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After the death of Joseph, the Egyptians were less friendly, and God called upon Moses to lead the people out of Egypt and to the Promised Land. During their journey through the desert they were fed miraculously with Manna and Quails. Moses received the Ten Commandments and wrote the Law, but the people made a Golden Calf and worshipped that instead. When they arrived at the Promised Land, the people were afraid to go in, so they spent another 40 years wandering in the wilderness.



The way the Hebrews increased under persecution should encourage the persecuted church. By the time of Numbers 1:46 there were 603,550 men over the age of twenty years. Assuming that there were a similar number of women, and at least as many children, the Exodus involved at least 2 million people.

Some commentators, Anderson[2 p.75] for example, say that two midwives (Exodus 1:15) cannot serve a population of that size. I disagree, because they ignore the increase in the population between the time when there were two midwives and the time when there were at least 2 million people. It is also likely that they would have received help from the mothers' relatives, reducing their workload.

See my calculations in Exodus.xlsx.


The massacre of Hebrew male babies can be compared with the massacre of children at Bethlehem by Herod in Matthew 2:16–18.


In this incident, three women made their individual contributions to Moses' well-being: his mother, his sister, and the princess. None could save him in their own strength, but because they all did their bit, God was able to work a miracle. See also Acts 7:21 and comment on 1 Peter 2:9. Looking at the broader picture, some count as many as twelve women in played a role in saving the twelve tribes.


The names and relationship of Moses' parents are given in Exodus 6:20.


Moses' mother nurtured him until it seemed impossible to carry on. Then she sent him out into the world as well prepared as she could. Other mothers may identify with that experience. It was probably very hard to put the basket in the river and walk away.

Several other parents had to give up their children in the bible; for example, Abraham and Isaac (Genesis 22), Hannah and Samuel, and Mary and Jesus (John 19:25).

The baby Moses was saved while his peers died, cf. the baby Jesus in Matthew 2:13–14.


Moses' sister felt able to stay and watch. She was probably just a little girl, too young to be accused of breaking the law. Probably she had no thought of getting involved, but the Holy Spirit was stirring up her curiosity. Curiosity later led Moses to the burning bush.


The princess decided to take the risk of saving the child. This was a brave thing to do, because it went against her Father's will.


Amazingly the little girl had not only the moment of inspiration that put all the pieces together, but also the opportunity to speak to the princess. The result, the princess paying Moses' mother to nurse him was wonderfully ironic, suggesting that God's hand was at work.

It is "assumed" that "his sister" was the one we later read of as Miriam the prophetess (Exodus 15:1).[1 p.91]


The name Moses means "draw out", as in being born. He was drawn out of the river, which is what the princess had in mind, but his rôle was to draw his people out of Egypt.


See Appendix 1: Moses.


See Numbers 16:12.


cf. 1 Kings 19:4.


This is a brief summary of the passage of many years. Moses was out of sight, earning his living, for many years before he came to public prominence, as was Jesus.


God heard the groans of the oppressed; cf. God hearing the Holy Spirit's groans on our behalf in Romans 8:26. The word "slavery" exaggerates the original Hebrew, which throughout Exodus uses the word translated "service" in relation to what people should do for God.[3]


The burning bush incident suggests that God's prime objective is to be to relate to people, and this obliges him to reveal his presence and disturb our comfortable routines. Despite Moses's question, God was enigmatic, almost evasive, in introducing himself. Perhaps mystery is an essential part of theophany. He preferred to identify himself in terms of people he had related to in the past. See comment on Exodus 13:21.

Later in Exodus 19:16 a trumpet blast, thunder and lightning did the same, and in Acts 2:2–3 the sound of wind and tongues of fire again drew attention to what God was doing. In Exodus 3 Moses was warned not to approach closely; in Exodus 19 Moses could approach but not the people; and in Acts it all happened in the same room!

What did the burning bush mean? The bush was in a situation where one would expect it to be burned out quite quickly, yet it did not. The fire was invisibly sustained, and the bush was not destroyed, suggesting a principle that something that is serving God may not be destroyed despite an extremely hostile environment; cf. the men coming unhurt from Nebuchadnezzar's burning fiery furnace in Daniel 3:26–30.

