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Barnes' Notes on the Bible
1And 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.
Are placed by some with great probability between Exodus 24:8-9.
2And Moses alone shall come near the LORD: but they shall not come nigh; neither shall the people go up with him.
3And 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.
4And 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.
Twelve pillars - As the altar was a symbol of the presence of Yahweh, so these twelve pillars represented the presence of the Twelve tribes with whom He was making the covenant.
5And he sent young men of the children of Israel, which offered burnt offerings, and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen unto the LORD.
Young men of the children of Israel - See Exodus 19:22; Exodus 28:1; Leviticus 1:5.
Burnt offerings ... peace offerings - The burnt offerings Leviticus 1 figured the dedication of the nation to Yahweh, and the peace offerings Leviticus 3 their communion with Yahweh and with each other.
6And Moses took half of the blood, and put it in basons; and half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar.
He sprinkled - Rather, he cast. See Leviticus 1:5.
7And 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.
The book of the covenant - See Exodus 20:22 note. The people had to repeat their assent to the book of the covenant before the blood was thrown upon them. Compare 2 Kings 23:2, 2 Kings 23:21; 2 Chronicles 34:30.
8And 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.
The blood which sealed the covenant was the blood of burnt offerings and peace offerings. The sin-offering Leviticus 4 had not yet been instituted. That more complicated view of human nature which gave to the sin-offering its meaning, had yet to be developed by the law, which was now only receiving its ratification. The covenant between Yahweh and His people therefore took precedence of the operation of the law, by which came the knowledge of sin. Romans 3:20.
Upon the people - Either upon the elders or those who stood foremost; or, upon the twelve pillars representing the Twelve tribes, as the first half had been cast upon the altar, which witnessed to the presence of Yahweh. The blood thus divided between the two parties to the covenant signified the sacramental union between the Lord and His people. Cf. Psalm 50:5; Zechariah 9:11.
9Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel:
It would appear that Moses, Aaron with his two sons, and seventy of the elders Exodus 19:7 went a short distance up the mountain to eat the meal of the covenant (compare Genesis 31:43-47), which must have consisted of the flesh of the peace offerings Exodus 24:5. Joshua accompanied Moses as his servant Exodus 24:13.
10And 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.
And they saw the God of Israel - As they ate the sacrificial feast, the presence of Yahweh was manifested to them with special distinctness. In the act of solemn worship, they perceived that He was present with them, as their Lord and their Deliverer. It is idle to speculate on the mode of this revelation. That no visible form was presented to their bodily eyes, we are expressly informed, Deuteronomy 4:12; see Exodus 33:20; compare Isaiah 6:1. The latter part of this verse may be read: "under His feet, it was like a work of bright sapphire stone, and like the heaven itself in clearness." On the sapphire, see Exodus 28:18; compare Ezekiel 1:26. The pure blue of the heaven above them lent its influence to help the inner sense to realize the vision which no mortal eye could behold.
11And upon the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand: also they saw God, and did eat and drink.
He laid not his hand - i. e. He did not strike them. It was believed that a mortal could not survive the sight of God Exodus 33:20; Genesis 32:30; Judges 6:22; Judges 13:22 : but these rulers of Israel were permitted to eat and drink, while they were enjoying in an extraordinary degree the sense of the divine presence, and received no harm.
12And 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.
Many Jews understand the "tables of stone" to denote the Ten Commandments; "a law," the law written in the Pentateuch; and the "commandments" (or "the commandment"), the oral or traditional law which was in after ages put into writing in the Mishna and the Gemara. But it is more probable that the Ten Commandments alone are spoken of, and that the meaning is, "the tables of stone with the law, even the commandment."
13And Moses rose up, and his minister Joshua: and Moses went up into the mount of God.
14And 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.
15And Moses went up into the mount, and a cloud covered the mount.
16And 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.
17And 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.
18And 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.
During this period of forty days, and the second period when the tables were renewed, Moses neither ate bread nor drank water. Compare marginal references. In like manner, Elijah fasted for forty days, when he visited the same spot 1 Kings 19:8. The two who met our Saviour on the Mount of Transfiguration Matthew 17:3, the one representing the law, the other representing the Prophets, thus shadowed forth in their own experience the Fast of Forty days in the wilderness of Judaea.