Exodus 1 (day 51)
1-7: A review. Jacob (Israel) came to Egypt with eleven of his sons and their families (Joseph was already in Egypt). They flourished and multiplied but were never assimilated, making them a threat to the Egyptian government.
8-14: Egypt’s primary rival in the world of the time is to the northeast – the Hittites and the Assyrians. The land of Goshen where the family of Jacob settled is in the northern part of Egypt. If Egypt is invaded, the invaders will likely come through that part of the country now heavily populated by the Hebrews. A new Pharaoh perceives the threat and decides to use the Hebrews as slave laborers to carry out his ambitious building projects. The supply cities probably are intended to help fulfill the Egyptian military’s defense needs.
15-22: An order is given to the midwives who assist the Hebrew women in birth to kill all the boys born to the Hebrews, but let the girls live. It is a policy that will not in the end serve the Egyptians well if force labor is a major component of their economy, but it will diminish the threat that the Hebrews might represent as mercenary soldiers in an invasion force against Egypt. The midwives do not carry out orders, however, and when questioned they simply claim that Hebrew women are stronger than Egyptian women, and give birth before they can get there.
Exodus 2 (day 52)
1-4: A Levite man marries a Levite woman. Their names are not given here, but later we will learn that they are Amram and Jochebed. They have a son. She hides him three months then places him in a basket among the reeds along the bank of the Nile (obeying Pharaoh’s decree in 1:22). His sister Miriam (we will learn her name later) watches.
5-10: The daughter of Pharaoh (no name) comes to bathe, sees the basket, sends a maid to fetch it, finds the baby, and recognizes it as a Hebrew. The sister (Miriam) appears and offers to find a Hebrew mid-wife. So, the baby’s mother raises him! When he is weaned she brings him to Pharaoh’s daughter who adopts him and names him Mosheh (Moses), a play on Mashah, “drawn out,” in the sense of “rescued.”
11-14: Moses grows up. One day he sees an Egyptian beating a Hebrew. Later, when he thinks no one is looking, he kills the Egyptian. Next day he tries to break up a fight between two Hebrews and discovers that his murder was indeed witnessed.
15-22: He flees from Pharaoh. Just like Joseph, Moses begins his life in Egypt out of favor (born to Hebrew slaves), becomes part of the royal family (raised by Pharaoh’s daughter), then loses favor (by killing an Egyptian). He settles in Midian, in the Sinai desert. At a well he meets the 7 daughters of the priest of Midian. Shepherds drive the women away, but Moses comes to their defense. Again, like Joseph, Moses is a Hebrew in Egyptian guise who comes to the aid of those in trouble.
Joseph and Moses are a different kind of ancestor. They help the downtrodden. This was not a characteristic of Jacob, Isaac, or Abraham, or of anyone who preceded them! Moses in particular becomes a champion of the oppressed, just like God. It is an attribute of God to hear the cry of the oppressed and respond. Moses helps his kinsman by killing the Egyptian, then helps the 7 daughters by rescuing them from the shepherds.
Their father is Reuel (Priest of Midian). He invites Moses to his house and gives him his daughter Zipporah for a wife. They have a son, whom Moses names Gershom because he feels like an alien, a stranger.
23-25: Pharaoh dies. The Hebrew people are oppressed and cry out, and God hears, remembers, and takes notice. The Pharaoh Moses will confronts later is therefore not the same Pharaoh who was looking to kill him earlier.
Exodus 3 (day 53)
1-6: Moses becomes a shepherd like Jacob’s family who came to Egypt about 100 years before. He is keeping the flocks of his father-in-law (Jethro here, but later it is explained that Reuel and Jethro are the same) in the Sinai wilderness. He comes to Horeb, “the mountain of God.” (Israel’s God was in earliest times often thought of as a mountain deity.) The angel of the Lord (remember Sodom?) appears to him in a flame of fire out of a bush. Moses sees that the bush is not consumed. Then God calls him, and he answers “Here I am,” just as Abraham had answered when God called him to sacrifice his son Isaac. But notice that he calls Moses twice, whereas he only called Abraham once. Scholars love trying to figure out why. God identifies himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
7-12: He tells Moses that he has heard the cry of his people, and has come to rescue them. He will deliver them from Egypt and bring them to the land of the ”Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites,” the early tribes that peopled the land of Canaan even before the time of Abraham. God tells Moses to go to Pharaoh. Moses questions God’s choice. God says, “I will be with you, and this shall be the sign.” There is no sign however, unless “this” is a reference to the burning bush. But the bush is never mentioned when Moses brings the people to Horeb later.
13-22: Moses wants to know God’s name, and God reveals what is often referred to as the “Holy Name:” “Yahweh,” or “Yahu,” which is a form of the verb “I am.” He says to tell the Israelites (meaning here the descendants of Israel/Jacob) that the God of their ancestors has sent Moses. Assemble the elders, he says, and tell them the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob appeared to you and told you to lead them out to the land of the Canaanites, etc. “a land flowing with milk and honey” is added here for the first time; God is selling the idea!
When they go to Pharaoh, however, they are to say that the God of the Hebrews has sent them. That is the label the Egyptians have given them. They are to ask for permission to go a three days’ journey into the wilderness to sacrifice to God.
God tells Moses that Pharaoh will refuse, so he (God) will perform wonders to compel him. The Egyptians will give them jewelry and clothing and thus be plundered.
Exodus 4 (day 54)
1-5: Moses again objects, saying in effect that he has no proof that God has spoken to him. God shows him a trick with the staff, turning it into a snake. Moses is impressed, but perhaps not convinced.
6-9: So, an outbreak of leprosy is affected. God tells Moses that if Pharaoh doesn’t believe either sign he should take water from the Nile and pour it on the ground, and it will become blood on the ground. (“Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground,” God said when Cain killed Abel.)
10-17: Moses again protests, saying that he is not eloquent enough. God says, “I will be with your mouth.” This mirrors “I will be with you” in 3:12. It also mirrors “I will be with you and will keep you wherever you go” in the story of Jacob. Still, Moses protests again, telling God to send someone else, and finally God’s patience appears to be wearing thin. God says, “Aaron is coming to meet you (14). I’ll send him with you.” God will be Moses’ God; Moses will be Aaron’s God; Aaron will be Moses’ mouth, he says.
18-20: Moses gets permission from his father-in-law Jethro and heads to Egypt with his wife and sons. And the staff of God, of course.
21-23: God tells Moses to perform the signs and then demand the release of his people. Pharaoh will refuse, he says, at which Moses must tell Pharaoh that, as Israel is God’s firstborn, God will kill Pharaoh’s firstborn son. However, we will see that Moses is a bit hesitant to threaten Pharaoh with killing his son.
24-26: This is a strange story indeed of God meeting and trying to kill Moses. Zipporah circumcises her son (Gershom?), touching Moses’ feet with the blood. Apparently the story is included in the narrative in order to make it clear for later generations that Moses and his Midianite family were part of the covenant of circumcision God made with Abraham.
27-31: God orders Aaron to meet Moses. They meet at Mt. Horeb (Mt. Sinai). Moses tells Aaron what God wants them to do and about the signs God has given him to use. They travel on to Egypt together (Moses’ wife and son are not mentioned in this part of the narrative), assemble the elders among the Israelites/Hebrews, and Aaron, Moses’ mouthpiece, tells them what God is going to do. When the people hear that God has heard their cries and has taken note of their suffering, they bow down and worship.
Exodus 5 (day 55)
1-9: Moses and Aaron go to Pharaoh and tell him that the LORD demands that he allow the Hebrews to celebrate a festival in the wilderness. Pharaoh says he doesn’t know the LORD and won’t let them go. They insist, saying that the LORD will punish them if they don’t make a three days’ journey into the wilderness. Pharaoh thinks it’s just a ruse to keep them from working. He is worried because there are more Hebrews now than there are Egyptians, so he makes them work harder, ordering the taskmasters and supervisors to make the Hebrews gather their own straw for making bricks rather than having it supplied to them. The people’s oppression is even worse than before.
Note: In general, the taskmasters are Egyptian overseers, while the supervisors are Israelite foremen appointed by the taskmasters.
Note: When they talk to Pharaoh, they are referred to as the Hebrews. Among themselves they are called Israelites.
10-14: The taskmasters and supervisors tell the people to gather their own straw for brick making and keep up the same production schedule. When they fall behind the taskmasters punish the supervisors – who, no doubt, took it out on their underlings.
15-21: It is the supervisors (Israelite) who go to Pharaoh to protest. Pharaoh tells them they want to go worship the LORD because they are lazy, and refuses to listen to their complaint. They know they’re in for a rough time now, and they accuse Moses and Aaron of making their lives even more miserable than before.
22-23: Moses protests to the LORD, and complains that he has done nothing so far to deliver his people.
Exodus 6 (day 56)
1: In answer to Moses’ complaint the LORD promises action.
2-9: God tells Moses that he did not reveal his name to Abraham, but he did establish a covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan. Moses is to tell the people that the LORD will deliver them and give them the land of Canaan for their possession. Still, the people find it hard to believe Moses because of the suffering they have had to endure.
10-13: God again tells Moses to go to Pharaoh but Moses protests. The people won’t listen to him, he reasons, so why should Pharaoh? God insists, laying the responsibility squarely on Moses and Aaron.
14-25 The genealogy of Reuben, Simeon and Levi (Moses and Aaron are Levites, the great-grandsons of Jacob/Israel). Moses’ parents are named: Amram son of Kohath, and Jochebed. Jochebed is Amram’s aunt his father’s sister. Curiously, Aaron’s descendants get a lot of attention, but Moses gets none.
