Tag Archives: Book of Exodus

Commentary on Exodus 35-40 (Construction of the Tabernacle)

After the Golden Calf incident in chapter 32, God renewed his covenant with Israel and again wrote the covenant on two stone tablets. Most likely the two tablets were identical, as there would be one tablet for each party in the covenant (God and Israel).

In order for Israel to worship God properly, God gives Moses detailed instructions on the construction of the tabernacle, a sanctuary where God will dwell among the people of Israel. In verses 4-9 of Exodus 35, Moses begins the process of constructing the tabernacle (sometimes called the Tent of Meeting) by asking for the raw materials to be donated by the people.

The materials can be grouped in metals, fabrics, skins and wood, lamp oil, the anointing oil ingredients and incense ingredients, and gemstones. Each of the materials serves a specific purpose in the construction of the tabernacle. It should be noted that the raw materials are valuable, so that a great voluntary sacrifice of material wealth will have to be given by the Israelites. Once the materials for construction are collected, the people are commanded to build the tabernacle and everything that goes along with it.

In verses 10-19, Moses lists what must be built: the tabernacle with its tent and its covering, clasps, frames, crossbars, posts and bases; the ark of the covenant; the table on which the bread of the Presence will sit; the lampstand; the altar of incense; the curtain for the doorway at the entrance to the tabernacle; the altar of burnt offering; the bronze basin; the curtains of the courtyard; the tent pegs for the tabernacle and courtyard; and the woven garments worn for ministering in the sanctuary.

What is the purpose of the tabernacle and all of its contents? Let’s take them one by one. The significance of the entire tabernacle itself is that it is to represent God’s presence among his people. The Israelites were to place the tabernacle (where God is present) at the center of their camp. We know from the Book of Hebrews that the tabernacle was also be an earthly representation of Heaven, a pointer to the place where all of God’s people will forever be in His presence.

What about the ark? There appear to be two purposes for it. First, it would contain the two stone tablets of the Ten Commandments as a symbol of the covenant agreement. Second, the lid of the ark would serve as the “mercy seat,” a pure gold sculpture that symbolized a place for God to stand as a contact point for God and the Israelites. Here God would reveal divine truth to his people.

The purpose of the table in the outer room was to hold the bread of Presence. Since the tabernacle was to symbolize God’s house, the table was to symbolize where God would eat. A special group of Levites would bake twelve loaves each week, let them sit on the table, and then the priests would eat them at the end of the week, and start the process over again.

The lampstand (menorah) was to signify that God was “home” in the tabernacle. All of the Israelite tents used lamp light at night to allow them to see, so God’s house also needed lamp light. The seven lamps of this impressive lampstand would have burned extremely bright in the middle of the Israelite camp.

The purpose of the altar of incense in the outer room of the tabernacle was to represent the prayers of the people of Israel to God. In the ancient world, burning incense symbolized prayer, and that is why this altar is located right in front of the curtain that separates the outer room of the tabernacle from the inner room (Holy of Holies). The incense would travel directly to the ark behind the curtain, where God met with the people.

Since the tabernacle was God’s earthly home, the curtain at the entrance to the tabernacle could be thought of as the front door to his house. The curtain at the entrance was often kept open so that people could see into the tabernacle front room which contained the lampstand, altar of incense, and table.

The next objects to be built were outside of the tabernacle, in the large courtyard that surrounded the tabernacle. The courtyard was to serve as a community worship space right outside of God’s house, the tabernacle. The most important component of the courtyard was the altar of burnt offering. Douglas Stuart describes the purpose of the altar of burnt offerings:

In various ways during Old Covenant times, God taught his people the basic principle of salvation from sin: something that God considers a substitute must die in my place so that I may live. Altar sacrifice was the primary way for this substitution to happen. In preparation for Christ’s death on the cross, which was the ultimate sacrifice to which all others pointed, animal sacrifice was required of all Israelites.

Since it is dangerous to eat raw animal meat, God required that it be cooked, and to accomplish this a large outdoor grill was required. By killing an animal, then cooking it on that grill in God’s presence (i.e., in front of the entrance to the tabernacle), and then eating it in God’s presence (symbolically sharing the meal with him), the Israelite worshiper learned over and over again the concept of substitutionary atonement and of covenant renewal. The sacrificial meal always included a portion of a formerly living thing (sacrificial animal) that had been put to death in the place of the worshiper. It was prepared and cooked at God’s house . . . , and it renewed the worshiper’s commitment to his or her covenant with Yahweh each time it was eaten.

