Exodus 24



                        THE RATIFICATION OF THE COVENANT (vs. 1-8)


The giving of the Book of the Covenant being now completed, Moses, having

received directions with respect to another ascent into the mount (vs. 1-2), descended

to the people, and in the first instance declared to them the main heads of the Covenant,

which they received with favor, and expressed their willingness to obey (v. 3). Not,

however, regarding this as a sufficiently formal ratification, the Prophet proceeded to

write out in a “Book” the whole of the commands which he had received, He then built

an altar, erected twelve pillars, offered sacrifice, and having collected half the blood of

the victims in basins, summoned the people to an assembly. At this, he read over solemnly

all the words of the Book to them, and received their solemn adherence to it

(v. 7); whereupon, to complete the ceremony, and mark their entrance into covenant, he

sprinkled the blood from the basins on the twelve tribes, represented by their leaders,

and declared the acceptance complete (v. 8). The ceremony was probably modeled on

some customary proceedings, whereby important contracts between man and man

were ratified among the Hebrews and Syrians.


vs. 1-8 – ‘And he said unto Moses, Come up unto the LORD, thou, and Aaron,

Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel; and worship ye afar off.”

Though all were to ascend the mount to a certain height, only Moses was to go to the

top. The others, being less holy than Moses, had to worship at a distance.  And

Moses alone shall come near the LORD: but they shall not come nigh; neither

shall the people go up with him.  And Moses came and told the people all the

words of the LORD, and all the judgments” - Moses descended from the mount,

and reported to the people “all the words of the Lord all the legislation

contained in the last three chapters and a half (chps. 20:19-23:33), not perhaps in

extenso, but as to its main provisions – “and all the people answered with one

voice, and said, All the words which the LORD hath said will we do.” - In times

of excitement, a common impulse constantly animates an entire multitude, and

an exaltation of feeling leads them to make pledges, which they are very unwilling

to stand by afterwards. Hence Moses requires something more than a verbal assent.

And Moses wrote all the words of the LORD, and rose up early in the morning,

and builded an altar under the hill, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve

tribes of Israel.  And he sent young men of the children of Israel, which offered

burnt offerings, and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen unto the LORD.  And

Moses took half of the blood, and put it in basins; and half of the blood he

sprinkled on the altar.” - The blood, which symbolized the life of the victim, was

the essential part of every sacrifice, and was usually poured over the altar, or at any

rate sprinkled upon it, as the very crowning act of offering. (See Leviticus 1:5; 3:8)

On this occasion Moses retained half of the blood, “and put it in basins”, for the

purpose of so uniting all the people in the sacrifice, and thereby the more solemnly

pledging them to the covenant, which the sacrifice at once consecrated and

consummated.  And he took the book of the covenant” - In this book we have

the germ of the Holy Scriptures — the first “book” actually mentioned as written in

the narrative of the Bible. Genesis may contain other older documents, inserted by Moses,

under the sanction of the Holy Spirit, in his compilation. But his own composition, if we

except the burst of poesy called forth by the passage of the Red Sea (ch. 15:1-18),

would seem to have commenced with “the Book of the Covenant.” Upon this nucleus

the rest of the law was based; and it was to explain and enforce the law that Moses

composed the Pentateuch – “and read in the audience of the people: and they said,

All that the LORD hath said will we do, and be obedient.” - The people made the

same answer as before (v. 3), adding a general promise of obedience to all that God might

command in future.  And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people” –

We read, in the Epistle to the Hebrews, that he “sprinkled both the book, and all

the people (Hebrews 9:19). As he sprinkled, he said, “Behold the blood of the

covenant, which the LORD hath made with you concerning all these words.”





In any covenant which God proposes to man, the advantages offered to him are so

great, and the requirements made of him so manifestly “holy, just, and good,” that it

is almost impossible that he should calmly consider the terms and reject them. It is his

natural instinct to exclaim “All that the Lord hath said I will do, and be obedient.”

