Exodus 28-31

These small group studies of Exodus contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications.  Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.

Exodus 28-31 Inductive Bible Study

I. Exodus 28 – The priests’ clothes.

Discussion Questions

Who were to be the priests of Israel?

Who chose for Aaron and his sons to be priests?

Why do you think his sons are divided into two groups in verse 1? What happened to Nadab and Abihu do later?

What words were used to describe their clothes (verse 2)?

Why was such care taken for their clothes?

As priest, who was Aaron serving? Who else was he serving?

What is the ephod?

What were some of the special features of this ephod?

What was the name for the breastplate? Why was it called the breastplate of judgment?

Why would the names of the 12 tribes be inscribed on the stones on it? What effect would this have on Aaron?

What is the Urim and Thummim? What was the purpose of it? Why is it significant that only the high priest carried these objects?

Verses on Urim/Thummim: Numbers 27:21, 1 Samuel 28:6, Ezra 2:63

Chapter 28 Teaching Points

1. God was the one who chose Aaron and his sons to be priests. They did not appoint themselves to this position. However, they seemed to willingly accept the task God had given them to do. God has different tasks for different people. Whatever task He gives to us, we should do it faithfully.

2. Moses groups Nadab and Abihu into one group and Aaron’s other two sons into another group, probably because Nadab and Abihu would later rebel against the Lord and be executed by Him.

3. Verse 3 makes it clear the skillful workers received their skill and wisdom directly from God. There was no room for becoming prideful or praising themselves for their successes. Why were they skillful, but their neighbors, brothers, or friends weren’t? They were skillful because God saw fit to give them these talents. And He gave them these talents so that they could complete this special task that He gave to them. Romans 12:6-8, Ephesians 1:17, Matthew 25:15, 1 Corinthians 12:4-6, Ecc 5:19, Deuteronomy 8:17-18. He didn’t give everybody the same skills. Even of the ones God did give special skills to, some He made good smiths, some good carpenters, some good weavers, etc. In a similar way, in the church, God gives each of us different gifts, abilities, and talents. Each is to use his own talents for the good of the body and for the glory of the Lord. We are to be grateful for the gifts God has given us without any bragging or pride. Even in secular areas, our skills as good typists, writers, painters, programmers, doctors, etc. are given by God. Remember to thank God for them. Remember to use what you have for others, and not for yourselves. See also chapter 31.

4. These were called “holy garments” (verse 4). They were beautiful and expensive to remind the people of the important role the priests had as representatives of God to the people. It also served to remind the priests of their important work and ministry to God. Their clothes were very formal and discouraged them from having a casual attitude towards their work and towards the Lord. At times the ephod itself became a snare to the people who became enthralled with its beauty (in the time of Gideon).

5. Each of the 12 tribes of Israel was to be inscribed on the stones and put on the breastplate over Aaron’s heart as well as future high priests. Why? This would remind the high priest that he was a servant of the people. It would remind him to intercede for the people, lead a good example, and teach the people what was right. It would help the high priest to keep focused on why he was there and what his purpose was. It’s like a pilot that keeps photos of his family in the cockpit of his plane so that he will remember what he is protecting every time he flies a mission, or a doctor that keeps photos of the patients he has helped on his wall to remember his motivation for getting up and heading to the surgery department every morning. Because there weren’t photos at that time, instead their names were inscribed in a rock close to his heart. Unfortunately sometimes priests got a big head because of their high position. They fell in love with their power and abused it (such as Annanias and Caiaphas.) At times the priests abused their position in order to profit personally, like the sons of Eli (you can see God’s view of their behavior since God punished them by death). Unfortunately there have been times in the history of the church, where church leaders have fallen into this same trap. What is the cause? It would do us well too, if we are teachers, or leaders or do any kind of ministry to always remember why we started off doing this thing and our real purpose. Our purpose is to help build the church and to help others, to strengthen and encourage. Never became prideful or consider that the people “under” you are there to give you power, money or position. We would do well to remember Jesus’ instructions on correct leadership. What were they? He always espouses and demonstrated servant leadership.

