ISRAEL AFFIRMS THE COVENANT
24:1 Now He said to Moses, “Come up to the Lord, you and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and worship from afar. 2 And Moses alone shall come near the Lord, but they shall not come near; nor shall the people go up with him.”
3 So Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord and all the judgments. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words which the Lord has said we will do.” 4 And Moses wrote all the words of the Lord. And he rose early in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars according to the twelve tribes of Israel. 5 Then he sent young men of the children of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the Lord. 6 And Moses took half the blood and put it in basins, and half the blood he sprinkled on the altar. 7 Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the Lord has said we will do, and be obedient.” 8 And Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, “This is the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you according to all these words.”
9 Then Moses went up, also Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, 10 and they saw the God of Israel. And there was under His feet as it were a paved work of sapphire stone, and it was like the very heavens in its clarity. 11 But on the nobles of the children of Israel He did not lay His hand. So they saw God, and they ate and drank.
12 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Come up to Me on the mountain and be there; and I will give you tablets of stone, and the law and commandments which I have written, that you may teach them.”
13 So Moses arose with his assistant Joshua, and Moses went up to the mountain of God. 14 And he said to the elders, “Wait here for us until we come back to you. Indeed, Aaron and Hur are with you. If any man has a difficulty, let him go to them.” 15 Then Moses went up into the mountain, and a cloud covered the mountain.
16 Now the glory of the Lord rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day He called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud. 17 The sight of the glory of the Lord was like a consuming fire on the top of the mountain in the eyes of the children of Israel. 18 So Moses went into the midst of the cloud and went up into the mountain. And Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights.
Chapter 24 is a kind of transition chapter. Here is a reaffirmation of the covenant. The writer to the Hebrews used this scene as the prototype for the new covenant. When Moses returned to the people and told them all the provisions that God had made for the covenant, they responded with community accord: “All the words which the Lord has said we will do” (24:3). To celebrate that, Moses wrote down all the words of the Lord; then he rose early in the morning and built an altar, and there the children of Israel offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings to the Lord.
Then Moses did a very interesting thing. He read aloud the words of the covenant as he had recorded those words. It was a restatement, an etching again upon their minds and hearts the remarkable thing that had taken place there at Sinai. And again, the people gave their assent. Then Moses took blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, “This is the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you according to all these words” (v. 8). The writer to the Hebrews put it, “Therefore not even the first covenant was dedicated without blood” (9:18). And about Jesus the writer to the Hebrews said: “He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (9:26). As has been indicated previously, this was a foreshadowing of that new covenant which would be made by the blood of Jesus offered in self-sacrifice on Calvary.
Then God called Moses to come up to the mountain where He would give him the tablets of stone on which the law was written. Moses took Joshua with him, left Aaron and Hur to settle any issues among the people, and as they journeyed to the mountain, a great cloud covered it. The glory of the Lord rested on Mt. Sinai for six days. On the seventh day, God called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud. The sight of God’s glory was like a consuming fire on the top of the mountain in the eyes of the children of Israel. Moses left Joshua there and went into the midst of the cloud, up into the mountain, where he communed with God for forty days. It is there that the Lord spoke to him, and gave him instructions about what was to take place next in the history of this covenant relationship.
THE PEOPLE’S FAITHLESSNESS
32:1 Now when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, the people gathered together to Aaron, and said to him, “Come, make us Gods that shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.”
2 And Aaron said to them, “Break off the golden earrings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” 3 So all the people broke off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron. 4 And he received the gold from their hand, and he fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a molded calf.
Then they said, “This is your God, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!”
5 So when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow is a feast to the Lord.” 6 Then they rose early on the next day, offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.
The longer Moses stayed on the mountain, the more restless the people became. Did they believe that something had happened to Moses? Were they getting weary of his leadership? Without him present to keep reminding them of God’s presence, did doubt begin to overcome them? Was it a faith struggle? Had the message not yet gripped them? Were they not yet convinced?
When Moses failed to return they went to the next in command and demanded that he make other Gods they could serve. Of the Ten Commandments they were breaking the second one: making a graven image.
Living animals, not idols, were worshiped in Egypt, so this was not a reversion to the Gods of their slavery. The bull was often associated with Canaanite Baalism, so it may be that the “golden calf” is a throwback to the bull-image God through common Semitic heritage.
We will focus later in this chapter on this faithlessness of Israel and lessons we may learn, when we look at Moses’ confrontation with Aaron and the people on coming down from the mountain.
Note here, however, that Israel’s faithlessness, her apostasy, was accompanied by immorality connected with their worship. Look at verse 6. “And rose up to play” suggests sexual orgies which accompanied fertility rites, especially in Canaanite Baalism (another indication the golden calf may be a counterpart to the Canaanite bull). The verb translated “to play” (sāhaq) supports this. This same verb was used in Genesis 26:8: “Abimelech … looked out of a window, and saw … Isaac, fondling Rebekah his wife” (rsv). This led the king to know that Rebekah was not Isaac’s sister, but his wife.
Though connecting sexual immorality with worship is foreign to us, it still happens. But the lesson for us is that apostasy leads to irresponsible action and gross immorality. Even more applicable to us is the fact that faithlessness leads to a diminishing of moral sensitivity.
IT’S TOUGH TO BE GOD
7 And the Lord said to Moses, “Go, get down! For your people whom you brought out of the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves. 8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them. They have made themselves a molded calf, and worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, ‘This is your God, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!’ ” 9 And the Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and indeed it is a stiff-necked people! 10 Now therefore, let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them. And I will make of you a great nation.”
11 Then Moses pleaded with the Lord his God, and said: “Lord, why does Your wrath burn hot against Your people whom You have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians speak, and say, ‘He brought them out to harm them, to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from Your fierce wrath, and relent from this harm to Your people. 13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants, to whom You swore by Your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven; and all this land that I have spoken of I give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’ ” 14 So the Lord relented from the harm which He said He would do to His people.
This is one of the sections of Exodus most rich in meaning. The richness of it, I believe, is best revealed as we look at God’s response to what was going on.
It’s tough to be God. Does that thought shock you? It’s tough to be God. How do I know? Well, it’s tough to be a parent. How tough? Most of us could tell at least one story that would bring lumps in the throats of the rest of us, and tears to our eyes, as we remember our own sleepless nights, our own painful experiences, seeking to be parents.
And God is our parent, our eternal parent. That was Jesus’ favorite title for God, “Abba, Father”— “Daddy.” That’s really what Jesus called God—Daddy. If you think it’s tough rearing three children, just think about God’s task, God’s responsibility, Godrelationship to His children. It’s tough to be God. This thought only got my casual attention now and then throughout the book, but it became intense and demanded reflection when I got to this chapter of Exodus. It really jerked at my mind and pierced my heart when I came to verses 9 and 10.
God had laid His life on the line for these people, rescued them from slavery and death in Egypt, delivered them time and time again, guided them, miraculously fed them, saved them from death by thirst. God had identified with them, had made them His people. Now, here they are, still rebellious, seduced by idolatry, unresponsive to the gracious acts of love constantly coming their way. What a description for a stiff-necked people. Is it any wonder that God was ready to allow his wrath to burn hot and consume them? Yes, it’s tough to be God.
It’s tough to be God because it’s so easy for God’s children to be lost.
See how easy it was for the Israelites. All they had to do was to let Moses get out of their sight. There he was, up on the mountain, in very deep and intense communion with God. And there they were, down in the valley, turning their attention in other directions. It’s too easy for God’s children to get lost. Look at the prodigal son. All it took was for his mind to start wandering away from the father’s house, to start imagining how it would be in the far country— beautiful women, music, festive dancing, money to spend, the good life; none of the restrictions of home, none of the boredom of being an elder brother.
Look at those sheep that Jesus referred to so often, just nibbling away at the grass, paying no attention to the shepherd. They were creatures interested in only that which was close at hand—food for their stomachs—nibbling away until they were far from the flock, away from the care and the protection of the shepherd.
It’s easy to get lost. Just take your eyes off the Shepherd. Don’t gather with the flock for worship. Don’t spend time with God’s Word. Just nod at it now and then. Don’t read it daily; don’t let the truth of it penetrate the fiber of your being; don’t pay attention to the Bible’s witness to God’s sovereignty, holiness, and love.
It’s easy to get lost. Busy yourself in your profession—your Job, your business; it will soon demand all that you are. Center yourself on success and security, and you’ll soon come to believe that you’ve got to have more and more, that your security is not in God, but in your money, your investments. You’ll forget about what God said to a man who began to believe the same thing, the one who said, “I will tear down my barns and build more barns and say to my soul, ‘Soul, take your ease.’ ” You remember what God said to that man: “This night your soul will be required of you” (Luke 12:18–20).
It’s easy to get lost. Just surround yourself with friends who don’t care about God. Just make your cocktail social network your source of fellowship, and seek no “koinonia,” no fellowship of the spirit.
It’s easy for us to get lost. And that’s the reason it’s tough to be God.
It’s also tough to be God because it’s not easy for God’s children to be found. Look at the shepherd in the New Testament, leaving the ninety-nine safe in the fold and going out to seek that one lost sheep, risking his life, braving the wilds, to find that wandering sheep. Look at that housewife, sweeping every corner of the room, every crevice under the chairs, under the bed as she seeks the lost coin. Look at the picture of God here in this Scripture passage. Moses had to wrestle with God, had to intercede with all the power of his being—what a dramatic plea Moses makes to God (vv. 11–13).
