Exodus 19-24 Moses Mediates God’s Covenant


1. Summary

  • Moses mediated the covenant between God and Israel
  • The covenant was codified in the Ten Commandments and in the Book of the Covenant
  • Blessing followed Israel’s acceptance of the covenant.

2. Structure

a The Covenant initiated (Ex.19:1-25)

b The Covenant codified (Ex.20:1-23:33)

a’ The Covenant confirmed (Ex.24:1-18)


I. The Covenant Initiated (19:1-25)

A. General Analysis

  • The Initiative of Divine Grace (Ex.19:1-7)
  • The Requirement of Human Responsibility (Ex.19:8-25)


B. Detailed Analysis

1. Geography

Three months after leaving Egypt, Israel arrived at Mount Sinai, a location where they spent almost two years. The rest of the book of Exodus, all of Leviticus, and the first part of Numbers (through 10:11) take place at Sinai.

2. Genre

Up to this point, the Law was distinguished primarily by narrative. From here on, it is characterized by legislation. The people are now ready formally to be organized as the theocratic nation, and hence must receive the legislation necessary for such organization. This legislation consists of three parts:

  1. that given at Mt. Sinai (Exodus, Leviticus),
  2. that given in the wilderness wanderings (Numbers), and
  3. that delivered in the plains of Moab (Deuteronomy).

The remainder of Exodus (19-40) concerns that legislation given by God to Israel at Mt. Sinai.

The Decalogue, then, binds law to historical experience. Israel’s law was not the result of centuries of juridical evolution. The Mosaic code grew out of episodes in which God revealed himself and his will. Israel did not discover God’s will through meditation or reason. God’s will had to be revealed.[footnote]J. E. Smith, The Pentateuch (2nd ed.) (Joplin, Mo.: College Press Pub, 1993), Electronic Edition.[/footnote]

3. Divine Grace

Just as God had used a covenant framework to establish a relationship with the individual patriarchs, so he established a covenant relationship with the nation of Israel, mediated through Moses. To do this, God used the covenant form familiar to the children of Israel at that time.

Since his intent was to be instructive rather than creative, he used a vehicle with which the people would already have been familiar. In other words, as a good teacher, Moses was aware of the pedagogical principle that students learn best when they can proceed from the known to the unknown. To clothe the profound theological truths of the Yahweh/Israel covenant relationship in the familiar garb of the form of international treaties was of inestimable value in communicating all that the covenant implied.[footnote]E Merrill, Kingdom of Priests (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1992), 82.[/footnote]

The form of the international treaties of the day, then, was used by God as His template. This is summarized below and will be looked at more closely in the next section.

  • Divine Initiation (Ex. 19:3b-6)
  • Address (Ex. 19:3)
  • Benevolence (Ex. 19:4)
  • Stipulations (Ex. 19:5-6)
  • Reward (Ex. 19:6a)
  • Address (Ex. 19:6b)

It is very important to notice that stipulations and promise of reward are not the initiation and do not exist in a vacuum. God’s grace (initiation and benevolence) precedes the giving of law (grace before good works).
Moses is first told of God’s purpose to make of Israel a peculiar nation (Ex. 19:4-9), and he is then commanded to prepare the people for the revelation (Ex. 19:10-15).

The promise precedes the demand; for the grace of God always anticipates the wants of man, and does not demand before it has given.[footnote]Keil.[/footnote]

While it is easy to think of the law as an isolated entity, it is crucial to recognize that the law was given within the context of the covenant. M. Kline has well observed that Exodus 19-24 is in the form of a covenant treaty document. The historical prologue (Ex. 20:2) identifies the author of the law as the one who has already saved them by his grace. Thus the law as found in Exodus 20-24 is not the basis of the divine-human relationship even during the Old Testament period but rather the guide for its maintenance. It is not the key to the establishment of a relationship with God, but rather to its continuance and well-being. In fact, the giving of the law is historically and canonically surrounded by God’s gracious acts as it looks back to the Exodus (which took place on the basis of the Abrahamic covenant), and it looks forward to the conquest and settlement of the Promised Land.[footnote]R Dillard and T Longman, An Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1993), 67.[/footnote]

Moses’ Message: The covenant mediated by me is based on God’s grace and is in your interests.

