TBU: The Bible Unpacked: In-Depth Edition

II. Key Old Testament Covenants

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Chapter 8  Part II

Key Old Testament Covenants

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A covenant is a solemn agreement between two parties. As indicated earlier, God’s covenants are a key aspect of his word – along with his commands, prophecies and promises.

God’s covenants with people were all initiated by God. They generally confirmed his relationship with the persons concerned – who were or who became his people. The covenants included binding promises by God of blessings for his people, reflecting his purposes for them. In some cases God’s covenants also outlined what God required of his people and how they were to relate to him.

God’s covenants with Abraham, Israel and David are prime instances of the role of God’s word. They expound pivotal promises and (in the covenant with Israel) laws of God. They also form the background of God’s relationship with his people today. Learning about them enables us to better understand the significance of much of the NT’s teachings.

God’s Covenant with Abraham

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God called Abraham to go to the land of Canaan – and Abraham went

Gen 12:1, 4-6  Now the Lord saidd to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. ▤ 4So Abram went, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. 5And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to go to the land of Canaan. When they came to the land of Canaan, 6Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oake of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. ▤ 

d Or had said

e Or terebinth

Note that Abraham’s name was initially “Abram”. God later changed it to “Abraham” (cf. Gen 17:5 ).

Acts 7:2-4  And Stephen said: “Brothers and fathers, hear me. The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, 3and said to him, ‘Go out from your land and from your kindred and go into the land that I will show you.’ 4Then he went out from the land of the Chaldeans and lived in Haran. And after his father died, God removed him [Abraham] from there into this land in which you are now living. ▤ 

God “removed him” (v. 4) in the sense that God had him move.

Heb 11:8-9  By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. ▤ 

Josh 24:2-3  And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Long ago, your fathers lived beyond the Euphrates, Terah, the father of Abraham and of Nahor; and they served other gods. 3Then I took your father Abraham from beyond the River and led him through all the land of Canaan, and made his offspring many. I gave him Isaac. ▤ 

Subsequently, God made a covenant with Abraham, promising him: countless descendants; the land of Canaan; . . .

See also:

God made an everlasting covenant with the Israelite’s ancestor Abraham, aspects of which were included in God’s later covenant with Israel. In the covenant God promised Abraham that if he obeyed, God would: give him countless descendants; give his descendants the land of Canaan; and bless all nations through him (as per the following subsection). In conjunction with this, God would be Abraham’s and his descendants’ God.

Gen 15:1-7, 18-21  After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” 2But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continuef childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” 4And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own song shall be your heir.” 5And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness. 7And he said to him, “I am the Lord who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.” ▤ 18On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I giveh this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, 19the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, 20the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites.” ▤ 

f Or I shall die

g Hebrew what will come out of your own loins

h Or have given

Gen 17:1-8, 15-16, 19-21  When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty;i walk before me, and be blameless, 2that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.” 3Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, 4“Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. 5No longer shall your name be called Abram,j but your name shall be Abraham,k for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. 6I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. 7And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. 8And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.” ▤ 15And God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarahl shall be her name. 16I will bless her, and moreover, I will givem you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.” ▤ 19God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac.n I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him. 20As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I have blessed him and will make him fruitful and multiply him greatly. He shall father twelve princes, and I will make him into a great nation. 21But I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this time next year.” ▤ 

i Hebrew El Shaddai

j Abram means exalted father

k Abraham means father of a multitude

l Sarai and Sarah mean princess

m Hebrew have given

n Isaac means he laughs

This was a confirmation (v. 2) of the covenant recorded in 15:4-7, 18-21 above, and indicated it was to be an “everlasting covenant” (vv. 7, 19). Its promises were fulfilled through Abraham’s second son Isaac (v. 19, 21) borne by his wife Sara – rather than his first son Ishmael (cf. vv. 20) borne by Sara’s maidservant Hagar. This was reiterated later in 21:12 – “…through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” In turn the promises were fulfilled through Isaac’s second son Jacob – who was later renamed “Israel” – and his descendants (cf. 28:10-15).

Gen 12:6-7  Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oako of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. 7Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him. ▤ 

o Or terebinth

Gen 13:12, 15-17  Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled among the cities of the valley and moved his tent as far as Sodom. ▤  … [God:] 15for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever. 16I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted. 17Arise, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you. ▤ 

Gen 22:17a  I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. ▤ 

Acts 7:5  Yet he gave him no inheritance in it [Canaan], not even a foot’s length, but promised to give it to him as a possession and to his offspring after him, though he had no child. ▤ 

. . . and that all peoples on earth would be blessed through Abraham

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Gen 12:2-3  And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”p ▤ 

p Or by you all the families of the earth shall bless themselves

Gen 18:17-18  The Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, 18seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? ▤ 

Gen 22:17b-18  And your offspring shall possess the gate of hisq enemies, 18and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice. ▤ 

q Or their

Acts 3:25  You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’ ▤ 

  • The birth of Isaac to Abraham’s wife Sarah in his old age:

Gen 21:1-5  The Lord visited Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did to Sarah as he had promised. 2And Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age at the time of which God had spoken to him. 3Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore him, Isaac.r 4And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him. 5Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. ▤ 

r Isaac means he laughs

Abraham believed God, and God credited this to him as righteousness

See also:

Gen 15:5-6  And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness. ▤ 

Rom 4:3, 18-22  For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” ▤ 18In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” 19He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. 20No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 22That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” ▤ 

Gal 3:6  … just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”? ▤ 

  • Abraham’s exemplary life of faith:

Heb 11:8-12, 17-19  By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. 10For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. 11By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. 12Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore. ▤ 17By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, 18of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 19He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. ▤ 

Note that v. 11 speaks of Sarah’s faith.

God’s covenant required Abraham to obey God, which he did

See also:

Gen 17:1-2  When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty;s walk before me, and be blameless, 2that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.” ▤ 

s Hebrew El Shaddai

Gen 18:19  For I have chosent him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him. ▤ 

t Hebrew known

God also required Abraham to direct his children and his household to obey God.

Gen 22:1-2, 9-12, 15-18  After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here am I.” 2He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” ▤ 9When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. 11But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here am I.” 12He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” ▤ 15And the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven 16and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of hisu enemies, 18and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.” ▤ 

u Or their

Gen 26:4-5  I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, 5because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws. ▤ 

  • Under the covenant God would be Abraham and his descendants’ God:

Gen 17:7-8  And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. 8And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God. ▤ 

Note that such a relationship requires obedience to God.

God confirmed the covenant and promises with Abraham’s descendants

See also:

Gen 26:2-4  And the Lord appeared to him [Isaac] and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; dwell in the land of which I shall tell you. 3Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you and will bless you, for to you and to your offspring I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father. 4I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, … ▤ 

Gen 28:10-15  Jacob left Beersheba and went toward Haran. 11And he came to a certain place and stayed there that night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place to sleep. 12And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladderv set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! 13And behold, the Lord stood above itw and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. 14Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. 15Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” ▤ 

v Or a flight of steps

w Or beside him

Ps 105:8-11  He remembers his covenant forever, the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations, 9the covenant that he made with Abraham, his sworn promise to Isaac, 10which he confirmed to Jacob as a statute, to Israel as an everlasting covenant, 11saying, “To you I will give the land of Canaan as your portion for an inheritance.” ▤ 

This appears to be speaking of God making or confirming his covenant with: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and “the people of Israel” (NLT). The following references speak of God affirming with the Israelite people the promise of the Abrahamic covenant to give Abraham’s descendants the land of Canaan.

Ex 33:1  The Lord said to Moses, “Depart; go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought up out of the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your offspring I will give it.’ ▤ 

Lev 20:24  But I have said to you, ‘You shall inherit their land, and I will give it to you to possess, a land flowing with milk and honey.’ I am the Lord your God, who has separated you from the peoples. ▤ 

  • God reaffirmed with Jacob his new name of “Israel” and the Abrahamic covenant:

Gen 35:9-12  God appearedx to Jacob again, when he came from Paddan-aram, and blessed him. 10And God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; no longer shall your name be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.” So he called his name Israel. 11And God said to him, “I am God Almighty:y be fruitful and multiply. A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come from your own body.z 12The land that I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will give to you, and I will give the land to your offspring after you.” ▤ 

x Or had appeared

y Hebrew El Shaddai

z Hebrew from your loins

The first mention of Jacob being renamed “Israel” occurs in 32:24-30, which contains the account of Jacob struggling with God, or at least an angel of God (cf. Hos 12:3-4). As a result of Jacob being renamed “Israel”, his descendants were called the people of Israel or Israelites. Note that “Israel” is usually understood to mean: “he strives with God”. This was significant, for the people of Israel would frequently struggle with God.

Note: God made circumcision the sign of the covenant with Abraham and his descendants

Gen 17:9-14  And God said to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. 10This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. 12He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised. Every male throughout your generations, whether born in your house or bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring, 13both he who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money, shall surely be circumcised. So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant. 14Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.” ▤ 

Acts 7:8  And he gave him the covenant of circumcision. And so Abraham became the father of Isaac, and circumcised him on the eighth day, and Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob of the twelve patriarchs. ▤ 

Rom 4:11  He [Abraham] received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. ▤ 

In association with being a sign of the covenant, the sign of circumcision was a “seal” of the righteousness that Abraham was accredited with by God for believing God’s covenant promise that Abraham would be the father of countless descendants (cf. Gen 15:5-6).

  • The sign of circumcision would be included in God’s covenant with Israel:

Lev 12:1-3  The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2“Speak to the people of Israel, saying, ‘If a woman conceives and bears a male child, then she shall be unclean seven days. As at the time of her menstruation, she shall be unclean. 3And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. ▤ 

Pray for persecuted Christians

God’s Making of Israel as His People

See also:

God made the nation of Israel . . .

Deut 32:6  Do you thus repay the Lord, you foolish and senseless people? Is not he your father, who created you, who made you and established you? ▤ 

Isa 43:1, 15, 20-21  But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. ▤ 15I am the Lord, your Holy One, the Creator of Israel, your King.” ▤ 20The wild beasts will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches, for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, 21the people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise. ▤ 

Note that with the nation of Israel getting its name from its ancestor Jacob who was renamed “Israel”, sometimes it is referred to as “Jacob” (v. 1; Isa 44:2, 21 ; Isa 41:8 ).

Isa 44:2, 21  Thus says the Lord who made you, who formed you from the womb and will help you: Fear not, O Jacob my servant, Jeshurun whom I have chosen. ▤ 21Remember these things, O Jacob, and Israel, for you are my servant; I formed you; you are my servant; O Israel, you will not be forgotten by me. ▤ 

Isa 45:11  Thus says the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, and the one who formed him: “Ask me of things to come; will you command me concerning my children and the work of my hands?a ▤ 

a A slight emendation yields will you question me about my children, or command me concerning the work of my hands?

Here God refers to Israel as “my children… the work of my hands” (cf. Isa 64:8 ), referring to the fact that he is “the one who formed” Israel.

Ps 95:6  Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker! ▤ 

Ps 100:3  Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his;b we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. ▤ 

b Or and not we ourselves

Isa 64:8  But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. ▤ 

This and Malachi 2:10a below are probably speaking of Israel’s creation as a nation, but note that it is possible that the physical creation of each individual one of them is primarily in view.

Mal 2:10a  Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? ▤ 

Ex 4:22  Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord, Israel is my firstborn son, … ▤ 

The description of Israel as “my firstborn son” reflects the fact that God created Israel, while also alluding to Israel’s prominent status amongst the nations.

. . . The people of Israel were Abraham’s descendants

The people of Israel were Abraham’s descendants through Isaac, his second son, and then Jacob, Isaac’s second son. Making the nation of Israel from Abraham’s descendants was a key part of God’s fulfillment of his covenant promise to Abraham that he would give him countless descendants (cf. Heb 11:11-12 ).

2Chr 20:7  Did you not, our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel, and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? ▤ 

Isa 41:8  But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend; … ▤ 

Isa 51:1-2  Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness, you who seek the Lord: look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug. 2Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who bore you; for he was but one when I called him, that I might bless him and multiply him. ▤ 

Here God calls on the faithful amongst the people of Israel to reflect upon their roots – their amazing creation from just one man, Abraham, and his wife Sarah.

Luke 1:54-55  He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever. ▤ 

Rom 11:1  I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham,c a member of the tribe of Benjamin. ▤ 

c Or one of the offspring of Abraham

  • God fulfilled his promise to Abraham of giving him countless descendants:

Heb 11:11-12  By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. 12Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore. ▤ 

God redeemed the Israelites out of Egypt to take them as his own . . .

In redeeming the Israelites from enslavement in Egypt, God in a sense bought them as his own, making them his people. (See the introductory comment on Jesus Christ’s Death and Redemption from Sin.)

Ex 6:6-7  Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. 7I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. ▤ 

2Sam 7:23-24  And who is like your [God’s] people Israel, the one nation on earth whom God went to redeem to be his people, making himself a name and doing for theme great and awesome things by driving outf before your people, whom you redeemed for yourself from Egypt, a nation and its gods? 24And you established for yourself your people Israel to be your people forever. And you, O Lord, became their God. ▤ 

e With a few Targums, Vulgate, Syriac; Hebrew you

f Septuagint (compare 1 Chronicles 17:21); Hebrew for your land

Neh 1:10  They are your servants and your people, whom you have redeemed by your great power and by your strong hand. ▤ 

Ps 74:2a  Remember your congregation, which you have purchased of old, which you have redeemed to be the tribe of your heritage! ▤ 

Isa 43:1  But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. ▤ 

Lev 25:38, 55  I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan, and to be your God. ▤ 55For it is to me that the people of Israel are servants.g They are my servants whom I brought out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. ▤ 

g Or slaves

Ps 114:1-2  When Israel went out from Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of strange language, 2Judah became his sanctuary, Israel his dominion. ▤ 

On being redeemed by God and in association with becoming his people, Israel became God’s dominion, where his sovereignty was acknowledged.

. . . The Passover and God’s deliverance of Israel from Egypt

See also:

Ex 12:1-3, 5-7, 11-13  The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, 2“This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you. 3Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household. ▤ 5Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats, 6and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight.h 7“Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. ▤ 11In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord’s Passover. 12For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. 13The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt. ▤ 

h Hebrew between the two evenings

The young male lamb (vv. 3, 5-7) was to be sacrificed as a substitute for each family, in particular each firstborn male, with its shed blood symbolizing redemption.

Ex 12:28-33  Then the people of Israel went and did so; as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did. 29At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock. 30And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians. And there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where someone was not dead. 31Then he summoned Moses and Aaron by night and said, “Up, go out from among my people, both you and the people of Israel; and go, serve the Lord, as you have said. 32Take your flocks and your herds, as you have said, and be gone, and bless me also!” 33The Egyptians were urgent with the people to send them out of the land in haste. For they said, “We shall all be dead.” ▤ 

Ex 12:40-42  The time that the people of Israel lived in Egypt was 430 years. 41At the end of 430 years, on that very day, all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt. 42It was a night of watching by the Lord, to bring them out of the land of Egypt; so this same night is a night of watching kept to the Lord by all the people of Israel throughout their generations. ▤ 

Ex 14:5-6, 9-10, 15-16, 21-22  When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, the mind of Pharaoh and his servants was changed toward the people, and they said, “What is this we have done, that we have let Israel go from serving us?” 6So he made ready his chariot and took his army with him, ▤ 9The Egyptians pursued them, all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and his horsemen and his army, and overtook them encamped at the sea, by Pi-hahiroth, in front of Baal-zephon. 10When Pharaoh drew near, the people of Israel lifted up their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians were marching after them, and they feared greatly. And the people of Israel cried out to the Lord. ▤ 15The Lord said to Moses, “Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward. 16Lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the people of Israel may go through the sea on dry ground. ▤ 21Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. 22And the people of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry ground, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. ▤ 

Ex 14:23-28  The Egyptians pursued and went in after them into the midst of the sea, all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen. 24And in the morning watch the Lord in the pillar of fire and of cloud looked down on the Egyptian forces and threw the Egyptian forces into a panic, 25cloggingi their chariot wheels so that they drove heavily. And the Egyptians said, “Let us flee from before Israel, for the Lord fights for them against the Egyptians.” 26Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea, that the water may come back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen.” 27So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to its normal course when the morning appeared. And as the Egyptians fled into it, the Lord threwj the Egyptians into the midst of the sea. 28The waters returned and covered the chariots and the horsemen; of all the host of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea, not one of them remained. ▤ 

i Or binding (compare Samaritan, Septuagint, Syriac); Hebrew removing

j Hebrew shook off

  • God had earlier performed a number of miraculous signs, culminating in the deaths of the Egyptian firstborn and Israel’s deliverance:

Ps 105:26-38  He sent Moses, his servant, and Aaron, whom he had chosen. 27They performed his signs among them and miracles in the land of Ham. 28He sent darkness, and made the land dark; they did not rebelk against his words. 29He turned their waters into blood and caused their fish to die. 30Their land swarmed with frogs, even in the chambers of their kings. 31He spoke, and there came swarms of flies, and gnats throughout their country. 32He gave them hail for rain, and fiery lightning bolts through their land. 33He struck down their vines and fig trees, and shattered the trees of their country. 34He spoke, and the locusts came, young locusts without number, 35which devoured all the vegetation in their land and ate up the fruit of their ground. 36He struck down all the firstborn in their land, the firstfruits of all their strength. 37Then he brought out Israel with silver and gold, and there was none among his tribes who stumbled. 38Egypt was glad when they departed, for dread of them had fallen upon it. ▤ 

k Septuagint, Syriac omit not

The miraculous signs – which involved plagues – are recorded in Exodus 7-11.

God chose Israel out of all the nations to be his holy people . . .

Note that other people were not totally excluded from coming to God – as indicated later in Foreigners were accepted into Israel and able to worship God. But the Israelites were the ones that God chose to firstly be his people – “the firstfruits of his harvest” (Jer 2:3).

Lev 20:24b, 26  I am the Lord your God, who has separated you from the peoples. ▤ 26You shall be holy to me, for I the Lord am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine. ▤ 

Deut 7:6-8  For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. 7It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. ▤ 

God describes Israel as his “treasured possession” on a number of occasions (cf. Deut 26:18 ). Somewhat similarly, Psalms 148:14 describes Israel as “the people of Israel who are near to him”.

Deut 26:18-19  And the Lord has declared today that you are a people for his treasured possession, as he has promised you, and that you are to keep all his commandments, 19and that he will set you in praise and in fame and in honor high above all nations that he has made, and that you shall be a people holy to the Lord your God, as he promised. ▤ 

Note that v. 19a speaks of the honor God would bestow on Israel, his holy people.

Ps 135:4  For the Lord has chosen Jacob for himself, Israel as his own possession. ▤ 

1Ki 8:53  For you separated them from among all the peoples of the earth to be your heritage, as you declared through Moses your servant, when you brought our fathers out of Egypt, O Lord God. ▤ 

Rom 9:4  They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. ▤ 

God effectively adopted the people of Israel as his children.

. . . Israel was God’s chosen servant

In saying that he chose Israel as his servant, God intended that the people of Israel serve him. Additionally, this points to the fact that God would fulfill his will for the world through Israel (cf. Isa 26:18 ).

Isa 41:8-9  But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend; 9you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, “You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off”; … ▤ 

Isa 44:1-2, 21  But now hear, O Jacob my servant, Israel whom I have chosen! 2Thus says the Lord who made you, who formed you from the womb and will help you: Fear not, O Jacob my servant, Jeshurun whom I have chosen. ▤ 21Remember these things, O Jacob, and Israel, for you are my servant; I formed you; you are my servant; O Israel, you will not be forgotten by me. ▤ 

Isa 45:4  For the sake of my servant Jacob, and Israel my chosen, I call you by your name, I name you, though you do not know me. ▤ 

Lev 25:55  For it is to me that the people of Israel are servants.l They are my servants whom I brought out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. ▤ 

l Or slaves

Isa 49:3  And he said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.”m ▤ 

m Or I will display my beauty

This is speaking in particular of the messianic servant, as the one in whom Israel’s role as God’s servant would be ultimately fulfilled.

Ex 19:5-6  Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel. ▤ 

Verse 6a speaks of Israel’s role as God’s servant, being for him a kingdom of priests. The description of them as “priests” (cf. Isa 61:6 ) points to their dedication or consecration to God’s service – which involved them being a “holy nation”. In addition it is understood by some commentators as alluding to God mediating salvation and other blessings through Israel to the other nations.

Isa 61:6  … but you shall be called the priests of the Lord; they shall speak of you as the ministers of our God; you shall eat the wealth of the nations, and in their glory you shall boast. ▤ 

The reference is actually to the renewed Israel of the future, a fulfillment of their role as priests of God (cf. Ex 19:6 ).

  • Israel’s failure in being a vehicle for God’s salvation to the other nations:

Isa 26:18  … we were pregnant, we writhed, but we have given birth to wind. We have accomplished no deliverance in the earth, and the inhabitants of the world have not fallen. ▤ 

This speaks of God’s intention to bring salvation to the world through Israel – possibly also in view in Jeremiah 4:2 – and the people’s general failure in this regard. God would later accomplish such salvation through the Messiah of Israel. Bear in mind that the Hebrew in the last clause is not clear; it can be translated: “Nor were inhabitants of the world born” (NASB) – further pointing to Israel’s failure to bring salvation to the world. Note that Israel’s shortcomings as God’s servant are also referred to in 42:19 – “Who is blind but my servant, or deaf as my messenger whom I send? Who is blind as my dedicated one, or blind as the servant of the Lord?”

Foreigners were accepted into Israel and able to worship God

In making Israel his own people or nation, God did not exclude other people from living among them and worshiping him.

Num 9:14  And if a stranger sojourns among you and would keep the Passover to the Lord, according to the statute of the Passover and according to its rule, so shall he do. You shall have one statute, both for the sojourner and for the native. ▤ 

Num 15:14-16  And if a stranger is sojourning with you, or anyone is living permanently among you, and he wishes to offer a food offering, with a pleasing aroma to the Lord, he shall do as you do. 15For the assembly, there shall be one statute for you and for the stranger who sojourns with you, a statute forever throughout your generations. You and the sojourner shall be alike before the Lord. 16One law and one rule shall be for you and for the stranger who sojourns with you. ▤ 

Deut 16:10-14  Then you shall keep the Feast of Weeks to the Lord your God with the tribute of a freewill offering from your hand, which you shall give as the Lord your God blesses you. 11And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, the Levite who is within your towns, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow who are among you, at the place that the Lord your God will choose, to make his name dwell there. 12You shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt; and you shall be careful to observe these statutes. 13“You shall keep the Feast of Booths seven days, when you have gathered in the produce from your threshing floor and your winepress. 14You shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow who are within your towns. ▤ 

1Ki 8:41-43  Likewise, when a foreigner, who is not of your people Israel, comes from a far country for your name’s sake 42(for they shall hear of your great name and your mighty hand, and of your outstretched arm), when he comes and prays toward this house, 43hear in heaven your dwelling place and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to you, in order that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people Israel, and that they may know that this house that I have built is called by your name. ▤ 

Isa 56:6-8  “And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant— 7these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” 8The Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares, “I will gather yet others to him besides those already gathered.” ▤ 

Note that the future renewed Israel may be in view here.

  • The OT speaks of praise and worship of God amongst the Gentile nations:

Rom 15:9-11  … and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name.” 10And again it is said, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.” 11And again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples extol him.” ▤ 

These quotations from the OT speak of praise and worship of God amongst the Gentile nations, implying that the Gentiles themselves would be participants in this.

Note: The tribes of Israel

The tribes of Israel were descended from Israel’s (Jacob’s) twelve sons. His son Joseph was especially blessed in that two tribes were descended from him, one from each of his two sons Ephraim and Manasseh. The tribe of Judah became prominent, particularly in the time of David who was from the tribe of Judah and with the promise of the Messiah from David’s line. When the kingdom of Israel was split in two, Judah was the prominent tribe of the southern kingdom of Judah, and Ephraim became the prominent tribe of the northern kingdom. The tribe of Levi was also particularly notable, with the Levites being set apart to God. They were placed in charge of God’s tabernacle and the priests, the sons of Aaron, were from their tribe.

Gen 35:22b-26  Now the sons of Jacob were twelve. 23The sons of Leah: Reuben (Jacob’s firstborn), Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun. 24The sons of Rachel: Joseph and Benjamin. 25The sons of Bilhah, Rachel’s servant: Dan and Naphtali. 26The sons of Zilpah, Leah’s servant: Gad and Asher. These were the sons of Jacob who were born to him in Paddan-aram. ▤ 

Gen 49:8-11  Judah, your brothers shall praise you; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons shall bow down before you. 9Judah is a lion’s cub; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He stooped down; he crouched as a lion and as a lioness; who dares rouse him? 10The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him;d and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples. 11Binding his foal to the vine and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine, he has washed his garments in wine and his vesture in the blood of grapes. ▤ 

d By a slight revocalization; a slight emendation yields (compare Septuagint, Syriac, Targum) until he comes to whom it belongs; Hebrew until Shiloh comes, or until he comes to Shiloh

This is from Jacob’s blessing of his twelve sons (cf. vv. 1-28), reflecting Judah’s emerging prominence amongst the brothers/tribes, even with Jacob’s wonderful blessing on Joseph (cf. vv. 22-26). Verse 11 speaks of prosperity.

Num 2:1-4, 9  The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, 2“The people of Israel shall camp each by his own standard, with the banners of their fathers’ houses. They shall camp facing the tent of meeting on every side. 3Those to camp on the east side toward the sunrise shall be of the standard of the camp of Judah by their companies, the chief of the people of Judah being Nahshon the son of Amminadab, 4his company as listed being 74,600. ▤ 9All those listed of the camp of Judah, by their companies, were 186,400. They shall set out first on the march. ▤ 

Judah’s prominence is reflected in it being mentioned first and having the most prominent position of the twelve tribes in the Israelite camp (v. 3) and by it setting out first (v. 9).

Num 1:50  But appoint the Levites over the tabernacle of the testimony, and over all its furnishings, and over all that belongs to it. They are to carry the tabernacle and all its furnishings, and they shall take care of it and shall camp around the tabernacle. ▤ 

Num 8:15-18  And after that the Levites shall go in to serve at the tent of meeting, when you have cleansed them and offered them as a wave offering. 16For they are wholly given to me from among the people of Israel. Instead of all who open the womb, the firstborn of all the people of Israel, I have taken them for myself. 17For all the firstborn among the people of Israel are mine, both of man and of beast. On the day that I struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt I consecrated them for myself, 18and I have taken the Levites instead of all the firstborn among the people of Israel. ▤ 

Josh 14:4a  For the people of Joseph were two tribes, Manasseh and Ephraim. ▤ 

Ps 78:67-68  He rejected the tent of Joseph; he did not choose the tribe of Ephraim, 68but he chose the tribe of Judah, Mount Zion, which he loves. ▤ 

Ephraim’s prominence amongst the tribes of the northern kingdom of Israel is often seen in it being used as representative of the northern kingdom as a whole – particularly by the OT prophets (cf. Isa 1:13 ; Jer 31:9, 20) – at times in contrast to Judah, as is the case here and in Isaiah 1:13 below.

Isa 11:13  The jealousy of Ephraim shall depart, and those who harass Judah shall be cut off; Ephraim shall not be jealous of Judah, and Judah shall not harass Ephraim. ▤ 

Pray for persecuted Christians

God’s Covenant with Israel and the Law

See also:

God made his covenant with the people of Israel soon after delivering them from Egypt, early on in the desert journey to the promised land.

God made a covenant with Israel, based on his law . . .

See also:

Ex 24:6-8  And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar. 7Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” 8And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.” ▤ 

The Book of the Covenant (v. 7a) is generally understood to have contained the laws stipulated in 20:22-23:33, which follow and to a large extent expand on the Ten Commandments (20:2-17). It possibly also included the Ten Commandments themselves. (See also the comment on Deuteronomy 29:21 below.) The sprinkling of blood (vv. 6, 8) – of sacrificed bulls – ceremonially confirmed the covenant. The half sprinkled on the altar (v. 6) appears to point to God’s part in the covenant. The purification of the altar – as being that on which sacrifices were to be made for the forgiveness of sin – was quite possibly signified by this act. The half sprinkled on the people (v. 8) signifies their commitment to keeping the terms of the covenant, as in a blood oath. The “blood of the covenant” (v. 8) is an important theme in the new covenant that God would make through Jesus Christ (cf. Jesus Christ’s blood ratified the new covenant).

