Tuesday, March 18, 2014
The Real Ten Commandments (Facts Instead of Traditions) – Part 3
In Part I we followed Moses on his first three trips up and down the mountain – and each time he returned without the stone tablets. In Part 2 we followed Moses on his fourth trip, on which he was given the Law of the Altar and the MISHPATIM – but no stone tablets. So, we will continue to follow Moses again and see what happens on his fifth trip. On the fourth trip, Moses was told:
“Come up to YAHWEH, you and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and worship from afar. And Moses alone shall approach YAHWEH, but they shall not approach; nor shall the people go up with him.” (Exodus 24:1-12)
Aaron is the older brother of Moses. Nadab and Abihu are Aaron’s eldest and second-eldest of the sons. Who were the seventy elders? The appearances of the word “elders” in the Bible were “the elders of Pharaoh’s house” and “the elders of the land of Egypt.” They accompanied Joseph when he went to bury Jacob (Genesis 50:7). The next appearance was the “elders of Israel,” who are first mentioned in Exodus 3:16. They are not named, but it appears that there were more than seventy. YAHWEH told Moses to bring “seventy of the elders of Israel.”
And Moses went up, also Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel. And they saw the ELOHIYM of Israel. And under His feet was a work of pavement of sapphire stone, and it was like the heavens for its clearness. And to the nobles of the sons of Israel He did not stretch out His hand. And they saw the ELOHIYM. And they ate and drank. (Exodus 24:9-11)
This is a very interesting and revealing account that has caused some interesting theological problems for many. Let’s review what happened in the verses above:
(1) Everyone that went up the mountain with Moses saw the ELOHIYM.
(2) He stood on clear blue pavement.
(3) He did not stretch out His hand to the 70 elders.
(4) Implied is that He did stretch out His hand to Moses, Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu.
(5) ELOHIYM and all of those who went with Moses ate and drank together.
The major theological problem this creates is related to the doctrine that “the Bible is inerrant, infallible, with no errors or contradictions.” As we saw above, “everyone saw the ELOHIYM (God),” but two verses – John 1:18 & 1 John 4:12 – state, “No one has ever seen God at any time.”
This is one of those times our BHC Guideline may come in handy:
Our beliefs will be large enough to include all the facts;
open enough to be tested;
and, flexible enough to change when we become aware of errors or new facts.
Below are some facts that are directly related to this situation:
(1) Jacob saw ELOHIYM face-to-face (Genesis 32:20)
(2) Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel saw ELOHIYM (Exodus 24:10)
(3) YAHWEH said, “No man is able to see My face and live.” (Exodus 33:20)
(4) No one has ever seen God at any time. (John 1:18)
(5) No one has ever seen God at any time. (1 John 4:12)
The facts are these:
(1) According to two verses in the Torah – Jacob, Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel saw ELOHIYM.
(2) According to one verse in the Torah – no man is able to see YAHWEH’s face and live.
(3) According to two verses in the New Testament – no one has ever seen God.
(4) The New Testament is not part of the Jewish Bible.
(5) A doctrine created by some Christian religious institutions states “the Bible is inerrant, infallible, with no errors or contradictions.”
The facts are that the Christian Bible contains all of the above; therefore, they must be included in our belief systems. Now let’s get back to Moses and see what he does next.
And Moses went up into the mountain, and a cloud covered the mountain. And the glory of YAHWEH dwelt on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And He called to Moses on the seventh day from the midst of the cloud. And the glory of YAHWEH appeared like a burning fire on the top of the mountain before the sons Israel. So Moses went into the midst of the cloud and went up into the mountain. And Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights. (Exodus 24:15-18)
The Israelites standing at the base of Mount Sinai saw a burning fire on the top of the mountain. Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel had a much closer look at it. What do you think went through all of their minds as they witnessed this dramatic event – knowing who was up there? How could anyone on the mountain survive? Just imagine the discussions that must have taken place during those forty days and forty nights. Meanwhile, on top of the mountain, Moses was receiving more laws and instructions from YAHWEH:
(1) Offerings for the Sanctuary (25:1-9)
(2) The Ark of the Testimony (25:10-16)
(3) The Mercy Seat (25:17-22)
(4) The Table for the Showbread (25:23-30)
(5) The Gold Lampstand (25:31-40)
(6) The Tabernacle (26:1-36)
(7) The Altar of Burnt Offering (27:1-8)
(8) The Court of the Tabernacle (27:9-19)
(9) The Care of the Lampstand (27:20-21)
(10) Garments for the Priesthood (28:1-4)
(11) The Ephod (28:5-14)
(12) The Breastplate (28:15-30)
(13) Other Priestly Garments (28:31-43)
(14) Instructions for the Consecration of Aaron and His Sons (29:1-37)
(15) The Daily Offerings (29:38-46)
(16) The Altar of Incense (30:1-10)
(17) The Ransom Money (30:11-16)
(18) The Bronze Laver (30:17-21)
(19) The Anointing Oil (30:22-33)
(20) The Incense (30:34-38)
(21) The Craftsmen for Building the Tabernacle (31:1-11)
(22) The Shabbat Law (31:12-17)
It doesn’t take forty-days to read the above chapters, so it is clear that Moses learned much more than the words recorded in the above chapters. It is reasonable to assume that Moses passed on much of what he learned to Aaron, Nadab, Abihu and the seventy elders of Israel.
And He gave to Moses, when He finished speaking with him on Mount Sinai, two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written by the finger of ELOHIYM. (Exodus 31:18)
Finally, we discover the time and place that Moses first received two stone tablets – eleven chapters after chapter 20 -- the traditional account said to be the giving of the Ten Commandments.
Let’s take another look at the above verse above, because it contains some very interesting and important terms:
(1) tablets of the testimony – an everlasting memorial testifying to the covenant that had been made between YAHWEH and Israel. (Cassuto, p. 405)*
(2) written by the finger of ELOHIYM – The text is worded with great care: Scripture does not state, “written by the hand of YAHWEH,” but “written by the finger of ELOHIYM,” in order to inform us specifically that the writing was of Divine character. The phrase “finger of ELOIYM” occurred earlier already (Exodus 8:15) as “a general allusion to the Divine power.” (Cassuto, p. 405)*
And Moses turned and went down from the mountain, the two tablets of the testimony were in his hand, tablets were written on two sides; on this and on that, they were written. And the tablets were the work of ELOHIYM, and the writing was the writing of ELOHIYM, it was engraved on the tablets. (Exodus 32:15-16)
The above description helps us visualize the approximate size and weight of the tablets. They were neither large nor thick, but could be carried by Moses in his hands. They were not huge tablets like the stone monuments set up for all to see – for example, the stele of Mesha, king of Moab, which were slabs that no human being could carry in his hand. They were tablets like those on which were inscribed or engraved, in letters of moderate size, records and documents intended for preservation in archives or libraries. (Cassuto p. 418)*
And when Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, “There is a noise of war in the camp.” But he said: “It is not the noise of the shout of victory, nor the noise of the cry of defeat, but the sound of singing I hear.” And it was, as soon as he came near the camp, that he saw the calf and the dancing. And Moses’ anger became hot, and he cast the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain. (Exodus 32:17-19)
Moses brought the stone tablets down the mountain, but before he read them to the people he smashed them against the foot of the mountain. So, this means at least one more trip up the mountain will be required.
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*A Commentary on the Book of Exodus by U. Cassuto © 1987 The Magnes Press, The Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel.