctuary (see the plan of the Sanctuary and its Tabernacle in the appendix).
Answer: No, it is the same. In the Penitential Rite of the Mass we confess our venial sins and are forgiven through the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God (mortal sins must be confessed and forgiven in the Sacrament of Reconciliation). It is then that we become cleansed and are able to move from the Outer Courtyard of the Introduction Rites and into the Holy Place of the Liturgy of the Word. In the Liturgy of the Eucharist we move forward to receive Christ in the sacred meal of the Eucharist, entering the Holy of Holies of the Mass and the very Presence of God. St. Paul warned the faithful that before receiving the Eucharist was must be cleansed of sin and we must believe Christ is present or we condemn ourselves to God's judgment: Everyone is to examine himself and only then eat of the bread or drink from the cup; because a person who eats and drinks without recognizing the body is eating and drinking his own condemnation. [..]. If we were critical of ourselves we would not be condemned, but when we are judged by the Lord, we are corrected by the Lord to save us from being condemned along with the world.
Exodus 24:6: Moses then took half the blood and put it into basins, and the other half he sprinkled on the altar. The word translated as "basins" is not the same word found in Exodus 12:22. In this case the Hebrew word is aggan (also see Is 22:24 and Song 7:3), a word found in several other Semitic languages and which has been established archaeologically to be a large and deep two-handled bowl or chalice (JPS Commentary: Exodus, page 152).
Question: Before Moses read to the people what he recorded in the Book of the Covenant what did he do with the blood of the sacrifices? See Exodus 24:6-7
Answer: The blood of the sacrifices was collected and then half of the blood was poured out against the sides of the altar. In this part of the ratification ceremony Moses only used half the blood. He kept the other half in chalices.
Question: After the people agree to accept Yahweh's Covenant what did Moses do with the remaining blood collected in the chalices? How did he apply the blood of the sacrifice? The inspired writer of Hebrews wrote about this event in 9:19-20.
Answer: Using a hyssop branch Moses sprinkled blood on the altar, the book and the people.
Question: Why was it necessary to apply the blood to the altar, the Book of the Covenant and the people? What did the altar, book, and the blood on the people symbolize?
Answer: The altar represented Yahweh; the Book symbolized the covenant treaty in which the Israelites agreed to be bound Yahweh in covenant union, and the blood of the sacrifice cleansed the people of their sins and made the purified Israelites and God one covenant family united in the blood of the sacrificial victim "families are united by the link of common blood.
Question: Do you see a foreshadowing of the New Covenant and the uniting of Yahweh and New Covenant believers? How are New Covenant believers united to God? Quote some significant Gospel passages that speak of a "new" covenant, the blood of sacrifice, hyssop, and the fulfillment of the Old Covenant.
Answer: In the sacrificial blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus the Messiah.
Question: After the sacrifice of the whole burnt offerings in the covenant ratification ceremony, in which the blood of the sacrifice united the people to Yahweh, what transpired with Moses, Aaron and his two sons, and the seventy elders who were positioned mid-way up the mountain? See Ex 24:9-11
Answer: Mid-way up the mountain they sat in Yahweh's presence where they viewed the heavenly throne room. Then they sealed the covenant by eating the communion sacrifices in a sacred meal in the presence of God.
Question: Compare the description of this event with other passages that describe the heavenly court of Yahweh. Please read Isaiah's vision in Is 6:1-7, Ezekiel's vision in Ez 1:4-28; 10:1, and Rev 4:1-11. How are the descriptions similar? Hint: remember to consider the perspective of those on the mountain side who are viewing the heavenly Sanctuary looking upward through the floor of the Divine throne room.
Answer: The descriptions are all similar; each account records a heavenly throne room with a blue floor and God present upon a heavenly throne.
The description of the pavement of sapphire would not be the modern blue gemstone since the gemstone corundum/ sapphire, was unknown in the ancient Near East. The Hebrew word livnat suggests a decorative floor covered with bricks or tiles and most scholars suggest the Hebrew word sappir is the probably the deep blue stone called lapis lazuli (JPS Commentary: Exodus, page 153).