Ex 34:10-11a, 27-28  And he said, “Behold, I am making a covenant. Before all your people I will do marvels, such as have not been created in all the earth or 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. 11“Observe what I command you this day. ▤ 27And the Lord said to Moses, “Write these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” 28So 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.n ▤ 

n Hebrew the ten words

Although under the covenant Israel was to keep all God’s laws, the Ten Commandments were the main focus, the essential basis of the covenant (v. 28; cf. Deut 4:13 ; The core of the law: The Ten Commandments).

Deut 4:13-14  And he declared to you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, that is, the Ten Commandments,o and he wrote them on two tablets of stone. 14And the Lord commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and rules, that you might do them in the land that you are going over to possess. ▤ 

o Hebrew words

Deut 5:1-3  And Moses summoned all Israel and said to them, “Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the rules that I speak in your hearing today, and you shall learn them and be careful to do them. 2The Lord our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. 3Not with our fathers did the Lord make this covenant, but with us, who are all of us here alive today. ▤ 

Note that “fathers” refers to the people’s ancestors, rather than simply the previous generation.

Deut 29:1-2, 9, 29  p These are the words of the covenant that the Lord commanded Moses to make with the people of Israel in the land of Moab, besides the covenant that he had made with them at Horeb. 2 q And Moses summoned all Israel and said to them: “You have seen all that the Lord did before your eyes in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, ▤ 9Therefore keep the words of this covenant and do them, that you may prosperr in all that you do. ▤ 29“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law. ▤ 

p Ch 28:69 in Hebrew

q Ch 29:1 in Hebrew

r Or deal wisely

This was the confirmation in Moab (cf. Deut 5:1 ; Deut 26:17-18 ; Deut 29:12-15 ) of the covenant made at Sinai (Horeb, v. 1; Ex 24:6-8 ; Ex 34:10-11a, 27-28 ). Presumably this confirmation was related to the fact that the generation that had made the covenant with God at Sinai had virtually died out in the desert.

Deut 29:21  And the Lord will single him out from all the tribes of Israel for calamity, in accordance with all the curses of the covenant written in this Book of the Law. ▤ 

The Book of the Law is thought by many to be the law – or sections of it – as given in Deuteronomy, much of which is a reiteration of the law given in Exodus 20-23. Quite possibly this is the book spoken of in 2 Kings 23:1-3 below.

2Ki 23:1-3  Then the king sent, and all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem were gathered to him. 2And the king went up to the house of the Lord, and with him all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the priests and the prophets, all the people, both small and great. And he read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant that had been found in the house of the Lord. 3And the king stood by the pillar and made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people joined in the covenant. ▤ 

Here King Josiah and the people renewed the covenant that God had made many years earlier through Moses. In doing so, they pledged themselves to obey God’s law (v. 3).

. . . If the Israelites obeyed God, then they would be his people and he would be their God

If Israel kept the covenant by obeying God’s commands, then under the covenant they would be God’s people and he would be their God.

Ex 19:5-6  Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel. ▤ 

Lev 26:3, 11-12  If you walk in my statutes and observe my commandments and do them, ▤ 11I will make my dwellings among you, and my soul shall not abhor you. 12And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people. ▤ 

s Hebrew tabernacle

In conjunction with him being their God and they being his people (v. 12), God would dwell amongst the Israelites (vv. 11-12a).

Deut 26:17-18  You have declared today that the Lord is your God, and that you will walk in his ways, and keep his statutes and his commandments and his rules, and will obey his voice. 18And the Lord has declared today that you are a people for his treasured possession, as he has promised you, and that you are to keep all his commandments, … ▤ 

Deut 28:9-10  The Lord will establish you as a people holy to himself, as he has sworn to you, if you keep the commandments of the Lord your God and walk in his ways. 10And all the peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they shall be afraid of you. ▤ 

Deut 29:10a, 12-15  You are standing today all of you before the Lord your God ▤ 12so that you may enter into the sworn covenant of the Lord your God, which the Lord your God is making with you today, 13that he may establish you today as his people, and that he may be your God, as he promised you, and as he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. 14It is not with you alone that I am making this sworn covenant, 15but with whoever is standing here with us today before the Lord our God, and with whoever is not here with us today. ▤ 

Verses 14-15 indicate that the covenant extended to future generations – “whoever is not here with us today.”

Jer 7:23a  But this command I gave them: ‘Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people. ▤ 

Jer 11:2-4  Hear the words of this covenant, and speak to the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 3You shall say to them, Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Cursed be the man who does not hear the words of this covenant 4that I commanded your fathers when I brought them out of the land of Egypt, from the iron furnace, saying, Listen to my voice, and do all that I command you. So shall you be my people, and I will be your God, … ▤ 

The core of the law: The Ten Commandments

The Ten Commandments form the fundamentals of the law that God gave through Moses (sometimes referred to as the Mosaic Law). Much of the other stipulations of the law are based on and expand on these commandments. The first four commandments (Ex 20:1-11 ) concern one’s relationship with God. The remaining six (Ex 20:12-17 ) concern one’s relationships with other people.

Ex 20:1-11  And God spoke all these words, saying, 2“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3“You shall have no other gods beforet me. 4“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6but showing steadfast love to thousandsu of those who love me and keep my commandments. 7“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain. 8“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. ▤ 

t Or besides

u Or to the thousandth generation

The command to not take the Lord’s name in vain (v. 7) is applicable to any misuse of it. This includes: deceptive use of it – which is likely primarily in view – such as in taking an oath in his name in order to deceive; intentionally blaspheming it; and disrespectful or irreverent use. Note that any such misuse of God’s name blasphemes it.

Ex 20:12-17  “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. 13“You shall not murder.v 14“You shall not commit adultery. 15“You shall not steal. 16“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. 17“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” ▤ 

v The Hebrew word also covers causing human death through carelessness or negligence

Note that Moses later repeats the Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy 5:6-21.

  • God wrote the Ten Commandments on two stone tablets:

Deut 5:22  These words the Lord spoke to all your assembly at the mountain out of the midst of the fire, the cloud, and the thick darkness, with a loud voice; and he added no more. And he wrote them on two tablets of stone and gave them to me. ▤ 

The whole law included: religious laws; . . .

See also:

The following are something of a cross section or sample of the religious laws contained in the Mosaic Law. Likewise the following subsection contains examples of the judicial and social law contained therein.

Ex 20:24a  An altar of earth you shall make for me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen. ▤ 

Ex 22:28  You shall not revile God, nor curse a ruler of your people. ▤ 

Ex 23:14-17  Three times in the year you shall keep a feast to me. 15You shall keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread. As I commanded you, you shall eat unleavened bread for seven days at the appointed time in the month of Abib, for in it you came out of Egypt. None shall appear before me empty-handed. 16You shall keep the Feast of Harvest, of the firstfruits of your labor, of what you sow in the field. You shall keep the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in from the field the fruit of your labor. 17Three times in the year shall all your males appear before the Lord God. ▤ 

Lev 4:27-31  If anyone of the common people sins unintentionally in doing any one of the things that by the Lord’s commandments ought not to be done, and realizes his guilt, 28or the sin which he has committed is made known to him, he shall bring for his offering a goat, a female without blemish, for his sin which he has committed. 29And he shall lay his hand on the head of the sin offering and kill the sin offering in the place of burnt offering. 30And the priest shall take some of its blood with his finger and put it on the horns of the altar of burnt offering and pour out all the rest of its blood at the base of the altar. 31And all its fat he shall remove, as the fat is removed from the peace offerings, and the priest shall burn it on the altar for a pleasing aroma to the Lord. And the priest shall make atonement for him, and he shall be forgiven. ▤ 

Lev 7:37-38  This is the law of the burnt offering, of the grain offering, of the sin offering, of the guilt offering, of the ordination offering, and of the peace offering, 38which the Lord commanded Moses on Mount Sinai, on the day that he commanded the people of Israel to bring their offerings to the Lord, in the wilderness of Sinai. ▤ 

Lev 11:44  For I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. You shall not defile yourselves with any swarming thing that crawls on the ground. ▤ 

Lev 19:12, 30  You shall not swear by my name falsely, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord. ▤ 30You shall keep my Sabbaths and reverence my sanctuary: I am the Lord. ▤ 

Deut 6:5  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. ▤ 

. . . judicial laws; and social laws

See also:

Ex 21:2  When you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years, and in the seventh he shall go out free, for nothing. ▤ 

Ex 21:14  But if a man willfully attacks another to kill him by cunning, you shall take him from my altar, that he may die. ▤ 

Ex 21:16-19  Whoever steals a man and sells him, and anyone found in possession of him, shall be put to death. 17“Whoever cursesw his father or his mother shall be put to death. 18“When men quarrel and one strikes the other with a stone or with his fist and the man does not die but takes to his bed, 19then if the man rises again and walks outdoors with his staff, he who struck him shall be clear; only he shall pay for the loss of his time, and shall have him thoroughly healed. ▤ 

w Or dishonors; Septuagint reviles

Ex 22:2-5  x If a thief is found breaking in and is struck so that he dies, there shall be no bloodguilt for him, 3but if the sun has risen on him, there shall be bloodguilt for him. He [a thief] shall surely pay. If he has nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft. 4If the stolen beast is found alive in his possession, whether it is an ox or a donkey or a sheep, he shall pay double. 5“If a man causes a field or vineyard to be grazed over, or lets his beast loose and it feeds in another man’s field, he shall make restitution from the best in his own field and in his own vineyard. ▤ 

x Ch 22:1 in Hebrew

Ex 22:21-22, 25  You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. 22You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child. ▤ 25“If you lend money to any of my people with you who is poor, you shall not be like a moneylender to him, and you shall not exact interest from him. ▤ 

Lev 19:9-10  When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. 10And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God. ▤ 

Lev 19:11, 13  You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; you shall not lie to one another. ▤ 13“You shall not oppress your neighbor or rob him. The wages of a hired servant shall not remain with you all night until the morning. ▤ 

Lev 19:16-18  You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not stand up against the lifey of your neighbor: I am the Lord. 17“You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. 18You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord. ▤ 

y Hebrew blood

By obeying all the law, the Israelites would be holy

Deut 28:9  The Lord will establish you as a people holy to himself, as he has sworn to you, if you keep the commandments of the Lord your God and walk in his ways. ▤ 

Ex 19:5-6  Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel. ▤ 

Being holy involves being set apart for God (cf. Lev 20:24, 26 ). If the Israelites fully obeyed God and kept his covenant, then they would be set apart “from among and above all peoples” (AMP) for God, as his “treasured possession” (v. 5) – “a holy nation” (v. 6).

Lev 19:2-3  Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy. 3Every one of you shall revere his mother and his father, and you shall keep my Sabbaths: I am the Lord your God. ▤ 

The command in v. 2 introduces a number of commands that the people were to keep, beginning at v. 3. This reflects that the people would be holy by obeying God’s law.

Lev 20:7-8  Consecrate yourselves, therefore, and be holy, for I am the Lord your God. 8Keep my statutes and do them; I am the Lord who sanctifies you. ▤ 

The people were to be holy (v. 7a), keeping God’s commands (v. 8a). In conjunction, God would make them holy (v. 8b).

Lev 20:22-24, 26  You shall therefore keep all my statutes and all my rules and do them, that the land where I am bringing you to live may not vomit you out. 23And you shall not walk in the customs of the nation that I am driving out before you, for they did all these things, and therefore I detested them. 24But I have said to you, ‘You shall inherit their land, and I will give it to you to possess, a land flowing with milk and honey.’ I am the Lord your God, who has separated you from the peoples. ▤ 26You shall be holy to me, for I the Lord am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine. ▤ 

Deut 26:18-19  And the Lord has declared today that you are a people for his treasured possession, as he has promised you, and that you are to keep all his commandments, 19and that he will set you in praise and in fame and in honor high above all nations that he has made, and that you shall be a people holy to the Lord your God, as he promised. ▤ 

  • Anyone who defiantly broke God’s law was to be cut off from Israel:

Num 15:30-31  But the person who does anything with a high hand, whether he is native or a sojourner, reviles the Lord, and that person shall be cut off from among his people. 31Because he has despised the word of the Lord and has broken his commandment, that person shall be utterly cut off; his iniquity shall be on him. ▤ 

To act as such “with a high hand” (v. 30) is to do so “defiantly” (NASB, NIV).

By obeying all the law, the Israelites would be righteous and live

In this and the following subsection, to “live” is largely referring to physical life, at times possibly along with a fullness of life.

Deut 6:25  And it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to do all this commandment before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us. ▤ 

Isa 48:18  Oh that you had paid attention to my commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea; … ▤ 

Ezek 18:9  … [If a man] walks in my statutes, and keeps my rules by acting faithfully—he is righteous; he shall surely live, declares the Lord God. ▤ 

Lev 18:5  You shall therefore keep my statutes and my rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them: I am the Lord. ▤ 

Neh 9:29b  Yet they acted presumptuously and did not obey your commandments, but sinned against your rules, which if a person does them, he shall live by them, and they turned a stubborn shoulder and stiffened their neck and would not obey. ▤ 

Ezek 20:11  I gave them my statutes and made known to them my rules, by which, if a person does them, he shall live. ▤ 

Deut 4:1  And now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the rulesz that I am teaching you, and do them, that you may live, and go in and take possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your fathers, is giving you. ▤ 

z Or just decrees; also verses 5, 8, 14, 45

Deut 6:1-2  Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the rulesa that the Lord your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, 2that you may fear the Lord your God, you and your son and your son’s son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long. ▤ 

a Or just decrees; also verse 20

Deut 32:45-47  And when Moses had finished speaking all these words to all Israel, 46he said to them, “Take to heart all the words by which I am warning you today, that you may command them to your children, that they may be careful to do all the words of this law. 47For it is no empty word for you, but your very life, and by this word you shall live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess.” ▤ 

By obeying, the Israelites would have life and prosperity in the promised land

See also:

Lev 26:3-6, 9  If you walk in my statutes and observe my commandments and do them, 4then I will give you your rains in their season, and the land shall yield its increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. 5Your threshing shall last to the time of the grape harvest, and the grape harvest shall last to the time for sowing. And you shall eat your bread to the full and dwell in your land securely. 6I will give peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid. And I will remove harmful beasts from the land, and the sword shall not go through your land. ▤ 9I will turn to you and make you fruitful and multiply you and will confirm my covenant with you. ▤ 

Deut 4:40  Therefore you shall keep his statutes and his commandments, which I command you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may prolong your days in the land that the Lord your God is giving you for all time. ▤ 

Deut 5:29, 33  Oh that they had such a mind as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments, that it might go well with them and with their descendantsb forever! ▤ 33You shall walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you, that you may live, and that it may go well with you, and that you may live long in the land that you shall possess. ▤ 

b Or sons

Deut 28:1-3, 6-8, 11-13  And if you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. 2And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God. 3Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field. ▤ 6Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out. 7“The Lord will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before you. They shall come out against you one way and flee before you seven ways. 8The Lord will command the blessing on you in your barns and in all that you undertake. And he will bless you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. ▤ 11And the Lord will make you abound in prosperity, in the fruit of your womb and in the fruit of your livestock and in the fruit of your ground, within the land that the Lord swore to your fathers to give you. 12The Lord will open to you his good treasury, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hands. And you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow. 13And the Lord will make you the head and not the tail, and you shall only go up and not down, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you today, being careful to do them, … ▤ 

The phrases “when you come in” and “when you go out” (v. 6) are equivalent to speaking of one’s “coming and going” (cf. NLT), a reference to the people’s “daily work” (CEV). In v. 13, “the head and not the tail” is speaking of Israel being the head or “leader” (CEV, GNT) among the nations rather than having a lowly position.

