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People Affirm their Covenant with God Israel Affirms the Covenant The Ceremony of Covenant Ratification The Covenant is Sealed The Ratification of the Covenant
24:1-8 24:1-8 24:1-2 24:1-2 24:1-2
24:3-8 24:3-7 24:3-8
On the Mountain with God 24:8
24:9-11 24:9-11 24:9-11
Moses on Mt. Sinai Moses on the Mountain
24:10-11 24:10-11
24:12-18 24:12-18 24:12-14 24:12-14 24:12-15a
24:15-18 24:15-18

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Bible Interpretation Seminar")

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.
  1. First paragraph
  2. Second paragraph
  3. Etc.


  1. This chapter is not in sequential, chronological order. There are "doublets." Notice how many times Moses is told to come up and how many times the text says he went up (cf. Exod. 19:3,4,20,21,28 [twice]).
       TOLD WENT
    Exod. 24:1 - imperative  Exod. 24:2
     Exod. 24:9
    Exod. 24:12 - imperative
     Exod. 24:13
     Exod. 24:15
     Exod. 24:18

    The UBS Handbook (p. 565) suggests that this chapter is a composite of an account combining two or three different sources. Although I disagree with J.E.D.P. Pentateuchal Source Criticism (see SPECIAL TOPIC: PENTATEUCH SOURCE CRITICISM), I do believe that much of it was oral, passed down by different sources. See John H. Walton and D. Brent Sandy, The Lost World of Scripture.

  2. Part of the literary confusion is the fact that there are two revelatory events recorded.
    1. the inauguration of "the book of the covenant," Exod. 24:1-8
    2. the receiving of the two tablets written by God, Exod. 24:9-18

  3. This is the great inauguration ceremony of God's Covenant with Israel.

  4. Notice the emphasis on a sacred written text (cf. Exod. 24:4, i.e., canonization of texts).


1Then He said to Moses, "Come up to the Lord, you and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu and seventy of the elders of Israel, and you shall worship at a distance. 2Moses alone, however, shall come near to the Lord, but they shall not come near, nor shall the people come up with him." 3Then Moses came and recounted to the people all the words of the Lord and all the ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice and said, "All the words which the Lord has spoken we will do!" 4Moses wrote down all the words of the Lord. Then he arose early in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of the mountain with twelve pillars for the twelve tribes of Israel. 5He sent young men of the sons of Israel, and they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as peace offerings to the Lord. 6Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and the other half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. 7Then he took the book of the covenant and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, "All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient!" 8So Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, and said, "Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words."

24:1 "Come up to the Lord" In Exodus 19 (the first giving of the ten words and its acceptance by Israel) Moses went up and down the mountain several times. This is also true of Exodus 24 (cf. Exod. 24:1,9,12).
This implies

  1. eyewitness detail of several up and down events
  2. the combination of different sources (see SPECIAL TOPIC: PENTATEUCH SOURCE CRITICISM)
  3. a technique of oral tradition (see John H. Walton and D. Brent Sandy, The Lost World of Scripture)
For me, #3 seems best.

Notice this is a command from Moses, not YHWH. It is directed towards the leadership of the tribes and the soon-to-be priesthood.
  1. Aaron and his two oldest sons (cf. Exod. 19:22)
    1. Nadab
    2. Abihu
  2. the 70 tribal elders (in Exodus 19 they did not go up the mountain, cf. Exod. 19:7); for "70" see SPECIAL TOPIC: SYMBOLIC NUMBERS IN SCRIPTURE.

▣ "you shall worship at a distance" There is no consecration period mentioned, as in Exod. 19:10-11.
This group of leaders will approach God and experience Him in a powerful, unique way (cf. Exod. 24:10-11), but still Moses' exalted position of mediator is emphasized (cf. Exod. 24:12).
The spacial limits placed on Israel's leaders and populations set the stage for the separation of the Tabernacle and later temple. Only the main leader or a High Priest could approach YHWH. Others must stay at prescribed distances.

24:3-8 It seems that Exod. 24:1-2 links up with Exod. 24:9-11, while 24:3-8 forms an independent literary unit which describes the covenant affirmation and commitment event.

24:3 "the ordinances" This is literally "judgments" (BDB 1048, see SPECIAL TOPIC: TERMS FOR GOD'S REVELATION). Notice Exod. 24:12 has two more terms.