Question: What does the communion banquet of the representatives of the community of Israel mid-way up the mountain but in the presence of God prefigure? See CCC 1326
Answer: The Eucharistic banquet of the New Covenant in which New Covenant believers, after the offering of the sacrifice of the Mass, move forward (spiritually mid-way between heaven and earth) into God's presence. The congregation of the faithful is still on earth but joined by the presence of Christ to the heavenly Sanctuary. The faithful then eat a sacred communion meal in the presence of God. Our sacred meal of the Eucharist looks backward in time to Jesus' Last Supper and also forward in time in anticipation of eternal life in the Presence of God in the heavenly banquet.
In old covenant worship, even in the time of the Patriarchs, the whole burnt offerings for the forgiveness of sins always preceded the communion offering and sacred meal.
Question: How are we commanded to keep the same observance before sharing communion with God? See 1 Cor 11:26-34 and CCC 610-14.
Answer: Venial sins must be forgiven in the penitential rite of the Mass and mortal sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It is the blood of the sacrificial victim, Jesus Christ, who cleanses us of our sins to prepare us for the Rite of Communion, where we present ourselves as pure and holy sacrifices (Rom 12:1) and eat a sacred meal in the presence of God.
Question: Review the description of the ratification ceremony in Exodus 24:4-11, what are the main elements of the rite of ratification?
Question: Are any of these elements part of a covenant formation ritual in previous sections of the biblical narrative from Genesis and earlier portions of Exodus? Give examples.
Answer: Ritual sacrifices, oath swearing, and the eating of a shared meal or sacred meal in God's presence are all elements of covenant formation that are found in earlier parts of the biblical narrative:
These elements of covenant formation, which will also be part of covenant renewal ceremonies, are repeated in other parts of the Pentateuch narrative and in the Bible books recounting the history of Israel. For example:
The Exodus experience was intensified when Yahweh appeared in fire and smoke to Israel at Mt. Sinai, elevating the children of Israel from the status of humble slaves to "firstborn sons" among the world's nations (Ex 4:23), but the climax of the Exodus experience was surely the sacred communion meal eaten by the representatives of Israel in the Presence of the Most Holy God (Ex 24:9-11). As in Abraham's vision of the flaming torch and firepot, in Moses' vision of God in the flames of the burning tree/bush and in the Theophany of fire and cloud when heaven opened and God appeared at the summit of Sinai, in the joining of heaven and earth at the banquet of the sacred meal God projected a visual manifestation of His Presence that finalized the ratification of the Sinai covenant treaty. That is not to say that the assembly of Moses, Aaron and his two sons and the elders of Israel actually saw God, but they did have the sense of His Divine Presence, an unparalleled view of the heavenly Sanctuary and an image of what they interpreted to be the "feet" of God above them as the gazed at the presence of an unidentified form which they understood to be God (Ex 24:10-11).(2) For the first time since before the fall from grace of Yahweh's first human children when God regularly communed with His children in the liturgical hour of the day (Gen 3:8), Yahweh entered into a continuous relationship of fellowship in which He was present among His people.
At Sinai Yahweh courted Israel like a bridegroom courts His bride, inviting Israel to be His holy partner in the divine plan of salvation. Prior to this point in salvation history Yahweh had formed covenant bonds only with individuals and their families. But at this crucial point in salvation history, in a radical departure from the previous pattern, Yahweh took the descendants of Jacob/ Israel and He formed them into a unified corporate covenant nation. He called Israel to be His first Sacred Assembly, His holy covenant kingdom, and a people called out of all the other nations of the earth to fulfill their destiny as Yahweh's nation of priests: So now, if you are really prepared to obey me and keep my covenant, you, out of all peoples, shall be my personal possession, for the whole world is mine. For, me you shall be a kingdom of priests, a holy nation (Ex 19:5-6). At the ratification ceremony, through a blood sacrifice that united God and His people and the communion meal of kinship that followed, the covenant was sealed and Israel became Yahweh's "called out" (kahal /qahal in Hebrew) ones "His holy representatives to the other nations of the earth.
