G-d instructs Moshe (Moses) to take a census. All the males over twenty must give half a shekel of silver, as an offering to G-d, and the number of people will be determined by counting the total amount of silver.
G-d instructs Moshe to make a copper washstand. The Cohanim must wash their hands from this before entering the Ohel Mo'ed (Communion Tent). G-d gives Moshe the recipe for the anointing oil. He instructs Moshe to anoint the Ohel Mo'ed, the Ark and all the other vessels, to sanctify them. Moshe must also anoint Aharon and his sons to sanctify them as Cohanim (Priests). G-d gives Moshe the recipe for the incense, which is to be offered in the Ohel Mo'ed.
G-d tells Moshe that He has selected Betzalel ben Chur as the main craftsman for building the Ohel Mo'ed and its vessels. Oholiav ben Achisamach will be his assistant. G-d tells Moshe to instruct the Jews about the laws of Shabbat, and the punishment for not observing it. Shabbat will be an eternal covenant between G-d and the Jewish people.
Moshe receives the two tablets of testimony written by G-d. Meanwhile the people realise that Moshe has not returned when expected and feared he is dead. They ask Aharon to make them an oracle to lead them. He tries to stall them, but eventually melts down gold and a golden calf emerges from the fire. The people begin to offer sacrifices to this idol, and get up to enjoy themselves.
G-d tells Moshe to descend the Mount as the people have become corrupt. G-d threatens to destroy them all and begin a new nation from Moshe. Moshe asks for their forgiveness or else erase his (Moshe's) name from the Torah; G-d accepts his prayer. When Moshe sees the nation practising idolatry he smashes the tablets and destroys the calf. The sons of Levi punish the transgressors, executing 3000 men.
Moshe sets up his tent outside the camp, and the Cloud of Glory came to it. Moshe ascends Mount Sinai again and asks G-d to show him how He conducts the world. Moshe is told to stand in the crevice of a rock and G-d shows him His "back". Moshe is instructed to make new tablets and G-d makes a covenant with the nation; He will drive out the nations from before them and they will observe His commandments. They are commanded against idol worship, intermarriage and the combination of milk and meat and are taught the laws of Pesach, the first born animals, the first fruits, Shabbos, Shavuos and Succos. When Moshe descends with the new tablets, his face is radiant from his contact with G-d and he must wear a mask over his face so that people can look at him.