Exodus 31-33: The 10 words destroyed (pt. 1)

1.  The Filling of the Holy Spirit (Exodus 31:1-11)

2.  Sabbath (Exodus 31:12-18 )

3.  The Golden Calf (Exodus 32)

4.  Leaving Sinai – marks of the Holy Trinity (Exodus 33)

1.  The Filling of the Holy Spirit (Exodus 31:1-11)

Now, we see two specific mentioned; one of whom is specifically filled with the Spirit of God.  Bezalel (“in the shadow (protection) of God”) from the line of Judah was given the ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, working in gold, silver and bronze.

Oholiab (“the father’s tent”) contrarily, from the line of Dan, is appointed as Bezalel’s helper.

Then in v.6:  “…And I have given to all able men ability, that they may make all that I have commanded you…”

Why were Bezalel, from the line of Judah, and the Danite Oholiab specifically mentioned?  I’d like to hear your say on them: perhaps something to do with the scepter not departing from Judah, and justice coming from the tribe of Dan?  He who is in the protection of God, in the line of Judah vs. he who is in the father’s tent (i.e. the Father, 1st person of the Trinity) in the line of Dan?

I’d like to focus on another aspect: which is the mentioning of the Spirit filling someone specifically for the first time in Scripture (v.3).  What is the meaning of this?  Many people have decidedly interpreted John 8 that the Spirit is only given in part to the Old Testament saints, but there is no evidence of the Spirit dwelling within Bezalel, let alone (as v.6 says) all the able men who were also given the ability.  Can we be filled with the Spirit of God, without the indwelling of the Spirit?  Must we differentiate technical categories of illumination, regeneration, indwelling salvation, sanctification/filling of the Spirit?  Perhaps these distinctions are akin to the three-fold distinction of the Levitical law: completely trivial.

But this is not the first time the Spirit of God is in someone – look at Genesis 41:37-38 – The Spirit of God is in Joseph.  Numbers 27:18 – the Spirit of God is in Joshua.  Let’s not get too ahead of ourselves, but this happens many times throughout the Old Testament, prior to the giving of the Holy Spirit at the Pentecost.  But how do you reconcile that with John 7:37-39?  The Spirit is not yet given, as Jesus was not yet glorified!  Did Jesus contradict himself?

The problem is that people actually have a misinterpretation of John 7:33-39 – many think it refers to a different way of salvation; as if Christians are sealed with the Holy Spirit in the New Testament (post-Pentecostal age), and OT saints were saved differently.  But we have always had one mediator, Christ (1 Timothy 2:5); and only one mystery.

The Mystery of God

Some people think the “Mystery” refers to the Holy Spirit, but not really.  Dev has written a good post on the ‘mystery’, but here is my quick summary of his “quick” summary:  Ephesians 3:2-6 and Colossians 1:25-27, just two small examples, show that Paul’s explanation of the mystery as the inclusion of all nations within the blessings of Israel.  The revelation therefore isn’t the sudden arrival of the Holy Spirit (since he is so active in the OT), but the extension of His work to all nations.  The mystery is the global inter-racial church of both Jews and Gentiles.  That is the symbolism of Jonah 3-4; only after the sign of Jonah, the 3 days in death, resurrection and ascension, can Jonah then preach directly to a Gentile nation.  The response is national-scale salvation for Nineveh: but this story is prophetic of the necessity of Christ’s glorification for the Spirit to be given to the Gentiles as well.

So if we come back to John 7:33-39:  the Jews were actually concerned that Jesus is about to go and teach the Gentiles, but Jesus’ response affirms that the gospel is not just for the physical Israelite nation.  Anyone and everyone who comes to Him will receive the Holy Spirit; but AFTER he has been glorified (i.e. which is a direct reference to the cross John 12:23,34; 17:5), then the dividing curtain between the Jews and the Gentiles is destroyed.  Only then can the Spirit be given to anyone and everyone who believes on Him.  Only after the sign of Jonah, after the sign of the cross, can Nineveh be saved.  Jonah was a prophet unheard of in his time; no other prophet went out to evangelise to other nations.  Jesus was a prophet, priest and king unheard of in his time – yet he affirmed that this is the sign and meaning of Jonah’s minsitry.

The division between the indwelling and the filling of the Spirit is not yet laid at rest, because we haven’t considered comparing the difference between the ways the Spirit worked in the Old and in the New Testament; but the passages of 1 Timothy 2:5; 1 Corinthians 2; Jonah 3-4; John 7:33-39 point not to the Spirit given to the Jews only in the New Testament.  The Jews were already partakers of the gifts of the Old Testament, and the mystery of the New Testament fulfilled is the inclusion of the Gentiles in a different way from the OT (e.g. Rahab had to be assimilated into the Israelite community; but we don’t assimilate ourselves into the Israelite community today).  If the mystery is simply that of the inclusion of Gentiles, then that means the Gentiles are given the same gifts of salvation through the Spirit in the same way the OT saints have been enjoying all along.  This means that effectively, just as we are sealed and have the Spirit indwelling in us – so also the OT saints are possibly sealed by the Spirit, and He is indwelling in them.  We will come back to the Holy Spirit in the next post on chapters 34 onwards.

