Biblical Period 3
Lesson #9

Lord God,
Just as You provided physical nourishment for Your Covenant people as they journeyed through the desert wilderness You provide spiritual nourishment for us in the Eucharist as we make our journey of faith through the desert of this world. Thank you Lord for Your loving kindness in providing for Your Covenant people and lead us now as we journey through the pages of Your holy book and teach us the lessons of faith and obedience that You taught Israel those centuries long ago. We pray in the name of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.


"Look, I am sending an angel to precede you, to guard you as you go and bring you to the place that I have prepared. Revere him and obey what he says. Do not defy him: he will not forgive any wrong-doing on your part, for my name is in him." Exodus 23:20-21

Biblical readings for this period: The Sinai Covenant

The Exodus/
Manna, Quails, and The Rock
Exodus 12:33 - 14:31; 16:1-17:7
The Sinai Covenant/
The Establishment of Liturgical Worship
Exodus 19:1- 28:42
The Aaronic Priesthood/
The Daily Sacrifice
Exodus 29:1-42
The Sin of the Golden Calf Exodus 32:1-34:10
The Building of the Tabernacle Exodus 36:8 - 40:38
The Laws of the Covenant/
The Seven Sacred Feasts
Leviticus 23: 1-44

The 10th plague, the death of the Egyptian firstborn and the salvation of the firstborn of Israel, brings the Exodus narrative into the larger theme of the whole Pentateuch; the theme of God providing a way of salvation for the "promised seed" of Genesis 3:15 in the midst of judgment, and the necessity of sacrifice.

It is by means of the yearly commemoration of the first Passover down through the centuries with its judgment of death on one hand and the gift of the salvation of Israel under the "sign" of the blood of the sacrificed lamb [12:13] on the other hand, that will become the backdrop for the great climax of God's plan of redemption for His children from slavery to sin and death. At the appointed time the promised "seed", Jesus the Lamb of God, will crush the head of the serpent and be offered in sacrifice for the sins of the world within the feasts of the Passover and Unleavened Bread!

Israel's Departure From Egypt

Please read Exodus 12:33 - 14:31

Question: In Exodus 12:35-36 the Israelites "did as Moses had told them and asked the Egyptians for silver and golden jewelry, and clothing.." The Egyptians willingly complied fulfilling what prophecy? Who are the two men to whom God makes this prophecy in both Genesis and Exodus?
Answer: The wealth of Egypt placed in Israelite hands fulfilled the prophecy made to Abraham in Genesis 15:14. This prophecy was repeated to Moses in Exodus 3:21-22.

Question: What is the irony concerning the Passover night death of the sons of Egypt and the in Egyptians giving their possessions willingly to the Israelites?
Answer: The 10th plague is ironic in two ways:

  1. Pharaoh had at first enslaved God's firstborn son, Israel, and then demanded the death of the Israelite sons. Now the reverse has happened: Egypt's sons died and the Israelites receive a just reward for their years of slavery.
  2. Yahweh had initially commanded Moses to request that Pharaoh to allow Israel, God's "firstborn son" [Exodus 4:23], to go into the desert and make a sacrifice to Him, but the Pharaoh had refused [Exodus 3:18; 4:23; 5:3, 8]. On the night of the Passover, Israel offered up a willing sacrifice of a male lamb to Yahweh, but Egypt offered up the unwilling sacrifice of the firstborn.

Exodus 12:38 notes that a great many non-Israelites joined the departure from Egypt. This group was probably composed of Egyptians who had intermarried with Israelites, proselytes who had abandoned their pagan gods to follow the God of Israel, and others who saw the chance to escape slavery or who were impressed by Moses' miracles. Later in Numbers 11:4 this groups is called "the rabble" and is seen as a vocal obstacle to Moses' leadership of the people.

Question: What is the length of time given for Israel's time in Egypt? Why does this number differ from the number of years given to Abraham in Genesis 15:13? Hint: see Galatians 3:17
Answer: The number of years given to Abraham in Genesis 15:13 is a rounded number of 400 years. The 430 years is the calculation "to the very day", according to St. Paul. According to the Septuagint and the Samaritan Pentateuch the 430 years includes not only the time the children of Israel lived in Egypt but also the time the patriarchs lived in Canaan from when the prophecy was first given to Abraham. St. Paul seems to agree with this interpretation in Galatians 3:17 and speaks of the 430 years as spanning from the time of the covenant with Abraham to the Mosaic Law. 1Kings 6:1 calculates the years from the Exodus to the building of the Temple in Jerusalem to be 480 years. Solomon began planning the construction of the Temple and arranging for the construction of the Temple with David just before David died and Solomon ascended the throne. The building of the Temple began in the fourth year of his reign and was completed in 7 years. If we knew the date of Solomon's reign we could determine the date of the Exodus. Unfortunately scholars do not agree on the date of the building of Temple although 931/930BC is most often given as the date of Solomon's death. 1Kings 11:42 lists Solomon's reign as lasting 40 years, this would give us the date of 970BC for the year of David's death and the "blueprint" of the Temple construction. Depending on whether or not you interpret Israel's 430 years in Egypt as beginning with the entry of Jacob and his sons into Egypt or from the time of Abraham one might estimate the approximate time the tribes of Israel left Egypt. I leave the math to you.

Exodus 12:42-51 includes additional instructions for the Passover Feast.

Question: Are foreigners allowed to take part in the sacrificial meal of the Passover lamb?
Answer: No, only permanent members of the covenant community could take part and only male members of the community who had been uncircumcised.

Question: Is this restriction similar to the practice today for non-Catholics in the sacrificial meal of the Most Holy Eucharist? What does St. Paul say about this in 1Corinthians 11:26-30?
Answer: Yes. No one is excluded from the Covenant who wishes to freely accept Baptism and rebirth in the family of God, but only those reborn into the Covenant in Christ can come to the marriage feast of the Lamb. St Paul writes that those who drink "unworthy" drink to their own damnation. The Church does not want to exclude anyone from the Eucharistic banquet but to partake of the Body and Blood of Christ in a state of mortal sin is opposed to the Law of the New Covenant people and according to St. Paul, a real danger to an unknowing person.

Question: What are the other instructions given in Exodus 12:46 concerning the lamb?
Answer: The lamb must be roasted, it must be completely consumed that night, and none of the bones of the lamb can be broken. The Gospel of St John drew a connection between the sacrificed and roasted Passover lamb eaten at the sacrificial mean on the night of the Feast of Unleavened Bread and Jesus' body on the cross. What was that connection? Read John 19:31-36
Answer: Jesus was Himself the Passover Lamb and His legs were not broken. The roasting of the lamb instead of boiled or fried indicated that it was a sacrifice just like other animals of sacrifice that were burned in the fire of an altar.

Instructions Concerning the Firstborn and the Feast of Unleavened Bread

Please read Exodus 13:1-10

Since it was the "firstborn" of Israel that Yahweh redeemed, the firstborn were set apart as belonging to God. They were to be God's sacred priesthood, purchased by the blood of the Passover lamb, and they would live their lives in service to Him. Every firstborn son was to be a priest and every firstborn son of a firstborn son was to be a deacon. Like the sacrifice of the Passover lamb and the feast of Unleavened Bread, the dedication of the firstborn was to be a memorial sign of God's goodness and the redemption of all of Israel from slavery in Egypt.

Question: Was the announcement of the 10th plague a surprise to Pharaoh or had he been warned previously that this would be the fate of his nation and his family? Hint: see Exodus 4:22-23.
Answer: No, Pharaoh had been warned by Moses even before the coming of the first plague. In his first meeting with the Pharaoh Moses was instructed to tell him: "Israel is my firstborn son. I told you; Let my son go and worship me; but since you refuse to let him go, well then! I shall put your firstborn son to death." Exodus 4:22-23.

At sundown the day of the Passover Sacrifice became the night of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the actual sacrificial meal, and the next day, the 15th of Nisan for Israel [the next day began at sundown]. According to Yahweh's command the Feast of Unleavened Bread is to last 7 days. According to the instructions given the people during that feast neither is leaven eaten nor is any leaven permitted in the houses of the faithful [in the book of Exodus alone see: 12:8, 15 (x3), 18, 19 (x2), 20, 39; 13:3, 6, 7(2x); 23:15, 18; 34:18, 25]. The importance of renouncing leaven has significance beyond the fact that when the children of Israel fled Egypt in their haste they were forced to take dough that had been unleavened. Leavening will come to be seen as a symbol of sin. The Israelites are called to be a holy people; leaving the sins of Egypt behind---a people set aside from the other nations as a possession of Yahweh and called to be a people of holiness. [For yeast as a symbol of sin in the New Testament see: Matthew 16:6-12; Mark 8:15; Luke 12:1; 1 Corinthians 5:8].

Question: What "sign" on the hand and on the forehead is Israel to carry? How many times is the command given? Hint: see Exodus 13:9-16 and Deuteronomy 6:8-11:18.
Answer: The command is given four times in Exodus 13:9 &16 and Deuteronomy 6:8 & 11:18. The Covenant people are to carry small boxes filled with prayers as a reminder of the night of the 10th plague, the Passover redemption of the firstborn, the redemption of all the children of Israel from the bondage of Egypt, and that God faithfully led them to the Promised Land.