One of the most unique and powerful words in Scripture is found in verse 14. The Revised Standard Version translates it: “And the Lord repented of the evil which he thought to do his people.” For God to have a change of heart like that, to stay His anger, to pull back His wrath, shows how difficult it is for God’s lost children to be found.
That fact reaches a pinnacle thousands of years later on Calvary. That’s how much it took, that’s how much love, that’s how much sacrifice, that’s how much shed blood it took for God’s children to be found. It took God’s Son, hanging on a cross. It’s tough to be God because it’s not easy for God’s people to be found. God pays a great price to find them.
It’s also tough to be God because God can’t rest until all of His children have come home.
Verse 14, as translated in the Revised Standard Version, rests uneasily on most of our ears. It’s a strange idea—God repented. But when you reflect on it for a while, you may conclude that it is not only a fitting word for God, but quite descriptive of God’s nature. God cannot rest until all His children have come home. He is a seeking God who will have no peace until all of the flock are secure in the fold. It is a vision of the very heart of God.
Paul J. Bauermeister has given us a beautiful word-picture of an occasion in heaven:
When all the wind-chimes in heaven begin to ring at once, and that only happens when there’s a great excited flutter of angel’s wings, something has happened that deeply delights the heart of God. And now for the big question. What produces such an agitation of wings and such a rush of wind and such a tinkling, yea crashing, of the celestial wind-chimes? It is simple: a lost one who had rolled under the bed, was misplaced or strayed away or went off on its own, one such lost one, and notice that it seems to require only one, was found! The word whispered from angelic lips to angelic ears throughout all the heavenly palaces is the word, “Found.” “Found!” “Found!” Another one! Another one! Another one!
Of course, Yahweh was angry with Israel at Sinai. Who could overlook an insult like a calf of gold? But Moses had some ideas about the heart he addressed. After all, Yahweh had carefully selected an oppressed, slave people to be his people and had led them where they never would have gone by themselves. This Yahweh was not the standard deity who paid off when he was praised and received sacrifices. There was a new element in this desert deity: Mercy! Forgiveness! Grace!2
It’s tough to be God, because God can’t rest until all of His children have come home.
We’ve looked a long time at God. Let’s look briefly at Moses. Moses’ intercession on behalf of Israel and his bold speech reminding God of who God was and what He had done, reveal a commitment that had moved almost unbelievably from long argument against God’s call to standing toe to toe with God for the sake of what God had called him to do in the first place. But even God has reservations! Isn’t there a kind of subtle disclaimer in God’s word to Moses when He ordered Moses to go down to your people. Where was God’s commitment to My people (“Let My people go”)?
Moses’ appeal to God was three-fold. First, Israel was God’s people whom God had delivered from Egypt (32:11). Second, God must preserve His own honor; otherwise the Egyptians could accuse Him of being evil (32:12). But more important than anything else, the covenant was at stake. The promises God made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob must be kept (32:13).
Moses’ intercession was effective. We discussed previously God’s response: He repented. The Hebrew word for “repentance,” nāham, as used of God (see Gen. 6:6) in the Old Testament does not imply the acknowledgment of sin, error, or mistake. Rather, it means that grief and sorrow for what has been done leads to a new course of action. So here in this passage are two big lessons: the compassion of God for a people who need punishment, and the power of one man’s intercession, the effectiveness of prayer.
TAUGHT BY A GOLDEN CALF
15 And Moses turned and went down from the mountain, and the two tablets of the Testimony were in his hand. The tablets were written on both sides; on the one side and on the other they were written. 16 Now the tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God engraved on the tablets.
17 And when Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, “There is a noise of war in the camp.”
18 But he said:
“It is not the noise of the shout of victory,
Nor the noise of the cry of defeat,
But the sound of singing I hear.”
19 So it was, as soon as he came near the camp, that he saw the calf and the dancing. So Moses’ anger became hot, and he cast the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain. 20 Then he took the calf which they had made, burned it in the fire, and ground it to powder; and he scattered it on the water and made the children of Israel drink it. 21 And Moses said to Aaron, “What did this people do to you that you have brought so great a sin upon them?”
22 So Aaron said, “Do not let the anger of my Lord become hot. You know the people, that they are set on evil. 23 For they said to me, ‘Make us Gods that shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ 24 And I said to them, ‘Whoever has any gold, let them break it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I cast it into the fire, and this calf came out.”
25 Now when Moses saw that the people were unrestrained (for Aaron had not restrained them, to their shame among their enemies), 26 then Moses stood in the entrance of the camp, and said, “Whoever is on the Lord’s side—come to me!” And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together to him. 27 And he said to them, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘Let every man put his sword on his side, and go in and out from entrance to entrance throughout the camp, and let every man kill his brother, every man his companion, and every man his neighbor.’ ” 28 So the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And about three thousand men of the people fell that day. 29 Then Moses said, “Consecrate yourselves today to the Lord, that He may bestow on you a blessing this day, for every man has opposed his son and his brother.”
This is one of the most dramatic stories in Exodus. The impact of Israel’s apostasy on Moses is seen in the fact that he became so angry and furious that he smashed on the ground the tablets on which God had written His law. Some contend that this was not just a display of raging anger, but a dramatic sign that the covenant had been annulled by Israel’s disobedience. I believe it was both, but the former was the seed of the act.
There are many lessons in this event. I name three big ones here which encompass many more.
The Temptation to Idolatry
We think of idolatry as the sin of people who carve wood or stone images, and ignorantly bow down to those images. We think of it as those strange practices we encounter in foreign lands—people bringing food and flowers to a bronze Buddha, or burning paper they’ve purchased to make incense at the feet of one of a hundred Gods in a pagoda temple.
That may be idolatry, but know this: The idolator is not the one who has never known God. Paul writes in Romans 1:21: “Because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were they thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”
It is clear from the Exodus story that the people knew God. They had seen His blazing glory and had heard His voice on Sinai; yet they made the calf. So, an idolator is not one who has not known God, but one who, having known God, refuses to glorify Him, or devises some substitute in life for the praise and glory and worship that belong to God.
Idolatry is not the ridiculous mistake of primitive people. It is by no means a dead, irrelevant issue; it is the common sin of most of us.
Put this in the context of the first two commandments. The first was “You shall have no other Gods before Me” (Ex. 20:3). The second was the prohibition of the making or the worshiping of an idol: “You shall not make for yourself a carved image” (Ex. 20:4).
Now the Israelites had no desire to break the first commandment and have other Gods than Jehovah. If anyone had suggested that Israel would apostatize from the God of Abraham, they would have stoned him to death. Yet, they found the demand of the second commandment too rigid, and they made the golden calf. They had to have a visible image, something they could see and touch.
On the surface, there is nothing wrong with that. To have those things that remind us of God, represent God, may be a tremendous aid to worship for many of us. God is unseen, a Spirit and Power invisible to our eyes. So, we need settings, symbols, places of worship to be vivid reminders of God.
The problem comes when the symbol, the reminder, becomes an idol—when the symbol becomes a substitute, taking the place of God.
The lessons are many and multifaceted, but the core lesson is this: Whenever anyone or anything usurps the place that God should have in our lives, we’re guilty of idolatry. (See commentary on Ex. 20:4, pp. 237–40.)
The Trickery of Deceit
The next category of truth taught by the golden calf is the trickery of deception.
I doubt if any incident in the Exodus story reveals more the disposition of our nature as we see it in Aaron. While Moses was up on the mountain holding communion with God, the Israelites began to murmur and complain; they were good at that. They wanted other Gods, Gods of their own. They were questioning all that Moses had offered them, questioning God Himself working in their lives. Aaron yielded to their pressure, and when they brought him their golden earrings he made out of them a golden calf for them to worship.
You can imagine Moses’ anger when he came down the mountain. He first of all destroyed the idol—burned it in the fire, the Scripture says, and ground it into powder, then mixed it with the water and made the people drink it.
Then, Moses confronted Aaron: “What did this people do to you that you have brought so great a sin upon them?” (v. 21). I can see Aaron squirming, seeking a way out, unable to face up to his sin and to be honest. He begins to manufacture a story. He pleads with Moses, “Do not let the anger of my Lord become hot. You know the people, that they are set on evil. For they said to me, ‘Make us Gods that shall go before us,’ … And I said to them ‘Whoever has any gold, let them break it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I cast it into the fire, and this calf came out” (vv. 22–24).
Now Aaron tells a story completely different from the way it actually happened. Aaron himself had fashioned the golden calf, but he has given in to the trickery of deception. He’s not willing to face up to the truth. He wants to lay the blame somewhere else, and in this instance, he blames it on the furnace. “The fire did it,” he said.
How much like Aaron are we? Can you identify with him? How natural it is for most of us—what a common reaction—diverting blame from self. It’s like that comic line of Flip Wilson’s, “The devil made me do it.”
When we try to divert blame from ourselves, we’re deceiving ourselves. This is the trickery of deception, and it’s the root problem in many of our lives.
In his book There’s a Lot More to Health than Not Being Sick Bruce Larson tells of visiting a halfway house in Western Ontario. It was a marvelous place to send people who were emotionally disturbed, who needed fresh love, new resources, the gift of hope.
