Exodus 32:29
For Moses had said, Consecrate yourselves to day to the LORD, even every man upon his son, and upon his brother; that he may bestow upon you a blessing this day.
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(29) For Moses had said, Consecrate yourselves.—Moses had explained to them that a brave behaviour under existing circumstances would be accepted as a “consecration,” and would win for the tribe a semi-priestly character. His announcement was made good when the Levites were appointed to the service of the sanctuary in lieu of the firstborn (Numbers 3:6-13).

32:21-29 Never did any wise man make a more frivolous and foolish excuse than that of Aaron. We must never be drawn into sin by any thing man can say or do to us; for men can but tempt us to sin, they cannot force us. The approach of Moses turned the dancing into trembling. They were exposed to shame by their sin. The course Moses took to roll away this reproach, was, not by concealing the sin, or putting any false colour upon it, but by punishing it. The Levites were to slay the ringleaders in this wickedness; yet none were executed but those who openly stood forth. Those are marked for ruin who persist in sin: those who in the morning were shouting and dancing, before night were dying. Such sudden changes do the judgments of the Lord sometimes make with sinners that are secure and jovial in their sin.Consecrate yourselves to day to the Lord ... - The margin contains the literal rendering. Our version gives the most probable meaning of the Hebrew, and is supported by the best authority. The Levites were to prove themselves in a special way the servants of Yahweh, in anticipation of their formal consecration as ministers of the sanctuary (compare Deuteronomy 10:8), by manifesting a self-sacrificing zeal in carrying out the divine command, even upon their nearest relatives.29. Consecrate yourselves to-day to the Lord—or, "Ye have consecrated yourselves to-day." The Levites, notwithstanding the dejection of Aaron, distinguished themselves by their zeal for the honor of God and their conduct in doing the office of executioners on this occasion; and this was one reason that they were appointed to a high and honorable office in the service of the sanctuary. Offer up yourselves to the honour and service of the Lord in this work, which because it was joined with the hazard of their lives, he calls it a consecration or oblation of themselves, as Abraham for the like reason is said to have offered up Isaac.

Consecrate yourselves, Heb. fill your hands, & c., i.e. offer a sacrifice, for so the phrase is oft used, as Exodus 28:41 Judges 17:5,12. That work of justice which they were going to execute might seem an inhuman and barbarous act, but he tells them it was an acceptable sacrifice to God, as the destruction of God’s enemies is called a sacrifice, Isaiah 34:6 Ezekiel 39:17. Or he hereby intimates that this tribe was designed by God for his immediate service, and therefore recommends this work to them as an excellent initiation into their office, and as a demonstration that they were in some sort worthy of that great trust.

For Moses had said,.... To the Levites, when he first gave them their orders:

consecrate yourselves today to the Lord; devote yourselves to his service, by obeying his orders, slaying those, or the heads of them, who have cast so much contempt upon him as to worship the golden calf in his room; and which would be as acceptable to him as the offerings were, by which Aaron and his sons were consecrated to the Lord; and as these Levites were consecrated to his service this day, on this account:

even every man upon his son, and upon his brother; not sparing the nearest relation found in this idolatry, and for which the tribe of Levi is commended and blessed in the blessing of Moses, Deuteronomy 33:8 and as it follows:

that he may bestow a blessing upon you this day; which was their being taken into the service of God to minister to the priests in the sanctuary, to bear the vessels of the Lord, and for their maintenance to have the tithes of the people: this day was, according to the Jewish writers (s), the seventeenth of Tammuz, or June, on which day the Jews keep a fast upon this account.

(s) Sedar Olam Rabba, c. 6. p. 18. Pirke Eliezer, c. 46.

For Moses had said, Consecrate yourselves to day to the LORD, even every man upon his {m} son, and upon his brother; that he may bestow upon you a blessing this day.

(m) In revenging God's glory we must have no partiality to person, but lay aside all carnal affection.