These tefillin, Hebrew for prayers, are worn by Orthodox Jewish men today as a sign of their remembrance of God's faithfulness. These little boxes, also called phylacteries, contain the first profession of faith, known as the shema [see Deuteronomy 6:4-9; 11:13-21; Numbers 15:37-41]. The head phylactery is placed on the upper part of the head, in the center of the forehead between the eyes where the hair next to the forehead begins. According to the great Jewish rabbi Maimonides this is because it is the place where a child's brain pulsates. The hand phylactery is attached to the left arm over the biceps, above the elbow and between the shoulder blade and the forearm so that when the upper arm is held close to the ribs the phylactery will be opposite the heart in obedience to the precept "Let the words I enjoin on you today stay in your heart" [Deuteronomy 6:5]. By putting on tefillin [prayers] Israel became engaged to God. Every time God's people wear this "sign" the fidelity to the ancient romance, which will be consummated at Mt. Sinai, is renewed.

Redemption of the Firstborn in the Promised Land

Please read Exodus 13:11-16

The dedication of the firstborn sons was already mentioned in verses 1-2.

Question: Yahweh had redeemed the firstborn of Israel on the night of the first Passover sacrifice; now what obligation is placed on the people to commemorate that night of salvation?
Answer: When the Children of Israel take possession of the Promised Land it would become the duty of the people to give back into Yahweh's service what He redeemed on the night of the Passover sacrifice. The firstborn of the clean animals would be offered as a sacrifice to Yahweh, and the firstborn of the unclean animals [donkeys, etc] must be redeemed in exchange with a clean animal [like a lamb, etc]. If the unclean animal is not redeemed it must be destroyed. No unclean animal will be offered in sacrifice. Firstborn sons must also be redeemed, as they were that night of the Passover. In Numbers 18:16 the price of 5 shekels will be set as the price of redemption of a firstborn son. This price would later be paid to the Levites who would assume the role of the "firstborn" after the sin of the Golden Calf.

Question: What command is repeated in Exodus 13:16?
Answer: The outward "sign" of the prayers on the headband and on the right hand. This command will be repeated a third time in Deuteronomy chapter 6.

Please read Exodus 13:17-22

There were three routes out of Egypt eastward toward the land of Canaan: the northern, the central, and the southern. The shortest and most direct route was the northern passage which ran parallel to the coast along one the main arteries of the ancient world, the Via Maris = "Way of the Sea." This road was used by caravans bringing trade goods and by northern kings bringing war. It was most likely the road used by Abraham and Joseph when they came from Canaan.

Question: Why does God tell the people not to take this route?
Answer: The Bible records that God knew the "fighting" would make the people lose heart and want to turn back. Archaeologists have discovered that this most popular route was well fortified with a string of Egyptian forts all along the road. Then too, the "sea peoples", known as the Philistines, were continuing their quest of the coastal plain and would have been an additional threat.

Question: Where does God lead them instead?
Answer: Yahweh leads them through the desert of the Red Sea /Sea of Reeds. The translation "Red Sea" was introduced into Scripture in the 3rd century BC Greek translation of Old Testament known as the Septuagint [in Greek Yam Suph became Erythra Thalassa, Red Sea]. This mistake, if it is a mistake and not an interpretation from oral tradition, was picked up by the Latin Vulgate and became imbedded in most English translations. In Hebrew the word is Yam Suph [also written as "suf"], literally "sea reed", or Sea of Reeds. Bible scholars have not been able to determine the exact location of the Sea of Reeds. Some scholars have suggested either Lake Timash, a large lake halfway between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, or the Bitter Lakes, a series of lakes just to the south of Timsha, or the Red Sea itself, specifically the Gulf of Suez. Both Timsha and the Bitter Lakes are bodies of water the people would have come across had they taken the central route across the Sinai. But there are problems with this route:

  1. The middle of the Sinai is by far the most difficult route.
  2. The mountains in the center of the peninsula are barely mountains...mostly large hills and Horeb/Sinai is described as a mountain.
  3. The Biblical text says it took a little over a month to reach Sinai from the Yam Suph but the distance from the Bitter Lakes to the mountains/hills in central Sinai is only a few hundred miles.

Other clues might be found in other passages of Scripture, for example in Numbers 21 where "Yam Suph" clearly indicates the Gulf of Aqaba, and the Bible records that King Solomon kept his fleet of ships at a port on the Yam Suph [1 Kings 9:26-27] which in this case is clearly the Gulf of Aqaba . It is possible that in ancient times the whole body of waters today know as the Red Sea, the Gulf of Suez and the Gulf of Aqaba were known as the Yam Suph and so either the crossing was at the Gulf of Aqaba, on the eastern side of the Sinai Peninsula or perhaps the Jewish scholars translating the Septuagint provided the interpretation that it was the more eastern body of water known as the Red Sea that the Israelites crossed.

It does seem more likely that the Children of Israel took the southern route across the Sinai. The Southern route offers a series of oases along the Gulf of Suez where the Israelites could have stopped on the journeyed eastward across the peninsula. The southern route also provides majestic mountains befitting the description of Mt. Sinai. There is more water in the south, which would make it easier to support a large population, but of course God did provide them with water in His own way. It is also colder in the southern desert and more difficult to survive, but Yahweh provided for the people in that hardship as well. Since St. Helena's visit to the Sinai in the 4th century in her attempt to locate the holy sites, pilgrims have been coming to the southern mountains of the Sinai believing they are visiting the holy Mountain of God.

Exodus 13:19 records that the Israelites left Egypt fully armed-- an army on the march.

Question: Whose bones accompanied them on the journey and why?
Answer: On his deathbed Joseph had made his people promise to take his bones with them when they returned to the Promised Land.

Question: How was the presence of Yahweh manifested to the people as He guided them on their journey?
Answer: As a pillar of Cloud in the daytime and a pillar of Fire at night. The Glory Cloud of daytime sheltered the people from the heat of the sun and the fire at night not only gave them light in the darkness of the night but also warmth [see Exodus 13:21-22; Psalms 105:39]; desert nights can become bitterly cold.

Scholars have debated whether there were two separate pillars, one of cloud and one of fire, or if there was one manifestation that appeared as a cloud in daylight and as fire at night. We have already seen God manifested in the fire of the burning bush in Exodus chapter 3 and also, perhaps, in the Cloud as the "cloud" of angels ascending and descending the ladder over Jacob as he stood in the presence of Yahweh in Genesis 28:12-18. In Exodus 14:19-25 the cloud will bring judgment to the wicked, and at Sinai the Cloud will be both cloud and fire together and will be accompanied by thunder, light, the sound of the shofar [ram's horn], and an earthquake.

The Cloud of God's Glory seems to be nothing less than a revelation of the invisible Heaven, where God rules from His throne of Glory, surrounded by His heavenly court and council [see Exodus 24:9-15; Isaiah 6:1-4; and Revelation chapter 4:1-11]. In Revelation chapter 4 St. John describes God's heavenly court when he saw a door opened in heaven and saw "a throne standing in heaven, and the One who was sitting on the throne, and the One sitting there looked like a diamond and a ruby. There was a rainbow encircling the throne and this looked like an emerald...[..]. Flashes of lightening were coming from the throne and the sound of peals of thunder...". It is from this same heavenly court that Yahweh will speak to Moses and the people in Exodus 19:16-20 where the Cloud is accompanied by thunder, light, fire, and clouds of smoke, and which is filled with innumerable angels; thus His title "Yahweh Sabaoth", Yahweh God of Hosts (the army of angels). It is from the Cloud of God's glory that He spoke to Moses:

The Miracle of Crossing the Sea of Reeds

Please read Exodus 14:1-15:21

The Egyptian Pharaoh and his officials decide to pursue the Israelites [Exodus 14:5-6]. There is no reason to assume that this was a shallow body of water. The same name "Yam Suph" is used for the port of Kings Solomon's fleet of ships in 1 Kings 9:26, which indicates that Solomon's port had to be a sufficiently deep body of water. In any event, in the Biblical narrative it is clear that this was a large enough body of water for approximately 2 million Israelites to pass through with walls of water on the right and left of the multitude [Exodus 14:22].

Question: How big is the army that Pharaoh sends in pursuit of the Children of Israel?
Answer: 600 of the best chariots and other chariots.

The question arises where did Pharaoh get the horses if all of the live stock had perished in the plague of the livestock [Exodus 9:6]? The answer appears to be that according to 9:20 many Egyptians and their livestock were saved from destruction because they feared God. Then too, nothing in Goshen was harmed and the Delta area was the best land for grazing livestock. Not only were Israelite herds there but also Pharaoh's best herds. These would have been spared along with any animals that were in stables as Pharaoh's best horses would have been.