The main meeting room was in an old farm house. Here people would gather and eat and talk in small groups before the roaring fireplace on cold, Canadian winter evenings. But the most memorable thing there was a sign over the fireplace. It said, “Do you want to be right or well?”
That sign summed up the point of view of the director and ministry of that whole place. The director was sure that most people had to make a choice. They could struggle to be right in the eyes of others and in their own sight. That would take a lot of energy. Or, they could decide to be well, and give up the pretensions to perfection. The director was convinced that the need to justify ourselves was one of the major causes of most mental and emotional illnesses.
If you want to make yourself sick, pretend you’re right all the time. Try to fix the blame on others. Don’t face up to your own responsibility. Keep that “I’m right, I have no problems” mask on all the time, and you’ll end up sick unto death.
One of the major things that happens to us when we seek to divert blame from ourselves, thus deceiving ourselves, is that we vacillate between self-pity and self-blame. There’s no greater bind in which a person can be. Either of those extremes is destructive to our personhood. Self-pity can turn us into a cringing nothing. Self-blame can drain us of power and make us impotent to live creatively and act responsibly.
But there’s another big point here—perhaps the biggest point of all: deliverance comes only when we own our sin.
A hundred years ago in a sermon entitled, “The Fire and the Calf,” the great preacher Phillips Brooks made one of the most fascinating and telling commentaries on this Scripture that I have found in all of my studies. He contended that there is a need in our lives to recognize and name our sin for our own self-identification. Who is the person who has become a Christian? Who has experienced new birth? Who has come to a newly awakened selfhood? Brooks answers, “A being whom Christ has forgiven, and then in virtue of that forgiveness, made His servant.”
Then comes his telling comment.
All his [that servant’s] new life dates from and begins with his sin. He cannot afford to find his consciousness of himself only in the noble parts of his life, which it makes him proud and happy to remember. There is not enough of that to make for him a complete and continuous personality. It will have great gaps if he disowns the wicked demonstrations of his self-hood and says, “It was not I,” wherever he has done wrong.
No! Out of his sin, out of the bad, base, cowardly acts which are truly his, out of the weak and wretched passages of his life which it makes him ashamed to remember, but which he forces himself to recollect and own, out of these he gathers the consciousness of a self all astray with self-will which he then brings to Christ and offers in submission and obedience to His perfect will.
You try to tell some soul rejoicing in the Lord’s salvation that the sins over whose forgiveness by its Lord it is gratefully rejoicing, were not truly its; and see what strange thing comes. The soul seems to draw back from your assurance as if, if it were true, it would be robbed of all its surest confidence and brightest hope. You meant to comfort the poor penitent, and he looks into your face as if you were striking him a blow. And you can see what such a strange sight means. It is not that the poor creature loves those sins or is glad that he did them, or dreams for an instant of ever doing them again. It is only that through those sins, which are all the real experience he has had, he has found himself, and finding himself, has found his Saviour and the new life.
So the only hope for any of us is in a perfectly honest manliness to claim our sins. “I did it, I did it,” let me say of all my wickedness. Let me refuse to listen for one moment to any voice which would make my sins less mine. It is the only honest and the only hopeful way, the only way to know and be ourselves. When we have done that, then we are ready for the Gospel, ready for all that Christ wants to show us that we may become, and for all the powerful grace by which He wants to make us be it perfectly.3
Deliverance comes when we fight our way free from the trickery of deception and own our own sin.
The Triumph of Commitment
The final category of truth by a golden calf is the triumph of commitment.
It is pictured clearly in Moses. Look at him. God has called him down from the mountain because of what Israel has done. God’s anger is at a high pitch. He talks about “a stiff-necked people,” and he says to Moses: “Now therefore, let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them” (v. 10).
But Moses won’t accept that. What commitment! He pleads with God, lays himself on the line on behalf of his people. He reminds God of His covenant with Abraham and Isaac and how He had sworn that He was going to cause Israel to be multiplied as the stars in the heaven, and give them a land of promise. He prayed, to the point that the Scripture says: “The Lord relented from the harm which He said He would do to His people” (v. 14). Moses was triumphant in his commitment.
But that’s not all the story. When Moses got down from the mountain and saw what was happening, the people dancing wildly around the golden calf, his anger burned hot. He threw the tablets of Testimony on the ground and smashed them. He then took the calf which they had made, and he burned it in the fire and ground it into powder and put it in the water and made the people of Israel drink it. Then he confronted Aaron, his own brother, and gave the whole crowd the opportunity to be faithful or not. What a dramatic picture it is as Moses goes to the gate of the camp and stands there before all of the people and shouts: “Whoever is on the Lord’s side—come to me!” (v. 26).
What followed is an awful story, but a realistic one. The sons of Levi responded to Moses. They became the warriors and about three thousand people—idolators—were slain. Moses’ commitment had triumphed.
After this triumph, Moses again prayed to God, confessing his people’s sin, but begging God’s forgiveness, again laying his life on the line in that dramatic word of verse 32: “Yet now, if You will, forgive their sin—but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written.”
God didn’t respond the way Moses wanted Him to respond—the sins of the people would still be held against them—but the Lord said to Moses: “Go, lead the people to the place of which I have spoken to you. Behold, My Angel shall go before you” (v. 34a).
The call comes to you and me. “Who is on the Lord’s side?”
More than a hundred years ago, there was an Episcopal rector in Philadelphia whose name was Dudley Tyng. He had a deep Christian faith and a strong concern about slavery. In March, 1858, he preached to five thousand men, challenging them to stand up for Jesus. One thousand of them responded. A week later he left his study to visit a shed where a horse-powered corn sheller was working. As he reached out to stroke the horse, his study robe caught in the cogs of the machine and his arm was badly mangled. Doctors amputated the arm, but he died from infection and the effects of the wound. He knew he was dying, and he took his father’s hand and said, “Stand up for Jesus; and tell my brothers of the ministry wherever you meet them to stand up for Jesus!”
The Reverend George Duffield, a Presbyterian minister, was there and heard that plea. The next Sunday he closed his sermon by quoting the stanzas of a poem he had written for Dudley Tyng’s funeral service. Set to music as a hymn, it swept over America, particularly in men’s meetings in the YMCAs, and it became a marching song for anti-slavery rallies. Many thousands of persons felt they must fill the gap made by the death of Dudley Tyng. The hymn?
Stand up, stand up, for Jesus,
Ye soldiers of the cross!
Lift high His royal banner!
It must not suffer loss.
Put on the gospel armor,
Each piece put on with prayer:
When duty calls, or danger,
Be never wanting there!
Who is on the Lord’s side? Stand up for Jesus.
30 Now it came to pass on the next day that Moses said to the people, “You have committed a great sin. So now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” 31 Then Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Oh, these people have committed a great sin, and have made for themselves a God of gold! 32 Yet now, if You will forgive their sin—but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written.”
33 And the Lord said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book. 34 Now therefore, go, lead the people to the place of which I have spoken to you. Behold, My Angel shall go before you. Nevertheless, in the day when I visit for punishment, I will visit punishment upon them for their sin.”
35 So the Lord plagued the people because of what they did with the calf which Aaron made.
Moses had interceded with God earlier on behalf of the people (32:11–14) and had convinced God not to destroy the people. Now he announces to the people that he will mediate for them again. “Perhaps I can make atonement for your sin” (v. 30b).
There is a dramatic encounter between Moses and God. Moses is willing to give his own life for his people. “If you won’t forgive their sins, then blot me out.”
One thinks of the prayer of Jesus in John 17:19b, “for their sakes I sanctify Myself.” Though the prayers of Jesus verbally reported in the Gospels are not many, His unselfish intercession is convincing. That unselfishness reached the ultimate height in Jesus’ willingness to go to the Cross on our behalf, and even there interceding for His enemies, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”
Genuine intercession is unselfish. Our unselfishness is measured by the degree of our willingness to extend ourselves in love, at whatever cost, that our prayers may be answered. In my praying, I sometimes find that, without consciously doing so, I have designed an answer to my prayer. But unselfishness calls for a willingness to let go of our predetermined expectations of the answer, and a willingness to accept the answer which comes.
Harry Emerson Fosdick has given the clearest statement of why we do and don’t pray.
Before a man therefore blames his lack of intercession on intellectual perplexities, he well may ask whether, if all his questions were fully answered, he has the spirit that would pour itself out in vicarious praying. Is his heart really surcharged with pent devotion waiting to find vent in prayer as soon as the logic of intercession is made evident? Rather, it is highly probable that if his last interrogation point were laid low by a strong answer, he would intercede not one whit more than he does now. Intercession is the result of generous devotion, not of logical analysis. When such devotion comes into the life of any man who vitally believes in God, like a rising stream in a dry river bed, it lifts the obstacles at whose removal he has tugged in vain, and floats them off. The unselfish prayer of dominant desire clears its own channel. We put our lives into other people and into great causes; and our prayers follow after, voicing our love, with theory or without it. We lay hold on God’s alliance for the sake of the folk we care for and the aims we serve. We do it because love makes us, and we continue it because the validity of our praying is proved in our experience. St. Anthony spoke to the point, “We pray as much as we desire, and we desire as much as we love.”4
THE COMMAND TO LEAVE SINAI
33:1 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Depart and go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your descendants I will give it.’ 2 And I will send My Angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanite and the Amorite and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite. 3 Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; for I will not go up in your midst, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.”
