Old Testament Survey - Lesson 8

Ratification of the Covenant

This lesson explores the covenant at Mount Sinai, highlighting its biblical and theological importance as it connects God's promises from Abraham to the Israelites. It delves into the transformation of the Israelites from slaves into a nation tasked with a divine mission, defining Israel's identity as God's chosen people—a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. The metaphor of marriage illustrates the deep, communal commitment of this covenant. With detailed references and interpretations, the lesson underscores how the Exodus narrative is crucial for understanding Israel's religious and national identity within God's plan for humanity.

Daniel Block
Old Testament Survey
Lesson 8
Watching Now
Ratification of the Covenant

I. The Historical and Covenantal Context of Exodus

A. Background to the Ratification of the Covenant

1. The afflictions of the Israelites in Egypt and God's memory of His covenant

2. The revelation of God’s plan in Genesis regarding the Israelites' bondage and liberation

B. The Covenant with Abraham

1. Establishment and phases of the covenant with Abraham in Genesis 15 and 17

2. Promises of fruitfulness, national identity, and land possession

3. Reiteration of the covenant in Exodus to Moses and the continuity with Abraham’s covenant

II. The Exodus and its Theological Implications

A. The Role of God in the Exodus

1. God's self-revelation to Moses and His manifestations as El Shaddai and Yahweh

2. The significance of God remembering His covenant during the Israelites' groaning

B. The Covenant at Sinai

1. God’s invitation to formalize the relationship with His people at Sinai

2. The covenant as a reiteration and continuation of the promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob

III. Theological Themes and Motifs in the Sinai Covenant

A. God as the Redeemer and Lawgiver

1. The dynamics of God’s leadership and protection through the Exodus

2. The nature of the covenant at Sinai as a blend of divine grace and legal stipulation

B. The Covenantal Relationship as a Marriage and Adoption

1. The metaphor of marriage to describe the covenant at Sinai

2. The concept of Israel's adoption as God’s treasured possession and implications for their identity

IV. The Practical Applications of the Sinai Covenant

A. The Role of Israel among the Nations

1. Israel’s designation as a kingdom of priests and a holy nation

2. The implications of this status for Israel's mission in the world

B. The Covenant as a Foundation for Israel’s Laws

1. The Decalogue as a summary of the covenant’s moral and social principles

2. Detailed laws provided in the expansion of the covenant stipulations

V. Conclusion and Future Implications of the Sinai Covenant

A. The Continuity of the Covenant Tradition

1. The ongoing relevance of the Sinai covenant in the broader biblical narrative

2. The ultimate fulfillment of the covenant promises in the narrative of Israel

B. The Enduring Legacy of the Sinai Experience

1. The lasting impact of Sinai on Israel's religious identity and practice

2. The portrayal of Sinai as the climax of God’s redemptive plan in the Pentateuch

  • Learning about the First Testament's language, geographical, and cultural contexts, and how these factors contribute to its frequent misinterpretation and underappreciation in modern times.
  • Gain insights into the literary and cosmic foundations of grace and glory in the Torah, understanding its role as more than law.
  • Learn that to be made in God's image entails embodying divine qualities and functioning as His representative on Earth, which extends a universal dignity upon all humans and shapes a theological ethic that influences how you treat others.
  • Genesis 1-3 frames human response to divine creation, emphasizing human dignity, work's moral role, free will's consequences, and the persistent grace amid sin.
  • This lesson reviews the Israelite covenant, understanding its stages, implications, and its role in God's redemptive plan.
  • Gain insights into Abraham's covenant with God, exploring his faith and God's promises.
  • Learn how the Exodus from Egypt marked Israel's transformation from a family to a nation under Yahweh.
  • Understand how the covenant at Sinai transforms Israel from slaves into a treasured nation destined for a divine mission, fulfilling God's ancient promises.
  • This lesson covers the covenantal expectations at Sinai. The covenantal agreement provided a constitutional and ethical framework for societal living, focusing on community rights and responsibilities.
  • In this lesson, you gain insight into how the tabernacle was both a physical manifestation of God's presence and a profound symbol of His grace, emphasizing the holiness and detailed guidance He provided to the Israelites for worship and daily life.
  • Gain insights into Deuteronomy, recognizing its focus on teaching rather than legislation, and understanding Moses' role as an instructor of Yahweh's will.
  • In this lesson, you explore how to interpret the First Testament's historiographic writings, emphasizing the divine inspiration and literary artistry that guide the selective storytelling and theological themes.