Please read Exodus 24:12-18: Yahweh's Conference with
Moses on the Summit of the Mountain at the Entrance to the Heavenly Sanctuary
24:12Yahweh said to Moses, Come up to me on the mountain. Stay there and I will give you the stone tablets "the law and the commandments "which I have written for their instruction.' 13Moses made ready, with Joshua his assistant, and they went up the mountain of God. 14He said to the elders, Wait here for us until we come back to you. You have Aaron and Hur with you; if anyone has any matter to settle, let him go to them.' Moses then went up the mountain. 15Cloud covered the mountain. The glory of Yahweh rested on Mount Sinai and the cloud covered it for six days. On the seventh day Yahweh called to Moses from inside the cloud. 16To the watching Israelites, the glory of Yahweh looked like a devouring fire on the mountain top. 17Moses went right into the cloud and went on up the mountain. Moses stayed on the mountain for forty days and forty nights.
This passage provides the transition between the covenant ratification ceremony and the instructions for building the Tabernacle. Yahweh called Moses to the summit of the sacred mountain to receive the stone tablets containing "the law and the commandments," written by God for the people's instruction. It is this document that will give the Ark and the Tabernacle their names: The Ark of the Covenant/Testimony and the Tabernacle of Testimony.
Moses sent the banquet delegation back to the camp of Israel at the base of the mountain (Dt 5:30/27).
Exodus 24:13:Moses made ready, with Joshua his assistant, and they went up the mountain of God.
Question: How did Moses and Joshua prepare for the ascent of Mt. Sinai?
Answer: The biblical text does not provide that information but it can be assumed that they prepared in the same way Yahweh instructed the people to prepare in Exodus chapter 19.
Moses adjutant, Joshua, only partially ascended the mountain (vs. 13-14) with Moses, which explains his reaction to the strange sounds he will hear forty days later coming from the camp at the foot of the mountain (Ex 32:17-18).(3)
Question: Who did Moses appoint as leaders of the people in his absence?
Answer: Aaron and Hur.
Question: For how many days did Moses wait on the mountain before ascending to the summit? What was the significance of the time period before the ascent?
Answer: For six days Moses waited in spiritual preparation as the mountain was wrapped in the Glory Cloud (Ex 25:6). On the significant "seventh" day "the day signifying Moses' transcendence into the realm of the spiritual, God called Moses out of the natural world and into the supernatural sphere of the heavenly Sanctuary.
The Presence (kavod in Hebrew) of God engulfed the summit of the holy mountain in the Glory Cloud for six days and on the seventh day, at the moment God called Moses into the heavenly realm, the people below witnessed the Presence of Yahweh as a consuming fire scorching the top of the mountain as Moses disappeared from view.
Question: For how many days did Moses remain on the mountain and where has this number figured significantly earlier in Scripture?
Answer: Moses was on the mountain out of sight of the camp for forty days and forty nights. It is a number that appeared frequently in the event of the Great Flood.
In Scripture forty is a symbolic number that is often associated with testing, purification, consecration and purging of sin. It often expresses a significant period of time in the events of salvation history (thus far see: Gen 7:4 [twice], 12, 17; 8:6; 50:3; Ex 16:35).
Mt. Sinai is another "cosmic mountain" "the central liturgical focus of the universal domain of Yahweh. The first cosmic mountain was associated with Eden where God communed with man in the earthly garden Sanctuary (Gen 2:10-15; 3:8; Ez 28:13-14). Mt. Sinai, in its three part division, is the prototype for the new earthly Sanctuary, while the Sanctuary constructed at Sinai is the prototype for the next cosmic mountain "Mt. Moriah in Jerusalem, the place that God will select to have His name remembered and where the Temple of Yahweh will be built as the cosmic focus of worship for the people of God (Ex 23:20; Dt 12:11-12; 1 Chr 3:1). All of these "cosmic mountains" are the prototypes for the divine liturgy of the Roman Rite Mass and Eastern Rite Divine Liturgy "the sacred experience that allows man to ascend to the summit of the "cosmic mountain" in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. It is in the Eucharist that the faithful, purified in the sacrificial blood of Jesus Christ, enter a sacred space where time is suspended and where the citizens of heaven and earth are joined in a liturgy in thanksgiving to God and in praise of the King of Kings, the Redeemer-Messiah. Next week we will study the plan of the earthly Sanctuary that God gave to Moses at the summit of Mt. Sinai, a plan that was a copy of the heavenly Sanctuary.
