God gives Israel's contract a once-over
God replaces broken stone tablets1The LORD told Moses, “Chisel out two stone tablets like the first pair. I’ll write the same words on those tablets as I did for the first ones, which you smashed. 2Get ready to meet me. Then, in the morning, climb up Mount Sinai and present yourself to me there on top of the mountain. 3I don’t want anyone coming up with you. In fact, I don’t want anyone on any part of the mountain. I don’t even want to see flocks and herds grazing near the foot of the mountain."
4Moses chiseled two stone tablets into the shape of the first pair. Then, the next morning, he got up early and climbed Mount Sinai, just as the LORD told him to do. Moses took the two stone tablets with him.
5When Moses called out the LORD’s name, the LORD descended, cloaked in a cloud. 6The LORD passed just in front of Moses. As he did, he said, “I’m here. I’m the LORD. I want you to know that I’m a compassionate God who understands mercy. I don’t get angry quickly. You can count on me for kindness and loyalty. 7I show that kindness to thousands, by forgiving people for their rebelliousness and their sins. But I don’t give guilty people a free pass to sin. They and their families will suffer the consequences for three or four generations.”
8Moses responded by quickly bowing. 9Moses said, “If you and I are on good terms, please keep traveling with us. I know these people are relentlessly stubborn. But forgive us for the sinful choices we make. Claim us as your people.”
God outlines his contract with Israel10The LORD said, “I’m making a formal agreement with you, a contract. Your people will see me work wonders that no one in any nation has ever seen before. The people you live with will see breathtaking wonders. I’m the LORD, and I will do that for them. 11But you need to carefully obey the laws I’m giving you today. Look, here’s what I’m going to do for you if you obey the laws. I’m going to clear the road ahead by driving out the Amorite people, along with the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivittes, and Jebusites.
12Here’s what you’ve got to do. Refuse to make peace treaties with these people. If you make binding peace treaties, you’ll find yourselves trapped by them. 13Instead, I want you to tear down their altars, shrines, and sacred poles.
14I’m not going to let you get by with worshiping other gods. When it comes to that, call me Jealous because that’s who I Am. 15If you make a peace treaty with any of the locals living in the land, they will invite you to join them in their sacred meals and in religious rituals that honor their gods. 16You might let some of your sons marry their daughters. And their daughters could seduce your sons into worshiping their gods. 17Don’t make gods out of melted metal poured into a mold and shaped into an idol.
Respect the sacred days18Always observe the annual festival of the Yeast-free Bread. During this weeklong festival, don’t eat bread made with yeast. As I explained earlier, celebrate this festival in the first month of the year, since that’s when you left Egypt.
19Every mother’s first child belongs to me. Whether the mother is a human or from your livestock, I want that first child or that first animal—cattle or sheep. It’s reserved for me.” 20You don’t have to sacrifice donkeys. You can buy them back with the sacrifice of a lamb in their place. But if you prefer to sacrifice the donkey, kill it by breaking its neck. As for baby boys, you have no option but to save them. When you come to worship me, don’t come empty-handed. Bring offerings.
21You have six days to get your work done. On the seventh day, rest. You need to take that day off even when it’s time to plow or harvest. 22I want you to hold the Harvest Festival every spring, when you start to harvest your wheat. Later, hold the Last Harvest Festival at the end of the harvest season. 23I want the men of each family to come to all three of these festivals, to present themselves to their Lord and God.
24I’m going to clear the road ahead of you, driving out the people living in the land I’ve given to you. Then I’m going to expand your borders. No one will show any interest in taking your land away as long as you honor these three sacred festivals. 25When you bring me a sacrificed animal, don’t accompany it with anything baked with yeast. And don’t keep leftovers from the meat of animals sacrificed for Passover. Eat it all before the next morning.
26When you harvest your crops, bring the best of it to the worship center, as an offering to God. Also, when you cook a young goat, do not boil it in the milk of its own mother.”