The purpose of the bronze basin in the courtyard was simple, but important: the priests must wash their hands and feet each time they prepared to offer a sacrifice and each time they entered the tabernacle. This washing not only symbolized the purity that God demands, but was also important for sanitary reasons.

The curtains of the courtyard were there to mark off the courtyard enclosure where the sacrifices to God were to be made. The tent pegs were used to secure the curtains of the courtyard and tabernacle.

Moses’ brother, Aaron, and his sons were to be set apart from the rest of Israel as priests to God. They were to wear special garments that included a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a woven tunic, a turban and a sash. God instructs them to be made out of “gold, and blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and fine linen.”

As we skip ahead to chapter 40, God commands Moses, in verse 1, to set up the tabernacle, the courtyard, and all of its contents on the first day of the first month of their second year at Mount Sinai (this would have been mid-March to mid-April, or the end of winter). The next 32 verses record the faithful consecration and anointing of God’s earthly home. It is interesting to note that the tabernacle was portable enough that it could be assembled in a single day, most likely in a few hours.

In verses 34-38, we see that once the tabernacle was assembled and consecrated for the first time, a cloud representing God’s presence descended on the tabernacle. God had taken up residence in his earthly home. From that day forward, God, in the form of the cloud, would rise to indicate that Israel was to move camp.

Commentary on Exodus 32 (Golden Calf)

As chapter 32 begins, Moses has been up on Mount Sinai for weeks (40 days) receiving instructions from God. This is the longest period of time, so far, that Moses has been away from the camp of Israel at the base of Mount Sinai. The outcome of Moses’ communion with God will be the two tablets of the Testimony, which are engraved by God himself.

The people of Israel, however, are anxious because Moses has been absent so long. In verse 1 of Exodus 32, some of the Israelites go to Aaron (who has been left in charge while Moses is gone) and ask him to make an idol that will represent Yahweh, the God who brought them out of Egypt.

There is some confusion here because of translation of a Hebrew word for “god(s).” The NIV translates verse 1 to say “Come, make us gods who will go before us,” while other translations render the Hebrew word in the singular: “Come, make us a god who will go before us.” It seems that the better translation is the singular, which means that the sin of the Israelites is not polytheism (worshipping more than one god), but idolatry (worshiping an image of God).

So, the Israelites are not looking to replace Yahweh with other gods, they are wanting to worship images of him. Remember that they had already agreed to the Ten Commandments, which includes the command to not commit idolatry, back in chapter 24. At that time, before Moses went back up the mountain to receive further instructions from God, the people had made a covenant with God, based on the Ten Commandments. Here we are just a month or so later, and they have already broken one of the most important commandments!

Aaron, instead of refusing the request of the people, makes an idol, in the shape of a calf, out of the gold earrings that they had received from the Egyptians. In addition, Aaron builds an altar in front of the golden calf and then announces a festival will be held to make offerings to the calf.

Why make an idol in the form of a calf? In both Egypt and Canaan, there were many gods that were worshiped in the form of a bull.  According to The Chronological Study Bible: New King James Version,

Cattle were common images for deities in the ancient Near East. In Egypt, Hathor , a very popular goddess, was represented as a cow, as a woman with cow horns or ears or both, and as a human with a cow’s head. The usual manner of depicting a male deity in Syria-Palestine was to represent him either as a bull or with some features of a bull usually horns. In Babylon the bull images of Hadad lined the main processional street.

The Israelites were reverting back to the pagan religious practices they learned from the Egyptians and surrounding nations.

In verses 7-8, God tells Moses to go back down the mountain because God sees the grave sins of the people. In verses 9-10, God threatens to destroy Israel since they have already broken his covenant, offering to start over with Moses as the father of a new covenant people.

Over the next four verses, Moses intercedes for the Israelites and begs God to relent. He reminds God about the promises God made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Israel), that he would make their descendants “as numerous as the stars in the sky and . . . give [their] descendants all this land [he] promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.” God does indeed relent and does not destroy the people of Israel.

Verses 15-18 describe Moses’ journey back down to the base of the mountain with the two stone tablets of the Testimony. At some point along the way, he meets up with Joshua, who was probably waiting half way down the mountain for Moses. They hear the shouting of the Israelites at the bottom of the mountain. Joshua thinks they are at war, but Moses knows better.