Deut 29:9  Therefore keep the words of this covenant and do them, that you may prosperc in all that you do. ▤ 

c Or deal wisely

Deut 30:8-10  And you shall again obey the voice of the Lord and keep all his commandments that I command you today. 9The Lord your God will make you abundantly prosperous in all the work of your hand, in the fruit of your womb and in the fruit of your cattle and in the fruit of your ground. For the Lord will again take delight in prospering you, as he took delight in your fathers, 10when you obey the voice of the Lord your God, to keep his commandments and his statutes that are written in this Book of the Law, when you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. ▤ 

Deut 30:15-20  [Moses:] “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. 16If you obey the commandments of the Lord your Godd that I command you today, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules,e then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. 17But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, 18I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. 19I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, 20loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.” ▤ 

d Septuagint; Hebrew lacks If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God

e Or his just decrees

1Ki 2:3  … and keep the charge of the Lord your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his rules, and his testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn, … ▤ 

If the Israelites disobeyed the law and broke the covenant, there would be dreadful consequences . . .

See also:

Note that the blessings and punishments of the first covenant are more tangible and physical – and more immediate – than their parallels in the NT under the new covenant. This reflects the greater spiritual nature of the second covenant; rather than material and physical prosperity or desolation, the outcomes are generally spiritual ones. In a sense, the eternal ramifications of the second covenant are a more obvious parallel of the first covenant outcomes.

Lev 26:14-26  But if you will not listen to me and will not do all these commandments, 15if you spurn my statutes, and if your soul abhors my rules, so that you will not do all my commandments, but break my covenant, 16then I will do this to you: I will visit you with panic, with wasting disease and fever that consume the eyes and make the heart ache. And you shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it. 17I will set my face against you, and you shall be struck down before your enemies. Those who hate you shall rule over you, and you shall flee when none pursues you. 18And if in spite of this you will not listen to me, then I will discipline you again sevenfold for your sins, 19and I will break the pride of your power, and I will make your heavens like iron and your earth like bronze. 20And your strength shall be spent in vain, for your land shall not yield its increase, and the trees of the land shall not yield their fruit. 21“Then if you walk contrary to me and will not listen to me, I will continue striking you, sevenfold for your sins. 22And I will let loose the wild beasts against you, which shall bereave you of your children and destroy your livestock and make you few in number, so that your roads shall be deserted. 23“And if by this discipline you are not turned to me but walk contrary to me, 24then I also will walk contrary to you, and I myself will strike you sevenfold for your sins. 25And I will bring a sword upon you, that shall execute vengeance for the covenant. And if you gather within your cities, I will send pestilence among you, and you shall be delivered into the hand of the enemy. 26When I break your supplyf of bread, ten women shall bake your bread in a single oven and shall dole out your bread again by weight, and you shall eat and not be satisfied. ▤ 

f Hebrew staff

The expression “walk contrary to” (vv. 21, 23, 24; vv. 27, 28 ) is akin to “act against”.

Deut 28:15-20  But if you will not obey the voice of the Lord your God or be careful to do all his commandments and his statutes that I command you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you. 16Cursed shall you be in the city, and cursed shall you be in the field. 17Cursed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. 18Cursed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock. 19Cursed shall you be when you come in, and cursed shall you be when you go out. 20“The Lord will send on you curses, confusion, and frustration in all that you undertake to do, until you are destroyed and perish quickly on account of the evil of your deeds, because you have forsaken me. ▤ 

Deut 28:25-29, 45  The Lord will cause you to be defeated before your enemies. You shall go out one way against them and flee seven ways before them. And you shall be a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth. 26And your dead body shall be food for all birds of the air and for the beasts of the earth, and there shall be no one to frighten them away. 27The Lord will strike you with the boils of Egypt, and with tumors and scabs and itch, of which you cannot be healed. 28The Lord will strike you with madness and blindness and confusion of mind, 29and you shall grope at noonday, as the blind grope in darkness, and you shall not prosper in your ways.g And you shall be only oppressed and robbed continually, and there shall be no one to help you. ▤ 45“All these curses shall come upon you and pursue you and overtake you till you are destroyed, because you did not obey the voice of the Lord your God, to keep his commandments and his statutes that he commanded you. ▤ 

g Or shall not succeed in finding your ways

Deut 28:58-59  If you are not careful to do all the words of this law that are written in this book, that you may fear this glorious and awesome name, the Lord your God, 59then the Lord will bring on you and your offspring extraordinary afflictions, afflictions severe and lasting, and sicknesses grievous and lasting. ▤ 

. . . Their destruction would culminate in exile from the promised land

Lev 18:26-28  But you shall keep my statutes and my rules and do none of these abominations, either the native or the stranger who sojourns among you 27(for the people of the land, who were before you, did all of these abominations, so that the land became unclean), 28lest the land vomit you out when you make it unclean, as it vomited out the nation that was before you. ▤ 

Note that Numbers 35:34 mentions God’s presence as an additional reason as to why the people were not to defile the land: “You shall not defile the land in which you live, in the midst of which I dwell, for I the Lord dwell in the midst of the people of Israel.”

Lev 26:27-34, 38  But if in spite of this you will not listen to me, but walk contrary to me, 28then I will walk contrary to you in fury, and I myself will discipline you sevenfold for your sins. 29You shall eat the flesh of your sons, and you shall eat the flesh of your daughters. 30And I will destroy your high places and cut down your incense altars and cast your dead bodies upon the dead bodies of your idols, and my soul will abhor you. 31And I will lay your cities waste and will make your sanctuaries desolate, and I will not smell your pleasing aromas. 32And I myself will devastate the land, so that your enemies who settle in it shall be appalled at it. 33And I will scatter you among the nations, and I will unsheathe the sword after you, and your land shall be a desolation, and your cities shall be a waste. 34“Then the land shall enjoyh its Sabbaths as long as it lies desolate, while you are in your enemies’ land; then the land shall rest, and enjoy its Sabbaths. ▤ 38And you shall perish among the nations, and the land of your enemies shall eat you up. ▤ 

h Or pay for; twice in this verse; also verse 43

Presumably v. 29 has in view a time of being under siege (c.f. Deuteronomy 28:53-57).

Deut 4:23-27  Take care, lest you forget the covenant of the Lord your God, which he made with you, and make a carved image, the form of anything that the Lord your God has forbidden you. 24For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God. 25“When you father children and children’s children, and have grown old in the land, if you act corruptly by making a carved image in the form of anything, and by doing what is evil in the sight of the Lord your God, so as to provoke him to anger, 26I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that you will soon utterly perish from the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess. You will not live long in it, but will be utterly destroyed. 27And the Lord will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be left few in number among the nations where the Lord will drive you. ▤ 

Deut 28:58, 63-67  If you are not careful to do all the words of this law that are written in this book, that you may fear this glorious and awesome name, the Lord your God, ▤ 63And as the Lord took delight in doing you good and multiplying you, so the Lord will take delight in bringing ruin upon you and destroying you. And you shall be plucked off the land that you are entering to take possession of it. 64“And the Lord will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other, and there you shall serve other gods of wood and stone, which neither you nor your fathers have known. 65And among these nations you shall find no respite, and there shall be no resting place for the sole of your foot, but the Lord will give you there a trembling heart and failing eyes and a languishing soul. 66Your life shall hang in doubt before you. Night and day you shall be in dread and have no assurance of your life. 67In the morning you shall say, ‘If only it were evening!’ and at evening you shall say, ‘If only it were morning!’ because of the dread that your heart shall feel, and the sights that your eyes shall see. ▤ 

Deut 29:25-28  Then people will say, ‘It is because they abandoned the covenant of the Lord, the God of their fathers, which he made with them when he brought them out of the land of Egypt, 26and went and served other gods and worshiped them, gods whom they had not known and whom he had not allotted to them. 27Therefore the anger of the Lord was kindled against this land, bringing upon it all the curses written in this book, 28and the Lord uprooted them from their land in anger and fury and great wrath, and cast them into another land, as they are this day.’ ▤ 

  • Any individual who did not uphold the law was cursed:

Deut 27:26  ‘Cursed be anyone who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’ ▤ 

Pray for persecuted Christians

The Ark of the Covenant and God’s Presence

The ark of the covenant – which contained the stone tablets of the covenant

Ex 37:1-9  Bezalel made the ark of acacia wood. Two cubitsi and a half was its length, a cubit and a half its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height. 2And he overlaid it with pure gold inside and outside, and made a molding of gold around it. 3And he cast for it four rings of gold for its four feet, two rings on its one side and two rings on its other side. 4And he made poles of acacia wood and overlaid them with gold 5and put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark to carry the ark. 6And he made a mercy seat of pure gold. Two cubits and a half was its length, and a cubit and a half its breadth. 7And he made two cherubim of gold. He made them of hammered work on the two ends of the mercy seat, 8one cherub on the one end, and one cherub on the other end. Of one piece with the mercy seat he made the cherubim on its two ends. 9The cherubim spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, with their faces one to another; toward the mercy seat were the faces of the cherubim. ▤ 

i A cubit was about 18 inches or 45 centimeters

The ark was made in this way in accordance with the instructions God had given to Moses (cf. Ex 25:10-20). The “mercy seat” (vv. 6-9) was the cover or lid. Note that cherubim (vv. 7-9) are understood to be one of the highest orders of angels.

Ex 40:20  He [Moses] took the testimony and put it into the ark, and put the poles on the ark and set the mercy seat above on the ark. ▤ 

The “testimony” refers to the two stone tablets with the Ten Commandments written on them, which were essentially the terms of the covenant. As such the stone tablets bore “testimony” to God’s covenant with Israel.

Deut 10:5  Then I turned and came down from the mountain and put the tablets in the ark that I had made. And there they are, as the Lord commanded me. ▤ 

1Ki 8:9, 21  There was nothing in the ark except the two tablets of stone that Moses put there at Horeb, where the Lord made a covenant with the people of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt. ▤ 21And there I [Solomon] have provided a place for the ark, in which is the covenant of the Lord that he made with our fathers, when he brought them out of the land of Egypt. ▤ 

Heb 9:4  … having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant. ▤ 

In saying that the ark also contained the jar of manna and Aaron’s staff, this verse contrasts with 1 Kings 8:9 above. These two items were earlier stated to have been placed “before the testimony” (Num 17:10; cf. Ex 16:34), which arguably could mean before the testimony/tablets inside the ark. Note that Aaron’s staff had budded as a vindication of him being chosen by God, with the priesthood being of him and his line (cf. Num 16-17).

  • The Book of the Law was placed beside the ark of the covenant:

Deut 31:24-26  When Moses had finished writing the words of this law in a book to the very end, 25Moses commanded the Levites who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord, 26“Take this Book of the Law and put it by the side of the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, that it may be there for a witness against you. ▤ 

The Book of the Law was placed beside the ark of the covenant as a witness or testimony against any future apostasy of the people (cf. v. 27), proof that they had known what God had wanted them to do (cf. CEV).

The ark signified God’s presence amongst the people

Lev 16:2  … and the Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron your brother not to come at any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat that is on the ark, so that he may not die. For I will appear in the cloud over the mercy seat. ▤ 

The latter part of the verse suggests that the glory of God’s presence appeared over the mercy seat.

Num 10:33-36  So they set out from the mount of the Lord three days’ journey. And the ark of the covenant of the Lord went before them three days’ journey, to seek out a resting place for them. 34And the cloud of the Lord was over them by day, whenever they set out from the camp. 35And whenever the ark set out, Moses said, “Arise, O Lord, and let your enemies be scattered, and let those who hate you flee before you.” 36And when it rested, he said, “Return, O Lord, to the ten thousand thousands of Israel.” ▤ 

Moses’ words (vv. 35-36) correlate the Ark with God’s presence – as do Joshua’s in Joshua 7:6-7 immediately below.

Josh 7:6-7  Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the Lord until the evening, he and the elders of Israel. And they put dust on their heads. 7And Joshua said, “Alas, O Lord God, why have you brought this people over the Jordan at all, to give us into the hands of the Amorites, to destroy us? Would that we had been content to dwell beyond the Jordan! ▤ 

1Sam 6:19-20  And he struck some of the men of Beth-shemesh, because they looked upon the ark of the Lord. He struck seventy men of them,j and the people mourned because the Lord had struck the people with a great blow. 20Then the men of Beth-shemesh said, “Who is able to stand before the Lord, this holy God? And to whom shall he go up away from us?” ▤ 

j Hebrew of the people seventy men, fifty thousand men

Here looking at the ark results in death, which parallels the ark with God’s presence, as per Ex 33:20 – “man shall not see me and live”. “Who is able to stand before the Lord” (v. 20) further correlates “the ark of the Lord” (v. 19) with the presence of the Lord (v. 20; cf. NIV, NLT).

2Sam 6:2  And David arose and went with all the people who were with him from Baale-judah to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the name of the Lord of hosts who sits enthroned on the cherubim. ▤ 

The reference is to God’s presence between the cherubim “that are on the ark” (NIV®; cf. CEV).

