24:9 Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up, 1 24:10 and they saw 2 the God of Israel. Under his feet 3 there was something like a pavement 4 made of sapphire, clear like the sky itself. 5 24:11 But he did not lay a hand 6 on the leaders of the Israelites, so they saw God, 7 and they ate and they drank. 8
sn This next section is extremely interesting, but difficult to interpret. For some of the literature, see: E. W. Nicholson, “The Interpretation of Exodus 24:9-11,” VT 24 (1974): 77-97; “The Antiquity of the Tradition in Exodus 24:9-11,” VT 26 (1976): 148-60; and T. C. Vriezen, “The Exegesis of Exodus 24:9-11,” OTS 17 (1967): 24-53.
2 sn S. R. Driver (Exodus, 254) wishes to safeguard the traditional idea that God could not be seen by reading “they saw the place where the God of Israel stood” so as not to say they saw God. But according to U. Cassuto there is not a great deal of difference between “and they saw the God” and “the
3 sn S. R. Driver suggests that they saw the divine Glory, not directly, but as they looked up from below, through what appeared to be a transparent blue sapphire pavement (Exodus, 254).
4 tn Or “tiles.”
5 tn Heb “and like the body of heaven for clearness.” The Hebrew term שָׁמַיִם (shamayim) may be translated “heaven” or “sky” depending on the context; here, where sapphire is mentioned (a blue stone) “sky” seems more appropriate, since the transparent blueness of the sapphire would appear like the blueness of the cloudless sky.
6 tn Heb “he did not stretch out his hand,” i.e., to destroy them.
7 tn The verb is חָזָה (khazah); it can mean “to see, perceive” or “see a vision” as the prophets did. The LXX safeguarded this by saying, “appeared in the place of God.” B. Jacob says they beheld – prophetically, religiously (Exodus, 746) – but the meaning of that is unclear. The fact that God did not lay a hand on them – to kill them – shows that they saw something that they never expected to see and live. Some Christian interpreters have taken this to refer to a glorious appearance of the preincarnate Christ, the second person of the Trinity. They saw the brilliance of this manifestation – but not the detail. Later, Moses will still ask to see God’s glory – the real presence behind the phenomena.
8 sn This is the covenant meal, the peace offering, that they are eating there on the mountain. To eat from the sacrifice meant that they were at peace with God, in covenant with him. Likewise, in the new covenant believers draw near to God on the basis of sacrifice, and eat of the sacrifice because they are at peace with him, and in Christ they see the Godhead revealed.