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The Altar for Burning Incense

The Lord said to Moses:

30 Build an altar of acacia wood where you can burn incense. Make it eighteen inches square and thirty-six inches high, and make each of its four corners stick up like the horn of a bull. Cover it with pure gold and put a gold edging around it. Then below the edging on opposite sides attach two gold rings through which you can put the poles for carrying the altar. These poles are also to be made of acacia wood covered with gold.

Put the altar in front of the inside curtain of the sacred tent. The chest with the place of mercy[a] is kept behind that curtain, and I will talk with you there. 7-8 From now on, when Aaron tends the lamp each morning and evening, he must burn sweet-smelling incense to me on the altar. Burn only the proper incense on the altar and never use it for grain sacrifices or animal sacrifices or drink offerings. 10 Once a year Aaron must purify the altar by smearing on its four corners[b] the blood of an animal sacrificed for sin, and this practice must always be followed. The altar is sacred because it is dedicated to me.

The Money for the Sacred Tent

11 The Lord said to Moses:

12 Find out how many grown men there are in Israel and require each of them to pay me to keep him safe from danger while you are counting them. 13-15 Each man over nineteen, whether rich or poor, must pay me the same amount of money, weighed according to the official standards. 16 This money is to be used for the upkeep of the sacred tent, and because of it, I will never forget my people.

The Large Bronze Bowl

17 The Lord said to Moses:

18-21 Make a large bronze bowl and a bronze stand for it. Then put them between the altar for sacrifice and the sacred tent, so the priests can wash their hands and feet before entering the tent or offering a sacrifice on the altar. Each priest in every generation must wash himself in this way, or else he will die right there.

The Oil for Dedication and Ordination

22 The Lord said to Moses:

23-25 Mix a gallon of olive oil with the following costly spices: twelve pounds of myrrh, six pounds of cinnamon, six pounds of cane, and twelve pounds of cassia. Measure these according to the official standards. Then use this sacred mixture 26 for dedicating the tent and chest, 27 the table with its equipment, the lampstand with its equipment, the incense altar with all its utensils, 28 the altar for sacrifices, and the large bowl with its stand. 29 By dedicating them in this way, you will make them so holy that anyone who even touches them will become holy.

30 When you ordain Aaron and his sons as my priests, sprinkle them with some of this oil, 31 and say to the people of Israel: “This oil must always be used in the ordination service of a priest. It is holy because it is dedicated to the Lord. 32 So treat it as holy! Don’t ever use it for everyday purposes or mix any for yourselves. 33 If you do, you will no longer belong to the Lord’s people.”

The Sweet-Smelling Incense

34-35 Mix equal amounts of the costly spices stacte, onycha, galbanum, and pure frankincense, then add salt to make the mixture pure and holy. 36 Pound some of it into powder and sprinkle it in front of the sacred chest, where I meet with you. Be sure to treat this incense as something very holy. 37 It is truly holy because it is dedicated to me, so don’t ever make any for yourselves. 38 If you ever make any of it to use as perfume, you will no longer belong to my people.

The Lord Chooses Bezalel and Oholiab

31 The Lord said to Moses:

I have chosen Bezalel[c] from the Judah tribe to make the sacred tent and its furnishings. 3-5 Not only have I filled him with my Spirit, but I have given him wisdom and made him a skilled craftsman who can create objects of art with gold, silver, bronze, stone, and wood. I have appointed Oholiab[d] from the tribe of Dan to work with him, and I have also given skills to those who will help them make everything exactly as I have commanded you: 7-11 the sacred tent with its furnishings, the sacred chest with its place of mercy, the table with all that is on it, the lamp with its equipment, the incense altar, the altar for sacrifices with its equipment, the bronze bowl with its stand, the beautiful priestly clothes for Aaron and his sons, the oil for dedication and ordination services, and the sweet-smelling incense for the holy place.

Laws for the Sabbath

12-13 Moses told the Israelites that the Lord had said:

The Sabbath belongs to me. Now I command you and your descendants to always obey the laws of the Sabbath. By doing this, you will know that I have chosen you as my own. 14-15 Keep the Sabbath holy. You have six days to do your work, but the Sabbath is mine, and it must remain a day of rest. If you work on the Sabbath, you will no longer be part of my people, and you will be put to death.

16 Every generation of Israelites must respect the Sabbath. 17 This day will always serve as a reminder, both to me and to the Israelites, that I made the heavens and the earth in six days, then on the seventh day I rested and relaxed.

18 When God had finished speaking to Moses on Mount Sinai, he gave him the two flat stones on which he had written all of his laws with his own hand.

