Exodus 21-23, 25-30 What Are We Skipping?
These chapters are not included in the Church’s “Come, Follow Me” curriculum. You may want to read the chapter headings and also the following, which can be helpful throughout the rest of the Old Testament:
- After giving the Ten Commandments to Moses, the Lord continues by revealing many more laws that constitute the law of Moses—the “lesser law” or “preparatory gospel”—which was intended to prepare the Israelites for the law of the Gospel (as revealed anew through the Savior during His mortal ministry), and in turn, the law of the Gospel is to prepare us to live the law of consecration.
- For a better understanding of the intended purposes of the law of Moses, read Matthew 22:35-40; Galatians 3:23-26; Hebrews 10:1; 2 Nephi 25:24-25; Jacob 4:5; Mosiah 3:14-15; Mosiah 13:27-32; Mosiah 16:14; Alma 25:15-16; and Alma 34:13-14.
- Throughout the centuries, Jewish leaders have identified 613 individual commandments in the law of Moses. Examples in these chapters of some of the specific commandments or elements of the law of Moses are found in:
—Exodus 21:12, 17, 24, 28-29, 33-34
—Exodus 22:1, 14, 18-22, 25, 28
—Exodus 23:1, 4, 10-11, 14-16
- Also, the Lord commanded Israel to observe several feasts or celebrations (for example, in Exodus 23:14-16; 34:18, 22-23). Following are some of the traditional feasts still celebrated by many Jews (some based on scriptural instruction, some based on tradition):
—Passover (including the feast of unleavened bread and the feast of first fruits; in the spring each year)
—Pentecost (feast of harvest or “weeks;” the harvest that comes 50 days after Passover)
—Tabernacles (feast of ingathering, final harvest, or “booths;” in the fall)
—Purim (feast of “lots;” a tradition that was added later by the Jewish leaders, based on the book of Esther)
—Dedication (Hanukkah or feast of lights; also added later)
In our day we remember the Lord by the weekly Sabbath, at Christmas and Easter, in ward, stake, and general conferences, through our temple attendance, and our daily spiritual practices, including prayer and scripture study.
- Additionally, the Lord called upon His people to observe:
—the weekly Sabbath (see Exodus 20:8-11 and numerous other references)
—the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur or “the fast;” see Leviticus 16:8-34, among other references)
- As for Exodus 25-30, these chapters contain the Lord’s instructions for the building of the tabernacle and its furniture and appurtenances, plus instructions for Aaron and others in carrying out the office of priest, including carrying out sacrifices and other offerings.
Exodus 24 The Lord Works with His Children
The Ten Commandments were first recorded in Exodus 20—apparently only verbally from the Lord to Moses—and a review of the chronology can help:
- As noted previously, the Lord proposed to appear to all the children of Israel at Mount Sinai and give to them His higher law, but after initially accepting the Lord’s offer, the people later rejected it, prompting the Lord to give them a lower law instead (Exodus 19:5-8; 20:18-19; D&C 84:23-26).
- The people accepted the lower law and covenanted “with one voice” to do the Lord’s will (Exodus 24:3, 7).
- This was followed by burnt offerings and sacrifices to God, after which Moses sprinkled onto the altar half of the blood of the sacrificed oxen—representing God’s part in the covenant—followed by his sprinkling of the other half of the blood upon the people—representing their part in the covenant (Exodus 24:6, 8).
- Then Moses, Aaron and others went up to Mount Sinai and saw the God of Israel (Exodus 24:9-11).
- The Lord told Moses that He would give him “tables of stone” (or “tables of testimony”), containing the law and commandments (Exodus 24:12-18; 31:18).
- The first set of tablets, inscribed by the finger of God, were broken by Moses when he was enraged by the sight of the children of Israel worshipping a golden calf (Exodus 32:19) and the second set were later chiseled out by Moses and rewritten by God (Exodus 34:1).
- The Joseph Smith Translation for Exodus 34:1-2 helps us understand that the Lord said He would not write all of the same things on the second set of tablets, for the new writings would reflect His removal of the higher priesthood from among the people, being replaced by “the law of a carnal commandment” (see also JST Deuteronomy 10:2, which says, “I will write on the tables the words that were in the first tables which thou brakest, save the words of the everlasting covenant of the holy priesthood”).
Exodus 31:1-11 “To Devise Cunning Works”
This chapter introduces us to the building of the tabernacle—their version of a temple—for ordinances in behalf of the children of Israel as they traveled in the wilderness toward their promised land. Read these verses to see how the Lord inspired and enabled those called to build the tabernacle and create its furnishings. In what ways has the Lord filled you with His spirit, wisdom, understanding, knowledge, and skill? Do you apply His gifts to you in ways that glorify Him?
Exodus 31:13-17 The Sabbath
Read verses 13, 16-17 and consider how you may show the Lord a “sign,” as you “keep” the Sabbath. Has He helped you to “know that [He] is the Lord”? How does He “sanctify” you?
Exodus 32 False Gods
A most unfortunate series of events unfolds in this chapter, in which the children of Israel mixed false beliefs and practices (apparently learned in Egypt) with gospel precepts. Read the narrative, as given in verses 1-35, noting the thoughts and feelings that come to you. Also, look for the following:
- What was the “excuse” for the misbehavior of the children of Israel? (verse 1).
- What things did Aaron and the people do? (verses 2-5).
- Note the difference between true worship and their “play” (verses 6-8; see also verse 25).
- What did the Lord propose to Moses that He would do? (verses 9-10). What did Moses say to the Lord, as He intervened in behalf of the Israelites? (verses 11-13). Here, Moses acted as a mediator before God in behalf of the people; again being a type of Christ. Also, note that JST Exodus 32:14 tells us that the Lord did not “repent,” but that He offered the chance for the people to repent.
- How did Moses react to the people’s sins? (verses 19-21). What was Aaron’s response? (verses 22-24).
- What did Moses do to help the people? (verses 26, 29-32). And again, Moses serves as a type of Christ, offering himself in behalf of the sinful.
- The people claimed that Moses’s delay in returning from Sinai was their excuse for creating and worshiping the golden calf (Exodus 32:1). How shall we respond if there seems to be a delay in the second coming of Jesus Christ?
Exodus 33-34 The Lord is Patient and Merciful
In Exodus 33:1-3, 34:6-7, the Lord mercifully reiterates His offer to lead the children of Israel to the land He had promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Moses goes before the Lord in the “Tabernacle of the congregation” (33:7; this is a meeting place and not the same as the tabernacle for ordinances, described in chapters 25 and 31 of Exodus). Read Exodus 33:9-23. What impresses you most about this interchange between Moses and the Lord? (see also D&C 107:91-92).
The sweetness continues in Exodus 34:8-10, followed in verses 11-17 by warnings against adopting the worldliness and false worship of the people in the land where they are headed. Consider also Doctrine and Covenants 121:34-35.