Exodus, chapter one, continues the story of the Hebrews in Egypt, right from where Genesis left off. The descendants of Jacob/Israel are prospering in Egypt. Eventually, Joseph and his brothers and that whole generation dies, "but the Israelites were fruitful and multiplied greatly and became exceedingly numerous, so that the land was filled with them." The Pharoah also died, and a king came to power in Egypt who didn't know Joseph, didn't remember what he had done to save Egypt, and saw the Israelites as a threat to the Egyptians. So he had slave masters put over the Hebrews, and they were used for forced labor. "But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread; so the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites and worked them ruthlessly."
Still seeing a threat, the king of Egypt, called the Hebrew midwives (Shiphrah and Puah) and told them that if a boy was being delivered, they were to kill it, and only let the girls live. The midwives "feared God" and did not do what the king instructed. When he asked them why, they told him that the Hebrew women were different than Egyptian women and had their babies before the midwives arrived. And God propered them and gave them families because of what they had done. The Pharoah, though, ordered all of his people that male Hebrew babies should be thrown in to the Nile.
In chapter two, a Levite woman gives birth to a son. She hid him, but when he reached three months, she could hide him no longer. She put him in a basket coated with tar and pitch and put it into the reeds along the bank of the Nile, with his sister watching at a distance to see what would happen to him. The basket was found by Pharoah's daughter, who had gone to the river to bathe, and she felt sorry for him. His sister asked Pharoah's daughter if she would like to fetch one of the Hebrew women to nurse him, and when she said yes, the boy's sister fetched his mother. Pharoah's daughter paid the woman to nurse the baby, and when he was older, she got him back and named him Moses.
When Moses was grown, he saw an Egyptian guard abusing a Hebrew. Looking about him, he killed the guard and buried him in the sand. The next day, seeing two Hebrews fighting, he asked one "why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew?" The man asked, in return, if he were going to kill him like he did the Egyptian. Moses feared for his life, and fled to Midian before Pharoah could kill him.
In Midian, he aided the seven daughters of a priest of Midian in drawing water from a well for their father's flock. When he heard what Moses has done, he invited him in to his home. Moses stayed and took the man's daughter Zipporah as a wife, with whom he had a son, Gershom. During his time in Midian, Pharoah died but the slavery of the Israelites continued. God heard their groaning and remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob.
In chapter three, Moses is tending the flock of his father-in-law Jethro on the far side of the desert when he sees a bush burning without being consumed on Horeb ("the mountain of God"). As he approached, God spoke to him from within the bush. God told him to remove his sandals and not to come any closer, as it was holy ground. He then told Moses that he was the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and Moses hid his face. God told him that he had seen "the misery of my people in Egypt" and "heard them crying out because of their slave drivers." Moses wanted to know who he should say had sent him, and GOD replied, "I AM THAT I AM." So he was sending Moses to Pharoah to bring the the people of Israel out of Egypt. Moses resisted, offering excuses and reasons, to all of which God said "I will be with you."
In chapter four God offers Moses signs. First, he has him throw his staff to the ground, and turns it in to a serpent. He then told Moses to put his hand inside his cloak. When he withdrew it, it was white and leprous. He repeated the process and saw it back to normal. Moses continued to resist, saying that "I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue." When Moses asked God to send someone else, "the LORD's anger burned against Moses." Despite that, he acquiesced and chose Moses' brother Aaron to assist him.
Moses went back to his father-in-law Jethro and told him that we was going to go back to Egypt to see whether any of his people were still alive. Jethro told him to go and wished him well. Moses took his wife and sons and put them on a donkey and traveled to Egypt.
On the way, at an inn, the Lord "met him and sought to kill him." But Zipporah took a sharp stone and cut off her son's foreskin and tossed it at Moses' feet, saying, "surely, a bloody husband art thou to me." Then he let them go.
The LORD then went to Aaron and commanded him to meet Moses in the desert. So he went and met Moses on Mt. Sinai in Horeb, the "mountain of God" where Moses had earlier seen the burning bush. Moses told Aaron all that the Lord had said, and what their mission was. And they went and gathered together all of the elders of Israel. Aaron spoke and showed them all the signs that GOD had said, and the people believe, and worshipped GOD.
