The exodus event is as central to OT theology as the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ to NT theology. The historical and theological implications of this book will be examined, with special emphasis given to the covenant between God and Israel

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The Book of Exodus

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1. Read the book of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, and Joshua. Read the online textbook and resource material.

2. Research paper A research paper of 10 pages (12 point, type written, double spaced) the student is to explore the topic with respect to its primary historical context, and then in its relevance for the 21century church. Many examples of topics may be gleaned from the list of class topics. Please obtain in advance the instructorís approval for the topic you propose to research. Include documentation and bibliography.

3. Theology paper A theology paper of 10-12 pages (12 point, type written, double spaced) will give opportunity  for the student to read Exodus not just as a Christian historical document, but as instructions for believers based on solid Christian doctrine. For this paper, a particular doctrinal theme may  be traced throughout all or part of the book; or a practical issue may be chosen and investigated regarding its associated theological implications. Papers should not merely report the results of research, but should show that the student is evaluating and processing the material. Be sure that 1) research regarding social/historical background, 2) exegesis of relevant passages of  Exodus) application to the present day, are all evident. Work should be free of grammar and spelling mistakes

4. Complete Quizzes, print and send to Professor.

5. Make a Map  the Hebrews took from Egypt to Canaan

6. Name the Major Feasts of Israel based on the time from Egypt to Canaan

7. From the Museums listed above write a 10-12 page Book Report


The Ark of the Covenant
Golden Candlestick
The Tabernacle Courtyard
Coverings of the Tabernacle
Construction of the Tabernacle
Table of Shewbread
Brazen Laver
Altar of Incense
Brazen Altar


Chapter 3: The Plans of Institution (Exodus 25:1-31:18)


Chapters 25-31 occur in the midst of an extended block of material which has been organized around the particular place, Sinai. What are commonly designated as "Yahwistic" and "priestly" elements of tradition have been combined in this large block which extends from Exodus 19 all the way through Numbers 10:10. The "non-priestly" sections are Exodus 19-24, and 32-34. The material that is essentially "priestly" (chs. 25-31 and 35-40) affirm not only that all torah (instruction) comes down to Israel with the authority of Moses and Sinai, but also the total form of Israel's institution of religion as well.

Introduction (25:1-9)

The whole section begins with the affirmation, "The LORD said to Moses. . ." This forms a connection with the preaching material (see 24:12) and also emphasizes the divine sanction for what is to follow. The command is to build the sanctuary "that I may dwell in their midst" (vs. 8). The sense of the sanctuary's utter sacredness is attested also in the statement that the plans for the Tabernacle and its total furnishings originate here in the Sinai tradition. The material means for executing the plans are to come "from every man whose heart makes him willing" to give (vs. 2; see also 35:21-22).

The Ark (25:10-22)

In the religion of Israel the Ark was the most sacred object. The "cubit" measure was the length of a forearm, standardized in English measure as eighteen inches. Accordingly, on the assumption that this must also have been the approximate length of a cubit in the Old Testament, the Ark must have measured about 45 by 27 by 27 inches (vs. 10). It contained the tables of the Law (vs. 16; 1 Kings 8:9; Deut. 10:5) and a pot of manna and Aaron's rod (Heb. 9:4; see Exod. 16:33 and Num. 17:10). The Ark, of course, symbolized God's Presence and had a place, both in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple, at the innermost and holiest location. The "mercy seat," a rectangular plate on top of the Ark and of similar dimensions, underscores the fact that the Ark represents the Presence; for at either end of the mercy seat and facing one another were cherubim (winged creatures of varying form and size) between whom or above whom was the Presence (vs. 22; see Num. 7:89; 1 Sam. 4:4; II Sam. 6:2; II Kings 19:15; Pss. 80:1 and 99:1; Isa. 37:16). Cherubim, perhaps of Mesopotamian origin, were images with winged animal bodies and human heads. Two cherubim, each fifteen feet high, stood in Solomon's Temple on either side of the Ark within the Holy of Holies (I Kings 6:23). The mercy seat reminds us that a profound awareness of human sinfulness was characteristic of even the "priestly" strand of Israel's tradition. In the Holy of Holies, at the center of the center, there stood the seat of God's mercy.

