Exodus 25–40

Old Testament Teacher Resource Manual, (2003), 81–86


On Mount Sinai, the Lord revealed to Moses a glorious plan to redeem the children of Israel. This plan extended to them the opportunity to receive a fulness of His glory (see Exodus 25:8; 40:34–38; D&C 84:19–24). As part of this plan, Moses received instructions on building a tabernacle, its purpose, and those who were to officiate in it. Within that tabernacle the children of Israel could receive the priesthood ordinances and covenants of salvation, and many of the truths revealed at that time are also reflected in our temples today. Much of the information is repeated twice; Exodus 25–30 are the plans Moses received for the tabernacle, while chapters 35–40 describe the actual construction.

Exodus 32–34 contains the tragic account of how the children of Israel lost the fulness of priesthood blessings through disobedience and, as a result, received a lesser portion. Before Moses went up to receive the stone tablets, the children of Israel covenanted to keep the Lord’s commandments (see Exodus 24:1–7). However, in Moses’ absence, the Israelites broke their covenants, resulting in diminished blessings and opportunities.

Consider how these chapters apply in your own life as you strive to keep the covenants you have made with the Lord. Notice the Christlike example of Moses as he loved, pled for, and continued to teach and lead the children of Israel.

Some Important Gospel Principles to Look For

Suggestions for Teaching

video icon Old Testament Video presentation 14, “The Tabernacle” (9:14), can be used in teaching Exodus 25–40 (see Old Testament Video Guide for teaching suggestions).

weekly icon Exodus 25–40. The tabernacle was a sacred place to the children of Israel, as the temple is to us. The ordinances of salvation received there teach a pattern for returning to Heavenly Father’s presence. (40–50 minutes)

Before the students arrive, use tape or string to mark off the classroom in the outline of the tabernacle and its outer courtyard (see the diagram in Old Testament Student Manual: Genesis–2 Samuel, p. 155). Decorate the classroom with pictures of ancient and modern temples or draw and label on the board the tabernacle and its outer courtyard.

Ask students to explain the purpose of temples. The scriptures speak of two general purposes of temples. Have students read the following scriptures and tell what those purposes are:

Help students understand that an important purpose of the temple is to teach us more about the plan of salvation and how to receive all the blessings of that plan—now and in eternity. This was true of the tabernacle in Israel, which was their temple.

Draw and label a diagram of the tabernacle and its outer courtyard on the board, like the one shown in the institute student manual (p. 155). Have students determine where their chair is located in the “tabernacle” you marked off before class. Group students according to the area they are in. Have them report on what happened in that part of the tabernacle and what it can teach us about progressing toward eternal life. Students in the outer courtyard of the tabernacle should report on the altar of sacrifice and the laver of water. Those in the holy place report on the table of shewbread, the golden candlestick, and the altar of incense. Those in the Holy of Holies report on the ark of the covenant. Have them use the section on Exodus 25–27; 30 in their student study guides (pp. 52–53) to find information in the scriptures and questions that will help them interpret the gospel significance of each object.

Have the students take a tour of the classroom tabernacle together, with members of each group explaining the area assigned and the gospel significance of each element. As they give their reports, add information on the gospel significance of the objects to the diagram on the board (see the diagram in the institute manual, p. 156).

If it is available, show students pictures from modern temples found in the magazine Temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (31138). (Other sources for pictures include meetinghouse libraries, Church magazines, and the gospel art picture kit.) Show how the furnishings and rooms in these temples also suggest a pattern for returning to our Heavenly Father’s presence.

Have each student write down at least two things they learned from this activity. If you have time, invite some of them to share what they wrote.

Exodus 28:1. Men must be called of God and ordained to the priesthood by those who have authority. (15–20 minutes)

While the class is watching, borrow an object of some value, such as a watch or a ring, from one of your students. Then offer to sell it at a bargain price to the others in the class. When the owner of the item objects, ask the class what is wrong with your trying to sell someone else’s property. (You have no right or authority to do so.) Ask students to compare what you did to a situation in which someone who does not hold the priesthood offers to baptize a nonmember friend. Ask: Would the baptism be valid? Why not?

