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The Long Term Effects of the Golden Calf

Aaron, Moses, Golden Calf, Mt. Sinai, Law of Moses, Idols, tablets of stone, Testimony, ark of the covenant, arc of the covenant, blessings and cursings, Mt. Ebal, Mt. Gerizim

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The episode of the Golden calf (Ex. 32) interrupts the lofty events that shortly followed the confirming of the Sinai covenant. Israel goes from the special treasure of their Creator to the focus of His anger. The original intention was that Israel would represent the Creator to the world.

Ex 19:5-6a "Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. 6 And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation…’”

Now Moses is told basically to get out of My way so I can turn them into toast.

Ex 32:10 "Now therefore, let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them. And I will make of you a great nation."

The relationship had changed.  Israel was disowned. 

Ex 32:7 “And the LORD said to Moses, "Go, get down! For your people whom you brought out of the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves.”

Yahweh no longer considered Israel His people.  Moses had to plead for their lives.

Deu 9:16-18 "And I looked, and behold, you had sinned against the LORD your God––had made for yourselves a molded calf! You had turned aside quickly from the way which the LORD had commanded you.  17 Then I took the two tablets and threw them out of my two hands and broke them before your eyes.  18 And I fell down before the LORD, as at the first, forty days and forty nights; I neither ate bread nor drank water, because of all your sin which you committed in doing wickedly in the sight of the LORD, to provoke Him to anger.”

Moses called for volunteers to purge the evil-doers from the congregation (Ex 32:26).  The tribe of Levi answered Moses call for righteous judgment and evidently executed the main people responsible. Moses suspected they would be blessed for this (vs 29).  Unfortunately, irreversible damage was done. The original intent that the nation would represent their Creator as priests was subverted.  Now, even Moses had to go far outside the camp to communicate with Him.

Ex 33:7-9 “Moses took his tent and pitched it outside the camp, far from the camp, and called it the tabernacle of meeting. And it came to pass that everyone who sought the LORD went out to the tabernacle of meeting which was outside the camp. ... 9 And it came to pass, when Moses entered the tabernacle, that the pillar of cloud descended and stood at the door of the tabernacle, and the LORD talked with Moses.

Mainly because of Moses pleading Yahweh relented from destroying Israel.  “Therefore He said that He would destroy them, Had not Moses His chosen one stood before Him in the breach, To turn away His wrath, lest He destroy them” (Ps 106:23).  Likely Levi’s part in cleaning house also contributed to the cause.

Shortly after Moses fast for Israel he went back up Mt. Sinai to get the commandments etched into a replacement set of tablets.  He is still pleading for Israel and Yahweh still considers them Moses people.

Ex 34:9-10 ‘Then he said, "If now I have found grace in Your sight, O Lord, let my Lord, I pray, go among us, even though we are a stiff–necked people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us as Your inheritance."  10 And He said: "Behold, I make a covenant. Before all your people I will do marvels such as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation; and all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the LORD. For it is an awesome thing that I will do with you.’

‘Make” (Heb: karath, Str, 03772) in verse 10 is an active participle which indicates an action in progress. It means to cut, which is a reference to the cutting of a sacrifice to confirm a covenant.  So in response to Moses plea that Yahweh pardon and re-own Israel He claims to be making a covenant.  He then instructs Moses certain things He expects, after which He indicates a covenant was made. 

Ex 34:27 ‘Then the LORD said to Moses, "Write these words, for according to the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel."’

If we examine what is expected in verses 11-26 we find that all these instructions are included in the covenant of Exodus 20-23.  No new covenant is being imposed with this instruction, but Israel is being reminded to honor what they have already agreed.  The Sinai covenant based on the Ten Commandments stands, as is clearly indicated in the next verse.

Ex 34:28 “So he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he neither ate bread nor drank water. And He wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.”