6.Urim and Thummim. Verses on Urim/Thummim: Numbers 27:21, 1 Samuel 28:6, Ezra 2:63

It is unknown exactly what these were. But we do know the purpose. The purpose was to know the will of God. Perhaps a question was asked and God used these objects to divinely give an answer of “no” or “yes.” Regardless of the exact method of obtaining the will of God, they were to be used as a way of inquiring of the Lord. God had a very special relationship with Israel, His chosen people. He condescended to live with them and dwell among them. He was also readily available to give them instructions and guidance. Remember that at that time there was no Scripture yet written so believers in God could not go to Scripture for principles on what to do. They could only go directly to God. God would graciously answer. The priest, as representative of the people, carried the Urim and Thummim and as such had the authority and right to use them to inquire of the Lord. Unfortunately, many times in Israel’s history they refused to turn to God for help and instead acted from their own wisdom. The result was often disastrous and indicative of their rebellion against the Lord. While we don’t have this clear method for obtaining guidance from God, we do have many ways. What are they?

7. The bells on the high priest’s garment would have signaled to the people outside that he was a alive and moving about.

8. 40-43. God took the clothes of the priests very seriously. Failure to wear the proper clothing meant death. This would serve as a reminder of the importance of this task as well as set them apart from common citizens. Their job was to be taken seriously and they to wear the best possible clothes, at all times remembering that they were ministering to the Lord.

Exodus 29: Consecration of the priests

Discussion Questions:

How long did this process take? Why do you think God told them to do it for such a long time?

What kinds of things was Moses to do to do consecrate the priests? What was the purpose of washing with water? What was the purpose of the anointing? Of the daubing with blood? Of the sacrifices?

How would they finally be consecrated?

Teaching Points

1. This process was to take seven days. Seven is often the number used for completeness. It is one week, the amount of time God used to create the world. The fact that it took seven days was a reminder of the importance of the task they were being consecrated for. These seven days were definitely a somber and serious occasion. They were a time when the priest to be would certainly reflect on the importance of this great task God called him to. It was a time to reflect on his own life, motivations, purposes, and sins. A time to confess any wrongdoing and come into God’s presence with clean hands a pure heart. It was a time to remember that he was chosen specifically by God as His representative and a servant of the people. A time to prepare himself to be a good example to the people as well as teacher.

2. Discuss washing with water, anointing, daubing with blood, and sacrifices. Like baptism or communion, each of these were an important symbol giving the priests and object lesson about God and allowing them to experience Him personally in a deeper way.

3. Although so many processes are gone through, notice how they are finally consecrated. 42-46. God was the one who finally consecrated them. All the previous things are only symbols, physical reminders of unseen spiritual truths. God is the only one who can really forgive sin. Washing yourself with water, anointing with oil, and even blood sacrifices doesn’t actually take away sin. God does. We must always depend on God, not on things or rituals. Remember the bridge illustration? Religion or religious rites do not bring us to God. They can teach us about God. They can remind us of spiritual realities. They can impress upon us truths in a deeper way. But they cannot take away our sins. It is not enough to go to church, take communion, or be baptized. We must come to God and confess to Him, and ask Him to purify us. If we do, He will just like He did with the priests.

4. Once again God affirms that He will come to dwell with them. What a great privilege! But we are even more privileged. God will dwell with us, not in a tabernacle made with hands, but in our very hearts! Consecrate yourselves and your hearts.

Chapter 30

Discussion Questions

What was the purpose of the altar of incense? Where was it placed? What is the symbolic meaning of the altar of incense? What was it made of it? How big was it? When was the incense to be burned?

Teaching Points

Altar of incense – The golden altar of incense, which is not to be confused with the brazen altar, sat in front of the curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies. This altar was smaller than the brazen altar. It was a square with each side measuring 1.5 feet and was 3 feet high. It was made of acacia wood and overlaid with pure gold. Four horns protruded from the four corners of the altar.

God commanded the priests to burn incense on the golden altar every morning and evening, the same time that the daily burnt offerings were made. The incense was to be left burning continually throughout the day and night as a pleasing aroma to the Lord. It was made of an equal part of four precious spices (stacte, onycha, galbanum and frankincense) and was considered holy. God commanded the Israelites not to use the same formula outside the tabernacle to make perfume for their own consumption; otherwise, they were to be cut off from their people (Exodus 30:34-38).

