Exodus 24


Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders, are

commanded to go to the mount to meet the Lord, 1.

Moses alone to come near to the Divine presence, 2.

He informs the people, and they promise obedience, 3.

He writes the words of the Lord, erects an altar at the foot of

the hill, and sets up twelve pillars for the twelve tribes, 4.

The young priests offer burnt-offerings and peace-offerings, 5.

Moses reads the book of the covenant, sprinkles the people with

the blood, and they promise obedience, 6-8.

Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel, go up

to the mount, and get a striking display of the majesty of God, 9-11.

Moses alone is called up into the mount, in order to receive the

tables of stone, written by the hand of God, 12.

Moses and his servant Joshua go up, and Aaron and Hur are left

regents of the people during his absence, 13, 14.

The glory of the Lord rests on the mount, and the cloud covers it

for six days, and on the seventh God speaks to Moses out of the

cloud, 15, 16.

The terrible appearance of God's glory on the mount, 17.

Moses continues with God on the mount forty days, 18.


Verse 1. Come up unto the Lord] Moses and Aaron were already

on the mount, or at least some way up, (Ex 19:24,) where they had

heard the voice of the Lord distinctly speaking to them: and the

people also saw and heard, but in a less distinct manner, probably

like the hoarse grumbling sound of distant thunder; see Ex 20:18.

Calmet, who complains of the apparent want of order in the facts

laid down here, thinks the whole should be understood thus:-"After

God had laid before Moses and Aaron all the laws mentioned from

the beginning of the 20th chapter to the end of the 23d, before

they went down from the mount to lay them before the people, he

told them that, when they had proposed the conditions of the

covenant to the Israelites, and they had ratified them, they were

to come up again unto the mountain accompanied with Nadab and

Abihu the sons of Aaron, and seventy of the principal elders of

Israel. Moses accordingly went down, spoke to the people,

ratified the covenant, and then, according to the command of God

mentioned here, he and the others reascended the mountain. Tout

cela est racont� ici avec assez peu d'ordre."

Verse 2. Moses alone shall come near] The people stood at the

foot of the mountain. Aaron and his two sons and the seventy

elders went up, probably about half way, and Moses alone went to

the summit.

Verse 3. Moses-told the people all the words of the Lord] That

is, the ten commandments, and the various laws and ordinances

mentioned from the beginning of the 20th to the end of the 23d


Verse 4. Moses wrote all the words of the Lord] After the people

had promised obedience, (Ex 24:3,) and so entered into the bonds

of the covenant, "it was necessary," says Calmet, "to draw up an

act by which the memory of these transactions might be

preserved, and confirm the covenant by authentic and solemn

ceremonies." And this Moses does. 1. As legislator, he reduces

to writing all the articles and conditions of the agreement, with

the people's act of consent. 2. As their mediator and the deputy

of the Lord, he accepts on his part the resolution of the people;

and Jehovah on his part engages himself to Israel, to be their

God, their King, and Protector, and to fulfil to them all the

promises he had made to their fathers. 3. To make this the more

solemn and affecting, and to ratify the covenant, which could not

be done without sacrifice, shedding and sprinkling of blood, Moses

builds an altar, probably of turf, as was commanded, Ex 20:24,

and erects twelve pillars, no doubt of unhewn stone, and probably

set round about the altar. The altar itself represented the

throne of God; the twelve stones, the twelve tribes of Israel.

These were the two parties, who were to contract, or enter into

covenant, on this occasion.

Verse 5. He sent young men] Stout, able, reputable young men,

chosen out of the different tribes, for the purpose of killing,

flaying, and offering the oxen mentioned here.

Burnt-offerings] They generally consisted of sheep and goats,

Le 1:10. These were wholly consumed by fire.

Peace-offerings] Bullocks or goats; see Heb 9:19. The blood

of these was poured out before the Lord, and then the priests and

people might feast on the flesh.

Verse 7. The book of the covenant] The writing containing the

laws mentioned in the three preceding chapters. As this writing

contained the agreement made between God and them, it was called

the book of the covenant; but as no covenant was considered to be

ratified and binding till a sacrifice had been offered on the

occasion, hence the necessity of the sacrifices mentioned here.

