If you paid close attention to the scripture reading yesterday, in chapter 32, verse 1, when people gathered around Aaron and Hur, they referred to Moses as 'this fellow Moses' as if they don't know him anymore. Even though God told Moses about what was going on, at the foot of the mountain, Moses had to see the extend of their revelry firsthand - which made him rage with anger.
When Moses asked Aaron for an explanation, he blamed the people. We see Moses asking Aaron, “What did these people do to you, that you led them into such great sin?” For which Aaron responds, “Do not be angry, my lord, you know how prone these people are to evil. They said to me, ‘Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.’ So I told them, ‘Whoever has any gold jewelry, take it off.’ Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!”
Some of you who are on the tour are very bright and intelligent, and I can almost hear you asking, "What was Aaron's punishment for building the Golden Calf?"
Aaron had just returned from Mount Sinai after seeing the the footstool of God and eating and drinking with Him. He and Hur were supposed to take the place of Moses to resolve any dispute among them. When the mob approached and even killed Hur, Aaron was bit shocked. He did his best by delaying the building of the calf by asking people for gold - which he thought will take some time, especially since convincing women to part with their gold is not an easy task. He further postponed the party to the following morning, hoping Moses would arrive any moment. Typically in every culture, the banquet is held right after an event on the very same day - not the following day.
There is a story of a mischievous boy who wanted to destroy his father's house while his parents were away. At this time, he was under the guidance and care of his teacher. When he shared his thoughts with his teacher, the wise teacher said, "Let me join you in destroying the house." The two started chalking out elaborate plans. The teacher convinced the boy that the compound wall was the one that was guarding the house and they should begin their work with the perimeter of the compound wall. By now, the parents arrived and the teacher was asked for an explanation. When the father heard their objective, why the teacher sided with his son on such a mission, and how they began destroying the compound wall first, he did not punish the teacher - rather rewarded him.
Same logic here - God knew Aaron's intentions and helplessness and hence did not punish him. Aaron was made the high priest of Israelites.
Levites were the only tribe who did not partake in this calf worship. They have been staying loyal to God from their days at Egypt, without mixing with the Egyptian culture.
Idols and other gods
Let's pause for a moment before getting into today's tour, and talk about idol worship.
Ancient people worshiped many gods and goddesses, who were believed to oversee various aspects of their life such as weather, agriculture, warfare, etc. These divine beings were represented by statues, called idols. Their worship was closely related to the King of the land. Kings and queens were seen as intermediate persons between the people and gods. Their significance was so strong that people actually started worshiping the earthly rulers as gods themselves.
Here are some (of the many) gods of the ancient people:
An excavated idol of Baal
An image of Beelzebub
It means "lord of flies". This was the name of a Philistine god. A variation of Baal Zebub is known as Beelzebub. In Christianity, he is referred to as another name for Devil - or Lucifer. Most of us are familiar with the passage in In Mark 3:22, where the Pharisees accuse Jesus of driving out demons by the power of Beelzebub, prince of demons.
An Asherah pole in Alexandria
The half man half fish Dagon
A top god of the Philistines, depicted as half man and half fish. Similar to Baal, Dagon was the god of grain (symbol of fertility) and fish (symbol of multiplying). When we get to 1 Samuel, we will see the Philistines capturing the Ark of the Covenant and placing it in the temple of Dagon.
Child sacrifice to Molech
Osiris being worshiped
The Egyptian god of underworld. Dead humans were taken in by Osiris. Apart from being a merciful judge of the dead in the afterlife, Osiris served as the underworld agency who granted all life, including sprouting vegetation and the fertile flooding of the Nile River.
Apis, the sacred bull
In Egyptian mythology, Apis is a cow deity. Just how dead humans were assimilated to Osiris, a bull represented a king who became a deity after death. This was the image in which the Golden Calf was built while Moses was gone.
Idol worshipers built altars to their gods atop mountains or other high places to give an elevated status to gods. Since this was the practice, God instructed Moses not to build an altar on high places. Hence God gave all these specific details in building a Tabernacle and those instruments of worship - which differed from idol worshipers.
Now let us start today's portion of the guided tour at Exodus 33 - Just to be on track and to give you all a bit of breather, I am wrapping up the book of Exodus today.
Today’s passage opens up by God saying to Moses, to tell the people that they are on their way to the promised Land - a land flowing with milk and honey (see additional info). He would gradually drive out those people currently residing there. Next, He is sending an angel before them. The covenant made earlier with the Israelites has already been broken. Hence, God is not going with them. God says if He is with them He may destroy all of them out of anger, on the way itself. He calls them ‘stiff necked’, referring to them as stubbornly adhering to an attitude, opinion, and course of action. Further, He asks them to take off their jewelry and mourn for what they have done, until He decides what to do with them.
The Tent of Meeting
Here the tent of meeting refers to Tabernacle. It was pitched at a distance, away from the camp, just to show reverence to God. The passage describes how people reacted while Moses went to the tabernacle. Whenever he went in, the pillar of cloud would come down and stay at the entrance, while the LORD talked with Moses. Notice that Joshua never left the tent - he was allowed to stay inside along with Moses - just like how he was allowed to stay on top of Mount Sinai. See more about Joshua in additional info 2.