2.  Sabbath (Exodus 31:12-18 )

16Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a covenant forever. 17(U) It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that(V) in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and(W) on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.'”

God has repeated the significance of the Sabbath a number of 11 times between after the salvation of the Jews until now.  Clearly, this is quite important – and v. 17 etches it into their heads – it is a sign forever between me and the people of “the-God-who-fights”.  And how does God justify that model of the Sabbath?  Again, it is found in the model of creation, which is sufficient in preaching the gospel in itself.  Not observing the Sabbath will result in death; and this crime is therefore seen as heinous as that of intentional murder, and striking one’s parents.  There is a link between these heavy-sins – and it has nothing to do with the Catholic response to ‘grave’ or ‘mortal’ sins by HOW we repents.  Rather, these heavy-sins have something to do with a characteristic of God; and the Sabbath, like the respecting of one’s parents, are facets of the highest representation of God’s personality.  As I’ve stated, Sabbath represents our time in new Jerusalem where our time of rest (Genesis 2:15) in Paradise is restored and renewed.  If we forget the meaning of Sabbath, then we forget our purpose on earth; we thrive in the curse of God to toil on this earth, but God is deliberately pulling us away from that idolatrous mindset.

3.  The Golden Calf (Exodus 32)

The irony of this chapter is how quick the Israelites forgot about the LORD; especially the elders and those who ate with the LORD on the mountain of God – how is this possible?  And why does this terrible and infamous incident occur between the instructions of the tabernacle and the building of the tabernacle?

And in this period of testing, of 40 days and 40 night – the people wavered.  They had problems in waiting for Moses to come down, in the same way we have problems with waiting for Christ to return.  v.1 is very interesting: “Up, make us gods who shall go before us.” Why gods?  I think this has very much to do with the fact that they are faced with Two LORDS, the Angel and the Unseen Father; and one Spirit, thus numerically three Persons in the Triune God.

v.2-6 display a use of the gold which should have been used to build the Tabernacle with.  Instead, the gold is taken to create for themselves gods.  God makes clear that there is one golden calf (v.8 ), but the people are saying “these are your gods”. Clearly, there is a misunderstanding of some sort – but this is also a depiction of their understanding of Triune Oneness.  There may be one calf, but there are gods.  There may be one God, but THREE Persons.  However far this analogy can go, their golden calf is a perversion of the Three-in-Oneness of our God.

v.11-14 is very important: Moses asks God to remember the covenant between Him and their forefathers Abraham, Isaac, Israel, His servants.  Moses does not say: “Look at what we have done!  Look at our faithfulness!  Look at the signs which we kept!” – rather, he says “Remember what you promised us”.  Salvation is from the LORD, and only the LORD need remember what he has promised the Israelites.

Then comes v.19 – Moses threw the two tablets with the 10 words on them and broke them at the foot of the mountain.  Is he insane?  Does he not value the 10 words written by the finger of God?  Of course not – the significance of the breaking of the two tablets at the foot of the mountain is significant in the context of Moses’ righteous anger against the idolatrous Israelites.  Why did he break the tablets?  We’ll come to answer that in the next post when Moses receives two new tablets. The saddest thing of this ordeal, along with their idolatrous relationship with the idol outside of God, is that their evangelistic attempt to be a holy priesthood and a witness for all nations is crippled by this event, Exodus 32:25:

25And when Moses saw that the people had broken loose (for Aaron had let them break loose,(AH) to the derision of their enemies)

The enemies derided them; how much better would it have been if they remained loyal and faithful?  Indeed, salvation is of the LORD, but our interference and disobedience will lessen the credibility of the gospel given their lack of faith displayed by worshiping a golden calf.

Just three other things to quickly note in this chapter before coming back to that point of receiving 4 tablets in total in the next post:

(a)  Aaron’s nature to blame inherits that of Adam:  v.22-24 – “You know the people, that they are set on evil.  23  For they said to me, ‘Make us gods who shall go before us…24… So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf‘.  Firstly, the ridiculous logic of Aaron’s argument – did he not realise that Moses is spending time with the LORD?  Wasn’t Aaron meant to be Moses’ aide?  Instead, he sided with many and perverted justice (Exodus 23:2).  Secondly, how can a calf just come out of a fire refining gold, unless the calf was carefully sculpted?  Adam also said the same thing to God:  ‘it was the woman whom “YOU” gave me that led me to sin’.  How easy it is to place our blame on others.