Half of the blood being sprinkled on the ALTAR, and half of it

sprinkled on the PEOPLE, showed that both GOD and THEY were

mutually bound by this covenant. GOD was bound to the PEOPLE to

support, defend, and save them; the PEOPLE were bound to GOD to

fear, love, and serve him. On the ancient method of making

covenants, See Clarke on Ge 6:18; and "Ge 15:18".

Thus the blood of the new covenant was necessary to propitiate the

throne of justice on the one hand, and to reconcile men to God on

the other. On the nature and various kinds of the Jewish

offerings, See Clarke on Le 7:1, &c.

Verse 10. They saw the God of Israel] The seventy elders, who

were representatives of the whole congregation, were chosen to

witness the manifestation of God, that they might be satisfied of

the truth of the revelation which he had made of himself and of

his will; and on this occasion it was necessary that the people

also should be favoured with a sight of the glory of God; see

Ex 20:18. Thus the certainty of the revelation was established

by many witnesses, and by those especially of the most competent


A paved work of a sapphire stone] Or sapphire brick-work. I

suppose that something of the Musive or Mosaic pavement is here

intended; floors most curiously inlaid with variously coloured

stones or small square tiles, disposed in a great variety of

ornamental forms. Many of these remain in different countries to

the present day. The Romans were particularly fond of them, and

left monuments of their taste and ingenuity in pavements of this

kind, in most countries where they established their dominion.

Some very fine specimens are found in different parts of Britain.

Sapphire is a precious stone of a fine blue colour, next in

hardness to the diamond. The ruby is considered by most

mineralogists of the same genus; so is also the topaz: hence we

cannot say that the sapphire is only of a blue colour; it is blue,

red, or yellow, as it may be called sapphire, ruby, or topaz;

and some of them are blue or green, according to the light in

which they are held; and some white. A very large specimen of

such a one is now before me. The ancient oriental sapphire is

supposed to have been the same with the lapis lazuli. Supposing

that these different kinds of sapphires are here intended, how

glorious must a pavement be, constituted of polished stones of

this sort, perfectly transparent, with an effulgence of heavenly

splendour poured out upon them! The red, the blue, the green,

and the yellow, arranged by the wisdom of God, into the most

beautiful emblematic representations, and the whole body of heaven

in its clearness shining upon them, must have made a most glorious

appearance. As the Divine glory appeared above the mount, it is

reasonable to suppose that the Israelites saw the sapphire

pavement over their heads, as it might have occupied a space in

the atmosphere equal in extent to the base of the mountain; and

being transparent, the intense brightness shining upon it must

have greatly heightened the effect.

It is necessary farther to observe that all this must have been

only an appearance, unconnected with any personal similitude; for

this Moses expressly asserts, De 4:15. And though the

feet are here mentioned, this can only be understood of the

sapphirine basis or pavement, on which this celestial and

indescribable glory of the Lord appeared. There is a similar

description of the glory of the Lord in the Book of Revelation,

Re 4:3: "And he who sat [upon the throne] was to look upon like

a jasper and a sardine stone; and there was a rainbow round about

the throne, in sight like unto an emerald." In neither of these

appearances was there any similitude or likeness of any thing in

heaven, earth, or sea. Thus God took care to preserve them from

all incentives to idolatry, while he gave them the fullest proofs

of his being. In Scheuchzer's Physica Sacra, among his numerous

fine engravings, there is one of this glorious manifestation,

which cannot be too severely reprehended. The Supreme Being is

represented as an old man, sitting on a throne, encompassed with

glory, having a crown on his head, and a sceptre in his hand, the

people prostrate in adoration at the foot of the piece. A print

of this kind should be considered as utterly improper, if not


Verse 11. Upon the nobles of-Israel he laid not his hand] This

laying on of the hand has been variously explained. 1. He did not

conceal himself from the nobles of Israel by covering them with

his hand, as he did Moses, Ex 33:22. 2. He did not endue any of

the nobles, i.e., the seventy elders, with the gift of prophecy;

for so laying on of the hand has been understood. 3. He did not

slay any of them; none of them received any injury; which is

certainly one meaning of the phrase: see Ne 13:21; Ps 55:20.