Table and Lampstand (25:23-40)

The prevailing tendency in these detailed plans is toward the elaboration of the forms and symbols of the religion of Israel. For example, the original Ark, probably dating from Mosaic times, must have been a very simple wooden box. The plans of institution which come down to us probably tended to read back into pre-monarchic and Mosaic times the elaborated forms which were characteristic of the days of the kingdoms and even of post-exilic Judaism. The table is designed to hold "the bread of the Presence"; but when we first encounter this bread in historical narrative (I Sam. 21:1-6) there is no mention of a table. In any case, we may be confident that this table, profusely decorated with gold, represents an elaborate development of the most simple original arrangement. The lampstand with seven branches must be understood in the same way. This work of pure gold (vs. 31) weighing more than a hundred pounds (vs. 39; a "talent" exceeded a hundred pounds in weight) was a relatively late device (in 27:20-2 1 there is only a single lamp for lighting the sanctuary); perhaps it was even post-exilic (around 500 B.C.).

The Tabernacle (26:1-37)

A detailed discussion of the exceedingly complex problems involved in the plans for the Tabernacle is not justified in limited space. One must be content with the observation that what is described here bears no direct relationship to any historical Israelite sanctuary of which we have knowledge. Memories of a Mosaic tent of meeting suitable for a nomadic group may be deeply and, at the present, inextricably imbedded in the specifications. Moreover, it is certain that the form of Solomon's Temple built in the tenth century B.C. influenced the present description to some degree. But a reconstruction according to the specifications here produces a composite and imaginary structure with a broad frame (vss. 15-25) unreconcilable in certain respects with the tent and its drape coverings (vss. 1-14). There is no reason to doubt the existence of a portable sanctuary, a "tent of meeting" - not of man and man, but of man with God - as Israel's earliest religious center. But it is impossible to reconstruct that sanctuary from the present description.

Altar, Court, Night Lamp (27:1-21)

The entire section which deals with the plans of institution is carefully ordered. We start in the Holy of Holies with the Ark and mercy seat, that is, in the most sacred room, farthest removed from the entrance. The furnishings (table and lampstand) in the main body of the sanctuary, the space from the Holy of Holies to the entrance, are then defined; and then as we move outward, the very structure itself is described. Now in chapter 27 we are in the court before the sanctuary, in which the dominant object is the great altar (see 40:29). Again the plan corresponds to Solomon's Temple (II Kings 16:10-15), although this Tabernacle altar (3 cubits high by 5 by 5) has been appropriately scaled down (from 10 cubits high by 20 by 20). Perhaps in Tabernacle practice, and certainly in later Temple practice, this was the main altar, the "altar of burnt offering" (see 30:28 and 31:9), or the "bronze altar" (38:30 and 39:39). The horns at the four corners (vs. 2) could hardly have been on an altar in Mosaic times, since these are clearly of Canaanite design and origin. The court (vss. 9-19) must also reflect the later Temple pattern, since in the nature of a simple sanctuary such an elaborate and sharply defined area is improbable. Verse 19 apparently concludes the idealized plan for Israel's sanctuary, for the subject turns - somewhat irrelevantly but with pertinence to what follows - to the matter of keeping the (single) sanctuary lamp. Later this lamp is to be kept perpetually burning (Lev. 24:1-3), but here it is a lamp to be lighted each night and to burn in the sanctuary throughout the night.

