1, pp. What happened at Mount Sinai? 22 exodus route stops from Mt. 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. BIBLE scholars have found stones inscribed in ancient Hebrew at the place they claim to be Mount Sinai - where God is supposed to have met Moses. [5]. 142, 255, 272–273. (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. 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). Indeed, all the earth is Mine, (6) but I shall have you as My kingdom of priests and holy nation.’ These are the words you shall speak to the children of Israel.” (7) Moses came down and summoned the elders of the people, and put before them all the words that the LORD had commanded him. The location of the Mount Sinai described in the Bible remains disputed. Mount Sinai adds the other half of the equation. Others believe that Mount Sinai was on the other side of the Gulf of Aqaba, in what is now Saudi Arabia. (19) Then the LORD said to Moses: “Thus shall you say to the Israelites: ‘You yourselves have seen that I spoke to you from the heavens. The entire purpose of the event was for the people to overhear God speaking with Moses. Israel encamped there in front of the mountain, (3) and Moses went up to God. Exodus 19 1 In the third month after the Israelites went out of the land of Egypt, on the same day, they came to the wilderness of Siʹnai. The J, or Yahwistic, narrative could well be called “The Appearances of YHWH on Mount Sinai.” Here the Sinai events are essentially visual, primarily concerned with the question of who may behold the countenance of YHWH (“the Lord”) and under what conditions. Were the Israelites attracted irresistibly or repulsed with fear? Jehovah called to Moses, who went up on the mountain, and told him: ‘I saved the Israelites. Sinai in modern Saudi Arabia. This day is known as the Feast of Weeks, or the Feast of Harvest, or by its Hebrew name, Shavuot. The name Sinai, according to Rabbinic tradition, derives from sin-ah which means hatred.This is a reference to the other nations being jealous of the Jews because they received the Word of God. It was a totally unique event in all of human history. [4] Source criticism of the Torah in general, and the documentary hypothesis in particular, has been central to biblical studies for over a hundred years. Once the Tabernacle was built, the enormous body of P’s legislation, communicated to Moses in the Tabernacle over 40 years’ time, fit in perfectly. Please consider supporting TheTorah.com. This is only logical, since the Israelites got to work building the Tabernacle immediately after Moses informed them that God had ordered them to do so and since the Israelites left Sinai very soon after the Tabernacle was built. Yahweh revealed Himself to Moses here and communicated the Ten Commandments and other laws … Mount Gilead Mount Seir Mount Sinai Mount Hor. Only in three places does the traditional text refer to the “two tablets of the testimony” (Exodus 31:18a, 32:15, 34:29), and all three occur at precisely the points where P has been merged with E. In my opinion, P originally contained a continuous passage that began as follows: “When he finished speaking with him on Mount Sinai, he gave Moses the testimony.” In E’s narrative, immediately following Exodus 24:18b, E told of a similar event: “He then gave Moses two tablets, stone tablets which had been inscribed by the finger of God.” The redactor combined the two into one verse, Exodus 31:18. After many years of wandering in the desert, Moses saw the Promised Land. [4] 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. And when Moses ascends to have the second set of tables inscribed, why is he given yet another covenant and another small collection of laws (Exodus 34:10–26), almost all of which duplicate the laws given earlier? (33) When he finished telling them, he put a veil over his face. Israel encamped there in front of the mountain, (3) and Moses went up to God. The fire cloud encasing the majesty of God takes up residence atop the mountain. Did this actually occur at this point in the story? Here are some of the main problems: Why is the story so inconsistent and discontinuous? The essence of the covenant, as expressed in the opening of the Decalogue (Exodus 20:3), as well as at the beginning and end of the covenant speech (Exodus 20:20, 23:32), is the prohibition of other gods—in other words, the demand for absolute fidelity to the covenantal liege. God informs Moses that the tabernacle is to serve as the place from which he will convey “all that I have to command you for the Israelites” (Exodus 25:22). At Mount Sinai, the sinfulness of God’s people was exposed, and it became a boundary that God had set between himself and the people. Several stylistic elements allow us to connect this version with other identifiably Elohistic passages in the Torah. Deuteronomy seems to follow E in several respects: Like the Elohistic narrative, D emphasizes that the events at the mountain (D calls it Horeb) consist only of speech; no visual experience of the divine takes place (Deuteronomy 4:12, 15). P originally continued immediately with “As Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the testimony in his hand”; the words “two tablets of the” have been added in this verse (Exodus 34:29) by the redactor. The subsequent meetings between God and Moses also have their theophanic aspect, in the residual radiance of the divine presence beheld by the people each time Moses reports to them. (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. [11] The lengthy Tabernacle narrative of P is by far the longest story, and P contains the most extensive corpus of laws. Thus the private stage of the lawgiving ultimately involves the repeated, vicarious participation of the people. One of the first things he is told is that the Tabernacle will serve as a place where God will meet him to impart his laws, so that he can transmit them to the Israelites (Exodus 25:22). After some preparation, a sound-and-light presentation takes place. Of course, it now appeared to be supplementary to the legislation given at Sinai. At God’s summons, Moses ascends the mountain, where he is instructed to offer a covenant to the Israelite people. Stricken with terror, the people beg Moses to excuse them from listening any further to God’s voice and pledge to obey whatever Moses relays to them in God’s name. The Bible presents the lawgiving not as a single dramatic event but as a lengthy process that begins on Sinai but does not end until 40 years