4. Patriarchal Continuity

Ex. 19:5 begins with “If you will obey my voice and keep my covenant”. Some think this is a prospective reference to the covenant of Exodus 20. However, Old Testament references to keeping a divine covenant are consistently referring to a covenant already in existence (Gen. 17:9 10; 1 Kings 11:11; Ps. 78:10; 103:18; 132:12; Ezek. 17:14).

It is possible that Exodus 19:5 points back to Ex. 6:5 and Ex. 3:13-15 and that continuity with the patriarchal covenant is involved, especially in light of the patriarchal style of address with which Yahweh begins in Ex. 19:3. Involved in the Sinai arrangement that follows is continuity within the Abrahamic covenant, but, for Israel, a specialized responsibility within the covenant.[footnote]W J Dumbrell, The Faith of Israel (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), 37.[/footnote]

Moses’ Message: The covenant mediated by me is in continuity with, and is a development of, the covenant God made with the patriarchs.

5. The Reward (Ex. 19:5-6)

a. A Peculiar Treasure

The key term is the noun translated “own possession” (or “special possession”), meaning something of special personal worth. In Exodus 19:5, this choice of Israel expressed as Yahweh’s “own possession” is a choice made from among “all peoples”. Israel is separated from all other families, to be presented as the ideal political unit and, like Abraham, to serve her world by her separateness.

b. A Holy Nation

This term emphasizes Israel’s relationship to God and the importance of holiness in that relationship. However it also has reference to the watching world. There are remarkable overtones of the Abrahamic covenant in Israel’s calling to serve her world by her separateness.

c. A Kingdom of Priests

Israel was to be separate from the world, just as a priest was set apart in ancient society. However, Israel was set apart from the world in order to minister to the world; to mediate or intercede as priests between the Lord and a sinful world. Israel was not only to declare God’s salvation but she was to be the human channel in which and through which that salvation would be accomplished.

If we take the possessive phrase “of priests” as adjectival, we arrive at the pair “priestly royalty” and “holy nation.” These phrases emphasize function and signify not Israel’s later priesthood, but the typical priestly role in an ancient society. These two parallel phrases elaborate the notion of Israel as God’s ‘own possession’. Israel’s relationship to the world is likened to that of a priest in an ancient society, who was called to serve the society by differentiating himself from it. Is Israel’s priestly role here conceived to be as a mediator? To the degree that Israel is designated a servant people in the latter part of the OT the answer is yes. But Israel’s primary role in this connection consisted in attracting the world to her form of government (i.e., the kingdom of God) by her embodied holiness.[footnote]Ibid., 37-38.[/footnote]


6. Human Response

The Divine benevolence (Ex.19:4) provokes a response of unanimous agreement to God’s requirements (Ex.19:8).
Moses’ Message: The covenant agreed under me came from God’s kindness and was unanimously accepted by the people.

7. God’s Presence

Just as God made His presence known to Israel at the time of the Exodus and at the crossing of the Red Sea, so He continued to make His powerful presence known to them at Sinai. The episode that precedes the giving of the law emphasizes God’s holiness and the people’s sin (Ex.19). God revealed himself in cloud, fire, and smoke. The mountain became a sacred place because of his presence. The people were required to ceremo-nially prepare themselves for an encounter with God, and only Moses and Aaron were permitted to approach the mountain.

In the history of the world nothing has happened, with the exception of the incarnation and the cross, which is so significant, so solemn, so profound, as the giving of the law by God himself at Sinai. The ethos in which the law was given is striking. There was the warning of instant death to any person or animal that touched the mountain or its base. This was accom¬panied by thunderings and lightnings, and a thick cloud on the mountain; and the sound of the trumpet was very loud, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled (19:16). It was essential for humanity to learn the nature of God’s holiness and the character of human sinfulness. The Lord uses various means to instill a right appreciation of the moral gulf that exists between the Creator and his human creatures.[footnote]D Dorsey, The Literary Structure of the Old Testament, (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1999), 72.[/footnote]

In this context, one of the most important verses in the whole section is:

And the LORD said unto Moses, Lo, I come unto thee in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with thee, and believe thee for ever. And Moses told the words of the people unto the LORD (Ex.19:9).