Have students read Exodus 28:1 and find out what the Lord called Aaron and his sons to receive. Ask them to mark and cross-reference Exodus 28:1 with Hebrews 5:1, 4 and Articles of Faith 1:5. Ask: According to these verses, how is a person called to the priesthood?

President David O. McKay wrote:

“This question of divine authority is one of the important factors which distinguish the Church of Jesus Christ from the Protestant creeds of Christendom. In plain, unmistakable terms the Church declares that ‘a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands, by those who are in authority to preach the gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.’ (Articles of Faith, No. 5.) In this declaration the Church but reiterates the words of one who bore Christ’s authority in the Meridian of Time, and who, in writing upon this very question, said, ‘And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.’ (Heb. 5:4.)” (Gospel Ideals [1953], 165).

Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote:

“Priesthood is the power and authority of God delegated to man on earth to act in all things for the salvation of men. … Unless the Lord’s ministers actually have this authority from the Lord they cannot cast out devils, heal the sick, confer the Holy Ghost, perform a baptism that will be recognized in heaven, or do any of the host of things reserved for performance by legal administrators in the Lord’s earthly kingdom. See Luke 9:1–6” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:748–9).

In Exodus 28:1 is Aaron’s and his sons’ calling to be consecrated and anointed to minister in the priest’s office.

Share your testimony that the true priesthood authority of God is found in the Church because all who hold the priesthood have been called of God and ordained as Aaron and his sons were.

Exodus 28. The clothing we wear helps convey messages. (15–25 minutes)

Show students pictures from magazines or newspapers of people dressed in various types and styles of clothing. Ask them to look at how each person is dressed and explain what it tells them about what the person might be doing, where the person might be going, and any other message they think the clothing conveys.

Ask one or two students who are involved in sports to describe the kind of outer clothing they wear, including the function of each item or the message it is intended to communicate. Ask:

  • Would it be appropriate to wear your sports gear to a formal dinner or to sacrament meeting? Why not?

  • How can what we wear influence our behavior and confidence?

Read Exodus 28:2–4 and identify what God revealed regarding Aaron and his sons. Ask:

  • What can we learn from the fact that the Lord revealed what a priest should wear in the tabernacle?

  • Has the Lord made similar requests in our day?

Have students identify the six items of clothing mentioned in those verses and list them on the board. Use the commentary for Exodus 28; 39 in Old Testament Student Manual: Genesis–2 Samuel (pp. 151–53) to help them understand the meanings of the clothing.

Read the following statement by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

“May I suggest that wherever possible a white shirt be worn by the deacons, teachers, and priests who handle the sacrament. For sacred ordinances in the Church we often use ceremonial clothing, and a white shirt could be seen as a gentle reminder of the white clothing you wore in the baptismal font and an anticipation of the white shirt you will soon wear into the temple and on your missions.

“That simple suggestion is not intended to be pharisaic or formalistic. We do not want deacons or priests in uniforms or unduly concerned about anything but the purity of their lives. But how our young people dress can teach a holy principle to us all, and it certainly can convey sanctity. As President David O. McKay taught, a white shirt contributes to the sacredness of the holy sacrament (see Conference Report, Oct. 1956, p. 89)” (in Conference Report, Sept–Oct. 1995, 89; or Ensign, Nov. 1995, 68).

Ask students:

  • What did you learn from Elder Holland’s statement?

  • How does the way the Aaronic Priesthood holders dress contribute to the sacredness of the sacrament?

  • Why do we wear white clothing when we are baptized and in the temple?

Review the guidelines for dress and appearance in For the Strength of Youth (pp. 14–16). Help students understand that there are many times when, like the priests of the tabernacle, the way they dress can help them keep their baptismal covenants to stand as witnesses of God (see Mosiah 18:10–12).

