Exodus 33-36: The Other Ten Commandments

After the golden calf incident, God refuses to dwell in the midst of the Israelites and sends an angel to lead them instead.  Moses pleads with God and manages to convince him–first he agrees to lead the Israelites personally, then he agrees to dwell in their midst, and then he even agrees to show himself to Moses.  God tells Moses to ascend the mountain with two stone tablets, like the ones he broke, and he does so.  God warns him against making a covenant with the Canaanites; instead, he must smash their pillars and cut down their sacred posts.  God gives him a set of Ten Commandments mostly focused on rituals, very different from the first set.  The commandments include: observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread; sacrifice all firstborn males of cattle and sheep; observe the sabbath; do not offer sacrifices with anything leavened; do not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.  Chapters 35-36 describe the construction of the Tabernacle, following the exact instructions given in 25-31.

Commentary:

  • The Ten Commandments given here is known as the Ritual Decalogue.  The previously-given set of ten commandments, the one most people are familiar with, is the Ethical Decalogue.  These are probably from two different sources.  In the Biblical narrative, since Moses smashed the first stone tablets containing the Ethical Decalogue, it is presumably the Ritual Decalogue that is put into the ark of the covenant.
  • In 33:11, “The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as one man speaks to another”, but in 33:20, the LORD says “you cannot see My face, for man may not see Me and live”.  These verses are probably from different sources.
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