Moses’ Message: God authorized me to enter His presence and mediate between Himself and a sinful people.

C. New Testament Analysis

1. One Mediator

For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (1Tim.2:5).


II. The Covenant Codified (20:1-23:33)

A. General Analysis

  • The Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:1-17)
  • The Book of the Covenant (Ex. 20:18-23:33)
  • The Covenant Confirmed (Ex. 24:1-18)

B. Detailed Analysis

1. The Holiness of God

The unit is bracketed by two narratives about Yahweh’s awesome presence on Mount Sinai (Ex.19:3-25; 24:4-11). The narrative serves to establish that the God with whom Israel is dealing is an awe-inspiring being whose terrifying presence demands complete respect. He is all-powerful, He is dangerous and He is not to be trifled with. The narrative lends a sense of gravity to the opening group of stipulations.

2. Historical Prologue

As in chapter 19, in the historical prologue of Ex. 20:2 the author of the law is identified as the one who has already saved them by his grace. Thus the law as found in Exodus 20-24 is not the basis of the divine-human relationship even during the Old Testament period but rather the guide for its maintenance.

3. Types of Covenant

a. Equal parties treaty (Gen.21:22-34): assume parity between the parties. The terms are mutually agreed after negotiation.

b. Suzerain-Vassal Treaty: these treaties have a superior party and a subordinate party. The terms are dictated by the superior and accepted by the inferior (Gen.15 and Gen.17). Like the Abrahamic treaty, the Mosaic covenant is a Suzerain-Vassal treaty.

The covenant established with Moses (Ex.19:5) is a continuation of the one established first with Noah and then later with Abraham. In the covenant with Moses, the Lord keeps his promise made 400 years earlier (Gen. 15:13). Through Moses God provides additional instructions to show the Israelites how they are to conduct themselves as the people of God – as God’s special treasure … above all people … a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Ex.19:5-6). Here the Lord sets out the principles and rules by which he will govern his people. Israel is to be governed, not by a democracy, the rule of the majority; nor by an aristocracy, the rule of the few; but by a theocracy, the rule of God. Consequently the Old Covenant law is an intermingling of moral, civil and ceremonial laws.[footnote]G Crossley, The Old Testament Explained and Applied (England; Evangelical Press, 2002), 88.[/footnote]

4. Ten Commandments as a Suzerain-Vassal Treaty

The typical structure of Suzerain-Vassal Treaties can be identified in the ten commandments:

a. Preamble: “I am the LORD thy God”

b. Historical Prologue: “who brought thee out of the land of Egypt…”

c. Stipulations: “thou shalt have no other gods before me…”

d. Blessings/Cursings: “visiting the iniquity of the fathers…showing mercy…(Ex.20:5-6). Obedience to each law results in a blessing for Israel and glory to God.

e. Safekeeping of document (later in Pentateuch – Deut.27:8)

f. Witnesses (later in Pentateuch – Deut.30:19)

In this context, the law is presented as a token of benevolence which follows the establishment of a Suzerain/vassal, Father/son relationship.

Later passages look back at the Sinai Covenant as the marriage between God and Israel, and the breaking of that covenant resulted ultimately in the “divorce” of Exile (cf. Jer.3:8 ).

The mention of the altar immediately after the proclaiming of the Decalogue is significant in that it indicates the certain need of expiation, which anticipates the certain failure to keep the law.


5. Conditional or Unconditional?

Sometimes a contrast is drawn between the alleged conditionality of the Mosaic Covenant as opposed to the unconditional nature of the Abrahamic covenant. Hopefully we have already shown that the whole Mosaic covenant is based on God’s grace. However, in addition we can note:

a. The deliverance under Moses was because of the Abrahamic covenant (Ex. 2:24; 3:6; 6:8), showing that the Mosaic covenant rests on the Abrahamic.

b. God’s first word to Abram was a command (Gen. 12:1). Also, circumcision was made an indispensable condition to covenant blessing (Gen. 17).