26-27: Again it is repeated that God told Moses and Aaron to talk to Pharaoh. Excuse me, here it is Aaron and Moses, not Moses and Aaron.
28-30: We regress a bit in these verses. Only Moses is mentioned here as if we have gone back to the burning bush conversation between him and the LORD. Here it is remembered that Moses objected to God’s call by claiming to be a “poor speaker” in the NRSV, but the Hebrew translates literally, “I am a man of uncircumcised lips.” Various explanations have been given this phrase, but I think it likely is a reference to Moses’ Egyptian upbringing; he spoke Hebrew with an Egyptian accent. Thus he feared the Israelites would not trust him.
Exodus 7 (day 57)
1-7: A summary; God tells Moses; Moses tells Aaron; Aaron tells Pharaoh; Pharaoh’s heart is hardened; God will lay his hand upon Egypt; the Egyptians will know that he is God; the Israelites will be brought out.
8-13: They go to Pharaoh; he demands a sign; Aaron turns his rod into a snake; Pharaoh’s magicians turn their rods into snakes; Aaron’s snake swallows theirs; Pharaoh’s heart is hardened.
14-25: God says to tell Pharaoh that since he hasn’t complied God will turn the Nile into blood. God tells Moses to go to Pharaoh “in the morning as he is going out to the water” – see 8:30-32. Moses commands Aaron; Aaron strikes the Nile; Plague #1 the Nile turns to blood. The people get fresh water by digging along the Nile. However, the Egyptians do the same trick, and Pharaoh refuses to let the Hebrews go.
Note: The trick of the leprous hand is never presented to Pharaoh, only to the Israelite elders. It is apparent that the Israelite leaders as well as the Egyptian rulers have to be convinced that God wants them to leave Egypt.
Seven days pass.
Exodus 8 (day 58)
1-15: God tells Moses to go to Pharaoh and threaten Plague #2 a plague of frogs. God tells Moses to tell Aaron to stretch out his hand with the staff; he does; Aaron does; the plague begins. But Pharaoh’s magicians are able to do the same trick.
Pharoah asks Moses and Aaron to pray to Yahweh to take away the frogs and he will let them go sacrifice to him. Moses asks for a time; Pharaoh says “tomorrow”; Moses prays; the frogs die; Pharaoh changes his mind again.
16-19: Plague #3 The plague of gnats. This time God simply sends the plague via Moses and Aaron, the magicians can’t duplicate it, and they, at least, are convinced that “this is the finger of God!” But Pharaoh’s heart is hardened.
20-32: Plague #4 The plague of flies. God tells Moses to meet Pharaoh “as he goes out to the water” (a religious ritual?). Moses confronts Pharaoh and threatens him with the plague of flies – this time the land of Goshen will be exempted – was it not before?.
The flies come, and God distinguishes between the Egyptians and the Israelites. Pharaoh summons Moses and gives him permission to sacrifice “within the land”. Moses insists on a three day journey into the wilderness because their sacrifices will be offensive to the Egyptians.
Pharaoh yields, and gives permission for them to go into the wilderness (but not too far) and asks Moses to pray for him. Moses says, in effect, “I’ll pray that the flies leave Pharaoh and his officials and his people alone, but you had better not change your mind again.” Moses is growing bolder.
The flies disappear. Pharaoh changes his mind.
Exodus 9 (day 59)
1-7: Plague #5 is now unleashed. There is no way to tell how long most of the plagues last or how much time lapses between them. The entire course of 10 plagues could cover a few months or a few years or more. Many of them are seasonal, tied to the annual rise and fall of the Nile. The fifth plague is a disease that kills domestic animals but apparently does not affect humans or wildlife. The LORD tells Moses to go speak to Pharaoh and demand that he let the Hebrew people go to worship, or else the livestock of the Egyptians will die, but the livestock of the Israelites will not be affected. Pharaoh is given an ultimatum; he has until the next day to comply. He does not, and the next day the livestock of the Egyptians begin to die. Pharaoh sends to investigate and verifies that none of the Israelite animals died, but still will not let the people go.
8-12: Plague #6 is unleashed. This time there is no demand made of Pharaoh. Aaron and Moses confront him, but rather than argue Moses simply tosses handfuls of soot from the kiln into the air. The kiln is the oven in which the bricks are baked. Moses is using a symbol of his people’s toils to create the plague. The soot causes skin eruptions, or boils, to break out on people and animals alike. We are not told whether the Israelites are affected, but perhaps skin irritations are part and parcel of their suffering in the baking of bricks. Pharaoh’s magicians are being gradually reduced to ineffectiveness. They are able to replicate the first plague, water turning to blood (7:20-22), and the second plague of frogs (8:6-7). They are not able to replicate the third plague, the infestation of gnats, and at that juncture they admit that God is behind that plague. They are mysteriously absent during the fourth plague, flies. Now, in the fifth plague, not only are they not able to replicate it but they are themselves afflicted by it. We will not hear of the magicians of Egypt again anywhere in the Bible. They have been rendered utterly useless.
13-21: Plague #7 receives the most extensive treatment of all the plagues until we come to the last. There is a hint in verse 14 that perhaps the earlier plagues have not personally affected the upper class of Egypt, but it is made clear to Pharaoh that this time it will be different because God wants to be known throughout the earth. Moses tells Pharaoh that the worst hailstorm in the country’s history is coming tomorrow. He is even given a way to avoid destruction: send and have your livestock and your slaves take shelter – in other words, acknowledge the God of Moses. Many of the officials do just that, but many others do not. God’s onslaught has defeated the magicians of Egypt and now even government officials are taking note of this foreign (to them) deity, but not Pharaoh, not yet.
22-26: God tells Moses to stretch out his hand, and he raises his staff. The storm begins, with hailstones and lightning such as had never been seen in Egypt. People and animals caught outside are killed and crops are decimated. The land of Goshen is not affected.
27-35: Pharaoh summons Moses and Aaron (this is the first mention of Aaron in this chapter), and now he is contrite. He admits that he has been in the wrong and he is ready to let the people go. Moses tells Pharaoh that he will stop the hail, but that he knows Pharaoh will renege on his promise. We are left to wonder how he gets out of the city while it is hailing, but perhaps that is knit-picking. As Moses makes his way out of the city we are told that not all the crops are destroyed, just the flax and barley. At the edge of town Moses stretches out his hands to the LORD and the storm passes, and with it Pharaoh’s contrition.
Exodus 10 (day 60)
1-2: Once again the LORD orders Moses and Aaron to approach Pharaoh, but tells them Pharaoh’s heart has been hardened, which makes you wonder why they should bother. Surprisingly, God does not announce another plague.
3-6: Moses and Aaron, however, do. (It is unclear whether both or just one of them go to Pharaoh. Verse 3 says both; verse 6 says one.) They announce that tomorrow (it’s always tomorrow, isn’t it?) Egypt will be visited with Plague #8; locusts. They announce the plague, then turn and walk out.
7-11: Pharaoh’s officials persuade Pharaoh to cooperate with Moses and Aaron, though, so he summons them back and gives them permission to go worship the LORD. But then he asks just who will be going, and when Moses tells him they’re taking everybody Pharaoh refuses. Only the men may go, he says.
12-20: God tells Moses to stretch out his hand to bring the locusts. Again, Moses raises his staff, and a strong wind brings the locusts in the next day. They eat everything still standing in the fields. Pharaoh hastily summons Moses and Aaron and once again confesses his sin and asks to be forgiven. “Just this once,” he asks, apparently forgetting about the other time (see 9:27). Moses prays, the wind changes, and carries the locusts away. Pharaoh cracks down on them again.
21-29: God tells Moses again to stretch out his hand, and this time that is what he does – his staff is not mentioned. The whole land of Egypt except for Goshen is plunged into darkness for three days – Plague #9. Pharaoh sends for Moses and tells him they can take the children, too, just not the livestock. Moses insists they have to take the animals, too, and Pharaoh clamps down again. He orders Moses out with a threat to kill him the next time he sees him. That’s okay with Moses; he doesn’t have to see Pharaoh any more.
This latest plague is a direct attack on Egyptian religion, which venerated the sun, Ra, as a primary god in their pantheon. Many scholars believe that the story of the plagues is a story of how the LORD systematically defeated all the primary Egyptian deities.
Exodus 11 (day 61)
1-3: The LORD tells Moses that one more plague, the tenth, is yet to come. Though the nature of the plague is not specified here, it will result in Pharaoh relenting and allowing, nay, forcing the people to go. The Israelites are to ask their Egyptian neighbors for silver and gold. This bold move is made possible by a changing attitude toward the Israelites on the part of the Egyptians. Moses is held in high regard, perhaps because of his persistence and obvious spiritual integrity. The people, too, are now held in favor, perhaps because God has clearly spared them most of the plagues the Egyptians have suffered; or perhaps because the Egyptians are beginning to see how badly the Israelites have been mistreated.
4-8: God’s instructions to Moses are omitted; we go directly to Moses telling Pharaoh that his first-born son is going to die, along with the first-born of every house in Egypt, from the highest officials to the slaves. The Israelites will be spared, he says – notice that on this occasion he uses the term “Israelites” for his people instead of the term “Hebrews” which is probably an Egyptian racial slur. It seems to me that this simple act of defiance signals the end of his forbearance with everything Egyptian. Moses, who was raised in the Egyptian royal family, is now himself completely an Israelite. He leaves Pharaoh in “hot anger.” This is only the second time the word “anger” has occurred in Exodus. The first was at 4:14 when “the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses.” Now the anger of Moses is kindled against Pharaoh.