The place name where the Israelites were encamped, "Pi-Hahiroth", means "mouth of the gorge". The Bible records that it was between "Migdol" = "tower" and the sea. These sites have never been located but the geography of the lower Sinai Peninsula on the east near the Gulf of Aqaba is a maze of gorges and twisted spires that look like towers. This leads a few scholars to suggest the crossing was at the Gulf of Aqaba and that Sinai was located in the Arabian Peninsula.

Yahweh has placed the Israelites in a militarily indefensible position. They cannot fight and they cannot run with the Egyptians behind them and the water in front of them. They can only be saved by divine intervention. For the first of many times in the Israelites lose heart and berate Moses for leading them out of Egypt into the jaws of death [Exodus 14:11-12]. Moses has clearly grown into the role he at first felt unqualified to fulfill when he stands up as a faithful leader and admonishes the people, "Do not be afraid! Stand firm, and you will see what Yahweh will do to rescue you today..." These were also Pope John Paul II's words to the faithful from the balcony of St. Peter's on the day he was chosen to be the successor of St. Peter and Christ's Vicar of the universal Church; "Don't be afraid!"

Question: What does Yahweh command Moses to do and what is the result? See Exodus 14:16-15:19.

St Paul speaks of this miracle of the salvation of Israel in 1Corinthians 10:1-2 where he describes this episode as a kind of baptism: "I want you to be quite certain, brothers, that our ancestors all had the cloud over them and all passed through the sea. In the cloud and in the sea they were all baptized into Moses..." The walk through the sea was more than the physical trek across the dry sea bed, it was the beginning of a journey--a journey of faith coming out of slavery and coming into a new life as a holy nation of God, it was in essence the baptism of Israel as the Old Covenant Church. The miracle of crossing the Yam Suph took place within a 7 day period after the Passover sacrifice [see Leviticus 23:11-14] and will be celebrated in the annual feast of Firstfruits.

The Song of Victory

Please read Exodus 15:1-21

Chapter 14 recounted the historical narrative of the events of the miracle of the parting of the sea, and the deliverance of Israel. Chapter 15 is the poetic account, which is quite different from the way the events are described in the historical narrative. Poetry is expressed in word pictures and themes rather than in actual details of events and therefore one account does not contradict the other but rather the poetic account compliments the historical narrative. For example in the narrative of chapter 14 the Egyptian armies are drowned when "the returning waters washed right over the chariots and horsemen of Pharaoh's entire army..." [14:28], while in the Song of Victory in chapter 15 the poetic image is "Pharaoh's chariots and army he [Yahweh] has hurled into the sea.." [15:4]. The theme of the poetic image provides a link to Exodus 1:22 where the same expression in Hebrew occurs when Pharaoh commands that the Israelite children be hurled into the river. The poetic text has shown us that God's justice was to do to the sons of Egypt that which they had done to the sons of Israel.

It is also common in the Biblical narrative, whether historical or poetic, to describe the work of God in terms of His angels or the mighty "Angel of the Lord", as well as describing God working directly on behalf of His people. This is the case in Exodus chapter 13 where Yahweh went with Israel in the Pillar of Cloud and Fire, and in chapter 14 where the "Angel of God" accompanied the people of God in the Cloud. It is because of this passage and others that unite the Angel of God to God the Father that some scholars think the "Angel of God" is the pre-Incarnate Christ.

Exodus 15:12 of the Song of Victory speaks of God's "faithful love". This is the Hebrew word "hesed" which expresses the family bond of the Covenant relationship between Yahweh and His people, and in verse 17 there is a prophetic passage which promises "You will bring them in and plant them on the mountain which is your heritage, the place which you, Yahweh, have made your dwelling, the sanctuary, Yahweh. Prepared by your own hands. Yahweh will be king for ever and ever."

Question: Where is this mountain that will be Yahweh's eternal sanctuary? Hint: see Psalms 78:68; Joel 2:1.
Answer: The mountain is not Sinai. It is Zion, which Jews would identify as Mt. Moriah in Jerusalem, and Christians would identify poetically as the New Jerusalem, the Church where God rules eternally.

In Exodus 15: 20 Moses' sister Miriam leads the women in dancing and singing the Song of Victory. She is the first cantor.

Question: What title is she given in this passage?
Answer: She is the first of 7 prophetesses named in Sacred Scripture; the title of "prophetess" identifies Miriam as an official representative of God to His people. Each of the three children of Jochobed and Amran were anointed in service to Yahweh. Other prophetesses mentioned in the Bible are Deborah [Judges 4:4-5:31]; Isaiah's wife [Isaiah 8:3]; Hulda [2 Kings 22:14-20; 2 Chronicles 34:22-28]; Noadiah [Nehemiah 6:14]; Anna [Luke 2:36]; and the false prophetess Jezebel ["woman who calls herself a prophetess"-- Revelation 2:20].

In Deuteronomy 31:19-30, after Moses' last homily to the people before they cross into the Promised Land, Yahweh instructs Moses to teach the people another song--a song to be a witness against the Israelites if they fail to keep the Covenant. All of chapter 32 is devoted to the Song of Witness, to be sung every day by the Children of Israel. It will be replaced by the New Song of Revelation 5:9 and 14:1-5. The Song of Victory, the Song of Witness and the New Song will mark a transition-- first the transition from slavery to the birth of God's Holy Nation, which we call the Old Covenant Church and later the transition from the Old Covenant Church to the continuation of the Holy Nation in the New Covenant universal [Catholic] Church.

Please read Exodus 15:22-27

After crossing the Yam Suph the Israelites enter the desert and travel 3 days. The number 3 is a signal that what happens next has great significance and is an indication of God's divine plan.

Question: The people are thirsty but the water at the oasis is foul. What miracle does God work on behalf of His people? What is the important lesson learned here?
Answer: God commands Moses to listen carefully to the instructions and commands him to throw wood into the waters so it will become sweet. The key word in Hebrew text is the word "instruction". It is the verbal form of the word "Torah", meaning "divine instruction". The reference to the "statute and law' in verse 25 and "the commands of God" in verse 26 is not about the law and commands of Sinai which haven't yet been given, but are instead instructions to the people to be attentive to the lesson God is teaching Israel at this place and to be obedient to His instruction and faithful to His laws: God's people are to "listen carefully to the voice of God" [verse 26]. If they are obedient His instruction will be "sweet" to them and satisfy their spiritual thirst but if they disobey their reward will be as bitter as the waters of Marah. The mention of the 12 springs and the 70 palms is also significant. Twelve is the spiritual number of the Children of Israel, fathered by 12 physical fathers who were the sons of Jacob/Israel, while 70 is the number of the nations [see Genesis chapter 10]. Israel, God's firstborn son will become a nation of priests to the younger sons, the other nations'the gentile nations, to teach them to "listen to the voice of God." This teaching will be affirmed in Exodus 19:6.

The Fathers of the Church also saw the bitter waters made sweet by the wood as symbolic as a life made bitter by sin that can be purified by the atoning work of the Cross.

The Miracle of the Manna and the Quails

Please read Exodus 16:1-17:7

Exodus 16:1-36

It is now the 15th day of the second month after the Children of Israel left Egypt. Having fled Egypt on the morning of Nisan 15, they have been traveling 30 days. The gathering of the manna and the quail then began on the 16th of Iyar. After they entered the desert of the Sinai God tested them again to see if they would "follow my law" by follow His instructions [Exodus 16:4]. These experiences in the desert are a preview of the faithfulness and obedience that will be required when they reach Mt. Sinai.

Question: How did Yahweh feed Israel in the desert?
Answer: He fed them quails in the evening and bread from heaven at dawn.

Question: What instructions are the Children of Israel to follow in order to receive the "bread from heaven?"
Answer: They can collect all the bread they need for each day for 6 days. They were not to keep any bread over for the next day. On the 6th day, however, they can collect double the amount because on the Sabbath, the 7th day, there was to be no collection; it is a day of "rest" commemorating the day God "rested" on the 7th day of Creation in communion with man.

Question: Are the people careful to obey Yahweh's laws concerning the collection of the manna?
Answer: No, they try to save some bread over for the next day and it spoils [verses 19-20]. They also disobey the command not to look for bread on the Sabbath [verse 27-29].

The English word "manna" is borrowed from the New Testament Greek and the Old Testament Septuagint translation which translated the Hebrew word "mn" as "manna", which means "gain" or "granules" in Greek. The Greek translators associated "grain" with "bread", and this interpretation is reflected in the Septuagint translation of Psalms 77:24. The Hebrew word used in the Psalms passage, however, does not mean "grain" or "bread," but is instead an interrogative participle and means "What?" When the Israelites went to gather the "food from heaven" they asked "What is it?" [verse 15] and therefore called it in Hebrew "the what" food.

It was by the means of God's daily provisions for the Children of Israel that He taught them the importance of the Sabbath rest. God set the 7th day apart for rest, remembrance and worship. Isn't it ironic that the entire structure of the Old Covenant Sabbath [Saturday] was united to the gift of the bread/food from heaven?