Consider that covenants are agreements between two parties.  They are not generally imposed.  Around the confirmation of His covenant in Exodus 24 the terms were discussed at least three times before the actual confirmation (Ex 19:6-8, 24:3, 7).  So Yahweh is not imposing a covenant on this occasion, but reminding them of their obligation to the one they made in Exodus 24.  Additionally, there is no record elsewhere in scripture of a covenant being confirmed on this occasion.

So what was the covenant in the making?  Before we examine that, let’s consider what else happened on this forty day meeting on Mt. Sinai.  The meeting is recorded in the middle 26 verses of Exodus 34.  That would probably take no more than five minutes to read, yet Moses was there forty days.  As he came down the mountain toward the camp Aaron and the elders met him. 

Ex 34:32-34 “Afterward all the children of Israel came near, and he gave them as commandments all that the LORD had spoken with him on Mount Sinai.”

Moses record indicates more commandments were given on Mt. Sinai than just what is recorded in Exodus 34.  Leviticus is generally placed in the time frame of Moses tabernacle of meeting.  “Now the LORD called to Moses, and spoke to him from the tabernacle of meeting, saying…” (Lev 1:1)

Lev 25:1 ”And the LORD spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying…”  Instruction on sabbatical and jubilee years follows.  Chapter 26 was also apparently given on Mt. Sinai (vs. 46).  It promises blessing for obedience and curses for disobedience including national destruction and captivity.  This was not an option in the Sinai covenant of Exodus 20-23.  Leviticus 27 also concludes stating that this instruction was made on Mt. Sinai.  There are also other connections with this occasion on Mt. Sinai.

Lev 7:37-38 “This is the law of the burnt offering, the grain offering, the sin offering, the trespass offering, the consecrations, and the sacrifice of the peace offering,  38 which the LORD commanded Moses on Mount Sinai, on the day when He commanded the children of Israel to offer their offerings to the LORD in the Wilderness of Sinai.”

Num 28:6 “It is a regular burnt offering which was ordained at Mount Sinai for a sweet aroma, an offering made by fire to the LORD.”

The Hebrew designating each of these references on/at Mt. Sinai is identical.  It is referring to Moses last trip up the mountain, not the occasion of Exodus 20.  The regular required sacrifices were commanded at this second 40-day stay on Mt. Sinai.  We know that animal sacrifice was not a high priority in the Creator’s mind.  The sacrifices were established as a reaction to Israel’s backsliding.  Certainly the episode of the golden calf qualifies as backsliding.

Jer 7:22-23 ‘For I did not speak to your fathers, or command them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices. 23 But this is what I commanded them, saying, "Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people. And walk in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well with you. 24 Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but followed the counsels and the dictates of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward."’

Although animal sacrifices were not His priority Yahweh agreed to accept them as evidence of remorse and repentance (Lev 4:13-14, 20, 26, 31).  The commanded regular offerings of Numbers 28-29 were also added to serve as reminders of their shortcomings (Heb 10:1-3). This was not planned earlier as part of the Sinai covenant.

Part of Moses request in Exodus 34:9 was that Yahweh would dwell among the people.  Once the tabernacle was completed He did this to an extent, but He directed that the Levites camp between Him and the rest of Israel with Israel being somewhat distant (Num 2:2). The average Israelite was not to come near the Tabernacle. Before this there had been no distinction between the tribes. Now each tribe was to take its place either in the north, south, east or west quadrant (Num 2) except the tribe of Levi.

"but the Levites shall camp around the tabernacle of the Testimony, that there may be no wrath on the congregation of the children of Israel; and the Levites shall keep charge of the tabernacle of the Testimony." (Num 1:53)

God wanted to keep a buffer between Himself and the rest of Israel. The nation as a whole had disqualified itself from being His priests. Only Levi was now in that position. This is a change from the intention of the Sinai covenant (Ex 19:5-6). Our sins separate us from God (Isa 59:2). This appears to be what God is illustrating in the positioning of the tribes.  We’ll see that Levi was evidently chosen to care for the tabernacle about the time of Moses second 40-day stay on Mt. Sinai.

