When the laws of the covenant were concluded, Moses was given instructions for sealing the covenant. This ceremony was important as it gave an outward testimony to an inner commitment.
The two older sons of Aaron Nadab and Abihu were to go up with Moses and Aaron. The two sons of Aaron were intended to follow the footsteps of Aaron as priest and leaders of Israel. Unfortunately, they failed to be faithful to the Lord and lost the privilege of service and ultimately, life itself. (Leviticus 10:1-2) The elders were to draw near to God as representatives to the whole of Israel. Moses was allowed to draw closer than the rest.
Moses reported “all the words of the Lord and all the ordinances” we cannot be sure but the words may refer to the Ten Commandments and ordinances may refer to the rest of the material in the covenant code. However, later in the same section God gave Moses the two tablets of stone which the Ten Commandments were written upon. The entire episode here is a bit unclear.
When Moses reports the words of the covenant the people committed themselves to it with which they had made their earlier commitment. (Exodus 19:8) The earlier commitment had been based only upon their knowledge of God. This renewed commitment was based upon a more detailed understanding of God’s demand and expectations.
The record of writing the book of the commandments is the first record in the Old Testament of Moses writing laws down. We must remember that in the ancient Near East, oral traditions were the most common way of passing on people’s history, its faith, and its cultural heritage. The fact that Moses wrote this down would indicate that it was considered of supreme importance.
There are two things that seem to be of significance in the ceremony of consecration. The “”young men” served as priest. This was before the setting a part of a priesthood. Young men would have been needed at this point to overpower and handle the sacrificial oxen. The other thing of significance was the handling of the blood. Blood was of significance as the source of life and therefore a gift of God. Blood had to be handled with particular care, further, in the ancient world; covenants were usually sealed by blood. An indication of how significant it was, Jesus picked up and developed this concept in the upper room on the night of His betrayal. (Matthew 26:28)
Following the sacrificial ceremony of ratification, there was a communal meal. The idea of a meal serving as the seal of a covenant arose quite early. This surely has some overtones for our understanding of the Lord’s Supper.
With the meal over, Moses was called higher up the mountain to receive the tablets. The late evidence would indicate that theses tablets only had the Ten Commandment upon them. (Exodus 31:18 Exodus 32:19 Exodus 34:1,28) The fact that Joshua was selected to go is an indication of the increasing importance he was being given in Israel.
Moses spent six days in preparation for his next encounter with God. When Moses was completely ready and the time was right God called to Moses. All the usual manifestations were present, the “cloud”, and the “fire” and God’s voice. From, a distance the people could see the cloud and the smoke. But they could not know what was happening on the top of the mountain. As the days dragged on, the people’s anxiety grew until it burst its bounds and overflowed in the experience of the golden calf. (Exodus 32)
Leviticus 10:1-2, Matthew 26:28