Thoughts, questions, issues
Chapter five begins with Moses and Aaron addressing Pharoah. They tell him that the God of Israel says to "let my people go," so that they can hold a festival in the desert. When Pharaoah claims ignorance of the God of the Israelites, they tell him that the people want to take a three-day journey into the desert to make sacrifices and offerings, otherwise he will bring plagues upon them. But Pharoah just berates them for taking the people away from their labor. After Moses and Aaron have left, he tells the slavemasters not to give any more straw to the Hebrews making bricks, to make them find it themselves, but not to reduce the quota. When this happens, they cannot meet the quota, and are punished. The people complain to Moses and Aaron that they have brought this increased punishment upon them. And Moses "returned to the LORD," echoing the complaint.
Chapter six reveals, for the first time, the name of GOD, as he once more reminds Moses that he is listening and will deliver the Israelites. He tells Moses that he will make his power known and that "because of my mighty hand he [Pharoah] will drive them out of his country." He instructs Moses to tell the Israelites that he (GOD) will bring them out of bondage in Egypt. Moses delivers this message, but the Israelites didn't listen because they were discouraged. The Lord then told Moses to go back to Pharoah but Moses, again, resisted. "If the Israelites will not listen to me, why would Pharaoh listen to me, since I speak with faltering lips?" The rest of chapter six is taken up with the genealogy of the house of Levi down to Moses and Aaron and Aaron's sons, and then, again, Moses question for God about "faltering lips."
In chapter seven, God tells Moses that he has been made "like God to Pharaoh," and that Aaron is like his prophet. Moses is to say everything that God tells him, and Aaron will tell Pharoah to let the Israelites go. They tell Pharoah, and when he demands a miracle, Aaron throws his staff to the ground where it became a snake. Pharoah's priests threw their staffs to the ground where they also became snakes, but Aaron's snake swallowed the others. Pharoah still would not listen. Next, God tells Moses and Aaron to meet Pharoah at the banks of the Nile in the morning. They do so, and when Aaron holds out his staff and strikes the water with it, the Nile turns to blood. But Pharoah still would not listen.
Chapter eight continues the now-established pattern. Moses and Aaron demand that Pharoah let God's people go, Pharoah refuses, and a plague ensues. First is a plague of frogs, followed by gnats and then flies. After the plague of flies, Pharoah allows them to go to the desert to pray, and implores Moses to pray for him. But when they left his presence, and God removed the flies in response to Moses' prayer, "Pharaoh hardened his heart and would not let the people go."
Thoughts, questions, issues
The plagues which came upon Egypt in chapters seven and eight continue in chapters nine through twelve. The plague of flies is followed by a plague on livestock - "all the livestock of the Egyptians died, but not one animal belonging to the Israelites died." Pharoah investigated and found that all of the Israelite animals were all right, but still did not relent. Next, Moses tossed soot from a furnace into the air in the presence of Pharoah, "and festering boils broke out on men and animals." When this did not work, the next plague was hail. Lightning and thunder filled the sky, and rain and hail pelted down, destroying all of the crops in the fields, and killing men and animals who weren't under cover. Only in Goshen, where the Israelites lived, was spared in all of Egypt. At this point, Pharoah relented and told Moses that the people of God could go. But after Moses raised his arms and the hail stopped, Pharoah "hardened [his] heart" and refused, again, to let them go.
In chapter 10, a plague of locusts descends on the land after Pharoah refuses to take the advice of his officials to let the Israelites go. Pharoah agreed to let the men go and pray and sacrifice in the desert, but not the women and children. So "Moses stretched out his staff over Egypt" and the Lord brought swarms of locusts, that "covered all the ground until it was black," and "devoured all that was left after the hail." Pharoah called Moses and Aaron and agreed to let them go, and the Lord ended the plague, but "the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart, and he would not let the Israelites go." Then Moses stretch out his hand toward the sky and darkness descended on the land, "yet all the Israelites had light in the places where they lived." So again, Pharoah agrees to let them go, and again "the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart." Pharoah tells Moses to leave his presence, and that if he sees him again, Moses will die.
