Et voilà! — More contradictions that resulted from the stitching together of the Elohist text of Exodus 32-33 and the Priestly literature of Exodus 25-31 & 33-40. Honestly, this is not magic. I did not contrive these contradictions. Rather, competing priestly guilds and scribal schools of ancient Israel did, with their different views and beliefs. Not my fault either that readers living centuries later, for reasons endemic to their own historical circumstances, stitched the texts of these competing scribal and priestly guilds together, and then readers living still centuries later, ignorant of this whole affair, labeled these competing and contradictory texts “the Book.” Nor is it my fault that modern readers—ignorant too of this so-called Book’s textual history, who wrote its 70 plus texts, why, when, to whom, prompted by what historical circumstances, and why were they collected together, by whom, when, and for what purpose, etc.—were and are coerced by powerful external, and authoritative, forces into believing that these competing texts are, err is, a Book, nay a “holy” book even—hand delivered by the god of this wonderful and beautiful cosmos itself.
Somebody sure pulled the wool over their eyes though. Twas not I. I am simply a messenger, trying to bring light on to the situation, dispel our culture’s ignorance, and in turn defend the views and beliefs of these competing, once independent, authors and the texts they wrote from later “readers” who co-opted these texts for their own purposes—abused, misused, mishandled, misunderstood, misread, appropriated, and reappropriated ad infinitum by every Tom, Dick, and Jane who has walked the planet over the last two millennia! Phew! That’s along time for ignorance about our culture’s most cherished Book, err texts, to have prevailed. But I suppose that’s just because education is not something we cherish in this culture. The human species is an impoverished soul, measuring success in economic and monetary terms. Where’s the species that wishes to measure success, progress, indeed our own species, by intellectual and spiritual growth, achievements, progress? Oh, yes, some good’ol Christians killed them off, so they could build their empire of hypocrisy, power, and mo’e money. That’s right, an economic-run-for-the-money-as-fast-as-you-can society built by a bunch of rhetorical lip-smacking, hypocritical Bible-thumpers that have chosen to defend their own cherished beliefs, views, values, and let’s-run-for-the-money pursuits by perverting the very beliefs, views, and ideas of authors long dead. Their own god, forged from their own hands, could not persuade them from their ignorance and error.
Oh, how I miss the good old days. A deity like Yahweh would not have tolerated such insolence. Nope. Smite them all, by plague, consuming fire, wild bears, the opening up of the earth—all Yahweh’s delight: “So Yahweh will have satisfaction over you to make you perish and to destroy you!” (Deut 28:63). Oh, the world could really use a god like Yahweh today. I say, burn them all Mr. Yahweh. Cleanse the world of its insolence, and ignorance, and incurable idolatry.
OK, that’s out of my system now. To the texts then….
Curious is the mention of the Tent of Meeting in Exodus 33:7 when according to this so-called “Book”—nota bene: it was later readers (tens of centuries later) who claimed these texts as a book NOT their authors!—it hadn’t even been constructed yet! That doesn’t happen until Exodus 40. As astute readers of the “Bible” have long recognized (long—i.e., 3 centuries ago!), these two texts come from two different textual traditions.
The description of the Tent of Meeting in the older Elohist source is without all the pomp and circumstance one finds in the Priestly literature—a whole 13 chapters devoted to the detailed description of the Tent of Meeting, its components, and its conctruction. For the Elohist, the Tent of Meeting was not that important. For the Priestly writer, it was not only the center of its whole cultic legislation spearheaded by the Aaronid priesthood, but it was also the abode of Yahweh! Furthermore, the Tent of Meeting resided in the middle of the camp. As such, strict ritual and ethical legislation was demanded in order to maintain the holiness and purity necessitated in the camp by Yahweh’s dwelling there in their midst (see #151). This is not the case for the Elohist.
Also in the Priestly literature, since the Tent of Meeting was holy, consecrated, belonging to Yahweh, only Yahweh’s consecrated priests could touch the Tent of Meeting and its components, only the Aaronids that is. Not even Moses was allowed to touch the Holy of Holies. When the Tent of Meeting was carried, its components had to be disassembled first and wrapped in cloth by the Aaronids before the Levites could then carry it to the next destination (Num 3-4).
Finally, seeing how important the Tent of Meeting was to this priestly guild, obviously its erection and inauguration was portrayed with much pomp and circumstance (Ex 40; Lev 8-9). It was erected on the New Year. So it could not have existed in Exodus 33, and moreover not have existed outside the camp, which according to the Priestly literature was a place of impurity.
No, rather these are two contradictory sources each with their own unique depiction, or lack thereof, of the Tent of Meeting.