Numbers events begin in the early part of the second year in the wilderness.  “Now the LORD spoke to Moses in the Wilderness of Sinai, in the tabernacle of meeting, on the first day of the second month, in the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt, saying:” (Num 1:1)

Aaron and his sons were anointed as priests apparently starting on the first day of the second year when the tabernacle was set up (Ex 40:2, 12, 17).  Based partly on the timing of Numbers the rest of the tribe of Levi was given to help shortly after Aaron was anointed (Num 3:6-9, 8:20-22).

Deuteronomy places the choosing of Levi at or shortly after the time of Moses second 40-day stay on Mount Sinai.  Deu 10:3  "So I made an ark of acacia wood, hewed two tablets of stone like the first, and went up the mountain, having the two tablets in my hand.  4 And He wrote on the tablets according to the first writing, the Ten Commandments, which the LORD had spoken to you in the mountain from the midst of the fire in the day of the assembly; and the LORD gave them to me.  5 Then I turned and came down from the mountain, and put the tablets in the ark which I had made; and there they are, just as the LORD commanded me … 8 At that time the LORD separated the tribe of Levi to bear the ark of the covenant of the LORD, to stand before the LORD to minister to Him and to bless in His name, to this day.  9 Therefore Levi has no portion nor inheritance with his brethren; the LORD is his inheritance, just as the LORD your God promised him…  10  "As at the first time, I stayed in the mountain forty days and forty nights; the LORD also heard me at that time, and the LORD chose not to destroy you.

The two verses of Deuteronomy 10:7-8 describe camps where Israel stayed long after they left the area of Mt. Sinai.  Many translations link verses 8-9 with those inset verses, yet it is clear that Levi was chosen to assist with the Tabernacle before Israel left Sinai (Num 10:11-12, 17, 21).  So it seems more in accord with the other information we have that verse 8 is referring back to the time of verse 5. The punctuation used to link verse 8 & 9 with verses 6 & 7 is not part of the original text.

We need to remember that Israel was camped around Sinai for almost a year. The Sinai covenant had been confirmed probably within the first two weeks of their arrival at the base of the mountain (Ex 19). Moses made two trips up the mountain after the confirmation of the Sinai covenant. The instruction of Leviticus 25-27, 7:37-38, Num 28:6 and Exodus 34:32 all use the phrase ‘on Mt. Sinai’ (בְּהַר סִינָי).  Other instruction was also received at the base of the mountain.

Ex 34:34 "But whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with Him, he would take the veil off until he came out; and he would come out and speak to the children of Israel whatever he had been commanded.”

As we saw Moses moved his tent outside the camp and called it the tent/tabernacle of meeting (Ex 33:7).  The timing of Leviticus is generally put after Moses set up this tabernacle of meeting outside the camp.  This is where he would meet with Yahweh.  Likely this happened both before and after the events of Exodus 34. 

Additional instruction was received at that tent of meeting and passed to the Elders and the people.  Likely it was here that Israel was instructed to bring their offerings to the sons of Aaron at the Tabernacle (Lev 1:3-5, 17:3-5).  Likely this was before the Tabernacle was completed or Aaron was anointed.  The exact timing of everything in Leviticus is not perfectly clear.  Obviously some instruction was received on Moses 40-day stay on Mt. Sinai, some from the Tent of Meeting.  Aaron’s anointing is recorded in chapter 8 & 9 which was the first month of the second year after leaving Egypt when the Tabernacle was completed (Ex 40:2, 12, 17).  This was about 5 months after the second 40-day stay on Mt. Sinai and before Israel left Sinai.

When the Tabernacle was completed it became the Tabernacle of Meeting in place of Moses tent.  It was also called the Tabernacle of the tent of meeting (Ex 35:21, 40:2, 6-7, 12).  Although it is not always easy to determine which tent is intended it seems reasonable that immediately after the golden calf Yahweh wanted to make some things perfectly clear.  Israel obviously didn’t get the intentions of His covenant to which they had agreed.  Clarification would logically be done as soon as possible.  Israel needed an enhanced lesson as to what was expected of them.  Likely as a result we have some instruction that is filling in detail assumed, but not specifically included in the law of Exodus 20-23. 