Question: What connection do you see to the New Covenant "Day of the Lord" celebrated on Sunday, and bread from heaven?
Answer: God continues to provide for His people on the day set aside for worship and fellowship with Him. The New Covenant Sabbath, the Lord's Day, Sunday, is still a day when the Lord provides nourishment for His people with the "bread" that comes down from heaven to spiritually sustain the people of God on their spiritual journey to the true Promised Land.

Finally the Israelites learn to obey Yahweh's commands in collecting and eating the manna. They eat manna daily for the forty years they sojourn in the desert. What was this strange food? In Exodus 16:31 the heavenly bread is described: "The House of Israel named it 'manna'. It was like coriander seed; it was white and its taste was like that of wafers made with honey." When Byzantine travelers started visiting the Sinai in the 4th century, they discovered that there may be a natural phenomena associated with the manna. Tamarisk trees grow in many oases throughout the Sinai. In June two types of plant lice infest the stems of tamarisk branches. They suck in the sap of the trees, which is rich in carbohydrates, and excrete the surplus onto the twigs in the form of white, resinous globules. Like the manna described in the Bible, these excretions are sweet, edible, and crystallize rapidly after the sun rises. If they are not harvested in the morning, they quickly dry up and disappear.

Question: Does this explanation refute the miracle of the manna?
Answer: No, it does not. The secretions of the Tamarisk tree lice only occur during a very short period of time and it is a phenomenon that is not repeated every year. Approximately 2 million Israelites harvested for 6 days and ate a week's worth of the manna for 40 years! This is definitely a miracle.

The phenomenon of the quail also has a natural correlative in the Sinai. Huge flocks of quail migrate every autumn from Europe to Central Africa and return in the spring. The birds are sometimes so exhausted by the flight that they drop in the hundreds along the northern coastline of Egypt and the Sinai. But this phenomenon only occurs in the northern Sinai along the coast during the migration season and the Israelites did not travel that way. It was still necessary for divine providence to provide the quail so far south in the Sinai and not only in the migration season but for 6 days out of every week for 40 years!

The people witnessed these miracles daily [Deuteronomy 8:3]. Not only was there the daily miracle of the provision of the manna and quail but when the people went out some were able to gather more than others but each day when they measured what they had gathered, the amount collected was just what each needed [Exodus 16:17-18]. God not only blessed Israel, but He blessed each individual justly.

In Exodus 16:35 the mention of the 40 years anticipates the judgment of this first generation in Numbers chapter 14. It is not a coincidence that the account in Numbers 14 follows a second incident with manna and quail.

Question: In Exodus 16:32-34 what does Yahweh command Moses to tell the people concerning the manna?
Answer: They are to preserve a jar of the manna as evidence of their experience for future generations. In Hebrews 9:4 we are told that the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies in the Temple contained "the gold jar containing the manna, Aaron's branch that grew the buds, and the tables of the covenant."

The Miracle of the Water from the Rock

Please read Exodus 17:1-7

Even after the miracles of the bitter water made sweet, the feeding of the bread from heaven, and the feeding of the quails, the people still do not put their faith in Yahweh to provide for them. Again the people complain to Moses; they are suffering from thirst.

Question: What does God instruct Moses to do?
Answer: Moses is told to take elders of the tribes and to travel to Mr. Horeb/Sinai where Yahweh will meet him. When he arrives at Horeb Moses is to take his staff and strike "the rock". This incident with the rock is similar to another incident in Numbers 20:1-13, which we will address in the next lesson. Both accounts of the water-rock miracles follow a similar pattern:

Pattern from Exodus 16:4- Numbers 20:12

Manna and quail 40 years* Water from the rock TIME IN THE WILDER-NESS OF SINAI Manna and quail 40 years* Water from the rock
Exodus 16:4-34 Exodus 16:35 Exodus 17:1-7 Numbers 11:4-34 Numbers 14:21-22 Numbers 20:1-12

* The 40 years in the chart is the same period in history.

St. Paul wrote of this water-from-the-rock miracle in his teaching about the Exodus experience in 1 Corinthians 10:2-4: "In the cloud and in the sea they were all baptized into Moses; all ate the same spiritual food and all drank the same spiritual drink, since they drank from the spiritual rock which followed them, and that rock was Christ." This is an absolutely amazing statement. According to rabbinic tradition, the "Rock" that gave life-giving water to the Children of Israel on their journey [Exodus 17:1-7 and Numbers 20:8] was a divine manifestation that followed Israel in the desert journey to the Promised Land. Through divine inspiration St. Paul understands this "Rock" which followed them as symbolic of the pre-existent Christ who is already active in Israel's history. It is also important to note that "Rock" is an Old Testament divine title for God as protector of His people. See Psalms 18:2 and the Song of Witness in Deuteronomy 32 [Note: some Bible translations do not reflect the 5 time repetition of the title "Rock" for Yahweh in Moses' Song of Witness in Deuteronomy 32]. We will discuss the significance of this title and the water for the rock miracle when we come to Numbers chapter 20.

Exodus 17:7 "He gave the place the names Massah [test] and Meribah [contentious] because of the Israelites' contentiousness and because they put Yahweh to the test by saying 'Is Yahweh with us or not?"

Question: What connection is there to this passage and Exodus 3:12? What is the test?
Answer: In Exodus 3:12 Yahweh promised Moses " 'I shall be with you', God said, 'and this is the sign by which you will know that I was the one who sent you. After you have led the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.'" When the Children of Israel raised the question: "Is the Lord among us or not" in Exodus 17:7 they put God's promise to Moses to the test. A sign of the promises Yahweh made to the people would be bringing the people to the mountain of God in the Sinai. The people are at the mountain. God has produced the sign He promised and the people have witnessed God's miracles as signs of His faithfulness and yet after all they have experienced they still question Yahweh's presence.

Exodus chapter 17:8-16 covers Israel's first battle: the defeat of the Amalekites. These people were the descendants of Amalek, the grandson of Esau whose home was in southern Canaan [Genesis 36:16 and Numbers 13:29]. In this narrative so long as Moses kept his hands raised Israel prevailed in the battle. This passage introduces Joshua, son of Nun of the tribe of Ephraim, for the first time in the Pentateuch. The "half-tribe" of Ephraim descended from Joseph's half-Egyptian son Ephraim. It is considered a "half-tribe" because together with Manasseh, the other "half-tribe" from Joseph's other son, these two constitute the full tribe of Joseph, 11th son of Jaboc/Israel.

The victory assured by Moses' hands lifted up to Yahweh is a picture of the work of intercessory prayer offered on behalf of the community of God. When your priest raises his hands in prayer to Yahweh for your faith community he is petitioning God's intervention and blessing just as Moses did on that day.

Question: How does Yahweh tell Moses to commemorate this victory in Exodus 17:14?
Answer: Moses is to "Write this down in a book to commemorate it, and repeat it over to Joshua..." Joshua has already become Moses' chief aid. He will be Moses' successor.

The Covenant at Sinai: The First Pentecost

Please read Exodus 19:1- 28:42

The Israelites reach Mt. Sinai the third month after leaving Egypt. The third month in the Hebrew calendar is Sivan [May-June]. According to tradition the Israelites arrive at the mountain on the 48th day after crossing the Sea of Reeds.

Question: What does Yahweh command Moses to tell the people about the purpose for bringing them to this place? See Exodus 19:5
Answer: To make a covenant that will establish Israel as Yahweh's personal possession as a kingdom of priests, a holy nation.

Question: What is the people's response?
Answer: They will do whatever Yahweh tells them to do.

Question: Yahweh commands Moses to tell the people to sanctify themselves today and tomorrow and then the next day Yahweh will meet them on the mountain in a dense cloud. On what day will Yahweh meet with the people? How many days is this from the time they crossed the Sea of Reeds [counting as the ancients counted with no 0-place value]? How long will they stay at Sinai? See Leviticus 23:15-17 for the feast that commemorates this event, and also Exodus 34:22; Deuteronomy 16:9-11; Numbers 10:11.
Answer: In three days Yahweh will meet with the people on the mountain. It will be the third day of the third month. It will be the 50th day since crossing the Sea of Reeds which will be commemorated as the Feast of Shavuot, or as it was known during Jesus' time as the Feast of Pentecost [the Greek word is he pentekoste, which means the 50th day].

The Israelites will remain at Sinai for nearly one year. They will leave Mt. Sinai on the 20th day of the second month, Iyar [April/May], in the second year [Numbers 10:11].

Question: The people must be careful not to go up the mountain, nor are they to even touch it until Yahweh calls them. What signal will they hear to know that it is the time to go up the mountain?
Answer: The sound of the ram's horn trumpet known as the shofar.

Question: What instructions does Moses give the people in preparation for their rendezvous with Yahweh on the third day?
Answer: To wash their clothes, to make themselves holy, not to have sex -- Israel is to be virginal in her presentation to Yahweh. Israel is preparing as a Bride prepares to meet her Bridegroom. Before her presentation to the Bridegroom a Hebrew Bride baths in a ritual bath called a mikveh. The Jewish rabbis considered this preparation Israel's bridal bath and in commemorate of this event all converts to Judaism are required to be immersed in a ritual baptism upon conversion into the Jewish faith.