▣ "and all the people answered with one voice. . ." This is the second account of the covenant inauguration (cf. Exod. 19:8). There is even a third in Exod. 24:7. The first ten words written by the finger of God on stone tablets will be broken by Moses because of the sin of Aaron and Israel with the golden calf (cf. Exodus 32), which will require another inauguration event.

▣ "all the words" Israel accepts the privileges and responsibilities of the Covenant (cf. Exod. 24:7; 19:8; see SPECIAL TOPIC: COVENANT). This was a promise of complete obedience. However, history would prove that the Fall of Genesis 3 affected mankind so deeply that Israel could never do this (see Rom. 3:9-18,23).

24:4 "Moses wrote down" This idea that Moses wrote down God's commands forms the basis for our understanding of "canon." These were not Moses' thoughts or words but YHWH's. They are, therefore, holy and revelatory and need to be preserved for all generations. For the concept of canon see SPECIAL TOPIC: CANON; and NIDOTTE, vol. 4, pp. 460-464.
See exegetical notes at Exod. 17:14 on Moses' writing.

This is a literary way of denoting canonical texts. The law of God was

  1. revealed, Exod. 24:3
  2. recited, Exod. 24:3
  3. written down, Exod. 24:4
  4. orally affirmed by oath, Exod. 24:4
  5. must be obeyed, Exod. 24:7

▣ "built an altar at the foot of the mountain"Notice the altar was separate from twelve (see SPECIAL TOPIC: SYMBOLIC NUMBERS IN SCRIPTURE) stone pillars which were symbolic of the twelve tribes of Israel (this is not related to the prohibition of pagan pillars in Deut. 16:22, which represented Ba'al, the male fertility god of Canaan), minus Levi.
Note also that although this altar was not at the top (where Moses met God), it was in a place where the people of Israel had access; possibly in the idiomatic sense of "foot hills" (cf. Deut. 4:11).
The altar represented YHWH and the twelve pillars represented Israel. It is possible that the blood of Exod. 24:8 was sprinkled on the "pillars" instead of the crowd.

▣ "pillars" Sacred pillars were originally set up as memorials.

  1. by Moses in Exod. 24:4, as a way to commemorate the establishment of the covenant of Sinai (e.g., Jos. 4:3,9,20)
  2. to some great event or to an appearance of God
    1. Shechem (cf. Jos. 24:26)
    2. Bethel (cf. Gen. 28:18)
    3. Gilead (cf. Gen. 31:45)
    4. Gilgal (cf. Jos. 4:5)
    5. Mizpah (cf. 1 Sam. 7:12)
    6. Gibeon (cf. 2 Sam 20:8)
    7. En-Rogel (cf. 1 Kgs. 9:9)
They came to be connected to the idolatrous sins of Ba'al worship and are condemned in Exod. 34:13; Deut. 12:3; 16:22; Micah 5:13. This demonstrates how the same practice or items or place can be accepted in an older part of the OT, but condemned in other parts.

24:5 "burnt offerings. . .peace offerings" This verse is an eyewitness detail. These young men were not part of the seventy elders. They may have been "firstborns" (Exodus 13; see Targum OnKelos) who served God before the establishment of the priesthood.

  1. a burnt offering which was totally consumed in the fire (usually a sign of commitment, but here of a covenant ratification)
  2. peace offering which was the main part of a covenant meal where God symbolically was present with the offerer; here, God was uniquely present visibly (cf. Exod. 24:9-11)
Some scholars see Exod. 24:1-3,9-11 as separate from Exod. 24:3-8, but the peace offering of Exod. 24:5 links to the covenant meal in 24:11.

▣ "sacrificed" This is literally "and sacrificed sacrifices" (BDB 256, NOUN and VERB).

24:6,8 The blood of the sacrifices of Exod. 24:5 was collected and used to ratify the covenant in Exod. 24:8 (cf. Heb. 9:18-21). For the use of blood in covenant making see SPECIAL TOPIC: COVENANT.
Remember, this event was before the sacrificial system was begun. The phrase, "blood of the covenant" (Exod. 24:8) is mentioned in the eschatological Messianic passage of Zech. 9:11. It is also mentioned by Jesus at the last supper in Matt. 26:28; Luke 22:20 and referenced by Paul in 1 Cor. 11:25. Jesus was starting a new covenant.
The blood symbolized the new covenant (cf. Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:22-38)!