Moses throws the tablets to the ground, breaking them. This symbolizes that the covenant is broken, the covenant that the people made With God just weeks before. Douglas Stuart, in Exodus: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture (The New American Commentary), explains that the

tablets were not divided among the commandments, but each tablet contained all ten, so that one tablet represented the suzerain’s copy and one the vassal’s, in accordance with standard ancient Near Eastern document preservation practices. These two tablets were the most valuable material thing on earth at that time, as the reader is now informed clearly, so that later when Moses breaks them, the reader can appreciate the severity of the sin that would have caused him to do something so destructive to something so precious.

Moses then destroys the calf and confronts Aaron, asking “What did these people do to you, that you led them into such great sin?” Aaron’s response, in verses 22-24, is to blame the Israelites and not take responsibility for his part in the golden calf episode.

At this point, seeing the chaos of pagan worship running rampant among the Israelites, Moses asks all those who are for the Lord to come to him. Evidently, the tribe that rallied to Moses was made up primarily of Levites (which is the tribe of Moses and Aaron). Moses, in order to stamp out the idolatry, and in order to execute divine judgment on the nation of Israel, instructs the Levites to kill those Israelites committed to idol worship, men who are their brothers, friends, and neighbors.

In verse 30, Moses reminds the people of their great sin and he offers to go to the Lord and make atonement. When Moses speaks to God, he offers to have his name removed from the book (Book of Life) God has written, along with the rest of the Israelites, even though Moses did not sin.

Instead, God refuses to remove Moses from the Book of Life, but promises to remove those names of the people who did sin against God. God also promises to strike Israel with a plague as punishment for their sin, and so he does.

What more can be said about the Book of Life? Douglas Stuart provides a helpful overview:

First, the Book of Life is a record of those going on to eternal life as opposed to those who by their own decisions have rejected God and his salvation (cf. John 3:19–20). To have one’s name in the Book of Life is to have persevered in faith and obedience to God until the final judgment of the earth. To have one’s name blotted out is to have offended God by lack of faith and, accordingly, by disobedience so that one cannot continue to live, that is, have eternal life.

Moreover, important for understanding God’s purposes in judgment is to appreciate that everyone starts out in the Book of Life. It is a book of the living, and all who are born originally appear in it. God does not arbitrarily put some names in it and not others. All who come into the world have the potential for eternal life, according to God’s will (1 Tim 2:3–4; 2 Pet 3:9) but most ignore, reject, disdain, put off, or otherwise forfeit that potential—and so their names are eventually blotted out of the Book of Life. When they appear at the judgment and the books are opened (Dan 7:10; Rev 20:12), their names will not appear in the Lamb’s Book of Life because they chose a different direction during their lives on earth from the direction God prescribed. Their rejection of him eventually earns them rejection from being listed among the living. Their fate is then destruction, the second death (Rev 2:11; 20:6, 14; 21:18).

#4 Post of 2014 – Commentary on Exodus 7-11 (The 10 Plagues)

Post Author: Bill Pratt

In chapters 7-12, the power of God would be demonstrated to Pharaoh and all the people of Egypt. Recall that Pharaoh told Moses and Aaron that he did not know their God, and God promised that he soon would. Ten plagues would be visited upon the Egyptians, with each successive plague bringing yet more devastation on top of the previous.

The ten plagues may have occurred over a period of about nine months, with the first beginning in the months of July or August, when the Nile typically floods. The first plague is described in verses 14-25 of chapter 7. These are the words Moses is to speak to Pharaoh: “With the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water of the Nile, and it will be changed into blood. The fish in the Nile will die, and the river will stink; the Egyptians will not be able to drink its water.”

In verses 19-21, Aaron held out his staff over the waters of the Nile and the waters did become blood (or red like blood, as it could be translated). As a result, “The fish in the Nile died, and the river smelled so bad that the Egyptians could not drink its water. Blood was everywhere in Egypt.”

Pharaoh’s magicians were able to use trickery to partially duplicate this first plague, and so Pharaoh pays no mind and leaves Moses and Aaron to return to his palace.

Why make the waters of the Nile turn into blood, or into blood-colored water? The Egyptians worshiped many different gods that were associated with natural objects. The Nile River, in particular, was associated with at least 3 major gods and goddesses (Hapi, Isis, and Khnum). Therefore, when the God of Israel turned the water into blood, rendering the water undrinkable, it was a clear demonstration of God’s superiority over the Egyptian gods and goddesses. Each of the subsequent plagues would also “defeat” other Egyptian gods.

It is also worth noting the reactions of both Pharaoh and his magicians. The magicians clearly believed that through their own trickery they could duplicate, at least partially, this sign from God. They see no reason to believe that the God of Israel is anything special at this point.