  • Learn how the books of Joshua and Judges illustrate the fulfillment and failure of Israel's covenant with Yahweh, highlighting divine promise, cultural assimilation, and the cyclical nature of faith and apostasy.
  • The Book of Ruth, highlights divine providence, social justice, and personal righteousness while exploring the role of Boaz as a pivotal figure in maintaining the lineage of King David.
  • Samuel had a significant yet complex role in Israel's history; judge, priest, prophet, and crucial figure in establishing monarchy.
  • Learn of David's central role in the Bible, understanding his unique portrayal and the extensive attention he receives compared to other figures.
  • Learn about the Davidic covenant's role in shaping biblical history and theology, emphasizing its eternal impact on Israel and beyond.
  • The books of Kings and Chronicles use historical events to underline theological themes, highlighting the role of scribes in documenting Israel’s history.
  • In this lesson on 1 and 2 Kings, review the downfall of Israel through kings' forgetfulness of God's covenants.
  • Learn about Solomon's temple's historical and theological significance, its divine design and purpose, and its role in Israelite worship and communal life.
  • Gain insights into the transformation and resilience of the Judean people during their exile in Babylon from 586-539 BC, exploring their struggles and adaptations in a new socio-political and religious context.
  • Learn about Daniel's exemplary life in Babylon, his integrity, and his prophetic visions, which highlight divine sovereignty and the vindication of the faithful amidst calamities.
  • Review the Persian period's impact on the Jewish diaspora, analyze the Book of Esther's literary and theological significance, and reflect on divine providence and cultural identity.
  • Explore the crucial roles of Ezra and Nehemiah in reconstructing the Jewish community and faith post-exile, understanding their historical significance, source materials, and theological insights.
  • Gain insight into the roles and significance of prophets in ancient Israel, learning about their historical context, and their critical function in guiding and correcting the nation through direct communication from Yahweh.
  • Learn about the lives and ministries of prophets Amos and Hosea, their calls for justice and return to divine covenant amidst Israel's political and spiritual turmoil, through prophetic books that blend personal biography with national prophecy.
  • This lesson reviews Jonah's struggle with divine grace and Micah's advocacy for justice and the messianic hope.
  • In this lesson, you learn how Isaiah's vision portrays the Messiah as king, servant, and conqueror, emphasizing his divine roles and global mission.
  • Learn of the political and social contexts of Jeremiah and Ezekiel's exile, including Babylon's rise, Jerusalem's fall, and the crisis of faith portrayed in Lamentations, emphasizing hope amid despair through God's faithfulness.
  • Learn about Jeremiah's life and prophetic ministry, navigating challenges with kings, themes in the Book of Jeremiah, and profound passages on true religion and a future covenant, offering lessons on prophetic burdens, God's faithfulness, and spiritual transformation.
  • Explore Ezekiel's life as a priest in exile, his bizarre actions, and profound messages revealing Yahweh's passion and eternal promises of judgment and restoration.
  • Learn about Nahum and Joel's prophecies on judgment, hope, and Yahweh's character. Explore the day of the Lord and the expansion of the covenant community.
  • Explore Obadiah, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah's prophecies. Discover themes of judgment, faith, and restoration in God's plan.
  • Gain insight into Haggai's role in motivating temple rebuilding during the Persian rule. His brief yet impactful ministry fosters hope and action amid community disillusionment, recoginizing God's presence and reign.
  • Gain deep insight into Hebrew poetry: its forms, parallelism, acrostics, and emotional depth. Explore its celebration and lamentation of Yahweh's glory.
  • Gain insight into Psalms which reflect diverse emotions and experiences. Structured into five divisions, attributed to various authors, their interpretation involves understanding Torah context, literary devices, and applying timeless principles to life.
  • Explore biblical wisdom's depth: from practical skill to moral insight, rooted in the fear of Yahweh. It contrasts with secular knowledge, emphasizing God's order and universal application.
  • Engage with Proverbs to unravel its diverse wisdom, from aphorisms to discourses. Understand its practical guidance for righteous living and leadership.
  • Discover the Song of Songs, a rich exploration of love's nature. From its allegorical interpretations to its celebration of covenantal love, it examines human relationships with wisdom and depth.
  • The book of Job offers insights into faith and suffering, exploring theological themes and character dynamics. It emphasizes trust in God amid life's most difficult trials.
  • Uncover Ecclesiastes' profound journey from despair to hope. Koheleth's existential ponderings contrast with the narrator's faith, urging a shift from worldly pursuits to finding fulfillment in God's sovereignty.