4 And when the people heard this bad news, they mourned, and no one put on his ornaments. 5 For the Lord had said to Moses, “Say to the children of Israel, ‘You are a stiff-necked people. I could come up into your midst in one moment and consume you. Now therefore, take off your ornaments, that I may know what to do to you.’ ” 6 So the children of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments by Mount Horeb.
God’s Word in verse 3 captures the whole gamut of emotion in this electrically charged encounter of God with His people and His judgment against their apostasy: “I will not go up in your midst, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.” God’s anger against Israel’s rebellion was so great that He did not even trust Himself to be able to withhold the fire of His judgment.
This passage is a transitional one, and in the next chapter we will talk about Israel’s renewal. The transition comes with Israel’s response to God withdrawing Himself, and sending an angel instead. “They mourned, and no one put on his ornaments” (v. 4).
There are two references to the ornaments—this one just noted, and verses 5 and 6 where the word is that God commanded them to take off their ornaments. Roy Honeycutt suggests in his commentary that, rather than being an act of grief, the stripping off of the ornaments was more significant. It was an experience like that at Bethel when Jacob led the people in recommitment to God. The people gave him all the foreign Gods they had and all their earrings, and Jacob hid them under an oak near Shechem (Gen. 35:2–4).
This jewelry was probably associated with foreign Gods, as was the golden calf. So putting them away was related to rededication to Yahweh. This is confirmed in God’s Word, connected with putting away these ornaments: “that I may know what to do to you” (v. 5).51
Chapter Eighteen—Renewal of the Covenant
Moses’ Third Intercession (33:7–17)
Show Me Your Glory (33:18–34:9)
Renewal of the Covenant (34:10–35)
Construction of the Tabernacle (35:1–40:38)
In American history, Abraham Lincoln is known as “the Great Emancipator.” But no greater emancipator ever lived than Moses. He was God’s chosen deliverer—the one that God had selected to lead His people out of Egyptian captivity. As the great emancipator, Moses was the mediator between the people and God. In the last chapter we saw him interceding with God on behalf of Israel, laying his life on the line, as it were, for the people God had called him to serve. So committed was he to their well-being that he was willing to have his name blotted out of the Lord’s book if the Lord did not save Israel.
The section of Scripture with which we begin this final chapter of our commentary on Exodus begins with a third intercession of Moses. There will be a fourth, one of the boldest ever in the history of humankind, and there will be that renewing of the covenant, and the building of the tabernacle.
MOSES’ THIRD INTERCESSION
7 Moses took his tent and pitched it outside the camp, far from the camp, and called it the tabernacle of meeting. And it came to pass that everyone who sought the Lord went out to the tabernacle of meeting which was outside the camp. 8 So it was, whenever Moses went out to the tabernacle, that all the people rose, and each man stood at his tent door and watched Moses until he had gone into the tabernacle.
9 And it came to pass, when Moses entered the tabernacle, that the pillar of cloud descended and stood at the door of the tabernacle, and the Lord talked with Moses. 10 All the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the tabernacle door, and all the people rose and worshiped, each man in his tent door. 11 So the Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. And he would return to the camp, but his servant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, did not depart from the tabernacle.
12 Then Moses said to the Lord, “See, You say to me, ‘Bring up this people.’ But You have not let me know whom You will send with me. Yet You have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found grace in My sight.’ 13 Now therefore, I pray, if I have found grace in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight. And consider that this nation is Your people.”
14 And He said, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
15 Then he said to Him, “If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here. 16 For how then will it be known that Your people and I have found grace in Your sight, except You go with us? So we shall be separate, Your people and I, from all the people who are upon the face of the earth.”
17 So the Lord said to Moses, “I will also do this thing that you have spoken; for you have found grace in My sight, and I know you by name.”
Moses’ first intercession was recorded in chapter 32. The Lord had seen how the people had corrupted themselves by the building of the golden calf. He was ready to loose His burning wrath against them and consume them. But Moses pled with Him, reminding God of who He was, and why God must keep faith with the people and not destroy them. (See commentary on Exodus 32:11–14, pp. 336–38.)
In his second intercession (32:31–35), Moses fully acknowledged Israel’s guilt, but begged that Yahweh would forgive. If God would not forgive, then Moses asked that he be blotted out of the Lord’s book.
We come now to Moses’ third intercession. The people have repented, they have expressed their sorrow and remorse, have divested themselves of the ornaments that were a tie to their former Gods. But God has told them that He will not go with them because He might consume them with His wrath.
At this, Moses took his tent and pitched it outside the camp. The Scripture calls that a “tabernacle of meeting” because “everyone who sought the Lord” would go out to that meeting place “which was outside the camp.” This tent of meeting is not to be confused with the tabernacle, because the tabernacle has not yet been built. Most commentators believe that this was Moses’ private tent where God met with him face to face and spoke “friend to friend.”
This Scripture passage describes one such meeting when Moses went into the tent. A pillar of cloud descended and stood at the door of the tent, “and the Lord talked with Moses.” Here, in this tent of meeting, Moses made his third intercession. He sought to change Yahweh’s mind about the fact that He would not go up among the people of Israel. Moses appeals on the basis of his own relationship with God (“… if I have found grace in Your sight”). He also appeals on the basis of the covenant: “. . consider that this nation is Your people” (v. 13).
Yahweh responded to Moses and gave assent: “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest” (v. 14).
Two words are important here: presence and rest. Those two words might be intricately bound. The presence of the Lord does give us rest. But there are occasions when His presence disturbs us instead. One remembers that vivid presence appearing to Isaiah in the temple. Rather than giving rest, it caused Isaiah to tremble and shake and to enter into confession. The presence of the Lord does that; it reveals our sinfulness.
Sometimes the presence disturbs in that it reveals our failure to be who God wants us to be. How often in prayer are we visited by the presence of God and find ourselves keenly aware of our failure in discipleship.
This connecting of the presence of God and rest may very well be like that connection Jesus made: “Take My yoke upon you, … for My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matt. 11:29–30). The Lord gives us His presence. With that presence comes responsibility and ministry, but always, there is His presence to make our yoke easy and our burden light.
SHOW ME YOUR GLORY
18 And he said, “Please, show me Your glory.”
19 Then He said, “I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” 20 But He said, “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live.” 21 And the Lord said, “Here is a place by Me, and you shall stand on the rock. 22 So it shall be, while My glory passes by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand while I pass by. 23 Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen.”
34:1 And the Lord said to Moses, “Cut two tablets of stone like the first ones, and I will write on these tablets the words that were on the first tablets which you broke. 2 So be ready in the morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai, and present yourself to Me there on the top of the mountain. 3 And no man shall come up with you, and let no man be seen throughout all the mountain; let neither flocks nor herds feed before that mountain.”
4 So he cut two tablets of stone like the first ones. Then Moses rose early in the morning and went up Mount Sinai, as the Lord had commanded him; and he took in his hand the two tablets of stone.
5 Now the Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. 6 And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, 7 keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.”
8 So Moses made haste and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped. 9 Then he said, “If now I have found grace in Your sight, O Lord, let my Lord, I pray, go among us, even though we are a stiff-necked people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us as Your inheritance.”
Here is Moses’ fourth intercession, “Show me Your glory” (v. 18). This presses God to the limit.
We wrestle in our minds as to how it was that Moses could come to that point of boldness. God had responded to his petitions, had repented of His anger against His people, had renewed His covenant with them to take them into the Promised Land, and to also go with them. So Moses is at a new place. All along, he has been willing to go on the blanket promise that God had given him at the burning bush. But something had happened. The people’s falling into idolatrous sin, God’s anger against them, and God’s refusal to allow Moses to make atonement, had brought a whole new situation. And obviously Moses felt he needed to know more. He needed to know more of what God was like if he was going to continue to lead a people who had “kept a golden calf up their sleeve.”
There is a sense in which he was asking the same question he had asked years before at this same mountain in the presence of the burning bush. This time he was asking far more. Instead of saying, “Tell me Your name,” he said, “Show me Your glory—tell me Your way that I may know You.” God responds to Moses. He tells Moses that He will show Moses His glory, but He will not show it to him face to face: “And you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen.”
This is a warning that there are limitations to revelation. God is not limited, but we are. This idea is expressed throughout the Old Testament (Gen. 16:13; 32:30; Deut. 4:33; Judg. 6:22–23; 13:22; Is. 6:5). No one, not even Moses, could know all about God. Even though He has revealed Himself fully in Jesus Christ, there is the sense in which He remains “hidden.”
Also, there is the underscoring of God’s sovereignty. “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” (See commentary on God’s sovereignty, pp. 118–21.)
After God tells Moses that He will share His glory with Moses, God invites him to come up on the mountain and meet with Him the next day. Now what would you feel like if you had an appointment with God at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow? He has given you instructions as to where to meet Him and what to bring with you. Would you be able to eat for the rest of the day? How much sleep do you think you’d get tonight? That was how it was for Moses. Moses was to bring with him two tablets of stone like the ones on which Moses had broken in his wrath against Israel. How gracious God is! He is going to give Moses His testimony on the tablets of stone again.
I’m sure Moses didn’t sleep that night—I know I couldn’t sleep if I had a date with God the next morning. If God had promised to tell me something that He had never told anybody else, I would be wide-eyed all night long. No wonder the Scripture says that “Moses rose early in the morning and went up Mount Sinai.” This was to be the day of days; he was going to get a glimpse of God, even if just His back.