Also they saw God, i.e., although they had this discovery of his

majesty, yet they did eat and drink, i.e., were preserved alive

and unhurt. Perhaps the eating and drinking here may refer to the

peace-offerings on which they feasted, and the libations that were

then offered on the ratification of the covenant. But they

rejoiced the more because they had been so highly favoured, and

were still permitted to live; for it was generally apprehended

that God never showed his glory in this signal manner but for the

purpose of manifesting his justice; and therefore it appeared a

strange thing that these should have seen God as it were face to

face, and yet live. See Ge 16:13; 33:10; and Jud 13:22, 23.

Verse 12. Come up to me into the mount, and be there] We may

suppose Moses to have been, with Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the

seventy elders, about midway up the mount; for it plainly appears

that there were several stations on it.

Verse 13. Moses rose up] In Ex 24:16 it is said that

the glory of the Lord abode on the mount, and the cloud covered

it. The glory was probably above the cloud, and it was to the

cloud that Moses and his servant Joshua ascended at this time,

leaving Aaron and the elders below. After they had been in this

region, viz., where the cloud encompassed the mountain, for six

days, God appears to have called Moses up higher: compare verses

Ex 24:16 and Ex 24:18. Moses then ascended to the

glory, leaving Joshua in the cloud, with whom he had, no doubt,

frequent conferences during the forty days he continued with God

on the mount.

Verse 14. Tarry ye here for us] Probably Moses did not know

that he was to continue so long on the mount, nor is it likely

that the elders tarried the whole forty days where they were: they

doubtless, after waiting some considerable time, returned to the

camp; and their return is supposed to have been the grand cause

why the Israelites made the golden calf, as they probably reported

that Moses was lost.

Aaron and Hur are with you] Not knowing how long he might be

detained on the mount, and knowing that many cases might occur

which would require the interference of the chief magistrate,

Moses constituted them regents of the people during the time he

should be absent.

Verse 16. And the seventh day he called] It is very likely that

Moses went up into the mount on the first day of the week; and

having with Joshua remained in the region of the cloud during six

days, on the seventh, which was the Sabbath, God spake to him,

and delivered successively to him, during forty days and forty

nights, the different statutes and ordinances which are afterwards


Verse 17. The glory of the Lord was like devouring fire] This

appearance was well calculated to inspire the people with the

deepest reverence and godly rear; and this is the use the apostle

makes or it, Heb 12:28,29, where he evidently refers to this

place, saying, Let us have grace whereby we may serve God

acceptably with reverence and godly fear; for our God is a

CONSUMING FIRE. Seeing the glory of the Lord upon the mount like

a devouring fire, Moses having tarried long, the Israelites

probably supposed that he had been devoured or consumed by it, and

therefore the more easily fell into idolatry. But how could they

do this, with this tremendous sight of God's glory before their


Verse 18. Forty days and forty nights.] During the whole of

this time he neither ate bread nor drank water; see

Ex 34:28; De 9:9. Both his body and soul were so sustained by

the invigorating presence of God, that he needed no earthly

support, and this may be the simple reason why he took none.

Elijah fasted forty days and forty nights, sustained by the same

influence, 1Ki 19:8; as did likewise our blessed Lord, when he

was about to commence the public ministry of his own Gospel,

Mt 4:2.

1. MOSES, who was the mediator of the Old Covenant, is alone

permitted to draw nigh to God; none of the people are suffered to

come up to the Divine glory, not even Aaron, nor his sons, nor the

nobles of Israel. Moses was a type of Christ, who is the mediator

of the New Covenant; and he alone has access to God in behalf of

the human race, as Moses had in behalf of Israel.

2. The law can inspire nothing but terror, when viewed

unconnected with its sacrifices, and those sacrifices are nothing

but as they refer to Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, who alone by

the sacrifice of himself, bears away the sin of the world.

3. The blood of the victims was sprinkled both on the altar and

on the people, to show that the death of Christ gave to Divine

justice what it demanded, and to men what they needed. The

people were sanctified by it unto God, and God was propitiated by

it unto the people. By this sacrifice the law was magnified and

made honourable, so Divine justice received its due; and those who

believe are justified from all guilt, and sanctified from all sin,

so they receive all that they need. Thus God is well pleased, and

believers eternally saved. This is a glorious economy, highly

worthy of God its author.

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