There are many reasons for this feeling, of which the following are some:



      That which an intelligent agent has made belongs to him absolutely, and

      cannot resist his will without rebellion. Now, “it is God that has made us,

      and not we ourselves.” (Psalm 100:3) - We are His, whether we choose to

            obey Him or no — His to punish or reward — to kill or make alive — to

            exalt to happiness or condemn to misery. We cannot resist His will without

            being self-condemned. The reasons which make disobedience to a father

            morally wrong tell with increased force if applied to God, who is far more

            truly our father.  He is:


ü      The author of our existence;

ü      The preserver of our life; and

ü      The bestower upon us of favors and benefits which we cannot

                        possibly repay.



            OBEDIENCE. Every law ever imposed by God on man has been imposed

            for man’s sake, and tends to his advantage. If a man were truly wise, he

            would lay down for himself as rules of conduct exactly those laws which

            are laid down for his guidance in Holy Scripture. The man whose

            obedience approaches nearest to perfection is the happiest. For every act of

            disobedience there is a natural penalty.



      GOD’S WILL. Angels have no other desire but this. Man has a thousand

            desires, but, together with them, has an inward conviction that it is better

            for him to resist than to gratify the greater number. His passions draw him

            one way, his reason another, his affections, perhaps, a third. He has no

            unmixed satisfaction but in following the lead of the highest principle

            within him; and this principle is the love of God, which prompts him to

            make it the sole object of his life to please God by so acting as God would

            have him. Man, therefore, readily promises obedience — as of old at Sinai,

            so now at baptism and confirmation, or, again, after a sudden conversion;

            and, under the excitation of stirred feelings and an awakened conscience,

            imagines that he will keep to his brave resolve; but when the excitement is

            past, and the feelings have calmed down, and the tame, dull course of

            ordinary life is entered upon, then it is found not so easy to observe the

            promises made, and “do all that the Lord has said, and be obedient.” The

            flagrant contrast between the conduct of the Israelites and their words is

            known to all. The contrast is, perhaps, less, but it is still great, between the

            pledges given by Christians and their acts. Performance ever lags far behind

            promise.The spirit, indeed, is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Mark 14:38)         

            Temptations assail — Satan spreads his wiles — the lower nature turns traitor,        

            and men fall away. Happy, if, while there is still time, they “return and repent,            

            and do the first works,” (Revelation 2:5) and casting themselves upon Christ        

            obtain pardon for their disobedience from the ever-merciful God!





After the covenant had been ratified by the unanimous voice of the people, Moses

proceeded to carry out the injunctions with respect to Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the

elders, which he had received while still in the mount. Taking them with him, he

ascended Sinai once more to a certain height, but clearly not to the summit, which he

alone was privileged to visit (vs.2 and 12). The object of the ascent was twofold:


  • A sacrificial meal always followed upon a sacrifice; and the elders might

            naturally desire to partake of it as near the Divine presence as should be

            permitted them. This was their purpose in ascending.


  • God desired to impress them with a sense of his awful majesty and

            beauty, and was prepared for this end to manifest Himself to them in some

            strange and wonderful way as they were engaged in the solemn meal (v. 11).

            This was His purpose in inviting their presence. The manifestation is

            described in v.10. It was a “vision of God,” but of what exact nature it is

            impossible to say. Having recorded it, the author parenthetically notes that

            the Divine vision did not destroy any of those who beheld it, or cause them

            any injury, as might have been expected.


vs. 9-11 - Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the

elders of Israel” – Nadab, Abihu, and the elders were to “worship God afar off”  -

“And they saw the God of Israel” - These words can scarcely mean less than that

they saw with their bodily eyes some appearance of the Divine being who had

summoned them to His presence for the purpose.  Moses, we know, saw a “similitude

of God” (Numbers 12:8). Isaiah saw the Lord sitting upon His throne” - (Isaiah 6:1).