Please note that in the literal Hebrew text the word "third" sheliyshiy [or "three" sheloshah in verse 15] is repeated 5 times from Exodus 19:1-16: verses 1, 10, 11, 15, and 16.

Question: How do the people sanctify themselves? What is the significance of the three-day period of sexual abstinence?
Answer: God gave man and woman sex as a gift of fertility in the first blessing in Genesis 1:28. Sex in marriage is good but consecrated virginity is holy. A reference to sacred virginity is found in Revelation 14:3-5 "There before the throne they were singing a new hymn in the presence of the four living creatures and the elders, a hymn that could be learnt only by the hundred and forty-four thousand who had been redeemed from the world. These are the ones who have kept their virginity and not been defiled with women; they follow the Lamb wherever he goes; they out of all people, have been redeemed to be the firstfruits for God and for the Lamb. No lie was found in their mouths and no fault can be found in them." These 144,000 are sanctified to be betrothed to the Lamb of God. Virginity is holy; both Jesus and His mother Mary were consecrated in their virginity. For a girl of the Covenant to give up her virginity in the marriage covenant is a blood sacrifice in the same way a boy baby offers the sacrifice of his foreskin in circumcision.

Chapter 19 serves as an introduction to the entire revelation that the people will experience on Mt. Sinai. Yahweh and Israel will agree on a bilateral relationship. God will give them a special status among the nations of the earth if only they will obey Him. The people will agree to this special relationship by way of the mediator of the Covenant, Moses.

The Theophany at Sinai

Please read Exodus 19:16-25

The Glory Cloud ["shekinah"= manifestation of the presence of God] that led the people through the wilderness now came to rest on Mt Sinai and on the third day "there were peals of thunder and flashes of lightening, dense cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast.." as the gates of heaven open and the heavenly court is revealed. Instead of the word "thunder" the Hebrew translation reads kol ="voice". It is the "voice" of God that sounds like thunder. This manifestation of the "voice" of God helps us to understand why Adam and Eve were afraid when they heard the "kol [voice] of God walking in the Garden" in Genesis 3:8. This display is also described by St. John in the Book of Revelation when he is called into the court of the heavenly Tabernacle which he describes in the same terms visual and acoustic effects of Sinai: "Flashes of lightning were coming from the Throne and the sound of peals of thunder...". In Revelation 4:4b John is witnessing the heavenly Tabernacle. The earthly Tabernacle that the children of Israel will be told to construct will only be a copy of the heavenly Tabernacle [see Hebrews 8:5; 9:23].

Mt Sinai is entirely wrapped in the Cloud "because Yahweh had descended on it in the form of fire". The entire mountain shook violently, the trumpeting of the shofar was deafening and the people approach in great fear up to the boundary set for them. This is the first great Pentecost when God came down in fire to His Covenant people.

Question: What does Yahweh command Moses to do in Exodus 19:24?
Answer: He is commanded to bring his brother Aaron.

The Ten Commandments

Please read Exodus 20:1-21

The Children of Israel will be reminded of this great day in Deuteronomy 4:10-14 when Moses in his last great homily reminds the people: "The day you stood at Horeb in the presence of Yahweh your God, Yahweh said to me, 'Summon the people to me; I want them to hear me speaking, so that they will learn to fear me all the days they live on earth, and teach this to their children.' So you came and stood at the foot of the mountain, and the mountain flamed to the very sky, a sky darkened by cloud, murky and thunderous. Yahweh then spoke to you from the heart of the fire; you heard the sound of words but saw no shape; there was only a voice. He revealed his covenant to you and commanded you to observe it, the Ten Words which he inscribed on two tablets of stone. Yahweh then ordered me to teach you the laws and customs that you were to observe in the country into which you are about to cross, to take possession of it."

The 10 Commandments can be summarized as laws pertaining to the people's relationship with God [the first 3] and their relationship with each other [the remaining 7].

Question: After the giving of the Law what do the terrified people beg Moses to do for them? What assurance does Moses give them concerning the terrifying experience?
Answer: They plead for Moses to speak to them instead of enduring the frightening experience of God speaking to them directly. Moses assures the people that this experience is instructive and is meant to keep them from falling into sin when they remember the power and majesty of God. In essence Moses is telling the people that a healthy fear of God is a good thing, physically and spiritually.

Exodus 20:22- 23:33 lists the commandments concerning the establishment of Yahweh's divine liturgy, the social law, and the moral and religious laws, by which the people must agree to live. Included in these laws are:

Question: The establishment of these laws ends with a renewal of what promise made to Abraham? What is 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 keep Yahweh's commandment.

In Exodus chapter 24 Moses, Aaron and his sons, and the 70 elders of the 12 tribes are invited to come a little closer to Yahweh and then to bow down. Moses alone, however, is commanded to approach Yahweh. Moses then carries all of Yahweh's words to the people.

Question: How do the people respond to the 10 Commandments and the various other laws that fall within the framework of the commandments? See Exodus 24:3
Answer: They unanimously accept the conditions of the Covenant.

Question: What part does Moses play in the ascent of the people to Yahweh's covenant?
Answer: Moses put all Yahweh's words into writing.

This is the second Scripture passage that refers to the events of the Exodus experience being written down for future generations. Also see:

Exodus 17:17 "Write this down in a book to commemorate it..."
Exodus 24:4 "Moses put all Yahweh's words into writing.."
Exodus 24:17 "Then taking the Book of the Covenant, he read it to the listening people, who then said, 'We shall do everything that Yahweh as said; we shall obey."
Deut. 28:58 "If you do not keep and observe all the words of this Law, which are written in this book, in the fear of this glorious and awe-inspiring name: Yahweh your God.."
Deut. 29:20-21 "...every curse written in this book will fall on him, and Yahweh will blot his name out under heaven. Yahweh will single him out of all the tribes of Israel for misfortune, in accordance with all the curses of the covenant written in the book of this Law."
Deut. 29:28 "Things hidden belong to Yahweh our God, but things revealed are ours and our children's for ever, so that we can put all the words of this Law into practice."
Deut. 30:10 "..if you obey the voice of Yahweh you God by keeping his commandments and decrees written in the book of this Law, and if you return to Yahweh you God with all your heart and soul."
Deut. 31:24 "When Moses had completely finished writing the words of this Law in a book, he gave this command to the Levites who carried the Ark of Yahweh's Covenant: 'Take the book of this Law and put it beside the Ark of the Covenant of Yahweh your God."

The Covenant is Ratified

Please read Exodus 24:1-11

In Exodus chapter 24 Moses records all the words of Yahweh into writing and early in the morning he builds an altar at the foot of Mt. Sinai with 12 standing stones for each of the 12 tribes. He then sends certain young Israelites to offer sin sacrifices and communion sacrifices on God's holy altar.

Question: Who are the young Israelites who serve at God's altar in Exodus 24:5?
Answer: The text does not reveal their identity but it is likely that they are the firstborn sons who were redeemed by the blood of the Passover lambs.

Question: Before Moses reads what he has recorded in the Book of the Covenant what does he do with the blood of the communion sacrifices? See Exodus 24:6-7
Answer: He took half the blood and put it into basins or cups and the other half he sprinkled on Yahweh's altar.

Question: After the people agree to accept Yahweh's Covenant what does Moses do with the blood in the basins or cups? How does he apply the blood of the sacrifice? The inspired writer of Hebrews records this event in 9:19-20 "...and after Moses had promulgated all the commandments of the Law of 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.' "
Answer: Using a hyssop branch Moses sprinkled blood on the altar, the book and the people.

Question: Why was it necessary to sprinkle the blood? What do the altar, book, and the blood on the people symbolize?
Answer: The altar represented Yahweh, the Book symbolized the Covenant that bound Yahweh to the people, and the blood of the sacrifice made them one Covenant family united in the blood of the sacrifice.

Question: Do you see a foreshadowing of the New Covenant and the uniting of Yahweh and New Covenant believers? How are we united to God the Father?
Answer: In the sacrificial blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus the Messiah.

Question: After the blood of the sacrifice has united the people to Yahweh what transpires with Moses, Aaron and his sons and the 70 elders? See Exodus 24:9-11
Answer: They went up the mountain into Yahweh's presence where they can view the heavenly throne room. Then they seal the Covenant with a sacrificial communion meal in the presence of God. For other passages that describe the heavenly court see Isaiah chapter 6, Ezekiel chapter 1, and Revelation chapter 4.

Question: What does this banquet prefigure?
Answer: The Eucharistic banquet of the New Covenant which New Covenant believers receive, after the offering of the sacrifice of the Mass, in the presence of God.

Yahweh Calls Moses Up the Mountain

Please read Exodus 24:12-18

Moses makes his elder brother Aaron and Hur, the father of Joshua, responsible for the people as he and Joshua climb Mt. Sinai.

Question: The Glory Cloud rests on the mountain for 6 days. What happened on the 7th day?
Answer: God calls Moses. Moses leaves Joshua behind on the mountain and enters into the Glory Cloud and into God's presence.