  1. the seriousness of their pledge
  2. a life given to accomplish it (cf. Mark 14:24)
  3. a family unity between YHWH and Israel
  4. but unlike Heb. 9:19-21, it did not specifically deal with forgiveness (cf. Mark 10:45)
There is similarity between this use of sacrificial blood and the consecration of Aaron and his sons in Exodus 29. Therefore, the procedure may have been a way to consecrate all Israel as a kingdom of priests (cf. Exod. 19:5-6).

24:7 "the book of the covenant" Moses read all the words of this covenant agreement to all the people.
One wonders what Moses read.

  1. the Decalog
  2. the added laws of Exod. 21:1-23:13

▣ "we will do and we will be obedient" This phrase has two Qal IMPERFECT VERBS.

  1. do - BDB 793, KB 889
  2. be obedient - BDB 1033, KB 1570 (shema means "to hear so as to do," cf. Deut. 1:16; 4:1; 5:1; 6:3,4; 9:1; 20:3; 27:10; 33:7)
It seems there are several times Israel said something like this (i.e., Exod. 19:8; 24:3,7; and again is implied in Exodus 34; also note Jos. 24:21-22).

24:8 "sprinkled it on the people" This has no ANE parallels. The best guess of its significance is seen when the High Priest and his family have blood put on them in Exod. 29:19-25. As the family of priests was dedicated to God's service, so too, Israel, the family of priests (cf. Exod. 19:5-6), was dedicated to God.

9Then Moses went up with Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, 10and they saw the God of Israel; and under His feet there appeared to be a pavement of sapphire, as clear as the sky itself. 11Yet He did not stretch out His hand against the nobles of the sons of Israel; and they saw God, and they ate and drank.

24:9-11 Although the reading of the covenant, the acceptance of it by the people, and the sprinkling with blood was done at the bottom of the mountain, the communal meal (Exod. 24:11; Gen. 26:30; 31:54) to seal the covenant was done high up on the mountain. It was restricted to the leaders.
Exodus 24:10 has always bothered Bible readers because of Exod. 33:20. This visual encounter is similar to Isaiah 6 and Ezekiel 1; 10. See full note at Exod. 33:20.

24:10-11 "His feet. . .His hand" These are anthropomorphic ways (see SPECIAL TOPIC: GOD DESCRIBED AS HUMAN) of describing the invisible YHWH, (see SPECIAL TOPIC: CHARACTERISTICS OF ISRAEL'S GOD (NT). But in this context YHWH manifested Himself physically. Note the two different VERBS "to see"

  1. Exod. 24:10 - BDB 906, KB 1157
  2. Exod. 24:11 - BDB 302, KB 301
and the specific statement that He allowed this in Exod. 24:11a.

24:10 "a pavement of sapphire, as clear as the sky itself" See notes at Ezek. 1:26 which describe the portable chariot of YHWH. It seems they viewed God (Elohim) from below through this pavement.
The sapphire (BDB 705), possibly lapis lazuli (cf. Ezek. 1:26), may reflect the dome of the sky in Gen. 1:6-8. Heaven's floor is the earth's blue sky (TEV).
The UBS Handbook (p. 573) says the second phrase is literally "and like bones of the heavens for purity." "Bones" (BDB 782), which can mean "substance" or "essence" and "purity" (BDB 372, NJB, JPSOA), is spelled similarly to "clearness" (BDB 372, RSV). The clearness is called "ice" (BDB 901) in Ezek. 1:22.
These two phrases may be an idiomatic way of describing the dome/vault of the earth which forms the floor of God's throne.

NASB, Peshitta  "as clear as"
NKJV  "its clarity"
NRSV  "clearness"
NJB  "pure"
JPSOA, LXX  "purity"
REB  "clear blue"
The Hebrew root (BDB 372, found only 3 times) can denote
  1. clearness (cf. Ezek. 1:22)
  2. luster ("splendor," Ps. 89:44)
  3. color (Ugaritic)
  4. purity (Exod. 25:11; 30:35; Lev. 12:4,6)
The VERB denotes "to be clear" or "to be pure."

12Now the Lord said to Moses, "Come up to Me on the mountain and remain there, and I will give you the stone tablets with the law and the commandment which I have written for their instruction." 13So Moses arose with Joshua his servant, and Moses went up to the mountain of God. 14But to the elders he said, "Wait here for us until we return to you. And behold, Aaron and Hur are with you; whoever has a legal matter, let him approach them." 15Then Moses went up to the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. 16The glory of the Lord rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; and on the seventh day He called to Moses from the midst of the cloud. 17And to the eyes of the sons of Israel the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a consuming fire on the mountain top. 18Moses entered the midst of the cloud as he went up to the mountain; and Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights.