The Priests: Apparel and Ordination (28:1-29:46)

Among the detailed items of the priests' wardrobe, the "ephod" (28:4, 6-14) is something of a puzzle. The term must have applied in the Old Testament to two different kinds of objects. In Judges 8:24-27; 17:5; 18:14; and Hosea 3:4 the ephod is clearly an image of some sort, and it is possible that the same object is referred to in I Samuel 2:28; 23:9; and 30:7. But the boy Samuel wore the ephod at the ancient sanctuary at Shiloh (I Sam. 2:18). It further appears that this garment contained (in a pocket?) sacred lots used to determine the will of the Lord (I Sam. 14:3, 36-42 and 23:9-12).

Anyone eager to pursue the matter of the priests' consecration and ordination will consult in detail Leviticus 1-7. Indeed, what is given in Exodus concerning these sacred rites is demonstrably dependent upon the prescriptions in Leviticus, and must therefore, at least in its present form, be later than the Levitical material. The prominent place and singular attention given to the high priest (in the person of Aaron) probably further points up the exilic or post-exilic origin of the present text; there is no conclusive evidence that the office of high priest in this highly specialized sense existed prior to the Exile. The section dealing with the priests' apparel and ordination is concluded in 29:42b-46 with moving words which reflect the theology always underlying the Priestly perspective. The sometimes formidable Priestly structure, elaborately prescribed in cultic form, equipment, and personnel, is not an end in itself, as sometimes it may appear and as, in interpretation, it has often been alleged. It is testimony to the fact of God's continuing Presence in Israel and to the means of realization of that Presence:

". . . I will dwell among the people of Israel, and will be their God. And they shall know that I am the LORD their God, who brought them forth out of the land of Egypt that I might dwell among them; I am the LORD their God" (29:45-46).

Miscellaneous Additions (30:1-31:11)

To the foregoing plans of institution - themselves a composite work drawn from an earlier and a later Priestly source - still later Priestly editors have added what they deemed to be pertinent instructions with respect to a variety of items. The incense altar (30:1-10), not to be confused with the main altar of burnt offering (27:1-8), may possibly have been employed in preprophetic Israel (that is, before the mid-eighth century B.C.); but if so it was abandoned, to appear again in post-exilic Judaism. The census (30:11-16), prescribed here for the purpose of fixing a sanctuary tax, but always undertaken with some apprehension of incurring God's anger (hence, "a ransom" to avoid any evil consequences; vs. 12, see II Sam. 24), is further explained as atonement money - it is to bring "the people of Israel to remembrance before the LORD." The bronze basin ("layer," 30:17-21) stands between the front of the sanctuary and the altar of incense and is designed for the ceremonial purification of the priests. To this assorted collection of items, recipes are now added for making anointing oil (30:22-33) and incense (30:34-38). Finally, responsibility is assigned to peculiarly gifted men to carry out all these plans of institution (31:1-11; compare the parallel account in 35:30-36:7).

Reiteration of the Sabbath Commandment; and Conclusion (31:12-18)

This "priestly" statement of the Sabbath law is absolute and unequivocal. Violation incurs the death penalty (stated twice in verse 14 and again in verse 15). The Sabbath is the most characteristic sign and perpetual attestation of the Covenant. Its observance is the affirmation of the peculiar relationship of grace between God and Israel and of the fact that it is God himself who sanctifies the people (vs. 13). It is also the appropriate acknowledgment that the Lord made heaven and earth; it is the "sign for ever" between the Creator and the people of Israel that all is his (vs. 17).

The extended Priestly section on the plans of institution (25:1-31:18) is concluded with a notice which also admirably serves to introduce the next major section (chs. 32-34). It is the implied connection of all of these plans with the occasion when God spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai. They have the same authority as the giving of the tables of the Law, "written with the [very] finger of God."