(b)  Why did they create a golden calf of all creatures?  Ezekiel 1:10 – we see that the spiritual creatures have four faces: a lion, eagle, man and a bull.  Ezekiel 10:14 – again, the four faces appear but there is an alteration in the terminology: a lion, eagle, man and a cherub.  Ezekiel is referring to the same creature, but cherub and bull is interchangeable here.  It is likely that the face of a cherub is akin to the face of a bull, and this may help us understand why some world religions/cultures worship the calf because some divine creatures resemble bulls (i.e. Hindus who regard the cow as a sacred animal), or treat the calf as a sacred animal.  If Satan, as explained in Ezekiel 28 is a guardian cherub, then it is possible that the worship of the calf is a form of Satan-worship, explaining the LORD and Moses’ righteous anger.

(c)  v.26 speaks of the sons of Levi gathering around to kill three thousand men of the people (v.28 ).  Why this, and how is this related to their consequent ordination (v.29)?  Firstly, we should understand that this is the 50th day after Israel reached Sinai.  After reaching Sinai, they waited three days at the prompting of Christ, the Angel, to wait for the Father to descend to the top of the mountain of God.  Then Moses waited another 7 days before he spent another 40 days and 40 nights with the LORD (Exodus 19 and 24).  That totals to 50 days.

The sign of the third day and Jesus and the Father meeting on the third day is a prototypical display of Jesus’ victory over sin at the cross.  At the Pentecost, in Acts 2, 50 days after Jesus’ victory over sin at the cross, the LORD shook the earth and sent fire and the mighty Spirit to both Jews and Gentiles.  This is why in Acts 2:41, “3000 were added to their number that day”.  This is in direct contrast to the 50th day event here: the Levites ‘celebrated’ their Pentecost with the slaughter of 3000 as a sign of judgment; but the Christian disciples celebrated their Pentecost post-ascension with the addition of 3000 to the church of Christ, as a sign of salvation.  If you would (also notice, it is 50 days after which they left Egypt that Moses meets with the two Lords on Mount Sinai; and another 50 days before the 3000 were taken away by the Levites).  Any connection between the two sets of 50 days?

4.  Leaving Sinai: marks of the Holy Trinity (Exodus 33)

Remember throughout this chapter and previous chapters the fundament of Deuteronomy 4:12 – “no form” was seen, although this is the voice of the Yahweh-Person.  The GOD in the thick darkness is never seen – but then later, in v.7-11, Moses meets the LORD face to face as a man speaks to his friend in a tent pitched at the bottom of the mountain.  This is the seen Lord!  (v.9-11). Most importantly, note how Joshua/Yeshua, the son of Nun, remains in the tent when Moses turns to the Israelite church.

But Moses wants more than seeing the seen Lord face-to-face – he wants to also see the Unseen LORD, the Unseen Father!  But the Unseen LORD explains some very specific things: v.14 states that the LORD is happy for his presence (i.e. Christ, as explained in earlier posts) to go with them, but (v.19-23):

19…he said,(CX) “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And(CY) I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. 20But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for(CZ) man shall not see me and live.” 21And the LORD said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, 22and while my glory passes by I will put you in a(DA) cleft of the rock, and I will(DB) cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall(DC) not be seen.”

So v.20 solidifies that this is the Unseen Father speaking to Moses; and the Unseen Father wishes to reveal his backside to Moses, but only if Moses hides inside a cleft of a rock.  So also, when we hide inside the cleft of the Rock of Ages (Psalm 18:12) will we even bear the real existence of being before the Father, but that rock which Moses hid in is just a shadow of the true Rock which will completely cover us with His righteousness:

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure;
Save from wrath and make me pure. – hymn “Rock of Ages” by Augustus Montague Toplady on Moses hiding in the cleft of the rock

So Moses is not rejected by the end of this chapter; rather, he is already encouraged that the Father’s ‘presence’, in whom is the proclamation of the name “the LORD” (v.19), is already a sufficient goodness to reflect the Father’s glory.  But, as it still stands, v.20 shows that we cannot live if we meet with him face to face.  Which is why we must rely on the Angel whose name is “the LORD”; we must rely on God’s presence who will go with Moses; we must rely on the rock of ages cleft for us – and only through this mediator (1 Timothy 2:5) can we even come to meet the Father who resides in the Holy of Holies.


There are again marks of prophecy not only in these three chapters, but in the mysteriousness of why this incident of the golden calf occured in between the instructions and the making of the tablets; why the first set of tablets were destroyed and the meaning of the changes in the second tablets (as we will later see in the next post); why there are signs and allusions to the Pentecost (i.e. 50 days after leaving Egypt; 50 days after arriving at Sinai; 3 days waiting period vs. 7 days waiting period; 40 days and 40 nights of testing for those waiting at the bottom of the mountain) – and in general how this, like Abraham’s early actions by travelling in and around Canaan is a blueprint of the future.  I will try to wrap these points up in the next post.

Exodus 31-33: The 10 words destroyed (pt. 1)

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