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Exodus 24:12-18

Exodus 24:12-18

Background to the Book of Exodus:
Historical Situation: (History within the text):
The Book of Exodus tells how God took pity on the Israelites and the means where by he chose to liberate them from the Egyptians and their consequent journeys in the the wilderness. The story begins after the Israelites have been in Egypt for several generations and a new Pharaoh comes to the throne who is threatened by the number of foreigners (Israelites) in the land and takes hard measures to subdue them and stop them multiplying. We read of the call of Moses by God, the confrontations with the Pharaoh and his wise men, the subsequent release and flight of the Israelites. The pivotal event was revelation of God to Moses and God giving the Law to the people via Moses. (Put picture in here with link). The covenant set up here is conditional on the people keeping their promises (Exod 19:5-8) - note the word "if" they do ... "then" you shall be my people.

After the initial laws in Exodus 20-23 we read the story of the wooden ark in which the tablets (which have the Law written on them) are to be housed and carried. Great detail is given about this Ark in Exod 25-27 before going into further detail about the priests who will serve and the manner of the sacrifices. We read of the people's rebellion and Aaron's role in building a golden calf to worship. Moses returns once more from one of his mountain trips and castigates the people for their unfaithfulness. The Book of Exodus finishes with a further account of the building of the ark which sounds rather repetitious of the first one. Within the Book we are given the origins of such Festivals as Passover and Unleavened Bread.

Some people have tried to find evidence within the Egyptian chronicles that the Israelites were present in Egypt in this period but the lack of written material from that era limits any discoveries. What has been found in general terms is that foreigners did serve in Egyptian households, there were building programmes using 'apiru' and foreigners did attain high service in important households (Johnstone:17-27). Rather than trying to prove historical fact as in the old Western idea of 'facts', it is better to understand the Book of Exodus as 'historiography', that is, the remembered history of the Israelite people which is crucial to their identity as the people of God.

Literary Comments: xxxxThe Book of Exodus is a mixture of very early oral material which has come from different traditions and been joined together in the one book. The events are pivotal to their faith and as we have four gospels telling us about Jesus Christ so the Jews have different memories of the same events. We have four different gospels, but in Exodus the traditions are all mixed in the same book which makes it difficult reading sometimes. For example, in Exod 19 Moses goes up and down the mountain several times and one isn't sure if he is up or down.

Some people have tried to identify some of the traditions within the Book: a tradition that uses the name of Yahweh called 'J', another called 'E', the tradition written by the Priests called 'P' and the very easily identified "D' tradition mainly found in the Book of Deuteronomy. It makes sense that different communities as in the NT had different memories and emphases which had become important to them and so when the Scriptures are committed to writing there is a desire to incorporate the diverse memories of people and their experience of God within their lives.

PURPOSE of the Book of Exodus:The purpose is to show how God chose Israel, gave them leaders and the Law in order to be his people. Conditions were attached to this relationship, and the worship practices were to help them stay in the covenant relationship with God. It demonstrates how soon the people were unfaithful to God. The Book of Exodus is especially important because of the giving of the Law at Mt Sinai which is central to the faith of the Jewish people and the origin of Passover.

Context of Exod 24:12-18
Exodus 24 is part of this very important section (Exod 19-24) in the Book of Exodus because it tells the story of how Israel was relate with Yahweh and consequently, how they become a nation. The people have traveled through the wilderness with Moses leading them and we have descriptions of the various trials which have beset them (Exod 15-18). They stop at Mt Sinai where Moses takes one of his first sorties up the mountain to meet with God. He comes with his first words to the elders and people (Exod 19:3-8) who agree they will do what the Lord has spoken. Moses has further conversation with God in the midst of thunder and cloud and reports the words to the people in Exod 20 in which the ten commandments are given (Exod 20:1-17). An expansion of the ten commandments is seen in the Book of the Little Covenant (Exod 20:22-23:22) followed by the promise of the land of Canaan in which they will settle and become a nation. Exod 24 is a complex chapter in which several different forms of covenant ceremony appear to take place. Initially, Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu and seventy elders go together to worship the Lord before Moses goes on alone and the crowd are at a distance (Exod24:1-2). The words of Exod 19:8 are repeated and a covenant ceremony takes place using blood and burnt sacrifices. Next, Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu and seventy elders go up and they all experience a theophany (God appears). The next verse implies that Moses and his companions had come down because now Moses and Joshua his servant climb the mountain, and Aaron stays down with Hur. After this second theophany there follows detailed instructions about the building of the tabernacle, its decoration and instruction to the priests who will serve in it.