Exodus 29. The way individuals were consecrated, or set apart, to officiate in the tabernacle anciently can teach us how to prepare to enter the house of the Lord. (30–40 minutes)

Invite students to silently think about going to the temple or reflect upon their most sacred experience in a temple. Ask them what they can do to prepare to attend the temple and make it the best experience possible. Have them read Doctrine and Covenants 97:15–17 and identify what the Lord said would make our visits to the temple rewarding and what would make them unfulfilling. In a general way, share the kinds of questions asked in a temple recommend interview. (You could invite a priesthood leader to class to discuss those questions.) Ask: What can we do regularly to help us worthily enter the temple and better understand its blessings?

Tell students they are going to study how the priests prepared to enter the tabernacle at the time of Moses. Remind them that because the Israelites disqualified themselves for the higher ordinances, only the priests went into the most sacred parts of the tabernacle. The consecration and setting apart of priests symbolizes in many ways what all must do to prepare for temple work.

Have students do activity B for Exodus 28–29 in their student study guides (p. 54) and report what they learned. List the six events on the board as they are identified and discuss what they might represent. Use the following as a guide:

  • Event 1: Aaron and his sons were washed with water, representing being cleansed (see Moses 6:57).

  • Event 2: Aaron and his sons put on sacred clothing, representing putting on the “new man” and becoming a new person in the Lord (see Colossians 3:10–14; see also the commentary for Exodus 28; 39 in Old Testament Student Manual: Genesis–2 Samuel, pp. 151–53).

  • Event 3: Aaron and his sons were anointed with oil. Oil was used for light, representing the Holy Ghost. The Spirit is given to guide lives. (See 1 Samuel 16:13; D&C 45:56–59.)

  • Event 4: Aaron and his sons offered a sin offering, representing the sacrifice of all unrighteousness (see Alma 22:18). Elder Neal A. Maxwell, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said:

    “So it is that real, personal sacrifice never was placing an animal on the altar. Instead, it is a willingness to put the animal in us upon the altar and letting it be consumed! Such is the ‘sacrifice unto the Lord … of a broken heart and a contrite spirit,’ (D&C 59:8), a prerequisite to taking up the cross, while giving ‘away all [our] sins’ in order to know God (Alma 22:18); for the denial of self precedes the full acceptance of Him” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1995, 91; or Ensign, May 1995, 68).

  • Event 5: Aaron and his sons offered a burnt offering, representing the sacrifice of Jesus Christ (see Alma 34:14–16).

  • Event 6: Blood was placed on the right ear, right thumb, and right big toe of Aaron and his sons. The ear represents hearing, the thumb represents doing, and the toe represents walking. This was done to signify that they were to listen for the word of God, do what God would have them do, and walk in the way God would have them walk (see Deuteronomy 10:12–13).

Have students read Moses 6:57–60 and compare Adam’s experience to that of Aaron and his sons. The Lord explained to Adam that we must be born again by water, the Spirit, and blood (see v. 59) and, by this process, be able to “dwell in his presence” (v. 57). Adam was told that “by the water ye keep the commandment; by the Spirit ye are justified, and by the blood ye are sanctified” (v. 60).

This pattern is seen in the consecration of Aaron and his sons:

  • They were washed, which symbolically allowed them to put on new clothes, or to become a new person.

  • They were anointed with oil, representing the Holy Ghost. After receiving this symbolic anointing of the Spirit, sacrifices were offered to justify them before God.

  • They were anointed with blood to sanctify them, or make them holy, through the blood shed for them (in their case by an animal).

Aaron and his sons ate the sacrifice “wherewith the atonement was made, to consecrate and sanctify them” (see Exodus 29:31–34). Those are reasons we partake of the sacrament today. The sacrament signifies the Atonement that was made for us, and taking it symbolizes making the Atonement a part of our lives.

