As in my last blog, we are once again looking at the “Law” in the Book of Exodus, only this time we will examine the actual Covenant between God and the Israelites. The story of the “Giving of the Law”, as many like to call it, is contained in Exodus 19:1 through 24:8 and as we saw last time does not actually contain what the Bible states is the “Ten Commandments”, those, we discovered, are actually recorded in Exodus 34.
What confuses many people is there were actually two separate sets of stone tablets and it turns out what was written on them was not the same thing and only the first set was actually written “by the finger of God”, the second set was “engraved or inscribed by Moses” (see Ex. 34:28 – Hebrew). The first set lasted less than 12 hours, most likely less than 3 or 4 hours. It was the second set that eventually ended up in the ark in the Tent of Meeting.
Last time we studied what was written by Moses on the second set of stone tablets. This time we will see what eventually ended up on the first set (well, may have been on the first set), but we will also find out something interesting as we go. Well, actually several things. So let’s get started. The story has several parts. It starts with what I call the Introduction – the set up to God giving the Israelites the terms of His covenant with them. Then comes the Giving of the Terms of the Covenant. There turns out to be a big interruption to the actual “Covenant”, but I’m getting ahead of myself. So let’s get on with the story.
“On the first day of the third month after the Israelites left Egypt—on that very day—they came to the Desert of Sinai. After they set out from Rephidim, they entered the Desert of Sinai, and Israel camped there in the desert in front of the mountain.
“Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, ‘This is what you are to say to the descendants of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: “You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.’
“So Moses went back and summoned the elders of the people and set before them all the words the Lord had commanded him to speak. The people all responded together, ‘We will do everything the Lord has said.’ So Moses brought their answer back to the Lord.
“The Lord said to Moses, ‘I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, so that the people will hear me speaking with you and will always put their trust in you.’ Then Moses told the Lord what the people had said.
“And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow. Have them wash their clothes and be ready by the third day, because on that day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. Put limits for the people around the mountain and tell them, “Be careful that you do not approach the mountain or touch the foot of it. Whoever touches the mountain is to be put to death. They are to be stoned or shot with arrows; not a hand is to be laid on them. No person or animal shall be permitted to live.” Only when the ram’s horn sounds a long blast may they approach the mountain.’
“After Moses had gone down the mountain to the people, he consecrated them, and they washed their clothes. Then he said to the people, ‘Prepare yourselves for the third day. Abstain from sexual relations.’
“On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently. As the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him.
“The Lord descended to the top of Mount Sinai and called Moses to the top of the mountain. So Moses went up and the Lord said to him, ‘Go down and warn the people so they do not force their way through to see the Lord and many of them perish. Even the priests, who approach the Lord, must consecrate themselves, or the Lord will break out against them.’
“Moses said to the Lord, ‘The people cannot come up Mount Sinai, because you yourself warned us, “Put limits around the mountain and set it apart as holy.”‘
“The Lord replied, ‘Go down and bring Aaron up with you. But the priests and the people must not force their way through to come up to the Lord, or he will break out against them.’
“So Moses went down to the people and told them.” (Exodus 19 NIV)
We will pause the narrative here for a moment to look at a few things. God has had Moses get the people ready to meet Him and now the day has arrived. He descends on the mountain “in fire” there is the sound of a trumpet and Moses speaks and God answers.
What is interesting is that the first thing that God does is have Moses come up on the mountain so He can tell him to go back down the mountain and make sure the people don’t touch the mountain or they will die. Moses reminds God that they have already told the people that and have in fact fenced the mountain off, just as He told them to do. God tells Moses to go and tell the people to “keep off” anyway. So Moses descends the mountain to tell the people. And God also tells Moses to “bring Aaron with you when you come back up” in spite of having told Moses that “even the priests who approach the Lord” had to consecrate themselves” and that even they were not to “force their way through to come up to the Lord” or they would be destroyed. This would indicate that there were already priests in the camp, even before the “law” was given. Now back to the part where God starts giving them the terms of His Covenant.
