Exodus Chapters 33 through 40

Chapter 33

God tells Moses to pack up and leave Sinai and head into the land of Canaan. God would send an angel ahead to drive out all of the people already living there since he promised this land to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. However, he tells Moses that he will not go with them because the Israelites are a “stiff-necked” people. That is, I learned, stubborn. The people were really upset to hear such harsh language about themselves, so they didn’t get all dressed up with their ornaments.

Moses had set his tent up outside of the camp and God would visit him there in a whirlwind and they would talk face to face as friends. The people would bow to the whirlwind when it appeared. Anyway, Moses expresses disappointment that God will not go with them to the land of Canaan and tries to talk him into it. Lo and behold, God can once again be bargained with and he agrees to go with them. However, nobody could see God’s face and live. That’s it, that’s the bargain.

Chapter 34

I’m calling this the last chapter of any substance and it is quite interesting as we will soon find out. I’m calling this an egregious retconning of the commandments. God tells Moses to cut two stone tablets and God shall write upon them what was written on the first set. However (I use that word a lot in this book), as we will see, the commandments are nothing like the previous set. First though, God has to make his presence known, I guess.

6The LORD passed before him, and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, yet by no means clearing the guilty, but visiting the iniquity of the parents upon the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

Bibles, Harper . NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha (p. 197). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Is it wrong of me to laugh at that, “slow to anger” line? Who flooded the globe again?

Moses is told not to make a covenant with any of the inhabitants of Canaan and to destroy their altars and pillars and cut down their sacred poles. That’s because they are not to worship any other gods because God is Jealous.

Do not make cast idols. Keep the festival of unleavened bread. All firstborn males of livestock, animals, and people belong to God and shall be redeemed. No one shall appear before God without an offering. Remember the sabbath. Observe the festival of weeks. Three times per year, all males will appear before God. Apparently God really hates yeast because the blood of sacrifice will not touch leavening. The best of the first fruits of the harvest will be given to God. And most importantly, no boiling a baby goat in its mother’s milk.

So once Moses wrote this all down, he came down…wait a second…I though they left Sinai, but he was back up there again. Anyway, he came down and apparently his face was shining. So he put a veil over his face unless he was speaking with God.

Chapters 35 through 40

The last six chapters are simply carrying out the instructions given in Chapters 25 through 31. It’s the building of the altar, the tabernacle, the making of the priestly vestments, the assigning of the priests, and the building of the Ark Of The Covenant. I skimmed through it to see if there was anything of interest, nope, not to me there isn’t.

I’m sure in Jewish traditions this is all very interesting and has some historical context and stuff, but for the purposes of this reading, I’m not going to bother. I’m actually more interested in the narrative stories and some of the more well-known laws.

Exodus Chapter 20

It’s been a while since I’ve only covered one chapter in a post, but this one is a long one (that’s what she said…sorry).

Now we come to the Ten Commandments. As I read these, God only really explains clearly the commandments about himself. The first commandment verifies what I’ve said all along this project so far: There are other gods, and I am assuming that this is where the monotheistic tradition truly starts.

The second commandment is an odd one, and taken at face value states that there shall be nothing made that represents anything in nature.

4You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, 6but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Bibles, Harper . NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha (p. 168). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Of course, it also says that those things shall not be worshiped, so it could appear to be a warning not to put earthly possessions above God. Or something.

Third, the commandment about taking the name of the Lord in vain, or as worded in the NRSV…

7You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.

Bibles, Harper . NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha (pp. 168-169). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

From what I could gather, this seems to mean that you shouldn’t make oaths on the Lord’s name that you do not intend to keep. The sixth commandment is about not working at all on Sunday…or Saturday…or sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday. This prohibition includes children, slaves, livestock, and alien residents living in you town. All of this is because God made everything in six days and rested on the seventh.

That does it for the God-related commandments, but the next one deserves some attention for wording.

12Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.

Bibles, Harper . NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha (p. 169). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

In other words, be nice to your parents because they brought you into this world, and by God, they can take you out of it.

Then we get the rest, don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t bear false witness against your neighbor, don’t covet your neighbor’s house, wife, slaves, ox, donkey, or anything that your neighbor owns.

According to the Torah and Talmud, the sixth commandment refers to murder specifically. This comes from real Rabbis on Twitter.

Whenever people try to say that the Constitution or other modern laws are based on the Ten Commandments, they usually refer to the sixth, eighth, and ninth. The first commandment violates the first amendment. The tenth commandment is actually the whole basis of capitalism.

The people witnessed the smoke and the thunder and the trumpet and they were afraid and wanted only Moses to talk to them because they feared that if God spoke they would die. Moses tells the people that God is only testing them and putting the fear of him in them so that they will not sin.

So, that’s it. That’s the ten commandme–oh, there’s more. Apparently, there is a commandment about how to build an altar to God. Of course, you shall not make gods of silver or gold. Also, altars should be made of earth. However, if you make an altar of stone, it shouldn’t be from chiseled stone because that would profane it.

OK, so that’s it, right? Well, for this chapter, yes. However, the next chapter contains more laws about slaves, violence, and property. Join me won’t you?