The claim that the Abrahamic covenant was “unconditional” has dangerous implications; for it suggests an antithesis between faith and obedience which is not warranted in Scripture. Paul joins the two together, when he speaks of the “obedience of faith” (Rom. 1:5).[footnote]O T Allis, God Spake by Moses (Philipsburg: Presbyterian & Reformed, 1951), 72.[/footnote]

c. From the beginning of Genesis, God’s requirement has always been perfect obedience.

d. The law which so stresses this requirement also contains and unfolds that system of expiation by sacrifice by means of which the penitent sinner may find forgiveness and acceptance with his God.

Love and fear are master motives. Fear of punishment alone keeps those who hate God from breaking His Law. Love constrains those who love Him to obey Him; and their sins will be sins of ignorance and of frailty, for which atonement is possible and is provided. The basic demand of the entire Decalogue is obedience. Neither love nor fear is directly commanded, both are appealed to as motives for obedience.[footnote]O T Allis, God Spake by Moses (Philipsburg: Presbyterian & Reformed, 1951), 76.[/footnote]

6. Two tablets

In the Ancient Near East it was common to make two duplicate tablets, one for the Suzerain and one for Vassal. In this instance both copies were placed in the ark, where God the Suzerain met with Israel His vassal.

7. Two Genres of Law

The Ten Commandments are apodictic statements, which are given in the form of “You shall/You shall not.” This type of law is rare in other ancient law codes but has parallels with the stipulations that appear in treaties. A more common legal form is casuistic or case law, which is given in an “if-then” arrangement. “If you commit this crime, then you will suffer the following penalty.” The material in Exodus 21:1–22:17 is largely presented in casuistic form and deals with such areas as the treatment of servants and penalties for assault and battery or for stealing or damaging personal property.[footnote]H Wolf, An Introduction to the Old Testament Pentateuch (Chicago: Moody Press, 1991), Electronic Edition.[/footnote]

8. The Book of the Covenant (Ex.20:22-23:33)

Though taken from Exodus 24:7, this title refers in its strictest sense to Ex. 20:22–23:33, a section containing expansions and extensions of the Ten Commandments. Almost all of the commandments are referred to in one way or another, though sometimes briefly.

The Ten Commandments are given first (Ex. 20:3-17) and have the form of direct address to the hearer-reader. They cover the basics of the divine-human relationship (the first four) as well as human-human relationships (the last six). The various laws that compose the Book of the Covenant flow from the more basic principles enunciated in the Ten Commandments. They specify the Ten Commandments to the cultural and redemptive-historical moment of the people of God at the time of the Exodus. For instance, the law of the goring ox (Ex. 21:28-36) is a specification of the sixth commandment to an agrarian society and Exodus 23:10-13 spells out more fully the fourth commandment concerning the Sabbath.[footnote]R Dillard and T Longman, An Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1993), 67.[/footnote]

The text distinguishes the two codes; Exodus 20 is denominated “words” and delivered to all Israel, and chapters 21-23 are styled “ordinances” and delivered derivatively through Moses. The Ten Commandments spell out the boundaries of the relationship established by grace and are heard by all Israel….In these terms the Ten Commandments offer a mirror image of how Israel’s national life in the land should look, reflecting the relationship of grace. The Ten Words objectified on Sinai seem merely to have codified the divine will for humankind. Most of their content is contained directly or by implication in the preceding material of Genesis and Exodus. From time to time attempts have been made to identify the form and content of the Ten Words in parallel codes from the ancient Near East (or in curse materials, state treaties, etc.), but no analogy for such a collection can be provided.[footnote]W J Dumbrell, The Faith of Israel (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), 38.[/footnote]

The section is structured in such a way that the worship of God and obedience to God, encounter with God and following God are joined together

a Worship of God (Ex. 20:22-26)

b Various moral, ethical and justice requirements (Ex. 21:1-23:9)

a’ Worship seasons and rituals (Ex. 23:10-19)

This is concluded with a section full of assurance of blessings (Ex. 23:20-33).