Have students tell how their participation in the covenants and ordinances of baptism and the sacrament are similar to those that were part of the consecration of Aaron and his sons. Assure them that obedience to the principles and covenants of the gospel allows us to receive the additional ordinances and covenants of the temple.

Exodus 32:1–8. Like the children of Israel, many people today worship false gods. (60–90 minutes)

Write the following on the board: Baal; stone or wooden statues; good luck charms; horoscopes; money; cars; sports, television, movie, and music personalities. Tell students that they can ask twenty yes-or-no questions to determine what those items have in common. (They have all, at some time, come to occupy major importance in our time, money, and interest. They often are what we set our hearts on.)

After students have guessed the answer, ask them why idolatry—to love the creation more than the Creator (see Romans 1:25)—is a serious sin. (For more information on idolatry see the enrichment section “Idolatry: Ancient and Modern” in Old Testament Student Manual: Genesis–2 Samuel, pp. 245–48.) Share the following statement from the Lectures on Faith, which were compiled under the direction of the Prophet Joseph Smith:

“Let us here observe, that three things are necessary in order that any rational and intelligent being may exercise faith in God unto life and salvation.

“First, the idea that he actually exists.

“Secondly, a correct idea of his character, perfections, and attributes.

“Thirdly, an actual knowledge that the course of life which he is pursuing is according to his will. For without an acquaintance with these three important facts, the faith of every rational being must be imperfect and unproductive; but with this understanding it can become perfect and fruitful” (38).

Ask students:

  • Why is having a correct understanding of the character of God important to faith?

  • Read Exodus 32:1–8. What false god did Israel worship?

  • Read Exodus 20:3–5. What had the Lord already told the Israelites about false gods?

  • Read Exodus 24:3. Why was the sin of idolatry so serious for these people?

  • Read Exodus 32:1. Why did they make and worship the golden calf? (They lacked trust in the prophet, were impatient, and traded what was spiritual for something physical.)

  • How do people today struggle with these same problems?

Moses and the golden calf

Read Exodus 32:9–35 as a class (have various students read a verse or two). During the reading ask some of the following questions:

  • How did the Lord feel when the Israelites worshiped a false god? (see vv. 9–10).

  • What did Moses say to the Lord to try to save the people? (see vv. 11–14; see also Exodus 32:12 footnote a; JST, Exodus 32:14).

  • What did Aaron say to try to excuse his sin? (see vv. 21–24).

  • How do we sometimes rationalize our sins today?

  • What did Moses ask in verse 26 that our prophet still asks?

  • How do we show the Lord we are on His side?

  • What words or phrases remind you of what Christ did for all sinners? (see v. 30).

  • How do verses 30–34 show that Moses loved the people despite their wickedness?

Explain that there are always consequences for our actions and that God holds us responsible for what we do. Write the following references on the board and ask students to discover the consequences Israel suffered for worshiping an idol:

Point out to students that the Israelites did not fully understand the impact of losing the ordinances of the higher priesthood. To illustrate this, give a student a nice but small piece of candy or something else that is fairly enticing. Say that the student can keep that item or have whatever is in your pocket (a better piece of candy or something more valuable than candy, such as a coupon for a whole meal). To have what is in your pocket, the student must give up the first item and also do something special for you.

If the student chooses to keep the first item, discuss how difficult it is to explain how glorious the blessings of the temple are to someone who has never experienced them. If students want to know what was in your pocket, do not tell them. Further explain that one of the worst curses we may experience is to find out later what we could have had but did not receive because we were impatient, disobedient, apathetic, or unwilling to sacrifice. Finally show them what was missed and explain that some might never know what they missed and be satisfied with they have—until later finding out what they gave up.

If the student chooses what is in your pocket, point out what might have been missed if he or she had kept the first item.