Chapter 4: The Denial and Renewal of Covenant (Exodus 32:1-34:35)


For a discussion of the composite nature of this section, its general "Yahwistic" cast, and its relationships to materials before and after, which make up its total context, one should refer to the Introduction. These chapters are dominated by the figure and role of Moses. The present form of the narrative has certainly in some measure been shaped by Israelís annual celebration of the Sinai Covenant, as each year the making of Covenant was re-enacted, and the structure of the Covenant itself renewed. The form of celebration echoes the historical form of the sojourn at Sinai; nevertheless, Israelís interest in the original event was predominantly in its ever-present meaning. The image of Moses, then, is not only the result of historical recollection, it is also the result of long years of meditation on the total significance of his life and work through the succeeding generations of Israelís life.

The Golden Calf (32:1-35)

Moses is on Sinai, now himself as mysterious and unapproachable as that Presence of the Lord which he alone may confront and as that Word of the Lord which he alone may hear. The impatient people, to whom the reality of Moses and of God has become only a memory, remember the widespread pagan representation of deity in the form of a calf (probably a young bull, denoting primarily the strength of reproductive power and fertility, natural and human). With Aaronís consent and counsel, they make what they take to be a representation of "the LORD" in this form, and hold a full-fledged cultic celebration to "the LORD" (vs. 5).

Godís immediate repudiation of Israel for this breach of Covenant is directly conveyed in his Word to Moses, communicating the sense of ruptured relationship, profound and powerful:

"Go down; for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves" (vs. 7).

Then comes the warning against interference while judgment is sent:

"Now therefore let me alone, that I may consume them."

Then we hear the thematic note:

". . . of you [Moses] I will make a great nation" (vs. 10).

But Moses will not entertain this complimentary proposal even by mentioning it. Instead he makes successful (vs. 14) intercession on Israelís behalf, as it were reminding God that Israel is his people, whose destruction would frustrate the glory of the Exodus (vss. 11-12) and constitute a breach of Godís promise to the patriarchs (vs. 13).

Moses descends the mountain, carrying the two stone tablets inscribed with the Decalogue ("the writing was the writing of God," vs. 16), and sees what has occurred (vs. 19; note the sudden reappearance of Joshua, vs. 17; compare 24:13). In fury Moses breaks the tablets, devastatingly symbolizing the fact that Israel has in the same way just shattered the Covenant.

It all happened "at the foot of the mountain" (vs. 19). It was here that Moses first came with Jethroís flock; here he first knew the piercing of the shell of his existence by the Word of the Lord, coming out of the undiminished, unconsumed burning bush. To the same foot of the same mountain Moses had brought Israel. Here a people redeemed only yesterday out of slavery had acknowledged the Lord as the Shatterer of their own tight little prison, and had entered into a Covenant with him, accepting his commitment to them and reciting their own vows of faithfulness. Here, at the foot of the mountain, they now brazenly denied the reality of their Encounter, repudiated their Emancipator, and shamelessly broke their vows. Here, at the foot of the mountain, then, Moses cast into the moral rubble the tables of the testimony, already in effect reduced to powder and ashes.

When Moses confronts Aaron as the one on whom responsibility clearly falls, Aaron at once gives an emphatic disclaimer, blaming the people, and for himself offering an excuse which forever ranks with the best and the most ridiculous of its kind:

"I said to them," explains Aaron,
"ĎLet any who have gold take it offí; so they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and there came out this calf"í (vs. 24).

Behind this whole incident and the account of the slaughter which follows (vss. 27-28), we can detect the seriousness of the prohibition of images in Israel and the theological maturity and perception which it represents. At the same time and in the light of the full biblical revelation we recognize what seems to be a mingling of the human word with the divine Word in the command of indiscriminate slaughter (see also vs. 35).

Along with this narrative of judgment there is sounded, in verses 3 1-32, the note of Mosesí moving intercession, to be ranked with the greatest prayers ever preserved. Here also is the response of the Word of grace (vs. 34a); but it is given along with the firm reminder that the Lord will, when the occasion demands, make himself known as Judge (vs. 34b).