Signifying God’s presence, the ark was where God would meet with Moses and the people

Note that apart from Moses and Joshua, only the High Priest could meet with God before the ark itself. The larger structures within which the ark was held was where others could meet with God. These structures were the tabernacle – a tent structure – and later the temple.

Ex 25:22  There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel. ▤ 

Ex 30:36  You shall beat some of it very small, and put part of it before the testimony in the tent of meeting where I shall meet with you. It shall be most holy for you. ▤ 

Num 7:89  And when Moses went into the tent of meeting to speak with the Lord, he heard the voice speaking to him from above the mercy seat that was on the ark of the testimony, from between the two cherubim; and it spoke to him. ▤ 

Ex 29:42-46  It shall be a regular burnt offering throughout your generations at the entrance of the tent of meeting before the Lord, where I will meet with you, to speak to you there. 43There I will meet with the people of Israel, and it shall be sanctified by my glory. 44I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar. Aaron also and his sons I will consecrate to serve me as priests. 45I will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God. 46And they shall know that I am the Lord their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt that I might dwell among them. I am the Lord their God. ▤ 

Here “the tent of meeting” (v. 42) refers to the tabernacle, which would contain the ark. By containing the ark it signified the dwelling of God amongst the Israelites (vv. 45-46), where he would meet with the people (vv. 42-43).

Judg 20:26-28  Then all the people of Israel, the whole army, went up and came to Bethel and wept. They sat there before the Lord and fasted that day until evening, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord. 27And the people of Israel inquired of the Lord (for the ark of the covenant of God was there in those days, 28and Phinehas the son of Eleazar, son of Aaron, ministered before it in those days), saying, “Shall we go out once more to battle against our brothers, the people of Benjamin, or shall we cease?” And the Lord said, “Go up, for tomorrow I will give them into your hand.” ▤ 

Here the Israelites met with God before the ark of the covenant, with the high priest Phinehas interceding for them.

  • The earlier “tent of meeting”:

Ex 33:7, 9-11  Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, far off from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the Lord would go out to the tent of meeting, which was outside the camp. ▤ 9When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent, and the Lordk would speak with Moses. 10And when all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would rise up and worship, each at his tent door. 11Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses turned again into the camp, his assistant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent. ▤ 

k Hebrew he

This “tent of meeting” was a temporary structure used prior to the construction of the tabernacle. The term was then later often used in reference to the tabernacle (cf. Ex 30:36 ; Num 7:89 ; Ex 29:42-46 ). The tabernacle is clearly correlated with the term in 39:32a – “Thus all the work of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting was finished …”

The ark brought great power and dreadful effects

2Chr 6:41a  “And now arise, O Lord God, and go to your resting place, you and the ark of your might. ▤ 

Here Solomon speaks of “the Ark… that shows your strength” (NCV™), “the symbol of your power” (GNT; cf. CEV, NIrV).

Josh 4:7  … then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever. ▤ 

Lev 10:1-3  Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorizedl fire before the Lord, which he had not commanded them. 2And fire came out from before the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. 3Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord has said, ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.’” And Aaron held his peace. ▤ 

l Or strange

The occurrences of the phrase “before the Lord” (vv. 1, 2) indicate that this incident occurred in front of the ark. It is not clear exactly why what Nadab and Abihu did was wrong. Either presumptuously or carelessly they violated God’s regulations in some manner.

Lev 16:2  … and the Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron your brother not to come at any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat that is on the ark, so that he may not die. For I will appear in the cloud over the mercy seat. ▤ 

1Sam 5:1-12  When the Philistines captured the ark of God, they brought it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. 2Then the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it into the house of Dagon and set it up beside Dagon. 3And when the people of Ashdod rose early the next day, behold, Dagon had fallen face downward on the ground before the ark of the Lord. So they took Dagon and put him back in his place. 4But when they rose early on the next morning, behold, Dagon had fallen face downward on the ground before the ark of the Lord, and the head of Dagon and both his hands were lying cut off on the threshold. Only the trunk of Dagon was left to him. 5This is why the priests of Dagon and all who enter the house of Dagon do not tread on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod to this day. 6The hand of the Lord was heavy against the people of Ashdod, and he terrified and afflicted them with tumors, both Ashdod and its territory. 7And when the men of Ashdod saw how things were, they said, “The ark of the God of Israel must not remain with us, for his hand is hard against us and against Dagon our god.” 8So they sent and gathered together all the lords of the Philistines and said, “What shall we do with the ark of the God of Israel?” They answered, “Let the ark of the God of Israel be brought around to Gath.” So they brought the ark of the God of Israel there. 9But after they had brought it around, the hand of the Lord was against the city, causing a very great panic, and he afflicted the men of the city, both young and old, so that tumors broke out on them. 10So they sent the ark of God to Ekron. But as soon as the ark of God came to Ekron, the people of Ekron cried out, “They have brought around to us the ark of the God of Israel to kill us and our people.” 11They sent therefore and gathered together all the lords of the Philistines and said, “Send away the ark of the God of Israel, and let it return to its own place, that it may not kill us and our people.” For there was a deathly panic throughout the whole city. The hand of God was very heavy there. 12The men who did not die were struck with tumors, and the cry of the city went up to heaven. ▤ 

1Sam 6:19  And he [God] struck some of the men of Beth-shemesh, because they looked upon the ark of the Lord. He struck seventy men of them,m and the people mourned because the Lord had struck the people with a great blow. ▤ 

m Hebrew of the people seventy men, fifty thousand men

2Sam 6:3-4, 6-10  And they carried the ark of God on a new cart and brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. And Uzzah and Ahio,n the sons of Abinadab, were driving the new cart,o 4with the ark of God, and Ahio went before the ark. ▤ 6And when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled. 7And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah, and God struck him down there because of his error, and he died there beside the ark of God. 8And David was angry because the Lord had burst forth against Uzzah. And that place is called Perez-uzzah,p to this day. 9And David was afraid of the Lord that day, and he said, “How can the ark of the Lord come to me?” 10So David was not willing to take the ark of the Lord into the city of David. But David took it aside to the house of Obed-edom the Gittite. ▤ 

n Or and his brother; also verse 4

o Compare Septuagint; Hebrew the new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill

p Perez-uzzah means the bursting forth upon Uzzah

The ark was kept in the Most Holy Place, shielded by a veil – in the tabernacle and later the temple . . .

See also:

The tabernacle and later the temple had an inner sanctuary known as the Most Holy Place, in which the ark of the covenant was kept. The Most Holy Place was sectioned off from an outer section, the Holy Place, by a veil or curtain. Note that the Holy Place contained the table with the bread of the Presence, the lampstand and the altar of incense (cf. Ex 40:4-5 ).

Ex 26:31-34  And you shall make a veil of blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen. It shall be made with cherubim skillfully worked into it. 32And you shall hang it on four pillars of acacia overlaid with gold, with hooks of gold, on four bases of silver. 33And you shall hang the veil from the clasps, and bring the ark of the testimony in there within the veil. And the veil shall separate for you the Holy Place from the Most Holy. 34You shall put the mercy seat on the ark of the testimony in the Most Holy Place. ▤ 

Ex 30:6  And you shall put it in front of the veil that is above the ark of the testimony, in front of the mercy seat that is above the testimony, where I will meet with you. ▤ 

Num 4:5  When the camp is to set out, Aaron and his sons shall go in and take down the veil of the screen and cover the ark of the testimony with it. ▤ 

The veil was used to shield the ark when in transit, as well as when the tabernacle was set up.

1Ki 6:14, 16, 19-20  So Solomon built the house and finished it. ▤ 16He built twenty cubits of the rear of the house with boards of cedar from the floor to the walls, and he built this within as an inner sanctuary, as the Most Holy Place. ▤ 19The inner sanctuary he prepared in the innermost part of the house, to set there the ark of the covenant of the Lord. 20The inner sanctuaryq was twenty cubits long, twenty cubits wide, and twenty cubits high, and he overlaid it with pure gold. He also overlaidr an altar of cedar. ▤ 

q Vulgate; Hebrew and before the inner sanctuary

r Septuagint made

The “house” is the houses of the Lord, the temple.

1Ki 8:3-8  And all the elders of Israel came, and the priests took up the ark. 4And they brought up the ark of the Lord, the tent of meeting, and all the holy vessels that were in the tent; the priests and the Levites brought them up. 5And King Solomon and all the congregation of Israel, who had assembled before him, were with him before the ark, sacrificing so many sheep and oxen that they could not be counted or numbered. 6Then the priests brought the ark of the covenant of the Lord to its place in the inner sanctuary of the house, in the Most Holy Place, underneath the wings of the cherubim. 7For the cherubim spread out their wings over the place of the ark, so that the cherubim overshadowed the ark and its poles. 8And the poles were so long that the ends of the poles were seen from the Holy Place before the inner sanctuary; but they could not be seen from outside. And they are there to this day. ▤ 

2Chr 3:8, 14  And he [Solomon] made the Most Holy Place. Its length, corresponding to the breadth of the house, was twenty cubits, and its breadth was twenty cubits. He overlaid it with 600 talentss of fine gold. ▤ 14And he made the veil of blue and purple and crimson fabrics and fine linen, and he worked cherubim on it. ▤ 

s A talent was about 75 pounds or 34 kilograms

Heb 9:2-4  For a tentt was prepared, the first section, in which were the lampstand and the table and the bread of the Presence.u It is called the Holy Place. 3Behind the second curtain was a second sectionv called the Most Holy Place, 4having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant. ▤ 

t Or tabernacle; also verses 11, 21

u Greek the presentation of the loaves

v Greek tent; also verses 6, 8

. . . Access into the Most Holy Place and the whole sanctuary was greatly restricted

Only the high priest was allowed to enter the Most Holy Place, and only once a year. The other priests were allowed access into the Holy Place. Other Levites who assisted the priests could enter the tabernacle’s courtyard and later the outer restricted sections of the temple. Any access they may have had into the Holy Place was very much restricted (cf. Num 18:2-4, 6-7 ).

Lev 16:2  … and the Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron your brother not to come at any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat that is on the ark, so that he may not die. For I will appear in the cloud over the mercy seat. ▤ 

Heb 9:6-8  These preparations having thus been made, the priests go regularly into the first section, performing their ritual duties, 7but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people. 8By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing … ▤ 

Note that the reference to “the first section” in v. 8 is often understood to allude to the covenant that God made with Israel (cf. AMP, NCV, NLT), of which the whole structure described here was a key component.

Num 3:8, 10  They [the Levites] shall guard all the furnishings of the tent of meeting, and keep guard over the people of Israel as they minister at the tabernacle. ▤ 10And you shall appoint Aaron and his sons, and they shall guard their priesthood. But if any outsider comes near, he shall be put to death. ▤ 

Num 18:1-4, 6-7  So the Lord said to Aaron, “You and your sons and your father’s house with you shall bear iniquity connected with the sanctuary, and you and your sons with you shall bear iniquity connected with your priesthood. 2And with you bring your brothers also, the tribe of Levi, the tribe of your father, that they may join you and minister to you while you and your sons with you are before the tent of the testimony. 3They shall keep guard over you and over the whole tent, but shall not come near to the vessels of the sanctuary or to the altar lest they, and you, die. 4They shall join you and keep guard over the tent of meeting for all the service of the tent, and no outsider shall come near you. ▤ 6And behold, I have taken your brothers the Levites from among the people of Israel. They are a gift to you, given to the Lord, to do the service of the tent of meeting. 7And you and your sons with you shall guard your priesthood for all that concerns the altar and that is within the veil; and you shall serve. I give your priesthood as a gift,w and any outsider who comes near shall be put to death.” ▤ 

w Hebrew service of gift

Note that v. 1 speaks of Aaron and his sons bearing responsibility for the sanctuary and the priesthood.

Lev 21:21-23  No man of the offspring of Aaron the priest who has a blemish shall come near to offer the Lord’s food offerings; since he has a blemish, he shall not come near to offer the bread of his God. 22He may eat the bread of his God, both of the most holy and of the holy things, 23but he shall not go through the veil or approach the altar, because he has a blemish, that he may not profane my sanctuaries, for I am the Lord who sanctifies them. ▤ 

This restriction regarding defects emphasized the need for perfection in the regulations regarding approaching God.

2Chr 26:16-20  But when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction. For he was unfaithful to the Lord his God and entered the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense. 17But Azariah the priest went in after him, with eighty priests of the Lord who were men of valor, 18and they withstood King Uzziah and said to him, “It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the Lord, but for the priests, the sons of Aaron, who are consecrated to burn incense. Go out of the sanctuary, for you have done wrong, and it will bring you no honor from the Lord God.” 19Then Uzziah was angry. Now he had a censer in his hand to burn incense, and when he became angry with the priests, leprosyx broke out on his forehead in the presence of the priests in the house of the Lord, by the altar of incense. 20And Azariah the chief priest and all the priests looked at him, and behold, he was leprous in his forehead! And they rushed him out quickly, and he himself hurried to go out, because the Lord had struck him. ▤ 

x Leprosy was a term for several skin diseases; see Leviticus 13

Even the king did not have the right to enter the Holy Place.

  • The setting up of the tabernacle, with all its components:

Ex 40:1-9, 18-21  The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2“On the first day of the first month you shall erect the tabernacle of the tent of meeting. 3And you shall put in it the ark of the testimony, and you shall screen the ark with the veil. 4And you shall bring in the table and arrange it, and you shall bring in the lampstand and set up its lamps. 5And you shall put the golden altar for incense before the ark of the testimony, and set up the screen for the door of the tabernacle. 6You shall set the altar of burnt offering before the door of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting, 7and place the basin between the tent of meeting and the altar, and put water in it. 8And you shall set up the court all around, and hang up the screen for the gate of the court. 9“Then you shall take the anointing oil and anoint the tabernacle and all that is in it, and consecrate it and all its furniture, so that it may become holy. ▤ 18Moses erected the tabernacle. He laid its bases, and set up its frames, and put in its poles, and raised up its pillars. 19And he spread the tent over the tabernacle and put the covering of the tent over it, as the Lord had commanded Moses. 20He took the testimony and put it into the ark, and put the poles on the ark and set the mercy seat above on the ark. 21And he brought the ark into the tabernacle and set up the veil of the screen, and screened the ark of the testimony, as the Lord had commanded Moses. ▤ 

Containing the ark, the tabernacle and later the temple signified God’s presence . . .

