New English Translation
The Lord Ratifies the Covenant
24 [a] But to Moses the Lord[b] said, “Come up[c] to the Lord, you and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and worship from a distance.[d] 2 Moses alone may come near[e] the Lord, but the others[f] must not come near,[g] nor may the people go up with him.”
3 Moses came[h] and told the people all the Lord’s words[i] and all the decisions. All the people answered together,[j] “We are willing to do[k] all the words that the Lord has said,” 4 and Moses wrote down all the words of the Lord. Early in the morning he built[l] an altar at the foot[m] of the mountain and arranged[n] twelve standing stones[o]—according to the twelve tribes of Israel. 5 He sent young Israelite men,[p] and they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls for peace offerings[q] to the Lord. 6 Moses took half of the blood and put it in bowls, and half of the blood he splashed on the altar.[r] 7 He took the Book of the Covenant[s] and read it aloud[t] to the people, and they said, “We are willing to do and obey[u] all that the Lord has spoken.” 8 So Moses took the blood and splashed it on[v] the people and said, “This is the blood of the covenant[w] that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.”
9 Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up,[x] 10 and they saw[y] the God of Israel. Under his feet[z] there was something like a pavement[aa] made of sapphire, clear like the sky itself.[ab] 11 But he did not lay a hand[ac] on the leaders of the Israelites, so they saw God,[ad] and they ate and they drank.[ae]
12 [af] The Lord said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain and remain there, and I will give you the stone tablets[ag] with[ah] the law and the commandments that I have written, so that you may teach them.”[ai] 13 So Moses set out[aj] with[ak] Joshua his attendant, and Moses went up the mountain of God. 14 He told the elders, “Wait for us in this place until we return to you. Here are[al] Aaron and Hur with you. Whoever has any matters of dispute[am] can approach[an] them.”
15 Moses went up the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. 16 The glory of the Lord resided[ao] on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days.[ap] On the seventh day he called to Moses from within the cloud. 17 Now the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in plain view[aq] of the people. 18 Moses went into the cloud when he went up[ar] the mountain, and Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights.[as]
- Exodus 24:1 sn Exod 24 is the high point of the book in many ways, but most importantly, here Yahweh makes a covenant with the people—the Sinaitic Covenant. The unit not only serves to record the event in Israel’s becoming a nation, but it provides a paradigm of the worship of God’s covenant people—entering into the presence of the glory of Yahweh. See additionally W. A. Maier, “The Analysis of Exodus 24 According to Modern Literary, Form, and Redaction Critical Methodology,” Springfielder 37 (1973): 35-52. The passage may be divided into four parts for exposition: vv. 1-2, the call for worship; vv. 3-8, the consecration of the worshipers; vv. 9-11, the confirmation of the covenant; and vv. 12-18, the communication with Yahweh.
- Exodus 24:1 tn Heb “And he;” the referent (the Lord) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
- Exodus 24:1 sn They were to come up to the Lord after they had made the preparations that are found in vv. 3-8.
- Exodus 24:1 sn These seventy-four people were to go up the mountain to a certain point. Then they were to prostrate themselves and worship Yahweh as Moses went farther up into the presence of Yahweh. Moses occupies the lofty position of mediator (as Christ in the NT), for he alone ascends “to Yahweh” while everyone waits for his return. The emphasis of “bowing down” and that from “far off” stresses again the ominous presence that was on the mountain. This was the holy God—only the designated mediator could draw near to him.
- Exodus 24:2 tn The verb is a perfect tense with a vav (ו) consecutive; it and the preceding perfect tense follow the imperative, and so have either a force of instruction, or, as taken here, are the equivalent of an imperfect tense (of permission).
- Exodus 24:2 tn Heb “they.”
- Exodus 24:2 tn Now the imperfect tense negated is used; here the prohibition would fit (“they will not come near”), or the obligatory (“they must not”) in which the subjects are obliged to act—or not act in this case.
- Exodus 24:3 sn The general consensus among commentators is that this refers to Moses’ coming from the mountain after he made the ascent in 20:21. Here he came and told them the laws (written in 20:22-23:33), and of the call to come up to Yahweh.
- Exodus 24:3 sn The Decalogue may not be included here because the people had heard those commands themselves earlier.
- Exodus 24:3 tn The text simply has “one voice” (קוֹל אֶחָד, qol ʾekhad); this is an adverbial accusative of manner, telling how the people answered—“in one voice,” or unanimously (see GKC 375 §118.q).
- Exodus 24:3 tn The verb is the imperfect tense (נַעֲשֶׂה, naʿaseh), although the form could be classified as a cohortative. If the latter, they would be saying that they are resolved to do what God said. If it is an imperfect, then the desiderative would make the most sense: “we are willing to do.” They are not presumptuously saying they are going to do all these things.
- Exodus 24:4 tn The two preterites quite likely form a verbal hendiadys (the verb “to get up early” is frequently in such constructions). Literally it says, “and he got up early [in the morning] and he built”; this means “early [in the morning] he built.” The first verb becomes the adverb.