The burning bush drew attention to the fact that something special was happening. The passage suggests that we might find God in our environments by taking the trouble to look into anything unusual; cf. Luke 10:9 "the kingdom of heaven has come near to you". But the fire also indicated danger for the unwary, borne out by the words "come no closer". It has been suggested that the flame was sustained by a seepage of natural gas. Was Moses in both spiritual and physical danger? See also comment on Exodus 13:21.

Moses saw no beginning nor end to the flame; it represented the one who was, and is, and is to come. The bush was unexpectedly free from "bondage to decay"; (cf. Daniel 3:27, Romans 8:21). God identified himself as the God who had sustained Moses's forefathers.

Moses responded to God's call by whingeing about his inadequacy (unlike Mary in Luke 1:38) and negotiated for Aaron to be his helper, yet with hindsight we know that God could have equipped him for the task. Moses failed to see God's power and God had to adopt a "second best" plan as a result.

Years later Moses was instructed to make altars of wood, which did not burn when things were burnt on top of them, because if a covering of gold (Exodus 27:1 and 30:1). Moses may have found this reminiscent of the burning bush which was not burnt up. The offerings are transitory, but the altar is not. The covering of gold resembles the way Jesus's righteousness covers our sinfulness, saving us from destruction on account of our sin.

ELijah had a similar experience in 1 Kings 19:13.


Jesus washed his disciples' feet (John 13) because they got dirty through walking on dusty roads. Moses was told to remove his sandals because they carried with them the dirt of the road. Gibbs thinks it significant that ancient people took off their shoes in temples and other holy places, while wealthy prople today take off their shoes to avoid soiling their expensive carpets[18].


In Luke 20:27–38 Jesus says that this verse proves that there is a resurrection.


Isaiah 48:18–19 says that the land did not live up to this promise because the Jews did not obey God's commands; Hosea 4:3 and Micah 6:14–16 agree.


Moses was sent, that is, and Apostle; cf. Jonah, Elijah (1 Kings 17:8).


This is the start of Moses's endless excuses in response to God's call. Perhaps he was still afraid of judgment for murder (Genesis 2:15).


The promise to meet on the mountain was fulfilled in Chapter 19:3.


It is said that "I am who I am" has no tense and so can be translated "I will be who I will be". Nobody can tell God what to do, and we really cannot predict what he will do; he is a God of surprises. Its explanation and fulfilment is found in Revelation 1:8. See also Appendix 2: Jehovah.


Jones[4 p.21] suggests that what we know as the Pentateuch is a mystical experience of Moses interpreted by Aaron. We know that Aaron's ideas led to the Golden Calf, so perhaps all of the national cult derives from him.


cf. Matthew 2:20.


We are not told which Pharaoh this was. The purpose of the book is to show the principle of rescue from oppression, so few names are given, to encourage the reader to focus on what the participants represented[1 p.96].


Slavery: see Exodus 2:23.


Slavery: see Exodus 2:23.


Moses' parents were aunt and nephew. See also Genesis 20:12.


The Ten Plagues

According to a television programme, research in USA concluded that the plagues had the following causes:

  1. A "red tide" of dinoflagillates, which produce neurotoxins that kill fish. This has occurred in rivers in USA. The toxins also break down the tissues of the fish whose blood would enter the water.
  2. The "frogs" were in fact toads whose numbers were normally kept in check by fish eating their eggs. Toads lay eggs by the thousand and readily leave the river for houses to seek flies to eat. The toads died of starvation and subsequently failed to keep insects in check.
  3. There is no true louse that causes the effects described, so minute midges (with wings too small to see; the maddening sort that appear in clouds and get caught in your hair) are suspected.
  4. The flies were stable flies because no other type can breed so fast yet attack the range of creatures described. Their bite is unpleasant.
  5. The continent of Africa has been the source of the world's most fearsome diseases. The disease of livestock appears to be two related diseases appearing simultaneously, because no one disease affects so many species. African Horse Sickness and the closely related Blue Tongue and fit the description and are spread by gnats and midges. They cause rapid death by breaking down blood vessel walls so that the victim drowns as its lungs fill with blood, yet there is no external bleeding. Midges only fly a few metres from water so they could not reach the places further from the Nile where the Israelites were living.
  6. The description of the boils matches the symptoms of the disease Glandies which affects lymph nodes of both people and animals. It is spread by the bite of stable flies.
  7. Local hail occurs erratically everywhere in the countries bordering the Mediterranean and hail lay 1·2 metres deep in Lebanon recently. The Egyptians had already lost many of their animals; this would deny them their crops also. What grain the weakened population could harvest would be damaged and damp.
  8. Locusts have been a pest in that region since time immemorial, and only the timing is miraculous. The Egyptians must have suffered famine.
  9. The localised three-day darkness cannot have been caused by an eclipse, so a dust storm seems likely.
  10. It was traditional in middle eastern culture for the first-born to receive the largest portion, particularly if times were so hard that some might not survive. Similarly the stronger animals may have obtained the lion's share of the available food. Unfortunately the grain had been damp when harvested, and everything else had been eaten by locusts. Black mould produces micotoxins that affect anyone breathing the spores or eating infected food. This is known to cause the deaths of children in poor housing in western cities. Moses subsequently instructed the Israelites to utterly destroy any house in which mildew was found.