See also:

Ex 25:8-10a, 21-22  And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst. 9Exactly as I show you concerning the pattern of the tabernacle, and of all its furniture, so you shall make it. 10“They shall make an ark of acacia wood. ▤ 21And you shall put the mercy seat on the top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the testimony that I shall give you. 22There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel. ▤ 

Chief amongst the tabernacle’s “furniture” (v. 9) was of course the ark (vv. 10-22). Containing the ark, the tabernacle was an observable sign of God’s presence to all the people.

Ex 40:33-38  And he erected the court around the tabernacle and the altar, and set up the screen of the gate of the court. So Moses finished the work. 34Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. 35And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. 36Throughout all their journeys, whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out. 37But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out till the day that it was taken up. 38For the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys. ▤ 

Note that in vv. 34-35 the terms “the tent of meeting” and “the tabernacle” appear to be used interchangeably, although the former may refer to the inner section.

1Ki 8:6, 10-13  Then the priests brought the ark of the covenant of the Lord to its place in the inner sanctuary of the house, in the Most Holy Place, underneath the wings of the cherubim. ▤ 10And when the priests came out of the Holy Place, a cloud filled the house of the Lord, 11so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord. 12Then Solomon said, “The Lordy has said that he would dwell in thick darkness. 13I have indeed built you an exalted house, a place for you to dwell in forever.” ▤ 

y Septuagint The Lord has set the sun in the heavens, but

As noted earlier, the “house” is the temple.

1Ki 8:20-21  Now the Lord has fulfilled his promise that he made. For I have risen in the place of David my father, and sit on the throne of Israel, as the Lord promised, and I have built the house for the name of the Lord, the God of Israel. 21And there I have provided a place for the ark, in which is the covenant of the Lord that he made with our fathers, when he brought them out of the land of Egypt. ▤ 

The reference to “the name of the Lord” (v. 20; cf. 1Ki 9:3 ; Deut 12:5 ) speaks of God’s presence.

2Chr 6:41-427:1  “And now arise, O Lord God, and go to your resting place, you and the ark of your might. Let your priests, O Lord God, be clothed with salvation, and let your saints rejoice in your goodness. 42O Lord God, do not turn away the face of your anointed one! Remember your steadfast love for David your servant.” ▤  7:1 As soon as Solomon finished his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple.  

1Ki 9:3  And the Lord said to him, “I have heard your prayer and your plea, which you have made before me. I have consecrated this house that you have built, by putting my name there forever. My eyes and my heart will be there for all time. ▤ 

. . . Thus the temple became the focus of worship and prayer to God

Deut 12:2, 4-7  You shall surely destroy all the places where the nations whom you shall dispossess served their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree. ▤ 4You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way. 5But you shall seek the place that the Lord your God will choose out of all your tribes to put his name and make his habitationz there. There you shall go, 6and there you shall bring your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution that you present, your vow offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herd and of your flock. 7And there you shall eat before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your households, in all that you undertake, in which the Lord your God has blessed you. ▤ 

z Or name as its habitation

Ultimately this place would be where the temple was built at Jerusalem (cf. 1Ki 8:29 ).

1Ki 8:28-30, 44-45  Yet have regard to the prayer of your servant and to his plea, O Lord my God, listening to the cry and to the prayer that your servant prays before you this day, 29that your eyes may be open night and day toward this house, the place of which you have said, ‘My name shall be there,’ that you may listen to the prayer that your servant offers toward this place. 30And listen to the plea of your servant and of your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. And listen in heaven your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive. ▤ 44“If your people go out to battle against their enemy, by whatever way you shall send them, and they pray to the Lord toward the city that you have chosen and the house that I have built for your name, 45then hear in heaven their prayer and their plea, and maintain their cause. ▤ 

The people would pray towards the temple, it signifying God’s presence.

2Chr 20:27-28  Then they returned, every man of Judah and Jerusalem, and Jehoshaphat at their head, returning to Jerusalem with joy, for the Lord had made them rejoice over their enemies. 28They came to Jerusalem with harps and lyres and trumpets, to the house of the Lord. ▤ 

2Chr 30:1  Hezekiah sent to all Israel and Judah, and wrote letters also to Ephraim and Manasseh, that they should come to the house of the Lord at Jerusalem to keep the Passover to the Lord, the God of Israel. ▤ 

Ps 5:7  But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house. I will bow down toward your holy temple in the fear of you. ▤ 

Ps 28:2  Hear the voice of my pleas for mercy, when I cry to you for help, when I lift up my hands toward your most holy sanctuary.a ▤ 

a Hebrew your innermost sanctuary

Ps 100:4  Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! ▤ 

The gates and courts of God’s temple are referred to here.

Ps 134:1-2  Come, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord, who stand by night in the house of the Lord! 2Lift up your hands to the holy place and bless the Lord! ▤ 

Ps 138:2  I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word.b ▤ 

b Or you have exalted your word above all your name

John 4:20  Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship. ▤ 

Containing the site of the temple, Jerusalem was the designated centre of worship.

Heb 9:1  Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly place of holiness. ▤ 

The author associates worship of God with his earthly sanctuary – the tabernacle and then the temple.

  • The sanctuary was made so as to reflect the place of God’s presence in heaven:

Heb 8:5  They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.” ▤ 

The sanctuary (the tabernacle and then that of the temple) reflected the place of God’s presence in heaven, in signifying God’s presence amongst his people.

Note: God’s presence amongst the Israelites was dependant on their continued obedience

Lev 26:3, 11-12  If you walk in my statutes and observe my commandments and do them, ▤ 11I will make my dwellingc among you, and my soul shall not abhor you. 12And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people. ▤ 

c Hebrew tabernacle

1Ki 6:12-13  “Concerning this house that you are building, if you will walk in my statutes and obey my rules and keep all my commandments and walk in them, then I will establish my word with you, which I spoke to David your father. 13And I will dwell among the children of Israel and will not forsake my people Israel.” ▤ 

1Ki 8:57-58, 61  The Lord our God be with us, as he was with our fathers. May he not leave us or forsake us, 58that he may incline our hearts to him, to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments, his statutes, and his rules, which he commanded our fathers. ▤ 61Let your heart therefore be wholly true to the Lord our God, walking in his statutes and keeping his commandments, as at this day. ▤ 

Solomon said this at the dedication of the temple. As such he would have had primarily in view God’s presence (amongst his people) in the temple.

  • If the people turned away from God, the temple would be destroyed:

1Ki 9:6-9  But if you turn aside from following me, you or your children, and do not keep my commandments and my statutes that I have set before you, but go and serve other gods and worship them, 7then I will cut off Israel from the land that I have given them, and the house that I have consecrated for my name I will cast out of my sight, and Israel will become a proverb and a byword among all peoples. 8And this house will become a heap of ruins.d Everyone passing by it will be astonished and will hiss, and they will say, ‘Why has the Lord done thus to this land and to this house?’ 9Then they will say, ‘Because they abandoned the Lord their God who brought their fathers out of the land of Egypt and laid hold on other gods and worshiped them and served them. Therefore the Lord has brought all this disaster on them.’ ▤ 

d Syriac, Old Latin; Hebrew will become high

Pray for persecuted Christians

God’s Faithfulness to His Covenant with Israel

The following subsections show that God was faithful to his covenant with Israel, keeping the promises he made with it.

God faithfully led Israel through the desert and provided for them

Neh 9:12, 15, 19-21  By a pillar of cloud you led them in the day, and by a pillar of fire in the night to light for them the way in which they should go. ▤ 15You gave them bread from heaven for their hunger and brought water for them out of the rock for their thirst, and you told them to go in to possess the land that you had sworn to give them. ▤ 19you in your great mercies did not forsake them in the wilderness. The pillar of cloud to lead them in the way did not depart from them by day, nor the pillar of fire by night to light for them the way by which they should go. 20You gave your good Spirit to instruct them and did not withhold your manna from their mouth and gave them water for their thirst. 21Forty years you sustained them in the wilderness, and they lacked nothing. Their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell. ▤ 

Ps 78:52-54  Then he led out his people like sheep and guided them in the wilderness like a flock. 53He led them in safety, so that they were not afraid, but the sea overwhelmed their enemies. 54And he brought them to his holy land, to the mountain which his right hand had won. ▤ 

Ps 105:39-42  He spread a cloud for a covering, and fire to give light by night. 40They asked, and he brought quail, and gave them bread from heaven in abundance. 41He opened the rock, and water gushed out; it flowed through the desert like a river. 42For he remembered his holy promise, and Abraham, his servant. ▤ 

Deut 2:7  For the Lord your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands. He knows your going through this great wilderness. These forty years the Lord your God has been with you. You have lacked nothing.” ▤ 

“He knows your going” refers to God having watched over the people’s journey (cf. NIV, NLT).

Deut 29:5  [Moses:] I have led you forty years in the wilderness. Your clothes have not worn out on you, and your sandals have not worn off your feet. ▤ 

Ps 77:20  You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron. ▤ 

  • God chose Joshua to lead the people after Moses:

Num 27:15-21  Moses spoke to the Lord, saying, 16“Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation 17who shall go out before them and come in before them, who shall lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the Lord may not be as sheep that have no shepherd.” 18So the Lord said to Moses, “Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him. 19Make him stand before Eleazar the priest and all the congregation, and you shall commission him in their sight. 20You shall invest him with some of your authority, that all the congregation of the people of Israel may obey. 21And he shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall inquire for him by the judgment of the Urim before the Lord. At his word they shall go out, and at his word they shall come in, both he and all the people of Israel with him, the whole congregation.” ▤ 

God promised that none of Israel’s enemies would withstand it – which he fulfilled

Ex 23:27  I will send my terror before you and will throw into confusion all the people against whom you shall come, and I will make all your enemies turn their backs to you. ▤ 

The last clause speaks of enemies turning around to flee.

Deut 9:1-3  Hear, O Israel: you are to cross over the Jordan today, to go in to dispossess nations greater and mightier than yourselves, cities great and fortified up to heaven, 2a people great and tall, the sons of the Anakim, whom you know, and of whom you have heard it said, ‘Who can stand before the sons of Anak?’ 3Know therefore today that he who goes over before you as a consuming fire is the Lord your God. He will destroy them and subdue them before you. So you shall drive them out and make them perish quickly, as the Lord has promised you. ▤ 

Deut 11:25  No one shall be able to stand against you. The Lord your God will lay the fear of you and the dread of you on all the land that you shall tread, as he promised you. ▤ 

Deut 28:7  The Lord will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before you. They shall come out against you one way and flee before you seven ways. ▤ 

Josh 1:5  No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. ▤ 

Here God is speaking to Joshua as leader of the Israelites.

Deut 2:36  From Aroer, which is on the edge of the Valley of the Arnon, and from the city that is in the valley, as far as Gilead, there was not a city too high for us. The Lord our God gave all into our hands. ▤ 

Deut 3:2-5  But the Lord said to me, ‘Do not fear him, for I have given him and all his people and his land into your hand. And you shall do to him as you did to Sihon the king of the Amorites, who lived at Heshbon.’ 3So the Lord our God gave into our hand Og also, the king of Bashan, and all his people, and we struck him down until he had no survivor left. 4And we took all his cities at that time—there was not a city that we did not take from them—sixty cities, the whole region of Argob, the kingdom of Og in Bashan. 5All these were cities fortified with high walls, gates, and bars, besides very many unwalled villages. ▤ 

This and 2:36 above speak of Israel defeating enemies prior to crossing the Jordan to enter the promised land of Canaan. Note that some of the Israelite tribes – the Gadites, the Reubenites and the half-tribe of Manasseh – settled in the land of the kingdoms mentioned here (cf. Num 32:33; Josh 13:8-13; 22:1-9).

Josh 6:2-5, 16, 20  And the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and mighty men of valor. 3You shall march around the city, all the men of war going around the city once. Thus shall you do for six days. 4Seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. On the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. 5And when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, when you hear the sound of the trumpet, then all the people shall shout with a great shout, and the wall of the city will fall down flat,e and the people shall go up, everyone straight before him.” ▤ 16And at the seventh time, when the priests had blown the trumpets, Joshua said to the people, “Shout, for the Lord has given you the city. ▤ 20So the people shouted, and the trumpets were blown. As soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people shouted a great shout, and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they captured the city. ▤ 

e Hebrew under itself; also verse 20

Josh 21:44b-45  Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the Lord had given all their enemies into their hands. 45Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass. ▤ 

Josh 23:9  For the Lord has driven out before you great and strong nations. And as for you, no man has been able to stand before you to this day. ▤ 

Conquering its inhabitants, God gave the promised land of Canaan to Israel – as an inheritance . . .

Josh 21:43  Thus the Lord gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers. And they took possession of it, and they settled there. ▤ 

Neh 9:23-24  You multiplied their children as the stars of heaven, and you brought them into the land that you had told their fathers to enter and possess. 24So the descendants went in and possessed the land, and you subdued before them the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, and gave them into their hand, with their kings and the peoples of the land, that they might do with them as they would. ▤ 

Ps 44:1-3  O God, we have heard with our ears, our fathers have told us, what deeds you performed in their days, in the days of old: 2you with your own hand drove out the nations, but them you planted; you afflicted the peoples, but them you set free; 3for not by their own sword did they win the land, nor did their own arm save them, but your right hand and your arm, and the light of your face, for you delighted in them. ▤ 

Ps 78:55  He drove out nations before them; he apportioned them for a possession and settled the tribes of Israel in their tents. ▤ 

Ps 105:44-45  And he gave them the lands of the nations, and they took possession of the fruit of the peoples’ toil, 45that they might keep his statutes and observe his laws. Praise the Lord! ▤ 

Ps 136:17-22  … to him who struck down great kings, for his steadfast love endures forever; 18and killed mighty kings, for his steadfast love endures forever; 19Sihon, king of the Amorites, for his steadfast love endures forever; 20and Og, king of Bashan, for his steadfast love endures forever; 21and gave their land as a heritage, for his steadfast love endures forever; 22a heritage to Israel his servant, for his steadfast love endures forever. ▤ 

Amos 2:9-10  Yet it was I who destroyed the Amorite before them, whose height was like the height of the cedars and who was as strong as the oaks; I destroyed his fruit above and his roots beneath. 10Also it was I who brought you up out of the land of Egypt and led you forty years in the wilderness, to possess the land of the Amorite. ▤ 

Josh 14:1-5  These are the inheritances that the people of Israel received in the land of Canaan, which Eleazar the priest and Joshua the son of Nun and the heads of the fathers’ houses of the tribes of the people of Israel gave them to inherit. 2Their inheritance was by lot, just as the Lord had commanded by the hand of Moses for the nine and one-half tribes. 3For Moses had given an inheritance to the two and one-half tribes beyond the Jordan, but to the Levites he gave no inheritance among them. 4For the people of Joseph were two tribes, Manasseh and Ephraim. And no portion was given to the Levites in the land, but only cities to dwell in, with their pasturelands for their livestock and their substance. 5The people of Israel did as the Lord commanded Moses; they allotted the land. ▤ 

The allocation of particular sections of the land to each of the tribes of Israel is detailed in Joshua 13-21.

