THE COVENANT WRITTEN AND READ TO THE PEOPLE
Having finished declaring the rules and regulations connected with the law, the Lord tells Moses to come up to Him in the mountain, and to take with him Aaron, Nadab and Abihu (Aaron's sons) as well as seventy of the elders of Israel (v.1). A group therefore was selected to have a place above the people, which is consistent with the character of law, but having no place whatever in the church of God today, for all believers are seen as priests in God's dealings now (1 Peter 2:5).
Yet Moses alone was allowed to come near to God (v.2). In this he is typical of Christ, the Mediator of the new covenant (Hebrews 12:24).
Before going up, however, Moses told the people all that the Lord had spoken, His ordinances and judgments (v.3). The people unitedly answered that they would obey all that the Lord had commanded. Before they had heard these things they promised to obey (ch.19:8). Now in hearing, they speak the same.
Then Moses wrote all the words of the Lord. He built an altar along with twelve pillars which represented the twelve tribes of Israel. Then young men (not elders nor priests) of the children of Israel were sent to offer burnt offerings and peace offerings to the Lord (v.5). The very fact of these offerings intimates that Israel's promise was not going to be kept: they would require the shedding of blood because of their disobedience. Yet this blood could not take away sins (Hebrews 10:4).
Moses sprinkled half of the blood on the altar, then read the book of the covenant to all the people. For the third time they made the self-confident promise that they would do all that the Lord commanded. How little they knew their own hearts! But Moses then sprinkled the remainder of the blood on the people, declaring to them that this was the blood of the covenant that the Lord had made with them. Typically this warned them that disobedience would require the shedding of blood -- and not just the blood of an animal. Hebrews 9:18-22 comments on this occasion, insisting also that "without shedding of blood there is no remission."
A SELECT GROUP IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD
In obedience to verses 1-2 Moses, Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, together with 70 of the elders of Israel went up into the mountain (v.9). This large group of witnesses took away any suspicion of the people that Moses might be in any way deceiving them. These men must be impressed with the greatness of the glory of the Lord. We are told, "they saw the God of Israel" (v.10).
The meaning of this must be considered in the light ofJohn 1:18: "No one has seen God at any time," and 1 Timothy 6:16; "Whom no man has seen or can see." Therefore it was not God personally whom they saw, but evidently some partial manifestation of His nature or character, for the language is symbolical that tells us, "there was under His feet as it were a paved work of sapphire stone, and it was like the very heavens in its clarity" (v.10). This appears to be a vision that would inspire awe in all who were observers, realizing that it was indeed the great God of creation who was dealing with them. Compare the vision of Ezekiel 1:1-28, which ends with the words, "This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord" (v.28).
MOSES AND JOSHUA GOING FURTHER
Moses now is to be separated from Aaron, his sons and the 70 nobles, as the Lord calls him up into the mountain in order to give him the tables of stone on which the ten commandments would be written by God. Joshua had not been mentioned before, but had evidently also come with the group as the personal attendant of Moses. Now he goes with Moses (v.13), and was evidently with him during the whole time in the mount. Moses leaves instructions that Aaron and Hur can be consulted as to any problems that might arise (v.14).
As Moses went up a cloud covered the mountain, evidently the shekinah glory cloud (vs.15-16), and on the seventh day of this obscurity the Lord called to Moses out of the cloud. To the children of Israel below the sight of the glory of the Lord was like a consuming fire (v.17). Moses then remained in the mountain altogether forty days and forty nights. Forty is the number of testing: this was a test not only for Moses, but for all Israel, -- a test which issued in Israel's failure.