Pharaoh, likewise, does not seem to be overly impressed, given that his own magicians can duplicate the sign. As the plagues progress, it is interesting to see the attitudes of Pharaoh and his magicians transform from smug contempt for Moses and his alleged God, to fear and open acknowledgment of his power.

If we skip ahead to the time period just before the seventh plague, the hailstorm, God reminds us in clear language what his purposes are in bringing the devastation of the plagues on the people of Egypt. In chapter 9, verses 13-16, we read the following:

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Get up early in the morning, confront Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me, or this time I will send the full force of my plagues against you and against your officials and your people, so you may know that there is no one like me in all the earth. For by now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with a plague that would have wiped you off the earth. But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”

God’s purposes are the following: 1) to force Pharaoh to release the Israelites from captivity so that they may worship him, 2) to teach Pharaoh that there is no one like God, 3) to demonstrate his power so that his name would be proclaimed over the earth.

After nine plagues have taken place, over a period of nine or ten months, Pharaoh is still not willing to let the Israelites go. Up to this point Pharaoh’s responses to each plague have been the following: 1) Nile turned to blood – ignored the request of Moses; 2) Frogs – agreed to let Israelites leave for worship, then reneged; 3) Gnats – ignored his magicians’ suggestion that the Hebrew God’s power was real; 4) Flies – suggested the Israelites worship in Egypt instead of leaving; 5) Death of livestock – refused Moses’ request; 6) Boils – refused Moses’ request; 7) Hail – agreed to let Israelites leave for worship, then reneged; 8) Locusts – offered to let only the men go; 9) Darkness – agreed that people could go, but not their animals.

So finally, in chapter 11, verses 1-10, God tells Moses that only one more plague will be brought on Pharaoh and Egypt. This plague will be so awful that Pharaoh will drive them completely out of the land. Recall that Moses has been asking for three days of worship, but God is saying that Pharaoh will go beyond that request and ask them to leave forever.

What is the tenth plague? God, through Moses, explains what will happen:

About midnight I will go throughout Egypt. Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the slave girl, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well. There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt—worse than there has ever been or ever will be again. But among the Israelites not a dog will bark at any man or animal.’ Then you will know that the LORD makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.

This final plague, the death of the firstborn, would strike the Egyptians harder than all the others. In particular, the firstborn of Pharaoh was considered to be a god, and for him to be killed would be a clear divine demonstration of superiority by the God of Israel. And, so that there would be no doubt about God’s desire to have Pharaoh release the Hebrew slaves, God assures Pharaoh that no Israelites will be harmed. Death will pass over them.

Did God Promise to Commit Genocide?

In Exodus 23:23, God says, “My angel will go ahead of you and bring you into the land of the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites and Jebusites, and I will wipe them out.” It seems from this verse that God is going to kill all of these people only because of their nationality. Is that what’s going on?

There are two things that we need to pay attention to. First, these people groups, commonly referred to by the largest of the groups, the Canaanites, have been warned by God to repent of their wickedness. The wickedness of Canaanite society was anticipated in Gen 15:16.

Their sins are described in Leviticus and Deuteronomy (see Lev 18 and 20; Deut 9 and 12), and include rampant incest, bestiality, and child sacrifice, just to name a few. Theirs is a desperately wicked culture that God had promised to destroy. God had been extremely patient with them, waiting for hundreds of years for them to repent, but they did not.

Second, the reader needs to continue on to verse 27-30 where God clarifies exactly what he means in verse 23. God’s plan is to drive them out of the land, little by little, year after year. This is what He means by the phrase “wipe them out.” Rather than killing the Canaanites, God’s primary plan is to push them out of the land so that they will not corrupt the people of Israel. Only the Canaanites foolish enough to stay behind will be attacked by the Israelite army.

Commentary on Exodus 23 (Promises and Warnings)

Chapters 20-23 of Exodus record all of the covenant laws that God has thus far given to Moses. The Ten Commandments are the most important of these laws, but the subsequent texts build on the foundation of the Ten Commandments, providing more detail. At the end of these laws, we come to Exodus 23:20-33.

In this section of Exodus 23, God repeats (from Gen 15) and expands on his promises to the Israelites regarding their entrance into Canaan, the Promised Land. This section also concludes the Covenant Code that God has shared with the Israelites over the previous chapters.

In verse 20, God introduces an angel that will guide them to the land and also protect them along the way. As we read along further, we learn that this angel is actually God himself.