See comments on Matthew 26:28.


Moses made it clear that the coming plagues were signs of God's almighty power, which ought to be obeyed. Cf. Revelation 15:1.


The lamb was to be a year old, having been born the previous spring. Passover is celebrated in mid spring (see the Calendar).


The lamb was to look like a sacrifice, not cordon bleu cookery (cf. Psalm 34:20). It was to be whole, not dismembered, like Jesus on the cross (John 19:36).


Unleavened bread (that is, bread made without yeast) was eaten at Passover. To obey this command, the people covered up their dough, apparently to prevent wild yeast polluting it. Though it originated from necessity (Exodus 12:34, 39) the idea grew up that yeast symbolized spiritual impurity, as found in the Gospels (Matthew 16:6–12) and the Epistles (1 Corinthians 5:6–8).


The Passover Meal of lamb and unleavened bread was effectively an Old Testament sacrament. The Old Testament sacraments promise a saviour, but the New Testament sacraments point to salvation.[5]


Hyssop: See Appendix 2: Hyssop.


See comment on Exodus 13:12–13.


See comment on Exodus 12:15.


See comment on Exodus 12:15.


Bishop Ussher[6] calculated that the Exodus happened in 1492 BCE.


By the time of Jesus the traditional Passover feast had become very much corrupted. It was no longer eaten as if before a journey, and nor was it eaten by everybody in the community even if they were ceremonially unclean. The original command applied to everybody, so that no-one would miss out on God's blessing through ceremonial uncleanness.


Slavery: see Exodus 2:23.


See Luke 2:23. The redemption of the firstborn commemorated the final plague of the Egyptians (12:29) which triggered the release from bondage. The language used is comparable with firstfruits (34:22–26) and the unifying idea is acknowledging God the creator whenever new blessing arrives.


Slavery: see Exodus 2:23.


Joseph gave instructions concerning his body in Genesis 49:29 and they laid it to rest at Shechem in Joshua 24:32.


cf. Nehemiah 9:19, Psalm 119:105, and the smoking brazier of Abraham's covenant in Genesis 15:9–17. But to Moses personally, this should have been a daily reminder of his call in the wilderness in Genesis 3:2, and also the Burning Bush incident in Exodus 3:1–6. The pillar of fire was a sign that the awesome God who had called him was accompanying him on the journey.


The Red Sea is an active Rift Valley where two parts of the Earth's crust are moving apart.


The retreat and sudden return of the water resembles the behaviour of the Indian Ocean during the Boxing Day 2004 tsunami disaster.


It has been suggested that the poetic description of the defeat of Egypt in the song of Moses (Exodus 15:4) is the oldest account that survives, and someone has filled in the gaps in the story by converting it into prose (without recognising the use of poetic license), leading us to take literally statements that were perhaps not intended to be taken that way.[1 p.124]


See comments on Joshua 3:16.


"The language of Exodus 15 is more consistently archaic than any other prose or poetic work of some length in the Bible. The poem conforms throughout to the prosodic patterns and canons of the Late Bronze Age." [17 p.121] It is the primary source for the central event in Israel's history.[17 p.123] all the evidence points to a premonarchical date for the Song of the Sea, in the late twelfth or early eleventh century B.C. [17 p.124].


Brown-rotted wood is effective for cleansing water; a small amount will remove weed, cyanobacteria, diatoms and unicellular green algae. The speed of action depends on the temperature (high in the wilderness?).[7]


Waters: see Appendix 2 Water.


