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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Exodus 24

Introduction

III. JEHOVAH’S DWELLING WITH ISRAEL.

(1.) The Plan of the Tabernacle and its Holy Service. Chaps. 25-31.

INTRODUCTORY.

Jehovah has now ransomed his people from the house of bondage; has exhibited before their eyes the most solemn and awful displays of his eternal power, and of his superiority over all gods and men; has thundered from Sinai the ten words of the covenant, and has communicated to Moses, and through him to the people, a matchless body of laws to regulate the social and civil affairs of Israel. The next step is to establish a system of worship which will serve at once to centralize the religious interests of the people, and develop, by sacred services and symbols, the knowledge and fear of Jehovah. The pattern of a sanctuary that is to serve so lofty a purpose is here shown to have originated in the Divine Mind. Its great idea is that of a special sacred meeting place of Jehovah and his chosen people. The words by which the tabernacle is designated serve as a clew to the great idea embodied in its complex symbolism. The principal name is משׁכן , dwelling; but אהל , tent, usually connected with some distinguishing epithet, is also frequently used, and is applied to the tabernacle in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers more than one hundred and fifty times . In Exodus 23:19; Exodus 34:26, it is called בית יהוה , house of Jehovah, and in 1 Samuel 1:9; 1 Samuel 3:3, היכל יהוה , temple of Jehovah. But a fuller indication of the import of these names is found in the compound expressions, אהל מועד , tent of meeting, אהל העדות , tent of the testimony, and משׁכן העדות , dwelling of the testimony . The testimony is a term applied emphatically to the law of the two tables, (Exodus 25:16; Exodus 25:21; Exodus 31:18,) and designated the authoritative declaration of God, upon the basis of which he made a covenant with Israel . Exodus 34:27; Deuteronomy 4:13. Hence these tables were called tables of the covenant (Deuteronomy 9:9) as well as tables of the testimony . As the representatives of God’s most holy testimony against sin they occupied the most secret and sacred place of his tabernacle . Exodus 25:16. All these designations of the tabernacle serve to indicate its great design as a symbol of Jehovah’s meeting and dwelling with his people. One passage which, above all others, elaborates this thought is Exodus 29:42-46: “It shall be a continual burnt offering throughout your generations, at the door of the tent of meeting ( אהל מועד ) before Jehovah, where I will meet ( אועד ) you, to speak unto thee there . And I will meet ( נעדתי ) there the sons of Israel, and he (that is, Israel) shall be sanctified in my glory . And I will sanctify the tent of meeting ( אהל מועד ) and the altar, and Aaron and his sons will I sanctify to act as priests for me . And I will dwell ( שׁכבתי ) in the midst of the sons of Israel, and I will be God to them, and they shall know that I am Jehovah their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt, that I might dwell ( לשׁכני ) in their midst I, Jehovah, their God . ”

The tabernacle, therefore, is not to be thought of as a symbol of things external and visible, not even of heaven itself considered merely as a place, but of the meeting and dwelling together of God and his people both in time and eternity. The ordinances of worship may be expected to denote the way in which Jehovah condescends to meet with man, and enables man to approach nigh unto him a meeting and fellowship by which the true Israel become sanctified in the divine glory. Exodus 29:43. The divine-human relationship realized in the kingdom of heaven is attained in Christ when God comes unto man and makes his abode ( μονην ) with him, (John 14:23,) so that the man dwells in God and God in him . 1 John 4:16. This is the glorious indwelling contemplated in the prayer of Jesus that all believers “may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that thou didst send me. And the glory which thou hast given me I have given unto them; that they may be one, even as we are one, I in them and thou in me, that they may be perfected into one.” John 17:21-23. (R . V . ) Of this blessed relationship the tabernacle is a significant symbol, and, being also a shadow of the good things to come, it was a type of the New Testament Church or kingdom of God, that spiritual house built of living stones, (1 Peter 2:5) which is a habitation of God in the Spirit . Ephesians 2:22.