29. The Levites are invited to qualify themselves to receive the priesthood as a reward for their zeal.

Fill your hand to-day to Jehovah] i.e. (see on Exodus 28:41), Provide yourselves with sacrifices, that you may be installed into the priesthood.

for every man (is) against, &c.] That is the spirit which you have shewn to-day, and which is demanded for the priesthood (Di.). Cf. Deuteronomy 33:9 (written under the monarchy), where the priestly tribe is eulogized for its abnegation of natural relationships, though it is uncertain whether the present incident is specifically alluded to.

that he may, &c.] The ‘blessing’ is the privilege of officiating as priests. Cf. Kennedy, DB. i. 341b.

In view of Deuteronomy 10:8 (‘At that time Jehovah separated the tribe of Levi to bear the ark’ &c.), where the fragment of an itinerary in vv. 6 f. must be either parenthetic, or misplaced (so that At that time will refer to the period of the stay at Horeb, the subject of Deuteronomy 9:8 to Deuteronomy 10:5), Di. and others can hardly be wrong in holding that JE’s narrative here was followed originally by an account of the consecration of the tribe of Levi—as a reward, presumably, for the display of zeal on Jehovah’s behalf described in vv. 26–29, which the compiler of Ex. did not deem it necessary to retain by the side of the more detailed particulars of P. In P, it will be remembered, the consecration of the priesthood is narrated in Leviticus 8, and that of the ‘Levites’ (in P the inferior members of the tribe, as distinguished from the priests) in Numbers 8:5 ff.; but down to the time when Dt. was written, any member of the tribe had the right to exercise priestly functions (Deuteronomy 18:1; Deuteronomy 18:6-8); and it would be during this stage in the history of the tribe that J or E—like the writer of Deuteronomy 10:8 f.—would speak of the whole tribe being set apart or consecrated For priestly functions.

Verse 29. - For Moses had said. Moses, on giving them their commission (ver. 27), had told them, that their zeal in the matter would he a consecration, and would secure them God's blessing. They earned by it the semi-priestly position, which was soon afterwards assigned to them (Numbers 3:6-13).

CHAPTER 32:30-35 Exodus 32:29The Levites had to allow their obedience to God to be subjected to a severe test. Moses issued this command to them in the name of Jehovah the God of Israel: "Let every one gird on his sword, and go to and fro through the camp from one gate (end) to the other, and put to death brothers, friends, and neighbours," i.e., all whom they met, without regard to relationship, friendship, or acquaintance. And they stood the test. About 3000 men fell by their sword on that day. There are several difficulties connected with this account, which have furnished occasion for doubts as to its historical credibility. The one of least importance is that which arises from the supposed severity and recklessness of Moses' proceedings. The severity of the punishment corresponded to the magnitude of the crime. The worship of an image, being a manifest transgression of one of the fundamental laws of the covenant, was a breach of the covenant, and as such a capital crime, bringing the punishment of death or extermination in its train. Now, although the whole nation had been guilty of this crime, yet in this, as in every other rebellion, the guilt of all would not be the same, but many would simply follow the example of others; so that, instead of punishing all alike, it was necessary that a separation should be made, if not between the innocent and guilty, yet between the penitent and the stiff-necked transgressors. To effect this separation, Moses called out into the camp: "Over to me, whoever is for the Lord!" All the Levites responded to his call, but not the other tribes; and it was necessary that the refractory should be punished. Even these, however, had not all sinned to the same extent, but might be divided into tempters and tempted; and as they were all mixed up together, nothing remained but to adopt that kind of punishment, which has been resorted to in all ages in such circumstances as these. "If at any time," as Calvin says, "mutiny has broken out in an army, and has led to violence, and even to bloodshed, by universal law a commander proceeds to decimate the guilty." He then adds, "How much milder, however, was the punishment here, when out of six hundred thousand only three thousand were put to death!" This decimation Moses committed to the Levites; and just as in every other decimation the selection must be determined by lot or accidental choice, so here Moses left it to be determined by chance, upon whom the sword of the Levites would fall, knowing very well that even the so-called chance would be under the direction of God.

