8. What happened at Mount Sinai? The danger that the deity may surge forth and destroy those who come too close is so great that the Lord refuses to make his appearance until he is absolutely certain that his warnings have been received and heeded (Exodus 19:20–25). (1) God spoke all these words, saying, “I am YHWH your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, the house of bondage; you shall have no other gods besides Me…. Don’t miss the latest essays from TheTorah.com. (2) Having journeyed from Refidim, they arrived at the wilderness of Sinai, and they encamped in the wilderness. Booming thunder and bolts of lightning accompany Moses as he descends the cloud-covered Mount Sinai, bearing aloft two heavy tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments. It further emerges that Moses wrote down a second law book in addition to the one he had written at Sinai. Shavuot may not be as well-known as Passover or Purim, but it represents a foundational moment in Jewish history: the giving of the Torah (the first five books of the Bible, also called the Pentateuch) to the Israelites on Mount Sinai. No. See Victor Hurowitz, “P—Understanding the Priestly Source,” BR 12:03; Moshe Weinfeld, “Deuteronomy’s Theological Revolution,” BR 12:01. According to Jewish tradition, not only the decalogue but also the entire corpus of biblical text and interpretation was revealed to Moses on Sinai. Most people know this cinematic version—à la Cecil B. de Mille—of the giving of the law on Sinai. (22) The priests also, who are going to approach the LORD, must purify themselves, lest the LORD break out against them.” (23) But Moses said to the LORD, “The people cannot come up Mount Sinai, since You Yourself warned us, saying, ‘Set bounds about the mountain and sanctify it.’” (24) So the LORD said to him, “Go down, and come back up together with Aaron and the priests, but let not the people break through to come up to the LORD, lest He break out against them.” (25) And Moses went down to the people and told them. Each account originally included one, and only one, story of how the laws were given to Moses, how they were transmitted to the people and how (and if) they were written down. English » » Bible » » Life of Moses » » Moses at Mount Sinai Moses at Mount Sinai. (17) The Majesty of the LORD appeared in the sight of the Israelites as a consuming fire on the top of the mountain. In the material preceding Deuteronomy, three narrative strands can be detected (known as J, E and P); in Deuteronomy we hear a fourth (D), similar to one of the three preceding but not identical. The Israelites reached Mt. In each case the narrative gives no intimation that some laws have preceded and more are to follow. (16) They said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will obey; but let not God speak to us, lest we die.” (17) Moses answered the people, “Do not worry, for God has only come in order to give you an experience, so that the fear of Him may be ever with you, in order that you go not astray.” (18) So the people remained at a distance, while Moses entered the thick cloud where God was. Though redemption through the blood of a lamb freed them from sin's dominion and death, the giving of the law at Mount Sinai shows that freeing them is not all that God had in mind. This time, before God inscribes the tablets, he gives Moses a passing glimpse of his presence and another small body of laws (Exodus 34:5–26). (12) Set up bounds for the people round about, saying, ‘Beware of going up the mountain or even touching its edge; whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death. Moses descends Sinai not once but eight times, and more and more laws keep coming all the time. The Bible itself states in Deuteronomy 4:33 that this never happened any place else. We enter at the point when preparations are ordered for a theophany on Mount Sinai. 107–147), so English-speaking scholars seem not to have consulted it, relying instead on Noth’s A History of Pentateuchal Traditions (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1972), pp. The Preparations. Others believe that Mount Sinai was on the other side of the Gulf of Aqaba, in what is now Saudi Arabia. there was thunder and lightning, and a dense cloud upon the mountain, and a very loud blast of the horn; and all the people in the camp trembled. Three distinct stories (J, E and P) seem to have been intertwined in Exodus. 7. According to Exodus 34, Mount Sinai is where God gave Moses the Ten Commandments. This also places Mt. (18) Mount Sinai was all in smoke, for the LORD was coming down upon it in fire; the smoke rose like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled violently. a. Taberah is either just before Kibroth-hattaavah, or at Kibroth-hattaavah since Deut 9:22 indicates they are distinct: "Again at Taberah and at Massah and at Kibroth-hattaavah you provoked the Lord to wrath." You have Aaron and Hur with you; let anyone who as a legal matter approach them.” (15) Moses ascended the mountain; the cloud covered the mountain.  Many scholars suggest that they were combined into one around the time of the return from the Babylonian Exile (fifth century B.C.E. Is the reader to assume that by the time Moses died there were two written law books. (13) No hand shall touch him, but he shall be either stoned or shot. In what has been preserved of the first part of this story, Moses climbs the mountain four times: (1) to report the people’s words (whatever they may have been) to the Lord. Were the Israelites attracted irresistibly or repulsed with fear? Strictly speaking, Mount Sinai is not the place of lawgiving. Moses transmits to them the words of God—with the understanding that thereafter he will cover his radiant face (Exodus 34:29–35).. The divine fire cloud and divine fire are part of a prolonged public theophany. On the third new moon after the people of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that day they came into the wilderness of Sinai. Note: This essay originally appeared under the same title