Exodus 24 Commentary

The covenant sealed (24:1-18)

When Moses recounted the covenant demands to them, the people once more declared their willingness to obey (cf. 19:8). In ancient times covenants were usually sealed by blood (see notes on Gen 15:7-21), and at Sinai too God and his people were joined in a blood ritual. Half of the blood was thrown against the altar (representing God) and half was sprinkled on the people. This blood ritual, though having its usual significance in covenant ceremonies, may have had added meaning in view of Israel’s recent experience in the events of the Passover. On that occasion sacrificial blood was evidence of life laid down to release a person under condemnation of death. The blood that sealed the covenant at Sinai seems to have had a similar significance. It spoke of Israel’s release from the penalty of past sin so that the nation entered the covenant as a people who were holy and dedicated to God (24:1-8; cf. 19:5-6). (For details of the various sacrificial offerings see notes on Leviticus 1:1-7:38.)

To emphasize the closeness of this covenant relation with God, the representatives of Israel went up into the mountain, where they saw the glory of God (without being struck dead, the writer notes) and ate the meal of the peace offering in fellowship together (9-11). On returning to the camp, Moses appointed Aaron and Hur to govern the people in his absence while he and Joshua returned to the mountain. Joshua went only part of the way, but Moses, when invited, entered the very presence of God. He was there about six weeks, during which he received God’s directions concerning the building of the tabernacle and the establishment of the priesthood, as recorded in Chapters 25-31 (12-18).

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