As part of the covenant at Sinai they were to be holy (Ex 22:31).  Now it is clear that means don’t have sex with close relatives (Lev 18:25-30), don’t defile yourself by eating unclean animals (Lev 11:44, 20:25-26), isolate those unclean due to certain conditions (Lev 15:19, 31).Also in Leviticus 23 all the Sabbaths of Yahweh are detailed, not just the weekly Sabbath and pilgrimage festivals.  Completely new instruction is given on the place of Levi (Num 1:50-53), the need for sacrifices (Lev 7:37-38, Num 28-29) and the threat of curses for disobedience (Lev 26).

The rest of Levi was exchanged for the firstborn and dedicated to assisting Aaron's sons, the priests (Num 8).  The firstborn had been the priests until that time.  "Take the Levites instead of all the firstborn among the children of Israel, and the livestock of the Levites instead of their livestock. The Levites shall be Mine: I am the LORD.” (Num 3:45).  Shortly after that Israel departed their camp near Mt. Sinai.  It was the twentieth day of the second month of the second year after the Exodus (Num 11:11-12).

Throughout this time many details are being filled in.  As part of the covenant at Sinai they were to be holy (Ex 22:31).  Now it is clear that means don’t have sex with close relatives (Lev 18:25-30), don’t defile yourself by eating unclean animals (Lev 11:44, 20:25-26), isolate those unclean due to certain conditions (Lev 15:19, 31).  Completely new instruction is given on the place of Levi (Num 1:50-53), the need for sacrifices (Lev 7:37-38, Num 28-29) and the threat of curses for disobedience (Lev 26). 

Deu 1:6-8 "The LORD our God spoke to us in Horeb, saying: ‘You have dwelt long enough at this mountain.  7 Turn and take your journey, and go to the mountains of the Amorites, to all the neighboring places in the plain, in the mountains and in the lowland, in the South and on the seacoast, to the land of the Canaanites and to Lebanon, as far as the great river, the River Euphrates.  8 See, I have set the land before you; go in and possess the land which the LORD swore to your fathers––to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob––to give to them and their descendants after them.’”

When Israel departed they had still not been reconciled to Yahweh.  They were still Moses people.  He appears to be cracking a bit under the pressure.  "Did I conceive all these people? Did I beget them, that You should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom, as a guardian carries a nursing child,’ to the land which You swore to their fathers?…  And Moses said, "The people whom I am among are six hundred thousand men on foot; yet You have said, ‘I will give them meat, that they may eat for a whole month.’” (Num 11:12, 21)  This was at the first camp after they left Sinai. “So he called the name of that place Kibroth Hattaavah, [graves of lust] because there they buried the people who had yielded to craving.” (Num 11:34, 33:16)  However, they were bumping along on the road to the Promised Land.

When Israel departed they had still not been reconciled to Yahweh.  They were still Moses people.  He appears to be cracking a bit under the pressure.  ‘And Moses said, "The people whom I am among are six hundred thousand men on foot; yet You have said, ‘I will give them meat, that they may eat for a whole month.’”’ (Num 11:21)  This was at the first camp after they left Sinai (Num 11:34, 33:16).  However, they were bumping along on the road to the Promised Land.

Deu 1:19 "So we departed from Horeb, ... as the LORD our God had commanded us. ...  20 And I said to you, ‘You have come to the mountains of the Amorites, which the LORD our God is giving us. 21 Look, the LORD your God has set the land before you; go up and possess it, as the LORD God of your fathers has spoken to you; do not fear or be discouraged.’  22 And everyone of you came near to me and said, ‘Let us send men before us, and let them search out the land for us, and bring back word to us of the way by which we should go up, and of the cities into which we shall come.’