The People Make an Idol To Worship

32 After the people saw that Moses had been on the mountain for a long time, they went to Aaron and said, “Make us an image of a god who will lead and protect us. Moses brought us out of Egypt, but nobody knows what has happened to him.”

Aaron told them, “Bring me the gold earrings that your wives and sons and daughters are wearing.” Everybody took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron, then he melted them and made an idol in the shape of a young bull.

All the people said to one another, “This is the god who brought us out of Egypt!”

When Aaron saw what was happening, he built an altar in front of the idol and said, “Tomorrow we will celebrate in honor of the Lord.” The people got up early the next morning and killed some animals to be used for sacrifices and others to be eaten. Then everyone ate and drank so much that they began to carry on like wild people.

The Lord said to Moses:

Hurry back down! Those people you led out of Egypt are acting like fools. They have already stopped obeying me and have made themselves an idol in the shape of a young bull. They have bowed down to it, offered sacrifices, and said that it is the god who brought them out of Egypt. Moses, I have seen how stubborn these people are, 10 and I’m angry enough to destroy them, so don’t try to stop me. But I will make your descendants into a great nation.

11 Moses tried to get the Lord God to change his mind:

Our Lord, you used your mighty power to bring these people out of Egypt. Now don’t become angry and destroy them. 12 If you do, the Egyptians will say that you brought your people out here into the mountains just to get rid of them. Please don’t be angry with your people. Don’t destroy them!

13 Remember the solemn promise you made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. You promised that someday they would have as many descendants as there are stars in the sky and that you would give them land.

14 So even though the Lord had threatened to destroy the people, he changed his mind and let them live.

15-16 Moses went back down the mountain with the two flat stones on which God had written all of his laws with his own hand, and he had used both sides of the stones.

17 When Joshua heard the noisy shouts of the people, he said to Moses, “A battle must be going on down in the camp.”

18 But Moses replied, “It doesn’t sound like they are shouting because they have won or lost a battle. They are singing wildly!”

19 As Moses got closer to the camp, he saw the idol, and he also saw the people dancing around. This made him so angry that he threw down the stones and broke them to pieces at the foot of the mountain. 20 He melted the idol the people had made, and he ground it into powder. He scattered it in their water and made them drink it. 21 Moses asked Aaron, “What did these people do to harm you? Why did you make them sin in this terrible way?”

22 Aaron answered:

Don’t be angry with me. You know as well as I do that they are determined to do evil. 23 They even told me, “That man Moses led us out of Egypt, but now we don’t know what has happened to him. Make us a god to lead us.” 24 Then I asked them to bring me their gold earrings. They took them off and gave them to me. I threw the gold into a fire, and out came this bull.

25 Moses knew that the people were out of control and that it was Aaron’s fault. And now they had made fools of themselves in front of their enemies. 26 So Moses stood at the gate of the camp and shouted, “Everyone who is on the Lord’s side come over here!”

Then the men of the Levi tribe gathered around Moses, 27 and he said to them, “The Lord God of Israel commands you to strap on your swords and go through the camp, killing your relatives, your friends, and your neighbors.”

28 The men of the Levi tribe followed his orders, and that day they killed about three thousand men. 29 Moses said to them, “You obeyed the Lord and did what was right, and so you will serve as his priests for the people of Israel. It was hard for you to kill your own sons and brothers, but the Lord has blessed you and made you his priests today.”

30 The next day Moses told the people, “This is a terrible thing you have done. But I will go back to the Lord to see if I can do something to keep this sin from being held against you.”

31 Moses returned to the Lord and said, “The people have committed a terrible sin. They have made a gold idol to be their god. 32 But I beg you to forgive them. If you don’t, please wipe my name out of your book.”[e]

33 The Lord replied, “I will wipe out of my book the name of everyone who has sinned against me. 34 Now take my people to the place I told you about, and my angel will lead you. But when the time comes, I will punish them for this sin.”

35 So the Lord punished the people of Israel with a terrible disease for talking Aaron into making the gold idol.

Footnotes

  1. 30.6 place of mercy: See the note at 26.34.
  2. 30.10 four corners: See 27.2; 30.2.
  3. 31.2 Bezalel: Hebrew “Bezalel, son of Uri and grandson of Hur.”
  4. 31.6 Oholiab: Hebrew “Oholiab son of Ahisamach.”
  5. 32.32 your book: The people of Israel believed that the Lord kept a record of the names of his people, and anyone whose name was removed from that book no longer belonged to the Lord.