- Exodus 24:4 tn “under.”
- Exodus 24:4 tn The verb “arranged” is not in the Hebrew text but has been supplied to clarify exactly what Moses did with the twelve stones.
- Exodus 24:4 tn The thing numbered is found in the singular when the number is plural—“twelve standing-stone.” See GKC 433 §134.f. The “standing-stone” could be a small piece about a foot high, or a huge column higher than men. They served to commemorate treaties (Gen 32), or visions (Gen 28) or boundaries, or graves. Here it will function with the altar as a place of worship.
- Exodus 24:5 tn The construct has “young men of the Israelites,” and so “Israelite” is a genitive that describes them.
- Exodus 24:5 tn The verbs and their respective accusatives are cognates. First, they offered up burnt offerings (see Lev 1), which is וַיַּעֲלוּ עֹלֹת (vayyaʿalu ʿolot); then they sacrificed young bulls as peace sacrifices (Lev 3), which is in Hebrew וַיִּזְבְּחוּ זְבָחִים (vayyizbekhu zevakhim). In the first case the cognate accusative is the direct object; in the second it is an adverbial accusative of product. See on this covenant ritual H. M. Kamsler, “The Blood Covenant in the Bible,” Dor le Dor 6 (1977): 94-98; E. W. Nicholson, “The Covenant Ritual in Exodus 24:3-8, ” VT 32 (1982): 74-86.
- Exodus 24:6 sn The people and Yahweh through this will be united by blood, for half was spattered on the altar and the other half spattered on/toward the people (v. 8).
- Exodus 24:7 tn The noun “book” would be the scroll just written containing the laws of chaps. 20-23. On the basis of this scroll the covenant would be concluded here. The reading of this book would assure the people that it was the same that they had agreed to earlier. But now their statement of willingness to obey would be more binding, because their promise would be confirmed by a covenant of blood.
- Exodus 24:7 tn Heb “read it in the ears of.”
- Exodus 24:7 tn A second verb is now added to the people’s response, and it is clearly an imperfect and not a cohortative, lending support for the choice of desiderative imperfect in these commitments—“we want to obey.” This was their compliance with the covenant.
- Exodus 24:8 tn Given the size of the congregation, the preposition might be rendered here “toward the people” rather than on them (all).
- Exodus 24:8 sn The construct relationship “the blood of the covenant” means “the blood by which the covenant is ratified” (S. R. Driver, Exodus, 254). The parallel with the inauguration of the new covenant in the blood of Christ is striking (see, e.g., Matt 26:28, 1 Cor 11:25). When Jesus was inaugurating the new covenant, he was bringing to an end the old.
- Exodus 24:9 tn The verse begins with “and Moses went up, and Aaron….” This verse may supply the sequel to vv. 1-2. At any rate, God was now accepting them into his presence.sn This next section is extremely interesting, but difficult to interpret. For some of the literature, see: E. W. Nicholson, “The Interpretation of Exodus 24:9-11, ” VT 24 (1974): 77-97; “The Antiquity of the Tradition in Exodus 24:9-11, ” VT 26 (1976): 148-60; and T. C. Vriezen, “The Exegesis of Exodus 24:9-11, ” OTS 17 (1967): 24-53.
- Exodus 24:10 sn S. R. Driver (Exodus, 254) wishes to safeguard the traditional idea that God could not be seen by reading “they saw the place where the God of Israel stood” so as not to say they saw God. But according to U. Cassuto there is not a great deal of difference between “and they saw the God” and “the Lord God appeared” (Exodus, 314). He thinks that the word “God” is used instead of “Yahweh” to say that a divine phenomenon was seen. It is in the LXX that they add “the place where he stood.” In v. 11b the LXX has “and they appeared in the place of God.” See James Barr, “Theophany and Anthropomorphism in the Old Testament,” VTSup 7 (1959): 31-33. There is no detailed description here of what they saw (cf. Isa 6; Ezek 1). What is described amounts to what a person could see when prostrate.
- Exodus 24:10 sn S. R. Driver suggests that they saw the divine Glory, not directly, but as they looked up from below, through what appeared to be a transparent blue sapphire pavement (Exodus, 254).
- Exodus 24:10 tn Or “tiles.”
- Exodus 24:10 tn Heb “and like the body of heaven for clearness.” The Hebrew term שָׁמַיִם (shamayim) may be translated “heaven” or “sky” depending on the context; here, where sapphire is mentioned (a blue stone) “sky” seems more appropriate, since the transparent blueness of the sapphire would appear like the blueness of the cloudless sky.
- Exodus 24:11 tn Heb “he did not stretch out his hand,” i.e., to destroy them.
- Exodus 24:11 tn The verb is חָזָה (khazah); it can mean “to see, perceive” or “see a vision” as the prophets did. The LXX safeguarded this by saying, “appeared in the place of God.” B. Jacob says they beheld—prophetically, religiously (Exodus, 746)—but the meaning of that is unclear. The fact that God did not lay a hand on them—to kill them—shows that they saw something that they never expected to see and live. Some Christian interpreters have taken this to refer to a glorious appearance of the preincarnate Christ, the second person of the Trinity. They saw the brilliance of this manifestation—but not the detail. Later, Moses will still ask to see God’s glory—the real presence behind the phenomena.