Many Old Testament students hold that the present narrative was created as a condemnation (with Mosaic-Sinaitic "authority") of the use of bull images at the two chief sanctuaries of northern Israel, Dan and Bethel, beginning late in the tenth century when the united Israelite kingdom was split (I Kings 12:28-29). But at the later time the image was not equated with the Deity; rather, it was deemed to be the Lordís throne or footstool. It may be that tradition reinterpreted the present story in the light of this seeming heresy; but there is no reason to deny that the story was already in existence earlier in the tenth century and that, in fact, image representation began in the beginning of Israelís life as a people, in the first, Mosaic chapter of that life. Israelite worship always ran the danger of confusing the throne or the pedestal of the footstool of the Lord (the image of the calf or bull) with the Lord himself.

The Lord and Moses (33:1-34:9)

Chapter 33 opens with the Lordís Word still sounding in reaction to the broken Covenant: "You [Moses] and the people whom you have brought up out of the land of Egypt" are to get out of here and move on to the land. But it is still the promised land; and God declares, "I will drive out" those who impede your settlement in the land. An inconsistent and negative note is, however, sounded in verse 3.

This note of ambivalence plays a role in the plot. Godís Word has been given. That Word cannot be broken. But Israel has behaved in flagrant defiance and abuse of all that was implicit in the Covenant Word; from any human point of view God is justified in having no more to do with Israel, indeed in withdrawing himself for Israelís own protection, since to stay among them in wrath would be to destroy them (vs. 5). This tension and duality serve in the delineation of the character of Moses, since it is the person of Moses and the intercession and faith of Moses which are responsible for the resolution of the ambivalence.

In hope of appeasing the divine anger, the Israelites "stripped themselves of their ornaments, from Mount Horeb [Sinai] onward" (vs. 6).

In this narrative, more clearly than in any previous reference, the tent of meeting is the place where the Lord may be found (vs. 7). The use of the two terms "tent of meeting" and "tabernacle" leaves the reader in doubt as to whether they are the same structure or represent different arrangements. Chapters 29 (vss. 4, 10, 11, 30, 32, 42, 44) and 30 (vss. 16, 18, 20, 36), for example, employ only the first term (see also 27:21 and 28:43) and clearly identify the tent with the Tabernacle. In chapter 33 it may be that the tent of meeting is envisaged as a provisional arrangement, a substitute tabernacle for the duration of Godís withholding his own direct Presence from Israel: God meets directly only with Moses in the tent of meeting ó and that "face to face" (vs. 11; but note also the contrast in verse 20, apparently stemming from another of the sources employed by tradition in the shaping of the present account). In subsequent references the identity or virtual identity of the "tent of meeting" and the "tabernacle" must be assumed (35:21; 38:8, 30; see especially 39:40 and ch. 40).

In chapter 33 the uniqueness of Moses is defined in terms of the uniqueness of his relationship to the Lord. Israel owes her existence to the Lord, to be sure, but also to Moses, without whose intercession and intervention the Covenant enterprise would, to all intents and purposes, have been dissolved. This is testimony and tribute to the absolutely incomparable Moses. He goes alone to the tent of meeting for a Meeting ó the Meeting ó while all Israel stands in awe and reverence (vs. 8). The Lord follows, and all Israel worships, "every man at his tent door" (vss. 9-10). It is face-to-face Meeting. Moses is represented as speaking with such power as to persuade the Lord of the wisdom of his words and to gain a reversal of the divine decision to withhold the immediate Presence of the Lord from Israel (vss. 12-17). And the Lord bestows on Moses words of rare (and in the light of the New Testament, strikingly significant) occurrence: "I know you by name" (vss. 12, 17; compare Matt. 1:21-23; 16:13-20); "you have . . . found favor in my sight" (vss. 12, 17; compare Mark 1:10-11; Luke 2:40); "I will give you rest" (vs. 14; compare Matt. 11:28); and "This very thing that you have spoken I will do" (vs. 17; compare Matt. 10:32; Luke 12:8; John 16:23).