What Moses sees on the mountain is important. Here he sees a cloud, and remember, whenever you see a cloud in the Old Testament, open your eyes wide, because God is close by. While Moses is standing in the crevice of the rock, the Lord passes by and Moses senses His presence. But what Moses sees is not nearly as important as what he hears. Because, as the Lord passes by, He says to Moses:
“The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation” (Ex. 34:6–7).
Moses’ glimpse of God becomes an answer to the question of the ages: Who is God, and what is God like? This is a Mount Everest affirmation of who God is. It was left for Jesus to become the Incarnation of these words that persons might forever believe that what God said He was, He was.
Look at those words: “merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, … forgiving” (v. 6). There was nothing in the dark, brooding cloud, nothing in the quaking mountain or the flashing lightning to confirm what Moses heard God say. None of the dramatic experiences Moses had had with God pointed in this direction. The terrors of Egypt, the ten plagues, the final banishing of Pharaoh’s army in the bowels of the Red Sea certainly did not point to these words. What else had Moses experienced? We don’t know, but we do know it had all begun with a God clearly characterized by compassion: “I have seen the oppression of My people, I’ve heard their cry, I know their sorrow, and I will deliver them.”
In a mysterious way, Moses had gotten more than a glimpse. He had heard God’s word, and in the depths of his soul, he knew what John knew centuries later after being tutored by Christ: God is love. To be sure, it wasn’t crystal clear, and it wouldn’t be for centuries until in the fullness of time the “Word became flesh.” But even Jesus, that “Word become flesh,” spoke no words that made it more clear as to who God was than these words God spoke of Himself to Moses.
These words point clearly to a holy God whose righteousness requires punishment of wrongdoing, and a loving God whose mercy permits and provides forgiveness. So, boil it down; distill it to its most precious essence and what you have is what theologians write volumes about. God is holy love.
We will never know all God is, and whenever some fresh insight and meaning comes to us, like Moses on the mountainside, hopefully we will bow our heads in humility and awe and worship. A friend of mine asked his granddaughter when she was going to be four years old. Her priceless response was, “I’m going to be four when I get through being three.” Unlike this little girl, we will never get through “being three”—that is, knowing God as holy love. No matter what other revelations come, this is the essence of who God is.
The holiness of God is God’s inward character of perfect goodness. One of the primary meanings of the tabernacle is its reflection of a holy God, a God set apart, unique, utterly unstained by the sin of the world. God did not specify rules of cleanliness for those who worshiped there because He had an obsession with personal hygiene, but because in every possible way, people were to be clean, set apart, holy as they entered the place where the holy God actually dwelt. As perfect goodness, God’s purpose is to produce that goodness in you and me. So, He takes sides against sin, against all badness, against all evil, against our not being that holy people He called us to be.
John Redhead has provided very helpful commentary on the holiness of God. He states that God cannot help being against sin, because He is for its opposite, righteousness and truth. That fact explains some of the words in the Bible which we have a hard time understanding. The Bible talks about “our Father” and in the same breath speaks of the “wrath of God.” That does not mean God loses His temper; it simply describes the reaction of His holiness toward sin. He is bound to be against sin because of who He is. Or, the Bible talks about God’s being a consuming fire. That does not mean that God is capricious—one moment a father and the next a consuming fire. It means that because God is a father of perfect goodness, He cannot put up with badness, any more than you could put up with someone’s making improper advances to your daughter.
In the light of that fact, then, we are ready to take in the meaning of one thing God said to Moses. He said, “The Lord, the Lord God … will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and upon the children’s children, upon the third and the fourth generation.” What He is saying is that because He is holiness itself, He can never put up with anything that is unholy—that He not only cannot put up with it, He will not put up with it.1
But not only is God’s holiness His inward character of perfect goodness, the love of God is the inward compassion that is God’s nature moving him to be merciful and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.
A woman took a friend with her when she went to a photographer to have her picture taken. The beauty parlor had done its best for her. She took her seat in the studio and fixed her pose. While the photographer was adjusting his lights in preparation for taking the shot, she said to him, “Now be sure to do me justice.” The friend who had accompanied her, said, with a twinkle in her eye, “My dear, what you need is not justice but mercy.”
It doesn’t take us long as we look at our lives to realize that’s our need—not justice, but mercy. And our God who is holy love provides that.
It is true that while God is often forced to visit our iniquity upon us because of His holiness, He is still merciful and gracious and forgiving.
I’m sure it has happened with you, as it has happened with me. When you love somebody, you can’t stand for anything to come between you and that other person. If something happens to bring about estrangement, or there’s something that poisons the relationship or gets you “at odds” with the other, you can’t rest in your love. Love will not let you have peace until that estrangement is dissolved. The way the estrangement is dissolved, usually, is that you go and tell that person how much you love him or her. You tell him or her that you love him or her enough to forgive, and that you want to be forgiven. Sometimes it’s the tears of knowing that love is there which melt down the barrier standing between us and another. And that’s the way it is with God and us. When that happens, when the tears of knowing that love is there begin to flow, then the barriers are melted and you can sleep again. You have peace; joy returns to the relationship.
The best example of it, I think, is the relationship between parents and children. I believe that a parent who has a wayward child can understand the love of God better than anyone else. That parent knows how much he loves his child, even in his waywardness. And that parent will fall down on his face to worship God when he realizes that God loves him in an even greater and deeper way.
That’s who God is: holy love.
Hearing the word that God had spoken about Himself, Moses “made haste and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped” (34:8). That’s the only response of any person who begins to know who God is. Moses presses the issue now in a beautiful act of commitment, but also in a boldness of faith: “If now I have found grace in Your sight, O Lord, let my Lord, I pray, go among us, even though we are a stiff-necked people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us as Your inheritance” (v. 9). That was Moses’ plea and God responded, as we will see in the following section.
RENEWAL OF THE COVENANT
10 And He said: “Behold, I make a covenant. Before all your people I will do marvels such as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation; and all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the Lord. For it is an awesome thing that I will do with you. 11 Observe what I command you this day. Behold, I am driving out from before you the Amorite and the Canaanite and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite. 12 Take heed to yourself, lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land where you are going, lest it be a snare in your midst. 13 But you shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and cut down their wooden images 14 (for you shall worship no other God, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God), 15 lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they play the harlot with their Gods and make sacrifice to their Gods, and one of them invites you and you eat of his sacrifice, 16 and you take of his daughters for your sons, and his daughters play the harlot with their Gods and make your sons play the harlot with their Gods.
17 “You shall make no molded Gods for yourselves.
18 “The Feast of Unleavened Bread you shall keep. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, as I commanded you, in the appointed time of the month of Abib; for in the month of Abib you came out from Egypt.
19 “All that open the womb are Mine, and every male firstborn among your livestock, whether ox or sheep. 20 But the firstborn of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb. And if you will not redeem him, then you shall break his neck. All the firstborn of your sons you shall redeem.
“And none shall appear before Me empty-handed.
21 “Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; in plowing time and in harvest you shall rest.
22 “And you shall observe the Feast of Weeks, of the firstfruits of wheat harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering at the year’s end.
23 “Three times in the year all your men shall appear before the Lord, the Lord God of Israel. 24 For I will cast out the nations before you and enlarge your borders; neither will any man covet your land when you go up to appear before the Lord your God three times in the year.
25 “You shall not offer the blood of My sacrifice with leaven, nor shall the sacrifice of the Feast of the Passover be left until morning.
26 “The first of the firstfruits of your land you shall bring to the house of the Lord your God. You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.”
27 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write these words, for according to the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” 28 So he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he neither ate bread nor drank water. And He wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.
29 Now it was so, when Moses came down from Mount Sinai (and the two tablets of the Testimony were in Moses’ hand when he came down from the mountain), that Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone while he talked with Him. 30 So when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. 31 Then Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the rulers of the congregation returned to him; and Moses talked with them. 32 Afterward all the children of Israel came near, and he gave them as commandments all that the Lord had spoken with him on Mount Sinai. 33 And when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil on his face. 34 But whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with Him, he would take the veil off until he came out; and he would come out and speak to the children of Israel whatever he had been commanded. 35 And whenever the children of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone, then Moses would put the veil on his face again, until he went in to speak with Him.
God responds to Moses’ intercession with as bold a promise as had been the request: “… all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the Lord. For it is an awesome thing that I will do with you” (v. 10). So, the covenant is renewed.
Even with the renewing of the covenant, God expects the people to conform in obedience to His law. He sets that law down very specifically, in verses 12–26.
The undergirding principle of the covenant, and the lesson we learn from it, is that the obedient, loving person with whom God dwells is the one who is the recipient of God’s promises. The highlight of this section of Scripture is in the person of Moses. When he came down from the mountain and called his people together to share with them what God had shared with him on the mountain, the skin of his face shone. In fact, it shone so brightly that the people were afraid to come near him.
Moses was reflecting in his very being the glory of God. And so it is with us, when we live in fellowship with God, our lives reflect His life.