9-10: The LORD tells Moses not to expect Pharaoh to relent. God has “hardened Pharaoh’s heart” in order that his “wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt.” Often in the Bible we are told that God “hardens the heart” of some enemy of the faith. It is a curious thing that God should do this, but God sometimes uses opposition as a catalyst to further his will. Woe to those whom God chooses to use as the catalyst.
Exodus 12 (day 62)
1-13: The month in which the angel of death visited the homes of the Egyptians is reckoned as the first month of the year. The Jewish calendar is extremely complex, based on weekly, lunar and solar cycles, and revised through the centuries as Egyptian, Babylonian and other influences took hold. In addition, there are two calendars in use, an ecclesiastical calendar in which Abib (now called Nisan) is the first month of the year, and a civil calendar according to which Tishri is the first month (it is the 7th month in the ecclesiastical calendar). Rosh Hashanah, “head of the year,” is in the month of Tishri, corresponding roughly to September. Passover is celebrated the week of the first full moon following the spring equinox, and thus falls on a different day every year in the Gregorian calendar which we use today. The Christian holy day of Easter also falls on a different day each year because the record of the Gospels clearly ties the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus to the Jewish Passover.
So here is where all the confusion begins, with God giving Moses and Aaron instructions to prepare the people for leaving Egypt. On the tenth day of Abib each Israelite household is to set aside a lamb. Families too small to consume a whole lamb are to join with a neighbor. They are to stare at it longingly, I suppose, for four days. Then, on the fourteenth of Abib they are to slaughter the lamb at sundown. Some of the blood is to be sprinkled on the doorposts and lintels of the house in which they eat it. The whole lamb, including the head, legs and internal organs, is to be roasted over fire. The whole animal is to be eaten with unleavened bread and bitter herbs before the morning; any part of it that is left is to be burned. When they eat it they are to be fully dressed, with shoes on and staff in hand, ready to leave.
The LORD tells them that on that night all the firstborn, animal and human, in every Egyptian household will be struck down by a plague, but that he will pass over the houses marked with the lamb’s blood. In verse 12 it is clearly said that this is a judgment on “all the gods of Egypt,” indicating that this is a cosmic battle being waged above the awareness of mere mortals.
14-20: The Passover must be observed every year from then on, God says. The next morning they are to hold a “solemn assembly.” For seven days they must not eat bread that has been leavened on punishment of being banished from the congregation (excommunicated, we would say), and another solemn assembly is to be held on the seventh day.
21-28: Moses calls the elders together and gives them the instructions with a few minor additions he apparently thinks of himself. Go select the lambs, he says, slaughter them, and use a hyssop branch and a basin (two little added details) to mark your doorways. Do not go outside your door until morning (another little added detail) because the LORD is going to pass through and strike down the Egyptians (all of them, it sounds like here). From his tone it is going to happen that very night. Maybe it is the 14th of Abib when he tells them all this, for there is certainly some urgency about him, but they are supposed to select the lamb on the 10th. By the way, he says, you have to do this every year from now on, and when your children ask why, tell them about the Passover of the LORD when the Egyptians were struck down but the Israelites were spared. Everybody runs out to find a lamb.
29-32: At midnight the plague strikes and in every Egyptian house the firstborn of animals and humans dies. A great cry goes up from the land. Pharaoh is himself included, for his firstborn is found dead. He immediately summons Moses and Aaron in the night (but they aren’t supposed to go outside, are they?) and tells them to pack up and go right this very minute and worship the LORD. And please, he adds, get me a blessing, too. Pharaoh is becoming a believer in the God of Israel, though not a worshiper.
33-36: The Egyptians are eager to see them go and give them whatever they ask.
37-39: They leave in haste, more than half a million of them, and head eastward toward the border. A “mixed multitude” is with them, meaning that it was not just the Israelites who were escaping.
40-42: They have been in Egypt now for 430 years.
43-49: Some more rules are given for observing the Passover. Foreigners cannot eat the lamb (perhaps in view of the “mixed multitude” that accompanied them), nor anyone who is not circumcised. If resident aliens (referring, of course, to a time many years hence when they will actually reside in the land of Canaan) want to join the observance, well, that’s okay if all their men are circumcised.
50-51: “All the Israelites did just as the LORD had commanded Moses and Aaron.” That won’t happen very often.
Exodus 13 (day 63)
1-2: Moses is told that the Israelites must consecrate their firstborn, children and animals, to the LORD.
3-10: Moses addresses the people at Succoth. He reminds them that no unleavened bread is to be eaten, “because the LORD brought you out from there by strength of hand.” Indeed, they are not even to have any leaven in their possession during that week. Leaven, or yeast, makes the dough rise up as it is cooked. I wonder if the reason unleavened bread was emphasized was to remind them that without the LORD they could not have risen up into freedom. Moses says they are to keep this observance of unleavened bread for seven days (to signify the renewal of creation) every year during the month of Abib. They are to tell it to their children. It will be a sign on their hands and on their foreheads – a reference to instructions that will be given later regarding the use of philacteries, small boxes that were to be strapped to the forehead and hand, containing a copy of the Ten Commandments (see Deut. 11:8).
11-16: We return now to an explanation of the consecration of the firstborn mentioned in verse 2. Every firstborn male animal in the flock or herd is to be sacrificed to the LORD. Donkeys, being “unclean,” (which isn’t explained until later) are not to be sacrificed, but redeemed with a sheep. If not, its neck must be broken. The firstborn belongs to God and cannot be used for human labor or food. When children ask why, they are to be told the story of how God brought them out of Egypt by killing the Egyptians’ firstborn. As for firstborn sons in Israel, they are to be redeemed, although here the price of redemption is not specified. But, hey, we’re just getting started.
It is an understatement to say that the exodus from Egypt is the defining moment of Jewish history.
17-22: An explanation is offered for why, when they left Egypt to go to Canaan, they did not go straight up the coast. The coastlands were Philistine territory, and they would have faced opposition almost immediately, so God led them through the wilderness by way of the Red Sea, which should be translated the Sea of Reeds, one of the tidal lakes in that region just above the upper arm of the Red Sea. Nevertheless, the people were prepared to have to fight. (By the way, Moses carried the bones of Joseph with him, as Joseph had requested – see Genesis 50:25.) They moved their encampment from Succoth to Etham on the verge of leaving Egyptian territory. The LORD went ahead of them, we are told, in the appearance of a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night. This has given rise to incredible feats of imagination as to the nature of the pillar. Perhaps the most plausible one is that away off in the distance in the Sinai Peninsula there was a volcanic eruption in progress, towards which they moved.
Exodus 14 (day 64)
1-4: But the LORD is not finished with Pharaoh quite yet. Now he tells Moses to turn back and camp by the sea to give God time to harden Pharaoh’s heart so that he will once again change his mind and pursue them. Then God will defeat them and the Egyptians will know who is really in charge of things.
5-9: Pharaoh changes his mind and saddles up and overtakes the Israelites camped by the sea.
10-14: The Israelites are understandably terrified when they see the Egyptian army approaching. They complain to Moses, but Moses reassures them that the Lord will fight for them. Just keep your cool, he says.
15-18: The LORD tells Moses to stop crying out, and tell the people to advance. Moses is told to stretch out his staff over the sea and make it divide so that the people can cross on dry ground. The Egyptians will follow, God says, and God will be victorious. This doesn’t sound like a great plan unless, of course, you have a lot of faith.
19-20: Now the pillar of cloud and fire moves into a position between the Israelites and the Egyptians to protect the Israelite retreat. That pretty much eliminates the volcanic eruption hypothesis.
21-25: Now comes the defining moment. Moses gestures with his staff. Nothing happens immediately, but a strong wind begins to blow from the east (the same wind, I suppose, that brought the locusts and blew the dust that became gnats and scattered the ashes that caused the plague of boils). Next morning a pathway appears that allows the people to walk through the sea to the other side. The Egyptians pursue them, but their chariot wheels begin to clog and, perhaps fearing the tide is about to return, they begin to panic. Israel’s God, they conclude, is fighting against them, and Israel’s God has proven that he is not a God with whom one would want to trifle.
26-29: The LORD tells Moses to raise his staff again, and this time the water begins to close in on the Egyptians. The entire Egyptian army is drowned, but the Israelites escape to the other side, walking on dry ground.
30-31: The Israelites see that the Egyptian army has been defeated, and, at least for the moment, fear God and trust Moses. But, you know how people are. Pretty soon it will be, “But, what have you done for us lately?”
Exodus 15 (day 65)
1-3: The songs of Moses and Miriam are among the oldest parts of the Bible. Verse 1 is echoed in verse 21. The people have just been delivered out of what appeared to be certain calamity by a miraculous turn of events. What has happened can only be the work of the LORD, and they break forth in praise for God who has fought on their side.
4-10: God’s “right hand” is a popular metaphor in the poems and songs of Israel (Job 40:14, Psalm 16:8, 11, 17:7, 18:35, 20:6, 21:8, 26:10, 44:3, 48:10, etc.). In battle warriors generally held their shields in the left hand and wielded their weapons in the right hand. In Moses’ song, God’s breath is also imagined as a weapon, blowing the waters over the hapless Egyptians.