See the generic temptations.


cf. Luke 19:12f, Psalm 145:15: God's riches are not for us to hoard but to use. It is easier to trust something we have in store than to rely on God. Also God gives things (instructions as well as blessings) at the time they are needed, not beforehand.


This occurred before the giving of the Ten Commandments (cf. Exodus 20:8f), so sabbath-keeping is earlier and more fundamental—​a "creation ordinance".[8]


Manna is an expression of puzzlement meaning "what now?" [19 p.99] See comment on Genesis 6:1–4.


The sample of manna that had been kept had apparently been lost by the time of 1 Kings 8:9.


40 years cf. Index of numbers: 40.


Water: see Appendix 2 Water.


See the generic temptations.


Take three: cf. the Transfiguration in Matthew 17:1 and Mark 9:2. The Elders were not expected to do anything unusual until they had seen it modelled by Moses, as if they were his apprentices.


See comment on Numbers 20:1–13.


cf. Psalm 95:8–9 and the generic temptations.

Meribah: see Appendix 3 Meribah.


Moses having his hands held up is a graphical illustration of the need to hold up in prayer those who are in the front line of spiritual warfare, without which God's will cannot be done. See comment on Matthew 26:37.


When faced with a big problem, break it down into more manageable ones. Jesus followed this example in Mark 6:40. See comment on Exodus 24:1.


The meeting on the mountain fulfilled the promise in Chapter 3:12 and 3:1 identifies the mountain as Horeb. Galatians 3:17 seems to say that these events took place 430 years after the promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:1–3.

What exactly did Moses receive from God on the mountain?

Does Deuteronomy 4:12–14 give the answer?


Paul tells us in Galatians 3:17 that this covenant did not supersede the covenant with Abraham.


See Appendix 2 Priest.


There was a lot of waiting on God to be done; three days on this occasion, cf. six days Exodus 24:16. The "morning of the third day" seems to pre-figure the Lord's rising on the third day in Luke 24:7. See also comment on Exodus 3:1–6.


See comments on 1 Kings 19:11–12.


People sometimes ask what happened to the people who lived before the law was given; were they disadvantaged before God?

The arguments of Romans 2:12 f and Amos 1–2 show that God will judge everyone righteously, and maybe generously (Romans 9:15); see also comment on Luke 19:12). Those who lived before the law was given are in the same position as those who lived in gentile countries and never heard it. 1 Peter 3:19 says that Christ has personally preached to such people, implying an opportunity to accept or reject the message, and so to be saved or doomed. Chapter 4 cites Abraham as one example of a person who received righteousness, and with it, one supposes, salvation, as an unmerited gift from God, as a result of good qualities that God, who knows what is in people's hearts, saw in him. Romans 4:16 is careful to say that such salvation is available not just to descendants of Abraham, but to all who share his faith. Indeed, Abraham received a blessing from Melchizedek, Priest of God Most High (Genesis 14) indicating that Judaism was a lesser thing than some of the arrangements that preceded it.

See also Romans 5:13, but note that verse 5:16 indicates it does not let us off the hook.

The "Ten Commandments" (repeated in Deuteronomy 5:6–31; see Decalogue.pdf)

(see also Appendix 4: Stories: Ten Commandments)


Though we call these commandments, they actually read as promises or prophecies, so perhaps they hold up an example of what righteousness looks like, as does the Sermon the Mount. We should not seek a righteousness of our own, but aim to be godly in God's strength.

Theologians call them "the Decalogue" (meaning "ten words"). Their focus is on relationships, with God (1–3), with ourselves (4), and with our neighbours (5–10). They contrast with the "Ethical Decalogue" in Exodus 34:11–26.

Verse 2 says that the commandments are addressed to those who had been released from Egypt (and their offspring, since they are described as a people). cf. Acts 15:28–29 where the Law was not imposed on Gentile Christians, and 1 Timothy 6:14 where the Ten Commandments alone were applied to a Christian minister.

Slavery: see Exodus 2:23.


1. You shall worship God only: this is the first commandment. We should put God first in everything. Jesus referred to this verse in Matthew 22:37–38.


2. You shall have no idols: surely this must cover all forms of apostasy. The punishment to the third and fourth generation arises from the social structure at the time: a patriarch lived with his sons and their sons, and typically three or four generations would be living together as one family unit. If the leader made a bad decision they would inevitably all suffer.[10] But see also the comment on Jeremiah 31:29.