Finally, in marked contrast to the tent-of-meeting Meeting ("face to face," vs. 11; see Num. 12:8; Deut. 34:10), a request by Moses to behold the Lordís "glory" is granted (vss. 18-23; compare and contrast Elijahís great hour on the holy mountain in I Kings 19). The quality and meaning of the Glory is suggested in the coupling of the proclamation of the divine name, "The LORD" (vs. 19; 34:6), with the passing by of the Glory. The words "goodness," "gracious," and "mercy" (vs. 19; see 34:6-7) also emphasize the nature of the Glory. Implicit, of course, in this concept is the fact of Godís forgiveness of Israel, won through the intercession and devotion of Moses, and assured now in the passing Glory of goodness, grace, and mercy. The description of the passing by of the Glory rounds out the intimate scene between God and Moses (34:6-9). It expands the theme of the graciousness of the Lord (see Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2) and affirms the appropriate humility of Moses before this revelation of the nature of the Lord. The prayer of Moses constitutes a fine summary of all that has gone before in chapters 32 and 33. "If now I [Moses] have [in very fact] found favor in thy sight," then

". . .let the Lord. . . go in the midst of us, although it is a stiff-necked people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for thy inheritance" (34:9).

It is important that in 34:1-8 the narrative returns to the stone tables of the Law which had been destroyed in Mosesí wrath at the sight of the golden calf. Since Mosesí marvelous vision of the Glory of the Lord serves also to symbolize the renewal of Covenant with Israel, the broken tablets must be replaced. These verses supply the logical and necessary prelude to the remaking of the Covenant, and repeat the basis of the relationship between God and man in the nature of God himself.

The Redefined Covenant (34:10-28)

The Covenant between the Lord, "merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness" (34:6) and a forgiven Israel is instituted afresh. In the present text of Exodus 34 the content of the new Covenant Law differs from the old as phrased in the Decalogue (Exod. 20). Following an introductory speech of the Lord, which declares the marvels he is about to perform, and which warns against the temptations of Canaan and its religious institutions (vss. 10-13), a decalogue is again given. This, however, concentrates exclusively on concerns of the religion, and has therefore come to be known as the "Ritual Decalogue" (as over against what is often called the "Ethical Decalogue" of Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5):

I. You shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God (vs. 14; see 23:13).

II. You shall make for yourself no molten gods (vs. 17; see 20:23).

III. All that opens the womb is mine (vs. 19a; see 22:29b-30).

IV. All the first-born of your sons you shall redeem (vs. 20b; see 22:29b-30).

V. Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; in plowing time and in harvest you shall rest (vs. 21; see 23:12).

VI. Three times in the year shall all your males appear before the LORD God, the God of Israel (vs. 23; see 23:17 and comment).

VII. You shall not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leaven (vs. 25a; see 23:18a).

VIII. The sacrifice of the feast of the Passover [shall not] be left until the morning (vs. 25b; see 23: 18b).

IX. The first of the first fruits of your ground you shall bring to the house of the LORD your God (vs. 26a; see 23: 19a).

X. You shall not boil a kid in its motherís milk (vs. 26b; see 23:19b).

The parallel references from the Covenant Code (Exod. 20-23; but especially 23:13-19) indicate that this religious decalogue is unique only in arrangement; and its present form is obviously an expansion of an original "ten words." How old may have been such an original ritual decalogue? Did these prescriptions first appear in the corpus of an extensive code (the Covenant Code of Exodus 20-23), to be distilled into briefer, decalogue form? Or was the cultic decalogue the original, and did its individual prescriptions subsequently become incorporated in the longer code? And how does it happen that there should he recorded an ethical decalogue as the content of the first tables of the Law, but a ritual decalogue for the second? Questions of this kind remain still without certain answer. It may he that in combining differing independent but parallel accounts of Sinai-Horeb and its Covenant, the record, without attempt at reconciliation, has brought together an older version (the nucleus of Exod. 32-34; "J") which preserved a ritual decalogue, and a somewhat later version ("E," having its place of origin in the north) which associates the ethical decalogue with the Covenant of the sacred mountain. Or it may have been that in the long process of preserving the tradition an original "J" decalogue, very closely parallel to the "E" decalogue of Exodus 20. may have been at some point displaced in Exodus 34 by the ritual decalogue which now appears there. This latter theory has the merit of suggesting that in the earlier formulation there was no inconsistency, hut that in the record of the renewed Covenant the new decalogue on the new tablets was essentially the reproduction of the original tables.