in Bible Review (13.05, pp. But the difficulties are a blessing in disguise, for they enable us, with painstaking labor, to separate the four strands from each other. Only then does the lawgiving truly conclude: Moses presides over a third and final covenant with Israel, calling on the people to swear allegiance to the laws he has just given them. Yahweh revealed Himself to Moses here and communicated the Ten Commandments and other laws … But when he arrives, he learns that he will first receive lengthy instructions for the construction and dedication of the divine abode (the Tabernacle) and for the consecration of the priests and their vestments (Exodus 25:1–31:17). (9) And the LORD said to Moses, “I am going to come to you in a thick cloud, in order for the people to overhear Me speaking with you and so believe in you ever after.” Moses reported the people’s words to the LORD. Schwartz is especially interested in how academic biblical scholarship and traditional Jewish belief and observance may co-exist. We rely on the support of readers like you. The people are charged to stand back and watch; they witness fire, smoke and the trembling of the mountain, but they are not to attempt to gaze at YHWH. The Lord comes down in the sight of all the people, but the different groups of participants, arranged in tiers, experience it in varying ways. In light of all he has done for them, God invites the Israelites to be his treasured people forevermore, as long as they agree to obey his commands. Why, then, does God instruct Moses to “come up to the Lord” (Exodus 24:1)? (8) All the people answered as one, saying, “Whatever the LORD says, we will do!” Moses brought back the people’s words to the LORD. (18) Mount Sinai was all in smoke, for the LORD was coming down upon it in fire; the smoke rose like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled violently. During that exchange, God promised, "I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people … The result of this, of course, was that in the combined account, Moses first receives the Tabernacle instructions when he climbs the mountain to get the first set of tablets, but he only conveys them to the people when he returns with the second set. And when some of the pieces begin to fit together with others that appear further on, we realize that the documents have not disappeared or been edited away but rather remain almost intact. He informs them that these laws were communicated to him by God at Mount Sinai after the Ten Words were pronounced (Deuteronomy 5:25–6:3 etc.). (30) But Aaron and the Israelites saw that the skin of Moses’ face was radiant, so they were afraid to come near him. 2 They had set out from Rephidim and arrived at the desert of Sinai where they camped in the desert. The English translation of this work appeared only in 1987 (in Martin Noth, The Chronicler’s History [Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1987], pp. On Rosh Chodesh Sivan, the first day of the third month after the exodus from Egypt, the children of Israel reached the desert of Sinai and camped near the mountain. (19) The blare of the horn grew louder and louder. (15) He said to the people, “Be ready for the third day; do not have contact with a woman.” (16) On the third day, as morning dawned, there was thunder and lightning, and a dense cloud upon the mountain, and a very loud blast of the horn; and all the people in the camp trembled. In the Bible, Mount Carmel is best known as the site of the prophet Elijah’s dramatic showdown with 850 pagan prophets. Sinai in the third month after their departure from Egypt and camped at its foot where they could view the summit (Exod 19:1, 16, 18, 20). At the beginning of the second year, as the fire cloud descends from Sinai, God takes up residence in the Tabernacle, filling the tent and finally shrinking into the divine throne room (Exodus 40:34–35). He is not attributed with initiative, intercession or impulsiveness. The complete story covers three and a half of the first five books of the Bible, known as the Torah, a full 60 percent of the 187 chapters. When this is done, the same picture emerges in the story of the lawgiving as has emerged elsewhere in the Torah. When the Tabernacle is ready, all further revelation takes place there.  See Moshe Greenberg, “nsh in Exodus 20:30 and the Purpose of the Sinaitic Theophany,”Journal of Biblical Literature 79 (1960), pp. (1) The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, (2) “Speak to the Israelites and have them bring Me gifts… (8) let them make Me a sanctuary so that I may dwell among them… (10) they shall make an ark of acacia wood… (17) make a cover of pure gold… (18) make two cherubim of gold… (21) place the cover on top of the ark and deposit inside the ark the testimony which I will give you. Moses is then told to ascend the mountain once more, this time to receive the monumental evidence of the encounter at Sinai, namely, the two stone tablets written by God (Exodus 24:12). Moses assembles the people and reports to them, ordering them to supply the needed materials and build the Tabernacle (Exodus 35:1–19). The … Then, as promised, God concludes the session by presenting Moses with a testimony, to be deposited in the Tabernacle ark, and dismisses him. Only Moses continues on alone and comes near the Lord (Exodus 24:1–2, 9–11). Thus, they merged the E and J stories into one, combining the visual (J) with the auditory (E)—the descent of YHWH on the mountain (J) with the voice heard from the heavens (E). 