One of the loveliest passages of the Bible is verse 11 - The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.
Almost everyone has heard about God, but not everyone is in speaking terms with Him. Similar to the American president – we all have heard about him, but not every one of us is on talking terms with him. God speaking as a friend – if anyone can crack that code on how to make God speak to you as a friend I would say, you are all set!
While speaking to God, during such a conversation, not a word is uttered – everything is done by the mind, which perceives the thought. The conversation between best friends is something one has to experience – it cannot be explained in words, as it envelopes feelings, intimacy, love, care, tenderness, delight, openness and revealing each other, attention, admiration, counsel, plus a multitude of other positive emotions.
Moses and the Glory of the Lord
Moses then approached the LORD, and asked Him to remember that the Israelites are His people. Moses wanted the LORD to teach Moses His ways, so that Moses can know God and continue to find favor with Him. Moses is also worried because God has told that He won't go with them. Moses wants to know who will, instead. God tells Moses that His “Presence” will go with them, and He will give them rest. Moses requests God to go with them. Finally, God tells Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”
Moses asked LORD to show him His Glory.
The glory of the Lord lies in his goodness - it appears in the works of his hands, and particularly in His pardoning grace and mercy. In other words, God is not just good - very very good. Rather, super duper good, that we call Holy.
However, as mortals, we cannot bear the goodness of God in our present form. One cannot see His face in it's entire glory and be alive because He is so bright. The full discovery of LORD is therefore reserved for a later state.
Like two best friends, LORD agreed to reveal part of Him to His best friend. LORD will pass His goodness in front of Moses, but He is going to hide Moses in a hole in a rock and cover the eyes of Moses with His hands, while passing by. The hole in the rock is believed to be a cave and a cloud covering the cave would act as God's Hands. Next, the glory of all His perfections, Wisdom, Holiness, Justice, Power, and Faithfulness, and especially His Grace, Mercy, and Goodness would pass outside the cave. Moses can only feel it's presence by being near it.
The New Stone Tablets
God asked Moses to hew (prepare) two stone tablets, similar to the one he received the first time. Moses was supposed to go up Mount Sinai once again to receive the commandments which he broke earlier.
When LORD came down in the cloud, Moses fell on the ground and he requests God to forgive their sins and take them as an inheritance.
“I am making a covenant with you. Before all your people I will do wonders never before done in any nation in all the world. The people you live among will see how awesome is the work that I, the Lord, will do for you. Obey what I command you today. I will drive out before you the Amorites, Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 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.
Pay attention to cutting down Asherah pole in verse 13.
When God says He is jealous, there is no other competitor in worship with Him. He will not give His glory to any other god. He wants to have our full attention.
Next He says not to have any marriage relationships with people of that land. Once in marriage their sons would follow the Canaanite gods since their lustful practices will arouse extreme interest among the Israeli male members. There was a connection between the worship of the Canaanite gods and sexual immorality. Many of the Canaanite gods were fertility gods and they were worshiped with ritual prostitutes in group sex settings. We will look at these acts of religious or sacred prostitution in the next few books.
Next, God re-iterated what was mentioned earlier:
- Not to make idols
- They are to celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread, to remember God saving them from the Egyptians
- Every firstborn creature, from every womb, belongs to God.
- Donkeys are to be redeemed with lambs, and first-born sons are also to be redeemed.
- Nobody should appear before the LORD empty-handed.
- Observe the Sabbath day - even during the plowing and harvest seasons.
- They are to celebrate the Feast of Weeks and the Feast of In-gathering.
- Three times a year all of the Israeli men were to appear before the LORD. He would enlarge their territory, and nobody would covet their territory.
- Sacrifices were to be made without yeast.
- Sacrifices from the Passover Feast were not to be left to remain until the next morning.
- The best of the first fruits from their soil were to be brought to the house of the LORD.
- Not to cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.
Moses wrote down all of this as a covenant is being made with Israel. Then, the LORD wrote on the tablets - the Ten Commandments.
The radiant face of Moses
When Moses came down with the second set of Ten Commandments and having seen the glory of the LORD, his face was radiant - so majestic and splendor, rays of light darted out from his face and a glory surrounded it. The elders were afraid to approach Moses and he had to cover his face with a veil. Whenever he went to meet God in the tabernacle, he would take off the veil, and put it back once conversation was complete.
In chapter 35 we notice that Moses begins the work of the Tabernacle
Before any work begins, Moses reminds the Israelites about the rules for the Sabbath - not to even light a fire in the dwelling.
With that done, he asks the Israelites to bring an offering to the LORD - to build the Tabernacle, consisting of “gold, silver and bronze; blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen; goat hair; ram skins dyed red and hides of sea cows; acacia wood; olive oil for the light; spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense; and onyx stones and other gems to be mounted on the ephod and breast piece.
One interesting thing to notice here is that the offerings are optional and not mandatory - "anyone who is willing" and no exertion of force.