“And God spoke all these words:
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
1 “You shall have no other gods before me.
2 “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.
3 “You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
4 “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
5 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
6 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
7 “You shall not murder.
8 “You shall not commit adultery.
9 “You shall not steal.
10 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
11 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
“When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, ‘Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.’
“Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.’
“The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was.”
It is interesting, God has only made it through the first 11 terms of the Covenant when the Israelites call a halt to the proceedings. They tell Moses, “Enough! You go talk to God and then come back and tell us what He has to say, if God keeps talking to us like this, we are all going to die!” It seems that they figure if talking to God is going to kill anyone, let it be Moses, not them! And if he survives, then he can come back and tell them whatever it was God had to say. So, Moses does as they ask and goes back up the mountain to get the rest of the terms of the Covenant from God.
Back to the Covenant (Now God is talking to Moses)
“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Tell the Israelites this: “You have seen for yourselves that I have spoken to you from heaven:
12 “‘”Do not make any gods to be alongside me; do not make for yourselves gods of silver or gods of gold.
13 “‘”Make an altar of earth for me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, your sheep and goats and your cattle. Wherever I cause my name to be honored, I will come to you and bless you. If you make an altar of stones for me, do not build it with dressed stones, for you will defile it if you use a tool on it. And do not go up to my altar on steps, or your private parts may be exposed.”‘” (Exodus 20)
“These are the laws you are to set before them:
14 “If you buy a Hebrew servant, he is to serve you for six years. But in the seventh year, he shall go free, without paying anything. If he comes alone, he is to go free alone; but if he has a wife when he comes, she is to go with him. If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the woman and her children shall belong to her master, and only the man shall go free. But if the servant declares, ‘I love my master and my wife and children and do not want to go free,’ then his master must take him before the judges. He shall take him to the door or the doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life.
15 “If a man sells his daughter as a servant, she is not to go free as male servants do. If she does not please the master who has selected her for himself, he must let her be redeemed. He has no right to sell her to foreigners, because he has broken faith with her. If he selects her for his son, he must grant her the rights of a daughter. If he marries another woman, he must not deprive the first one of her food, clothing and marital rights. If he does not provide her with these three things, she is to go free, without any payment of money.
16 “Anyone who strikes a person with a fatal blow is to be put to death. However, if it is not done intentionally, but God lets it happen, they are to flee to a place I will designate. But if anyone schemes and kills someone deliberately, that person is to be taken from my altar and put to death.
17 “Anyone who attacks their father or mother is to be put to death.
18 “Anyone who kidnaps someone is to be put to death, whether the victim has been sold or is still in the kidnapper’s possession.
19 “Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.
20 “If people quarrel and one person hits another with a stone or with their fist and the victim does not die but is confined to bed, the one who struck the blow will not be held liable if the other can get up and walk around outside with a staff; however, the guilty party must pay the injured person for any loss of time and see that the victim is completely healed.
21 “Anyone who beats their male or female slave with a rod must be punished if the slave dies as a direct result, but they are not to be punished if the slave recovers after a day or two, since the slave is their property.
22 “If people are fighting and hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows. But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.
23 “An owner who hits a male or female slave in the eye and destroys it must let the slave go free to compensate for the eye. And an owner who knocks out the tooth of a male or female slave must let the slave go free to compensate for the tooth.
24 “If a bull gores a man or woman to death, the bull is to be stoned to death, and its meat must not be eaten. But the owner of the bull will not be held responsible. If, however, the bull has had the habit of goring and the owner has been warned but has not kept it penned up and it kills a man or woman, the bull is to be stoned and its owner also is to be put to death. However, if payment is demanded, the owner may redeem his life by the payment of whatever is demanded. This law also applies if the bull gores a son or daughter. If the bull gores a male or female slave, the owner must pay thirty shekels of silver to the master of the slave, and the bull is to be stoned to death.
25 “If anyone uncovers a pit or digs one and fails to cover it and an ox or a donkey falls into it, the one who opened the pit must pay the owner for the loss and take the dead animal in exchange.