The incense was a symbol of the prayers and intercession of the people going up to God as a sweet fragrance. God wanted His dwelling to be a place where people could approach Him and pray to Him.

“…for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” (Isaiah 56:7)

The picture of prayers wafting up to heaven like incense is captured in David’s psalm and also in John’s vision in Revelations:

“May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.” (Psalm 141:2)

“Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne. The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angel’s hand.” (Revelations 8:3-4)

The golden altar, furthermore, is a representation of Christ, who is our intercessor before God the Father. During His days on earth, Jesus prayed for the believers. He was like the high priest of the tabernacle, who bore the names of each of the Israelite tribes on his breastplate before God. Just before He was betrayed and sentenced to death, Jesus interceded for His disciples and all believers, asking God to guard them from evil and sanctify them by His Word, and that they may see God’s glory and be a witness to the world (John 17:1-26). Today, Jesus still is our high priest at the Father’s side, interceding for God’s people:

“Christ Jesus, who died — more than that, who was raised to life — is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” (Romans 8:34)

Since we have been forgiven of our sins through the blood of Christ, we also come boldly in prayer in Jesus’ name. When we pray in Jesus’ name, we are praying based on the work He has done and not on our own merit. It is in His powerful name that we are saved and baptized, and in His name we live, speak and act.

“And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” (John 14:13-14)

The horns of the golden altar were sprinkled with blood from the animal sacrifice to cleanse and purify it from the sins of the Israelites (Leviticus 4:7, 16:18). Just as the horns on the brazen altar represent the power of Christ’s blood to forgive sins, the horns on golden altar signify the power of His blood in prayer as we confess our sins and ask for His forgiveness.

And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (James 5:15-16)

1. Notice that no strange incense was to be burned on this altar. The very ingredients of the incense were prescribed by God. As God is the Designer of this world, He is also the Designer of true religion. From the beginning of the world, man has tried to worship God in his own way. This was probably the sin of Cain, who offered what he thought was good to God, but not what God wanted. God’s rejection of this sacrifice inspired hatred of God and his brother in Cain to the point where he killed his brother. People are prideful. Therefore they seek to create their own ways, ways they think are good, to worship God. Any ways you can think of in the modern world people make up by themselves to worship God? One is the crucifixions in the Philippines. There are many more. The lesson here is that there is only one right way to approach God, and that is God’s way. All man-made ways do not bring us any closer to God and as we see in this chapter if we do them we are worthy of death.

2. 12-17. These verses describe the annual tabernacle tax. Before we saw voluntary offerings requested. This is a mandatory :”tithe.” Actually everything they had belonged to God. Here they are required to give part of it back. The ministry at the tabernacle required resources and money. They needed to pay for upkeep, food, perfume, materials, etc. Every person was charged equally regardless of how rich or poor they were. Perhaps this was so that every person would feel like they were an equal part of the work being done there, just like the body is one, but there are many parts and each one is important.

Verses 22-33 -The anointing oil was to be a holy oil. It was to be different than any other oil used in the nation and used exclusively for priests, never laymen. This special oil was a symbol that just as it was set apart for holy use, so the priests would be set apart for service to God.

Verses 34-38 – The incense also was to be used only in the tabernacle, never in any secular area. Later Nadab and Abihu were executed for disobeying God by using strange incense (there own way to worship way.)

Chapter 31

See also 28:3.

12-17 – We’ve discussed before the purpose of the Sabbath. We can see here how seriously God takes this law to keep the Sabbath. What was to happen to someone who didn’t keep it? They would be cut off, meaning they would be executed. We see that this is the sentence for many different sins. The wages of sin is death. God is just, but He is also merciful because Christ took our place to die for us.

God wrote the ten commandments of two tablets of stone with His very fingers. God has complete power over the elements so this should not come as a surprise. This verse marks the close of God’s instructions to Moses. Remember that this section of Scripture on the law started with God giving the ten commandments orally to the people. Now this section ends back at the ten commandments, because these ten commandments are the foundation for the rest of the law. Moses would take the two tablets and go back to camp.

Study Exodus 32

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