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The Tent of Meeting and Moses’ Prominence

Submitted by on Wednesday, 29 July 2009No Comment


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With the Golden Calf incident, Yahweh began to distance himself from Israel. This distancing will have “physical” signs. The first sign is that the people of Israel will no longer wear their ornaments. They are to take them off as a symbol of the absence of Israel’s Glory. The second sign is that the Tent of Meeting formerly situated inside the camp will be set up outside the camp. The Tent of Meeting used to be the place where an Israelite went seeking the Lord. “To seek the Lord” has here its original sense: “to ask for some favor from the Lord”. Now however it would be Moses alone who will go into the Tent so as to speak to the Lord face-to-face.

The description of what transpires, i.e. Moses entering the Tent, the pillar of cloud appearing outside the Tent, and the people standing outside in front of their own tents anticipates the rubrics of the entrance of the high priest into the Holy of Holies. The pillar of cloud points to the veil that covers the Holy of Holies from the sight of the people standing outside. At the death of Jesus on the cross, this veil will be torn asunder from top to bottom symbolizing the end of the estrangement of man from God (Mark 15:38).

A note in Exodus 33:11 about Joshua remaining inside the Tent when Moses had left to return to the camp anticipates his later role as the one who would lead Israel in a renewal of the covenant within the Promised Land itself (Joshua 24). Joshua was with Moses, albeit some distance away, when Israel went wild with the Golden Calf. And it is he who will lead Israel into the Promised Land later.

Another sign of the estrangement of the Lord from Israel is the greater prominence placed on Moses. Apart from the fact that he has the exclusive privilege of speaking with Yahweh as friend to friend, he will be privileged to see the Glory of Yahweh pass by. Later, all prophets in Israel will have to be measured against his figure.

Beginning Exodus 32, the kind of prominence that Moses enjoys before Yahweh is highlighted. In Ex. 32, Yahweh had offered to make Moses the head of a new nation. This offer was rejected by Moses reminding Yahweh of the covenants made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Later, Moses will convince Yahweh to accompany the people all the way to the Promised Land. Hence, all the events narrated in Numbers where Yahweh stands by Israel as it faces its enemies is a favor granted for the sake of Moses. Finally Deuteronomy will all be Moses exhorting Israel to live in gratitude to the Lord who has made a covenant with them.

The Golden Calf incident changed the relationship of Israel and Yahweh. Israel has been demoted, they will now have to show that they can be faithful and loyal by passing the tests they will meet in the desert.

Mark 15:38
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg Greek
38And the veil of the temple was rent in two, from the top to the bottom.
Exodus 33:11
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11And the Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man is wont to speak to his friend. And when he returned into the camp, his servant Josue the son of Nun, a young man, departed not from the tabernacle.

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