26 “If anyone’s bull injures someone else’s bull and it dies, the two parties are to sell the live one and divide both the money and the dead animal equally. However, if it was known that the bull had the habit of goring, yet the owner did not keep it penned up, the owner must pay, animal for animal, and take the dead animal in exchange.” (Exodus 21)
27 “Whoever steals an ox or a sheep and slaughters it or sells it must pay back five head of cattle for the ox and four sheep for the sheep.
28 “If a thief is caught breaking in at night and is struck a fatal blow, the defender is not guilty of bloodshed; but if it happens after sunrise, the defender is guilty of bloodshed.
29 “Anyone who steals must certainly make restitution, but if they have nothing, they must be sold to pay for their theft. If the stolen animal is found alive in their possession—whether ox or donkey or sheep—they must pay back double.
30 “If anyone grazes their livestock in a field or vineyard and lets them stray and they graze in someone else’s field, the offender must make restitution from the best of their own field or vineyard.
31 “If a fire breaks out and spreads into thornbushes so that it burns shocks of grain or standing grain or the whole field, the one who started the fire must make restitution.
32 “If anyone gives a neighbor silver or goods for safekeeping and they are stolen from the neighbor’s house, the thief, if caught, must pay back double. But if the thief is not found, the owner of the house must appear before the judges, and they must determine whether the owner of the house has laid hands on the other person’s property. In all cases of illegal possession of an ox, a donkey, a sheep, a garment, or any other lost property about which somebody says, ‘This is mine,’ both parties are to bring their cases before the judges. The one whom the judges declare guilty must pay back double to the other.
33 “If anyone gives a donkey, an ox, a sheep or any other animal to their neighbor for safekeeping and it dies or is injured or is taken away while no one is looking, the issue between them will be settled by the taking of an oath before the Lord that the neighbor did not lay hands on the other person’s property. The owner is to accept this, and no restitution is required. But if the animal was stolen from the neighbor, restitution must be made to the owner. If it was torn to pieces by a wild animal, the neighbor shall bring in the remains as evidence and shall not be required to pay for the torn animal.
34 “If anyone borrows an animal from their neighbor and it is injured or dies while the owner is not present, they must make restitution. But if the owner is with the animal, the borrower will not have to pay. If the animal was hired, the money paid for the hire covers the loss.
35 “If a man seduces a virgin who is not pledged to be married and sleeps with her, he must pay the bride-price, and she shall be his wife. If her father absolutely refuses to give her to him, he must still pay the bride-price for virgins.
36 “Do not allow a sorceress to live.
37 “Anyone who has sexual relations with an animal is to be put to death.
38 “Whoever sacrifices to any god other than the Lord must be destroyed.
39 “Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt.
40 “Do not take advantage of the widow or the fatherless. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless.
41 “If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not treat it like a business deal; charge no interest. If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, return it by sunset, because that cloak is the only covering your neighbor has. What else can they sleep in? When they cry out to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate.
42 “Do not blaspheme God or curse the ruler of your people.
43 “Do not hold back offerings from your granaries or your vats.
44 “You must give me the firstborn of your sons. Do the same with your cattle and your sheep. Let them stay with their mothers for seven days, but give them to me on the eighth day.
45 “You are to be my holy people. So do not eat the meat of an animal torn by wild beasts; throw it to the dogs.” (Exodus 22)
46 “Do not spread false reports. Do not help a guilty person by being a malicious witness.
47 “Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong. When you give testimony in a lawsuit, do not pervert justice by siding with the crowd, and do not show favoritism to a poor person in a lawsuit.
48 “If you come across your enemy’s ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to return it. If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure you help them with it.
49 “Do not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits. Have nothing to do with a false charge and do not put an innocent or honest person to death, for I will not acquit the guilty.
50 “Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds those who see and twists the words of the innocent.
51 “Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt.
52 “For six years you are to sow your fields and harvest the crops, but during the seventh year let the land lie unplowed and unused. Then the poor among your people may get food from it, and the wild animals may eat what is left. Do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove.
53 “Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest, and so that the slave born in your household and the foreigner living among you may be refreshed.