11-12: The LORD, the God of Israel, is acknowledged to be above all other gods. The existence of other gods is not questioned in the early history of Israel, but will be by the prophets later.
13-18: God’s steadfast love is the abiding presence of God to protect his people and rescue them from their enemies. The theme is resounded throughout the Psalms. “Your holy abode” in verse 13 is a reference to the Promised Land given to Abraham and his descendants, an event that took place in the distant past, but then the reaction of the inhabitants of Philistia, Edom, Moab and Canaan described in verses 14 and 15 seems to refer to the future conquest of Canaan, and verse 17 describes the establishment of Mount Zion (“the mountain of your own possession”) as the worship center of their faith, complete with the temple (“the sanctuary that your hands have established”). The song therefore is as much prophecy as it is praise.
19: Just in case we didn’t get the picture of their miraculous rescue, it is painted once again in brief strokes.
20-21: This is the first time Miriam’s name is given. She is the sister of Aaron, which also makes her the sister of Moses, and is likely the sister who was watching over Moses when Pharaoh’s daughter plucked him as a baby out of the Nile (2:5-10). Her song is a repetition of the first line of Moses’ song, and the women join in as a response to the song of the men. Note that Miriam is called a prophet; this is the only place in scripture to give her that label.
22-25: Moses lived in the wilderness for 40 years. He ought to know a few things about how to survive there. He sends the people three days into the wilderness, which is exactly what he told Pharaoh he was going to do (8:27). They could find no water, but somehow they wind up at a place called Marah where there is water, but it is undrinkable. They think it is Moses’ fault, of course, and they complain to him. He calls out to God, and in prayer he is given a solution to the problem.
25-27: God makes a pact with them at Marah. Their part is to obey God’s commandments – which haven’t been given yet. God’s part is to promise not to inflict them with the plagues with which the Egyptians were afflicted. This is the first covenant between God and the people of Israel. Strangely, we are not told whether they agreed to the terms. They move on to an oasis at Elim.
Exodus 16 (day 66)
1-3: From the oasis they move eastward into the wilderness of Sin (no play on words is intended). They have been gone from Egypt about a month now, having departed around the fifteenth day of the first month. Having traveled several weeks at least through a barren landscape, they are becoming restless and begin to complain that Moses has taken them away from a place where they at least had plenty to eat.
4-8: God tells Moses that he will “rain bread from heaven” for them. Each day they will be able to gather enough for the day and on the sixth day there will be twice as much as they need so as to test them (although there is as yet no law concerning the Sabbath). God obviously has even more to say, for Moses and Aaron tell the people they will have meat to eat that evening and bread in the morning. You are complaining, they say, against the LORD, not against us peons.
9-12: Moses tells Aaron to summon the people. They look toward the wilderness of Sinai and see the glory of God in the cloud. In verse 11 God tells Moses to tell the people they will receive meat in the evening and bread in the morning. Perhaps verses 11 and 12 should have been placed right before verse 6.
13-21: In the evening the camp is inundated by a migration of quails. The text doesn’t say they ate any of the birds; the chronicler is too much in a hurry to move on to the real miracle that will take place in the morning. After all, everybody has seen a quail. The next morning, though, as the dew evaporates, there is on the ground a “fine flaky substance” that they have never seen before. Moses tells them it is the promised bread. They are instructed to gather a certain amount per person. Some of them gather more, some less, but somehow they all wind up with the same amount – a second miracle. Moses tells them not to keep it overnight, but some don’t listen and it turns rank. There is no accumulating this stuff, no stockpiling, no hoarding; it is how God wants us all to live in the world, don’t you think? God wants you to just take as much as you need for the day and no more. If everybody lived like that …
22-26: On the sixth day they gather twice as much, and Moses tells them to eat what they need and then to boil or bake enough for the next day because there will be none on the seventh day. He explains that the seventh day is commanded by God to be a day of solemn rest. Apparently the fine flaky substance can be eaten raw – in which case it spoils overnight – or boiled or baked, in which case it is preserved for another day. Furthermore, he tells them, there won’t be any of that stuff (they still don’t know what to call it) on the ground tomorrow.
27-30: It takes some people awhile to figure things out. They went out on the seventh day to gather more stuff, but there wasn’t any. Moses and God go “tut, tut.” The people finally figure out they can take the day off.
31-36: They wind up calling it “manna,” which means “what is it?” Here are its qualities: it is white; flaky; in flakes the size of coriander seeds; it melts in the sun; it spoils overnight unless boiled or baked; it tastes like wafers made with honey. Moses tells them that the LORD wants Aaron to put some of it in a jar to be kept in perpetuity (he must have baked it hard) and placed “before the LORD.” That usually means in front of the Ark of the Covenant, but there is no ark as yet. Perhaps the covenant mentioned in verse 34 is a written form of 15:26 and serves as the “testimony” until they are given the Ten Commandments. In any case we are told that the manna appears every morning until they enter the land of Canaan 40 years later.
Exodus 17 (day 67)
1-7: The Israelites travel across Sinai to a place called Rephidim which must be near Mt. Horeb. The people again complain about the lack of water. Moses once again turns their complaint against God, and God once again outlines a solution which, once again, involves Moses’ staff. He tells Moses to strike the rock at Mt. Horeb where he will be standing, although there is no indication of an actual appearance of the Almighty when Moses arrives there. As a matter of fact, there is no confirmation that water actually came out of the rock. Hmm.
8-13: We meet Joshua, destined to become Moses’ successor. And Israel faces its first foe since leaving Egypt, the Amalekites. We met the Amalekites away back in Genesis 14:7 when King Chedorlaomer, the guy who carried off Abraham’s nephew Lot, conquered the Amalekites and the Amorites. The Amalekites and the Israelites will have a long history of conflict, beginning with this battle which Joshua won. Moses actually commands the troops from the top of a nearby hill, and by some prearranged signal, when he raises his hands the Iraelites use a strategy that is successful; but when he lowers his hands they fall back. He grows tired, so Aaron and Hur hold his hands up for him and the Israelites win the day.
14-16: The LORD tells Moses that the day will come when the Amalekites are utterly defeated. We will read about it in I Chronicles 4:43.
Exodus 18 (day 68)
1-9: You may remember that before he became the savior of the Hebrews Moses fled to the wilderness, where he married a woman named Zipporah and worked for her father Reuel (aka Jethro – see Exodus 2:15-22). They had a son named Gershom. Now we learn that they have two sons, Gershom and Eliezer, and we also learn that when Moses went down to Egypt he sent his family back to Jethro to stay while he was sparring with Pharaoh – a wise move, no doubt. Jethro, having now heard about the success Moses has had, brings his wife and sons out to him in the wilderness. They meet and greet and go into the tent to catch up. Zipporah, Gershom and Eliezer are never mentioned again in the Bible.
10-12: Jethro praises the LORD above all gods. He has brought an animal for sacrifice, and they invite Aaron and the elders to enjoy the meal with them.
13-23: The next day Jethro watches Moses sit all day and listen to disputes the people bring to him, and pass judgment on every one regardless of how big or small. Jethro gives Moses a lesson in delegating.
24-27: Moses listens to his father-in-law and appoints elders to be judges and instructs them in the basics and tells them to pass only the hardest cases on to him to decide. Jethro leaves to go back home, humming a satisfied little tune.
Exodus 19 (day 69)
1-6: Three months after leaving Egypt they arrive at Mt. Sinai. The Exodus account may not always follow a strictly chronological sequence. The people were at Mt. Horeb (17:6) where God told Moses to strike the rock and provide water for the people. Perhaps the battle with the Amalekites has caused them to be displaced and now they are returning to the holy mountain. However, verse 1 reads as though they have only just arrived there. It has been generally accepted that Horeb is an alternate name for Sinai, and the two names refer to the same mountain. There is some recent debate among scholars, however, that they may in fact be separate locations. If that is the case, it might help explain some of the confusion here, but would create confusion in other narratives. In any case, they are now at Mt. Sinai, God summons Moses up the mountain to talk with him and tells Moses to lay before the people the offer of a covenant relationship.
7-9: Moses relays the message, the people agree, and Moses brings their agreement back up to the LORD. God then says he is going down with Moses and will speak audibly out of the ever-present cloud so that the people will hear and therefore trust Moses.
10-15: The LORD tells Moses that the people must consecrate themselves by washing their clothes because on the third day he will appear to them on the mountain. Furthermore, Moses is to set a boundary around the mountain that no one can cross upon penalty of death by stoning. That rule applies even to animals. Moses tells the people to wash their clothes and prepare for the third day. He tells them not to touch a woman, but you may have noticed that was not part of God’s instructions to him.
16-25: On the third day there is thunder and lightning, but no rain. Moses leads the people to the foot of the mountain. The mountain is wrapped in smoke, and it shakes violently – the description fits a volcanic eruption, except for the trumpet blast, but the text doesn’t say where the trumpet blast originates. God tells Moses to come to the top of the mountain. Then he is sent back down to tell the people not to “break through,” indicating that barricades have been placed around the foot of the mountain. The priests, too, are not to be allowed to approach God unless they are consecrated. But Moses assures God that boundaries have been fixed and the people will not approach. God tells him to go back down and fetch Aaron, but none of the others are allowed to come up.
Exodus 20 (day 70)
1-3: There is some confusion about whether God is speaking here to Moses only or to all the people. Verse 19:9 indicates that all the people will hear when God speaks to Moses, but verses 20:18-19 seem to indicate that they do not. In any case what we have in this chapter is known as the Ten Commandments, and they are certainly intended for all the people, not just Moses. God identifies himself first as the LORD who brought them out of Egypt. That is a defining part of God’s relationship with Israel throughout the Old Testament. The first commandment is that they have no other gods besides the LORD.
