They arrive at Mount Sinai. The LORD God manifests.
VERSE 1. In the third month after the children of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that same day they came into the wilderness of Sinai.
the third month. This is the month of “Sivan.” It corresponds nearly with the modern-day month of June.
on that same day. Literally “on that day.” It means “on the day the month began.” That is to say, the 1st day of Sivan
VERSE 2. When they had departed from Rephidim, and had come to the wilderness of Sinai, they encamped in the wilderness; and there Israel encamped before the mountain.
VERSE 3. Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him out of the mountain, saying, “This is what you shall tell the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel:
Moses went up to God In many cultures and religions, people associate altitude with the presence of God. They “go up the mountain to God.”
Conversely, low places are often associated with the lack of the presence of God. They go down to “the valley of despair.”
what you shall tell the house of Jacob … Israel. This will be a covenant for the whole nation.
VERSE 4. ‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to myself.
I bore you on eagles’ wings. This reminds us of Isaiah chapter 40:
Isaiah 40:31. But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. (King James Version)
VERSE 5. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, then you shall be my own possession from among all peoples; for all the earth is mine;
if you will indeed. This verse contains a marvelous promise from the LORD God. However, their receiving it is conditional.
Before they can receive the promise, they must fulfill two conditions:
obey my voice. This is the first condition. They must obey the voice of the LORD God.
In our day, we can think of this as being obedient to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
keep my covenant. This is the second condition. They must keep the Laws of the LORD God.
In our day, we can think of this as being obedient to the precepts of the Bible.
Only after the nation fulfills both of those conditions will they be eligible for the lovely promise:
you shall be my own possession. They will forever be the treasured possession of the LORD God. He will be in love with them.
VERSE 6. and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.”
you shall be to me a kingdom of priests. Being a priest was not restricted to a narrow tribal clan or chosen caste.
All people are priests before the LORD God:
1 Peter 2:9. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that you may proclaim the excellence of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
VERSE 7. Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and set before them all these words which the LORD commanded him.
VERSE 8. All the people answered together, and said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do.” Moses reported the words of the people to the LORD.
All that the LORD has spoken we will do. They say these words. But their actions will speak louder than their words.
In the decades that follow, they will disobey the commands. And complain constantly. They will make the life of Moses living hell.
VERSE 9. The LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I come to you in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and may also believe you forever.” Moses told the words of the people to the LORD.
I come to you in a thick cloud. Mystics and holy people describe the LORD God as within a cloud.
A famous example is a book called The Cloud of Unknowing.
VERSE 10. The LORD said to Moses, “Go to the people, and sanctify them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments,
sanctify them. The Hebrew word for sanctify is וְקִדַּשְׁתָּ֥ם (“qadash”). It means to be set apart or consecrated.
Presumably, they had not been consecrated to the LORD prior to this point.
Unless it was thought that people lost their consecration and must be re-consecrated, from time to time.
VERSE 11. and be ready for the third day; for on the third day the LORD will come down in the sight of all the people on Mount Sinai.
the third day. The Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead “on the third day.”
VERSE 12. You shall set bounds to the people all around, saying, ‘Be careful that you don’t go up onto the mountain, or touch its border. Whoever touches the mountain shall be surely put to death.
VERSE 13. No hand shall touch him, but he shall surely be stoned or shot through; whether it is animal or man, he shall not live.’ When the shofar sounds long, they shall come up to the mountain.”
the shofar. The shofar was a musical horn. It was typically made of a ram’s horn.
VERSE 14. Moses went down from the mountain to the people, and sanctified the people; and they washed their clothes.
VERSE 15. He said to the people, “Be ready by the third day. Don’t have sexual relations with a woman.”
Don’t have sexual relations. In the preceding verses, the LORD did not tell Moses to say this. So did Moses make this up on his own?
Many Christians believe sexual activity is incompatible with closeness to God.
Many holy people and monks take vows of abstinence. Some Christian leaders restrict the sexual activity of their members.
with a woman. This verse forbids a man from having sexual relations with a woman. It does not forbid other sexual activities.
If it meant to prohibit 100% of all sexual activity, it would have said, “Don’t have sexual activity at all.”
This is a curious loophole.
VERSE 16. On the third day, when it was morning, there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud on the mountain, and the sound of an exceedingly loud shofar; and all the people who were in the camp trembled.
On the third day. The Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead “on the third day.”
an exceedingly loud shofar. The shofar was a musical horn. It was typically made of a ram’s horn.
VERSE 17. Moses led the people out of the camp to meet God; and they stood at the lower part of the mountain.
VERSE 18. All of Mount Sinai smoked, because the LORD descended on it in fire; and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly.
the whole mountain quaked greatly. In his famous book “The Idea of the Holy,” the eminent German philosopher Rudolf Otto wrote that the presence of God is both mysterious as well as tremendous.
The mysterious aspect attracts us closer to God, while the tremendous aspect frightens us away.
He coined these two expressions:
- Mysterium Tremendum: the tremendous aspect of God
- Mysterium Fascinans: the mysterious aspect of God
VERSE 19. When the sound of the shofar grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him by a voice.
the shofar. A Shofar is a musical horn. It is typically made of a ram’s horn.
VERSE 20. The LORD came down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain. The LORD called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up.
VERSE 21. The LORD said to Moses, “Go down, warn the people, lest they break through to the LORD to gaze, and many of them perish.
break through to the LORD to gaze. The people were not permitted to behold the LORD God.
But in this verse, it seems that Moses is beholding the LORD God, face-to-face.
VERSE 22. Let the priests also, who come near to the LORD, sanctify themselves, lest the LORD break out on them.”
VERSE 23. Moses said to the LORD, “The people can’t come up to Mount Sinai, for you warned us, saying, ‘Set bounds around the mountain, and sanctify it.’ ”
VERSE 24. The LORD said to him, “Go down! You shall bring Aaron up with you, but don’t let the priests and the people break through to come up to the LORD, lest he break out against them.”
VERSE 25. So Moses went down to the people, and told them.
Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations on this page are from the World English Bible and the World Messianic Edition. These translations have no copyright restrictions. They are in the Public Domain.