In chapters Exodus 25-27 Yahweh instructs Moses on the plans for building the sacred furniture that will be placed in Yahweh's "dwelling place", the earthly Tabernacle'a model of the heavenly Tabernacle [see Hebrews 8:5]. The instructions are very detailed as to color and dimension. Seven pieces of furniture are to be placed in the Tabernacle:

  1. The Ark of the Covenant: an acacia wood box approximately 3 and 1/2 feet by 2 and 1/2 feet. It must be covered inside and outside with pure gold and it will house the tablets of the Law.
  2. The Kapporeth/ Mercy Seat: On top of the Ark of the Covenant Moses is instructed to place the "mercy seat" or "seat of atonement" where God will meet His people. The Hebrew word translated as Mercy Seat is (pronounced) kap-po-reth, and means to cover, in two ways; as a noun, meaning a lid, or a top, but also, based on the Hebrew root from which it was derived, as a verb meaning to pardon, or to atone for, as in to cover a debt. The Hebrew word kap-po-reth is used exclusively in the Scriptures for the Mercy Seat, for nothing else.

    The figures of two golden cherubim are to be mounted on the top of the lid of the mercy seat. Exodus 25:10-22; 26:34; Leviticus 16:12-15.

  3. The Table of the Bread of the Presence: an acacia wood table approximately 2 feet long by 1 and 1/2 feet wide by 1 and 1/2 feet high. It must be covered with pure gold and will hold 12 loaves of unleavened bread, known as the "bread of the presence", one loaf for each tribe of Israel. Exodus 25:23-30; 37:10-16; Lev. 24:5-9.
  4. The Menorah lampstand: Made of pure gold with its cups for the holy oil shaped in the form of calyxes and petals. It must have one central trunk with six branches from each side of the main branch, three branches on each side. It is a visual representation of the burning bush of Exodus chapter 3. Exodus 25:31-40; 37:17-24; Leviticus 24:2-
  5. The Altar of burnt offerings: Made of acacia wood and covered with bronze; this altar measured circa 7 and 1/2 feet wide, by 7 and 1/2 feet deep, by 4 and 1/2 feet high. Exodus 27:1-8; 38:1-7
  6. The Altar of Incense: Made of acacia wood covered with pure gold it measured approximately 2 feet by 2 feet square and 3 feet high. Exodus 30:1-10/ 37:25-28.
  7. The Basin: Made entirely of bronze from the mirrors of the women. It would hold the holy water for ritual purification before entering the Holy Place of Yahweh's dwelling. Exodus 30:17-21; 38:8.

There were additional instructions for the tent coverings, the priestly vestments, the design of the outer court where the great Bronze altar of Yahweh would stand, the Holy Place where the lampstand and table of the presence would reside, and the inner shrine, the Holy of Holies, where the presence of God would come on the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant. The Bronze basin stood in front of the curtain that covered the Holy Place and the Golden altar of incense stood in front of the curtain that covered the Holy of Holies.

The Instructions for Consecration of the High Priests and the Altar of Sacrifice

Please read Exodus 29:1-37:

Moses was also instructed in the preparations for the 7-day consecration of Aaron and his sons as the high priests of the Covenant, and the instructions that in their investiture Aaron and his sons must eat the meat of the sacrifice and the unleavened bread. There are also instructions for the 7-day consecration of the altar of sacrifice in Exodus chapter 29:1-37.

The Daily Burnt Offering

Please read Exodus 29:38-42

Of all the sacrifices offered on Yahweh's great Altar of sacrifice none were as important as the perpetual burnt offering known in Hebrew as the Tamid [also spelled Tamiyd] sacrifice. In Hebrew "tamid" means "standing" as in continual or perpetual. Two lambs were sacrificed daily for the sins of the people. The blood of the lamb was poured out before the great sacrificial altar and the body of each animal, sprinkled with salt was to be entirely consumed by the fire along with a portion of red wine and wheat flour mixed with oil and formed into a small cake. The salt caused a great white cloud of smoke to rise above the altar. This pillar of white cloud, known as the Olah was symbol of Yahweh receiving the sacrifice. It was part of the oral tradition that this sacrifice would only end when the Messiah came.

Question: What animal is required for this sacrifice?
Answer: Two male lambs [less than] a year old.

The lambs were to be offered daily, the first at dawn and the second was offeredd "between the twilight." Some English translations translate the Hebrew words bayin ha ereb, which literally means "between the twilight" as at the end of the day or worse, at sundown. Sundown began the next day for the Hebrew people. "Between the twilight" of the day is exactly [with twilight at dawn and twilight at dust] what the text means-- literally at 12 noon. This interpretation conforms to the teaching of the Jewish Mishnah on the regulations of the daily sacrifice.

Question: What else is to be offered in sacrifice with each lamb?
Answer: A libation of wine and 4.5 liters of fine wheat flour mixed with 1/4th liter of olive oil. The wheat flour and oil were to be formed into a small cake.

The instructions for the Tamid sacrifice are found in the Jewish Mishnah. The Mishnah is the record of the "Oral Law" of the ministerial priesthood, which according to tradition, was revealed at Sinai simultaneously with the "Written Law" [the Pentateuch] but preserved exclusively in oral form until it was written down by the surviving priests and rabbis after the Jewish Revolt against Rome and the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70AD. It would take a century to record the "Oral Law"'it wasn't until the second century AD when the Mishnah was finally compiled. The Mishnah deals with nearly every imaginable aspect of Jewish civil and ritual law. In the 6th centaury AD two different commentaries, one written in Palestine and the other in Babylon followed the completion of this great work. United with the Mishnah they form the Palestinian and Babylonian Talmud.

The Talmud is also the largest compendium of rabbinic Bible exegesis. After the Hebrew Scriptures, the Mishnah is the first canonical document of Rabbinical Judaism and is the major source and continuing expression of Jewish law and theology. The importance of the Mishnah in understanding the requirements for the Tamyid Sacrifice is that it sets down the priestly record of how this sacrifice was performed each day in the Temple in Jerusalem. In Fifth Division of the Mishnah entitled "Holy Things" is the sub-section of "Tamid". Section 1:2-7:4 of the Mishnah-Tamyid lists the requirements for the daily sacrifice.

According to the Mishnah, the first lamb of the Tamid sacrifice was tied to the great Bronze Altar at dawn and was offered in sacrifice with the wine and the wheat cake at 9AM, at the time the community of Israel would offer prayer. The second lamb was tied to the Altar at 12 noon, [the next communal hour of prayer] and was offered in sacrifice about 3PM with the wine and the wheat cake, the 3rd hour of prayer. The entire day of the Covenant people would come to revolve around this sacrifice, which they were commanded to keep for all generations'this was designated the "Perpetual Sacrifive".

The Tamid Sacrifice

The first lamb is brought out and tied to the altar at dawn Mishnah: Tamid 3:2-3:3 The high priest prepares the altar
[see: Exodus 29:39; Leviticus 6:1-6; Mishnah: Tamid 1:2]
The first lamb is sacrificed at 9AM* Mishnah: Tamid 3:7 9AM is the first hour of prayer [see Acts 2:15] Temple gates open "Shacharit"(morning)
The second lamb is brought out and tied to the altar at noon Mishnah: Tamid 4:1 Noon is the second hour of prayer [Acts 3:1; 10:9] "Minchah" (gift-offering)
The second lamb is sacrificed at 3PM* Antiquities of the Jews 14.4.3 (14:65); Philo Special Laws I, XXXV (169) 3PM is the third hour of prayer [Acts 3:1; 10:9] "Ma'ariv" (evening: our afternoon is the Jewish evening= next day began at sundown)[3 hours of prayer see Mishnah Berakhot]

Through these plans for the Tabernacle Yahweh will establish liturgical worship: "There I shall meet the Israelites in the place consecrated by my glory. I shall consecrate the Tent of Meeting and the altar; I shall also consecrate Aaron and his sons to be priests in my service. And I shall live with the Israelites and be their God, and they will know that I am Yahweh their God, who brought them out of Egypt to live among them: I, Yahweh their God."

The Sacraments of the Sinai Covenant will be established in the Daily Tamid Sacrifice, the Annual Feasts, and the Levitical sacrifices of sin and communion offerings offered on Yahweh's sacred Altar. A chart of the The Levitical Sacrifices and Offerings of the Sinai Covenant and The Seven Sacred Feasts will be included in the next lesson.

Question: What does the blood of the lamb poured out for the sins of the people given with the small cake of flour and the wine prefigure?
Answer: The Passion of the Christ and the Most Holy Eucharist.

The Sabbath Rest

Please read Exodus 31:12-17

Question: Does establishment of the Sabbath rest as a covenant obligation remind you of another similar passage in the Creation account? Hint: see Genesis 2:1-3
Answer: The Sabbath rest on the 7th day of Creation. It is interesting that the explicit reference to the Sabbath observance obligation of the Sinai Covenant comes at the close of the instructions concerning liturgical worship at Yahweh's Tabernacle. The narrative reminds us that God did His work in 6 days and rested on the 7th; now Israel is commanded to do the same. The Tabernacle is the cosmos in miniature while the cosmos of Creation is God's maxi Tabernacle. The building of the Tabernacle in the desert of Sinai is not merely holy because they are creating a holy structure. The work is holy because God sanctified it by the sign of the Sabbath rest just as the work of Creation was sanctified by the Sabbath rest.

