11th Feb 2012

E100 Q&A The Law and the Land

By Andy Jarvis

The Law and the Land Ex 19-20, 32-34 Your Questions Answered
What was the ‘Pagan Revelry’ mentioned in Exodus 32:6?
We are given some clues in later verses when Moses and Joshua return from the mountain. In verses 17 & 18 as they approach there is a debate about what they can hear. Is it the sound of war? No it is the sound of singing. We may assume that it was more than the folk songs of celebration or the songs of worship, because these would have been recognised. Then in verse 19, Moses sees the dancing before the calf and throws down the tablets in anger. So the revelry includes singing and dancing in worship of the calf, much like the forms of worship used by the Egyptians. The bull for the Egyptians represented the Pharaoh, strong, virile and fertile. It is therefore possible that Israelites were engaging in sexual acts like the fertility cults of Egypt and, later, the Canaanites. Paul refers to this in 1 Corinthians 10:7 when describing idolatry, so it is possible that it was the worship of the calf with singing and dancing alone which offended God.
Why did God destroy the Levites in Exodus 32:28-29?
The simple answer is that God didn’t destroy the Levites. When Moses saw the scenes of calf worship he said ‘Whoever is for the Lord, come to me. And the Levites rallied to him’ (v26) Verses 28-29 describe the Levites killing the people who were worshipping the calf, their own people, some of whom may have been Levites, but all of whom were Israelites.
What people were left in Exodus 32:25?
Moses, Aaron, Joshua, the remaining Levites and all those of the other tribes who had refused to worship the golden calf, or who having seen Moses had stopped worshipping before the ‘punishment’ asked for by Moses, and executed by the Levites, had taken place. Even if people had refused to take part, they had not stood up to prevent or speak against the idolatry and may have contributed their gold for its construction.
Why does God punish to three or four generations?
If you think about modern families, three or four generations describes the spread of those living; great-grandparents, grandparents, parents and children. In the Israelite culture of Exodus, this represented one family or household, so punishment to three or four generations represented punishment of one household or family ( see what happened to Achan’s family after Jericho).
It does not seem to represent the succeeding generations of our day as we might see in ancestry.co.uk or the TV series ‘Who do you think you are?’.
Who cut the stone tablets, Moses or God?
Exodus 24:12 tells us that God supplied and inscribed the first set of tablets:
12 The LORD said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain and stay here, and I will give you the tablets of stone with the law and commandments I have written for their instruction.”
Exodus 32:16 confirms this:
16 The tablets were the work of God; the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets.
But when Moses sees the dancing before the calf, he throws the tablets down, breaking them. When Moses pleads for the people, God then commands Moses in Exodus 34:1;
1 The LORD said to Moses, “Chisel out two stone tablets like the first ones, and I will write on them the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke.
Before God himself provided the tablets, and wrote on them; now Moses must create the tablets, and God would write upon them. Reconciliation with God does not excuse us from obligation to the commandments.
What is an ephod?
It is mentioned briefly in Ex 35:9, but the major passage about the ephod is in Ex 28:6-14, a chapter of instructions about the priestly garments which must be worn by those serving in the tabernacle. The ephod was perhaps the most important item of the priestly clothing. A kind of apron made of materials woven out of gold and linen thread and various coloured yarns, it covered the back and chest, reaching nearly to the knees. It was fastened to the body by two shoulder straps and a belt with which it was lined. Upon the shoulder straps were two onyx stones, on which the names of the sons of Israel were engraved in the order of their birth. These two onyx stones, called "stones of remembrance," were not so much to remind Aaron of all the tribes he should serve, but to remind God of all the tribes with whom He had made a covenant. As long as the priest bore the names of Israel before the Lord, He would not forget to be gracious to Israel. Thus, in effect, there was a kind of wordless intercessory prayer. There are a number of images you can find by searching on Google and this one below is an example:


Andy was a schoolteacher for eleven years before training for ministry, while based on a large council estate just outside Portsmouth. Originally from Brighton, Andy has been the Minister at South Molton Baptist Church since 2001. He is married to Helen and has three children and a granddaughter.