This Old Testament Survey course offers a deep exploration of the Old Testament's literary structure, divine covenants, and historical context. Lessons cover the Pentateuch, emphasizing its narrative over legalistic interpretations, and extend through key biblical figures like Abraham and Moses. Topics such as the covenant at Sinai, the concept of imago Dei, and the tabernacle rituals highlight the continuity of God's grace and the ethical implications of divine laws. The course critically addresses common misconceptions, the role of the Torah as instruction, and the portrayal of God’s plan, underscoring the relevance and complexity of these ancient texts.

Dr. Daniel Block 
Old Testament Survey
Ratification of the Covenant
Lesson Transcript


We begin with talking about the background to the ratification of the Israelite covenant at Sinai, or should we say the establishment, because that's the word that's used in Exodus 6 and also in Genesis chapter 17. So, as background to what happens in Exodus 19 to 24, we have to go back to Exodus 2, 24 to 25. And God heard their groaning.

This is after the Pharaoh has been so abusive to the Israelite population. God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob, and God saw the people of Israel, and God knew, dot, dot, dot. In the Hebrew, the question's not finished.

Knew what? And the other question is, which covenant? And what did God know? These are two questions this text answers. Well, I think what God knew was, it's time. This is the moment that he had anticipated in Genesis 15 when he signed on to the covenant with Abraham.

Remember, again, the cutting of the animal in two and the passing of the torch between the two, and then God says, this is the covenant that I am making with you, but my people, your descendants, will be in Egypt for 400 years where they will be enslaved until the cup of the Amorites is full, and then I will bring you back. God knew it was time. The time has come.

The clock has reached the appointed time, and of course, the covenant here is the covenant that God had made in two phases with Abraham, phase one in chapter 15 where we hear this promise, and phase two in chapter 17 where circumcision became the way of the Israelites signing on. Well, having fulfilled his promise to make the offspring exceedingly fruitful, the time had come for Abraham's God to become the God of his descendants after him in declarations that later frame Exodus 6, 7 to 8. We'll be there in a minute, and then to deliver the land of Canaan into their hands as their possession in perpetuity. This is the promise he made to the ancestors.

Here's Genesis 17, 4 to 8. Look, I, look, my covenant is with you, and you will become the ancestor of a multitude of nations. No longer will you be called by the name Abraham, but your name will be Abraham, for I have appointed you as ancestor of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings will come from you. 

Well, that's what had happened in Egypt. Exodus chapter 1 verses 1 to 7 describe this birthquake that was happening in Egypt. The population was multiplying, and the more Pharaoh tried to suppress that, the more they multiplied.

So they've become extremely fruitful, and it's time to take them out and make them a nation. Kings will eventually come from you, and I will establish my covenant between me and you, talking to Abraham, and your future descendants throughout their generations as an everlasting, irrevocable covenant to become your God and the God of your future descendants. This text alone is worth remembering when we discuss the relationship between the covenant with Abraham and the covenant at Sinai.

This is one and the same. The point of the Exodus moment is that God is wrapping the descendants of Abraham into the covenant privileges announced and into the mission of Abraham. We will see that second dimension in a bit, but I will make an everlasting or irrevocable covenant to you to become your God and the God of future descendants, and I will give to you and to your future descendants the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan as an everlasting, irrevocable possession, and I will become their God.

This underlies Exodus chapter 2. That's the covenant. We are now ready, but we hear anticipations of this moment in the book of Exodus already. We talked about Exodus 6, 1 to 8 just briefly in the previous session, but this is a fabulous text.

God spoke to Moses, this is in Egypt, and said to him, I am Yahweh. I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as El Shaddai, but by my name Yahweh, I did not make myself known to them. I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, a land in which they lived as sojourners.

Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the people of Israel whom the Egyptians have enslaved, and I have remembered my covenant. That's the moment. The exodus of the Israelites from Egypt has in its scope, in its sights, Sinai when God is going to fulfill this.

This is a great speech. After the preamble, you have the Lord's self-introduction. I am Yahweh.

I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as El Shaddai, and he actually was known by the name Yahweh already in the days of Seth, and people began to call upon the name of the Lord. It's not the Lord. The Lord is not a name.

That's a title. The Hebrew says, I'm the name of Yahweh, and here he says, I am Yahweh. We've heard that name before, but apparently people didn't understand the significance of that name, and what was about to happen was all about the significance of that name.

By my name, I didn't make myself known. You'll find out what that means is what he tells Moses. Well, and then he ends with a promise to give them the land of Canaan, repeating what he had said to the ancestors and informing them, I've heard the groaning of the people of Israel whom the Egyptians have enslaved, and I have remembered my covenant.

It is time to establish the covenant I instituted with Abraham, but to establish it with his descendants here at Mount Sinai. Exodus 6, 7 to 8 perceives the fulfillment of these promises as a future event, but in Moses' demands before Pharaoh, he repeatedly already identified Yahweh as the God of Israel and the God of the Hebrews, suggesting that in God's mind, this relationship already existed, but it hadn't yet been formalized. Remember our understanding of covenant? Just like Abraham's relationship with Yahweh started in Genesis 12, but it wasn't formalized until 15 and 17.

So here, in God's mind, they are his people, but the people don't yet view themselves to be his people. The Lord's reiteration of the original promises reminds us that in their essence, the covenant that Yahweh made with the ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the one he made with the Exodus generation were one and the same. However, the time-space formalization of the relationship must await the confirmation of this covenant with the ancestors' descendants at Sinai, and that's Exodus 19 to 24.

Now, in order to understand this text, we need to see what the place Sinai, Horeb, plays in the plot of the Pentateuch. Now, I know some evangelical interpreters for whom what happened at Sinai was the nadir of Israel's experience. They have this scheme completely turned upside down so that it's downhill from Abraham to Sinai, and then it's uphill to get us beyond Sinai to the end of Moses and into David.

But this is not how the Bible presents these events. I get my ideas here from the noted Leviticus scholar, Jacob Milgram, who argues that Sinai is the peak in the plot of the entire Pentateuch. What happens earlier is with the patriarchs, we have laying the foundations.

Then under Joseph and the move to Egypt, you have the abandonment of the promised land. Then you have the plagues and the Exodus, the birth pangs of the nation. Then you have Yahweh's invitation to an audience with him in his court and his covenant with Israel.

Then after that, we have the actual constitution, manuals of worship, and the holiness instructions that come later. From Sinai, then we march back to the promised land, and after the desert in the desert, you've got the collapse of the foundations completely, and the Lord has to start over with a new generation. And what happens in the book of Deuteronomy is the microcosmic context.

In Genesis 12, you have the cosmic context of God's grand plan of redemption through Abraham and his descendants. Remember the table of nations just before that? Well, here you've got the microcosmic context reconstituting the nation and celebrating their status as Yahweh's people through the Torah of Moses, that is the book of Deuteronomy. But Sinai pervades, the image of Sinai pervades everything.

This was the grand appointment that the Lord had in mind when he had told Moses at the time of his call, when you get back to this place, you will know that I am Yahweh. Oh, really? He anticipated, chapter 3, verse 12, he anticipated coming back to this place, that grand appointment is about to happen. Of course, in chapter 19, we begin with a grand preamble to the covenant ratification proceedings.

Here's Exodus 19, 4 to 6. You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, how I carried you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. Now then, if you will indeed listen to my voice and keep my covenant, you will be my treasured possession among all the peoples, for the whole earth belongs to me, and you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. Then he tells Moses, these are the words that you must speak to the descendants of Israel, and they responded, with all that the Lord has spoken, we will do.

Well, in this very significant text, there are several things we have to notice. First, notice the threefold gospel according to Yahweh. The Lord is talking here.

That gospel you see in these three expressions, you have seen ra'ah, which here means you have experienced what I did to the Egyptians. Well, that's the moment of salvation. How I carried you on the wings of eagles.

This is a metaphor for how he cared for them in the desert from the Red Sea to the present moment. And then, how I brought you to myself. Now, it's that last one that we have to emphasize here.

