8: What if… the Ten Commandments were just the short form?
Moses goes back up the mountain to plead for the people in Exodus 32:31-35, and although the Levites have already killed some of the wrongdoers, God claims that punishment is his own domain. He gives the order to Moses to lead the people onward in their journey (Exodus 32:33, 33:1-6) but then He makes them wait. There’s more than “just” the Ten Commandments to be given on Sinai.
What if… stories are told from different points of view?
Exodus 33:7-11 says the Lord speaks to Moses face to face, but 18-23 says no one can see God’s face. The first description may come from Joshua’s point of view, and the second from Moses’. Whatever if meant, the people see smoke and know Moses is meeting God in a much more real sense than they can. But Moses is aware of how much he is missing. Later, when he interacts more closely with God on the mountain, his face is described as radiant (29), from the heat perhaps, and also from “seeing God.” Notably, he isn’t aware of the change.
What if… Moses and God wrote together on the stones?
Exodus 34:1-29 is presumably this where Moses comes closest to “seeing” God. God says that he will write on the stones in verse 1 but tells Moses to write in verse 27. Perhaps again, it’s a question of point of view. If God dictates, the written words are His.
The commandments listed in this section are not strictly the Ten Commandments, though verse 28 describes them that way; they include a mixture of earlier rulings—social, religious, and formal.
What if… there are 613 laws as well as 10 commandments?
Leviticus isn’t the only book listing the laws God gave on Mount Sinai. And Exodus doesn’t just tell the story of the journey out of Egypt and the giving of the Ten Commandments. Just for reference, Numbers gives a lot of details of the journey, and Deuteronomy repeats lots of events: It’s almost like having four Gospels except they’re in the Old Testament this time.
Counting the laws, and working out which ones are repetitions and which ones are new, can take quite a while, but traditionally there are six hundred and thirteen.
What if… God designed a tent?
In Exodus 33:1 God tells Moses that the people must move. But in chapters 34-35 He prepares them to make that move by giving instructions for the making and carrying of the tent which will serve as their temple. Measuring 150 feet by 75, with walls of white linen cloth (and no roof), it will be erected in the center whenever the tribes make camp.
Inside the tent is a smaller roofed area, and details instructions are given for building and carrying this too. The tabernacle is 45 feet by 15 feet, divided into the Holy Place (45x30) and the Most Holy Place(15x15x15)—note: the Most Holy Place is a cube, just like the Holy City in Revelation (Revelation 21:15-21). This area is covered with four roof coverings, and four is a number signifying the earth—protection from earthly elements perhaps?
Inside the tabernacle is the ark.
What if… colors have meaning?
What if… the stones on the ephod appear in the New Testament too?
Exodus 28:15-29 lists the twelve stones disciples worn on the priests’ breastplates. In 35:9 just the onyx and “other stones” are mentioned. But it’s interesting that the colors of these stones (and in many cases the stones themselves) correspond exactly with the stones that John describes in Revelation in the walls of the Holy City (Revelation 21:15-21). It’s almost as if eventually we’re priests because we belong in God’s city, rather than by birth or election.
Not, there are twelve stones for the twelve sons of Israel, the tribes, the people of God’s choosing; the number probably has the same symbolism when Jesus chooses twelve. 3x4 might also mean God’s perfection applied to the world.
What if… everything really could be made that way?
Exodus 37:1-9 describes the making of the ark, followed by the table where it will stand, and the holy vessels that will be used in sacrifices, the seven-branched lamp, the tables… It’s interesting that all of these things and their designs are very plausible for the people of the time, especially the way that wooden items are overlaid with metal. (38:8 even describes how the women’s mirrors were melted down to provide metal.) The Bible is one of the most reliable historical records of how people lived, what items they made and how they made them; the number, age and consistency of ancient Biblical records being without rival.
What if… we don’t understand the Shekinah glory?
Exodus 40 describes the Israelites setting up the tent. God tells them how they must worship on the first day of every month, and how everything and everyone should be prepared. In verse 34 the cloud of God’s presence fills the Tabernacle. When it lifts, the people march. When it stays, they stay encamped.
The cloud was first mentioned when Moses was on the top of the mountain. Then we read how it covered the tent of meeting when Moses spoke with God. Now it appears and fills the Tabernacle. Obviously the timing of the appearances of the cloud are important. Even if there are physical explanations (perhaps in a volcanic region God doesn’t want them to move when the earth’s crust is too active…), the spiritual explanation (God’s presence, God’s protection) is more important.
What if… Laws are meant to protect us?
Leviticus 8:1-3, 10-13, 9:23-10:2 describes the events as the Israelites take their first steps on that journey from Mount Sinai. It’s not strictly part of the Exodus story, but it represents the end of their preparatory stage – the tabernacle is complete, the priests are ordained, the sacrifices have begun, and they’re on their way. But straight away they disobey God, allowing human emotion to get in the way of God’s rules.
What is the Fire from God’s presense? If they were near a volcano, fire could erupt in many ways.
What is the Unauthorised offering? Only God could direct the fire to land on the altar. Equally, God would direct the priests to stay away from the altar so the fire doesn’t hit them. If we disobey God, the consequences can be quite simple the results of human folly, rather than God’s punishment on us.