4-6: Commandment #2 forbids them from making an idol or worshiping an idol. The worship of idols will damage the relationship for three or four generations, but refusing to acknowledge any other god will result in God’s blessings for a thousand generations. They are not to make images of anything God created for the purpose of worshiping them.
7: Commandment #3: God’s name is sacrosanct and not to be misused.
8-11: Commandment #4: The Sabbath day is to be kept holy by refraining from work as a reminder that God is the Creator who made the heavens and the earth. This commandment is repeated in the Bible more often than any of the others.
12: Commandment #5: Dishonoring one’s parents results in losing your place.
13: Commandment #6: Murder is forbidden. Life is a gift from God that should be honored. Of course, God also gives them other laws, the breaking of which are considered a capital offense, and that is why “murder” is probably a better translation than “kill.”
14: Commandment #7: Adultery is forbidden. The marriage covenant is as holy as the covenant with God. This commandment is for human relationships the counterpart to Commandment #1.
15: Commandment #8: Stealing is forbidden.
16: Commandment #9: “Bearing false witness” has to do specifically with legal testimony, but can probably be understood to extend to any conversation about others.
17: Commandment #10: Coveting is forbidden. It is an interesting commandment because it seems to be a sort of hedge to prevent breaking #8.
18-21: The people are understandably afraid; they are standing at the foot of a mountain that is shaking and covered in smoke with thunder and lightning punctuating the scene and a continual trumpet blast. It’s enough to drive you crazy. They beg Moses to serve as a go-between and give them some distance from the Almighty, and Moses agrees. They stand a little farther away and Moses approaches the darkness “where God is.”
22-26: God repeats to Moses the commandment that they are not to make gold or silver gods “alongside” God, which probably means they are not to incorporate pagan practices in their worship. They can make altars for sacrifices, but altars can only be made out of things that God has made – dirt or naturally occurring stones. The commandment not to make altars so high they can only be reached by steps is an interesting one: apparently it refers to the temptation to “look up the skirt” of the person standing above, which would be a distraction from the purpose of the altar.
Exodus 21 (day 71)
1: Moses is given more laws to pass on to the people.
2-6: It distresses us, of course, that God does not ban slavery outright, especially in light of where the Israelites have just been, from which slavery God has rescued them. But in a world where slavery was not only common but in some cases essential to survival, God is willing to abide the practice as long as certain rules are observed. The laws in these paragraphs have to do with “debt slavery,” that is, slavery in payment of a debt. First, with regards to male Hebrew slaves (interesting that “Hebrew” is used here, recalling former days in Egypt), slavery is not to be a permanent condition. Regardless of the nature of his debt, he must be freed in the seventh year in the same marital state in which he became a slave. If he marries while a slave, then he has a choice: either leave his wife and children, or consent to being a slave permanently. The reasoning is that he cannot marry while a slave unless his owner provides him with a wife, and the wife (and any children born to that union) is thus considered the property of the slave owner. Our own experience of slavery tells us that surely many unpleasant situations arose out of such an arrangement.
7-11: In some cases a man could pay his debt by giving his daughter. This is to be a permanent arrangement; in other words, it is a marriage. Her owner/husband will not have a right to sell her to anyone else, and if she is rejected by him she can be redeemed, presumably by her father, although the text doesn’t specify what will happen if her father cannot afford to redeem her. Her owner may, instead of taking her for himself, give her to his son for a wife. Or, if he takes her for his wife and subsequently marries another, the slave wife will retain her position in his household. If he abrogates any of these provisions, she is free to go and the debt is dissolved. These provisions, while barbaric to us, were nevertheless a step up from the prevailing customs of the day.
12-14: Murder is punishable by death, even if the killer clings to the altar. If the death was accidental, then the killer is allowed to flee to what will later be termed a “city of refuge,” which will be described in subsequent provisions.
15: Striking a parent is a capital offense.
16: Kidnapping is a capital offense.
17: Cursing a parent is a capital offense.
18-19: One who injures another is responsible for the injured party’s “loss of time,” that is, loss of income, for the duration of their recovery.
20-21: If a slave is struck by the owner and dies by the blow, the owner is to be punished. The Hebrew in verse 20 is strong enough even to imply that the punishment is to be death, a remarkable provision indicating a high regard for human value, even of a slave. But that regard is immediately nullified by verse 21. If the injury is not immediately fatal the owner is off the hook. I have not found a suitable explanation for this in any of the commentaries.
22-25: We are beginning to see that these were violent times! If a pregnant woman is injured by two men fighting each other and a miscarriage occurs, then her husband has a right to sue for damages. If she herself is injured, the man causing the injury is to be punished in kind. If her eye is damaged, so shall his be. If her tooth is knocked out his is, too. And so forth and so on, for hand, foot, burn, wound, stripe, even life itself is to be exacted; a surprisingly high regard for the life of a woman given what we have seen in other passages.
26-27: Upon the loss of an eye or a tooth by violence, a slave is to be freed.
28-32: In the case of injury caused by a domestic animal, specifically an ox, the offending animal is destroyed. The owner is held harmless, but if he has been warned that the animal is prone to violence he becomes responsible for harm the animal causes, even to the extent of his own life.
33-34: If an animal falls into a pit dug by someone other than its owner, the pit digger must pay the owner for it.
35-36: Provision is made for injury resulting from an ox goring another ox. These laws are quaint and even disturbing, but provide a window into the world of that day.
Exodus 22 (day 72)
1-4: If you steal an ox or sheep and sell it or butcher it you will have to pay the owner back five oxen or four sheep. If you can’t pay you will be sold into slavery to compensate the owner. If they catch you before you dispose of the animal you have to pay back double. I guess in this case slavery can be considered an alternative to imprisonment, and it saves the state the cost of room and board for you.
If you want to try burglary, better do it by day. Your victims have the right to defend their property, and if you break in at night they may use whatever force deemed necessary even if it kills you. If you break in during the day the law considers that your victim ought to be able to prevent you from stealing without having to kill you.
5: If you let your animals graze in someone else’s field you have to pay them back.
6: If you start a fire that burns up a neighbor’s grain you have to pay them back.
7-8: If a neighbor asks you to keep something for them and it is stolen from you and the thief is not caught then you might have to go to court to give evidence that you didn’t steal it. If the thief is caught, he or she has to repay the owner double.
9: If there is any dispute about who owns some item or piece of property, the case is taken to court and the one declared to be the owner will receive double the value from the other.
10-13: Back to the matter of safekeeping. If a neighbor asks you to keep an animal and the animal dies or is injured or disappears, then you have to swear before the LORD that you had nothing to do with it and your neighbor has to take your word for it. If it is later found that the animal was stolen and the thief is caught, verses 7-8 apply. If the animal was mangled by wild animals, give the carcass to the owner; you don’t owe anything beyond that.
14-15: If you borrow or hire an animal from a neighbor and something happens to it, you have to pay for it – unless the owner witnesses the accident. In that case you owe nothing other than the fee you paid to hire it.
16-17: If a man seduces a single girl and has sex with her he will have to pay the girl’s father the price of the wedding and take the girl as his wife. If the father won’t allow her to marry him he has to pay anyway.
18: It would not be a good idea to practice sorcery.
19: Having sex with an animal is a capital offense; it flies in the face of God’s intentions in creating men and women for each other.
20: Sacrificing an animal to honor any god but the LORD is a capital offense. It is, of course, a violation of the 1st Commandment.
21-24: Remembering the way they were treated in Egypt, the Israelites should know to have the proper respect for other people. That carries over into the way they should treat their own who are disadvantaged, and in their culture that means in particular widows and orphans. Mistreating them is considered cause for God to allow them to be overrun by an enemy. The “eye for an eye” reasoning is applied here. If you mistreat widows and orphans then your own family will become widows and orphans.
25-27: Treat the poor with respect and with regard for basic human needs. Don’t charge interest if you lend to them, and don’t keep anything they give you in trust if it causes them harm. God sees.
28: Your respect for God is reflected in your respect for your leaders.
29: Don’t tarry with your tithe.
30: Firstborn sons are to be dedicated to God. Firstborn among the flocks and herds are to be sacrificed when they are eight days old.
31: Meat that is mangled by wild animals is not to be eaten. It can be fed to your dogs, though.
Exodus 23 (day 73)
1-3: These verses put some flesh on the 9th Commandment about bearing false witness (20:16). The addition about not being partial to the poor, however, is puzzling: one wonders when such a stipulation has ever been necessary.
4: You are to return a stray animal to its owner, even if it’s someone you consider your enemy.
5: You are to give relief to a pack animal that belongs to someone who hates you.
6-8: More rules about justice in the courts.
9: Treat resident aliens the way you wish you had been treated in Egypt.
10-11: Fields and vineyards and orchards are to be left alone in the seventh year for the benefit of the poor, but what about the poor the other six years?
12-13: The Sabbath law is reiterated. The mention of other gods in this context indicates an understanding that the Sabbath was to be given over to worship.
14-15: 3 festivals are ordered; one is named here: Unleavened Bread, or Passover, the rules for which were given in 12:43-49.
16-17: The two other festivals named here are Harvest and Ingathering. They will be dealt with much later in more detail. After all, at the moment they are in no position to worry about planting crops and vines and trees.