. . . Description of the promised land: Its goodness and location

Deut 8:7-10  For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills, 8a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, 9a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. 10And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. ▤ 

Ex 3:8  … and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. ▤ 

Num 13:27  And they told him, “We came to the land to which you sent us. It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. ▤ 

Deut 11:10-12  For the land that you are entering to take possession of it is not like the land of Egypt, from which you have come, where you sowed your seed and irrigated it,f like a garden of vegetables. 11But the land that you are going over to possess is a land of hills and valleys, which drinks water by the rain from heaven, 12a land that the Lord your God cares for. The eyes of the Lord your God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year. ▤ 

f Hebrew watered it with your feet

Neh 9:25a  And they captured fortified cities and a rich land, and took possession of houses full of all good things, cisterns already hewn, vineyards, olive orchards and fruit trees in abundance. ▤ 

Gen 15:18-21  On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I giveg this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, 19the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, 20the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites.” ▤ 

g Or have given

Ex 23:31  And I will set your border from the Red Sea to the Sea of the Philistines, and from the wilderness to the Euphrates, for I will give the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you shall drive them out before you. ▤ 

Num 34:1-12  The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2“Command the people of Israel, and say to them, When you enter the land of Canaan (this is the land that shall fall to you for an inheritance, the land of Canaan as defined by its borders), 3your south side shall be from the wilderness of Zin alongside Edom, and your southern border shall run from the end of the Salt Sea on the east. 4And your border shall turn south of the ascent of Akrabbim, and cross to Zin, and its limit shall be south of Kadesh-barnea. Then it shall go on to Hazar-addar, and pass along to Azmon. 5And the border shall turn from Azmon to the Brook of Egypt, and its limit shall be at the sea. 6“For the western border, you shall have the Great Sea and itsh coast. This shall be your western border. 7“This shall be your northern border: from the Great Sea you shall draw a line to Mount Hor. 8From Mount Hor you shall draw a line to Lebo-hamath, and the limit of the border shall be at Zedad. 9Then the border shall extend to Ziphron, and its limit shall be at Hazar-enan. This shall be your northern border. 10“You shall draw a line for your eastern border from Hazar-enan to Shepham. 11And the border shall go down from Shepham to Riblah on the east side of Ain. And the border shall go down and reach to the shoulder of the Sea of Chinnereth on the east. 12And the border shall go down to the Jordan, and its limit shall be at the Salt Sea. This shall be your land as defined by its borders all around.” ▤ 

h Syriac; Hebrew lacks its

God duly cared for Israel in the promised land

Neh 9:25b  So they ate and were filled and became fat and delighted themselves in your great goodness. ▤ 

Ruth 1:1, 6  In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land, and a man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. ▤ 6Then she arose with her daughters-in-law to return from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the fields of Moab that the Lord had visited his people and given them food. ▤ 

Judg 2:16, 18  Then the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hand of those who plundered them. ▤ 18Whenever the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge, and he saved them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge. For the Lord was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who afflicted and oppressed them. ▤ 

1Sam 12:7, 11  Now therefore stand still that I may plead with you before the Lord concerning all the righteous deeds of the Lord that he performed for you and for your fathers. ▤ 11And the Lord sent Jerubbaal and Baraki and Jephthah and Samuel and delivered you out of the hand of your enemies on every side, and you lived in safety. ▤ 

i Septuagint, Syriac; Hebrew Bedan

1Chr 22:18a  “Is not the Lord your God with you? And has he not given you peace on every side? ▤ 

2Chr 32:21-22  And the Lord sent an angel, who cut off all the mighty warriors and commanders and officers in the camp of the king of Assyria. So he returned with shame of face to his own land. And when he came into the house of his god, some of his own sons struck him down there with the sword. 22So the Lord saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem from the hand of Sennacherib king of Assyria and from the hand of all his enemies, and he provided for them on every side. ▤ 

Neh 9:27-28  Therefore you gave them into the hand of their enemies, who made them suffer. And in the time of their suffering they cried out to you and you heard them from heaven, and according to your great mercies you gave them saviors who saved them from the hand of their enemies. 28But after they had rest they did evil again before you, and you abandoned them to the hand of their enemies, so that they had dominion over them. Yet when they turned and cried to you, you heard from heaven, and many times you delivered them according to your mercies. ▤ 

So, God was faithful to his covenants and promises with Abraham and Israel

See also:

Gen 21:1-2  The Lord visited Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did to Sarah as he had promised. 2And Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age at the time of which God had spoken to him. ▤ 

Deut 7:8-9  … but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 9Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations, … ▤ 

Neh 9:8  You found his [Abraham’s] heart faithful before you, and made with him the covenant to give to his offspring the land of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Perizzite, the Jebusite, and the Girgashite. And you have kept your promise, for you are righteous. ▤ 

Ps 105:8-11, 42-45  He remembers his covenant forever, the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations, 9the covenant that he made with Abraham, his sworn promise to Isaac, 10which he confirmed to Jacob as a statute, to Israel as an everlasting covenant, 11saying, “To you I will give the land of Canaan as your portion for an inheritance.” ▤ 42For he remembered his holy promise, and Abraham, his servant. 43So he brought his people out with joy, his chosen ones with singing. 44And he gave them the lands of the nations, and they took possession of the fruit of the peoples’ toil, 45that they might keep his statutes and observe his laws. Praise the Lord! ▤ 

Josh 21:43-45  Thus the Lord gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers. And they took possession of it, and they settled there. 44And the Lord gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the Lord had given all their enemies into their hands. 45Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass. ▤ 

Josh 23:10, 14  One man of you puts to flight a thousand, since it is the Lord your God who fights for you, just as he promised you. ▤ 14“And now I am about to go the way of all the earth, and you know in your hearts and souls, all of you, that not one word has failed of all the good thingsj that the Lord your God promised concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one of them has failed. ▤ 

j Or words; also twice in verse 15

1Ki 8:56  Blessed be the Lord who has given rest to his people Israel, according to all that he promised. Not one word has failed of all his good promise, which he spoke by Moses his servant. ▤ 

Josh 14:10  And now, behold, the Lord has kept me alive, just as he said, these forty-five years since the time that the Lord spoke this word to Moses, while Israel walked in the wilderness. And now, behold, I am this day eighty-five years old. ▤ 

Apart from Joshua and Caleb, all the Israelites had not trusted in God to enable them to conquer the promised land. So God had stated that that generation would die in the desert wanderings apart from Joshua and Caleb (cf. Num 14:26-30). Here Caleb attests to God’s faithfulness to this promise to him.

Luke 1:54-55, 69-75  He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.” ▤ 69and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, 70as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, 71that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us; 72to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, 73the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us 74that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, 75in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. ▤ 

The “horn of salvation” (v. 69) refers to the promised Messiah – Jesus Christ, by whom God would fulfill the promises referred to regarding salvation.

Heb 6:13-15  For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, 14saying, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.” 15And thus Abraham,k having patiently waited, obtained the promise. ▤ 

k Greek he

Pray for persecuted Christians

God’s Dealings and Covenant with David

David was chosen and anointed by God, as ruler over Israel

See also:

1Sam 16:1, 10-13a  The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go. I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.” ▤ 10And Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. And Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen these.” 11Then Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest,l but behold, he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and get him, for we will not sit down till he comes here.” 12And he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy and had beautiful eyes and was handsome. And the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him, for this is he.” 13Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David from that day forward. ▤ 

l Or smallest

2Sam 6:21  And David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me above your father and above all his house, to appoint me as prince over Israel, the people of the Lord—and I will make merry before the Lord. ▤ 

1Ki 8:16  ‘Since the day that I brought my people Israel out of Egypt, I chose no city out of all the tribes of Israel in which to build a house, that my name might be there. But I chose David to be over my people Israel.’ ▤ 

1Ki 11:34  Nevertheless, I will not take the whole kingdom out of his hand, but I will make him ruler all the days of his life, for the sake of David my servant whom I chose, who kept my commandments and my statutes. ▤ 

2Chr 6:6  … but I have chosen Jerusalem that my name may be there, and I have chosen David to be over my people Israel. ▤ 

Ps 78:70-71  He chose David his servant and took him from the sheepfolds; 71from following the nursing ewes he brought him to shepherd Jacob his people, Israel his inheritance. ▤ 

Ps 89:3, 20  You have said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one; I have sworn to David my servant: ▤ 20I have found David, my servant; with my holy oil I have anointed him, … ▤ 

2Sam 23:1  Now these are the last words of David: The oracle of David, the son of Jesse, the oracle of the man who was raised on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, the sweet psalmist of Israel:m … ▤ 

m Or the favorite of the songs of Israel

Ps 18:50  Great salvation he brings to his king, and shows steadfast love to his anointed, to David and his offspring forever. ▤ 

The term “his anointed” here primarily refers to David, the writer of this psalm.

  • God spoke of David as being his servant:

1Ki 11:31-32, 36, 38  And he said to Jeroboam, “Take for yourself ten pieces, for thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Behold, I am about to tear the kingdom from the hand of Solomon and will give you ten tribes 32(but he shall have one tribe, for the sake of my servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, the city that I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel), ▤ 36Yet to his son I will give one tribe, that David my servant may always have a lamp before me in Jerusalem, the city where I have chosen to put my name. ▤ 38And if you will listen to all that I command you, and will walk in my ways, and do what is right in my eyes by keeping my statutes and my commandments, as David my servant did, I will be with you and will build you a sure house, as I built for David, and I will give Israel to you. ▤ 

David is spoken of numerous times as God’s servant (cf. v. 34 ; Ps 78:70 ; Ps 89:3, 20 ), in a manner implying that he was so in a unique sense.

David reigned over Israel, as a powerful and righteous king – undergirded by God . . .

2Sam 5:1-4  Then all the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and said, “Behold, we are your bone and flesh. 2In times past, when Saul was king over us, it was you who led out and brought in Israel. And the Lord said to you, ‘You shall be shepherd of my people Israel, and you shall be prince over Israel.’” 3So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron, and King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the Lord, and they anointed David king over Israel. 4David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years. ▤ 

2Sam 5:10, 12  And David became greater and greater, for the Lord, the God of hosts, was with him. ▤ 12And David knew that the Lord had established him king over Israel, and that he had exalted his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel. ▤ 

1Chr 14:8, 16-17  When the Philistines heard that David had been anointed king over all Israel, all the Philistines went up to search for David. But David heard of it and went out against them. ▤ 16And David did as God commanded him, and they struck down the Philistine army from Gibeon to Gezer. 17And the fame of David went out into all lands, and the Lord brought the fear of him upon all nations. ▤ 

2Sam 8:6, 11-14  Then David put garrisons in Aram of Damascus, and the Syrians became servants to David and brought tribute. And the Lord gave victory to David wherever he went. ▤ 11These [articles of tribute] also King David dedicated to the Lord, together with the silver and gold that he dedicated from all the nations he subdued, 12from Edom, Moab, the Ammonites, the Philistines, Amalek, and from the spoil of Hadadezer the son of Rehob, king of Zobah. 13And David made a name for himself when he returned from striking down 18,000 Edomites in the Valley of Salt. 14Then he put garrisons in Edom; throughout all Edom he put garrisons, and all the Edomites became David’s servants. And the Lord gave victory to David wherever he went. ▤ 

2Sam 8:15  So David reigned over all Israel. And David administered justice and equity to all his people. ▤ 

Ps 78:72  With upright heart he [David] shepherded them and guided them with his skillful hand. ▤ 

Acts 13:22  And when he had removed him, he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.’ ▤ 

. . . However, David was not free of sin and trouble during his reign

2Sam 11:2-4  It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful. 3And David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, “Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” 4So David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she had been purifying herself from her uncleanness.) Then she returned to her house. ▤ 

2Sam 11:14-17, 26-27  In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it by the hand of Uriah. 15In the letter he wrote, “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, that he may be struck down, and die.” 16And as Joab was besieging the city, he assigned Uriah to the place where he knew there were valiant men. 17And the men of the city came out and fought with Joab, and some of the servants of David among the people fell. Uriah the Hittite also died. ▤ 26When the wife of Uriah heard that Uriah her husband was dead, she lamented over her husband. 27And when the mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord. ▤ 

2Sam 12:9-10  [The prophet Nathan, to David:] Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife. ▤ 

2Sam 24:10, 15  But David’s heart struck him after he had numbered the people. And David said to the Lord, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done. But now, O Lord, please take away the iniquity of your servant, for I have done very foolishly.” ▤ 15So the Lord sent a pestilence on Israel from the morning until the appointed time. And there died of the people from Dan to Beersheba 70,000 men. ▤ 

David’s sin in counting his fighting men was one of pride and self-reliance. It resulted in a devastating judgment on his kingdom (v. 15), which would have significantly reduced the number of his fighting men.

Ps 3:1-2  O Lord, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; 2many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God. Selahn ▤ 

n The meaning of the Hebrew word Selah, used frequently in the Psalms, is uncertain. It may be a musical or liturgical direction

This is the beginning of a psalm that David wrote when he fled from his son Absalom. Absalom led a rebellion against David (cf. 2Sam 15-18). It was the major part of the fulfillment of the prophesied punishment against David for his sin in regard to Uriah (cf. 2Sam 12:10 ). Absalom was successful for a time, even making himself king, before his death and the re-establishment of David’s rule over Israel. Note that there are a number of other psalms attributed to David which also speak of him undergoing great difficulties.