54 “Be careful to do everything I have said to you. Do not invoke the names of other gods; do not let them be heard on your lips.
55 “Three times a year you are to celebrate a festival to me.
56 “Celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread; for seven days eat bread made without yeast, as I commanded you. Do this at the appointed time in the month of Aviv, for in that month you came out of Egypt.
57 “No one is to appear before me empty-handed.
58 “Celebrate the Festival of Harvest with the firstfruits of the crops you sow in your field.
59 “Celebrate the Festival of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in your crops from the field.
60 “Three times a year all the men are to appear before the Sovereign Lord.
61 “Do not offer the blood of a sacrifice to me along with anything containing yeast.
62 “The fat of my festival offerings must not be kept until morning.
63 “Bring the best of the firstfruits of your soil to the house of the Lord your God.
64 “Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.
God’s Angel to Prepare the Way
“See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared.
65 “Pay attention to him and listen to what he says.
66 “Do not rebel against him; he will not forgive your rebellion, since my Name is in him.
“If you listen carefully to what he says and do all that I say, I will be an enemy to your enemies and will oppose those who oppose you. My angel will go ahead of you and bring you into the land of the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites and Jebusites, and I will wipe them out.
67 “Do not bow down before their gods or worship them or follow their practices. You must demolish them and break their sacred stones to pieces.
68 “Worship the Lord your God, and his blessing will be on your food and water. I will take away sickness from among you, and none will miscarry or be barren in your land. I will give you a full life span.
“I will send my terror ahead of you and throw into confusion every nation you encounter. I will make all your enemies turn their backs and run. I will send the hornet ahead of you to drive the Hivites, Canaanites and Hittites out of your way. But I will not drive them out in a single year, because the land would become desolate and the wild animals too numerous for you. Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land.
“I will establish your borders from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, and from the desert to the Euphrates River. I will give into your hands the people who live in the land, and you will drive them out before you.
69 “Do not make a covenant with them or with their gods.
70 “Do not let them live in your land or they will cause you to sin against me, because the worship of their gods will certainly be a snare to you.” (Exodus 23)
And there you have it. The covenant between God and Israel, or at least I should say the proposed Covenant as it hasn’t been accepted by Israel yet. Did you notice how many terms or rules there are in the Covenant? That is right – there are exactly 70 terms or rules! Not 10, not over 600, 70! If you are like me, I bet you have NEVER heard that before have you?
Now for the ratification of the Covenant – and we are going to find out one more very interesting thing here. I’ll let you read the story and then see if you noticed it.
Ratification of the Covenant
“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Come up to the Lord, you and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel. You are to worship at a distance, but Moses alone is to approach the Lord; the others must not come near. And the people may not come up with him.’
“When Moses went and told the people all the Lord’s words and laws, they responded with one voice, ‘Everything the Lord has said we will do.’ Moses then wrote down everything the Lord had said.
“He got up early the next morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain and set up twelve stone pillars representing the twelve tribes of Israel. Then he sent young Israelite men, and they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as fellowship offerings to the Lord. Moses took half of the blood and put it in bowls, and the other half he splashed against the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, ‘We will do everything the Lord has said; we will obey.’
Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, ‘This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.'” (Exodus 24:1-8)
Did you discover it? Not one mention of any stone tablets! Nothing! In fact, God didn’t even write ANYTHING down on stone tablets or anywhere else. Moses did all the writing – in a book. It was what Moses wrote down in this book that was the terms of the Covenant between God an Israel. And it was what was written in this book that Israel agreed to – “We will do everything the Lord has said; we will obey.” And by that declaration, they accepted God’s Covenant.
Interesting isn’t it, what you DON”T find in the terms of the covenant? Where are all the Levitical regulations? Where are all the rules about the sacrifices and what is OK to sacrifice and what is required to accompany the sacrifice? All of that is missing! The terms of God’s Covenant with Israel are just the 70 items we have just gone over, that is it!