9. Threefold division of law

It has been traditional to divide the law into three distinct categories.

a. Moral law: Special status of ten commandments (finger of God Ex.31:18, put in ark Dt.10:5)

b. Judicial law: Focus on legal matters (Ex.20:22-23:19)

c. Ceremonial law: Focus on tabernacle (Ex.25-40)

Although these are different categories, we cannot understand one without the other two. Each category sheds light on and influences the other two. For example, the specific ceremonial and judicial laws are based upon principles revealed in the moral law.

10. Kindness to the poor

The structure of the Book of the Covenant emphasizes the mandate to be kind to the poor and disadvantaged.

The first section of civil laws opens and closes with this theme, drawing attention to the topic by its repetition and by its placement in the units two positions of emphasis (Ex.21:2-11; 22:21-28). In the second section of civil laws the theme reappears, this time in the three highlighted central positions (Ex.23:1-9), and again the theme is reinforced by its repetition. Kindness to the poor and disadvantaged is the key stipulation. The Israelites should understand the plight of the powerless better than most, since they were rescued by Yahweh from slavery and a foreign land (Ex.22:21; 23:9). This theme of kindness to the disadvantaged pervades the treaty and affects nearly every aspect of it. The people whom Yahweh freed from slavery and oppression are to be forever kind to the poor. In this most basic mandate, the Israelites can express their gratitude to their suzerain, loving others as Yahweh has loved them. And in doing so they behave and look like him.[footnote]D Dorsey, The Literary Structure of the Old Testament, (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1999), 83.[/footnote]

11. Moses authorized by people as Mediator (Ex.20:18-21)

While in chapter 19 the emphasis was on God’s authorization of Moses as mediator, the emphasis in chapter 20 is on the people’s authorization of him. Moses is reminding his readers of their words at Sinai.

And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die (Ex. 20:19).

Moses’ Message: God and Israel authorized my role as mediator of the law and covenant.

C. New Testament Analysis

1. A kingdom of priests (Ex. 19:4)

The New Testament church are the fulfillment of this promise.

But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light: Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy (1Pet. 2:9-10).

2. Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5-7)

The mountain setting draws a close connection between Jesus’ sermon with its focus on law and the giving of the law on Mount Sinai. Christ also stood in complete harmony with Moses on the Mount of Transfiguration.

3. Law as a blessing

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous (1John 5:3).

4. Law as accommodation

Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so (Matt. 19:8).

The Book of the Covenant was given in the context of a cruel and unjust ancient world. As such, it revealed a significantly higher morality than what was common to that day. However, it did not address every injustice. God knew how much Israel could take and “accommodated” His law to her until she could take more (Matt. 19:7-10). He restrained, protected and controlled divorce, while not approving of it. He restrained and controlled slavery, while not approving of it. Old Testament laws were not the end but a necessary means to a higher end.

5. Fulfilling of the law

No ordinary human being kept the law perfectly. The Lord Jesus did.

Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill (Matt. 5:17).

See also Rom. 8:3-4; Gal. 3:13-14.

6. The Christian as living law

Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart (2Cor. 3:2).

7. Applying the law today

There are three basic approaches to the application of God’s law today.
a. Dispensationalism (diversity of redemptive history)
Dispensationalism is characterized by a segmentation of redemptive history. It divides redemptive history into separate eras, each marked by a different kind of relationship between God and mankind. The different phases are:

Eden – Innocency
Fall to flood – Conscience
Noah to Babel – Human government
Abram to Egypt – Promise
Moses to John the Baptist – Law
Church – Grace
Millennium – Kingdom

Previous revelation is transferred into New Testament era only if it is specifically re-affirmed. For example, only nine of the Ten Commandments are applicable in the present “Church Age” because it is argued that the Sabbath has not been re-affirmed. Dispensationalists believe that the moral, judicial, and ceremonial laws will be re-established in the Millennium.
This view has positive and negative aspects:

(i) Positive: Emphasizes oneness of Old Testament law and also focuses on the radical effect of Christ in history.