In verses 21-23, God reminds the people of Israel to pay attention to what the angel (God) commands. If they listen and obey, God will “wipe out” the Canaanites, but if they disobey, God will not forgive their rebellion. The success of the Israelites in the Promised Land is dependent on their obedience to God. The other implication of these verses is that the Israelites have no hope of conquering the land without God’s direct and mighty intervention. They are too small of a nation to accomplish this task on their own.

In verse 24, we see God repeating and emphasizing the importance of the First and Second Commandments. The Israelites will be tempted to worship the gods of Canaan, to adopt their religious practices, so God is warning them again not to do this. In fact, in the next two verses, God promises to bless the people of Israel with food, rain, fertility, and long life, if they will only worship Him.

Why would Israel be tempted to worship the Canaanite deities? Douglas Stuart explains in Exodus: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture (New American Commentary):

The answer is that once settled in Canaan, they would surely desire agricultural success, which in the ancient world was generally attributed to proper involvement of the deities in the agricultural process through worship. In general, ancient peoples believed that the gods could do anything but feed themselves. Humans therefore had the job of raising food for the gods, which was then ‘sent’ to them through the offerings humans gave in the presence of the gods’ idols.

What part did the gods have in this process? They caused the crops to grow and the flocks and herds to multiply. The ancient farmer thought that the gods were absolutely essential to the agricultural process and that the way to involve the goodwill of the gods on behalf of one’s farming was to worship them. The essence of worship was providing food for them in the form of sacrifices. When Israel would arrive in the promised land, the temptation to plant as the Canaanites planted, to cultivate as they cultivated, to harvest as they harvested, and to worship as they worshiped would be almost irresistible since all these were thought to go together as part and parcel of farming in any given locality.

Verses 27-30 expand on God’s promise to “wipe out” the Canaanites. Here we learn what God means by this promise. God’s intention is to drive the inhabitants out of the land, little by little, over a period of years. The Israelites will be conducting a mere mop-up operation, because God will be doing the heavy lifting during the conquest.

Verses 29-30 explain that God must drive the people out slowly because the Israelites are not numerous enough to inhabit the land. The land will become desolate and overrun with wild animals if the Canaanites are driven out too rapidly.

Verse 31 reminds the reader again of the borders of the Promised Land, The Red Sea (northern tip of the Gulf of Aqaba) on the east, the Mediterranean Sea on the west, the Negev desert to the south, and the Euphrates River to the north.

Finally, in verses 32-33, God again warns the Israelites not to worship the gods of Canaan. If they allow the Canaanites to live among them in great numbers, they are sure to adopt the worship practices of the Canaanites.

Douglas Stuart summarizes the meaning of these verses: “Without Yahweh, they were nothing, could do nothing, and would end up as nothing. With him leading and them following obediently, however, all would fall properly into place, and their purpose as a people would come to fulfillment.”

Does God Punish Children for Their Parents’ Sins?

In Exodus 20:5-6, the text says “I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.” Many people mistakenly presume that these verses state that God punishes children for the sins of their parents, even if the children are innocent of those sins themselves. Is this right?

No, it clearly is not the right interpretation, as we are reminded in Deut 24:16 that “Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers; each is to die for his own sin.” So what does it mean?

According to biblical scholar Douglas Stuart in his Exodus: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture (New American Commentary),

this oft-repeated theme speaks of God’s determination to punish successive generations for committing the same sins they learned from their parents. In other words, God will not say, ‘I won’t punish this generation for what they are doing to break my covenant because, after all, they merely learned it from their parents who did it too.’ Instead, God will indeed punish generation after generation (‘to the third and fourth generation’) if they keep doing the same sorts of sins that prior generations did. If the children continue to do the sins their parents did, they will receive the same punishments as their parents.

In fact, if we finish reading verse 6, we see that God’s real desire is for his people to love Him and keep his commands so that He can show His love to a thousand generations.

Commentary on Exodus 19-20 (The Ten Commandments)

At the beginning of chapter 19, the Israelites have finally reached the base of Mount Sinai, on the third day of the third month after the Exodus from Egypt (48 days).  The people of Israel would reside at Mount Sinai for a full year – the rest of the Book of Exodus, all of the Book of Leviticus, and the first ten chapters of the Book of Numbers all take place here.

In verses 3-6, God speaks to Moses and announces the covenant that He will make with Israel. God first reminds Israel that He brought them out of Egypt. He then tells them that if they will obey His commands, He will bless them as His special people – “Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” Note that this is a conditional covenant with Israel. They will only be blessed if they obey God.

