Scriptural Vignette Cameo Study #5 - The Seventy Elders & Seeing God - Exodus 24

Scriptural Vignette Cameo Study #5 

The Seventy Elders & Seeing God

Exodus 24


1And he said unto Moses, ‘Come up unto the LORD, thou, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel; and worship ye afar off. 2And Moses alone shall come near [unto] the LORD: but they shall not come nigh; neither shall the people go up with him’.
Thus, there were 74 total. It may be that God had chosen 6 men (chieftains, princes, heads of distinguished households) each from each of the 11 tribes (not counting Levi) = 66 + 4 from Levi = 70. Moses and Aaron, who were of the Tribe of Levi, who were Governor and High Priest, would have made 6 total from Levi also, though 2 additional to the 70.

[Nadab and Abihu, sons of Aaron, in addition to seeing the Mount burning with fire, later learned personally that “our God is a Consuming Fire” (Leviticus 10:1,2). The “strange fire” that they offered, it seems, may have been performing their priestly duties while drunk, and not following proper procedure, based upon the inference in v.9 of the same chapter.]

3And Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD, and all the Judgments: and all the people answered with one voice, and said, ‘All the words which the LORD hath said will we do’. 4And Moses wrote all the words of the LORD, and rose up early in the morning, and builded an altar under [below] the hill, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. 5And he sent young men of the children of Israel, which offered burnt offerings, and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen unto the LORD. 6And Moses took half of the blood, and put it in basins; and half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. 7And he took the Book of the Covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, ‘All that the LORD hath said will we do, and be obedient’. 8And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, ‘Behold the Blood of the Covenant, which the LORD hath made with you concerning all these words’.

[Some may think that all the blood, being sacrificed, and being sprinkled on the people — which stains clothing, and which would also stink once it began to decompose in the hot sun — is a bit grisly; and some may think that so many continual sacrifices was a waste. However, forgiveness does not come without a price. Imagine if there were thought police, who gave you a ticket each time you sinned in your mind? It would get quite costly. The intention is not to bankrupt the pocketbook but enrich the soul by the child of God truly becoming godly and sinning less, requiring fewer innocent animal victims to be slaughtered. That was one part of the sacrifices: realizing that the ox or lamb were not slaughtered for a BBQ, but in what seemed like a “total waste” — for the individual offerant’s sins. Yes, it is a waste, and much of it can be prevented. Yes, just like the blood sprinkled onto the people, sin stains and causes a stench before God.

One of the “drawbacks” of progress, in some cases, is being a step removed from reality. The majority of people today in civilized countries think that meat comes from a can or plastic package in the refrigerated or frozen section of the supermarket, and they are sheltered from the blood and gore and the very-real reality that animals must be slaughtered. So it is with sacrifice. Thus, the average “Christian” has a “no fuss — no muss”, and “no skin off my nose” attitude toward sin (which is only made worse by the false notion that salvation is “free”). Before Christ’s Sacrifice, sin cost money! Furthermore, in some sacrifices, the sinner himself (head of house), or offerant (as in the case of peace offerings) was required to place his hand on the head of the bullock, goat, lamb that was to serve as the surrogate / substitute animal victim, thus symbolically transferring the sin from the sinner to the animal that was to provide only a temporary atonement, and then kill the animal himself (see ch. 1-3 of Leviticus). Sin thus resulted in not merely loss of wealth, but caused the sinner to realize that he had “blood on his hands”; and to realize that his sin caused death. It is sad that the average “Christian” rarely has this in mind as he, like a pig, returns to wallow in the mire of his own urine and feces (or possibly, having never even left it), and in doing so trampling under foot the Son of God, esteeming the Blood of the Covenant to be a common thing, and crucifying anew the Lord of Glory. Each time that a Christian truly repents,** he need to visualize Christ’s Suffering and Death (not via any crucfix, which is idolatry) and realize that is the result of his sin; and that if he is unmoved by that to be reformed by God’s Holy Spirit, that he does not — cannot love*** Christ Jesus or appreciate the Sacrifice; and thus, most probably he is unregenerate. Imagine — each time that you sinned — having to sacrifice an innocent lamb, and see the blood spurt out of the jugular, staining its pristine, white wool. This adds new insight into the Scripture that tells us, “Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin” (Hebrews 12:4).