24:12-18 This seems like a summary account of Moses receiving the ten words. This records a 40 day time period for Moses' personal encounter with God on the mountain. A second 40 days is recorded in Exod. 34:28 after the golden calf event of Exodus 32.

24:12 "the law and the commandment" This may refer to not only the ten words (Exodus 20), but also the book of the covenant (Exod. 21:1-23:13; note Deut. 5:31). This is because of the ambiguity of the Hebrew waw PREPOSITION.

▣ "which I have written" YHWH wrote the "ten commandments" Himself (cf. Exod. 31:18). YHWH did not write "the book of the covenant," Moses did (cf. Exod. 24:4). YHWH certainly was the source of Exodus 21-23.
If this is true, then Exod. 24:12 refers only to the "tablets of stone" and not chapters 21-23 (i.e., book of the covenant, Exod. 24:7). Possibly Moses received not only the "ten commandments," but a fuller oral explanation. I think this chapter seems so repetitive because two or three oral sources have been combined.

  1. the revelation at Mt. Sinai
  2. the revealing of the book of the covenant (Exod. 24:7-8)
  3. the inauguration of the covenant with YHWH

24:13-24 One wonders how this relates to Exod. 24:9-11. It seems to be a flash back.

24:13 "the mountain of God" See note at Exod. 3:1.

24:14 This verse implies that Moses will be on the mountain a long time (i.e., Aaron and Hur would act as supreme judges in his absence, cf. Exod. 18:16). Apparently this is a chronological flashback.

▣ "Hur" Obviously Aaron and Hur (cf. Exod. 17:12) were left in charge as Moses went to meet God. They had Moses' authority to judge during the 40 days.

NASB, JPSOA  "a legal matter"
NKJV  "a difficulty"
NRSV, TEV, REB  "a dispute"
NJB  "any matter to settle"
LXX  "a case"
Peshitta  "a problem"
This is the common NOUN (BDB 182) "word" or "speech," but here and in Exod. 18:16,19 it denotes a legal dispute that had to be settled by a judge (cf. Deut. 17:9) or priest (of which there were none yet).
In Deut. 22:14,17 (also a legal context) it is translated "a charge" or "accusation."

24:15-18 This is parallel to Exodus 19. See exegetical notes there.

24:15 "the cloud covered the mountain" This cloud (BDB 777) was a symbol of the personal presence of YHWH (cf. Exod. 19:9). He was veiled to protect the people (cf. Exod. 24:10).

24:16 "The glory" See SPECIAL TOPIC: GLORY (kabod, OT).
Notice how Exod. 24:16 is a reflection of Genesis 1-2.

24:17 "like a consuming fire" YHWH's presence is described in this imagery in Deut. 4:24; 9:3 and Heb. 12:29.
The NIDOTTE, vol. 1, p. 534, has a good list of how God revealed Himself and His will using "fire" imagery.

  1. God as a flaming torch - Gen. 15:17
  2. God appeared in a burning bush - Exod. 3:2
  3. pillar of fire - Exod. 13:21,22; 14:24; Num. 9:15; 14:14; Ps. 78:14; 105:39
  4. spoke revelation from the midst of the fire - Deut. 4:12,15,33,36; 5:4,22,24,26; 9:10; 10:4
  5. connected to His descent on Mt Sinai - Exod. 19:18; 24:17
  6. in lightning - Isa. 29:6; 30:27,30; Ps. 50:3
  7. cleaning fire of judgment - see SPECIAL TOPIC: FIRE
  8. personal presence comes in fire - Isa. 66:15-16


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

  1. Is Exodus 24 an editorial composite document? If so, does that affect inspiration?
  2. How are Exod. 24:3 and 7 different from Exod. 19:8? Why three covenant ratification statements?
  3. Why are the "pillars" in Exod. 24:4 allowed here but not later?
  4. Why does the account of the sprinkling in Exodus 24 differ from the account in Hebrews 9?
  5. What is the significance of "the blood of the covenant"?
  6. Does Exod. 24:9-11 imply that these men saw God? Why is that a problem (cf. Exod. 33:20)?
  7. How is Exod. 24:12-18 parallel to Exodus 19?

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