Of course, in hindsight, sending out scouts and spies was a mistake.  Israel refused to believe that Yahweh could give them the land.  They angered Him to the point He refused to let them go into the land.  Needless to say that didn’t make Israel the people of Yahweh either (Num 14:34).  Their children would go into the land, but those of age would not.  Israel was left to mark time for forty years in the wilderness.  When the 40 years was just about complete Moses called Israel together for his final instruction. 

Deu 1: 1-5 “These are the words which Moses spoke to all Israel on this side of the Jordan in the wilderness, in the plain opposite Suph, between Paran, Tophel, Laban, Hazeroth, and Dizahab…3 Now it came to pass in the fortieth year, in the eleventh month, on the first day of the month, that Moses spoke to the children of Israel according to all that the LORD had given him as commandments to them …5 On this side of the Jordan in the land of Moab, Moses began to explain this law, saying…”

On this occasion Moses brought together the main instruction by which Israel was to live in the Promised Land.  In fact he was laying out the terms of a new covenant under which Israel was to live.

Deu 29:1, 12-13 “These are the words of the covenant which the LORD commanded Moses to make with the children of Israel in the land of Moab, besides the covenant which He made with them in Horeb…12 that you may enter into covenant with the LORD your God, and into His oath, which the LORD your God makes with you today,  13 that He may establish you today as a people for Himself, and that He may be God to you, just as He has spoken to you, and just as He has sworn to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”

This covenant accomplishes Moses request of Exodus 34:9.  ‘Then he said, "If now I have found grace in Your sight, O Lord, let my Lord, I pray, go among us, even though we are a stiff–necked people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us as Your inheritance."  This covenant is a direct answer to Moses plea.  Yahweh is again taking Israel as His people.  As part of this agreement Moses directed that Israel write the terms of this law on stones when they entered the Land.

Deu 27:4 "Therefore it shall be, when you have crossed over the Jordan, that on Mount Ebal you shall set up these stones, which I command you today, and you shall whitewash them with lime.  5 And there you shall build an altar to the LORD your God, an altar of stones; you shall not use an iron tool on them.  6 You shall build with whole stones the altar of the LORD your God, and offer burnt offerings on it to the LORD your God. ... 8 And you shall write very plainly on the stones all the words of this law. 9  Then Moses and the priests, the Levites, spoke to all Israel, saying, "Take heed and listen, O Israel: This day you have become the people of the LORD your God."

Deu 32:46  “and He said to them: "Set your hearts on all the words which I testify among you today, which you shall command your children to be careful to observe––all the words of this law.

Israel followed Moses instruction when they entered the land.  “Now Joshua built an altar to the LORD God of Israel in Mount Ebal, 31 as Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded the children of Israel, as it is written in the Book of the Law of Moses: "an altar of whole stones over which no man has wielded an iron tool." ... 32 And there, in the presence of the children of Israel, he wrote on the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he had written.” (Josh 8:30-32)

Thus was confirmed the Law of Moses.  It consisted of the law that Moses enjoined on Israel that day, although it assumed the existence of Moses other books for details. It was not named that just because it came through him, but because it was done at his behest, because of his pleading and self sacrifice for Israel.  ‘“…pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us as Your inheritance."  10 And He said: "Behold, I make a covenant...”’ (Ex 34:9d-10a)

The Septuagint text contains an interesting variation from the standard text of Exodus 34:10.  “And the Lord said to Moses, Behold, I establish a covenant for thee in the presence of all thy people; I will do glorious things, which have not been done in all the earth, or in any nation; and all the people among whom thou art shall see the works of the Lord, that they are wonderful, which I will do for thee.”  This covenant was being done ‘for’ Moses, at his request.