Ezekiel saw upon the throne “the appearance of a man” (Ezekiel 1:26). It does not

follow from Deuteronomy 4:12,15, that the elders saw no similitude, since in that

passage Moses is speaking, not to the elders, but to the people, and referring, not to

what occurred at the sacrificial feast after the ratification of the covenant, but to the

scene at the giving of the Ten Commandments previously (ch. 20:1-18). What the

form was which the elders saw, we are not told; but as it had “feet,” it was probably

a human form. It may have been hazy, indefinite, “too dazzling bright for mortal eye”

to rest upon. But it was a true “vision of God” — and, as Keil says, “a foretaste of

the blessedness of the sight of God in eternity.”“and there was under His feet as

it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in

His clearness.  And upon the nobles of the children of Israel He laid not His hand:

also they saw God, and did eat and drink.”  God did not smite them with death, or

pestilence, or even blindness. It was thought to be impossible to see God and live. (See

Genesis 32:30; Exodus 32:20; Judges 6:22, 23) Man was unworthy to draw near to

God in any way; and to look on Him was viewed as a kind of profanity. Yet some

times He chose to show Himself, in vision or otherwise, to His people, and then, as

there could be no guilt on their part, there was no punishment on His. It is generally

supposed that, in all such eases, it was the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity

(Jesus Christ) who condescended to show Himself. (As Bro. Marion Duncan used

to preach in a series of sermons on “Premanifestations of the Incarnation of Christ”

CY – 2010) 



                        THE COVENANT MEAL ON MT. SINAI


The Old Testament contains no mention of any other meal so wonderful as this.

Newly entered into covenant with God, fresh from the blood of sprinkling, which

was representative of the blood of Christ, Moses, Aaron with his two sons, and the

seventy elders, half-way up Sinai, engaged in the sacrificial feast upon the peace-offerings

(v. 5), when lo! the heaven was opened to them, and there burst upon their astonished

sight a vision of Jehovah in His glory and His beauty, standing on pellucid sapphire,

dazzling in its brilliance. As the meat and drink entered their mouths, God shone in upon

their souls. It was indeed a “wondrous festivity,” and certainly not without a spiritual

meaning, extending to all time, and even beyond time into eternity. Surely, we may say,

without over-great boldness, or any undue prying into holy things:




      THE SUSTENTATION OF HIS PEOPLE. The Holy Communion is a feast

      upon a sacrifice — the sacrifice of Christ — partaken of by Christians as the most

      solemn rite of their religion, in the wilderness of this life, for their better   sustentation

      and support through its trials. It brings them very near to Him, as

      it were into His presence. As they partake of the bread and wine, they partake

      of Him; His light shines into their souls; His beauty and glory are revealed to

      their spirits; they obtain a foretaste of heaven. Blessed is the man who thus

      eats and drinks in His kingdom — eating and drinking and seeing God.




      ONE DAY PARTAKE IN HEAVEN (Revelation 19:7-9). There the saints

      shall eat and drink in the Divine presence, their meat the heavenly manna,

      angels’ food, their drink the wine which they “drink new” in their Father’s       

      kingdom. (Matthew 26:29) - The glory of God shall shine on them. For the

      place of their dwelling “has no need of the sun, neither of the moon to

      shine in it;” for it is “the glory of God that lightens it, and the Lamb that

      is the light thereof” (Revelation 21:23). The sapphire of Sinai has there its     

      counterpart; for “the first foundation” of the city wherein they dwell “is

      jasper, and the second sapphire” (ib, 19). The Divine presence is with them

      perpetually; for the “throne”of God is there, and they “see His face,” and

      “His Name is in their foreheads” (Revelation 22:4).  Thrice blessed they

      who attain to this heavenly feast, and are counted worthy of that beatific




                        MOSES’S ENTRY INTO THE CLOUD AND

                        HIS FORTY DAYS COMMUNE WITH GOD


It was necessary now that Moses should receive full directions for the external worship

of God, the sanctuary, and the priesthood. Every religion has something tangible and

material about it — holy places, holy things, rites, ceremonies, rules, forms, regulations.

If man sets himself to devise these things of his own head, he may very easily go wrong, and

find his elaborate inventions “an offence” to God. To avoid this — to secure the result

that all should be pleasing and acceptable to “the High and Holy One which inhabiteth

eternity,” (Isaiah 57:15) - it was thought fitting that “patterns” should be shown to

Moses of all that was to be made for the worship (Hebrews 8:5), and exact details given

him with respect to the material, size, shape, and construction of each.