There is another observation to be noted, relating to the fact that Moses put a veil over his face when he spoke to the people, in order that the radiant glory of God shining on his face would not be too blinding to the people. In 2 Corinthians 3, Paul gives an allegorical interpretation to this veil. He says that Moses wore the veil so that Israel would not see the glow gradually wearing away. Paul was thinking that the glory of the old covenant, of the old relationship between God and humankind in the covenant made on Sinai, was a fading glory. It was destined to be overshadowed, not as the wrong is overtaken by the right, but as the incomplete is surpassed by the complete. As William Barclay reminds us, the revelation that came by Moses was true and great, but it was only partial. The revelation that came in Jesus Christ is full and final and complete. Then Barclay quotes Augustine, who wisely put it long ago: “We do wrong to the Old Testament if we deny that it comes from the just and good God as does the New. On the other hand we do wrong to the New Testament, if we put the Old on a level with it. The one is a step to glory; the other is the summit of glory.”2
Then Paul goes on in pressing the meaning of the veil. He compares the veil to the blindness of Israel, which enabled them to read their Scripture and not see the meaning in it. That veil could be removed only through Jesus Christ.
In the 33rd and 34th chapters of Exodus as we have considered them thus far, the big lessons may be outlined as follows: (1) Sin separates us from God. (2) No matter who we are and where we are in our commitment to God, we must not relax our guard because the temptation to idolatry is always a powerful one. (3) If the presence of God in our lives is forfeited, any other success we achieve is meaningless. (4) If we spend time in God’s presence as Moses did, other persons will know that we are in a close relationship with God.
Das Sinaigeschehen (Ex 19,1 - Num 10,10)
Das Bundesangebot (Ex 19)
Die Bundesbedingungen (Ex 20-23)
Der Bundesschluss (Ex 24,1-18)
Anweisungen für Heiligtum und Gottesdienst (Ex 25,1-31,17)
Bundesbruch und Erneuerung des Bundes (Ex 31,18-40,38)
Der Bruch des Bundes: Das Goldene Kalb (Ex 31,18-32,35)
Die Gegenwart JHWHs bei seinem Volk (Ex 33,1-23)
Die Bundeserneuerung (Ex 34,1-35)
Weitere Anordnungen JHWHs am Sinai (Lev 1,1 - Num 10,10)
Die Opferanweisungen (Lev 1,1-7,38)
Die Reinheitsgesetze (Lev 11,1-15,33)
Der Versöhnungstag (= jom kippur) (Lev 16,1-34)
Das Heiligkeitsgesetz (Lev 17,1-26,46)
Die Anordnungen am Sinai: Das Buch Numeri (Num 1,1-10,10)
In der Wüste wird Israel zum JHWH-Volk. Die Mitte des Pentateuchs in seiner schriftlichen Form (die um 500 v. Chr. kanonisch feststeht) ist das Sinaiereignis: JHWH schließt mit Israel einen Bund. Er sagt von sich: "Ich bin dein Gott" und von Israel "Ihr seid mein Volk". Dieser Bund wird vorbereitet durch den Noachbund (Gen 9,1-17) und den Abrahambund (Gen 15; 17). JHWH, der das Schreien der Israeliten gehört hat, gedenkt des Bundes mit Abraham, Isaak und Jakob (Ex 2,24). Er rettet Israel und befreit es aus dem Sklavendasein. Den Höhepunkt seines Handelns an Israel - und mit Israel an allen Menschen - bildet die Gotteserfahrung am Sinai. Sie gehört zu den zentralen Themen der alttestamentlichen Überlieferung.
Erst seit byzantinischer Zeit (ungefähr 350 n. Chr.) gilt der Moseberg im Zentralmassiv der Sinaihalbinsel, an dessen Fuß das Katharinenkloster liegt, als Ort der Gottesoffenbarung. Aufgrund der vulkanähnlichen Begleiterscheinungen der Gotteserscheinung (Ex 19,18) meinen manche Bibelwissenschafter, dass der Berg des Bundesschlusses im vulkanischen Gebiet an der Nordwest-Küste Saudi Arabiens liegt.
Israel macht hier eine von seinen grundlegendsten Gotteserfahrungen: JHWH offenbart seinen Willen, und Israel verpflichtet sich zum Gehorsam gegenüber diesem geoffenbarten Gottesrecht. Das hat sich tatsächlich ereignet. JHWH und seine Offenbarung übersteigen menschliches Ausdrucksvermögen. Es gilt der Grundsatz: das dass ist wichtig; das wie ist zweitrangig.
Zwei Gründe können angeführt werden, warum wir so wenig über die Weise wissen, wie sich diese Gottesoffenbarung zugetragen hat: Erstens wurde dieses Ereignis lange in voneinander unabhängigen Überlieferungen mündlich weitergegeben; später wurde es dann in die Pentateuchüberlieferung eingebaut. Zweitens wurde gerade dieses Ereignis zu jeder Zeit liturgisch gefeiert. Es bestand aus den Elementen:
§ rituelle Reinigung der Gemeinde
§ Zug der Gemeinde zu JHWH unter Posaunenschall
§ Selbstvorstellung JHWHs und Kundgabe seines Willens
§ Opfer und Bundesschluss(erneuerung)
|Das Feiern von Festen ist zugleich Erinnerung und Vergegenwärtigung, es hat aktuelle Bedeutung. Darum ist eine ständige Anpassung nötig. Eine ähnliche Reform der Liturgie haben wir nach dem 2. Vatikanischen Konzil erlebt.|
|19,1-25||Gotteserscheinung||20,1-23,33||Kundgabe des Gotteswillens|
|24,1-18||Bundesschluss||25,1-31,17||Anweisungen für den Kult|
|31,18-34,35||Bundesbruch und Bundeserneuerung||35,1-40,38||Ausführung der in 25,1-31,18 gegebenen Anweisungen|
Die Sinaierzählung besteht aus erzählenden und anweisenden Texten. Grundsätzlich kommen in den erzählenden Abschnitten die drei Quellschichten Jahwist, Elohist und Priesterschrift zu Wort. Darum finden sich Wiederholungen, vor allem in Ex 19 und 24. Ex 20-23 besteht aus alten Gesetzessammlungen. Ex 25-31; 35-40 sind der Beginn der priesterschriftlichen Gesetzessammlungen (= Priesterkodex).
Für die Quellschicht D (= Deuteronomium) ist die Gottesoffenbarung am Horeb (so die Bezeichnung des Gottesberges beim Elohisten und beim Deuteronomiker) Ausgangs- und Mittelpunkt des Buches Deuteronomium.
2. Der Bundesschluss
a. Das Bundesangebot (Ex 19)
Nach dem Auszug und der Wüstenwanderung kommen die Israeliten zum Sinai. Ex 19 erzählt von den Vorbereitungen und der Gotteserscheinung.
|VV. 1-2||Einleitung: Situationsschilderung|
|VV. 3-9||Mitteilung des Vorhabens JHWHs; Erklärung des Volkes, das Angebot anzunehmen.|
|VV. 10-15||Anweisungen zur Vorbereitung|
|VV. 21-25||Warnung vor dem Betreten des heiligen Berges|
Im sogenannten Adlerspruch (VV. 4-6) weist JHWH auf sein rettendes und sorgendes Handeln hin. Er hat sich dieses Volk zum Eigentum erworben durch die Rettung aus Ägypten. Israel soll ein heiliges Volk sein, ein Reich von Priestern. Daher ist es aufgerufen, sich zum Gehorsam zu verpflichten und den Bund zu halten.
Die Verse 10-15 spiegeln die Überzeugung der Menschen wider, dass man sich dem Heiligen nur in Ehrfurcht nähern darf. Große Ereignisse, wichtige Begegnungen müssen vorbereitet und geplant werden.
Die Gotteserscheinung (= Theophanie; 19,16-20) wird von zwei verschiedenen Naturereignissen begleitet. Beim Elohisten erscheint JHWH unter den Zeichen eines Gewitters (Wolke, Donner, Blitz; VV.16.19), d. h. in der Form, wie sich die Bewohner des Nordreichs die Erscheinung des Gottes Baal vorstellten. Beim Jahwisten ist die Erscheinung begleitet von vulkanischen Zeichen (Schmelzofen, Rauch, Feuer, Beben; V. 18), d. h. wie man sich die Theophanie einer Vulkan-Gottheit dachte. Im Versuch, doch auszudrücken, was nicht geschildert werden kann, greifen die biblischen Schriftsteller zu gängigen Bildern und literarischen Formen: So verwendet der Elohist das Bild des Gewitters, der Jahwist hingegen das Bild des Vulkanausbruchs, um die Größe JHWHs hervorzuheben. Gerade die verschiedenen Darstellungsweisen zeigen uns: Es ist nicht möglich, den tatsächlichen Verlauf des Sinaiereignisses zu bestimmen. Ex 19 ist kein Protokoll, sondern Ausdruck einer liturgischen Feier. Das Volk bekennt, dass JHWH sich seinem Volk geoffenbart hat, und bei ihm gegenwärtig ist.
In der Gottesbegegnung verdichtet sich die Forderung, nicht zu sündigen. JHWH ist ein fordernder Gott, weil er sich darauf berufen kann, Israel befreit zu haben. Die letzten Verse schärfen noch einmal ein, sich dem Heiligen nur in einer entsprechenden Haltung zu nähern.
|Anregung:||Wie bereite ich mich auf einen Gottesdienst vor?|
b. Die Bundesbedingungen (Ex 20-23)
Der Gotteserscheinung folgt das Zehnwort (= Dekalog). Diese Gebote sind sehr alte Vorschriften, die in Dtn 5 (mit Ausnahme der Begründung des Sabbatgebotes) fast wörtlich noch einmal überliefert werden. Der Form nach gehören die 10 Gebote dem sogenannten apodiktischen Recht an, d. h. es wird ein bestimmtes Verhalten mit einer Begründung gefordert.
