Chapter 24

Submitted by admin on Sun, 2020-09-13 11:11.

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While Moses had been on Mount Sinai, YHWH (apparently through the angel who represented him) told him that he should again come near to him. This next time, however, he was not to come alone. The others accompanying him were to be Aaron, Nadab and Abihu (two of Aaron’s sons and Moses’ nephews), and a representative group of seventy elders from among the elders of Israel. At Mount Sinai, all of them were to bow down in worship before YHWH. Only Moses had been authorized to ascend the mountain so as to approach YHWH closer. None of the men with Moses were to go beyond the location where they had stopped, and the rest of the Israelites were prohibited from ascending the mountain. (24:1, 2)

After receiving YHWH’s commands and directives, Moses descended the mountain and came to the people, relating to them “all the words of YHWH and all the regulations.” As with “one voice,” the people responded, “All the words that YHWH has spoken we will do [or obey].” Moses then made a written record of “all the words of YHWH.” When he rose from his sleep the next morning, Moses built an altar at the foot of the mountain and set up twelve pillars corresponding to the twelve tribes of Israel. (24:3, 4)

The young men whom Moses sent to present holocausts and bulls as communion offerings to YHWH on the newly erected altar are identified in Targum Jonathan as having been firstborn sons. This is likely, for (at that time, before the inauguration of a priesthood in the family of Aaron) priestly functions had been performed by the heads of households or by the firstborn sons in these households. From the sacrificed bulls, Moses “took half of the blood and put it in bowls,” and the other “half of the blood” he splashed “on [or against] the altar.” Then he took the “book of the covenant” (all the words of YHWH that he had previously recorded [24:4]) and read everything to the people, thereby making them aware of what their obligations were. They responded with the words, “All that YHWH has spoken we will do and heed.” Moses used blood from the bowls to splash on the people, identifying it as the “blood of the covenant that YHWH had made with [them].” With this blood, the covenant between YHWH and the Israelites was validated. (24:5-8)

Thereafter Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the seventy elders approached Mount Sinai. As a people who had come into a covenant relationship with YHWH, the Israelites, through their representative elders, were then able to draw near to the mountain where he had revealed his presence. There, at the mountain, the entire group “saw,” or had a vision of, the “God of Israel.” Apparently when the men looked up, they saw, “under his feet,” what appeared to them like a “pavement of sapphire stone [a deep-blue precious stone], like the very heavens for purity.” The glory or magnificence that they beheld was like the cloudless blue sky, but they saw no form that would have given anyone the pattern for making an image of YHWH. Just what they did see of the divine glory is not stated in the account. According to the Septuagint rendering, they “saw the place where the God of Israel stood.” Although they were sinful men close to the holy God or the pure divine presence, they did not perish. YHWH did not lay his hand on these principal men of the “sons [or people] of Israel.” They, however, “saw” God, or beheld a manifestation of his glory, and had a meal in his presence. They ate and drank as persons having communion or fellowship with God as parties to the covenant that had been concluded with them and the rest of the people. Whether they had brought meat to eat from the sacrificed animals that had been offered as a communion sacrifice and wine to drink is not revealed in the account. It is likely, however, that they did. (24:9-11; see the Note section.)

YHWH summoned Moses to come to him on the mountain and to wait there until he would be given the tablets of stone on which were written the Ten Words or Ten Commandments. With the young man Joshua as his attendant, Moses prepared to make the ascent. He told the seventy elders to wait for their return and informed them that Aaron and Hur should be consulted respecting any dispute or legal case among the people. As Moses and Joshua went up on Mount Sinai, Aaron, Hur, and the seventy elders returned to their respective locations among the encamped Israelites. Apparently Joshua accompanied Moses only part way and remained at that location on the mountain. While Moses made his ascent, a cloud continued to cover the mountain, and the glory of YHWH that became visible on the mountain resembled a “devouring fire.” For six days, Moses waited for additional instructions. Then, on the seventh day, YHWH called to Moses from the midst of the cloud. Meanwhile the Israelites were able to see the “glory of YHWH” that looked like a “devouring fire” on top of Mount Sinai. Moses entered the cloud on the seventh day and stayed there “forty days and forty nights.” (24:12-18)


The words of verse 11 in the Septuagint differ from those in the Hebrew text. “And of the chosen ones of Israel not as much as one was missing [or perished], and they appeared at the place of God and ate and drank.”