#163. Do the people divest themselves of their jewelry OR not? (Ex 33:6 vs Ex 35:22)


Another contradiction created from the stitching together of the Priestly text of Exodus 35-40 and the Elohist text of Exodus 32-33 has to do with what happens to the people’s jewelry (see also #158). As a result of their sin in the Elohist’s Golden Calf story, Yahweh commands them to divest themselves of their jewelry and to leave it behind. “And the children of Israel divested their jewelry from mount Horeb” (Ex 33:6).

The Priestly literature, however, has already necessitated that their jewelry, as well as a whole host of other precious material (Ex 25:1-9), be used as a donation to build Yahweh’s Tabernacle and all of its components. Later in Exodus 33, the people bring forward their jewelry as a donation. The whole story of the Golden Calf and the people’s jewelry was unknown to the Priestly writer.

And everyone whose heart inspired him came, and everyone whose spirit moved him brought a contribution for Yahweh, for the work of the Tent of Meeting and for all of its construction and for the holy clothes. And the men came together with the women. All whose hearts moved them had brought brooches and earrings and rings and ornaments, and every kind of gold item. (Ex 33:21-22)

Not only is there a contradiction between what becomes of the jewelry between these two sources, but also between the whole presentation of the people. In the Elohist account, the people have become sinners. But no mention of this occurs in the Priestly literature that follows. On the contrary, the people are presented as loyal, pious, and giving. No sin has occurred. The people are devoted to Yahweh, and the construction of his cultic institutions.

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