Most strangely have certain modern critics advanced the notion that this account of the tabernacle is a fiction of post-exile times, an invention of the priests to furnish a kind of holy historic background for the plan of Solomon’s temple and its successor. And so, too, the whole elaborate system of the Levitical worship, with the distinction between priests and Levites, is held to be a product of the times of the Babylonian exile. But no time in the history of the chosen people appears so well adapted to the formation of this system as the age of Moses; no person so competent to fashion and inaugurate it as that great lawgiver. For the discussion of this question of criticism, see our Introduction to the Pentateuch, especially pages 17-38.

Verse 1

1. He said unto Moses That is, after having given unto him the judgments recorded in the book of the covenant, and before he went down to communicate them to the people . Moses had gone into the thick darkness to receive these laws, (Exodus 20:21,) and now, before he returned to the people, (Exodus 24:3,) he is instructed to bring with him, when he comes up into the mountain again, Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel. These persons, namely, Moses’s brother and the two oldest sons of the latter, and seventy of the most distinguished representatives of the people, (comp. Exodus 18:25,) would thus stand between Moses and the people .

Verses 1-11

RATIFICATION OF THE COVENANT, Exodus 24:1-11.

Verse 2

2. Moses alone shall come near the Lord Here was a symbolical outline of what was afterward formally fixed in the Levitical code . Moses represented the highpriest, who went alone into the most holy place, (Leviticus 16:17,) and these others the ordinary consecrated priests who might minister in the holy place, and at the altar, while the people were required to remain in the distance .

Verses 3-4

3, 4. Moses came and told After receiving the laws as so many words of the Lord, he put them in writing, and thus codified the judgments (comp . Exodus 21:1) which were to govern the people . Whether he wrote all the words of the Lord before he descended from the mountain, or after he appeared again among the people, is not said . We most naturally suppose that they would have been written in the mountain, but the order of this narrative seems to imply that he first reported them orally to the people, who answered with one voice, and pledged obedience .

Thereupon he wrote all the words, occupying, perhaps, a part of the night in this labour, and rose up early in the morning of the following day to ratify and seal the covenant by appropriate offerings and a reading of the laws from the book in which he had written them.

Builded an altar under the hill In accord with the directions of Exodus 20:24-26.

Twelve pillars Significant of the tribal divisions of the nation, and their common interest in the covenant. Comp. Joshua 4:1-9.

Verse 5

5. Sent young men Moses, who appropriately officiated as the priest, employed young and vigorous men, selected from the tribes, to assist him in preparing and offering the sacrifices . The Levitical arrangements for sacrifice were not yet established .

Burnt offerings, and… peace offerings Comp. note on Exodus 20:24. “The burnt offerings figured the dedication of the nation to Jehovah, and the peace offerings their communion with Jehovah and with each other.” Speaker’s Commentary.

Verse 6

6. Half of the blood… in basins, and half… on the altar As the same drops of blood could not be sprinkled both on the altar and on the people, the whole was divided into two parts, part for the altar and part for the people, and yet the two portions were regarded as one blood, serving to seal this holy covenant between Jehovah and his people . The blood which was sprinkled on the altar symbolized the life of Israel consecrated to Jehovah; that in basins, which was “sprinkled on the people,” (Exodus 24:8,) served to intensify in them the solemn conviction that they were set apart to be a holy nation. It was the seal of union with God, a covenant of blood.

Verse 7

7. Read in the audience of the people This would seem to have been the earliest instance of a public reading of Holy Scripture . Comp . Nehemiah 8:1-8.

Verse 9

9. Then went up Moses Immediately after the sacrifice and sprinkling of the blood they would all proceed to feast upon the flesh of the peace offerings; but Moses and Aaron, and the others mentioned in Exodus 24:1, ascended some distance up the mountain, and ate and drank (Exodus 24:11) where they had a nearer view of the glory and majesty of the Sinaitic theophany . It would seem from Exodus 24:16 that they continued thus together for six days, and on the seventh Moses went into the midst of the cloud, where he remained forty days, (Exodus 24:18,) receiving instructions concerning the tabernacle, and the holy ministrations which were now to be ordained.