There is one other thing that is interesting about all this, and that is the terms or words God uses to refer to all of what we just read through. To start off, He refers to it all as “my covenant”. If you remember how things started God said, “‘Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.'” (Exodus 19:5-6a) So this is a covenant. But what is a covenant? What does the Hebrew word actually mean? This is what the Lexicons have to say:
Covenant – ברית bᵉriyth ber-eeth’
Strong’s Dictionary – a compact (because made by passing between pieces of flesh): — confederacy, covenant, league.
Hebrew/English Lexicon 1) covenant, alliance, pledge; a) between men; 1a1) treaty, alliance, league (man to man); 1a2) constitution, ordinance (monarch to subjects); 1a3) agreement, pledge (man to man); 1a4) alliance (of friendship) 1a5) alliance (of marriage);
1b) between God and man; 1b1) alliance (of friendship); 1b2) covenant (divine ordinance with signs or pledges);
2) (phrases); 2a) covenant making; 2b) covenant keeping; 2c) covenant violation
Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon – a covenant, so called from the idea of cutting, since it was the custom in making solemn covenants to pass between the divided parts of victims. [But the idea suggested by Lee deserves attention, viz. that it is strictly nothing more than an eating together, banquet, since among Orientals, to eat together is almost the same as to make a covenant of friendship. The Hebrews too were accustomed to eat together when entering into a covenant, and in this way we obtain an explanation of covenant (an eating?) of salt.] It is used of a covenant entered into between nations, between individuals and friends, of a marriage covenant, those joined by league to any one [sic].
So we see that a covenant is much more than a simple contract. It carries with it a moral, or ethical obligation on those agreeing to its terms. And those obligations are much more binding than a contract. Paul says, “Brothers and sisters, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case.” (Galatians 3:15) In fact, In Romans 7, Paul says that a covenant of marriage can only be broken by the death of one of those who agreed to the covenant! So covenants are very serious agreements, and have much more intense moral and ethical obligations to follow their terms than any simple contract.
But in what other way did God refer to what He told Israel that day? Well, the next time anything is said, Moses just states that, “And God spoke all these words:” (Exodus 20:1a) And again this is what the lexicons have to say:
Words – דבר dabar daw-baw’
Strong’s Dictionary – a word; by implication, a matter (as spoken of) or thing; adverbially, a cause: — act, advice, affair, answer, because of, book, business, care, case, cause, certain rate, commandment, counsel, decree, deed, due, duty, effect, errand, hurt, language, manner, matter, message, oracle, portion, promise, provision, purpose, question, rate, reason, report, request, sake, saying, sentence, somewhat to say, speech, talk, task, thing (concerning), thought, tidings, which, word, work.
Hebrew/English Lexicon – speech1) speech, word, speaking, thing; 1a) speech; 1b) saying, utterance; 1c) word, words; 1d) business, occupation, acts, matter, case, something, manner (by extension)
Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon – (1) Often collect. words, speech, discourse, word of lips, i.e., futile, vain speech, skilled in speech. Specially it is–(a) a promise, something promised, (b) a precept, an edic, a royal mandate, (c) a saying, a sentence, as of a wise man, especially the word of the Lord, an oracle, the word of [Yahweh] came to any one [sic], oracles, (d) a counsel, proposed plan, (e) rumour [sic], report, words to be spoken concerning anything, what is to be said about it.
(2) thing, thing done, affair, business, that which is spoken of, discourse, the actions of (someone), commentaries of actions performed, journals, this thing, this, all these things, in this manner, thus–(3) anything, something–(4) a cause, reason
So basically, Moses said, “This is what God had to say.” Nothing about “laying down the law”, or “here is what God commanded”, or anything like that, just, “This is what God said.”
So did God (or Moses) EVER say anything about commandments, or rules or laws? Well, there was actually one mention of laws, but it didn’t occur until after the Israelites interrupted everything and had Moses be the “go between” for them. And it was God who said, “These are the laws you are to set before them:” (Exodus 21:1) Finally! we have God calling them Laws! Or do we? Let’s look at what the word really means before we get all worked up over it! So what do the lexicons have to say about it?