Moses announces that Bezalel is filled with Holy Spirit to lead the construction project and Oholiab serving as an assistant is now skilled to teach others
All of the skilled craftsmen started putting together those materials that have been donated towards the Tabernacle. As work began, materials were still coming in as donation.
Soon, they have a problem, a problem any project leader would love to have - too much resources than required. Materials more than sufficient have been gathered and Moses sent out word not to donate anything anymore towards the Tabernacle.
The Tabernacle and everything that goes in, was built according to LORD's specifications, as explained in chapters earlier.
To give an idea, the usage of metals were as follows:
Gold: about 1 metric ton
Silver: about 3.4 metric tons
Bronze: about 2.4 metric tons
In chapter 39, the clothes required by the priests are mentioned, and how they were constructed - the Ephod, the Breastpiece, and other priestly garments.
Once all the construction is complete, the tabernacle is brought towards Moses. Note - Moses is not going towards the Tabernacle, instead, it it brought towards him for 'inspection' or 'testing' as you may want to call it. Everything from the Arc of the Covenant to the ropes and tent peg was brought towards Moses. The Israelites had done all the work under the leadership of Bezalel and Oholiab as per Lord's command. Moses inspected the work and found it matching to God's specifications. He then blessed them.
Once all the work is complete, now it was time to erect it. The Lord instructed Moses on how to erect them all - the Tent of Meeting, the Ark of the Covenant, the table and lampstand, the Altar of Incense, the Altar of Burnt Offering, and the basin. The tabernacle was set up on the first day of the first month in the second year.
Moses takes the anointing oil and anoints all those articles. All of them are to be consecrated so that they become Holy.
Aaron and his sons, who will be serving as priests, are brought to the entrance, their feet and hands washed and put on those priestly garments tailored for them. They are to be consecrated as priests.
Once Moses finished his work, the glory of Lord filled the tabernacle. Moses could not enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.
In all the travels of the Israelites, whenever the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle, they would set out; but if the cloud did not lift, they did not set out - until the day it lifted. So the cloud of the Lord was over the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, in the sight of all the Israelites during all their travels.
After all those problems encountered by those Israelites, once when they started listening and following the instructions of the LORD, all their problems seem to melt away. The Glory of the Lord is with the Israelites and it is such a nice feeling to wrap up the Book of Exodus on such a high note.
You all seem to be very tired after all the hard-work. If required, you can call tomorrow a day of relaxation. Let's start with the book of Leviticus on Tuesday.
--------------------------Additional Info 1------------------------Land flowing with milk and honey
Those on the tour must have heard the phrase, "Land flowing with milk and honey" numerous times by now. The first time we heard this was when God talked to Moses from the burning bush. The honey referred here is not bee's honey, rather fruit nectar. In Israel, the land is abundantly fertile and trees well nourished, producing various kinds of fruits and nectar. The livestock overflow with milk in those fertile pastures. The land flowing with milk and honey indicates agricultural abundance on a fertile land. Again, it is the Promised 'Land'.
------------------------Additional Info 2------------------------Joshua
We recently met a new character – Joshua, who happens to be Moses’ assistant. He served as a commander in the battle against Amalekites (Easu’s sons). Joshua is the only person permitted to stay upon Mount Sinai while God is speaking to Moses. Born in the tribe of Ephraim, his original name was Hoshea, but Moses called him Yehoshua (Joshua).
"Jesus" is the English of the Greek transliteration of "Yehoshua" via Latin.
“Joshua” is the English translation via Hebrew.
So, in Greek, Joshua is the same as Jesus.
If you remember watching the movie, “The Passion of the Christ,” you may recall, the name of Jesus in Aramaic being “Yeshua” – pretty close to Joshua.
We will be covering the life of Joshua pretty soon. Right now, Joshua is just following the footsteps of Moses. He does not have any heavy responsibilities - Moses is taking up all the heat, being the mediator between God and Israelites. Joshua is getting trained under the leadership of Moses, and learning the ways of Moses.
LORD vs Lord
I have not been using uppercase LORD in earlier posts (not sure if I should have been - but did so in this post, and will do going forward in Old Testament). The Bible seems to be using LORD everywhere and hence decided to follow the same standard.
----------------------------------Error on my part
I realized that I make numerous typo, grammar mistakes and even sentence constructs - have no excuses whatsoever. Some of it is due to my own confusion - whether to include a particular matter now or to say it later. At times I feel like sharing all the information that I learned, but due to time constraints, I tend to omit few. Some of the error is because I am in a hurry to publish the material while racing against the clock. Some other because my corrections have not been published/updated. If you come across any errors, kindly let me know and I am willing to correct it at the earliest.
Oh, by the way, about my spellchecker:
Eye halve a spelling chequer
It came with my pea sea
It plainly marques four my revue
Miss steaks eye kin knot sea.
Eye strike a key and type a word
And weight four it two say
Weather eye am wrong oar write
It shows me strait a weigh.
As soon as a mist ache is maid
It nose bee fore two long
And eye can put the error rite
Its rare lea ever wrong.
Eye have run this poem threw it
I am shore your pleased two no
Its letter perfect awl the weigh
My chequer tolled me sew.
Corrected some errors from yesterday's post!