27The LORD told Moses, "Write down everything I've told you here because these are the terms of the agreement I'm making with the people of Israel." 28Moses stayed there with the LORD 40 days and 40 nights. During that time, he didn’t eat or drink. He inscribed into the pair of tablets the heart of the agreement God made with Israel: the Ten Commandments.
Moses shines, scaring the people29Moses climbed back down Mount Sinai. He carried with him the pair of stone tablets inscribed with the terms of the agreement God made with Israel. Moses didn't realize his face was glowing from his contact with God.
30But Aaron and the people of Israel could see that his face was shining. They were afraid to come anywhere near him. 31So Moses called Aaron and the community leaders to come over and meet with him. Moses spoke to them. 32Later, the rest of the people came over. Moses told them to obey everything the LORD had said to him on Mount Sinai.
33When Moses finished talking to the people, he covered his face with a veil. 34After that, whenever Moses spoke with the LORD, he would take off the veil. But when he came back out to address the people and tell them what God had said, 35the people would see that the face of Moses was glowing again. So Moses would put the veil back over his face until the next time he spoke with God.
Known as Asherah poles. These may have been trees or poles meant to represent trees, as symbols of a Canaanite fertility goddess known as Asherah, goddess of motherhood. She was the love interest of Baal, chief god of the people who lived in Canaan, now known as Israel and the Palestinian Territories.
“Seduce” seems like a fitting word because some of the Canaanite religions featured sex rituals meant to entertain the gods. Numbers 25 says some women from Moab, in what is now the Arab country of Jordan, seduced some of the Hebrew men on the exodus out of Egypt to engage in ritual sex. Some scholars say the idea was to entertain Baal so he would make it rain. It’s a tad gross, but some taught that the rain was Baal’s semen. So, if the sex of worshipers got Baal stimulated enough, he would make it rain. Baal was considered god of fertility in family, flocks, and fields.
Often called “Feast of Unleavened Bread,” part of the Passover religious holiday. Observant Jews today eat a large cracker-like bread called matzo. See Exodus 23:15.
The writer calls the month Abib, an older name of the month that became known as Nisan (March-April). In fact, the month is called Nisan in Exodus 12:2, where the feast of Passover is first discussed. The Israelites would follow a lunar calendar, with every month starting at the first tiny crescent after the new moon. A new moon is when the moon is hidden behind earth’s shadow for one day. The sun, moon, and earth are aligned, with earth in the middle. Nisan is when Jews celebrate one of their most revered holidays: Passover. The month falls around Eastertime. Jesus went to Jerusalem to observe Passover when he was arrested and crucified.
See also Exodus 13:2. God claimed dibbs on Israel’s firstborn children and animals. They didn’t belong to the parents. They belonged to God. The first male child in each family was often considered the most important. He got a double share of the family inheritance. In the first reported sacrifice offered to God, Abel “killed the first lambs born to his prized sheep” (Genesis 4:4). The order God gave Moses wasn’t about human sacrifice, which God would outlaw. He provided a way for the parents to buy back (redeem) their children. The reason behind the ritual was to remind Israelites and their descendants, including Jewish people today, that God took the lives of Egypt’s firstborn, but spared the children of Israel. See also Exodus 13:12-15 and Numbers 18:15-16 for the process of reclaiming the children.
This repeats part of Exodus 23:15. There, it presumably referred to animal sacrifices, since it was still too early in the season for farmers to bring crops. Barley was one of the earliest plants harvested in the region. Farmers generally harvested it around April.
These offerings helped feed families of the priests and maintain the worship center. Priests descended from Jacob’s son, Levi. Levites weren’t assigned a tribal region of the Promised Land in what is now Israel and Palestinian Territories. They were scattered throughout the other tribes, to provide spiritual guidance locally, as well in what became the Temple worship center at Jerusalem.
It is unclear who is doing the inscribing. Earlier God said he would write the words on the tablets (34:1). But the context in this verse makes it look as though Moses is doing the work of the LORD.
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