1–159; A.T. Chapman, An Introduction to the Pentateuch (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1911). chap. It … Each of these law codes is presented as the law code. In what remains of J, the story tells next of Moses’ lonely climb to the cleft of the rock, where God gives him a brief rear glimpse of himself, proclaims his name and attributes (Exodus 33:12–23, 34:2–3, 5–9), and makes a covenant, charging Moses with the religious laws contained in Exodus 34:10– 26. Moses would then put the veil back over his face until the next time he went in to speak with Him). Finally, since D explicitly states that the Deuteronomic Torah was delivered by Moses at the end of his lifetime, the only possible place to position it was following the conclusion of the Priestly law code. He also descends four times, each time carrying out the task assigned. Something went wrong while submitting the form. Moses is informed that he will receive something as a parting gesture—not the tablets, however, but something called an ’edut, or as usually translated, a “testimony” (Exodus 25:16).. What happened to the Golden Calf when Moses returned? Moses would speak, God responding to him with. [until 31:17], (1) Meanwhile, when the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they people gathered against Aaron and said to him, “Come make us a god who shall go before us, for that man Moses, who brought us from the land of Egypt—we do not know what has happened to him…..”, (18) When He finished speaking with Him on Mount Sinai, He gave Moses the two tablets of the testimony, [Exodus 32] (15) Moses turned and went down from the mountain with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand. The laws and statutes, orally presented to them, are written down by Moses in a document called the “Book of the Covenant” (Exodus 24:4, 7). Whereas the preceding 68 chapters, from Genesis 1 to Exodus 18, have covered thousands of years, here the pace suddenly slows. testimony in his hand, Moses was not aware that the skin of his face was radiant from speaking with Him. God called Moses up Mount Sinai and gave him the Ten Commandments. These preparations are entirely restrictive: The people must remain pure, launder their clothing and wait in anticipation for three days (Exodus 19:10–11). The basic chain of events in D, then, is the same as in E, including the making of the golden calf (Deuteronomy 9:16), Moses’ prayer of intercession (Deuteronomy 9:26–29) and the receipt, smashing and replacement of the tablets (Deuteronomy 9:11, 17, 10:3–4). Ibrahim El-Mezayen - Wikimedia. The biblical version, however, is much less familiar, even to many devoted readers of the Hebrew Bible—perhaps because it is much more difficult to follow. God calls to Moses from within the tent (Leviticus 1:1), and the lawgiving process begins. Mount Sinai is renowned as the principal site of divine revelation in Jewish history, where God is purported to have appeared to Moses and given him the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20; Deuteronomy 5). The people’s initial willingness to accept blindly is followed by a confirmation of their enthusiasm after the terms of the covenant have been heard (Exodus 24:3). Did God punish Aaron for his role in the Golden Calf debacle? Sinai and Kadesh Barnea: 1. Apparently he has abandoned the Tabernacle project for the time being. But the way Moses describes the event does not correspond to what appears in Exodus: He fails to mention that he then descended and proclaimed the laws to the people, wrote them down and ratified them.  The translation is based on that found in: Tanakh—The Holy Scriptures, Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1985; I have deviated from it when necessary. (12) The LORD said to Moses, “Come up to Me on the mountain and remain there, and I will give you the stone tablets with the teaching and commandments which I have written to instruct them.” (13) So Moses and his attendant Joshua arose, and Moses ascended the mountain of God. The Israelites were then forced to drink it. Second (and a result of the first), according to D, Moses writes down the Torah not at Horeb but rather just before he dies, depositing it with the Levites for posterity (Deuteronomy 31:24–26). The first laws to be imparted pertain to the methods of offering sacrifices (Leviticus 1–7), as the consecration of the priesthood and dedication of the Tabernacle (Leviticus 8–9) cannot take place until these laws have been elucidated. Institution user?  It begins by acknowledging that (1) the laws given on the mountaintop and conveyed immediately to the people as part of a covenant (Exodus 20:19–23:33), (2) the laws given to Moses as part of another covenant when he returns to have the new tablets inscribed (Exodus 34:11–26), (3) the laws conveyed to Moses in the Tabernacle over a 40-year period (Leviticus 1:1- Numbers 36:13), and (4) the laws given on the mountaintop but conveyed to the people only 40 years later (Deuteronomy 6:1–28:69) are four separate law codes. Only when the Exodus generation has died off and the second generation of Israelites arrives at the edge of Canaan does the Torah inform us that the lawgiving has ended (Numbers 36:13). (34) (Thenceforth, whenever Moses would go in to the presence of the LORD to speak with Him, he would leave the veil off until he came out; when he had come out and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, (35) the Israelites would see how radiant the skin of Moses’ face was. [Leviticus 1] (1) So He called to Moses. W. Boyd Barrick and John R. Spencer (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1984), pp. Log in with your IP address. This visual arrival of God is thereafter repeated each time camp is struck and reversed each time the journey is to continue (Exodus 40:36–38; Numbers 9:15–23). window.location.replace(""); Moses enters the cloud, and God gives him, at great length, the instructions for building and furnishing the Tabernacle, preparing the vestments and performing the investiture of the priesthood, and consecrating the altar (Exodus 24:18, 25:8–31:17). (2) to warn the people to prepare for the theophany, (3) to receive (on the day of the theophany) God’s instruction to warn the people again, and. (19) The blare of the horn grew louder and louder. Moses commits them to writing twice; God inscribes two sets of tablets. To answer quite simply, the Jewish people—every man, woman and child—had an encounter with God. All this seems to occur in one day. 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