19: Recalling the offering of Abel, perhaps, only the best is to be brought. As for the second part of the verse, who would want to boil a kid in its mother’s milk anyway?
20-21: God will appoint an angel to guide them to the Promised Land.
22: The angel, it would appear, is essentially the same presence as the LORD.
23-33: They are warned against getting caught up in the religious practices of the Canaanite people. God will protect them, specifically promising to protect pregnant women – perhaps a counter to the promises made by the Canaanite cults which were fertility oriented. The reasoning behind the conquest of the land is to prevent the religions of the tribes in Canaan from corrupting the Israelites.
Exodus 24 (day 74)
1-2: It is a bit confusing to picture where all these conversations take place. The Ten Commandments are given to Moses and the people while they are all down at the foot of the mountain. The laws following in chapters 20, 21 and 22 are given to Moses to relay to the people, but apparently he is still down below. Now Moses receives word that he is to “come up” to the LORD, presumably on the mountain, and to bring Aaron, Nadab, Abihu and seventy elders with him. Nadab and Abihu are two of Aaron’s sons (see 6:23). They are to meet with the Lord but stay at a distance and worship (bow down), and Moses is to come near the LORD.
3-8: Moses goes to the people and relays to them all the laws God has given him (from 20:22-23:33), and they agree to abide by them. Moses writes down all the laws, and next morning erects an altar at the foot of the mountain and 12 pillars, or piles of stones, to represent the 12 tribes. He appoints “young men” to offer burnt offerings and to sacrifice oxen as offerings of well-being (thanksgiving). Moses dashes half the blood of the sacrifices against the altar. Then he reads to them the laws he has written down, now called the “book of the covenant.” They again agree to abide by its’ terms, and Moses sprinkles the rest of the blood on the people. It is the “blood of the covenant,” he says. This becomes a metaphor for the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross (see Hebrews 9:15-22).
9-11: They go up the mountain and there they actually see the God of Israel, standing on a fantastic platform of some kind. Even though they see God, God does not lay his hand on them – that is, does not strike them down.
12-14: Moses is summoned further up the mountain where he is to wait for the LORD to give him stone tablets with the law and commandments. Moses goes with Joshua, a surprise because Joshua hasn’t been mentioned before, and so this paragraph reads like it is a separate event altogether, and perhaps it is. Moses tells the others to wait for them. He puts Aaron and Hur in charge. Hur hasn’t been mentioned before, either, and so it is clear that what we are reading now is a separate event from the appearance described in verse 10
15-18: Moses leaves Joshua somewhere on the slopes and enters a cloud towards to mountain’s summit. Six days pass; a new creation is about to emerge. On the seventh day Moses hears the LORD calling to him. Down below the people see fire and smoke on the top of the mountain, again recalling images of volcanic activity. Moses has entered the cloud, and the people see him no more. He is there for forty days and forty nights – another metaphor for drastic change about to emerge (as in the forty days and nights of rain during the great flood).
Exodus 25 (day 75)
1-9: God instructs Moses to receive an offering from the people to construct a sanctuary. Their offerings are to include the actual building materials of acacia wood, rams’ skins and goats’ hair.
10-16: The first plans are not for the sanctuary, however, but for the ark that will contain the covenant that God has yet to give Moses. Note that the ark is designed from the outset to be a mobile container with carrying poles permanently attached.
17-22: The mercy seat is the lid that covers the ark. The cherubim are angelic beings with wings. They are to be positioned top of the mercy seat to form armrests and back support with their wings. The mercy seat is imagined as a throne for God. It is to be covered inside and out with pure gold; it appears the Israelites were not exactly poverty-stricken when they left Egypt.
23-30: Plans are given for the construction of a table that is to hold the plates, dishes, flagons and bowls for burning incense, pouring libations and the “bread of the presence” that is to be set daily before the ark to represent the sustenance they receive daily from God (our daily bread).
31-40: Plans are given for making the seven lamps and the lamp stand, ornately described, of pure beaten gold.
Exodus 26 (day 76)
1-6: Finally we come to the construction of the tabernacle itself. The instructions are given in detail, and yet it is nearly impossible to imagine exactly what the finished structure looks like or even how large it is. Here the outer wall of linen curtains is described.
7-10: The “roof” of goats’ hair is described next.
11-14: The panels of goats’ hair are joined together with bronze couplings to overhang the rear and sides of the tent; this is to make it easier to disassemble it when it is to be moved. The whole structure is then covered with rams’ skins and leather.
15-25: The frames for the walls come next. Even with the dimensions given it is still impossible to determine the size of the finished structure, depending on whether the frames are to be erected side-by-side or overlapping in some way.
26-30: Bars are then made to interlock the outer panels, and all the acacia wood is to be overlaid with gold. This is going to be a heavy assembly for them to carry around.
31-35: An interior space, to create the “most holy” place within the “holy place” (the tent itself), is made by hanging yarn curtains. The ark is to be placed within the most holy place and the lid, the mercy seat, is to be put on top of it. The table (for the bread of the presence) and the lamp stand are set within the tabernacle but outside the most holy place.
36-37: The front of the tabernacle is covered with another curtain made of linen and yarn supported by acacia wood stands covered with gold. I am beginning to picture a rather ostentatious and gaudy-looking structure of linen and animal skins held together with shiny golden frames standing on barren ground in the wilderness of Sinai.
Exodus 27 (day 77)
1-8: Although Moses was told earlier that altars should only be made of earth or natural stones (20:24-26), now instructions are given for a large altar of acacia wood overlaid with bronze, along with utensils for handling sacrifices. Apparently the earlier rule applied only to temporary altars while this one is to be a permanent place of offerings made by the whole community.
9-19: The courtyard is to be bordered by linen panels on bronze frames, about 75 by 150 feet (50 cubits by 100 cubits).The gate is located on the eastern side, a removable panel 30 feet wide. The entire area is thus surrounded by a makeshift wall 7 ½ feet high.
20-21: Quantities of olive oil are provided for an eternal flame within the tabernacle but outside the most holy place. It is to be tended by Aaron and his sons, and only by them.
Exodus 28 (day 78)
1-5: Aaron and his four sons – Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar – are designated as priests. Moses is told to have specific clerical garments tailored by craftsmen: breast piece, ephod (a sort of apron, we think), robe, tunic, turban, and sash – all this to be worn in the middle of the Sinai desert where summer temperatures can reach 120 degrees. Linen and yarn are used, and they are to be quite colorful – linen, gold, blue, purple and crimson.
6-14: The ephod is to hang from the shoulders with onyx epaulets set in gold on which are inscribed the names of the 12 tribes: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, and Benjamin. Later Levi will be set apart for special cultic duties without property holdings and Joseph will be divided into Ephraim and Manasseh so that there will still be twelve tribal territories in the land of Canaan.
15-30: The breast piece is described next in great detail. It is to contain twelve separate stones each with a name of a tribe inscribed on it, to be worn over Aaron’s heart. It also contains sacred lots called Urim and Thummim, which are used to discern God’s will.
31-35: Aaron’s robe is described, complete with pomegranates and bells. The bells are to be worn “so that he may not die,” a curious statement. Aaron and the high priests who come after him are the only ones allowed to enter the most holy place for the purpose of burning incense, pouring the daily libations, presenting the bread of the presence and inquiring of the LORD when needed, perhaps using the Urim and Thummim. While he is inside, the priests outside are able to hear his movements. If he collapses while inside, they will know that something has happened to him. The warning also suggests that serving in the most holy place is a very dangerous privilege that must be taken very seriously.
36-38: A golden rosette inscribed with “Holy to the LORD” is worn on Aaron’s forehead, attached to his turban, whenever he is serving in the tabernacle. It is a way of visibly communicating his office, and transferring the people’s guilt from them to him to the offering he is presenting on their behalf.
39: Tunic, turban and sash are to be fabricated of fine linen.
40-43: Every item of clothing worn by the priests is described, down to their underwear, except for shoes; perhaps they are to serve bare-footed. All of them wear the linen underwear, tunic, sash and turbans. Aaron must also wear the other accoutrements.
Exodus 29 (day 79)
1-9: Aaron and his sons are to be consecrated as priests in a special ceremony that sets them apart. They are to be brought to the entrance of the tent – that is where the altar is to be located – with a young bull, two rams and a basket of unleavened bread, cakes and wafers made of wheat mixed with oil. Aaron and his sons are to be bathed and dressed. Aaron is to be dressed first and anointed with oil. Then his sons are to be dressed. Aaron’s descendants are to serve as priests from then on.
10-14: Aaron and his sons are to bring the bull and lay their hands on its head while Moses slaughters it. He is to catch the blood in a basin, dip his finger in the blood and smear it on the horns of the altar, then pour the remainder at the foot of the altar. The bull is then to be butchered. The fat around the internal organs along with the liver and kidneys is to be burned on the altar, but the rest of the animal is to be burned outside the camp. This is to be understood as a sin offering; that is, an offering of atonement for the sin of Aaron and his sons; an act of purification.
15-18: One ram is to be taken and slaughtered as was the bull. The blood is to be dashed all around the sides of the altar. The ram is to be butchered and all of it washed, then the entire animal is to be burned on the altar. This is to be understood as a gift to please God. It is not that God needs such a gift; it is that they need to give such a gift.
19-21: The second ram is to be slaughtered as was the first, but then it is to be treated very differently. First, some of its blood is to be dabbed onto the right earlobe, thumb and big toe of Aaron and each of his sons. This makes them participants in the sacrifice. The rest of the blood is to be dashed on the altar all around. Then a dish of oil is to be dabbed with blood taken from the altar and sprinkled on Aaron and his sons as a sign of holiness; that is, that they are set apart for holy duties.