(ii) Negative: There is an artificial segmentation of the Bible. The lack of continuity renders many parts of the Bible as almost irrelevant. Dispensationalists do not believe that Israel should have tried to obey the Ten Commandments.

b. Theonomy (unity of redemptive history)
Theonomists teach that there is one Covenant of Grace which unites all history, with each era revealing more and more of that Covenant. As Richard Pratt puts it, “Theonomists view the Bible like a seed which grows into full-grown tree, whereas dispensationalism plants a good tree, uproots it, and plants another, etc.”[footnote]R Pratt, Lectures on Genesis to Joshua (Orlando: RTS).[/footnote] Theonomists assume that everything previously revealed is continued unless specifically forbidden. They also argue that the judicial and moral law is still in force and should be implemented by civil government. The ceremonial law is regarded as fulfilled in Christ.

(i) Positive: Emphasizes the unity of Bible and the usefulness of Old Testament law to establish social justice.

(ii) Negative: Theonomists do not give enough emphasis to the climactic changes brought about by Christ’s incarnation. Also, the unique redemptive-historical significance of national Israel makes it difficult to transfer the judicial laws given to Israel into our society.

c. Westminster Confession (WCF) Chapters 7 &19 (unity and diversity of redemptive history)

This covenant was differently administered in the time of the law, and in the time of the gospel: under the law it was administered by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal lamb, and other types and ordinances delivered to the people of the Jews, all foresignifying Christ to come; which were, for that time, sufficient and efficacious, through the operation of the Spirit, to instruct and build up the elect in faith in the promised Messiah, by whom they had full remission of sins, and eternal salvation; and is called the Old Testament. (WCF 7.5)

Besides this law, commonly called moral, God was pleased to give to the people of Israel, as a church under age, ceremonial laws, containing several typical ordinances, partly of worship, prefiguring Christ, His graces, actions, sufferings, and benefits; and partly, holding forth divers instructions of moral duties. All which ceremonial laws are now abrogated, under the New Testament. (WCF 19.3)

To them also, as a body politic, He gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the State of that people; not obliging any other now, further than the general equity thereof may require. (WCF 19.4)

Although true believers be not under the law, as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified, or condemned; yet is it of great use to them, as well as to others; in that, as a rule of life informing them of the will of God, and their duty, it directs and binds them to walk accordingly; discovering also the sinful pollutions of their nature, hearts, and lives; so as, examining themselves thereby, they may come to further conviction of, humiliation for, and hatred against sin, together with a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ, and the perfection of His obedience. It is likewise of use to the regenerate, to restrain their corruptions, in that it forbids sin: and the threatenings of it serve to show what even their sins deserve; and what afflictions, in this life, they may expect for them, although freed from the curse thereof threatened in the law. The promises of it, in like manner, shew them God’s approbation of obedience, and what blessings they may expect upon the performance thereof: although not as due to them by the law as a covenant of works. So as, a man’s doing good, and refraining from evil, because the law encourageth to the one and detereth from the other, is no evidence of his being under the law; and not under grace. (WCF 19.6)

The Westminster Confession of Faith teaches that the Old Testament and New Testament reveal one Covenant of Grace, though with different forms of administration. The Confession clearly distinguishes between moral, ceremonial and judicial laws (WCF 19:2-6). The moral law “doth forever bind all” “neither doth Christ in the gospel any way dissolve but much strengthen this obligation”. The ceremonial law had “typical ordinances” of worship and moral duties prefiguring Christ which are “abrogated” or fulfilled in Christ. Judicial law was for the national theocracy, the “body politic”. In the New Testament they are “not obligating any other now further than the general equity thereof may require”.

(i) Positive: The Confession emphasizes the unity of the Bible and also the significance of Christ’s coming. Old Testament law is given a positive place in the gradual and organic unfolding of God’s mind and will.

(ii) Negative: It has been argued that the Confession makes the distinctions between the moral, judicial and ceremonial laws too sharp, and that it should allow for more overlap and inter-dependence.

