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Friday Bible Blogging - Exodus 31 to Exodus 40

This entry is part of a series. For a listing of all entries in the series, go to the Index. Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).

BibleChapters 31 through 40 are the final chapters of Exodus. They deal mostly with the details of the construction of a sanctuary and its accessories for worshipping/housing God. There was a brief interlude for the story of the golden calf, and a second trip by Moses to the top of Mt. Sinai for the making of the second set of stone tablets.

Exodus, Chapter 31

Chapter 31 continued with instructions on the Tabernacle, with God calling out by name the artist who was to work on it, Bezalel son of Uri son of Hur.

Next came some instructions on keeping the Sabbath holy and sacred, including a command to put to death anybody who worked on the Sabbath.

In the last verse of this chapter, God gave Moses the famous "two tablets of the covenant, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God."

Exodus, Chapter 32

This chapter contains the story of the golden calf. Moses was taking so long up on top of the mountain that the Israelites decided to make their own god. They gave their gold to Aaron, who melted it down and made a golden calf for the Israelites to worship. God was furious, and was going to kill all of the Israelites save Moses, until Moses convinced God to spare them. When Moses got down to the bottom of the mountain and confronted the Israelites, he was so mad that he threw the stone tablets and they were broken. He had the calf ground up and mixed with water and made the people drink it (the New Oxford Annotated Bible (NOAB) implies that that may have been a type of trial by ordeal). Then came a particularly bloody passage. He called on the sons of Levi, and told them to take their swords and "each of you kill your brother, your friend, and your neighbour." At the end of the slaughter, he told them that they'd ordained themselves and "brought a blessing on yourselves this day". The chapter closed with God sending an unspecified plague to punish the Israelites.

Exodus, Chapter 33

God gave the Israelites instructions to continue on to the promised land "flowing with milk and honey". However, I have to admit to being a bit confused - the continuity was hard to follow. At first, God said that he would not go with them, because "I would consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people." But a few verses later after talking to Moses, God said, "My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest." But immediately after that, Moses seemed to still think that God was refusing to go with them, when he said, "If your presence will not go, do not carry us up from here. 16 For how shall it be known that I have found favour in your sight, I and your people, unless you go with us?" After that, God said, "I will do the very thing that you have asked; for you have found favour in my sight, and I know you by name," which I assume means that God will go with them. It's possible my confusion comes from the NRSV translation, but my guess is that it's confusing due to mixing various earlier sources.

The closing verses of this chapter presented a very anthropomorphic God with real body parts when God told Moses, "...while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by; 23 then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen."

Exodus, Chapter 34

Since the stone tablets had been destroyed, it was time to make them again. God started off saying in verse 1 that He himself was going to write the tablets again, but in chapters 27 and 28, He had Moses do the writing. Most of this chapter was a repeat of rules and commandments that had been given previously with the first two tablets, though not with exactly the same wording.

There was an interesting passage, that whenever Moses went in to speak to the Lord (presumably in the Tent of Meeting), his face would glow afterwards.

Exodus, Chapter 35

This chapter got into explaining all the details of building the Tabernacle, Tent of Meeting, and all the associated accessories. It was largely repetitious of the passages where God explained how to build those things in the first place, but with names given to some of the people performing the work.

Exodus, Chapter 36

This chapter continued on with the details of making the sanctuary, and was also largely repetitious of previous chapters.

Exodus, Chapter 37

More details on the making the sanctuary and accessories, more repetition.

Exodus, Chapter 38

And more details and repetition, along with the tabernacle itself.

Exodus, Chapter 39

More details, more repetition, including the clothing for the priests.

Exodus, Chapter 40

Now that everything was made, the Lord gave Moses final instructions on how to set everything up and to properly consecrate and anoint everything. "Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle." And from then on, the Israelites used the cloud as their signal - when it covered the tent of meeting, they knew that God was in the tabernacle and they stayed put. When the cloud raised up, they continued on their journey.


The book of Exodus felt a bit divided. Around half of the book was a narrative, detailing the story of Moses leading the Hebrews out of Egypt. But then the other half was all rules and instructions. Although this book didn't seem as disjointed as Genesis, you could still sense in places that it came from more than one source, and that this book was a result of mixing together those sources. For the most part, Exodus continued on with the conception of God from the end of Genesis - less anthropomorphic than the God strolling through the Garden of Eden, but still a physical god who made his presence manifest. Also in keeping with Genesis, this book doesn't present a particularly good god. He caused a great deal of suffering of innocent people, and the rules he gave the Hebrews weren't all the best examples of morality. Through the first two books, the Bible has presented a god to worship out of fear, not a god of love.

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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