Moses (34:29-35)

This section on the denial of and renewal of the Covenant (chs. 32-34) concentrates on the nature of God and magnifies his work. A theme for the whole block of material may be seen in 34:10, "It is a terrible thing that I will do with you." "Terrible," of course, is to be taken in the sense of "exciting" rather than "dreadful" or "horrible." It includes also the idea of awe and wonder. On the terrestrial plane and at the human level, however, the narrative concentrates on Moses, on his role vis a-vis the Lord and Israel, and on his incomparable stature as intermediary between God and People.

Appropriately, then, the section closes with this extraordinary tribute by tradition ó which is of course the tribute of all Israel ó to Moses. By a combination of intercession and argument, he has gained for Israel full divine forgiveness. By the strength of his own person and in the power of his own commitment to the Lord, he returns again, descending the sacred mountain with the new tables of the Covenant Law in his hands. And he does not know ó it is elsewhere insisted that "the man Moses was very meek, more than all men that were on the face of the earth" (Num. 12:3) ó he does not know that his face is literally aglow, shining with the radiance of the very Presence of God!

This is the ultimate tribute. This is Israelís enduring estimate of Moses. The people live because the Lord gave life out of Egypt for the death that they lived in Egypt. By his Word (or his Hand, or his Presence) he brought them through the sea, sustained them in the wilderness, made Covenant with them at Sinai, forgave them their appalling denial of him, and renewed in mercy and grace the Covenant which they had broken. But by the means of what amazing human instrument was all of this the accomplishment of the Word of the Lord on behalf of Israel?

. . . for the place on which you are standing is holy ground. Moses, Moses! Put off your shoes. . . I know the affliction of my people . . . Come, I will send you . . . I will be with you. . . I will be with your mouth. . . and I will bring you into the land.

Come up to me on the mountain and I will give you the tables of stone. . . Go down; for your people have corrupted themselves . . . let me alone that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; but I will make of you a great nation . . . I will give you rest . . . you have found favor in my sight. . . I know you by name. . . Behold, I make [again!] a covenant. Before all your people I will do marvels . . . it is a terrible thing that I will do with you!

No comment can better convey the staggering impression of such a man upon other men ó not simply in Israel but in the world of all time ó than this account of the face of Moses, so brilliantly shining with the radiance of the very Presence of God that it could be unveiled only in the presence of the Presence.

This is Moses ó by whose offices and through whose leadership and vision the Covenant was first made; against whose devoted commitment to Israelís life the Covenant was shamelessly denied; and by whose strength of faith and communion with the Lord, Israel was forgiven and the Covenant renewed and reinstituted.


Chapter 5: The Act of Institution (Exodus 35:1-40:38)


There is little in this extended section which has not appeared earlier in Exodus, chapters 25-31. In the earlier section these elaborate instructions on the physical means, forms, nature, dimensions, and personnel of the institutional "plant" are recorded as plans, while here they are repeated as a record of actual construction.

Sabbath (35:1-3)

In view of the other Sabbath prescriptions which exhibit sensitivity, imagination, eloquence, and theological insight (16:23-30; 20:8-11; 31:13-17; Deut. 5:12-15), this is, relatively speaking, a prosaic rendering of the commandment. Missing especially is reference to the basis of the Sabbath in Creation or in the act of deliverance.