* Salvation is NOT free. It cost Christ Jesus His Life. Furthermore, those truly redeemed / regenerated are PURCHASED by Christ, and are no longer their own. Christ is not Saviour of those for whom He is not also Lord. Salvation costs EVERYTHING. Salvation is not merely a “nice idea”; a “get out of Hell free” card. It is a complete transformation; and if that complete transformation has not ocurred, there was no regeneration, but merely a pseudo-spiritual emotional experience and / or change in one’s Spiritual Country Club Membership. NO human “converts”. The Holy Spirit converts the elect of God’s people. Where no fruit is evident the Holy Spirit is not Resident.

** —if he even knows what repentance is; which he cannot know, if he does not know what sin is; which he cannot know if he believes Antichrist false doctrine that the Law of God was abolished; believing the mindless notion that God does not want His people to “be holy as I am Holy” and obey His Perfect Law, the only Standard of Morality in every area of life, but that He expects His children to obey every wicked ordinance / law of sinful, corrupt men; which laws are given to oppress, rob, and enslave us and enrich and empower the enemies of Christ!.

*** Now, take the love of his life, his spouse, children, parents, grandparents, etc., whoever is most-significant and most-dearly love in his / her life. What if that loved one was blasphemously mocked, ridiculed, stripped naked, brutally beaten to a bloody pulp, and then nailed to a rough, splintery wooden cross, which was then raised, and dropped downward into the hole, possibly dislocating or at least separating some joints; and then hung there, tortured for hours, having to continually press against the pain of the nailed feet to push his / her bloodied, lacerated back up against the splintery wooden cross in order to be able to breathe, since hanging in that position causes the airways to be cut off and the person slowly suffocates... — would the average “Christian” think that sin is such an “insignificant” matter, if each time that he sinned, one of his beloved family members would be subject to that horror? WHY then, is he so nonchalant and unconcerned about what Christ suffered? and how he spurns and disesteems that Holy, Perfect substitute being brutalized for his sin, to then eagerly dive back into the pig muck, or like a dog, return to eat its own vomit? — even imagining that the mud (comprised of feces and urine) to be healthy and luxurious, and imagining the vomit to be a delicacy? The only way that is possible is if there was never any regeneration; but the individual merely got in a line and signed up for something “free”, and having never stayed for the seminar, has no idea of all that it costs, and remains unchanged, thinking that he has a “get out of Hell free” card in his wallet. Every tree is known by its fruit. If there is no fruit, or if the fruit is vile, that tree is not attached to Christ.]

9Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel: 10And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under His Feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness.

[This “and they saw the God of Israel” is solely in a limited capacity. God revealed, or more properly, manifested Himself in some limited way. A little while later, Moses asked to see God, and God replied: “Thou canst not see My Face: for there shall no man see Me, and live” (Exodus 33:20).* Jacob and those before him seem to have known this. Jacob, after wrestling with an “Angel” of the Lord, declared, “for I have seen God Face to face, and my life is preserved” (Genesis 32:30); and before him, Scripture says, “1And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram .... 3And Abram fell on his face” (Genesis 17).

* We shall see this more in Scriptural Vignette Cameo Study #8 - Separation, Holiness, Goodness.

Joshua, likewise, met Christ, the Captain of the Lord’s Host, and Joshua fell on his face and removed the shoes from off his feet (Joshua 5:14,15). The future parents of Samson met an angel that entered the blazing flame of the sacrifice they had offered on a rock altar, piled high with wood, and then ascended up into the heavens, and they fell on their faces terrified, thinking that the angel was God Himself (Judges 13:20). Manoah (eventual father of Samson) and his wife conversed:

“22And Manoah said unto his wife, ‘We shall surely die, because we have seen God’. 23But his wife said unto him, ‘If the LORD were pleased to kill us, He would not have received a burnt offering and a meat offering at our hands, neither would He have showed us all these things, nor would as at this time have told us such things as these.”

Scripture tells us, “No man hath seen God at any time” (John 1:18; I John 4:12). This, coupled with what God told Abraham, establishes truth. Anything else that Scripture says in the matter is NOT a “contradiction”, but is to be understood in another context that harmoniously coincides with what we already know. Similarly, after Moses* (with whom God spoke Face to face, as with a friend; Exodus 33:11), God said that He would only speak to select individuals through dreams or visions (Numbers 12:6-8); which was also the method by which God spoke to many previously (Jacob, Laban, the Patriarch Joseph, etc.).