22-25: But we’re not through with the second ram yet. The fat from the tail and entrails along with the liver and kidneys and the right thigh are to be removed. The right thigh is peculiar to the ordination of priests. These body parts along with a loaf of bread, a cake of bread and an unleavened wafer from the basket on the table in the most holy place (that is, the bread of the presence) are placed in the priests’ hands and raised or elevated in a gesture of supplication, then placed on the altar and burned to ashes. It is understood to be a gift to God of the lives of the priests being ordained.
26-28: But we’re not done with the second ram yet! The breast is also to be raised to acknowledge that it is God’s, but here it is not clear who does the elevating, Aaron or Moses. We do learn, however, that the ram is from the flock of Aaron and his sons; it is their personal sacrifice, and it implies that all the animals used in their consecration and ordination are to be taken from their personal store. The breast of the second ram is not to be burned to ashes. It is to be their portion; that is, they may set it aside for themselves. This ordination ritual is to be a perpetual observance whenever a priest is set apart for a life of service. The priests are to be considered as an offering of the people to the LORD.
29-30: Aaron’s vestments are to be passed down to his sons; that is, to one of his descendants in each generation. Every priest who succeeds Aaron, that is the high priest, is to wear the vestments for seven days before beginning his duties in the holy place. This will remind him whose he is.
31-34: We haven’t finished with the second ram yet. The remainder of it is to be boiled inside the boundaries of the tabernacle, and Aaron and his sons are to eat it along with the bread. Any of it that remains overnight is to be burned to ashes on the altar.
35-37: This ritual is to be repeated for seven days; Aaron and his sons are not priests just on the Sabbath, but are to be dedicated to the LORD’s service every day of the week. Each day a bull is to be sacrificed as a sin offering, and the altar itself is to be anointed every day to consecrate it. The altar is to be a holy thing, set apart exclusively for use in the worship of God. Such is its holiness that whoever touches it is also to be set apart for God; that is, no one may touch it but the priests.
Perhaps you have recognized in the ordination ceremony an “order of worship” that is common in church rituals even today: We confess our sins, we make an offering to God, we dedicate our lives to God’s service in the week to come.
38-46: During the seven days of the ceremonies to ordain Aaron and his sons they are to offer a year-old lamb in the morning along with grain, oil and wine, and the same in the evening. Every time a new generation of priests is ordained the same morning and evening ritual is to be performed. It is an offering of thanksgiving to the LORD from the people. God tells Moses that when Aaron and his sons are ordained he will meet with them at the entrance of the tent of meeting and speak to them there. God himself will consecrate Aaron and his sons, and will live in the midst of the Israelites as their God, and his purpose for bringing them out of Egypt will be fulfilled.
Exodus 30 (day 80)
1-10: Instructions are given for the incense altar that is to stand in the most holy place before the ark of the covenant. It is 3 feet high and 18 inches square, plated with gold. Aaron is to burn incense on it when he enters the most holy place each morning and evening. Each year he and his successors are to mark the horns of it with blood from the atonement sacrifice (to be described later). The incense altar can be used for nothing else.
11-16: Why plague is associated with taking a census is not explained, but could have to do with their slavery in Egypt – perhaps the Egyptians kept a careful census of them during their time of bondage so that the very idea of a census has a bad connotation. When the census is taken, each person over 20 is to be registered and to pay half a shekel, rich and poor alike. This serves two purposes. First, it provides money for the maintenance of the tabernacle. Second, it reminds them to whom they belong. The requirement that no distinction is made between rich and poor seems to us to be a form of regressive taxation, but half a shekel is not an exorbitant amount, and it is symbolic of the sacred worth of each regardless of economic status.
17-21: A bronze basin is to be made and placed between the altar and the tent. It is used for the priests to wash their hands and feet. Again there is a mortal threat; holy service is a dangerous calling.
22-33: A recipe is given for making oil to anoint the holy things – objects and priests with their vestments. It is to be a sacred recipe, not to be copied or used for any other purpose under threat of banishment.
34-38: A special recipe is also given for the incense that is used in holy rituals. It, too, is sacred and not to be copied or used for any other purpose.
Exodus 31 (day 81)
1-11: Two men are called to serve as the chief artisans to fashion all the apparatus to be used in the building and other preparations for the tabernacle. Bezalel is not mentioned before now, nor his father Uri, but Hur is a fairly common name and it may be that Bezalel is the grandson of that Hur who served as an aide to Moses during the battle with the Amalekites (17:12), and who was named a leader along with Aaron when Moses was on Mt. Sinai for 40 days (24:14). If so, Bezalel must be a fairly young man. Nothing else is known of Oholiab or his father Ahisamach. Oholiab and Bezalel are to work together to design and make the intricate metal and millinery accoutrements for the tabernacle, and they are to teach their craft to others (35:34).
12-17: Once again Sabbath-keeping is emphasized. Of the Ten Commandments it is the one most often repeated. It is considered so important that violating it is to be treated as a capital offense. More than anything else it defines Israel as the LORD’s special possession among all the people of the earth. It is no wonder that the Jews gradually develop meticulous distinctions for what exactly can be done on the Sabbath and what is considered “labor.” Not only does Sabbath-keeping define them as God’s people, it directs them to mirror in their lives God’s own example in creation.
18: Having given Moses a number of regulations to give the people, and having given him the plans for the construction of the tabernacle and all its funishings, and having given him directions for setting aside Aaron and his sons as priests, and having chosen Bezalel and Oholiab to be in charge of design and fabrication, God at last gives Moses two tablets of stone which contain the “covenant” – presumably the Ten Commandments – written with God’s finger. Whether this is intended literally or figuratively is impossible to determine from the text. The expression “finger of God” is used in other places as a metaphor for the power of God (see Exodus 8:19, Luke 11:20), although “hand of God” is the more common expression.
Exodus 32 (day 82)
1-10: While Moses is on the mountain a crisis is brewing in the camp below. The people are not content to wait any longer, but are ready to move on. They want Aaron to make gods for them to lead them. There are many interpretations of Aaron’s motives. Perhaps his asking for their gold earrings is a stalling tactic on his part. There is some confusion in the narrative, because they ask for “gods,” plural, and Aaron makes a single golden calf which they then acknowledge to be their “gods,” again in the plural. Some suggest that they are referring to both Aaron and the golden calf as their gods, and think that is Aaron’s motive for proceeding. Aaron makes an altar and tells them that the next day will be a festival to the LORD, using the holy name of the God of Israel who freed them from slavery in Egypt. Perhaps his intention is to sacrifice the golden calf on the altar as a way to stirring the people to think again about what they are doing. The people, however, bring offerings early the next day which they sacrifice to the golden calf as burnt offerings and offerings of well-being, and have themselves a feast.
7-10: Meanwhile on the mountain God tells Moses that the people have already broken the first commandment and he is going to destroy them.
11-14: Moses argues with God in much the same as had Abraham. His argument is twofold: one, if God destroys them now the Egyptians will think they have won after all; two, God promised Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that their descendants would number like the stars. His arguments are effective and God is dissuaded from his anger. This idea that God can be persuaded to change his mind is the foundation of many prayers.
15-20: Joshua has been on the mountain with Moses all along, though not at the summit, and he thinks the noise coming from below is a battle, but Moses knows it is a festival. When he sees the golden calf he breaks the two tablets by throwing them on the ground, a symbol of what the people are doing to the Law they have only recently been given. He storms into the camp in a rage and burns the calf (perhaps throwing it on the altar?), then grinding it up and scattering it on their drinking water and making them drink their god.
21-24: Moses confronts Aaron, who pretends it all just sort of happened through no fault of his own.
25-29: Aaron is not as successful in calming Moses down as Moses had been with God, and Moses’ anger still needs venting. He challenges the people by asking who will stand with him. The “sons of Levi” join him, and he tells them to go through the camp and for each one of them to kill a brother, friend or neighbor, presumably from among those who were still reveling. They do so, killing about 3000.
Verse 29 is problematic because it can read either, “today you have ordained yourselves,” that is, by following his orders and shedding the blood of even their closest friends and relatives they have justified their having been set apart for special duties within the camp; or “today ordain yourselves,” meaning that their act of fidelity qualifies them to now become priests along with Aaron and his sons.
30-34: Moses returns to the mountain to argue for the people. He has taken severe actions to punish them and thus atone for their sin, and he tells God that if his actions aren’t good enough then God should discard him, not them. God, however, is not to be denied his hour of vengeance, and tells Moses to tend to his own business of leading the people. He, God, will deal with those who have sinned against him.
35: So the people suffer a plague, although we are not told what kind of plague it is or how severe.
Exodus 33 (day 83)
1-3: God tells Moses to lead the people on to Canaan, that he will keep his promise to give the land to Abraham’s descendants. However, he will send an angel to prepare their way. God will not go with them because he is too angry with them.
4-6: God’s anger quickly abates, though, and the people are told to remove their jewelry until such time as God decides what to do with them. They are shaken by God’s threat to disown them and none of them wears any “ornaments” at all.
7-11: There is as yet no tabernacle, though Moses now has the plans for it. There is, however, a “tent of meeting,” a particular location that Moses uses to meet with the people and make judgments on disputes and intercede with God on their behalf. The tent is located some distance away from the main camp. Joshua is stationed there permanently, and Moses comes as needed to give instruction or pass judgment. God meets with Moses there as well; the presence of a cloud around the tent signifies God’s presence there. It is said that Moses and God speak face to face, as two friends might; such is their relationship.
