Desiring God: The Blood Of The Covenant In Exodus 24 -- By: Amy L. B. Peeler

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 23:2 (NA 2013)
Article: Desiring God: The Blood Of The Covenant In Exodus 24
Author: Amy L. B. Peeler

Desiring God:
The Blood Of The Covenant In Exodus 24

Amy L. B. Peeler

Indiana Wesleyan University

The ritual depicted in Exod 24 stands as one of the most unusual in Israel’s Scriptures. Moses tosses sacrificial blood on the entire congregation in the midst of confirming God’s covenant with them. Multiple theories have arisen for the possible meaning or function of this striking ritual act. This essay argues for the use of a narrative method to understand this event better in light of the events that precede and follow it. When viewed in the context of Exodus as a whole, the application of the blood on the congregation does serve to seal the covenant and consecrate the people, as others have argued. In light of the use of blood in Israel and other ancient Near Eastern cultures, however, the application of blood also serves to create an expectation and desire for the immediate nearness of God.

Key Words: Exod 24, blood, covenant, ritual, Moses, Mount Sinai, idol, desire

Author’s note: I wish to express appreciation to the John Wesley Honors College at Indiana Wesleyan University, which provided the time, resources, and critique for the completion of this article.

Moses took the blood and dashed it on the people, and said,
“See the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made
with you in accordance with all these words.”

Exod 24:8, NRSV1


“This is, to say the least,” William Gilders notes regarding Exod 24:8, “a striking ritual act.”2 It is also, to say more, a singular event in the record of Israel’s Scriptures. In no other ceremony is the entire congregation of Israel anointed with blood, and in no other instance is this anointing so effusive.

The ritual’s striking character compels exegetes to discover its meaning,3 but without any commentary on the ritual in the passage itself and with no other like event with which to compare it, a more profitable question than “What does it mean?” might be “What does it do?” or “What are its effects?”4 The blood of the covenant ceremony in Exod 24 comes first in a series of unusual events. Immediately after it, a group of ...

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