Question: When do we as New Covenant believers accept God's invitation to enter into His rest?
Answer: On the Lord's Day, Sunday, the Sabbath of the New Creation in Christ. Sunday was the first day of Creation and now for us becomes our Sabbath rest in the New Covenant in Christ Jesus who arose from the dead on that day. Through His sacrificial death the whole earth was renewed and entered a "new" creation.

The Sin of the Golden Calf

Please read Exodus 32:1-35

Moses was on the mountain of God for 40 days. In Biblical symbolism 40 is a number of testing, a number of consecration, and a number signaling something new in God's unfolding plan of Salvation History [see the document "The Significance of Numbers in Scripture" in the Resources section]. The 40 days on the mountain were a time of consecration for Moses, and a time of instruction in the covenantal birth of Israel as God's people, but those days also became a "covenant ordeal" or test for Israel. The sin of the Golden Calf was as great a failure as Adam and Eve's "covenant ordeal" failure in the Garden of Eden. This failure was an indication that even though Yahweh had taken Israel out of Egypt, Israel had not yet taken Egypt out of her heart.

In Egypt the bull was a symbol of fertility and royal power. Its tail was worn on the Pharaoh's belt as a mark of his strength and virility. Bulls were featured heavily in religious pantheon of the Egyptian gods. The bull of Ra, the sun god, was connected with solar religion, and the Buchis bull of Armant was regarded as the physical manifestation of the gods Ra and Osiris. But the most powerful bull representation was the Apis bull of the northern capital city of Memphis, seen as the embodiment of the gods Ptah and Osiris. Individual animals were chosen by the Egyptian priests to be divine representatives of the deity, living out their lives worshiped as a god. When an Apis bull died it was an occasion for nationwide mourning and the body of the animal was embalmed like a king and was borne in a procession to a royal burial site at the city of Sakkara where it was laid to rest in its own tomb. This was probably the Golden Calf Aaron was commissioned to create.

It is interesting that the one Golden Calf is referred in the plural in verse 1: "the people wanted Aaron to make gods for them", but the use of the plural form elohim does not necessarily indicate that the Israelites had fallen into the sin of worshiping multiple gods because when referring to Yahweh the plural "Elohim" is often used [see Genesis 1:1]. The Israelites referred to the celebration surrounding the Golden Calf as "a feast for Yahweh" and identifies the idol as "Yahweh who brought them out of Egypt" in verse 5 but Moses clearly understands that this is "a god of gold" in verse 31 and a violation of the Covenant command not to worship idols. In addition, the Children of Israel were caught in the act of idol worship when "they rose up to amuse themselves", interpreted to mean a sexual orgy [see verses 5-6]. In Egypt the worship of the Apis Bull involved fertility rites which included sexual orgies [reference verses 5-6]. The people wanted to give the invisible Yahweh a physical form like all other gods and so they combined Yahweh with the physical form of the god of Egypt's major fertility cult. Nehemiah 9:18 seems to interpret the sin of the Golden Calf this way: "Even when they cast themselves a calf out of molten metal and said, 'This is your God who brought you up from Egypt! and committed monstrous impieties, you ,in your great compassion did no abandon them in the desert.."; "the God" in this passage refers to Yahweh [also see 1 Kings 12:28].

On the mountain Yahweh warns Moses that the people have fallen into sin [in Exodus 32: 7-10] and threatens to destroy them.

Question: What does Moses say to appeal to Yahweh's justice?
Answer: He reminds God of His unconditional covenant promises to the Patriarchs.

Question: As Moses descends the mountain what is he carrying in both hands?
Answer: He is carrying the two tablets of the Law inscribed by the hand of God.

Historians have pointed out that it was a common practice in ancient Mesopotamia and the Near East [Egypt] for a victorious king to make 2 copies of a covenant treaty. Each party would place a copy of the covenant in the house of his god as a legal document testifying to the agreements and stipulations of the covenant. In the case of Israel, of course, Yahweh was both the great King and God so, if the tablets did represent 2 copies [and this cannot be known], both copies would be placed in the Tabernacle, the "house" of Israel's God and Yahweh's dwelling place in the midst of His people.

Question: What interesting observation does the narrative make about the tablets?
Answer: They are inscribed front and back. This would be very unusual for stone tablets.

Question: In Exodus 32:17 how does Joshua describe the noise from the camp?
Answer: The noise is so loud that Joshua believes there must be a battle in the camp. The noise that sounded like battle was the sexual orgy surrounding the "worship" of the Golden Calf.

Question: What does Moses do in his fury?
Answer: He breaks the Tablets of the Covenant.

Now the orgy explodes into a full-scale revolt against Moses and Yahweh. In desperation Moses calls out "Who is for Yahweh? To me!"

Question: Who among the Israelites should have been the first to rush to support Moses and Yahweh's Covenant?
Answer: The firstborn sons redeemed the night of the Passover sacrifice.

Question: Who comes to defend Moses and the Covenant?
Answer: Moses' kinsmen, the Levites.

Question: In the ensuing battle how many rebels are killed?
Answer: About 3 thousand.

Question: How are the Levites rewarded for their faithfulness and what happens to the firstborn sons?
Answer: The Levites will become the ministerial priesthood, the firstborn sons are dispossessed.

Question: In Exodus 32:15-29 Moses acted as mediator, speaking and acting on God's behalf and carrying out judgment on the rebels. Now in verses 30-33 Moses takes up his role as mediator for the people. This will become the typical duel role of the prophet of God. What sacrifice does Moses offer to make on behalf of the people?
Answer: He offers to sacrifice himself for the sake of the people-- that his name be removed from "the book you have written!"[Exodus 32:33].

Question: What is the book written by God? Is there more than one book? Hint: see Psalm 40:8; 56:8; 69:28; 139:16; Isaiah 4:3; Jeremiah 17:1; Daniel 7:10; 12:1; Malachi 3:16; Luke 10:20; and Revelation 3:5 and 20:12.
Answer: There are two books: one records human actions, good and bad and the other is the Book of Life in which is written the names of those destined for eternal life. That one's name may be erased from the Book of Life indicates that salvation is a process, the state of one's soul must be carefully safeguarded, and one's faith cannot be separated from one's deeds. Revelation 20:12 "I saw the dead, great and small alike, standing in front of his throne while the books lay open. And another book was opened, which is the book of life, and the dead were judged from what was written in the books, as their deeds deserved." Revelation 3:5 "Anyone who proves victorious will be dressed, like these, in white robes; I shall not blot that name out of the book of life, but acknowledge it in the presence of my Father and his angels." The white bridal robe of the Bride of Christ is made of "the good deeds of the saints." = see Revelation 19:8.

In Exodus 34 the covenant is renewed, two more stone tablets are cut but this time God does not provide the tablets, Moses must provide them.

Question: How long does Moses stay on the mountain?
Answer: Another 40 days.

Please read Exodus 36:8 - 40:38

The Tabernacle is built according to the plan God showed Moses on the mountain. Once again the building of the Tabernacle in chapter 36 is preceded by the restatement of the Covenant obligation of the observance of the Sabbath, linking the building of the Tabernacle in six days to the Creation which was also completed in six days.

Question: Why did God command Israel to build the Tabernacle? Can you think of 3 reasons? Hint: see Exodus 40:34-35; Exodus 25:8; and Hebrews chapter 9

  1. It symbolized God's presence and glory.
  2. It made God's presence among the Israelites possible.
  3. It foreshadowed the redemptive work of Jesus the Messiah

The description of the Tabernacle in this chapter repeats the instructions given to Moses in chapter 35. The Tabernacle and its furniture are completed "just as Yahweh had commanded Moses" [Exodus 39:42]. Just as in the Creation account when God inspected His work and judged "it was good", now Moses "inspected all the work: "they had indeed done it as Yahweh had ordered..." and like God on the 7th day of Creation, "Moses blessed them."

The Law is placed in the Ark of the Covenant, guarded by the golden figures of the cherubim [Ex 25:10-22; Deuteronomy 31:24-26] just as the Tree of Life after the Fall was guarded by cherubim [Genesis 3:24]. Only through the Covenant can human fellowship with God be restored. "There above the cover between the two cherubim that are over the ark of the testimony, I will meet with you and give you all my commands for the Israelites." [Exodus 25:22]. Only in the bond of the Sinai Covenant and the establishment of the Church can human beings return to the state they enjoyed in Genesis 2:15--serving God, living in His presence, obeying His will and enjoying His blessing.

The narrative is careful to explain that the Tabernacle was set up on the first day of the first month of the second year since they had kept the first Passover. It had been only 9 months since Israel arrived at Mt. Sinai [Exodus 19:1]. Now the Tabernacle was ready for the commemoration of the Passover Feast, which was only 14 days away.