The law remains relevant for today, however, as the principles behind the various stipulations are summarized in a general way in the Ten Commandments. The Christian is not given a specification of the law in the New Testament along the lines of the Book of the Covenant or the other law codes of the Pentateuch. The Christian must think through contemporary ethical issues with the Ten Commandments as a guide. How does the commandment not to steal apply to computer theft? How does the commandment not to kill apply to the abortion pill? Nuclear arms? The New Testament, of course, is not bereft of comments on law. Jesus shows that he is God himself as he deepens our understanding of the law in his Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7). Certainly, the most startling news in the New Testament about the law is that Jesus Christ has freed his followers from the curse of the law (Rom. 7). Thus the law, which was never the means to a relationship with God, becomes for the Christian a guide to God’s will for his life.[footnote]R Dillard and T Longman, An Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1993), 68.[/footnote]


III. The Covenant Confirmed (24:1-18)

A. General Analysis

  • Moses presides over covenant ratification (Ex.24:1-11)
  • Moses ascends to receive covenant codification (Ex.24:12-18)


B. Detailed Analysis

1. Blood of the covenant (Ex.24:8)

Although the Israelites had provisionally agreed to accept the terms of the covenant in Ex.19:8, the actual ratification ceremony is contained in chapter 24. Accompanied by Aaron, his two sons, and seventy elders, Moses met with the Lord after the people had twice agreed to do everything the Lord said (Ex.19:3, 8). In response to their affirmation, Moses offered sacrifices at the foot of Mount Sinai and sprinkled part of the blood on the people as a sign that they were set apart as God’s special nation. The blood put the covenant into effect. The blood taught that the covenant relationship could only be entered into through atonement.

The closest parallel to the associated blood rite (Exod. 24:8) is the consecration of Aaron in Leviticus 8, which may also be imprecatory, since the blood of the ram is sprinkled on the person of the priest. If we may press such parallels, notes of imprecation and consecration appear in Exodus 24:1-11. In verses 9-11, a covenant meal takes place in which the leaders of Israel and seventy representative elders eat and drink in the presence of the deity. This is incidental information, since it sets the goal to which the Bible looks in fellowship relationships. The meal on the mountain becomes the focus of later OT projection (cf. Isa. 25:6-8; Rev. 19:7-9), indicating final fellowship in the kingdom of God.[footnote]W J Dumbrell, The Faith of Israel (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), 38[/footnote]

Moses’ Message: Israel needs my mediatorial work to initiate and maintain the covenant relationship.

2. Seeing God (Ex.24:10)

They “saw God” and lived to tell about it. Since not even Moses was allowed to see God’s face (Ex. 33:20), perhaps on this occasion they only saw God’s feet (v10). This was a limited revelation of God’s glory but one that should have impressed upon these leaders of the people the need to keep this covenant.

3. Eating and drinking (Ex.24:11)

God did not show his awesome power (his hand) against the leaders. They ate and drank before him. Meals often celebrated the conclusion of a covenant, and indicate mutual fellowship (Ex.18:12; Gen. 26:30; 31:46).

4. Authorization of Moses

Moses himself was then called to the top of the mountain, now enveloped with the glory of the Lord. For forty days Moses remained in this cloud of glory and received from God instructions about the law and the construction of the Tabernacle.
This chapter emphasizes again the uniqueness of Moses in God’s dealings with his people. He had greater access to the divine presence than anyone else had. The section concludes with Moses entering the cloud of divine glory. The elders and even Joshua were left behind.
Moses’ Message: I was given unique and special privileges as covenant mediator.

C. New Testament Analysis

1. Covenant blood

The sacrifices offered (Ex.24:5) in connection with covenant conclusion, particularly in the burnt offering, may represent Israel’s drawing the curses of the covenant down upon herself. In this connection, Paul’s assertion in Galatians 3:13 that Christ had become a curse for us, meaning Jews, recognizes Jesus’ removal of the covenant curse, through his death, as the divine affirmation of the new covenant.[footnote]Ibid., 38.[/footnote]

Whereupon neither the first testament was dedicated without blood. For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people Saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you. Moreover he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the ministry. And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission (Heb.9:18-22).


2. Covenant Meal

And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins (Matt.26:26-28).


IV. The Message

Original Message: Moses must be obeyed because he mediated God’s blessed will for Israel
Present Message: Moses and Christ must be obeyed because they mediated God’s blessed will for us