The first eleven chapters of Deuteronomy are an introduction that rehash why Israel needed this covenant.  An introduction like this was typical in a covenant.  The reasons for the covenant are clear.  "Therefore understand that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stiff–necked people. 7 "Remember! Do not forget how you provoked the LORD your God to wrath in the wilderness. From the day that you departed from the land of Egypt until you came to this place, you have been rebellious against the LORD” (Deu 9:6-7).  "You have been rebellious against the LORD from the day that I knew you.” (Deu 9:24)

Israel already had a covenant with Yahweh.  Why another?  This covenant cemented the place of Levi (17:8-9, 21:5, 18:1-5).  It also formalized Yahweh’s option to deal with their failure in some way other than death (Deu 28:15).  They had been put on notice as of Moses meeting on Mt. Sinai that there would be severe curses for disobedience (Lev 26:46).  Deuteronomy is a legal document containing the general terms under which Israel would live in the Promised Land. 

Failure to follow this instruction would lead to very serious consequences.  These things were a matter of life and death.  Covenants were very serious things.  “Brethren, I speak in the manner of men: Though it is only a man’s covenant, yet if it is confirmed, no one annuls or adds to it.” (Gal 3:15). For these same reasons even covenants of men were not changed.  This new order could not be tacked onto the old.

It also established centralized animal sacrifices and centralized worship at the dwelling place of Yahweh (Deu 12:5-14, 16:6, 11, 16, 18:1).  Although originally noted in Leviticus 17:3-5 this had not actually been practiced.  "You shall not at all do as we are doing here today––every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes–– …10 But when you cross over the Jordan and dwell in the land which the LORD your God is giving you to inherit, …11  "then there will be the place where the LORD your God chooses to make His name abide. There you shall bring all that I command you: your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the heave offerings of your hand, and all your choice offerings which you vow to the LORD.” 

The covenant of the Lord, the original covenant, allowed sacrifices in multiple places.  “An altar of earth you shall make for Me, and you shall sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen. In every place where I record My name I will come to you, and I will bless you.” (Ex 20:24)

Israel showed they couldn’t be trusted to sacrifice as they saw fit.  This new order could not become part of the covenant agreed in Exodus 24.  Covenants are not changed.  It is a pledge of mutual loyalty on which one stakes one's life.  Once confirmed the terms are fixed.  Even covenants designed by men are not changed, let alone one put together by the Creator (Gal 3:15, see also Ps 89:34).  Deuteronomy consistently refers to its covenant as 'this covenant' and distingusihes it from the Sinai/Horeb covenant, His Covenant.

Deu 4:12 "And the LORD spoke to you out of the midst of the fire. You heard the sound of the words, but saw no form; you only heard a voice.  13 So He declared to you His covenant which He commanded you to perform, the Ten Commandments; and He wrote them on two tablets of stone.

Deu 4:23 "Take heed to yourselves, lest you forget the covenant of the LORD your God which He made with you, and make for yourselves a carved image in the form of anything which the LORD your God has forbidden you.”

Deu 31:24 “So it was, when Moses had completed writing the words of this law in a book, when they were finished, 25 that Moses commanded the Levites, who bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD, saying: 26 "Take this Book of the Law, and put it beside the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there as a witness against you;”

This new Law was added to the original expectations of the Creator.  The purpose of this new covenant, this law of Deuteronomy, was not to establish the whole nation as priests as was the intent of His covenant (Ex 19:5).  This covenant was made at the behest of Moses so Israel could live, as opposed to being destroyed.

Deu 4:1 "Now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the judgments which I teach you to observe, that you may live, and go in and possess the land which the LORD God of your fathers is giving you.”

Deu 5:33 "You shall walk in all the ways which the LORD your God has commanded you, that you may live and that it may be well with you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which you shall possess. .” (see also Deu 6:24, 8:1, 16:20, 30:16)

Much of this new instruction revolved around the existence of Aaron, his sons and the Levitical priesthood.  There is no hint of the Levitical Priesthood in the instruction of Exodus 20-23.  The Levitical Priesthood did not exist until after the golden calf episode.  Although some of this Law of Moses was made to teach them more perfectly the ways of Yahweh, some was intended to simply slow or prevent their further backsliding (Jer 7:22-24).  Levi stood with Moses to clean house after the golden calf (Ex 32:26-28).  They evidently understood Yahweh’s intention better than the other tribes.  They became the teachers.