Questions for group discussion:
Question: Where do you see the ritual elements of covenant formation and continuation in the New Covenant Church of Christ the Redeemer-Messiah? Our word "sacrament" is from the Latin word sacramentum, meaning an oath or solemn obligation. Sacramentum was the word used for the oath of alliance Roman soldiers swore to be faithful and obedient to the commands of the Roman Emperor.
Question: What does it mean for us in the context of covenant commitment to actively live the Sacraments of our faith?
Question: What impact did Jesus' words "new covenant in my blood" have on the people who were in the Upper Room the night of the Last Supper in celebration of the covenant renewal in the sacred meal that relived the first Passover sacrifice and Feast of Unleavened Bread (Lk 22:20; 1 Cor 11:23-25)? How would they have interpreted those words in light of their understanding of the ratification of the Sinai Covenant ceremony and the promise of a new covenant made by the prophet Jeremiah (Jer 31:31-34)?
Question: What is our New Covenant renewal ceremony where we recommit ourselves to the New Covenant by reaffirming in an oath statement what we believe, by offering sacrifice, and by taking part in a sacred communion meal in the presence of God?
100 cubits long by 50 cubits wide; entrance 20 cubits wide
(c. 150 ft. or 46 meters by c. 75 ft. or 23 meters)
Outside the Tent/Dwelling = profane and unclean
Three Part Division of the Sanctuary:
1. A reference to the "Book of the Covenant" (sefer ha-berit) appears again only in 2 Kng 23:1-3; 22:8; 2 Chr 34:14-15, 29-32 and in a context similar to Ex 24:7. It is the scroll that was found in the Temple by the High Priest Hilkiah during the reforms of King Josiah (640-609 BC). After its discovery King Josiah convened a national assembly and publically read the entire document, after which the people recommitted themselves to the covenant with Yahweh in a ceremony of covenant renewal.
2. It is impossible to speculate upon what they saw. In the Hebrew text the general word for the verb "to see" (r- -h) is not used; the word used in its place is the word meaning "to behold," which is found in the vocabulary of prophetic visions. The use of h-z-h, "to behold" connotes a greater intensity of the encounter, placing it outside the range of a natural experience (JPS Commentary: Exodus, page 153). From what God told Moses in Ex 33:20-23 it is clear that man cannot gaze upon the face of Yahweh and live, and so Moses was permitted to see the back of God. In a similar way, looking up through the blue floor of the heavenly Sanctuary they saw God's feet, probably His robes (see Is 6:1) and only an indistinctive form of the Divine Presence.
3. Moses made ready, with Joshua his assistant... The Hebrew word mesharet, often translated as "assistant" or "adjutant," is the title usually given to Joshua (see Ex 24:13; 33:11; Nm 11:28 and Josh 1:1). It is a more important title than ebed (servant/slave) except when used as the title "servant of Yahweh" (a title used in Scripture for royal officials or for those who serve in liturgical functions. For more information on Joshua, on his service and loyalty to Moses and his appointment by Yahweh as Moses' successor see Ex 17:9; 24:13; 33:11; Num 11:28; 13:8, 16; 14:5-38; 27:15-23; Dt 3:21, 28; 31:7-8, 14, 23; 34:9 and the Book of Joshua.
Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2009 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.
Catechism references for Exodus chapters 24:1-18 (* indicates Scripture quoted or paraphrased in the citation).
610-11, 613*, 614
Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2009 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.