Waters: see Appendix 2 Water.


3. You shall not misuse the Lord's name: cf. Matthew 5:33. We usually think of this commandment as being about swearing and blaspheming, but Breuggemann wrote "The third commandment asserts that God cannot be put to use and is never a means to an end."[11]. This idea fits in with the ways in which we are told to do this and that "in his name", in other words, as his agent. Therefore the third commandment means that we must always act in ways that are consistent with God's character.


4. You shall keep the Sabbath Day. We need to rest as well as work. cf. Genesis 2:3, Exodus 16:5.


5. Honour your father and mother: this includes accepting discipline, and parallels can be drawn with those set over us in other contexts (Hebrews 12:6–11). cf. Mark 7:10–14.

Because communities are now mobile, we no longer have the status earned by our parents but are judged solely on our own wealth and ability (or for Christians, our relationship with Christ). This tends to make old people seem less important than in less mobile ages.[12 p.26]


6. You shall not murder: cf. Genesis 1:30, Matthew 5:20–26. An article in New Scientist suggests that we contain two moral frameworks which sometimes cannot be reconciled. Given a runaway truck likely to kill five people, most people would take an opportunity to switch it onto a route where it will kill only one. But most people refuse an action that involves killing one person (pushing them off a bridge, say) to save several others.[13] The article interprets this as an instinct to save kin competing with a moral rule; I prefer to think in terms of instinctive and rational ethics, and our instincts can overrule a rational decision.


7. You shall not commit adultery: cf. Matthew 5:27f, Hebrews 13:4. The presence of this Commandment indicates that a wife is not to be thought of as the husband's possession, otherwise the eighth commandment would cover adultery as well.

Adultery is a corruption of natural sex, as eating and spitting in order to enjoy food without allowing it to do one any good would be a corruption of eating.[14 p.93]

Surely marriage should reflect God's faithfulness, creativity and love.


8. You shall not steal: cf. Matthew 5:33, Acts 5:1–11.


9. You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour: sometimes we think we are supposed to tell the truth strictly, even if it actually misleads the person we're talking to, or hurts someone as a consequence.

Firstly, notice that this commandment does not call for strict truth telling; it is more specific than that, calling us to convey the right impression so that justice may be done. God has always wanted justice; see Micah 6:8.

Secondly, though God is a God of Truth, legalistic truth-telling is not what God requires. cf. Leviticus 19:11. Dietrich Bonhoeffer says:

"Truth is essentially about reality. The real is expressed in words. That is what constitutes truthful speech. Therefore 'telling the truth' finds its application in terms of finding the right word for the situation. The usual definition of the lie as a conscious discrepancy between thought and speech is completely inadequate. This would include for example the most harmless April Fool joke. If it is now asserted that a lie is a deliberate deception of another man to his detriment, then this would include, for example, the necessary deception of an enemy in war or similar situations. This discrepancy between thought and speech is not even a necessary ingredient of a lie; a notorious liar might tell the truth for once, to mislead. Even deliberate silence can constitute a lie. When we speak, it should express the real, as it exists in God." [15]

Both lying and hypocrisy seem to be offensive to God (Matthew 7:5 for example). God's word is powerful and makes itself true (see Revelation 6:1) so our high calling of being God's "sons and daughters" (2 Corinthians 6:18) is incompatible with using false words. This does not exclude using prophetic words that indicate what reality ought to be like.


10. You shall not covet: cf. Matthew 20:1–16, Hebrews 12:4–6, Hebrews 13:5. See comment on 1 Timothy 6:10.


Though it may seem brutal and crude to us today, in a time when humans were sacrificed in many cultures, sacrificing "only...sheep and...oxen" may have been a sign of God's mercy.


cf. Ezekiel 43:17. Our attempts to look grand before God tend to make us look foolish instead.


cf. Matthew 5:38f.


cf. Zechariah 11:13.


See comments on Matthew 25:27, Luke 16:1–13.


This rule is developed further in Leviticus 27:6.


cf. Matthew 5:44.


The text implies that the purpose of resting on the Sabbath day is to enable others, including animals, to rest also.


The command not to boil a kid in its mother's milk is repeated in 34:26; see comments there. In both instances the ban comes in the context of a festival celebration (Harvest in chapter 23, Passover in chapter 34).


cf. Mark 1:2–3.