I brought you to myself. Notice it does not say, and I gave you the law, or I brought you to the law. No, what happens at Sinai is a formal marriage happening between Yahweh the suzerain and Israel his vassal.

This is a marriage. This is not a corporate takeover, and then an imposition and legislation of a horrible life to the other party. No, I brought you to myself.

Now, in another millennium, when my wife and I got married, we came to the wedding with, you know, fully prepared. Each of us came with a description of what we expected of the other person, and so I had a half-page list of things that Ellen was going to sign on to as part of the marriage ceremony, and of course, she had seven and a half pages for me. And during the ceremony, the highlight of it was when we signed that document, and of course, that's not true.

I'm making up a story here, but this is how we treat God's relationship with Israel, as if God called them to himself and then dumped the law on him. All he expected of them was, keep the commandments. No, I brought you to myself.

I am Yahweh, your God. You shall be my people. This comes right out of ancient marriage ceremonies and the verbal expressions of commitment you hear from bride and groom.

I will be your husband, and you shall be my wife. And the wife responds, I will be your wife, and you will be my husband. Here, the Lord has brought them to himself.

That's what happens at Sinai. No other people no other people in history has ever had this privilege. But that's the threefold gospel.

You need to understand that in the Torah, now I'm using the word Torah, not just in the limited sense of Deuteronomy, in the first five books of the Bible, law is always preceded by gospel. That's an important principle. All right, and then that's the threefold gospel.

Then you've got the threefold status and commission of Israel, having experienced the gospel. Now then, if you will indeed listen to my voice and keep my covenant. I am very disappointed by the that first phrase is translated in almost all of our translations, if you will obey my voice and keep my covenant.

That takes us off track. That creates the impression that the only thing that ever comes out of God's mouth is commands, which isn't true. We've just heard God speak.

You've seen what I did to the Egyptians, how I carried you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. That's gospel. So that if God is now asking them to listen to his voice, he's assuming you've heard the gospel first, and then he asks, keep my covenant.

They have no idea yet what that means, and yet they say after this speech, they say, all that the Lord has spoken we will do, because they've been brought to him. When Ellen and I got married, we committed ourselves to each other. Whatever you desire, that is my mission for you, and she responded in kind.

But if you meet these two conditions, you listen to my voice, that is you hear whatever God says, not just commands, but gospel too, then you and you keep my covenant. You shall be my treasured possession among all the peoples, for the whole earth is mine. That's one note of status.

You shall be my kingdom of priests, memleketh kohanim, kingdom of priests, and you shall be a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel. This is the mission and the commission.

God is calling the Israelites to a very special status, his segola. That word is used eight times in scripture, twice, once in Ecclesiastes, and once in Chronicles. It's used in the literal everyday sense, really not every day for most people, but for kings it's every day.

The word refers to the treasures of kings. You will be my treasured possession among all the peoples, for the whole earth is mine. You'll be a kingdom of priests, which reminds them that their mission is priestly.

As a nation, they are there to be the agents of intermediation between Yahweh and his sinful world, for all the earth is mine. God didn't call Israel to call Israel. He called Israel to provide a way of salvation for the world and the nations, and then you shall be a holy nation, which means set apart for divine service.

There is no higher privilege. This is not just a burden that God has imposed on the people. In fact, it is the opposite.

He is calling them to the status of the highest imaginable position in the world to be the agents of the divine court to the world that needs him. To understand the word special treasure, we just need to look at the royal crowns in the Tower of London. I'll never forget the first, actually it was the second time we went with our grandkids, and we have a granddaughter who's always been a little bit of a princess, and she must have been about four or five years old when we were there, and we saw all of these crowns, and we looked at her, and we saw the sparkle in her eyes, and I just saw the wheels turning.

One day I will wear one of those being a princess. You know, this is what God's people are to him. They are his treasured people.

All the nations of the earth are his, but they're just rocks out on the field, but we are his diamonds. It's a fabulous, a fabulous notion of status. Then there's the two-fold charge.

We've already talked about this. If you'll indeed listen to my voice and keep my covenant, these features link this event tightly to the Lord's call of the covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and with their offspring that we heard earlier. This is what's happening.