Most people today do not worship false gods of stone or clay. However, there are many other things that can become false gods. Read the following statement by President Spencer W. Kimball:

“Whatever thing a man sets his heart and his trust in most is his god; and if his god doesn’t also happen to be the true and living God of Israel, that man is laboring in idolatry” (“The False Gods We Worship,” Ensign, June 1976, 4).

Ask students to give examples of things we set our hearts on. List their examples on the board and add any others mentioned in the following statement by Elder Spencer W. Kimball, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve:

“Modern idols or false gods can take such forms as clothes, homes, businesses, machines, automobiles, pleasure boats, and numerous other material deflectors from the path to godhood. …

“Intangible things make just as ready gods. Degrees and letters and titles can become idols. Many young men decide to attend college when they should be on missions first. …

“Many people build and furnish a home and buy the automobile first—and then find they ‘cannot afford’ to pay tithing. Whom do they worship? … Young married couples who postpone parenthood until their degrees are attained might be shocked if their expressed preference were labeled idolatry. …

“Many worship the hunt, the fishing trip, the vacation, the weekend picnics and outings. Others have as their idols the games of sport, baseball, football, the bullfight, or golf. …

“Still another image men worship is that of power and prestige. Many will trample underfoot the spiritual and often ethical values in their climb to success. These gods of power, wealth, and influence are most demanding and are quite as real as the golden calves of the children of Israel in the wilderness” (The Miracle of Forgiveness [1969], 41).

Encourage students to put their trust in the only true and living God.

scripture mastery icon Exodus 33:9–20 (Scripture Mastery, Exodus 33:11). The Lord can and does appear to righteous people on the earth. (20–25 minutes)

Invite three students to come to the front of the class to role-play two missionaries and an investigator. Have the investigator read Exodus 33:20 and John 1:18 and ask the missionaries: If these verses are true, how could God appear to Joseph Smith? Let the missionaries try to answer the question. If necessary, invite the class to help them.

Read Exodus 33:11; John 14:21, 23; Doctrine and Covenants 67:10; 93:1 and discuss what those verses teach about seeing God. Have students use the Topical Guide and find examples that tell of God appearing to people. The following are examples:

To help solve the seeming contradiction, have students note the JST footnotes to Exodus 33:20 and John 1:18. Have them read the references from the Joseph Smith Translation and ask them how the Prophet Joseph Smith clarified this issue. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught:

“It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God, and to know that we may converse with him as one man converses with another” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 345).

Share your testimony that the Lord appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith. Invite students to share their testimonies as well. Help them understand that the Lord can and does appear to His righteous children, but it happens “in his own time, and in his own way, and according to his own will” (D&C 88:68). Read Doctrine and Covenants 93:1 and ask students what will eventually happen to every worthy Church member.

Exodus 34:1–4. The Lord provided a lesser law for the children of Israel. (5–10 minutes)

Ask students how many times they have tried to write a letter to someone and had to throw away their first attempts and try again. Explain that the Lord did something similar in the book of Exodus.

  • Read Exodus 32:19. What happened to the stone tablets that the Lord made and gave to Moses?

  • Read Exodus 34:1–4 and JST, Exodus 34:1–4. How was the second set of tablets made? Who made them? How were they different from the first?

  • Read Doctrine and Covenants 84:19–27. Why was a lesser law given to the Israelites?

  • Read Galatians 3:24–25. What was the purpose of the lesser law? What responsibilities do we have since we have been given the higher law today?

Exodus 35–40. The construction of the tabernacle. (5–10 minutes)

Explain to students that Exodus 25–30 are very similar to chapters 35–40. Chapters 25–30 contain Moses’ revelation, showing what the tabernacle was to be like and how it was to be built. Chapters 35–40 contain the account of the actual building of the tabernacle.

Have students do activity A for Exodus 35–40 in their student study guides (p. 56) and review the events at the dedication of the tabernacle. Ask if any of them have attended a temple dedication. If so, invite them to share their feelings about their experience if they wish to do so.