Exodus 24:1 - Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible

Bible Comments

Exodus 24. Vision and Covenant. Exodus 24:1 f. J, Exodus 24:3-8 E, Exodus 24:9-11 J, Exodus 24:12-15 a E, Exodus 24:15 b - Exodus 24:18 a P, Exodus 24:18 b E. Taking the J elements first, it must be noted that they must have followed the giving of the code now transposed to Exodus 34:17-26 (see Exodus 34:3 *). The inclusion of Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu along with the 70 elders recalls Exodus 19:22; Exodus 19:24 *, but the stratum of tradition from which this piece is drawn seems highly primitive. The meaning appears to be that the people remained at the base of the mountain, the priest and elders went half way up, and only Moses reached the top. But, perhaps later, all these last (Exodus 24:9-11) went up, and they saw the God of Israel, the description of the surroundings (Exodus 24:10) bearing out the conjecture that the old tradition was that heaven itself was at the top of this mountain (cf. Ezekiel 1:26; Ezekiel 28:14). It was ordinarily death to see God (Exodus 33:20 *), but on this occasion He put not forth his hand for destruction upon the nobles (lit. corner-stones of men), and they beheld God with the seer's eye, and shared in the heavenly banquet, the covenant feast (Exodus 24:11). Undying symbols here lie at hand of the glorious vision of God which is given to the pure in heart in the face of Jesus Christ, while He gives to His members (living stones in the Temple of His Body) His very flesh to eat. Returning to E's story, the request of Exodus 20:19, that Moses would be God's spokesman, is here made good, and the people promise loyal obedience (Exodus 24:3, and all the judgments, being a gloss ignored in Exodus 24:3 b, cf. iii. p. 184). The mention of writing the Words in the Book of the Covenant is perhaps a mark of a stage of tradition later than the earliest, in which only the living voice could convey the knowledge of God's will. Mohammed would not have the Koran written. The rest of the description is thoroughly primitive: altar (cf. Exodus 20:24), standing-stones, or pillars for dignity and witness (cf. Joshua 24:27), burnt-offerings and peace-offerings, and the distribution of the blood of the covenant (Mark 14:24) between God (represented by the altar), and the people (Exodus 24:4-8). [The significance is to be explained in the light of the custom of blood-brotherhood. When two men wished to make a blood-covenant each would drink a little of the other's blood, perhaps in water, or lick an incision made in the other's skin, as is done by the blood-lickers. In that way each incorporated something of the other's life. Later this was refined into the rite of dipping the hand into a bowl containing the blood of an animal. The sprinkling of blood from the same vessel on both parties similarly creates a covenant bond. The blood is sprinkled on the altar, because in it Yahweh's presence is supposed to be manifested. A. S. P.] There may also have been a covenant feast on the victims, displaced because of Exodus 24:11, or the blood-ritual may have stood by itself. As in Judges 17:5, the young men were as a matter of course entrusted with the laborious work of slaying, preparing, and offering the sacrifice (Exodus 24:5). But it was Moses who threw the blood against the altar (Exodus 24:6). The covenant idea had, and has, dangers, as if God would be tied to His people, and be bound to protect them, if the ritual was duly maintained. It found its crowning OT expression in the new covenant of Jeremiah 31:31-34. In the next piece from E (Exodus 24:12-15 a) there is some confusion. The words and the law (or teaching) and the commandment to teach them seem to refer to the Judgments. Perhaps the confusion is connected with the insertion of the Decalogue. The tables of stone are perhaps more likely to have been an idea suggested by inscribed tablets in Canaan than to have actually belonged to the journey thither. Like the book (Exodus 24:7) they may reflect a later stage of tradition than the earliest. It is not clear how this passage is related to what goes before, and Exodus 24:13 b seems to anticipate Exodus 24:15 a. Perhaps elders in Exodus 24:14 should be people, altered to fit the 70 in Exodus 24:1. Moses's temporary commission to Aaron (here rather elder than priest) and Hur confirms the view that Exodus 24:18, describing a permanent judiciary, is later than the Horeb scenes. The 40 days upon the sacred mount would, it has been pointed out, better fit a time of exalted communing and enlightenment than a mere visit to receive the tablets. In Exodus 24:15 b - Exodus 24:18 a we have P's parallel to the appearance of God in 19. The cloud is, as elsewhere, the sign in P of the Divine presence.

Exodus 24:1-18

1 And he said unto Moses, Come up unto the LORD, thou, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel; and worship ye afar off.

2 And Moses alone shall come near the LORD: but they shall not come nigh; neither shall the people go up with him.

3 And Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD, and all the judgments: and all the people answered with one voice, and said, All the words which the LORD hath said will we do.

4 And Moses wrote all the words of the LORD, and rose up early in the morning, and builded an altar under the hill, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel.

5 And he sent young men of the children of Israel, which offered burnt offerings, and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen unto the LORD.

6 And Moses took half of the blood, and put it in basons; and half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar.

7 And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that the LORD hath said will we do, and be obedient.

8 And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD hath made with you concerning all these words.

9 Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel:

10 And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness.

11 And upon the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand: also they saw God, and did eat and drink.

12 And the LORD said unto Moses, Come up to me into the mount, and be there: and I will give thee tables of stone, and a law, and commandments which I have written; that thou mayest teach them.

13 And Moses rose up, and his minister Joshua: and Moses went up into the mount of God.

14 And he said unto the elders, Tarry ye here for us, until we come again unto you: and, behold, Aaron and Hur are with you: if any man have any matters to do, let him come unto them.

15 And Moses went up into the mount, and a cloud covered the mount.

16 And the glory of the LORD abode upon mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days: and the seventh day he called unto Moses out of the midst of the cloud.

17 And the sight of the glory of the LORD was like devouring fire on the top of the mount in the eyes of the children of Israel.

18 And Moses went into the midst of the cloud, and gat him up into the mount: and Moses was in the mount forty days and forty nights.