Verse 10

10. They saw the God of Israel Not his face, (Exodus 33:20,) nor even his similitude, (Deuteronomy 4:12; Deuteronomy 4:15,) but some impressive symbol of his presence, most awe-inspiring in its majesty . It is vain to presume to tell the exact form of the glory which these elders saw; no description of it is here given, but our thought of it is enhanced by the statement that there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone. This accords with what Ezekiel saw in vision, (Ezekiel 1:26,) a kind of tesselated pavement, brilliant as the sapphire stone, upon which the symbol of Deity appeared to stand. This pavement, for clearness, was like the body of heaven; that is, like the blue substance of the heavens above.

Verse 11

11. He laid not his hand Hebrews, He sent not forth his hand . No stroke of divine wrath was sent forth from that sublime display to destroy the Israelitish nobles. It was the common belief that such a vision of God must needs destroy the beholder, (comp . Genesis 32:30; Judges 6:22; Judges 13:22; Isaiah 6:5,) but these chief men of Israel not only thus saw God, but they did eat and drink in presence of the awful sight. They ate in solemn reserve the sacrificial meal of the peace offerings by which the covenant had been sealed.

Verse 12

MOSES’S ASCENT INTO THE MOUNT, Exodus 24:12-18.

12. Tables of stone, and a law, and commandments This may be rendered, Tables of stone, even the law and the commandment, and would then most naturally denote the decalogue graven on tables of stone . Ewald understands the reference to be to the decalogue, and also to other laws and commandments which were to be given. The rabbinical interpretation is, that only the tables of stone refer to the decalogue, while the law here means the written law of Moses, and the commandments the oral law which was handed down by tradition, and afterward embodied in the Talmud. As Exodus 24:12-18 serve for an introduction to chapters 25-31, in which so many commandments are given touching the tabernacle and the priesthood, and as Exodus 32:15, shows that Moses returned with the two tables in his hand, we may best understand that these words refer to other commandments besides those of the decalogue . Moses was called up to receive not the tables only, but also other revelations.

Teach them All the laws, and the entire revelation, were to be taught to the people.

Verse 13

13. His minister Joshua This intimate companion of the great lawgiver, destined to be his successor, was admitted into holiest relations with him . See notes on Exodus 17:9, and Joshua 1:1, and comp . Exodus 32:17; Exodus 33:11. Whether he went with Moses “into the midst of the cloud,” (Exodus 24:18,) we are not expressly told, but that is the legitimate inference .

Verse 14

14. Tarry ye Moses appeared to know that he would be absent from the camp some time, and hence the instructions here given to the elders .

Aaron and Hur Comp . Exodus 17:10; Exodus 17:12, notes . It would seem that Moses and Joshua parted from the elders on the spot where they ate and drank together, (Exodus 24:11;) in which case it is of course to be understood that the elders would return to the camp and abide in their tents as usual until Moses returned . Possibly, however, as Keil supposes, Moses and the elders went down again to the camp together after the covenant meal .

Verse 16

16. Glory of the Lord abode upon mount Sinai Compare the theophany as described in Exodus 19:16-20. Whether the six days here mentioned were subsequent to Moses’s departure from the elders or previous to it, is a question not easily determined by the text . Either supposition is possible . The order of statements in the narrative does not determine the question, for in Exodus 24:13-14 we observe that Moses’s direction for the elders is spoken after it is said that he and Joshua went up into the mount . In the note above, on Exodus 24:9, we have given preference to the view that the sacrificial feast was prolonged for six days, during which time all that is recorded in Exodus 24:3-11 occurred. During this solemn sealing of the covenant it was appropriate that the cloud should cover the mountain, and that on the seventh day Moses should be called to go up and receive the further revelations.

Verse 18

18. Forty days and forty nights We naturally compare with this Exodus 34:28, and Deuteronomy 9:18. Also the fact that Elijah spent the same length of time at this mountain without food, (1 Kings 19:8,) and Jesus fasted in the wilderness of his temptation forty days. There appears a symbolism about this number. The spies were forty days searching the land of promise, (Numbers 13:25,) and that generation was condemned to wander in the desert forty years, (Numbers 14:34,) to humble and prove them . Deuteronomy 8:2. In all these instances the period was one of great trial and discipline, as well as of gracious evidences of God’s mercy and truth.

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Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Exodus 24". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/exodus-24.html. 1874-1909.