Chapter 11 is very short, and God tells Moses that he will bring one last plague on Egypt, after which Pharoah "will let you go from here, and when he does, he will drive you out completely." He tells Moses to tell the people to ask their neighbors for gold and silver. The text then informs us that the Lord made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and that Moses was highly regarded by the Egyptians, including Pharoah's officials. Moses tells Pharoah that the firstborn sons in Egypt will die, "from the firstborn son of Pharaoh...to the firstborn son of the slave girl...and all the firstborn of the cattle as well." He tells Pharoah that his officials will come to Moses, bowing and down and telling him to go, with all of his people. "Then Moses, hot with anger, left Pharaoh." "But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let the Israelites go out of his country."
Thoughts, questions, issues
"I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." (Ex 9:16) "Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his officials so that I may perform these miraculous signs of mine among them that you may tell your children and grandchildren how I dealt harshly with the Egyptians and how I performed my signs among them, and that you may know that I am the LORD." (Ex 10:1-2)So it's the "shock and awe" method of message delivery. But why? Aren't there miracles which would "show [God's] power" and tell the people of Israel that "[HE is] the LORD" without the destruction and despair inflicted on the Egyptians? God is the creator of the universe, and created man in his own image, so the Egyptians are also men in the image of God. God created the Israelites, but he also created the Egyptians. To choose a people to use as an example for others seems more acceptable than choosing a people to reward above others. The plagues in Egypt don't feel fair. If Pharoah won't listen to the word of God, as we all fail to listen, that's one thing. But in the events portrayed here, Pharoah does listen, and then God "hardens his heart" just to continue making an example of him. It seems sadistic. It seems unfair, unjust and cruel, none of the things that we want to think of as being characteristics of God.
In chapter 12, God tells Moses how to prepare for the coming of "the destroyer," that will take all of the firstborn of Egypt while "passing over" the Israelites. He describes how and when they are to prepare a lamb, eat it, dispose of the leftovers and put blood on the tops and sides of the doorframes. He tells them they must prepare a feast with unleavened bread, and clean any yeast out of their houses. These are all instructions for what is still celebrated today as Passover. The LORD tells Moses to "obey these instructions as a lasting ordinance for you and your descendants." The Israelites did what the LORD said, and at midnight, the LORD strick down all the firstborn of Egypt - "there was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead."
Pharoah summoned Moses and Aaron and told them to "take your flocks and herds, as you have said, and go." The Israelites did and also "asked the Egyptians for articles of silver and gold," which the Egyptians provided. The Israelites, six hundred thousand men plus women and children, traveled from Rameses to Succoth. They had been 430 years in Israel, "to the day." The Lord gave Moses and Aaron the regulations for the Passover.
In chapter 13, the Lord tells Moses that the Israelites must consecrate every firstborn male to God, and that the "first offspring of every womb...belongs to [God], whether man or animal." The Lord then led them with a pillar of cloud to guide them by day, and a pillar of fire to give them light by night.
In chapter 14, the Lord parts the Red Sea, and the Israelites pass between walls of water. First, they wandered in the Egyptian desert for a time. During htis period, Pharoah and his officials changed their minds, and decided to take their chariots and bring them back. All of Pharoah's horses, chariots, horsemen and troops caught up with the Israelites camped by the sea. The Isrelites were terrified, and cried to Moses, "was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die?" Moses told them that "the Lord will fight for you; you need only be still." So, at the Lord's instruction, Moses reached out his hand over the sea and the wind drove the sea back, "and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground." As the Egyptians followed, the Lord "made the wheels of their chariots come off." When the Israelites reached the far side, Moses stretched out his hand again, and the waters flowed back, and covered the chariots, "the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived."