Douglas Stuart, in his Exodus: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture (New American Commentary), notes that this covenant “represents the separation of his chosen people from the general world population, or, stated in terms of the overall biblical plan of redemption, the beginning of the outworking of his intention to bring close to himself a people that will join him for all eternity as adopted members of his family.”

Additionally, “full monotheism is expressed in the words ‘although the whole earth is mine.’ This is one of the clearest early statements of monotheism in the Bible and certainly must have represented a sudden education for many of those present to hear Moses first relay these words to the people, since so many of them had grown up polytheists.”

In verses 7-8, the people agree to God’s covenant. Unfortunately, the remainder of the Old Testament conveys the sad truth that the Israelites were unable to hold up their side of the bargain.

God then tells Moses to prepare the Israelites for His coming in great glory on the mountain at Sinai. Moses warns the people to stay back from the mountain or they will be put to death. After three days of preparation, the people of Israel assemble at the foot of the mountain and God puts on an amazing display of pyrotechnics – thunder, lightning, fire, smoke, tremors. God again warns Moses that only he and Aaron are allowed to go up the mountain.

Once everyone has been assembled, God starts to speak to the Israelites and his first words to them are the Ten Commandments, or literally the “Ten Words.” The commandments are outlined in other parts of the Bible in different order, so they have been numbered in different ways by modern Jews and Christians. It seems that the best way to harmonize most of the biblical texts is the following:

Ex 20:2-6 – 1st commandment “You shall have no other gods before me.”

Ex 20:7 – 2nd commandment “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.”

Ex 20:8-11 – 3rd commandment “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.”

Ex 20:12 – 4th commandment “Honor your father and your mother.”

Ex 20:13 – 5th commandment “You shall not murder.”

Ex 20:14 – 6th commandment “You shall not commit adultery.”

Ex 20:15 – 7th commandment “You shall not steal.”

Ex 20:16 – 8th commandment “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.”

Ex 20:17a – 9th commandment “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house.”

Ex 20:17b – 10th commandment “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

Another popular way to delineate the Ten Commandments is to make verses 4-6 be the second commandment and to combine verses 17a and 17b as one commandment.

These ten commands from God are general moral instructions that can be applied to all sorts of specific situations. The many other laws found in Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy are all applications of the Ten Commandments.

Following is a brief word on each commandment.

The 1st commandment is a straightforward command to worship only Yahweh, the God of Israel. The Israelites were surrounded by cultures where polytheism (worship of multiple gods) was the norm. God is teaching his people that they are to discard all of the other false gods that were worshipped in Egypt and that will be worshipped in Canaan.

The 2nd commandment is meant to teach the Israelites how they are to call on Him. They are not to presume upon Him, but to treat His name with dignity and respect befitting the Creator of the universe.

The 3rd commandment instructs Israel to rest every 7th day and to assemble in worship on that day, repeating the pattern of the creation week.

The 4th commandment reminds children, both young and old, that they are to respect and honor their parents for as long as the children live. Even after their parents have died, they are to honor the teachings and instructions of their parents. This command assumes that the parents taught correctly about God, so it is not a blanket command for children to blindly follow their parents, even when their parents are clearly wrong about God.

The 5th commandment repeats what God taught in Genesis 9:6, that one man is not to take the life of another man without proper justification.

The 6th commandment reiterates God’s restrictions on sexual intercourse. It is to occur between a man and a woman who are married.

The 7th commandment forbids taking what does not belong to you.

The 8th commandment stresses honesty and accuracy.

The 9th and 10th commandments forbid a person to passionately desire or yearn for that which belongs to his neighbor, whether that be his neighbor’s spouse, property, or wealth. In essence, any kind of covetousness is prohibited.

If We Witness a Miracle, Will We Believe?

Some skeptics claim that if they only see a miracle, they will believe in God. If God would write something in the clouds, or appear in a burning bush and speak directly to them, they would believe.

Let’s test this theory out. What we find when we read the Book of Exodus is that God performed one miracle after another for months, even years. First, there were the 10 plagues that God brought on the Egyptians. Then there was the crossing of the Red Sea. There was the cloud pillar by day and pillar of fire at night.

In Exodus 16 we see even more miracles. God provides food (manna) for the Israelites every morning. On every 6th day, he provides a double portion of manna. He also miraculously preserved the manna for 2 days so that it wouldn’t rot.