* God so spoke to Moses, because he was uncommonly humble and meek (Numbers 12:3) — because God put that nature in Moses; and Scripture also declares, “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). This “seeing God” is not in contradiction what established Scripture. Passages such as I Corinthians 13:12 and I John 3:2 either refer to our future seeing God in a special, limited way; or God will enable our glorified bodies to withstand seeing Him in, at least, some greater Fulness. As I have long postulated, the angels, which are described as being able to cloak or reveal their bright glory, absorb some of the Glory of God, in proportion to the proximity of their service to the Throne of God; the two highest-classes of archangels, cherubim and seraphim, glowing like molten brass. God is all the Power of the Universe (all that exists) — and then some! He is Pure Light / Energy. Even as a styrofoam popcorn peanut would immediately melt when exposed to extreme heat / flame, or as any household appliance would explode were all the harvested electricity of Planet Earth (or even the power of a single lightening strike) directed into it, so also would all matter in the Fulness of God’s Presence. Again, “our God is a Consuming Fire” (Leviticus 10:1,2).

Concerning the pavement of precious stone, with which God somehow manifested Himself, Methodist minister, theologian, and self-taught Orientalist (scholar of history, culture, languages and literature of ancient Middle-Eastern peoples and nations) Dr. Adam Clarke (1762-1832) explained in his Commentary,

“Sapphire is a precious stone of a fine blue color, next in hardness to the diamond. The ruby is considered by most mineralogists of the same genus; so is also the topaz: hence we cannot say that the sapphire is only of a blue color; it is blue, red, or yellow, as it may be called sapphire, ruby, or topaz.”]

“10And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under His Feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his [it’s] clearness.”

[This word “paved” may not be the intended translation. The Hebrew word is #3840 lib-naw, “properly whiteness, that is, (by implication) transparency, paved”. However, its meaning is clearly not “white”, since it is referred to as being made of sapphire, which is blue). It would then seem that the meaning is “transparent”, or possibly, “crystal clear” (as is inferred in Revelation 4:6; 21:11; and 22:1, concerning respectively, a sea of glass, the New Jerusalem having the Glory of God as a jasper stone, clear as crystal, and “pure river of Water of Life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the Throne of God and of the Lamb”). The intention of may also be “paved”, in some manner, like in a herringbone or other pattern in which bricks are laid for driveways, patios, sidewalks, promenades, etc.

The word translated “paved” is from the verbal root, #3835 law-ban (the same as Jacob’s father-in-law’s name, Laban), [a primitive root] to be (or become) white; also (as denominative from #3843) to make bricks:—make brick, be (made, make) white (-r)”.

#3843 is leb-ay-naw, [from #3835] “a brick (from the whiteness of the clay):—(altar of) brick, tile.”

While it is not impossible that some type of paved pattern is intended also, the primary meaning would certainly seem to be the clearness / transparancy, which is also indicative of purity.

The word translated at the end, “clearness” is #2892 to-har, “literally brightness; ceremonially purification:—clearness, glory, purifying”.

It would seem that this should be translated brightness, possibly even, “magnificence” or “majesty”. Regardless, it was clearly something so spectacular that it could barely be described in words. How God manifested Himself, we do not know, as we are not told anything about God Himself, other than His Feet, and the pavement under His Feet. However, toward the end of the chapter we shall be told a little more about how God manifested Himself, to Moses alone.]

11And upon the nobles of the children of Israel He laid not His Hand: also they saw God, and [they] did eat and drink.

[There are several thoughts what this (not) laying of God’s Hand here refers to; only one of them being evidently true. It clearly is not referring to God’s Blessing (for why would He withhold it); and it is not referring to God not annointing the 70, Joshua, Hur, Nadab, and Abihu, as Korah and the others in his confederacy had not yet challenged Moses’ sole Authority, claiming that the whole tribe of Levi and the whole congregation of Israel was holy—which was not the issue, the issue was whom God had chosen as leader (Numbers 16); neither had Miriam yet, forgetting her place, blasphemed God by presuming to rebuke Moses—God rebuking her; striking her with leprosy and then making the entire nation of Israel “wait on rebellious Miriam” for her period of cleansing after God healed her of her leprosy, upon her repentance (Numbers 12). Aaron was also complicit in this conspiratous mutiny, but it seems that Miriam was the ringleader, as Aaron was not punished.

Clearly, that to which the passage does refer, is God not striking the nobles dead, for having seen a limited glimpse of His Glory. As we shall see (in #8), even when God revealed Himself to Moses, He did so in a very limited way; and the way in which He manifested Himself here to the nobles and others mentioned, would NOT have been in greater capacity than to Moses alone; but only to a lesser capacity — since it was a special glimpse of God’s Glory that God admitted to no one else.