Thoughts, questions, issues
Following their passage through the Red Sea, in chapter 15 Moses and the Israelites sang a song of praise unto the Lord. The first part of the song praises God for destroying the Egyptian forces following them by covering them with the Sea that he had held back from the Israelites. The song then continues to praise him for the support that he will give them in the days ahead as they face new enemies, including the Philistines, Moabites and Canaanites. And Miriam, described as prophetess and Aaron's sister, "took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women followed her, with tambourines and dancing." And they sang at least the beginning of the same song.
After traveling through the desert for three days, the came to a place called Marah, but could not drink the water because it was bitter. And the people grumbled against Moses. Moses cried out to the LORD, who showed him a piece of wood. When he threw it into the water, the water became sweet. The Lord said to the people that if they followed his commands and did what is right in his eyes, he would not bring on them the diseases that the Egyptians had suffered. They then moved on and camped at Elim, which had 12 springs and 70 palm trees.
In chapter 15, the Israelites travel to the desert of Sin, between Elim and Sinai. During this travel, they continue to grumble, saying that it would have been better to die at the LORD's hand in Egypt than to starve in the desert. The LORD then said to Moses that he was going to rain down manna upon them, and that each day, they should go out and gather to themselves enough for that day. On the sixth day, they should gather two days worth, but not more, because any more than needed for the day, or for the sixth and the sabbath, would go bad. That evening, quail came and covered the camp, so they had meat, and the next morning, the dew faded, leaving "thin flakes like frost." The Israelites didn't know what it was, but Moses told them it was the bread the LORD had provided. They gathered as they had been told, but some paid no attention to Moses and kept some until morning, "but it was full of maggots and began to smell."
Every morning everyone gathered what they needed for the day. On the sixth day, they gathered enough for two days, and on the sabbath they had bread that didn't go bad. And some went looking but there was no manna found on the seventh day. The LORD expressed some frustration to Moses that some people weren't listening. Then he instructed them to save some in a jar, so that the generations to come could see what the LORD had provided for them in the desert. And they ate the manna for forth years until they reached the border of Canaan.
As their travels continue in chapter 17, the Israelites camped a Rephidim, but there was no water. So again, they quarreled with Moses. Moses cried out to the LORD, saying "what am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me." The LORD told him to walk ahead, and strike the rock at Horeb with the staff with which he had struck the Nile, and that water would then come out for the people to drink. He did this in the sight of the elders of Israel.
The Amalekites attacked the Israelites at Rephidim, and Moses told Joshua to choose some men and go out to fight them. Moses went to the top of the hill and held up the staff. "As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning." So they gave him a rock to sit on, as he tired, and Aaron and Hur stood on either side of him holding his arms up. Joshua defeated the Amalekites and the LORD told Moses to write the story of the battle on a scroll to be remembered, because he was going to blot out the memory of Amalek "from under heaven." Moses built an altar there.
Thoughts, questions, issues
In chapter 18, Moses' father-in-law Jethro, having heard of all that God had done in freeing the Israelites from captivity in Egypt, came to him in the desert with Moses' wife and sons. Moses went out and greeted him and told him all that had happened, and how the Lord had saved them. Jethro acknowledged that the Lord "is greater than all other gods" and offered a burnt offering. Aaron and the other elders came and ate with Moses and Jethro in the presence of God.
After watching Moses sit and act as a judge the following day, Jethro asked him what he was doing. Moses told him that the people came to Moses to seek God's will, and settle disputes. Jethro suggested that he was going to wear himself out, and that he should instead teach the people God's decrees and laws, and select capable men who fear God and make them officials over smaller groups of the people. The other officials cound handle the simple cases, and Moses would handle only the difficult ones. So he that that and put capable men of Israel over "thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens." Then Jethro returned to his own country.
In chapter 19, in the third month after the exodus from Egypt, Israel camped in the desert at the foot of Mt. Sinai. Moses "went up to God" and God called to him from the mountain and told him what to say to the people. He was to remind them of what they had seen and how God brought them out of Egypt, "carried...on eagles' wings" and that if they would obey him fully and keep his covenent, they would be, of all the nations, God's "treasured possession....a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." Moses told the people, who said that they would do everything that the Lord has said. Moses then took their answer back to God.