Insights/Message of Exod 24:12-18
Literary structure: his chapter appears to be composed of several different traditions combined. The events described are extremely important in the life of Israel and it is not surprising that communities have remembered them and want to see them written in the Scriptures. It is the same as the four gospel stories all present in the New Testament because each gospel community remembers some different aspect which is important in the ongoing life of the community. Exod 24:1-2 could easily join straight onto vv.9-11: vv.3-8 are a discrete block, but could easily follow the commandments from Exod 20:17: vv.12-14 stand alone with a new character introduced, and vv.15-18 lead into Exod 25-31. A number of commentators talk about the various sources, how they have been redacted and for what purpose. We will concentrate on the theology as it is present in the chapter recognising the problems if one tries to have Moses going up and down the mountain in a rational way. The sudden introduction of Joshua is quite odd because he plays no role in the following scene. However, as the successor to Moses it does associate him with Moses from the very beginning. The small comment about Aaron and Hur set the scene for the crisis which will occur in Exod 32. In fact what we have represented here in these two characters, Joshua and Aaron, are two major aspects of Israel's life and faith (Brueggemann:882): Aaron representing the priestly and Joshua the prophetic. The theophany in vv.15-18 uses language found in the Priestly material and the Book of Ezekiel - the glory of the Lord, the cloud covering the mountain and fire. The glory (kabod) of the Lord is present in the tabernacle, is present in the temple and when the people are exiled in Babylon the glory moves out (Ezek 8). Only Moses is present here, but in vv.9-11 a whole group of people see God and the theophany is described in quite different language. It is interesting to note that another tradition believes that to see God results in death - there are many different voices in the Hebrew Scriptures.

Message: The two theophanies in vv.12-14 and 15-18 serve to give authority to two groups of people who are important in the life of the community. The theophany in vv.12-14 centre around the law and commandments and the people's obedience to them. Moses and Joshua are the forebears to the traditions which later become focused in the Book of Deuteronomy. Obedience to the law brings the promise of the land and ongoing security with Yahweh as their protector. Disobedience brings consequences which results in loss of land and the loss of God's protection. The theophany in vv.15-18 is the genesis for the instructions re the building of the tabernacle, its decoration, and instructions to the priests. The priests were in charge of the worship life of Israel which enabled the people to worship God and helped them to stay in close relationship with God. In the New Testament Jesus takes with him Peter, James and John and the purpose here reiterates the relationship of Jesus to God. In the Old Testament God speaks only with Moses, but in the New Testament God speaks to the disciples. In every instance a theophany has a future purpose as well as a present reality for the people involved. The disciples are the ones commissioned to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ after his death and resurrection. Fretheim makes some interesting points about covenant especially the covenants made between Yahweh and Israel. Both God and the people make promises which bring with it obligations by both parties. It is true that God initiated the covenant, set the terms and invited Israel to participate, however, the people's commitment to God does not stand isolated from God's own commitment to them (Fretheim: 257). These points are equally relevant for the New Testament covenant.

OT images/motifs used in the New Testament reading:Mth 17:1-9, does not contain any direct quotes but has strong Mosaic typology - the six days of preparation parallel the six days Moses spent on the mountain: the translucent appearance of Christ matches the appearance of Moses as he descends the mountain; Peter's idea of erecting shelters may be triggered by the Tent of Tabernacles; the bright cloud reflects the glory in Exod40:34; the voice from the cloud probably alludes to Ps2:7 and Isa 42:1. There can be no mistake that Jesus has all the qualities of Moses and more. The people would identify very quickly and be assured that there is a continuity with the past.

Resources/Worship for Exod 24:12-18
Worship: We don't have covenant making in the same way in our tradition, but there is a covenant service in Uniting in Worship, People's Book (p.43). This resource could be used at the beginning of a year and adapted to your particular congregation. Many people find it strange to talk about their experience of God. It is helpful on occasions for those who are willing to speak about how they have experienced God, that is , how is God present for them. The many different ways people experience the presence of God can help those who sometimes don't know how to express it for themselves.
The Old Testament Guides (OTG) by Sheffield Academic Press are an excellent small resource which give many suggestions for readings on particular aspects in the Book of Exodus (Johnstone).

The New Interpreter's Bible is another very helpful resource and published in the late 1990's - 2002 is more up to date than some earlier works.

*Brueggemann, Walter. "The Book of Exodus: Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections". In The New Interpreter's Bible, Vol. 1. Nashville: Abingdon, 1994.
Childs, Brevard S. The Book of Exodus: A Critical, Theological Commentary. OTL. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, [1974].
Coats, George W. The Moses Tradition. Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1993.
Durham, John I. Exodus. WBC. Waco, Tex.: Word Books, 1987.
*Fretheim, Terrence E. Exodus. Int. Louisville, Ky.: John Knox Press, 1991.
Gowan, Donald E. Theology in Exodus: Biblical Theology in the Form of a Commentary. Louisville, Ky.: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1994.
*Johnstone, W. Exodus. OTG. Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1990.
Moberly, R. W. L. At the Mountain of God: Story and Theology in Exodus 32-34. Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1982.
Sarna, Nahum M. Exploring Exodus: The Heritage of Biblical Israel. New York: Schocken Books, 1986.

The Dramatised Bible: ed. Michael Perry. London: Marshall Pickering: Bible Society, 1989

Web sites with helpful lectionary resources:



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