Introduction (35:4-29)

Here, as in 25:1-9, the emphasis is placed upon the spirit of the giver, the cordial, willing disposition of the one making the offering of help for the Tabernacle (see especially vss. 5, 21, 22, 26, 29). The Tabernacle is to be built now (according to the list of specifications which are recorded in summary fashion in verses 10-18) with the free offerings of gifts and services of all Israel.

On Staff and Material (35:30-36:7)

The parallel account in 31:1-11 is dependent upon, and therefore later than, the section here. Two men of particular gifts, Bezalel and Oholiab, are called to teach and to serve as chief designing engineers. Along with them, however, is to serve "every able man in whom the LORD has put ability" (36:1). Meanwhile, gifts of material were coming in such profusion as in fact to handicap the work; and Moses was compelled to call a halt to this vigorous response.

The Tabernacle and Its Furnishings (36:8-38:20)

Parallels for these sections will be found as follows:

the Tabernacle itself (36:8-38) in 26:1-37;

Ark, table, and lampstand (37:1-24) in 25:10-40;

incense altar (37:25-28) in 30:1-10;

incense and oil (37:29) in 30:22-38;

altar of burnt offering, the main altar (38:1-7) in 27:1-8;

bronze basin ("layer"; 38:8) in 30:17-21;

court (38:9-20) in 27:9-19.

Inventory of Services and Offerings (38:21-31)

This appears to he a very late editorial offering, and does not have a parallel elsewhere.

The Priestsí Apparel (39:1-31)

With this section comparison should be made with 28:1-43. It can also be observed that the account in chapter 39 has nothing to parallel the offices of ordination described in chapter 29.

Mosesí Approval of the Tabernacle (39:32-43)

The finished work is reviewed by Moses and the conclusion of the matter is set in language strongly reminiscent of the account of Creation, where "God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good" (Gen. 1:31). Here Moses saw all the work, and behold, they had done it; as the LORD had commanded, so had they done it. And Moses blessed them (39:43).

The Erection and Meaning of the Tabernacle (40:1-38)

Moses saw the completed work, but with the parts as yet unassembled. Now all the components are appropriately joined and arranged ó by Moses himself. And yet, as is consistent with the rest of Exodus, it is Moses acting in precise obedience to the command of the Lord. The Tabernacle, the prototype of the Temple, with authority and validation to be taken over into the Temple, is then in fact the creation of God, through the instrumentality of Moses. Seven (the sacred number) times the phrase of identification is reiterated ó Moses did so-and-so, "as the LORD had commanded Moses" (verses 19, 21, 23, 25, 27, 29, 32). "So Moses finished the work" (vs. 33).

The indestructible faith of Israel speaks in the closing lines of Exodus. Tabernacle and Temple tangibly represent the Presence of the Lord, the reality of the Covenant, the power of the Covenant promise. This unit of the physical institution is the material symbol of the supremely significant relationship of Elector-elected, Chooser-chosen, of the Lord-Israel, of God-people:

Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. . . For throughout all their journeys the cloud of the LORD was upon the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel (40:34, 38).

In the Book of Exodus tradition has created an inspired masterpiece. We who come to it with faith find that it is also our history, our story, our torah, our institution ó but all gathered up and fulfilled in him who even now brings us up out of Egypt into life with God. We can affirm with Exodus ó and with greater conviction because of Exodus ó that in all our journeys we are not alone, that when we look with faith, the Lord is himself even now "in the sight of all the house of Israel."


The Book of Exodus by B. Davie Napier

This book was published in 1963 by John Knox Press. Used by permission of the author


Trinity College of Biblical Studies

The exodus event is as central to OT theology as the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ to NT theology. The historical and theological implications of this book will be examined, with special emphasis given to the covenant between God and Israel

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Trinity College of Biblical Studies Library