The LORD told Moses to consecrate the people for the next two days, to have them wash there clothes and abstain from sexual relations, to stay away from the mountain and not to touch the foot of it on penalty of death and prepare for the third day. When the third day came, there was a thick cloud over the mountain, and thunder and lightning, and a very loud trumpet blast. And Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God at the foot of the mountain. Moses spoke and God answered. He descended to the top of Mount Sinai, and called Moses to the top to meet him. God told him to warn the people that they must not force their way through, and the even the priests must consecrate themselves. Moses told God that the people could not come up on Sinai because of the previous warnings, but God told him to go and bring Aaron up with him.
And, in chapter 20, Moses went up Sinai and God gave him the Ten Commandments. When the people saw the lightning the smoke on the mountain, and heard the thunder and the trumpet, they trembled with fear. They stayed away and told Moses to speak to them, for fear of dying if God did. Moses told them that "the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning." Them God told Moses to tell the Israelites not to make any idols, not to make "gods of silver or gods of gold." He told them to make an altar of earth and sacrifice their burnt offerings and fellowship offerings.
Thoughts, questions, issues
In chapter 21, the Lord continues giving the law to the Israelites. The first set of passages deals with rules for servitude, buying and selling servants, both Hebrew and foreign. There are time limits, and obligations on the master, and some rights for the servants. There are laws then dealing with personal injuries, with special admonitions against attacking one's mother or father. There are limits imposed on the beating of slaves and servants, and recognition of the special condition of pregnancy. Also, provisions for dealing with injuries which occur, not because of direct attacks, but because of uncontrolled livestock.
Chapter 22 provides rules dealing with the protection of property, from livestock to silver. The second half deals with more societal interaction issues, including some forms of sexual sins. The NIV header for this section is "Social Responsibility" and while that's a bit broad and vague, it seems to fit. Among the stern warnings are not to "take advantage of a widow or an orphan."
In chapter 23, the first laws described address "justice and mercy." These are concerned with issues of false testimony and helping the wicked. The law condemns not only active wrongs, but passive wrong, as men are enjoined from either performing bad acts or refraining from good ones. The next section deals with specific rules for the Sabbath, followed by a section on the three annual festivals to God. The first is "the Feast of Unleavened Bread" or Passover. The next is "the Feast of Harvest," and then the "Feast of Ingathering."
After giving them these laws, the Lord tells them that he is sending an angel ahead of them to guard them along the way, and to bring them to the "place I have prepared." He tells them to listen to him and pay attention, not to rebel against him. He tells them that his angel will bring them into the promised land and, of the people currently inhabiting that land, that God will "wipe them out." He tells them that he will send terror and confusion in to every nation that the Israelites must fight, and that he will establish them from the Red Sea to the "Sea of the Philistines." The people who live there will be handed over or driven out. And he warns them that the worship of their gods "will certainly be a snare to you."
In chapter 24, God and the Israelites confirm their covenant. Moses builds an altar at the foot of Mount Sinai, with twelve stone pillars representing the twelve tribes of Israel. He sent young Israelite men who offered burned offerings and sacrificed young bulls as fellowship offerings to the Lord. Moses read "the Book of the Covenant" to the people, who responded that they would obey the Lord and do everything that the Lord had said. Moses then sprinkled blood from the sacrificed bulls on the people and said, "this is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words." And the Lord called Moses on to the mountain to stay there, so God could give him stone tablets "with the law and commands I have written for their instruction." And Moses stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights as the flory of the LORD looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain.
Thoughts, questions, issues
Chapters 25-27 of Exodus are a set of extremely detailed instructions from the Lord on how the Israelites are to worship him, what the articles of worship are and what the place of worship looks like. Chapter 25 details the Ark of the Covenant, a chest made for the storage of "all [God's] command for the Israelites. The ark is to be covered by an "atonement cover," and that is where God will meet with them and give them his command for the Israelites. He then gives them instructions for a table and lampstand.