Laut Ex 20,1 ist der Dekalog von JHWH gegeben. Es folgt die Selbstvorstellungsformel JHWHs (V. 2), welche die Gebote in den heilsgeschichtlichen Zusammenhang stellt. Der weisungsgebende JHWH hat seinen Heilswillen in der Geschichte bewiesen. Darum folgt die Grundforderung: Keine anderen Götter! JHWH duldet niemand und nichts neben sich. Dabei ist zu bedenken, dass Israel in einer Umwelt lebte, in der man viele Götter verehrte. In 20,4-6 werden kultische Bilder verboten, ja alle Abbilder. JHWH kann nicht dargestellt werden durch irgendetwas, das der Schöpfung angehört. Auch kann über JHWH keine Macht und kein Einfluss ausgeübt werden; der Mensch kann über JHWH nicht verfügen. Auf eine ähnliche magische Vorstellungswelt verweist Vers 7: Israel soll den Namen JHWHs nicht missbrauchen für Magie, Beschwörungen, Zaubereien und Verfluchungen. Das sind Worte und Handlungen, von denen man dachte, dass sie äußerst wirksam seien und dem Mitmenschen Schaden zufügen. Es folgen:
§ das Sabbatgebot (VV. 8-11)
§ das Elterngebot (V. 12)
§ das Verbot des Mordes (= eigenmächtiges, gemeinschaftswidriges Töten) (V. 13)
§ das Verbot des Ehebruchs (V. 14)
§ das Verbot des Diebstahls (V. 15) (Raubens freier Menschen)
§ das Verbot falscher Zeugenaussage vor Gericht (V. 16)
§ das Verbot, sich unrechtmäßig Gut des Nächsten anzueignen (V. 17)
|Im Judentum wird das 1. Gebot geteilt. Darum hat die sogenannte 1. Tafel vier Gebote, die 2. sechs. Die Christen teilen 20,17 in zwei Gebote.|
Mit diesen Geboten ist Israel der Raum gegeben, in dem es als freies Volk leben soll. Gebote sind keine drückenden Lasten, sondern Grenzlinien. Das Verhalten innerhalb dieser Grenzlinien wird durch andere Vorschriften und Weisungen geregelt. Der Dekalog ist weder der letzte noch der einzige Weisungskatalog in der Bibel, wohl ein Grundgesetz. Überschreitet man die Grenzlinien, gerät man in ein Niemandsland ohne Gott und ohne Nächsten.
Das Zehnwort findet seine Fortsetzung im Bundesbuch. Es ist aller Wahrscheinlichkeit nach ein selbständiges Gesetzbuch gewesen und dürfte aus vorstaatlicher Zeit (ungefähr 1100 v. Chr.) stammen. Diese und alle anderen Gesetzestexte sind in den Pentateuch aufgenommen worden, weil man überzeugt war, dass alle Gesetze ihre Wurzel im Bund JHWHs mit Israel haben. Die spätere Gesetzgebung (Bundesbuch, Heiligkeitsgesetz, Priestergesetz) sind eine Ausfaltung der am Sinai gegebenen Grundordnung in der jeweiligen geschichtlichen Situation.
|Wesentlich ausführlicher werden der Dekalog, das Bundesbuch und die weitere Gesetzgebung in der nächsten Aussendung erläutert.|
c. Der Bundesschluss (Ex 24,1-18)
Die Vorbereitungen des Volkes, die Gotteserscheinung und die Willenskundgabe JHWHs gipfeln im Bundesschluss. Ex 24 ist der sprachliche Ausdruck der Erfahrung Israels, dass JHWH dieses Volk in ein besonderes Schutz- und Rechtsverhältnis aufgenommen hat. JHWH macht Israel zu seinem Volk, Israel wird das Volk JHWHs. Ex 24 ist kein geschichtlich festlegbares, einmaliges Ereignis, sondern ständig gegenwärtige Gewissheit. Diese Gewissheit wird in der Form eines Bundesschlusses mit seinen Riten zur Sprache gebracht und gefeiert.
In Ex 24 werden drei Quellschriften (Jahwist, Elohist, Priesterschrift) miteinander verwoben. Der Jahwist schildert den Bundesschluss als Bundesmahl. Mose und 70 Älteste halten es oben auf dem Berg in der Gegenwart JHWHs (VV. 1.9-11). Beim Elohisten ist der Bundesschluss ein Blutritus. Ein Teil des Blutes wird auf den Altar, ein Teil auf das Volk gesprengt (VV. 3-8). In der Priesterschrift erscheint die Herrlichkeit JHWHs auf dem Berg. Nur Mose darf sich auf JHWHs Wort hin in seine Nähe begeben. (VV. 15-18). Da der Bund, den JHWH mit Abraham geschlossen hat, ewig gilt (Gen 17,7), gibt es für die Priesterschrift keinen neuerlichen Bundesschluss am Sinai. Die Bedeutung der Gottesbegegnung am Sinai besteht für P darin, dass hier der von JHWH gewollte und legitimierte Kult beginnt.
|Israel gedenkt im Kult immer wieder dessen, dass es Volk JHWHs ist. In der Feier wird deutlich und gegenwärtig, dass Israel JHWHs Eigentum ist. Die christliche Eucharistiefeier gründet in der gleichen Tradition des Gedenkens und Vergegenwärtigens. Sie ist als Mahl- und Opferfeier eine Bundesfeier (Mk 14,22-25).|
Im Bundesschluss (Ex 24) bekommt Israel Rechtsnormen (Ex 20-23), die jede Gemeinschaft zu einem einigermaßen geordneten Zusammenleben braucht. Das JHWH-Volk unterstellt sich diesen Gesetzen, die ihm von JHWH als Bundesforderung vorgehalten werden. Der Bund ist nicht nur eine innerliche Angelegenheit, sondern hat Konsequenzen für das Leben der Menschen miteinander.
|Anregung:|| Was bedeutet mir die Eucharistiefeier?|
Welche Bedeutung hat sie für die christlichen Gemeinschaften?
"Bund" heißt, dass eine besondere Beziehung zwischen den Partnern besteht, die durch Vereinbarungen geregelt ist. Welchen Stellenwert gebe ich dieser Tatsache in meinem Leben?
d. Anweisungen für Heiligtum und Gottesdienst (Ex 25,1-31,17)
In Ex 25,1-31,17 werden Anweisungen für das Heiligtum und seine Ausstattung, für die Priester und den Kult gegeben. Dem entsprechen die Mitteilungen über die Ausführung dieser Anordnungen in 35,1-40,38. Ein erster Teil beschreibt das Heiligtum (25,8f). Es ist für das JHWH-Volk kein Modell im heutigen Sinn, sondern ein Abbild der Wirklichkeit, die für den Menschen nicht erfahrbar ist, aber im Himmel besteht, wie ja auch die Liturgie im Tempel ein Abbild der himmlischen Liturgie ist. Ausmaß und Ausstattung des Heiligtums sind für die Wüstensituation undenkbar. Historisch betrachtet diente der zur Zeit der Niederschrift der Texte bekannte Tempel Salomos als Vorlage zur Beschreibung des Wüstenheiligtums.
Die Bundeslade dürfte eine schlichte, kastenartige Truhe gewesen sein. Sie diente einerseits als Thron JHWHs (25,22; 1 Sam 4-6; 1 Kön 8), andererseits als Aufbewahrungsort für die Gesetzestafeln (25,16; 40,20; Dtn 10,1-5; 31,25f; 1 Kön 8,9). Auch andere altorientalische Völker bewahrten ihre Bundesurkunden zu Füßen der Gottheit auf. Über das Schicksal der Bundeslade wissen wir nur, dass sie im 1. Tempel Zeugnis für den Bund JHWHs mit Israel war. Nach der Zerstörung des Tempels (587 v. Chr.) und nach dem Bau des 2. Tempels (Tempelweihe 515 v. Chr.) wird die Bundeslade nicht mehr erwähnt; sie dürfte 587 vernichtet und später nicht mehr angefertigt worden sein. Neben der Bundeslade war das Heiligtum folgendermaßen ausgestattet:
§ Tisch mit den Schaubroten (25,23ff): Die Schaubrote wurden wöchentlich gebacken und durften nur von den Priestern gegessen werden (Lev 24,5-9).
§ Siebenarmiger Leuchter (25,31ff): Im 1. Tempel wird er nicht erwähnt (vgl. 1 Kön 7,49); der siebenarmige Leuchter stand wohl erst im 2. Tempel.
§ Wohnstätte JHWHs, das Heiligste und das Allerheiligste: getrennt durch den Vorhang (26,1-37).
§ Brandopferaltar (27,1-8) im Vorhof (27,9-19): Wer die "Hörner" dieses Altars erreichte, dem wurde Asyl gewährt, solange er im Bereich des Heiligtums blieb.
§ Rauchopferaltar (30,1-10): auf ihm wurde das Räucherwerk verbrannt.
§ Wasserbecken (30,17ff): für die rituellen Waschungen der Priester
Es folgen Anweisungen für die Zubereitung des Salböls zur Salbung des Heiligtums und seiner Einrichtung bzw. der Priester (30,22-33) und für die Herstellung des Räucherwerkes (30,34-38). Ex 25,1-9 und 30,11-16 sprechen von Abgaben, die die Israeliten leisten sollen.