Laws – משׁפט mishpat mish-pawt’
Strong’s Dictionary – properly, a verdict (favorable or unfavorable) pronounced judicially, especially a sentence or formal decree (human or [participant’s] divine law, individual or collective), including the act, the place, the suit, the crime, and the penalty; abstractly, justice, including a participant’s right or privilege (statutory or customary), or even a style: — ceremony, charge, custom, desert, determination, discretion, disposing, due, fashion, form, to be judged, judgment, justice, justly, (manner of) law, lawful, manner, measure, (due) order, ordinance, right, sentence.
Hebrew/English Lexicon – 1) judgment, justice, ordinance; 1a) judgment; 1a1) act of deciding a case; 1a2) place, court, seat of judgment; 1a3) process, procedure, litigation (before judges); 1a4) case, cause (presented for judgment); 1a5) sentence, decision (of judgment); 1a6) execution (of judgment); 1a7) time (of judgment)
1b) justice, right, rectitude (attributes of God or man);
1d) decision (in law);
1e) right, privilege, due (legal);
1f) proper, fitting, measure, fitness, custom, manner, plan.
Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon – (1) judgment–(a) used of the act of judging.–(b) of the place of judgment, to bring any one [sic] into judgment.–(c) a forensic cause, to set forth a cause, to plead an one’s [sic] cause, to be his patron, to contend with any one [sic].–(d) sentence of a judge, Especially used of a sentence by which penalty is inflicted. sentence of death, to pass a hard sentence on one, to impose punishment upon him, punishment.–(e) fault, crime, for which one is judged, capital crime.
(2) right, that which is just, lawful, according to law.–(a) a law, a statute (as a rule of judging), and collect. used of the body of laws.–(b) used of that which is lawfully due to any one [sic], (privilege).
So it would seem that rather than “laws” what we really have are more like judicial verdicts, judgments, or decisions. These are actually like what a judge decides in a civil case rather than “supreme court rulings”, legal decrees, or laws. They do end up being rules to follow, but not as we would typically think of them, as DEVINE COMMANDS. And if you look closely at the section following God’s statement in Exodus 21:1 that we are looking at, you might notice that what God is saying is, “When you are faced with this situation, this is what you should do . . . ” It actually sounds more like fatherly advice than Royal Decrees.
So we still don’t have any real “laws”! Maybe that happens after everything is all “said and done”. Well, the next time the terms of the covenant are mentions is when Moses is finalizing the Covenant with the Israelites. “Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, ‘This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.'” (Exodus 24:8)
The very same Hebrew words used in Exodus 19:5 and 20:1a above. That isn’t much help either – the Covenant never does get called Commandments or Laws, just a “covenant”, “words”, and “judicial decisions” or “judge’s rulings”.
So when did the “Law” show up? For that we need to do a bit of a recap from Part 1. We will continue from where we just left off and see what happens next.
“Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of lapis lazuli, as bright blue as the sky. But God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they saw God, and they ate and drank.
“The Lord said to Moses, ‘Come up to me on the mountain and stay here, and I will give you the tablets of stone with the law and commandments I have written for their instruction.’
“Then Moses set out with Joshua his aide, and Moses went up on the mountain of God. He said to the elders, ‘Wait here for us until we come back to you. Aaron and Hur are with you, and anyone involved in a dispute can go to them.’
“When Moses went up on the mountain, the cloud covered it, and the glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai. For six days the cloud covered the mountain, and on the seventh day the Lord called to Moses from within the cloud. To the Israelites the glory of the Lord looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain. Then Moses entered the cloud as he went on up the mountain. And he stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights.” (Exodus 24:9-18)
And then, as we saw last time, God and Moses spend the time discussing the building of the Tabernacle. But, did you notice? We FINALLY have the stone tablets, the Law and Commandments! “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Come up to me on the mountain and stay here, and I will give you the tablets of stone with the law and commandments I have written for their instruction.’” (Exodus 24:12) Well, before we get too excited, let’s check out the words used again.