- Exodus 24:11 sn This is the covenant meal, the peace offering, that they are eating there on the mountain. To eat from the sacrifice meant that they were at peace with God, in covenant with him. Likewise, in the new covenant believers draw near to God on the basis of sacrifice, and eat of the sacrifice because they are at peace with him, and in Christ they see the Godhead revealed.
- Exodus 24:12 sn Now the last part is recorded in which Moses ascends to Yahweh to receive the tablets of stone. As Moses disappears into the clouds, the people are given a vision of the glory of Yahweh.
- Exodus 24:12 sn These are the stone tablets on which the Ten Commandments would be written. This is the first time they are mentioned. The commandments were apparently proclaimed by God first and then proclaimed to the people by Moses. Now that they have been formally agreed on and ratified, they will be written by God on stone for a perpetual covenant.
- Exodus 24:12 tn Or “namely”; or “that is to say.” The vav (ו) on the noun does not mean that this is in addition to the tablets of stone; the vav is explanatory. Gesenius has “to wit”; see GKC 484-85 §154.a, n. 1(b).
- Exodus 24:12 tn The last word of the verse is לְהוֹרֹתָם (lehorotam), the Hiphil infinitive construct of יָרָה (yarah). It serves as a purpose clause, “to teach them,” meaning “I am giving you this Law and these commands in order that you may teach them.” This duty to teach the Law will be passed especially to parents (Deut 6:6-9, 20-25) and to the tribe of Levi as a whole (Deut 33:9-10; Mal 2:1-9).
- Exodus 24:13 tn Heb “and he arose” meaning “started to go.”
- Exodus 24:13 tn Heb “and.”
- Exodus 24:14 tn The word הִנֵּה (hinneh) calls attention to the presence of Aaron and Hur to answer the difficult cases that might come up.
- Exodus 24:14 tn Or “issues to resolve.” The term is simply דְּבָרִים (devarim, “words, things, matters”).
- Exodus 24:14 tn The imperfect tense here has the nuance of potential imperfect. In the absence of Moses and Joshua, Aaron and Hur will be available.sn Attention to the preparation for Moses’ departure contributes to the weight of the guilt of the faithless Israelites (chap. 32) and of Aaron, to whom Moses had delegated an important duty.
- Exodus 24:16 sn The verb is וַיִּשְׁכֹּן (vayyishkon, “and dwelt, abode”). From this is derived the epithet “the Shekinah Glory,” the dwelling or abiding glory. The “glory of Yahweh” was a display visible at a distance, clearly in view of the Israelites. To them it was like a consuming fire in the midst of the cloud that covered the mountain. That fire indicated that Yahweh wished to accept their sacrifice, as if it were a pleasant aroma to him, as Leviticus would say. This “appearance” indicated that the phenomena represented a shimmer of the likeness of his glory (B. Jacob, Exodus, 749). The verb, according to U. Cassuto (Exodus, 316), also gives an inkling of the next section of the book, the building of the “tabernacle,” the dwelling place, the מִשְׁכָּן (mishkan). The vision of the glory of Yahweh confirmed the authority of the revelation of the Law given to Israel. This chapter is the climax of God’s bringing people into covenant with himself, the completion of his revelation to them, a completion that is authenticated with the miraculous. It ends with the mediator going up in the clouds to be with God, and the people down below eagerly awaiting his return. The message of the whole chapter could be worded this way: Those whom God sanctifies by the blood of the covenant and instructs by the book of the covenant may enjoy fellowship with him and anticipate a far more glorious fellowship. So too in the NT the commandments and teachings of Jesus are confirmed by his miraculous deeds and by his glorious manifestation on the Mount of the Transfiguration, where a few who represented the disciples would see his glory and be able to teach others. The people of the new covenant have been brought into fellowship with God through the blood of the covenant; they wait eagerly for his return from heaven in the clouds.
- Exodus 24:16 tn This is an adverbial accusative of time.
- Exodus 24:17 tn Heb “to the eyes of” which could mean in their opinion.
- Exodus 24:18 tn The verb is a preterite with vav (ו) consecutive; here, the second clause, is subordinated to the first preterite, because it seems that the entering into the cloud is the dominant point in this section of the chapter.
- Exodus 24:18 sn B. Jacob (Exodus, 750) offers this description of some of the mystery involved in Moses’ ascending into the cloud: Moses ascended into the presence of God, but remained on earth. He did not rise to heaven—the ground remained firmly under his feet. But he clearly was brought into God’s presence; he was like a heavenly servant before God’s throne, like the angels, and he consumed neither bread nor water. The purpose of his being there was to become familiar with all God’s demands and purposes. He would receive the tablets of stone and all the instructions for the tabernacle that was to be built (beginning in chap. 25). He would not descend until the sin of the golden calf.