This command is repeated in Exodus 34:12. The Israelites failed (through negligence) to observe this command, when they sinned in Joshua 9:15. Perhaps the command arises because the culture of the people in the land was such that any treaty with them would invoke their gods.


It is sometimes assumed that the seventy mentioned here were the judges appointed in Exodus 18:21, but it seems likely that there were far more than seventy judges.


"Book of the Covenant"—​Moses wrote down in verse 4 what God had said.


cf. Numbers 11:24, Revelation 4:6 Once they were sprinkled with blood (Exodus 24:8) the Israelites could approach God's throne without coming under judgement. Also see Mark 4:1 and Matthew 14:25 and where Jesus was seen on a sea.


There was a lot of waiting on God to be done; six days on this occasion, cf. three days in Exodus 19:16.


In Matthew 17:2 God's radiant glory was seen in Jesus.


40 days cf. Index of numbers: 40.


It was rare for God to ask for a sacrifice outside the context of routine temple worship: see Appendix 2 Sacrifice.


2 Chronicles 4:22 shows that in the earthly temple there were both bowls for sprinkling blood and censers for burning incense. In the presence of "the Lamb that was Slain" no further blood need be shed, so these two functions are rolled into one (Revelation 5:8). Incense was to be fragrant (Exodus 25:6), burning continually (Exodus 30:8), holy (Exodus 30:35), special (Exodus 30:37). It was used surrounding in a pleasant smell the offerings that celebrated God's goodness, such as the grain offering (Leviticus 2:16), but not offerings associated with sin, which should smell nasty (Leviticus 5:11).


The Ark's carrying poles were not to be removed because, unlike us, God does not get tied down to a place, but is always ready to move on.


See comment on John 20:12.


This instruction was carried out in Exodus 38:1. This was the larger of the two altars; the smaller is specified in Exodus 30:1. Ezekiel received similar instructions for a larger pair of altars (Ezekiel 41:21 and 43:12).

The altars were made of wood, yet did not burn when things were burnt on top of them, because of the covering of gold. Moses may have found this reminiscent of the burning bush (Exodus 3:1–6). Wood is (or was) a living thing.

The covering of gold resembles the way Jesus's strength and righteousness cover our sinfulness and weakness, saving us from corruption (Romans 13:12–14, Ephesians 6, Colossians 3:10). See also Revelation 21:14.


Carnelian is a brick-red form of quartz. Comparable stones are listed in Revelation 21:18–20.


Urim and Thummim: see Urim and Thummim.


This passage indicates that wearing something on the forehead indicates that sin is being dealt with (cf. Ezekiel 9:4). This may shed light on the 666 mark (Revelation 13:16). Jesus also bore our sins and the crown of thorns (Matthew 27:29, Mark 15:17, John 19:2) meant that his forehead was stained with his own blood. Perhaps the crown of thorns symbolises the way Jesus was bearing our sins.


See comment on Mark 14:3.


This instruction was carried out in Exodus 37:25. This was the smaller of the two altars. See comments on Exodus 27:1 for the symbolism of wood and gold, and references to similar altars in Ezekiel 41:21 and 43:12.

Some scholars claim that incense was originally meant to be burned on the Menorah (the candlestick in Exodus 25:31–40), and this section is an addition, using slightly different phrasing from the other Temple instructions.[20]


We may ask, in what script were the tablets of stone written? Romantic painters showed them in Hebrew characters, but given that Moses had been raised in the Egyptian court, and was ministering to a people who had been managed by Egyptian bureaucrats for 400 years, it seems more likely that they were in Egyptian hieroglyphs.


Perhaps Aaron's faith was second-hand, operating through Moses, so that when Moses was not there Aaron could not relate to the living God, but reverted to Egyptian ideas. This is not ideal in a high priest!

The origin of worship of cattle seems to be lost in the mists of time. The Egyptian culture in the time of the Pharaohs seems to have originated in what is now the desert to the west of the Nile (but may once have been more fertile), where remains of cattle that were apparently buried ceremonially have been discovered that date back to Neolithic times.[16]

See the generic temptations.


cf. Ezekiel 20:8–9.


Jesus is our advocate; perhaps Moses was pre-figuring Jesus in this episode.


cf. John 1:14.