12-16: It is during one such conversation that Moses persuades God to change his mind and go with them on their journey to Canaan. Moses insists that it is necessary. There is no point in their going at all, he says, unless they go as God’s distinctly chosen people.
17-23: And now we find ourselves back on the mountain where Moses and God are having one of their talks. Moses asks to see God’s glory, and God agrees. However, Moses will not be allowed to see God’s face, only God’s back. What a wonderful metaphor for our experiences of God. We never see God in the moment, but often can look back and see where and when God has been with us.
Exodus 34 (day 84)
1-9: On the earlier occasion God had given Moses the two tablets already inscribed with the commandments (31:18). This time Moses is to cut two tablets like the first ones, and God will write the commandments on them. This time Moses has to work to receive the Law. Perhaps God wants him to have more appreciation for the effort. Moses is to take them up the mountain alone. No one else is to be seen in the area, and the animals are not even allowed to graze in front of the mountain. (If Mount Sinai is located where we think it is there is nothing for them to graze on!) The LORD comes down upon the mountain in the cloud and stands with Moses and proclaims his name and his nature. “The LORD” is the revealed name of God that he gave Moses during Moses’ encounter with the burning bush (3:13-15). “Merciful and gracious” are attributes of God found mostly in the Psalms (Psalm 85:15, 103:8, 111:4 and 145:8). This is the only place in the Torah where those attributes are given. Verse 6 contains the first occurrence of “slow to anger” as an attribute of God, and it suggests that God is becoming more patient over time as he deals with these cantankerous people. Showing “steadfast love to the thousandth generation,” and “visiting the iniquity of the parents upon the children to the third and fourth generation” was what God said about himself when he gave Moses the Ten Commandments (see 20:5-6). Moses begs God to change his mind and go with them.
10: In response God offers a new covenant and promises to perform even greater marvels than they have yet seen.
11-16: God gives Moses instructions that will apply when they enter the land to which God is going to lead them. God will drive out the indigenous people from the land, and warns Moses not to make treaties with any of them or else they will be enticed to intermarry and worship the pagan gods of the land. Their religious shrines are to be destroyed.
17: There follows a potpourri of laws, some of which echo the ten commandments, like this one forbidding the casting of idols (like the one Aaron cast for the people the first time Moses was up there).
18: The keeping of the festival of unleavened bread was given even before they left Egypt (see chapter 12).
19-20: The offering of firstborn animals and redemption of firstborn sons was covered in chapter 13.
21-24: The keeping of Sabbath and observance of three festivals is repeated.
25: Some of the Passover rules are repeated.
26: The rule about offering of first fruits and the curious taboo against boiling a kid in its mother’s milk are repeated.
27-28: Some confusion surrounds these verses. What exactly is Moses to write, the Ten Commandments or the grab-bag of rules just iterated? And who is going to write the words of the Ten Commandments, Moses or the LORD? The text presents the curious possibility that two sets of tablets are being prepared.
29-35: This second encounter with God leaves a visible glow on Moses’ face so that he wears a veil from then on except when he goes into the tent to speak with the LORD. However, the veil is never mentioned again in the Old Testament after this chapter, leaving the impression that the shining face is a temporary condition. Paul uses this story of Moses’ veil as a metaphor for the stubbornness of the Jews (2 Corinthians 3:13-18).
Exodus 35 (day 85)
1: Having returned from his second 40-day stint on Mt. Sinai, Moses summons the people for further instructions.
2-3: The Sabbath requirement is reiterated – it is the most often mentioned of all the Ten Commandments. Such is the importance of the Sabbath observance that violating it is deserving of death. Here the curious detail is added that no fire is to be kindled in their dwellings on the Sabbath day.
4-9: Finally Moses gets around to fulfilling God’s instructions from the first 40-day stint on Mt. Sinai. He orders the people to make an offering of all the things that will be needed for the construction of the tabernacle (see 25:1-9).
10-19: He enumerates all the things that will be needed and asks for volunteers.
20-29: The Israelites respond generously. Men and women alike accumulate all the things needed. They give as their “hearts make them willing.” That is a requirement for all faithful stewardship.
30-35: Moses introduces Bezalel and Oholiab as head craftsmen to direct all the work.
Exodus 36 (day 86)
1: Moses announces that Bezalel and Oholiab and everyone else whom the LORD has given skills will be put to work to make everything the LORD has given plans to do.
2-7: He calls them forward and turns over to them all the offering that the people have given. The people continue to bring supplies for the sanctuary and all its trappings until the artisans say they have more than enough. Think what could be done if congregations today would read these verses and take heart.
8-9: The curtain panels for the outer walls of the tabernacle – the fence that encloses the courtyard that contains the sanctuary, the altar and everything else – are the first thing they address.
10-13: The “he” in this paragraph is Bezalel, the one in charge of all the work. He fastens the panels together with loops of blue yarn and gold hasps.
14-19: The panels for the roof of the tabernacle are woven from goats’ hair and fastened together.
20-30: The frames and bases on which they are to stand are made next.
31-34: Bars of acacia wood overlaid with gold are fashioned to provide additional support for the upright frames.
35-38: The curtains and their frames are fashioned to serve as the front of the tabernacle.
Exodus 37 (day 87)
1-9: Bezalel makes the ark of the covenant according to the dimensions and plans given to Moses (see 25:10-21).
10-16: He makes the table for the “bread of the presence” and the vessels used for offerings on it (see 25:23-29).
17-24: Next is the lamp stand which he makes of beaten gold (see 25:31-40).
25-28: The altar of incense is made according to the plan given Moses (see 30:1-5).
29: Bezalel compounds the mixtures for the anointing oil to be used in the ordination of priests and consecration of the sacred vessels and vestments, and the fragrant incense to be burned daily in the most holy place (see 30:22-36). The narrative is careful to explain that Bezalel does everything exactly as the LORD told Moses it should be done.
Exodus 38 (day 88)
1-7: You will notice that the order in which Bezalel makes things is not the order in which they are described earlier, but with respect to each item Bezalel is careful to make it exactly as prescribed. The altar of burnt offering is next to be built (see 27:1-8). The wording is not exactly the same, but the details are carried out meticulously, down to making it hollow, with boards.
8: The bronze basin for hand washing and its stand are described in 30:18. Curiously, no dimensions are given for it. Here we have the added detail that Bezalel uses the mirrors of the women who serve at the entrance of the tent of meeting. Several comments are in order. The mirrors are not of glass as we have today but are of polished bronze. The tent of meeting is the tent Moses uses as an office when he judges disputes, and as a sanctuary when he converses with the LORD; it is not to be confused with the tabernacle that has yet to be built. The most surprising thing perhaps is the mention of the women who serve at the entrance of the tent of meeting. I think this is the first time women have been mentioned as having specific responsibilities in running the camp.
9-20: Using acacia wood for the frames and pillars, bronze for the pillar stands, silver for the clasps and fine twisted linen for the curtains, Bezalel makes all the panels for the enclosure of the court of the tabernacle and for the screen that serves as an entrance to the courtyard (see 27:9-19). It is a fairly large area; remember that a cubit is roughly 18 inches.
21-23: A summary of what has been done so far. Bezalel is the general contractor. Oholiab is the artistic design specialist. And here we are told that Ithamar, Aaron’s son, is in charge of the Levites. Presumably they are responsible for organizing the elements of the tabernacle as Bezalel completes each one.
24-31: The offering made by the people (see 35:20-29) is considerable. Here is an account of the metal collected in the offering; gold, silver and bronze.
Exodus 39 (day 89)
1: Now Bezalel and his craftsmen turn to the tailoring of all the vestments to be worn by Aaron and his sons. Verses 1-31 follow the instructions given Moses on Mt. Sinai as recorded in 28:4-43.
2-5: The ephod of blue, purple and crimson yarns and fine twisted linen interwoven with gold threads is made first.
6-7: Onyx stones are engraved with the names of the 12 sons of Jacob and fastened to the ephod in gold encasements.
8-21: The breast piece is described next. It is an intricate garment to which is attached 12 gems inscribed with the names of the twelve tribes.
22-26: Aaron’s robe of fine linen is fabricated with a fringe of bells and pomegranates.
27-29: The tunics, turbans and headdresses are tailored next for Aaron and his sons, along with the sashes.
30-31: The rosette with the inscription “Holy to the LORD” is made and fastened to Aaron’s turban.
32-43: All the items are tallied and grouped together. Then they bring all the stuff they have made and stack it up in front of Moses, and Moses blesses them.
Exodus 40 (day 90)
1-15: God tells Moses that the first day of the month is the day to put it all together. “The tabernacle of the tent of meeting” probably means that the tabernacle replaces the tent of meeting as the place where God will be present in the camp. The tabernacle is to be set up in a specific order. Then it and all the sacred furnishings are to be anointed with the special anointing oil (30:22-29). Then Aaron and his sons are to be brought forward and ordained according to the instructions given earlier (29:4-9).
16-33: Moses does everything as ordered, with one small addition: in verse 31 we read for the first time that Moses, along with Aaron and his sons, is taking part in the hand washing, which means that Moses is also authorized to enter the most holy place and minister before the ark of the covenant.
34-38: The curious cloud settles upon the tabernacle as soon as it is completed, and Moses is not able to enter it. It is explained that the arrival and departure of the cloud is to be the signal for when they are to set up camp and break camp.