In chapter 26, he describes the Tabernacle which is to hold the ark, the layout and the contstruction and the decoration of it. And chapter 27 continues the layout of the Tabernacle, as well as the altar to be built for burn offerings, and the oil for the lamp.
Thoughts, questions, issues
Continuing with the instructions on proper worship, Exodus 28 contains God's descriptions and instructions for the garments to be worn by the priests, the ephod, the breastpiece, the tunic and turban, and the rest of the garments, including linen undergarments. In chapter 29, he instructs them to consecrate the priests, Aaron and his sons, and tells them how to do so, including which animals to be sacrificed, in what manner, how hands are to be laid on beforehand and how long it should take. Chapter 30 describes the rituals and artifacts to be used with the altar of incense and anointing oils. It also deals with a census and a "ransom" to be paid to the Lord for each man's life.
Finally, in chapter 31, God tells Moses who is to do the work. "I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri...of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts, to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze..." And "I have appointed Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, to help him." And, after commanding them again to honor the Sabbath, he gives Mostes the two stone tablets "inscribed by the finger of God" with the testimony on Mount Sinai.
Thoughts, questions, issues
In chapter 32, the people of Israel, impatient with Moses who has been forty days and nights on Mount Sinai with God, demand that Aaron make them a "god who will go before us." He tells them to give him their gold earrings and uses them to fashion a golden calf, which they proceed to worship as the god "who brought [them] up out of Egypt." He then announced a festival, so he built an altar and they sacrificed burnt offerings and offered fellowship offerings to the calf.
The Lord was angered at what the people had done, and tells Moses to leave him "that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them." But Moses "sought the favor of the LORD" and argued that the LORD should "relent and ... not bring disaster on your people," and the LORD relents.
Moses went down the mountain carrying the stone tablets on which God had engraved the Ten Commandments, and he and Joshua heard the sound of the people shouting. Joshua thought that it was the sound of war in the camp, but Moses said that it was neither victory nor defeat but singing. WHen he saw the calf and the dancing, "his anger burned" and he threw the tablets to the ground, breaking them. He took the calf and burned it in the fire, then "ground it to powder, scattered it on the water and made the Israelites drink it." He asks Aaron what happened, and Aaron tells him. Then he saw that the people were running wild and out of control, so he stood at the entrance to the camp and called "whoever is for the LORD" to him, and "all the Levites rallied to him."
He told them that the LORD said to go "back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, each killing his brother and friend and neighbor," and they did so, killing about three thousand. The next day, Moses told the people that they had committed a great sin, but that he would go to the LORD and try to make atonement for them. The LORD told him that "whoever has stood against me I will blot out of my book," but that Moses should lead them to the promised land, and when the time came for God to punish, he would punish. And he struck the people with a plague because of "what they did with the calf Aaron had made."
Chapter 33 opens with the LORD telling Moses to leave Sinai and go to the land which has been promised to "Abraham, Isaac and Jacob." The LORD will send an Angel to drive out the inhabitants, but won't go with them, "because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way." The people were distressed by this, began to mourn, and no one put on any ornaments.
Moses took a tent and pitched it some distance from the camp and called it the "tent of meeting." "Anyone inquiring of the LORD would go to the tent of meeting." When Moses went into the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and stay at the entrance. Whenever the people saw that, they worshipped. After the LORD spoke to him, Moses would return to the camp, but Joshua did not leave the tent.
Moses asked the LORD to teach him the LORD's ways "if you are pleased with me," so that he could continue to find favor with the LORD, and encouraged him to "remember that this nation is your people." The LORD replied that his presence would go with them, and Moses asked that it if didn't, he not send them up from that place. "How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us?" The LORD said that he would do that and that he was pleased with them, and then Moses asked the LORD to show him his glory. The LORD said that he would cause "all my goodness" to pass in front of him but that he could not see the LORD's face, because "no one may see me and live."
In chapter 34, the LORD told Moses to chisel two stone tablets like the ones that he broke when he saw the golden calf, and to come up on to Mount Sinai alone and God would write on them "the words that were on the first tablets." And he did that, and the LORD came down in a cloud and proclaimed his name and that he was a "compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin." He also said that he "does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation." And Moses bowed and worshipped him, and asked for forgiveness for their sins.
