Friday, July 23, 2004

Exodus 19 and Exodus 24

This chapter sets the stage for the establishment of a covenant between Israel and Jehovah, a covenant grounded in Israel's obedience to the commandments.  The tale is retold in Exodus 24, but with significant variations. 

A few points.  The image of the Lord helping the children of Israel escape by mounting up on eagles wings appears here.  Also, the sounding of the trumpet blast as the sign of the nearness of the Lord appears.  Also, the image of transfiguration of Matthew 17 appears. Finally, the expression for "break forth" of Ex. 19:22 has a wide variety of meanings.  It is, for example, the same word as "growing numerous," as in Ex. 1. The same image appears again, as in 2 Sam 5.  

The Israelites have been free from Egypt for just three months. God tells Moses to offer the covenant to the people, a covenant which will make of them a priestly people.  Moses assembles only the elders.  Also missing from the swearing of the covenant are the children yet to be born.  How are they bound? Not only that, God has not told them yet what the laws are to be, yet they agree to obey. At this point, the story becomes confused.  God admonishes the Israelites not to touch the mountain on pain of death until the ram's horn blows. Then he has Moses come up and tells him that the people, even "priests who approach the Lord" must not force their way through, suggesting that if they came meekly, that might be acceptable.  Since the ram's horn has not sounded, Moses points out that no one is going to come up and, indeed, in Exodus 20, the people refuse to approach.  It is only then that God gives the commandments and the Book of the Covenant (Ex. 20:22- 23:19).

In Exodus 24, Moses tells the people (not merely the elders) the Lord's words and laws, and they agree.  Then, following a ritual of animal sacrifice, he reads to them the Book of the Covenant and they agree to that.  Then, 70 elders, Moses, Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu ascend the mountain and see God, who offers to write the commandments in stone. 


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