“And they did eat and drink”, it would seem, referred to the tradition of those making a Covenant, sacrificing unto God, parting the animal victim into pieces and putting in two rows, then the parties of the Covenant passing through the pieces, as testimony to each other and to God, presumably inferring, “So be done unto me if I violate this Covenant”. The Hebrew translated make a covenant, literally means, “to cut a covenant”, referring to this dissection of the animal victim. Then, part of the animal victim was offered by fire on a stone altar unto God, and the other parties of the covenant, likewise, partaking of the animal victim, after cooking it, signifying that the had become one with each other, God, and the covenant. All of this is pieced together by a careful reading and understanding of Genesis* 15; 31; and Jeremiah 34:18. This is also why in sacrifices for sin, the priests ate of part of the sacrifice, as they surrogately mediated between God and His people (the difference, it seems, between the sin offering and the burnt offering was that the burnt offering was completely consumed on the altar — that is, the parts so stipulated, the rest being burned outside the camp — while part of the sin offering became that of the priests, who then boiled it and ate it before the Lord). In peace offerings, the offerant himself ate of the sacrifice. The Passover Lamb was NOT a sacrifice for sin (that sacrifice for the sin of the nation was offered on the morning following Passover Night); it was a Memorial, and all the people ate of it.

See my S.T.E.Commentary on Genesis / Judges, 711pp., pb., 40.00 + P&H, for far more details.]

12And the LORD said unto Moses, ‘Come up to Me into the Mount, and be there: and I will give thee tables of stone, and a Law, and Commandments which I have written; that thou mayest teach them’. 13And Moses rose up, and [with him] his minister [adjutant] Joshua: and Moses went up into the Mount of God. 14And he said unto the elders, ‘Tarry ye here for us, until we come again unto you: and, behold, Aaron and Hur are with you: if any man have any matters to do, let him come unto them’.

[Thus, it would seem, that Joshua (of the tribe of Ephraim) and Hur (of the tribe of Judah) were 2 of the 70. In v.2 we saw that God called Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the 70 elders to “come up” and “worship afar off”. Thus, it seems that they came only up to the base of the mountain, which the common people, and not even their livestock, could set foot upon without being struck dead (Exodus 19:13); which itself is evidence that in Exodus 24:11, God not laying His Hand on the elders meant not striking them dead for coming to that part of the Mount that God had forbidden, without special invitation. God takes Holiness seriously — and His people should too! not according to their own subjective notions of what they “think” holiness “means to them” — but exactly what God commanded in every area of life: total separation (that is what holiness is). Only a fool thinks he can “judge God” and determine that he thinks is “better” than what God commanded, which means (if only subconsciously) he thinks that he is “holier than God”, “smarter than God”, and of “higher authority than God”.

Joshua, it is clear, had special invitation to follow Moses up a little farther (otherwise, Joshua would have been struck dead). He then, after some short distance, waited for Moses, as he ascended higher; even as the nobles, Aaron, Nadab and Abihu waited at the base of the Mount. However, it seems that Aaron, et al. disobeyed, for chapter 32 begins “And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, ‘Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him’.” Aaron, shamefully heeded their demands, and then later even lied concerning his role in it; claiming that the golden calf formed itself! (v.24) However, clearly there is some information that we are lacking. For the rest of the congregation could not come to where the nobles were, without being struck dead. So, if they had some legal issue / dispute / question that needed attention, there would have been no way for the people to get to the nobles, unless it was within shouting distance. Back in v.2 of Exodus 24, God had called the elders to the base of the Mount, but said that they could not accompany Moses, neither could any of the congregation: “but they shall not come nigh; neither shall the people go up with him”.]

15And Moses went up into the Mount, and a cloud covered the Mount. 16And the Glory of the LORD abode upon Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days: and the seventh day He called unto Moses out of the midst of the cloud. 17And the sight [appearance] of the Glory of the LORD was like Devouring Fire on the top of the Mount in the eyes of the children of Israel. 18And Moses went into the midst of the cloud, and gat him up into the Mount: and Moses was in the Mount forty days and forty nights.

[What the nobles, et al. saw is not necessarily what the people saw back at camp, nor what Moses saw, the higher he ascended. God had a dark cloud obscure the top of the Mount to hide His Glory from the people. Similarly, when Christ spoke to the public in general, He cloaked His Words, and then explained them to one level with a large group of His disciples, and deeper to His 12 Disciples, and then deeper still to the “inner core” of His Disciples (Peter, James, and John). What the nobles et al., saw could have been cloaked by lower cloud cover, between the camp and the base of the Mount. Furthermore, the closeness in proximity to, and the degree of God’s Glory that Moses saw, was so powerful that his countenance shown* for the rest of his life! — and he even had to veil himself like a woman when speaking to the sinful, fearful, superstitious people...!