Moses may have enjoyed God "speaking with him as a man does his friend" but he only had a limited experience of God's nature. These verses confirm that a human is just not equipped to encounter the whole of God.


Paul quotes this verse in Romans 9:15.


This verse made the Jews afraid of any event that made them run the risk of seeing God. The point seems to be that God is so holy that nothing unholy can survive in his presence; this does not prevent him allowing people visions of him (sometimes indicated in the Old Testament by the words "his angel" suggesting uncertainty about whether it was God or something else that was seen).


cf. Isaiah 51:16.


cf. Numbers 14:18, Psalm 86:15, Joel 2:12–13. The effect on children's children sounds unjust, but might simply be a matter of cause and effect: its converse is that blessing on the parents will be passed on to some extent to future generations. The effect was cancelled in Ezekiel 18.


These verses seem to make promises, possibly the ones referred to in Luke 1:72.


This is sometimes called the "Ethical Decalogue" because its structure is similar to the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20) with different content; see Decalogue.pdf.


This instruction makes it clear that the existing religions in the promised land must be destroyed lest the Hebrews turn from God and adopt those old ways. This would seem the logical thing to do for pewople who believed that each land had its own local gods. It was not until the exile that this belief was replaced by understanding that the one true God is lord of every place (see Psalm 137:4).


The Feast of Weeks is a harvest festival. It the list of feasts in Leviticus 23:10 it is called the Feast of Firstfruits (see comment on Exodus 13:12–13); today it is called Shavuot.


Taking care with yeast is a recurring theme: see comment on Exodus 12:15.


= Deuteronomy 14:21. Cooking a young goat in its mother's milk was, it is alleged, a Canaanite practice. God forbids it because it is taking something given for the animal's good and turning it into something for its destruction, like turning good into evil. This command also appears in 23:19, again in the context of a festival celebration.


cf. Exodus 24:18, and see comment on Mark 1:13.


See comment on Luke 24:31.


Compare with the radiance of the transfiguration in Luke 9:28f, which Psalm 80 anticipates. Perhaps there is something about being with God that causes such radiance, making us "the light of the world" (Matthew 5:14).


This verse describes the implementation of Exodus 30:1. This was the smaller of the two altars, to be used for burning incense.


This verse describes the implementation of Exodus 27:1. This was the larger of the two altars, to be used for burnt offerings.


cf. Luke 7:38, 1 Kings 8:10.


  1. Coggins, R Introducing the Old Testament Oxford University Press, 2nd edition 2001
  2. Anderson, Bernhard W The Living World of the Old Testament
  3. Lipton, Diana (King's College, London) speaking at a "Bishop's Study Day" at Southwark Cathedral on 15 November 2007
  4. Jones, C.P.M. in Jones, Wainwright and Yarnould (eds) the Study of Spirituality SPCK, 1986
  5. Augustine of Hippo Commentary on the Psalms LXIII, 2
  6. Bishop Ussher in 1658
  7. Letter from Richard Small of Liverpool John Moores University on page 73 of New Scientist 23 August 2003 about the use of barley straw to clean up the water in a pond
  8. Horsfall, Tony in New Daylight 18 July 2011
  9. "Plain Sense and Applied Meaning" in P.Ochs (ed.) The Return to Scripture in Judaism and Christianity: Essays in Postcritical Scriptural Interpretation New York: Paulist Press 1993, p.120–21
  10. Magonet, Rabbi Jonathan
  11. Breuggemann, Walter The New Interpreter's Bible Vol 1, 844
  12. Richter God's Here and Now London: DLT 1999
  13. "Moral choices show we are deeply split" in New Scientist 10 February 2012 p.10
  14. Lewis C.S. Mere Christianity Glasgow: Fontana 1952/London: Fount, 1977
  15. Bonhoeffer, Dietrich Ethics
  16. An article in New Scientist 13 January 2007 page 13
  17. Cross, F. Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic London: Harvard University 1973
  18. Gibbs, Jane Faith in Suburbia Cambridge: Grove Books 2003 page 13
  19. Dr Paula Gooder The Parables Canterbury, 2020
  20. Shapira, Hananel Making Sense of the Incense Altar: Location in Sacred Space and Text, Journal of Biblical Literature (Atlanta, USA) 2023 No.1 pp.23–42

© David Billin 2002–2024