The miracle parade goes on and on for the Israelites. So, according to our skeptic, the Israelites who witnessed all of these miracles day after day should have all trusted and believed in God, right? Those of you who have read the rest of Exodus and the following books of the Old Testament know that the Israelites time and again did not trust God. In fact, their lack of faith in God is a central theme of the entire Old Testament!

Even though miracles may help many people to believe in God, they clearly do not convince everyone. A person who simply does not want to believe in God can shove aside any and all evidence that might convince them. Their problem is not with the evidence, but with their heart.

Commentary on Exodus 16 (Manna and Quail)

Following the crossing of the Red Sea, the Israelites continued to travel south in the desert of the Arabian peninsula. As they moved further away from Egypt, they simultaneously moved further away from civilization. They became more and more hungry because there were few plants and animals for them to eat. This is the situation when Exodus 16 picks up.

In verses 1-3, we discover that the Israelites have been in the wilderness for over a month, and they are grumbling about their situation. They complain to Aaron and Moses that they were better off in Egypt than they are now. At least in Egypt, they were eating. Douglas Stuart notes in his Exodus: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture (New American Commentary), “This was the first time the Israelites made the ‘if only we had died in Egypt argument,’ but it would not be the last (see Num 11:4, 18; 14:2; cf. 20:3; Josh 7:7).”

God decides to test the faith of the Israelites by offering them a very unconventional food source, “bread from heaven.” The test is simple. The people of Israel are to gather food provided by God each morning, but only enough for that day. On Friday, the sixth day, they are to gather enough food for two days.

Stuart explains: “Moreover, God was teaching them a concept: that he was their ultimate provider, the one who from heaven gave them not necessarily what they expected but what they really needed. Thus his satisfying them with the bread of heaven becomes a theme of Scripture that not only refers to the manna described in this account (cf. Ps 105:40; Neh 9:15) but to the ultimate provision of eternal sustenance, Christ himself (John 6:31–58).”

In verses 6-11, Moses and Aaron remind the people that it is actually God they are grumbling against, not Moses and Aaron. But, they assure the people that God has heard their complaints and is going to provide meat in the evening and bread in the morning. Once they gather around the pillar of cloud, which is God’s presence among them, God reiterates what Moses and Aaron told them. What is the purpose of God miraculously providing this food? “Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.”

Douglas Stuart elaborates on God’s plans for the Israelites: “God was testing his people throughout the exodus events: leading them in odd directions without fully explaining why (14:1–4), surprising them with potentially destructive enemy attacks even after they had left Egypt (14:10ff.; cf. 17:8ff.), requiring them to walk into and through deep ocean water (14:15ff.), and taking them to locations that lacked the necessities of life (as in 15:23ff. and 16:2ff.). All of these challenges were part of a plan to develop a people’s willingness to trust him. Explaining everything in advance would have run counter to that plan. It was necessary for Israel to learn faith while confused, while afraid, while desperate—not just in theory but under pressure of actual conditions where survival was uncertain and faith was tested to the limit.”

The meat appears that very evening in the form of quail, and in the morning a bread-like substance appears which the Israelites have never seen before. They actually name the substance “What is it?” This translates into English as manna. Once the manna appeared, the Israelites gathered it as instructed, only gathering one omer per person. An omer is equal to about 2 quarts.

Moses gave an additional command, however. Nobody was to save the manna overnight. It must be eaten the same day it was collected. Why would God command this? To force the Israelites to rely on him daily for their food. Some Israelites, thinking they could hoard the manna, saved it overnight, but the next morning it was “full of maggots and began to smell.”

Recall that on the 6th day, each person was to gather 2 omers, or twice as much as the other days. Why is this? God explains in verse 23. “‘Tomorrow is to be a day of rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord. So bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil. Save whatever is left and keep it until morning.” Every seventh day was to be a day of rest, so God did not want the people of Israel gathering food and cooking it on the day of rest, the Sabbath.

The daily giving of the manna was so important to God and the Israelites that God commanded them to set aside a single omer of manna and keep it as a reminder of God’s daily provision of food for the 40 years they spent in the wilderness. It wasn’t until they entered the Promised Land that the manna ceased to appear each morning.

Commentary on Exodus 14 (Parting of the Red Sea)

Post Author: Bill Pratt 

In chapters 12 and 13, the Israelites escaped from Egypt due to the mighty hand of God, and have traveled some distance to the southeast, but not out of Egyptian territory. Chapter 14 begins the account of one of the most famous miracles performed by God for the Israelites, the parting of the Red (or Reed) Sea.

