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Bible: What Does Exodus 23-4 Teach Us About the "Book of the Covenant"?

Updated on September 15, 2016

The Book of the Covenant

The Book of the Covenant (Concluded)

Next, Yahweh condemns anyone joining with the wicked to be a false witness (v. 1).

He outlaws mob rule (v. 2), and prohibits both showing partiality toward and “perverting the judgment” of the poor (vv. 3, 6; cf. Eccl. 5:8).

Two ways to love one’s enemy follow (vv. 4-5; cf. Rom. 12:20).

[The hope of recovering a relationship is worth the risk of rejection and misunderstanding].

Moses pens four imperatives regarding the need for moral separation:

(1) Keep away from a false matter (v. 7);

(2) Do not “kill” the innocent and righteous (v. 7);

(3) Do not take bribes (v. 8);

(4) Do not oppress a stranger (v. 9).

Then he follows them up with instruction about why one should separate oneself from evil:

(1) There is no acquittal for the wicked [v. 7].

(2) Bribes blind minds and pervert words [v. 8], and

(3) Personal knowledge of mistreatment requires action [v. 9]).

[The two commands of verse seven seem related in that one may “kill” the innocent by being involved with certain false matters].

A law about Sabbaths follows (vv. 10-13).

It concerns the seven-year agricultural cycle: the people shall sow and gather for six years, but rest during the seventh (vv. 10-11).

During this seventh year the poor may glean freely, and the beasts of the field may satisfy themselves.

The law also regards the weekly work routine of every human being and every animal: work six days, but rest on the seventh (v. 12).

Moses enjoins the people to be careful to observe this law, and not to speak about other gods on their day of rest (v. 13).

Required Attendees

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Three Yearly Feasts

Next, the prophet delineates Israel’s three yearly feasts: the Feast of Unleavened Bread (v. 15a), the Feast of Harvest (First Fruits) [v. 16a], and the Feast of Ingathering (v. 16c).

On the first feast, all Israel eats unleavened bread seven days (v. 15b); on the second it celebrates the early harvest (v. 16b); and on the third the late harvest (v. 16d).

All males appear before God during these feasts (v. 17).

In addition, Yahweh makes special notes about not offering blood with leavened bread and not allowing the sacrificial fat to remain overnight (v. 18).

The first fruits the males must bring into the house of the LORD (i.e., the tabernacle), and be sure not to “boil a young goat in its mother’s milk” (v. 19).

[Much of this teaching is obscure.

However, some of it must deal with making sure that Israel leaves pagan practices behind them, and instead obeys what the LORD commands. Cf. Ex. 34: 22-26].

Israel's Guiding Angel

Yahweh now leaves off moral instructions and various laws to tell Moses about Israel’s guiding Angel (v. 20).

Since He has God’s name “in Him,” Israel must fear, obey, and not provoke Him to wrath (v. 21).

If they obey the Angel, Yahweh will destroy their adversaries (v. 22); Moses lists those peoples whom the LORD will “cut off” (v. 23).

By rejecting their gods completely and overthrowing their sacred pillars, Israel will serve the LORD faithfully (vv. 24-25a).

As the result of their obedience, God will grant Israelites health, prosperity, and a full life (vv. 25b-26).

In addition, His “fear” (the fear of Him) will cause the Land’s inhabitants to flee gradually, giving Israel time to take possession of their inheritance without fear of the beasts of the field (vv. 27-30).

Israel’s boundaries will extend from the Red Sea to the Sea (Mediterranean?) and Philistia, and from the desert to the Euphrates (v. 31).

To keep Israel loyal to Him, God warns the people to make no alliance with nor allow any of the Land’s current inhabitants to live with them (vv. 32-33).

So ends the giving of the Book of the Covenant.

Mount Horeb

Covenant Ratification

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Exodus 24

Although the LORD allows more than seventy men to climb the mountain to worship Him “from afar,” He permits Moses alone to “come near” (vv. 1-2; cf. 19:24).

After he reports the word of the LORD to the people, they respond in unison that they will obey it (v. 3).

Moses then writes this “Book of the Covenant” (vv. 4a, 7).

Early the next morning, he builds an altar before Horeb, tells Israel to erect twelve pillars representative of their tribes (v. 4b), and commands young men to offer sacrifices (v. 5).

Afterwards, he collects the blood from these beasts, saving half of it and sprinkling half on the altar (v. 6).

Again, Moses reads the Book, and the people repeat their pledge of allegiance (v. 7).

By sprinkling the reserved blood on the assembly, he ratifies the covenant (v. 8; cf. Luke 22:20 for the new, blood covenant. See also Hebrew 10:22 for a new sprinkling).

Verses nine through eleven present a picture of a glorious time of “fellowship” the LORD permitted seventy-four Israelite men to experience with Him on Sinai.

[Moses named those privileged to “see” God earlier (vv. 9-10a; cf. 24:1)].

Moses’ description of the sapphire-like foundation under God’s feet is similar to that of Ezekiel’s (v. 10b; see Ezek. 1:26).

[These men apparently saw a Christophany, for God appeared in the form of a man having feet and “a hand” (vv. 10-11)].

The LORD instructs Moses to ascend Sinai again to receive stone tablets on which He had written the Ten Words (v. 12).

Accompanied by Joshua, Moses obeys God’s directive; before he leaves the elders, however, he tells them to stay where they are and wait for his return (vv. 13-14).

[In due time, the elders undoubtedly tire and return to the camp].

As Moses goes up, a cloud (signifying the glory of God) covers and rests on Sinai for six days (vv. 15-16a); not until day seven does the LORD speak to him (v. 16b).

[What is the significance of this arrangement?]

Though God’s glory appears like a consuming fire to Israel, Moses is enabled to live on Sinai for forty days and forty nights (vv. 17-18; cf. Heb. 12:18, 29).

© 2013 glynch1


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    • glynch1 profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      Given the assumption that an infinite-personal God who created mankind exists, I have no issue with believing that He can enable His servant to survive without food for that period.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      5 years ago from The Caribbean

      The very last point about Moses surviving Mount Sinai for 40 days and nights will have me thinking for a while. Thank you for your continuing commentary on Bible events.


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