The motley band of slaves whom Yahweh had rescued from the bondage of Egypt would be formally adopted as his sons. That's one metaphor. The exodus from Egypt represented their birth as a new people, but now they are formally adopted.

We aren't naturally the sons of God. It's only by a special covenantal act that we become that. So, you'll see in these narratives a mixing of metaphors.

Sometimes it's a marital metaphor, and sometimes it is adoption metaphor. At Sinai, they become the Lord's bride, and at Sinai, they are also adopted as his sons. In fulfillment of Genesis 17, 7 to 9, the Lord would establish the covenant he made with the ancestors, thus confirming the Israelites, the descendants of the patriarchs, as parties to and heirs of the Abrahamic covenant.

The Lord's detailed revelation of his will at Sinai and Moses' later promulgation of the Torah on the plains of Moab would clarify the significance of the verdict of Abraham in Genesis 26, 5. Remember? We talked about this earlier. Of Abraham, it says, he kept my charge, my commands, my ordinances, and my instructions. Really? That vocabulary comes from Exodus chapter 11, I mean Deuteronomy chapter 11, verse 1. Which commands did Abraham keep? Which ordinances, which charge, which instructions? That's the word, Torah.

What kind of commands did Abraham have? Well, circumcision, walk before me, be blameless. That's as close as you get. But this text sounds like Abraham, in his walk with God, was a perfect example.

Well, perfect is a relative term. He wasn't perfect, but he was the primary example of what Torah righteousness looks like in Deuteronomy, even though he didn't have all the laws. On what grounds was he so faithful in all these respects? The only thing I can think about, he had the Torah written on his heart.

Like Boaz, as we will see later, he is guided by Torah, but driven by the Spirit, but he doesn't even have the Torah, and yet he is deemed faithful to those instructions. Through Israel's ordination at Sinai, did you hear that word? I use that intentionally here. This is the moment of their marriage, the moment of their adoption, and it's the moment of their ordination, their commissioning.

At Sinai, Yahweh's commission to the ancestors to be the agents of blessing to the whole world would be formally transferred to their descendants. We are there at that moment. And the people responded, all that the Lord has spoken, we will do.

And yet, what does the Lord say? Like Abraham, they don't have all the fine print, but it doesn't matter because they are committed to Yahweh. That's the point, which means having delivered them from bondage in Egypt, having brought them to themselves, having cared for them in the desert, they should gratefully do whatever he asks of them. He is the gracious Redeemer.

Well, when we contemplate Exodus 19 through 24, we need to look at the rest of the covenant ritual at Sinai. Actually, there are four stages of God's revelation of what's happening in the rituals. Stage one, you have the vassals' preparation for the coming of the divine suzerain.

After that previous address, you've seen what I did to the Egyptians, how I carried you on eagle's wings, and then the ordination speech, you will be my treasured possession, and all the rest of that. After that, the Lord comes and he tells Moses, get the people ready, for the Lord, the King of kings, is coming down on the mountain. Get ready for an appointment with him, because when you hear the trumpet sound, stand! The King is coming.

I just heard the trumpet sound, and now his face I see. That's what's happening here. This is the climactic moment of the Lord's descent from heaven onto Mount Sinai in the presence of the people.

This is an audience with Yahweh. What a moment! I've brought you to myself, and here he says, I'm coming to you. Get ready.

So that's phase one. Phase two, the arrival. They hear the trumpet blast, and they feel the earth quaking, and they see, they hear the thunder and the lightning and the sight of fire, and God comes down on the mountain.

This is chapter 19, verses 16 to 25. He is in their very midst. Stage three, the suzerain's declaration of the foundations of the covenant.

Then the Lord said to Israel, then the Lord spoke all these words to Israel, saying, A, you shall have no other gods besides me. What follows in chapter 20 now is the foundations of the covenant and the worldview that it is trying to create for the people who are redeemed. We'll have more to say about this in another session, but that's what's happening in the declaration of the 10 words, usually called the 10 commandments, but they are 10 principles of covenant relationship.

This is shorthand for the whole business coming at the beginning. And then stage four, as you have it in this description, is the expansion of the covenant stipulations, 21.1 to 23.19. These are the mishpatim, literally the judgments. By judgments, it means God's decisions, judgments concerning the appropriate conduct of his vassal whom he has redeemed.