In verses 1-4, God tells Moses to stop their progress and turn back. They are to park themselves right on the coast of a sea. The purpose for their turning around, traveling back the way they had come, and then stopping, is to make Pharaoh believe that they are confused and unwilling to travel into the desert (which is the only way for them to escape Egyptian territory). This will cause Pharaoh to pursue them with his army.

The exact location of the Israelite encampment by the sea is unknown. The very northern tip of the Gulf of Suez, which is part of the Red Sea, could be where the Israelites camped and crossed, or the other options are Lake Balah or Lake Timsah, which are two larger bodies of water further north. In any case, from the text it is clear that it is a body of water that is deep enough to drown men.

God’s purpose is to invite Pharaoh to attack Israel so that, once again, God can demonstrate his power over Pharaoh and the Egyptian gods. “The Egyptians will know that I am the Lord.” The Egyptian gods don’t exist, and the Egyptians must come to understand that the God of the Hebrews is the only true God.

In verses 5-9, Pharaoh does exactly what God said he would do. Pharaoh and his officials regret the fact that they have lost the Hebrew slaves, and so they decide to dispatch chariots to bring the Israelites back to Egypt. At least 600 chariots are sent and this hastily gathered army quickly catches up to the Israelites who have stopped their progress by the sea.

Why would Pharaoh chase after the Israelites after witnessing the ten plagues brought on by God? Is he crazy? Douglas Stuart, in his Exodus: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture (New American Commentary), explains:

The answer requires appreciating Egyptian religion in its ancient Near Eastern context. To all the ancients (except those Israelites who were beginning to understand the only true God) the gods and goddesses that controlled the world were arbitrary and capricious, quick to change their actions and attitudes, constantly vying with one another for power, not omnipresent but manifesting themselves at given locations and then leaving those locations unpredictably. . . . Likewise, the Egyptians’ gods were considered beings who might not always be present among their people. Accordingly, Yahweh knew that it would be natural for Pharaoh to think that he, Yahweh, after having expended great effort to demonstrate his power to the Egyptians, might now no longer be directly involved in helping the Israelites so that he, Pharaoh, could once again assert his power over them unhindered.

Seeing the Egyptian army advancing upon them, the Israelites, in verses 10-12, cry out to Moses that he should have never brought them out of Egypt to die at the hands of Pharaoh’s chariots. They were better off as slaves. Douglas Stuart notes that

this was the first of the postexodus declarations by Israelites that they should have stayed where they came from. The others (e.g., Num 14:1–4; Josh 7:6–9) share considerably the theme of this one: when hardship is encountered, the miserable past suddenly looks like the good old days.

Moses, however, is confident that God will save them. God tells Moses, in verses 15-18, “Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground.” God promises that the Egyptians will follow them so that God “will gain glory through Pharaoh and all his army.”

In order to give the Israelites time to break camp and prepare themselves for crossing the sea (the remainder of the day and almost the entire evening were used in the process of getting the Israelites out of their camp and across the sea), the angel of God, who was in the form of a pillar of cloud, moved from the front of the Israelites to the rear, as a barrier between the Egyptian army and the Israelite camp. The Egyptians cannot attack with the angel of the Lord protecting the Israelites.

When Moses held out his staff, God caused a strong east wind to blow back the waters and clear a dry path for the Israelites to cross the body of water. There were walls of water on the right and left of the people as they advanced.

In verses 23-28, as God predicted, the Egyptian chariots, with the angel of God no longer impeding their progress, followed the Hebrews into the sea. God, however, caused the chariot wheels of the Egyptians to get stuck and come off, throwing their drivers into confusion and chaos.

Douglas Stuart elaborates on the problems with the chariot wheels:

The sea floor was soft and sandy/silty so that even though it was dry, it was not a suitable surface for narrow, metal-bound chariot wheels bearing the weight of a chariot and two or three armed men. The horses pulling the chariots, like the Israelite goats and sheep, would have been able to get through satisfactorily; the chariot wheels, however, effectively sliced deep into the soft ground and bound so that the horses could not pull their own weight and that of the fully loaded chariots.

Once the army of chariots had advanced far enough into the sea, God instructed Moses to stretch out his hand over the sea, and the walls of water collapsed and drowned the army of Pharaoh. Not one of them survived.

Verses 30-31 summarize the lesson the Israelites learned that day: “That day the Lord saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore. And when the Israelites saw the great power the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.”