* This may also have been responsible for Moses’ long life (he did not die of old age, God took him) and, “And Moses was an hundred and twenty years old when he died: his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated” (Deuteronomy 34:7). However, Paul was struck down and blinded by the Glory of Christ. His eyesight was restored within a few days, upon the prayer of a man of God; however, Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was most probably a painful eye condition that also obscurred his vision, which was, it would seem, the lingering results of the Law of the Harvest (you reap what you sow), in Paul having (albeit with good intentions; not evil intentions as the majority of the Pharisees and chief priests and rulers of the Temple) persecuted the Church, hunted down Christians, who were then given a mock trial by evil men and put to death. To Paul, these Christians were a blasphemous cult that God’s Word indeed said were to be put to death — IF they were actually guilty of worshipping false gods. Paul’s sin was not his zeal; but as Proverbs 19:2 says (one of the few verses in the NIV that is actually good), “It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way”. Whether this is the actual meaning of the passage is not the issue; the issue is that it is a profound truth. Paul’s sin was in not doing his homework and actually interrogating the Christians (as he was a doctor of the Law / Scriptures himself) and actually proving that what they believed was not true.

This was the same sin (albeit, with evil intentions) of the high priest, chief priests and rulers, Sanhedrin, in the illegal night-time trial of Christ. As I explain in my S.T.E.Commentary on John 18-21 (the Betrayal to the Ascension), 800pp., pb., 40.00 + P&H (which contains numerous charts and a Harmony of the Gospels of these chapters), the high priest went one step too short (by God’s Design, God blinding him, as per Isaiah 6:10). He demanded of Christ, “I adjure thee by the Living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God” (Matthew 26:63). Christ answered, “Thou hast said” (inferring, “It is even as thou sayest”). But this was no crime; and thus, demonstrates the blind hatred and ignorance of those seeking Christ’s Blood. In order for Christ to have been guilty (not of being the Son of God — for indeed, He was “guilty as charged”; but those were not the actual charges) of blasphemy and falsely claiming to be God, the high priest had one more demand that he needed to present to Jesus: “I adjure thee by the Living God to give us proof, by way of a miracle, that Thou indeed art the Christ!” But as I have said, it was not God’s Plan for them to know (which is why Christ also did not appear to them after His Resurrection), lest they repent and be saved. Had the high priest so demanded — In Yahweh’s Name — Jesus could not have refused; because the office of High Priest was holy and had authority, even if the one holding it was corrupt. However, like people like priest (even as like people like politicians). Had the people been godly, they would have recognized the ungodliness, even illegitimacy) of the high priest and the chief rulers and most on the Sanhedrin — and deposed them and tried them for their crimes (even as would happen in all the nations of Christendom, if the people were godly).

Sadly — tragically, even as we all suffer with a sin nature and the curse of the fall, due to Adam and Eve’s sin, so also we suffer, likewise, due to the sins of the congregation of Israel, who first, were too afraid to hear God’s Voice, which was like the voice of thunder and trumpet blasts (maybe even like the sound of a volcanic eruption), and they asked Moses to ask God NOT to speak to them! but to only speak to them through Moses (who had to veil himself like a woman!). Then, they rejected God as king, rejected a Governor / Judge / Prophet like Moses and Joshua who had direct contact with God, and wanted to be like the (evil) nations around them, who had earthly kings. God himself predicted this (Deuteronomy 17:14), because He determines all things. Carnal nature is irrational, even self-masochistic and suicidal. Man wanted to “be like God”, a “god” himself, to know the difference (and choose) between good and evil. Had man not fallen, all that we would have ever known was good! not evil, sin, shame, sorrow, pain, disease, oppression, judgment, chastening, death, etc. On top of that God’s people rejected the solution — Divine Rule and nearly direct Divine Communication! Again, demonstrating the irrational, self-destruction thinking and behaviour of the carnal mind (delusion God has sent), the Israelites, despite having seen their mighty deliverance from Egypt, the Mighty Plagues, the crossing of the Red Sea, the Pillar of Cloud and Fire — and seeing the Mount Burning with Fire, having heard the booming Voice of God (Exodus 20:18) at the very time that God was manifesting Himself as a Devouring Fire on top of the Mount, they decided Moses had died and asked Aaron to make them an idol!]

[Write time: 10 hours]