  • David ruled from Jerusalem, known as the City Of David:

2Sam 5:5-7, 9  At Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months, and at Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years.o 6And the king and his men went to Jerusalem against the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land, who said to David, “You will not come in here, but the blind and the lame will ward you off”—thinking, “David cannot come in here.” 7Nevertheless, David took the stronghold of Zion, that is, the city of David. ▤ 9And David lived in the stronghold and called it the city of David. And David built the city all around from the Millo inward. ▤ 

o Dead Sea Scroll lacks verses 4-5

Apart from the first few years of his reign (v. 5a), David ruled from Jerusalem – after conquering its inhabitants, the Jebusites (vv. 6-7).

God’s covenant with David, promising that David’s royal dynasty would last forever

See also:

2Sam 7:1-7  Now when the king lived in his house and the Lord had given him rest from all his surrounding enemies, 2the king said to Nathan the prophet, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells in a tent.” 3And Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that is in your heart, for the Lord is with you.” 4But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan, 5“Go and tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord: Would you build me a house to dwell in? 6I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent for my dwelling. 7In all places where I have moved with all the people of Israel, did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”’ ▤ 

In his devotion to God, David desired to build a temple or house for God. This led to God subsequently making a wonderful and highly significant promise or covenant with David regarding David’s own “house” and descendants (cf. vv. 11-16 ).

2Sam 7:8-16  Now, therefore, thus you shall say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel. 9And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. 10And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, 11from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. 12When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, 15but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. 16And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me.p Your throne shall be established forever.’ ▤ 

p Septuagint; Hebrew you

In vv. 11, 16 “house” refers to a royal dynasty that God would build for David, in response to his desire to build a “house” (v. 13) or temple for God. The “offspring” spoken of in vv. 12-15 initially refers to David’s son Solomon, but is generally understood to ultimately speak of the Messiah. As such this covenant provided the people of Israel with the hope of a permanently secure kingdom (vv. 10-11a) under a godly and powerful king.

2Sam 23:5  For does not my house stand so with God? For he has made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and secure. For will he not cause to prosper all my help and my desire? ▤ 

The first rhetorical question is either referring to David’s house being chosen by God (cf. NLT) in God’s “everlasting covenant” with him, or to it being righteous before God (cf. vv. 3-4; AMP, NRSV).

1Ki 2:45  But King Solomon shall be blessed, and the throne of David shall be established before the Lord forever. ▤ 

2Chr 13:5  Ought you not to know that the Lord God of Israel gave the kingship over Israel forever to David and his sons by a covenant of salt? ▤ 

Ps 89:3-4, 28-37  You have said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one; I have sworn to David my servant: 4‘I will establish your offspring forever, and build your throne for all generations.’” Selah ▤ 28My steadfast love I will keep for him forever, and my covenant will stand firmq for him. 29I will establish his offspring forever and his throne as the days of the heavens. 30If his children forsake my law and do not walk according to my rules,r 31if they violate my statutes and do not keep my commandments, 32then I will punish their transgression with the rod and their iniquity with stripes, 33but I will not remove from him my steadfast love or be false to my faithfulness. 34I will not violate my covenant or alter the word that went forth from my lips. 35Once for all I have sworn by my holiness; I will not lie to David. 36His offspring shall endure forever, his throne as long as the sun before me. 37Like the moon it shall be established forever, a faithful witness in the skies.” Selah ▤ 

q Or will remain faithful

r Or my just decrees

Jer 33:25-26  Thus says the Lord: If I have not established my covenant with day and night and the fixed order of heaven and earth, 26then I will reject the offspring of Jacob and David my servant and will not choose one of his offspring to rule over the offspring of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For I will restore their fortunes and will have mercy on them. ▤ 

  • Extracts from David’s response to God’s covenant promises:

2Sam 7:18-19, 28-29  Then King David went in and sat before the Lord and said, “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far? 19And yet this was a small thing in your eyes, O Lord God. You have spoken also of your servant’s house for a great while to come, and this is instruction for mankind, O Lord God! ▤ 28And now, O Lord God, you are God, and your words are true, and you have promised this good thing to your servant. 29Now therefore may it please you to bless the house of your servant, so that it may continue forever before you. For you, O Lord God, have spoken, and with your blessing shall the house of your servant be blessed forever.” ▤ 

The meaning of the Hebrew for the last clause in v. 19 is uncertain. It may be speaking of God’s gracious promise to David providing a lesson for all people, or of it being unusually gracious – “Is this the way you usually treat people?” (CEV; cf. NCV, NIV, NLT).

The royal line of any king descended from David would continue if he obeyed God as David did

See also:

Ps 132:11-12  The Lord swore to David a sure oath from which he will not turn back: “One of the sons of your bodys I will set on your throne. 12If your sons keep my covenant and my testimonies that I shall teach them, their sons also forever shall sit on your throne.” ▤ 

s Hebrew of your fruit of the womb

2Chr 7:17-18  And as for you, if you will walk before me as David your father walked, doing according to all that I have commanded you and keeping my statutes and my rules, 18then I will establish your royal throne, as I covenanted with David your father, saying, ‘You shall not lack a man to rule Israel.’ ▤ 

Jer 22:1-5  Thus says the Lord: “Go down to the house of the king of Judah and speak there this word, 2and say, ‘Hear the word of the Lord, O king of Judah, who sits on the throne of David, you, and your servants, and your people who enter these gates. 3Thus says the Lord: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place. 4For if you will indeed obey this word, then there shall enter the gates of this house kings who sit on the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, they and their servants and their people. 5But if you will not obey these words, I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that this house shall become a desolation. ▤ 

Note that in v. 5, “this house” refers to the king’s palace (cf. v. 1).

Jer 36:30-31  Therefore thus says the Lord concerning Jehoiakim king of Judah: He shall have none to sit on the throne of David, and his dead body shall be cast out to the heat by day and the frost by night. 31And I will punish him and his offspring and his servants for their iniquity. I will bring upon them and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem and upon the people of Judah all the disaster that I have pronounced against them, but they would not hear. ▤ 

  • Despite the wickedness of some descendants of David, God would not destroy David’s house, because of his covenant with David:

2Chr 21:5-7  Jehoram was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned eight years in Jerusalem. 6And he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, as the house of Ahab had done, for the daughter of Ahab was his wife. And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. 7Yet the Lord was not willing to destroy the house of David, because of the covenant that he had made with David, and since he had promised to give a lamp to him and to his sons forever. ▤ 

Although God may have destroyed the family line of some of David’s descendants who were wicked (cf. Jer 36:30 ), God would not destroy the whole house of David because of his covenant with David.

Note: God chose Jerusalem, David’s city, as his dwelling place . . .

See also:

God chose the city of Jerusalem, from which David ruled, to be the place which signified his presence among his people – as consummately indicated by the building of God’s temple there. As such it was the center of worship of God. Note that Jerusalem is often referred to as “Zion”. This was originally the name of one of the hills on which Jerusalem was built, but came to be used to signify all of Jerusalem.

As seen in the second half of chapter 20, there are numerous prophecies portraying Jerusalem as becoming: the place of God’s renewed, consummate presence; the center of worldwide worship of God; and the focal point of God’s kingdom.

Ps 132:13-14  For the Lord has chosen Zion; he has desired it for his dwelling place: 14“This is my resting place forever; here I will dwell, for I have desired it. ▤ 

1Ki 11:13, 32, 36  However, I will not tear away all the kingdom, but I will give one tribe to your son, for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem that I have chosen.” ▤ 32(but he shall have one tribe, for the sake of my servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, the city that I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel), ▤ 36Yet to his son I will give one tribe, that David my servant may always have a lamp before me in Jerusalem, the city where I have chosen to put my name. ▤ 

In v. 36b (cf. 2Chr 3:7 ) God speaks of Jerusalem as being the city he chose to signify his presence, in effect where he “chose to be worshiped” (NCV™; cf. CEV, GNT).

1Chr 23:25  For David said, “The Lord, the God of Israel, has given rest to his people, and he dwells in Jerusalem forever. ▤ 

Ps 46:4-5  There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. 5God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. ▤ 

Note that in regard to the “river” (v. 4), Jerusalem had no actual river. It appears to be a metaphor for blessings.

Ps 48:1-2  Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised in the city of our God! His holy mountain, 2beautiful in elevation, is the joy of all the earth, Mount Zion, in the far north, the city of the great King. ▤ 

Ps 50:2  Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth. ▤ 

Ps 68:16, 18  Why do you look with hatred, O many-peaked mountain, at the mount that God desired for his abode, yes, where the Lord will dwell forever? ▤ 18You ascended on high, leading a host of captives in your train and receiving gifts among men, even among the rebellious, that the Lord God may dwell there. ▤ 

“You ascended on high” (v. 18) appears to speak of God ascending to the heights of Mount Zion, so as to “dwell there” (cf. NIrV). With the reference to captives and to God receiving gifts, David may be referring to his own conquest of enemies and receiving tribute from them, much of which he devoted to God (cf. 2Sam 8:11).

Ps 87:1-2  On the holy mount stands the city he founded; 2the Lord loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwelling places of Jacob. ▤ 

Ps 135:21  Blessed be the Lord from Zion, he who dwells in Jerusalem! Praise the Lord! ▤ 

. . . As such, God’s temple was built in Jerusalem – by Solomon, David’s son

2Chr 3:1  Then Solomon began to build the house of the Lord in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the Lordt had appeared to David his father, at the place that David had appointed, on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. ▤ 

t Septuagint; Hebrew lacks the Lord

1Ki 6:1-2, 7, 22, 38  In the four hundred and eightieth year after the people of Israel came out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv, which is the second month, he began to build the house of the Lord. 2The house that King Solomon built for the Lord was sixty cubitsu long, twenty cubits wide, and thirty cubits high. ▤ 7When the house was built, it was with stone prepared at the quarry, so that neither hammer nor axe nor any tool of iron was heard in the house while it was being built. ▤ 22And he overlaid the whole house with gold, until all the house was finished. Also the whole altar that belonged to the inner sanctuary he overlaid with gold. ▤ 38And in the eleventh year, in the month of Bul, which is the eighth month, the house was finished in all its parts, and according to all its specifications. He was seven years in building it. ▤ 

u A cubit was about 18 inches or 45 centimeters

2Chr 6:1-2, 4-10  Then Solomon said, “The Lord has said that he would dwell in thick darkness. 2But I have built you an exalted house, a place for you to dwell in forever.” ▤ 4And he said, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who with his hand has fulfilled what he promised with his mouth to David my father, saying, 5‘Since the day that I brought my people out of the land of Egypt, I chose no city out of all the tribes of Israel in which to build a house, that my name might be there, and I chose no man as prince over my people Israel; 6but I have chosen Jerusalem that my name may be there, and I have chosen David to be over my people Israel.’ 7Now it was in the heart of David my father to build a house for the name of the Lord, the God of Israel. 8But the Lord said to David my father, ‘Whereas it was in your heart to build a house for my name, you did well that it was in your heart. 9Nevertheless, it is not you who shall build the house, but your son who shall be born to you shall build the house for my name.’ 10Now the Lord has fulfilled his promise that he made. For I have risen in the place of David my father and sit on the throne of Israel, as the Lord promised, and I have built the house for the name of the Lord, the God of Israel. ▤ 

Note the references to God fulfilling his promise to David regarding the building of the temple (vv. 4, 10). Later in v. 15 Solomon further attests to God’s faithfulness to David: [You God] “who have kept with your servant David my father what you declared to him. You spoke with your mouth, and with your hand have fulfilled it this day.”

2Chr 33:7  And the carved image of the idol that he had made he set in the house of God, of which God said to David and to Solomon his son, “In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I will put my name forever, … ▤ 

This and the following references speak further of the temple, God’s house, being in Jerusalem.

2Chr 36:14  All the officers of the priests and the people likewise were exceedingly unfaithful, following all the abominations of the nations. And they polluted the house of the Lord that he had made holy in Jerusalem. ▤ 

Ezra 1:3  Whoever is among you of all his people, may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel—he is the God who is in Jerusalem. ▤ 

This refers to the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem after its destruction by the Babylonians and the exile.

Ps 68:29  Because of your temple at Jerusalem kings shall bear gifts to you. ▤ 

Isa 31:9  His rock shall pass away in terror, and his officers desert the standard in panic,” declares the Lord, whose fire is in Zion, and whose furnace is in Jerusalem. ▤ 

The use of “fire” and “furnace” may refer to God’s altar – and the offerings made on it – in the temple in Jerusalem.

  • The background to the choosing of the site of the temple:

1Chr 21:13-19, 25-30; 22:1  Then David said to Gad, “I am in great distress. Let me fall into the hand of the Lord, for his mercy is very great, but do not let me fall into the hand of man.” 14So the Lord sent a pestilence on Israel, and 70,000 men of Israel fell. 15And God sent the angel to Jerusalem to destroy it, but as he was about to destroy it, the Lord saw, and he relented from the calamity. And he said to the angel who was working destruction, “It is enough; now stay your hand.” And the angel of the Lord was standing by the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. 16And David lifted his eyes and saw the angel of the Lord standing between earth and heaven, and in his hand a drawn sword stretched out over Jerusalem. Then David and the elders, clothed in sackcloth, fell upon their faces. 17And David said to God, “Was it not I who gave command to number the people? It is I who have sinned and done great evil. But these sheep, what have they done? Please let your hand, O Lord my God, be against me and against my father’s house. But do not let the plague be on your people.” 18Now the angel of the Lord had commanded Gad to say to David that David should go up and raise an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. 19So David went up at Gad’s word, which he had spoken in the name of the Lord. ▤ 25So David paid Ornan 600 shekelsv of gold by weight for the site. 26And David built there an altar to the Lord and presented burnt offerings and peace offerings and called on the Lord, and the Lordw answered him with fire from heaven upon the altar of burnt offering. 27Then the Lord commanded the angel, and he put his sword back into its sheath. 28At that time, when David saw that the Lord had answered him at the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite, he sacrificed there. 29For the tabernacle of the Lord, which Moses had made in the wilderness, and the altar of burnt offering were at that time in the high place at Gibeon, 30but David could not go before it to inquire of God, for he was afraid of the sword of the angel of the Lord. ▤  22:1Then David said, “Here shall be the house of the Lord God and here the altar of burnt offering for Israel.” ▤ 

v A shekel was about 2/5 ounce or 11 grams

w Hebrew he

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