Law – תורה towrah to-raw’ or תרה torah to-raw’
Strong’s Dictionary – a precept or statute, especially the Decalogue or Pentateuch: — law.
Hebrew/English Lexicon – 1) law, direction, instruction; 1a) instruction, direction (human or divine); 1a1) body of prophetic teaching; 1a2) instruction in Messianic age; 1a3) body of priestly direction or instruction; 1a4) body of legal directives
1b) law; 1b1) law of the burnt offering; 1b2) of special law, codes of law
1c) custom, manner
1d) the Deuteronomic or Mosaic Law
Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon – (1) instruction, doctrine.–(a) human, as that of parents.–(b) divine through prophets.
(2) law.–(a) human, the manner and principles which men follow.–(b) divine, whether one, followed by a genit. of the object, e.g., the law of sacrifice, or collect. laws; the book of the law.
Interesting, while it can mean “Law”, it seems to be more like instructions than rules. Well what about “commandments”?
Commandment – מצוה mitsvah mits-vaw’
Strong’s Dictionary – a command, whether human or divine (collectively, the Law): — (which was) commanded, commandment, law, ordinance, precept.
Hebrew/English Lexicon – 1) commandment; 1a) commandment (of man); 1b) the commandment (of God); 1c) commandment (of code of wisdom)
Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon – a command, a precept, especially used of the precepts of God, of a human teacher. The idea of prohibition “any of the commandments of [Yahweh] which ought not to be done,” things prohibited by his precepts. What was due to the Levites.
Finally! Now we have it – a COMMAND! God called them commands. Yes, He did, He called them His instructions and commands or precepts – His instructions and rules. But there is one other thing He said. Did you notice it? He also said what they were for – they were “written for their instruction” so we need to add that to the mix as well. So back to the lexicons again.
Instruction – ירה yarah yaw-raw’ or ירא yara’ yaw-raw’
Strong’s Dictionary – a primitive root; properly, to flow as water (i.e. to rain); transitively, to lay or throw (especially an arrow, i.e. to shoot); figuratively, to point out (as if by aiming the finger), to teach: — cast, direct, inform, instruct, lay, shew, shoot, teacher, teaching, through.
Hebrew/English Lexicon – 1) to throw, shoot, cast, pour; [this usage is in the “Hiphil” form so I have removed the other forms of the verb] 1c) (Hiphil) 1c1) to throw, cast; 1c2) to shoot; 1c3) to point out, show; 1c4) to direct, teach, instruct; 1c5) to throw water, rain
Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon – (1) TO CAST, an arrow, Part. an archer.
(2) to lay foundations, to found.
(3) to sprinkle, to water (pr. to throw water, to scatter drops). Hence part. the former rain.
Hiphil. (1) to cast, specially arrows. Part. an archer.
(2) to sprinkle, to water.
(3) to send out the hand, especially for pointing out. Hence to show, to indicate.
From pointing out or shewing [sic] it is–(4) to teach, to instruct, followed by an acc. of pers. to instruct an one [sic], properly to instruct in something, to teach or conform to something, to instruct concerning.
Interesting word isn’t it? It seems that the word means to instruct someone so that they are well founded (have a good foundation), can grow (are well watered), or are able to “hit the mark” (hit the target when they shoot their arrows). So, to put it all together, what God was to write on the stone tablets were His “instructions and commands (or precepts or rules) so that His people could be well founded and grow up so they could ‘hit the mark'”.
Now we have God promising to give Moses His “instructions and commands” on stone tablets. So what did He write? Well, we don’t really know. It would be safe to assume that it was the 70 terms of the Covenant, but it does not say that. And s we saw in Part 1, when Moses finally got the stone tablets (40 days after God promised He would give them to him) he shattered them when he got to the bottom of the mountain. That means that Moses, if anyone, was the only one who ever saw what was actually written on them!