Question: How do we know that Yahweh approved the construction of the Tabernacle?
Answer: In Exodus 40:34 Yahweh descends over the Tabernacle in the Glory Cloud. He filled or "overshadowed" the dwelling taking possession of the sacred space. In the Old Testament Greek translation [first transcribed ca 250BC] the word used is episksiazo = "to overshadow". It will be the same word used to describe God the Holy Spirit "overshadowing" the Virgin Mary at the Incarnation.

Exodus 40:38 records that "Yahweh cloud stayed over the Dwelling during the daytime and there was fire inside the cloud at night, for the whole House of Israel to see, at every stage of their journey."

The sin of the Golden Calf required the expansion of the laws of the Covenant.

Disobedient children need more rules.

Please read Leviticus 23: 1-44

In Leviticus chapter 23 Yahweh expands the holy days of obligation from the original 3 Pilgrim feasts of Unleavened Bread, Feast of Weeks [Pentecost[, and Feast of Shelters [Tabernacles] to 7 annual feasts. These feasts are infinitely more than just a series of cultural observances. Each feast is appointed by God; He calls them "my feasts" [Leviticus 23:2]. Taken as a whole they form Yahweh's prophetic calendar because they not only look back to the Exodus experience but also forward to a future redeemer!

The union of Yahweh with Israel at Mt Sinai is an intensely personal union. It is in one sense the union of a sovereign God with his vassal who has been elevated to be His "treasured possession...a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" [Exodus 19:5-6]--Israel is to be a sacred state and not a political one. Aspects of this relationship will be expressed in the book of Deuteronomy in a classic Mesopotamian covenant-treaty format. But this is more than a vassal-Lord relationship. This covenant formation at Sinai is the beginning of a passionate love affair between Yahweh and Israel which will be expressed in Biblical imagery as a dialogue of love between Yahweh the Bridegroom and Israel His covenant Bride. In the ancient Semitic world a marriage was a matter of contractual obligation. Remnants of this tradition are seen in the Jewish wedding ceremony in which the ketubbah, or marriage contract is still read [the prophet Malachi writes of the covenant obligations between a man and a women in these terms in Malachi 2:14].

All this leads us to the question why Israel -- of all the nations on the earth why this one? The choice certainly doesn't rest on her strength in numbers or her intelligence or even her honesty and faithfulness. From the time of the Fall of humanity God had promised to restore man to that unique condition of son-ship lost in the sin of our first parents. He promised in Genesis 3:15 that from the "seed of the woman" redemption would come. But this promise required the selection of a certain human woman from a particular family and of a particular tribe of people in order for the Incarnation to take place. That woman would have to be set apart in virtue and purity in order for her to physically bear a pure and holy sinless God enfleshed. The people from whom she would come would have to be purified from the influence of false gods and to be properly instructed and prepared through God's holy Prophets to be able to recognize the Second Person of the Trinity when the time was fulfilled for the Incarnation. But the question remains why Israel?

Jewish scholar Dr. Jon Levenson identifies that choice in his book Sinai and Zion as an "irrational something, a passion, an affair of the heart." It is for this irrational reason that Israel is singled out as the people from whom God would Incarnate Himself. Read Deuteronomy 10:12-15. This passage identifies the core of the covenant relationship between Yahweh and Israel. It is love: the mysterious love of God for Israel as His choice and the less surprising love of Israel for God, her benefactor and protector. It is the Law of Sinai that binds the marriage covenant of God the Bridegroom and Israel the Bride. It is Law conceived in love that Yahweh gives His Bride on their wedding day and it is love expressed in law that moves Israel to accept the Law covenant of Sinai, and to offer sacrifice to bind the union. Sacrifice and redemption bound in Covenant--the continuing theme of God's plan of Salvation History!

Question for group discussion and a group activity:

Question: In the 3-part plan of the desert Tabernacle what mystery of faith that will be revealed in the New Covenant is foreshadowed in the plan of this structure?
Answer: The 3-in-One of the Most Holy Trinity: God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is foreshadowed in the plan of the Altar courtyard, the Holy Place, and the Holy of Holies.

Activity: Draw out a plan of the Tabernacle in its three parts of Altar courtyard, Holy Place, and Holy of Holies and place the 7 pieces of furniture in the Sanctuary as God had instructed Moses and Aaron in Exodus 40:16-33.

Question: Do you see any pattern displayed in the arrangement of the furniture? Consult the handout "The 7 classes of furniture of the Holy Sanctuary" in the Charts and Recourses Section.
Answer: The furniture should be placed with the Altar of Sacrifice at the center of the eastern most end of courtyard of the Sanctuary enclosure; the Basin of Holy Water directly east of the Altar in front of the Tent; the golden table of the unleavened Bread of the Presence centered inside the Tent of the Holy Place on the north side and the golden Menorah [lamp stand] centered in the Holy Place directly across from the Bread of the Presence on the south side. The golden Altar of Incense should be centered at the west end of the Holy Place in front of the curtain that separates the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies. The Ark of the Covenant should be placed in the Holy of Holies directly behind the Altar of Incense. If you draw one line from the Ark of the Covenant through the Altar of Incense, through the Basin and to the Altar of Sacrifice, and a second line from the Table of the Bread of the Presence [Shewbread] to the golden Menorah you should have the pattern of a cross. These repeated hidden symbols of the cross in the Old Testament foreshadow the redemptive work of Christ on His cross of our salvation.

Question: Compare Christ's love for His Bride the Church with the love a man and woman feel for each other celebrated in the bonds of marriage. Are there expectations of both affection and obligation? What are the expectations of commitment in a marriage relationship and how does that compare to our expectations of commitment in our relationship with the Most Holy Trinity? Are you personally "passionate" about your commitment to Christ the Bridegroom? How do you live in faithfulness to Him and your covenantal bond? Is your relationship with Him intensely personal or impersonal? What can you do to improve the passion of your relationship with Christ? Like any relationship it takes commitment and intimacy comes from spending time together.

Question: Why did Yahweh form the covenant with Israel at Sinai and not within the boundaries of the Promised Land?

  1. Yahweh knew that the Egyptian generation was not spiritually strong enough to sustain the covenant. He would need a new generation who had been raised in the spiritual crucible of the desert wilderness experience where they had to rely completely on God for all their needs. He had taken Israel out of Egypt but it would take 40 years and a new generation to take the corrupting influences of pagan Egypt out of Israel.
  2. Yahweh did not form the covenant within the boundaries of the Promised Land because this was a covenant in which Israel was central but not exclusive. Everyone, no matter what ethnicity, was welcomed into union with Israel through God's holy Covenant . The Midianite Kenites are an example of the extension of the covenant to non-Israelites. The Biblical heroine Jael, a woman of this clan, will deliver Israel from the Canaanite general Sisera [Judges 4:17ff; 5:6; 24ff].
  3. It was necessary for Israel to make the wilderness journey because that journey, undertaken in struggle and adversity but under the protection of God the Almighty, prefigures our journey through the wilderness of this life in our quest to reach our Promise Land'the Heavenly Eden.

Scripture readings for Biblical period #4: The Conquest of Canaan

The 12 Spies Numbers 13:1-33
The Forty Years of Wandering Numbers 14:1 24:25
The Sin of Baal of Peor /
Covenant of the Perpetual Priesthood
Numbers 25:1 18
Moses' Final Homily &
The Promise of the Prophet
Deuteronomy 17:14-20
Deuteronomy 18:13-20
Covenant Blessings and Curses Deuteronomy 28:1 31:13
The Commissioning of Joshua &
The Song of Witness
Deuteronomy 31:14 32:44
The Death of Moses Deuteronomy 34: 1-12
Joshua's Invasion of Canaan Joshua 1:1-6:27
Covenant Renewal at Mt. Ebal Joshua 8:30-35
Division of the Land by Tribes Joshua 13:7-19:51
Joshua's Farewell Address Joshua 23:1-16

Resources and recommended reading:

  1. Many Religions--One Covenant: Israel, the Church and the World, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, [Ignatius Press, 1999].
  2. Catholicism and Fundamentalism, Karl Keating, [Ignatius Press, 1988].
  3. Dictionary of the Bible, John L. McKenzie, S.J.,[Bruce Publishing Company, 1965].
  4. Tanach, edited by Rabbi Nosson Scherman, [Mesorah Publications, Ltd,, 1998].
  5. Jewish Literacy, Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, [William Morrow, Inc., 1991, 2001].
  6. The Navarre Bible Commentary: the Pentateuch
  7. Jewish Literacy, Rabbi Joseph Telushkin
  8. The Five Books of Moses, edited by Everett Fox
  9. Mishnah
  10. Sinai and Zion: an entry into the Jewish Bible, Jon Levenson, [HarperSanFrancisco, 1985].
  11. The Feasts of the Lord, Kevin Howard and Marvin Rosenthal, [Thomas Nelson, 1997].
  12. The Jewish Festivals, Hayyim Schauss, [New York Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1938].
  13. The Works of Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews
  14. The Works of Philo of Alexandria

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2008 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.