Heb 7:11 “Therefore, if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should rise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be called according to the order of Aaron?

The Greek word translated ‘under’ in verse 11 above is ‘epi’ (Str. 1909).  Its primary meaning is actually ‘upon’.  Hebrews is actually telling us that the Law was hung upon the Levitical Priesthood.  They administered it.  It established them as the teachers, priests and judges in Israel (Deu 17:8-10, 18:1).  This is reflected in the NASB version.  “Now if perfection was through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the people received the Law), what further need was there for another priest to arise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be designated according to the order of Aaron?” (See also NIV, Philips, Alford, Emphasized Bible or EGNT).  The Law is a three legged horse without Levi, but it can’t change (Mat 5:17).  We must reach for a different standard.

This law dependent on the Levitical priesthood is not the law that Abraham kept.  It is a different law.

This covenant likely contains instruction Moses received on Mt. Sinai or from the tent of meeting that was not detailed in earlier books.  It also repeats much instruction that appears in Leviticus.  It was not official before confirmed.  The covenant of Deuteronomy made in Moab was the official confirmation.  It was added to the law of His covenant to deal with Israel’s transgressions, past, present & future.  It was the authority until Messiah began to teach (Deu 18:15-19).  It also added detail geared to them regarding the original Law of God confirmed with Israel about 39 years earlier in Sinai.  That Sinai law was the covenant by which Abraham lived (I Chron 16:15-18). 

The Law established in Deuteronomy did not support everyone being priests, only Levi.  It was added to the requirements of the Covenant of the Lord.  It did not replace the covenant of the Lord, but was set next to it, of equal applicability.  This covenant of Deuteronomy was confirmed 39+ years after His Covenant, of Exodus 20-23.

What became known as ‘the Law’ in New Testament times was not a normal outgrowth of the Creator making things clearer.  It did add some detail, but its main purpose was to create a system which would keep Israel within certain acceptable bounds of behavior so they could live and remain in the Promised Land.  The Law of Moses assumed disobedience.  Built into it were elaborate procedures for dealing with failure on both an individual and national level, past, present and future.  The Creator wanted obedience, but because of His faithfulness, regard for Moses and promises to the Patriarchs, He bent His standards to allow Israel to live and inherit the land promised to the patriarchs.  The Law of Moses adds to our understanding of what was originally intended, but it was also a compromise for a people that didn’t understand and lacked faith in their Creator and His ways.  It put Levi between the Creator and the people.  It established the temple as Yahweh’s place which gave a false sense of security.  It allowed animal sacrifices for atonement instead of obedience with a pure and contrite heart.  All in all Israel ended up looking to physical things and the temple routine for justification.  Messiah calls us to a higher standard.  That standard can be seen in His teaching and conduct.

The covenant at Sinai generally assumed obedience.  There were few provisions for failure.  One could nurse someone back to health or restore something stolen.  Beyond that failure generally resulted in the default penalty of death.  That was not supposed to be used often (Ex 20:20).

Messiah’s teaching did not void, nullify or do away with the Law of Moses.  It simply pointed out the higher standard believers are expected to achieve.  This standard began to be expected with His teaching, not His death.  His death completed the witness and made the terms of the New Covenant complete.

Isa 42:5 “Thus says God the LORD, Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread forth the earth and that which comes from it, Who gives breath to the people on it, And spirit to those who walk on it: 6 I, the LORD, have called You in righteousness, And will hold Your hand; I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people, As a light to the Gentiles, 7 To open blind eyes, To bring out prisoners from the prison, Those who sit in darkness from the prison house.”

Those who grasp the New Covenant are to live to His standard.  The Law mediated by Moses is generally a good Law, but parts of it compromised the standards of the Creator. 

Ramifications

Understanding this origin and purpose of the Law in distinction from the Covenant of the Lord requires a thorough rethink of the instruction of the New Testament as Christianity views it. Many of these issues are addressed elsewhere in CreatorsCovenant.  One document of particular relevance discusses; does the law apply to Christians now.