(And the Lord told him “See….that thou make all things according to the pattern

shewed thee in the mount” – CY – 2010)  The results are put before us in seven

chapters (chs. 25-31.). For the purpose of allowing ample time for the communications

which had to be made and of securing that undivided attention which was requisite in

order that all should remain fixed in the memory, God summoned his servant to a

long and solitary colloquy, on the mountain summit whereon the cloud rested

(ch. 19:18), apart from all his people. Moses, of course, obeyed; but before ascending,

arranged with the elders that in his absence Aaron and Hur should have the direction

of affairs, and decide all doubtful questions (v. 14). He then went up the mountain,

accompanied for part of the way by Joshua, who is now spoken of as his “minister,”

or “attendant” (v.13). Joshua probably remained with him for six days, while Moses

waited for a summons to enter the cloud. On the seventh day the summons came:

and Moses, leaving Joshua, entered the cloud, and was hid from the sight of all men.


vs. 12-18 – “And the LORD said unto Moses, Come up to me into the mount,

and be there: and I will give thee tables of stone, and a law, and commandments

which I have written; that thou mayest teach them.” - Rather, “to teach them.”

God wrote the commandments on stone, in order to inculcate them with the greater

force upon His people.  “And Moses rose up, and his minister Joshua: and

Moses went up into the mount of God.  And he said unto the elders, Tarry ye

here for us, until we come again unto you: and, behold, Aaron and Hur are

with you: if any man have any matters to do, let him come unto them.  And

Moses went up into the mount, and a cloud covered the mount.”  Moses, though

called up into the mount, would not intrude into this inner sanctuary, until

specially bidden to enter it.  Now occurred a remarkable pause. The summons had

been given to Moses, and he had obeyed it. He was there on the platform a little

below the summit, ready, but waiting for a further call. The call was not made for

six days. A holy calm reigned upon Sinai — the cloud rested upon the summit, and

in the cloud was the glory of the Lord”. Moses and Joshua waited near — but for

six days there was no sign. God thus taught Moses, and through him the world, that

near approach to him requires long and careful preparation. Moses, no doubt, was

occupied during the six days in continual prayer. At last, on the seventh day, the

call, which Moses had expected, came. “God called unto Moses out of the midst

of the cloud.” God summoned him to a closer approach — bade him enter the

cloud — and draw as nigh to him as possible.  And the glory  of the LORD abode

upon mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days: and  the seventh day He

called unto Moses out of the midst of the cloud.  And the sight  of the glory of

the LORD was like devouring fire on the top of the mount in the  eyes of the

children of Israel.”  Meanwhile, to those below in the plain, “the glory of the Lord”

on the summit above them, was like devouring fire on the top of the mount -  They

had but to lift their eyes thither, and they saw His wonderful glory — showing like a huge fire –

on the spot from which He had spoken to them (Exodus 20:18). This manifestation continued

certainly for the first six days; whether it lasted longer or not is open to question. 

(Remember that when Moses came off the mount that he was so bright

that the people could not look upon him, so they put a vail on his head – (ch. 34:

29-35, II Corinthians 3:7 – CY - 2010) -  And Moses went into the midst of the

cloud, and gat him up into the mount: and Moses was in the mount forty days

and forty nights.” – Quitting Joshua, Moses at last, in obedience to the call out of

the midst of the cloud, entered within its shadow and disappeared from human vision.

 In this abnormal condition, alone with God, he continued for thirty-four days,

making, together with the six days before he entered the cloud, the “forty

days and forty nightsof the text before us. It is noted in Deuteronomy 9:9, that

during the whole of this time he was without food. Compare Elijah’s fast

(I Kings 19:8), and our blessed Lord’s (Matthew 4:2).



                        PROLONGED COMMUNION WITH GOD


Prolonged commune with God is the soul’s truest strengthening, and sweetest refreshment.

Without it our spirits languish — we grow weary and faint — worldliness creeps upon us —

our thoughts and discourse become “of the earth, earthy”(I Corinthians 15:48)

we have no life or liveliness in ourselves, and can impart none to others. Moses’ commune

was abnormal, extraordinary, inimitable by us in its main features — its duration, locality,

nearness of access, and completeness of isolation. But it may serve as a pattern to us in

many respects, nevertheless:


  • IN THE PREPARATION FOR IT. Here we note:


ü      A Ready Heart. “Moses rose up” — did not delay, did not offer

                        objections, did not say, “Suffer me first” to do this or that, but

                        responded to the call of God at once.