And as we also discovered in Part 1, God had Moses make two new stone tablets. “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.’ Moses was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant—the Ten Commandments.” (Exodus 34:27-28) So what ended up on the second set of stone tablets was the “ten commandments” that we studied in Part 1, and NOT the 70 terms of the Covenant – those were written down by Moses in a book and never did end up on anything else! So, what is the Torah specifically? If it was what was “written on the stone tablets” then it is what was recorded in Exodus 34 and nothing else. It definitely was not the Covenant between God and Israel as we have just discovered. However, it could also be argued that the “ten commandments” were a “representative selection” of the terms of the Covenant and therefore the entirety of the Covenant didn’t need to be repeated. So are they? We will have to take a look and see. I will list the Ten Commandments from Exodus 34 one by one and we will see if we can find its complement in the 70 terms of the Covenant.
1 “‘Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land where you are going, or they will be a snare among you. Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and cut down their Asherah poles. Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God. Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land; for when they prostitute themselves to their gods and sacrifice to them, they will invite you and you will eat their sacrifices. And when you choose some of their daughters as wives for your sons and those daughters prostitute themselves to their gods, they will lead your sons to do the same.'” (Exodus 34:12-16) This one covers numbers: 1, 3, 38, 54, 67, 69, and 70; number 68 could be said to be implied.
2 “‘Do not make any idols.'” (Exodus 34:17) This one covers numbers: 2, and 12.
3 ‘”‘Celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread. For seven days eat bread made without yeast, as I commanded you. Do this at the appointed time in the month of Aviv, for in that month you came out of Egypt.'”‘ (Exodus 34:18) This one covers number: 56.
4 “‘The first offspring of every womb belongs to me, including all the firstborn males of your livestock, whether from herd or flock. Redeem the firstborn donkey with a lamb, but if you do not redeem it, break its neck. Redeem all your firstborn sons.'” (Exodus 34:19-20a) This one covers number: 44.
5 “‘No one is to appear before me empty-handed.'” (Exodus 34:22b) This one covers numbers: 43, and 57.
6 “‘Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during the plowing season and harvest you must rest.'” (Exodus 34:21) This one covers numbers: 5 and 53.
7 “‘Celebrate the Festival of Weeks with the firstfruits of the wheat harvest, and the Festival of Ingathering at the turn of the year. Three times a year all your men are to appear before the Sovereign Lord, the God of Israel. I will drive out nations before you and enlarge your territory, and no one will covet your land when you go up three times each year to appear before the Lord your God.'” (Exodus 34:22-24) This one covers numbers: 55, 58, 59, and 60.
8 “‘Do not offer the blood of a sacrifice to me along with anything containing yeast, and do not let any of the sacrifice from the Passover Festival remain until morning.'” (Exodus 34:25) This one covers numbers: 61 and 62.
9 “‘Bring the best of the firstfruits of your soil to the house of the Lord your God.'” (Exodus 34:26a) This one covers number: 63
10 “‘Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.'” (Exodus 34:26b) This one covers number: 64.
Terms of the Covenant not covered by one of the Ten Commandments: 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 39, 40, 41, 42, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 65, and 66.
To summarize, there are 23 out of the 70 terms of the Covenant specifically covered by the Ten Commandments and 1 that is implied, or at least you could say it is. That leaves 46 that are not covered in any way. So, I ask you, are the Ten Commandments a “representative selection” of the terms of the Covenant? Statistically, more are not even hinted at than are mentioned. And several of those not covered are a bit surprising, like – Don’t take God’s name in vain; Don’t murder; Don’t steal; Don’t cheat on your spouse; Don’t lie when called to be a witness; and Don’t covet – just to mention a few. I will say this, the first and last terms ARE included and 22 of the terms in between. And in that way you say they are a “representative selection” of the Covenant between God and Israel. I am not an expert in Jewish Law or Rabbinical thought – in fact I know virtually nothing about either one, other than they tend to take things God said to do very literally – so I have no way of knowing how they would look at it, but for me it could just as easily go either way. However, there is one thing that does tip the scales and that is what God told Moses. “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.'” (Exodus 34:27) So, the Ten Commandments recorded in Exodus 34 are meant to be a summary of the 70 terms of the Covenant that God gave Israel from Mount Horab.