Einen zweiten Teil der Vorschriften von Ex 25-31 bilden die Anweisungen für die Priesterbekleidung, besonders die Kleidung des Hohenpriesters (28,1-43 und 39,1-31) und für die Weihe der Priester (29,1-37; vgl. Lev 8,1-36). Die Weihe besteht aus: Waschung (29,4), Einkleidung (29,5.8f), Salbung des Hohenpriesters (29,7) und Darbringung von Opfern (25,10ff). Die Priester sind Israel ein Zeichen dafür, dass das ganze Volk heilig und JHWHs Eigentum ist. "Heilig sein" ist im biblischen Sprachgebrauch keine sittlich-moralische Eigenschaft, sondern heißt: ausgesondert sein, JHWH zugehören.
Als dritten Teil enthält dieser Abschnitt Vorschriften für den Kult (29,38-46), für die Beauftragung der Handwerker (31,1-11) und für den Sabbat (31,12-17). Der Sabbat bekam seine große Bedeutung als Bekenntnis- und Unterscheidungszeichen der Israeliten zu den "Völkern" (vgl. Jes 56,2. 6; 58,13; Ez 20,10-26) im Exil und danach. Der Sabbat hat den Zweck, den Menschen daran zu erinnern, dass er einerseits auf JHWH angewiesen ist und es andererseits sein Vorrecht ist, an der Ruhe JHWHs teilhaben zu dürfen (vgl. Gen 2,3). Gegen die spätere überspitzte (pharisäische) Praxis wenden sich das NT (vor allem Mk 2,27) und verschiedene rabbinische Autoren. Dies sollte uns Christen jedoch nicht den Blick dafür verstellen, dass der Sabbat als Zeit der Muße für den Menschen, für die Beziehungen untereinander und für die Beziehung zu Gott eine überaus große Bedeutung hat.
|Anregung:|| Israel hat mit viel Sorgfalt die menschlichen Vorbereitungen für die Feier und Pflege der Gottesbeziehung getroffen. Was kann ich davon lernen?|
In welchem Verhältnis stehen Gottesdienst und Dienst am Nächsten in meinem Leben?
3. Bundesbruch und Erneuerung des Bundes (Ex 31,18-40,38)
a. Der Bruch des Bundes: Das Goldene Kalb (Ex 31,18-32,35)
Mit Ex 31,18 wird die Erzählung von den Ereignissen am Sinai fortgesetzt, die in 25,1 durch verschiedene priesterschriftliche Anweisungen unterbrochen wurde. Aufgenommen in die Sinaierzählung wurde die Erzählung vom Goldenen Kalb wahrscheinlich aus einem aktuellen Anlass, dem Kampf der Propheten gegen die Stierbilder des Nordreiches (Hos 8,4-6; 1 Kön 12,26-33). Die Erzählung bringt zum Ausdruck, dass Israel schon am Sinai die Treue gebrochen, sich von seinem Retter abgewandt und einem Götzendienst zugewandt hat. Ex 32 ist der Beginn der traurigen Geschichte des JHWH-Volkes, die von Untreue, Ungehorsam und Götzendienst gekennzeichnet ist.
Die Sünde Israels ist nicht eine Sünde gegen das erste und Hauptgebot (JHWH allein!), sondern gegen das Gebot von Ex 20,4: "Du sollst dir kein Gottesbild machen". Die Israeliten hatten entgegen dem ausdrücklichen Verbot versucht, JHWH in der Form und den Vorstellungen der Umwelt zu verehren. Sie verstoßen damit gegen das Wesen JHWHs, der anders ist als die Schöpfung und als jedes Geschöpf. Das Stierbild als ein Symbol der altorientalischen Fruchtbarkeitsgötter konnte nicht Zeichen sein für JHWH. Zeichen JHWHs sind seine Heilstaten in der Geschichte. JHWH offenbart sich seinem Volk nicht in einem Kultbild, sondern im Offenbarungswort (19,1ff). Die Übernahme kultischer Formen aus der Umwelt bringt eine Übernahme religiöser Vorstellungen mit sich. Dies bildet eine Gefahr für die Eigenart des JHWH-Glaubens, der ein Glaube des Wortes und keine Religion des Bildes ist. Damit ist der Bund gefährdet, und zwar unmittelbar nach seinem Abschluss. Israel sucht JHWH am falschen Ort, dort, wo er nicht zu finden ist.
b. Die Gegenwart JHWHs bei seinem Volk (Ex 33,1-23)
|VV. 1-6||Symbolisierung der Gegenwart JHWHs durch einen Engel: Das Mitziehen JHWHs wäre für das störrische Volk zu gefährlich.|
|VV. 7-11||Zelt der Begegnung. Hier redet JHWH mit Mose "Auge in Auge, wie Menschen miteinander reden" (Ex 33,11). Mose ist wie kein anderer Mensch des ET in JHWHs Nähe berufen.|
|VV. 12-17||Überlegung zwischen Mose und JHWH über JHWHs Gegenwart|
|VV. 18-23||Bitte des Mose, JHWHs Herrlichkeit sehen zu dürfen. Die Erfüllung wird Mose zugesagt; das Geheimnis bleibt jedoch. d. h. der Mensch kann JHWH erkennen, aber nicht vollständig. Er kann JHWH begegnen, aber nicht sehen. Alles Wissen von JHWH, alle Theologie ist bei aller Erkenntnis ein Ahnen. Mose sieht nur den Rücken JHWHs. Erst nach der Gottesbegegnung wird sie als solche erkannt. Man kann sie nicht erwerben, sie wird geschenkt, gewährt.|
Nach dem Gebot, vom Gottesberg wegzuziehen (32,34a), entsteht die Frage, wie JHWH seinem Volk nahe sein wird. Als Zeichen der Gegenwart JHWHs dient der Engel und das Zelt der Begegnung.
c. Die Bundeserneuerung (Ex 34,1-35)
Diese Erzählung ist die ursprüngliche Bundesschlusserzählung des Jahwisten. Erst beim Entstehen einer großen zusammenhängenden Einheit wurde daraus eine Erzählung von der Bundeserneuerung.
JHWH handelt zuerst. Er fordert Mose auf, neue Tafeln anzufertigen und auf den Berg zu kommen. Dort offenbart sich JHWH als ein "barmherziger und gnädiger Gott, langmütig, reich an Huld und Treue" (V. 6). Nach der Erwähnung der Reaktion des Mose verkündet JHWH den Bundesschluss. Die Bestimmungen des Bundes betreffen vor allem kultische Belange. Darum werden die Vorschriften von Ex 34 auch der "Kultische Dekalog" genannt.
Die Verse 12-17 bilden das Gegenstück zum Bundesbruch (die Verehrung des Goldenen Kalbes). Gefordert wird: Keine Bundesgemeinschaft mit den Einwohnern Kanaans, d. h. keine Kultgemeinschaft, kein Übernehmen der Riten und keine Anerkennung von (= "Unzucht" mit) anderen Göttern. Ex 34,12-26 stellt die Grundlage für den Bund dar, den JHWH mit Mose und in ihm mit Israel schließt.
|Anregung:|| Welchen Götzen diene ich in meinem Leben?|
Wie sehr lasse ich mich von meiner Umwelt beeinflussen?
Welche Haltungen übernehme ich von meiner Umwelt, ohne viel darüber nachzudenken?
Wo ist Gott heute zu finden?
Als Mose vom Berg wieder zum Volk kommt, fällt den Israeliten auf, dass mit ihm etwas Besonderes geschehen sein muss: Sein Gesicht strahlt. Wer auf Gottes Wort hört und JHWH begegnet, ist davon betroffen, getroffen, geprägt und verändert (vgl. Gen 32,32). Die Veränderung des Mose durch die Gottesbegegnung drückt der biblische Schriftsteller mit "Strahlen, Leuchten des Gesichtes" aus.
|Ein Übersetzungsfehler hat zur Darstellung eines "gehörnten" Mose geführt. Man hat das hebräische Wort für "Strahl", "Licht" mit "Horn" übersetzt.|
Maxie Dunnam and Lloyd J. Ogilvie, vol. 2, The Preacher's Commentary Series, Volume 2 : Exodus, Formerly The Communicator's Commentary, The Preacher's Commentary series (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1987), 275.
2 Paul J. Bauermeister, “Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost,” Seminex Preaching Helps, 10, (January 1983): 53.
3 Phillips Brooks, “The Fire and the Calf,” Twenty Centuries of Great Preaching, Clyde E. Fant, Jr., and William M. Pinson, Jr., eds., 13 vols. (Waco, TX: Word Books, 1971), 6:170–71.
4 Harry Emerson Fosdick, The Meaning of Prayer (New York: Association Press, 1962), p. 173.
51 Roy L. Honeycutt, Jr., The Broadman Bible Commentary (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1969), 1:439.
1 John A. Redhead, Getting to Know God (Nashville: Abingdon, 1954), pp. 25–26.
2 William Barclay, The Letters to the Corinthians, The Daily Study Bible (Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press, 1954), pp. 214–15.
Maxie Dunnam and Lloyd J. Ogilvie, vol. 2, The Preacher's Commentary Series, Volume 2 : Exodus, Formerly The Communicator's Commentary, The Preacher's Commentary series (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1987), 322.