ü      A Thoughtful Regard for Others. Moses instructed the elders how to

      act while he was away. “Tarry ye here” — “Seek ye to Aaron and

      Hur, if ye have matters to do.”


ü      A Willingness to Help Others  - towards the higher life, to carry them

      on with him, as far as he might. “Moses rose up, and his minister,



ü      A Patient and Reverential Waiting. Summoned, called up, bidden to

                        draw near, he yet rested for six days outside the cloud, longing to enter

                        in, but withheld by a sense of unworthiness and a fear of intrusion,

                        fasting all the while, and seeking to prepare himself for the nearer                                              

                        approach by supplication and meditation.


  • IN THE PLACE OF IT. A holy place — “the mount of God” — a

            place sacred from common uses — into which worldly thoughts could

            scarcely penetrate. We, who have no Sinai, have at any rate our churches,

            and other sacred buildings — some of them always open, not merely for

            public worship, but for private prayer and meditation — inviting us to enter

            in and draw nigh to God. In our houses we have, or may easily have, our

            oratories — spots reserved for prayer and praise, and sacred thought —

            sanctuaries in the desert of life — places in which all that we see will

            remind us of heavenly things.


  • IN THE SECLUSION OF IT. The world was shut out. Relations,

            elders, people, left below in the plain — left with strict injunctions to

            remain“Tarry ye here.” Even the faithful Joshua parted from — and

            the cloud” entered. The cloud — the awful cloud — “thick darkness”

            (ch. 20:21); yet within the darkness a marvelous light. Such seclusion we

            cannot obtain — but we may obtain an approach to it. We may “enter our

            closet, and shut to the door(Matthew 6:6), and let it be known that we

            would be undisturbed; or we may seek the solitude of a church at an hour

            when there is no public service, and no one present who will meddle with us;

            or we may, even at the present day, find solitudes in nature, deep woods, or

            lone mountain tops, or unfrequented glens, where we may feel ourselves

            secure from intrusion, and stand face to face with God, and know Him near,

            and pour out our hearts before Him. (Psalm 62:8) - A modern poet, in one of

            his better  moments, says —


                        “My altars are the mountains, and the ocean,

                        Earth, air, sea — all that springs from the Great Whole,

                        Who hath produced, and will receive the soul” —


            and truly on any lone spot an altar may be raised, and worship offered, as

            acceptable to God as any that is addressed to Him “in pillared fanes, ‘neath

            fretted roofs, ‘mid storied glass or sculptured monuments.” Even in the

            whirl and bustle of a great city, solitude is not very far from us. Half an

            hour’s journey by steamer or rail, and ten minutes’ walk, may take us into

            still woods, or shady lanes, or on to open heaths, where we shall not see a

            fellow creature or hear a sound reminding us of man.


  • IN THE CONTINUANCE OF IT.Forty days and forty nights!” As

            we cannot have the complete seclusion which Moses enjoyed, so neither

            can we look for such sustained commune as his. We must eat and drink —

            we can rarely leave our worldly work to others — family claims,

            correspondence, business imperatively require our attention — six weeks’

            interruption of communication between ourselves and the outer world

            would, in most cases, break or tangle all the threads of which our life is

            composed. But still some prolonged periods of religious contemplation and

            commune between the soul and God are needed, if the soul is to retain the

            vigor of its life, or its ability to be of service to others. With this view

            religious “retreats” have been devised, lasting sometimes a week or ten

            days. Where men’s duties allow of it, they may be well worth a trial. The

            weary spirit may derive more refreshment from them than from the

            ordinary “holiday.” The heart may be purified, the aspirations raised, the

            insight into doctrinal truth augmented, above all, the love of God so

            intensified in the soul, by the suspension of all secular thought and the

            devotion of the whole mind to religion and worship, during the three, or

            five, or seven, or ten days of a “retreat,” as would scarcely be possible,

            under the present conditions of our life, in any other way.


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