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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Exodus 24



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


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.

Verse 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


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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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Exodus 24:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, October 29th, 2020
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30
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