There is apparently a greater difficulty in the fact, that not only did the Levites execute the command of Moses without reserve, but the people let them pass through the camp, and kill every one who came within reach of their sword, without offering the slightest resistance. To remove this difficulty, there is no necessity that we should either assume that the Levites knew who were the originators and ringleaders of the worship of the calf, and only used their swords against them, as Calvin does, or that we should follow Kurtz, and introduce into the text a "formal conflict between the two parties, in which some of Moses' party were also slain," since the history says nothing about "the men who sided with Moses gaining a complete victory," and merely states that in obedience to the word of Jehovah the God of Israel, as declared by Moses, they put 3000 men of the people to death with the sword. The obedience of the Levites was an act of faith, which knows neither the fear of man nor regard to person. The unresisting attitude of the people generally may be explained, partly from their reverence for Moses, whom God had so mightily and marvellously accredited as His servant in the sight of all the nation, and partly from the despondency and fear so natural to a guilty conscience, which took away all capacity for opposing the bold and determined course that was adopted by the divinely appointed rulers and their servants in obedience to the command of God. It must also be borne in mind, that in the present instance the sin of the people was not connected with any rebellion against Moses.

Very different explanations have been given of the words which were spoken by Moses to the Levites (Exodus 32:29): "Fill your hand to-day for Jehovah; for every one against his son and against his brother, and to bring a blessing upon you to-day." "To fill the hand for Jehovah" does not mean to offer a sacrifice to the Lord, but to provide something to offer to God (1 Chronicles 29:5; 2 Chronicles 29:31). Thus Jonathan's explanation, which Kurtz has revived in a modified form, viz., that Moses commanded the Levites to offer sacrifices as an expiation for the blood that they had shed, or for the rent made in the congregation by their reckless slaughter of their blood-relations, falls to the ground; though we cannot understand how the fulfilment of a divine command, or an act of obedience to the declared will of God, could be regarded as blood-guiltiness, or as a crime that needed expiation. As far as the clause which follows is concerned, so much is clear, viz., that the words can neither be rendered, "for every one is in his son," etc., nor "for every one was against his son," etc. To the former it is impossible to attach any sense; and the latter cannot be correct, because the preterite חיח could not be omitted after an imperative, if the explanatory clause referred to what was past. If כּי were a causal particle in this case, the meaning could only be, "for every one shall be against his son," etc. But it is much better to understand it as indicating the object, "that every one may be against his son and against his brother;" i.e., that in the cause of the Lord every one may not spare eve his nearest relative, but deny either son or brother for the Lord's sake (Deuteronomy 33:9). "And to give" (or bring), i.e., so that ye may bring, a blessing upon yourselves to-day." The following, then, is the thought contained in the verse: Provide yourselves to-day with a gift for the Lord, consecrate yourselves to-day for the service of the Lord, by preserving the obedience you have just shown towards Him, by not knowing either son or brother in His service, and thus gain for yourselves a blessing. In the fulfilment of the command of God, with the denial of their own flesh and blood, Moses discerns such a disposition and act as would fit them for the service of the Lord. He therefore points to the blessing which it would bring them, and exhorts them by their election as the peculiar possession of Jehovah (Numbers 3-4), which would be secured to them from this time forward, to persevere in this fidelity to the Lord. "The zeal of the tribe-father burned still in the Levites; but this time it was for the glory of God, and not for their own. Their ancestor had violated both truth and justice by his vengeance upon the Shechemites, from a false regard to blood-relationship, but now his descendants had saved truth, justice, and the covenant by avenging Jehovah upon their own relations" (Kurtz, and Oehler in Herzog's Cycl.), so that the curse which rested upon them (Genesis 49:7) could now be turned into a blessing (cf. Deuteronomy 33:9).

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