The LORD said "I am making a covenant with you," and that through the nation of Israel, "the people you live among will see how awesome is the work that I, the LORD, will do for you." He reiterates many of the earlier commands and instructions about not worshipping idols or other gods, celebrating the feasts of unleavend bread and first fruits and ingathering and keeping the Sabbath. And he told Moses to write down all of these words, as they recorded the covenant. And Moses was on the mountain with the LORD for "forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water."
When Moses returned with the new tablets of the Testimony, his face was radiant, though he didn't know it, because he had spoken with the LORD. When Aaron and the others saw him, they were afraid of him. But he called to them and Aaron and the leaders came to him and he spoke to them. Then all the Israelites came to him and he gave them "all the commands the LORD had given him on Mount Sinai." After that, he put a veil over his face, but whenever he was in the presence of the LORD to speak to him, he took the veil off until he came out and told the Israelites what the LORD had commanded. Then he would put the veil back on.
Thoughts, questions, issues
I do understand the argument that we make idols of things, of houses or lawns or specific cars, that we get too attached to "things" to the point of distorting our regard. But, even ignoring what they've just gone through, the proofs that have been offered to them, the glory on top of the mountain as God gives the law to Moses, it's hard to understand how a golden calf could provide any temptation to anyone.
As Exodus chapter 35 begins, Moses gathers all of the Israelites and describes for them the rules and regulations the LORD has given for the Sabbath. He then passes on to them the instructions for the tabernacle, and they begin a collection. Everyone who was willing brought all of the material they needed, and more. Moses then told them that the LORD had chosen Besalel and Oholiab to lead the efforts.
In chapter 36, all of the skilled begin work on the Tabernacle. The people brought so much material that Moses had to tell them to stop bringing things. They built the Tabernacle, the frames and curtains and connecting pieces, all as God had instructed them. Then in chapter 37, they made the Ark and the Table, the lampstand, the altar of incense and the oil for anointing, all according to the instructions that the LORD had given them.
Thoughts, questions, issues
But is it possible that the entire point of this is to a) give them something to occupy their energies that b) they can actually do? In my professional life, projects tend to be measured in months, if not years, and the satisfaction of a "job well done" can be elusive. There have absolutely been times when I've taken on short-term, one or two day, efforts because there's a real emotional satisfaction to finishing something. And it can help both refresh and renew your efforts on longer term projects.
So is GOD giving the Israelites "busy work?" Something to give them that they can do, instructions that they can specifically follow, and which will result in the construction of an environment in which they cannot help but think of GOD?
That makes as much sense to me as anything else I can come up with.
In chapter 38, the recounting continues of the way that the Israelites followed God's instructions for creating a place for worship. They built the Altar of Burnt Offering and basin for washing, then built the courtyard of the Tabernacle and hung the curtains. They used material obtained by the community and recorded all that they used, including 29 talents and 730 shekels of gold and 100 talents and 1,775 shekels of silver. Likewise, chapter 39 describes how they made the priestly garments, the ephod and breastpiece and the other garments. Moses inspected the Tabernacle, and saw that they had done all that the LORD had commanded and that it had been done just as the LORD commanded. "So Moses blessed them."
In the final chapter of Exodus, chapter 40, the LORD told Moses to set up the Tabernacle on the first day of the first month, to place the ark and the table and the things that belong on it, and to shield them with the curtain. To set up the altar and basin and courtyard, and to anoint the Tabernacle and averyting thing in it with the oil, and to consecrate it and all of its furnishings. Then, they should bring Aaron and his sons, wash them with water and dress them in the sacred garments, and anoint them and consecrate them that they might serve as priests. They did all of this, "then the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle."
And the book of Exodus ends with the Israelites living in the desert, and dependent on God's presence to determine when they would move on. "In all the travels of the Israelites, whenever the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle, they would set out; but if the cloud did not lift, they did not set out until the day it lifted. So the cloud of the LORD was over the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel during all their travels."
Thoughts, questions, issues