It's not legal judgments in a case of court. These don't arise out of the case. They are cast as if they were those kinds of decisions, but the point is in a suzerain-vassal relationship, the suzerain determines all the terms of the covenant.

The vassal has only one response that's possible, yes or no. Nothing is negotiated, and that's what happens in Exodus 21.1 to 23.19. We call this the book of the covenant because, well, book again is a misnomer, the official document of the covenant. In chapter 24, verse 7, Moses read the document of the covenant in the hearing of the people.

And then stage five, the suzerain's appeal for exclusive and undivided loyalty, Exodus 20 to 33. Just for a moment, the Lord's gaze is cast to their future in the promised land. Remember, Sinai is not their home.

This whole business of making the covenant at Sinai, this is only the beginning of a story. That story will play out in the promised land. When you get there, watch yourself lest you go after any other gods, which is, of course, echoing the first principle of covenant relationship in the Decalogue.

And then stage six, the covenant ratification procedure. Moses recites again all the words and the stipulations of the covenant, and the people say for the second time, all that the Lord has spoken we will do. And then Moses writes down all these words, and they offer sacrifices of peace and fellowship and whole burnt offerings in the presence of the Lord.

And then Moses sprinkles the altar with some of the blood that's drained off from these offerings, which is very significant. That is, to this moment, what the Lord's passing through between the two parts of the animal in Exodus 15 represented for Abraham. There God had said, so be it to me if I ever go back on my covenant commitments.

What's happening here? By sprinkling the blood on the altar, which represents Yahweh, God is signing this document. God is guaranteeing his fidelity to his covenant and his covenant people. Then what happens? Moses reads all the words and the stipulations one more time from the Sefer HaTabarith, the document of the covenant, and for the third time, the people say, all that the Lord has spoken we will do.

We will listen. It's an amazing procedure, and of course now you recognize how legal this is. In biblical legal procedure, it's important to do something three times.

Holy, holy, holy. Yeah, God is the ultimate in holiness, or in this kind of procedure. You say three times.

Now they know what they're signing on to. The first time, now that if you'll keep my covenant and listen to my voice, that's all they're signing on to, but they signed it. Now that they know what the terms are, they have two pictures of it, one in the Decalogue and one in this covenant document.

Now they're still signing this, and of course this sets the stage, doesn't it, for the golden calf 40 days later. What happens? In any case, that's the covenant ratification, and then God sprinkles the blood on the people by which they are signing their John Hancock to this document. We are now fully integrated into the covenant and heirs of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Then you have the covenant ratification procedure. This is 24. This involves a series of steps, oral proclamation and second acceptance of the terms of the covenant, transcription of the terms of the covenant, in writing, three, construction of the altar and erection of 12 pillars, sacrificial offerings, collecting sacrificial blood and sprinkling the altar, reading the covenant document and sprinkling the people, eating the covenant meal in the presence of the divine suzerain.

This is the climax. Seventy of the elders and Moses and Nadab and Abihu, they go to the top of the mountain and they eat in the presence of God. They experience, the verb is they saw.

In what sense? They experience the presence of God, eating in his presence, yet he didn't strike out his hand against them. Wow. In the presence of a holy God, and they survive to talk about it.

How does that work? This is grace on full display, and it is the covenant that formalizes the application of divine grace to this people. He has brought them to himself, and they're eating together, celebrating the relationship that they have created. If you want to represent these events pictographically, it looks something like this.

There's all the world is mine, but the people of Israel are my special treasured possession. They are represented by 70 elders, and the next level they eat in the presence of God, but after that banquet is done, what happens? Apparently, the elders come down and Moses goes up, and the Lord's word come. I am going to give you the Decalogue, a written document, and that's all we need, and then once you have the document, then the covenant is ratified in full.

Moses alone goes up this mountain. Notice the concentric circles of access to God. Moses is in a very special place.

He is the mediator of this covenant. It's not Moses' covenant. It's not the Mosaic covenant.

He doesn't make it. He doesn't originate it. He simply is the gopher, the mediator of the covenant between God and his people, which is why I call it the Israelite covenant.

We call all the other covenants by the name of the covenant partner. We should do the same here. This is the Israelite covenant.

That's what has happened at Sinai. This is why this is the peak moment in the Pentateuch as a whole. Jacob Milgram was right.