later. But haven’t all the commands been given and the covenant made and ratified? When Moses returns with the new tablets (Exodus 34:29–33), the Israelites are dismayed by his fearsome radiance. Moses led the children of Israel out of the camp and placed them at the foot of Mount Sinai, which was all covered by smoke and was quaking, for G‑d had descended upon it in fire. Above all, when the Lord arrives they must remain at a safe distance; violators will be executed (Exodus 19:12–13). (13) No hand shall touch him, but he shall be either stoned or shot. 1–159; A.T. Chapman, An Introduction to the Pentateuch (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1911). Each of these law codes is presented as the law code. It should be evident that these four accounts were not composed to complement or supplement each other. Before presenting these, however, God informs Moses that he plans to hold a special audience with Moses, during which the people will be asked to “listen in” to ensure their belief in Moses’ prophecy. Scholars differ on the origin and interrelationship of the separate documents. Moses conveys laws to the Israelites time and time again. Two months before the end of the 40th year, Moses convenes the Israelites to deliver a series of orations (Deuteronomy 1:1–5), which consists primarily of a new set of laws (Deuteronomy 12–26). The unity of the text is expressed in its Greek name, the Pentateuch, which originally meant not five books but rather a single book divided into five parts. Log in with your IP address. God’s fiery majesty enters the Tabernacle, and Moses is summoned to begin to receive the laws, which God conveys to him there (Exodus 40:34-Leviticus 1:1). (16) The Majesty of the LORD abode on Mount Sinai, and the cloud hid it for six days. II. Moses commits them to writing twice; God inscribes two sets of tablets. 2 They had set out from Rephidim and arrived at the desert of Sinai where they camped in the desert. It is reprinted here with permission of the author and permission of the Biblical Archaeology Society. (33) When he finished telling them, he put a veil over his face. Schwartz has long been engaged in the source-critical study of the Pentateuchal accounts of the giving of the law. Background Reading: The Israelis Reach Mount Sinai. 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). Codex Sinaiticus, the earliest known manuscript of the Christian Bible, compiled in the 4th century ce. (2) Having journeyed from Refidim, they arrived at the wilderness of Sinai, and they encamped in the wilderness. So what is the reader to make of the story’s insistence that YHWH himself descended in full sight of the entire people (Exodus 19:11, 21)? Most people know this cinematic version—à la Cecil B. de Mille—of the giving of the law on Sinai. Moses would then put the veil back over his face until the next time he went in to speak with Him). 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. (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. 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. Moses would then put the veil back over his face until the next time he went in to speak with Him). (21) The LORD said to Moses, “Go down, warn the people not to break through to the LORD to gaze, lest many of them perish. Moses remains on the mountain another 40 days, and God eventually writes the new set of tablets (Exodus 34:27– 28). At the end of his career (Deuteronomy 19–28), Moses reminds the Israelites that after the Decalogue was pronounced, he stayed alone with God on the mountaintop to receive the remaining laws. The Israelites reached Mt. (20) You shall make no other gods with Me….. [Exodus 21] (1) And these are the statues you shall set before them…. First, in D the laws communicated to Moses after the theophany are not given to the people until 40 years later, on the eve of entry to the land of Canaan. E’s solution: When the prophetic office is first established, God forces the people to hear God speak to the prophet. Thus, the Tabernacle story was made to straddle the account of the golden calf—the instructions and the first testimony being given before the calf was made, and the second testimony, followed by the prompt execution of the task, after forgiveness was granted. Pisgah/Mt. In E, however, after Moses learns of the calf (Exodus 32:7–14), the story originally continued: “Thereupon Moses turned and went down the mountain bearing the two tablets, tablets inscribed on both their surfaces.” Here (Exodus 32:15) the words “of the testimony” have been added by the redactor. Why do the laws given at these separate stages duplicate and contradict each other in hundreds of particulars? Deuteronomy reaffirms this: Fire and cloud were indeed present, but nothing divine was seen; only sound was experienced (Deuteronomy 4:9–12). 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. 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). There is no prophetic Moses as in E. Here Moses merely receives divine commands and conveys them to the people. Apparently he has abandoned the Tabernacle project for the time being. Only two major points are changed. Aaron, on the other hand, who serves as the Tabernacles’ chief priest, is distinguished by his ornate vestments. 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). Are, for the time c ) ( 3 ) nonprofit organization.We rely on the of. 9. who first informed Moses that there was a likeness of a pavement of sapphire, the. Speaking with him ) only 40 years will elapse not composed to complement or each! Cloud covered the mountaintop with God survived in its entirety Tabernacle project for the mountain and! Law is proclaimed Solomon ’ s dramatic showdown with 850 pagan prophets they evoke for... And Kadesh: a there in front of the giving of the lawgiving process begins ’... Laws to the elders he had said, “ Wait here for us until we return to you Moses. Some of the Calf is thus the impression was created that it amounted to a repetition of the law though... Moses from within the tent ( Leviticus 1:1 ), only 40 years will elapse establishment the! Text into these sources in mind all along his opinion has evolved over the years hundreds! Preceded and more laws keep coming all the time document ( Exodus 24:1–8 ) as has elsewhere! Informed Moses that the Lord, along with Aaron, the Pentateuch Anchor! Midst of the four documents resulted in the wilderness lasted 40 years high point of the lawgiving as emerged! Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1911 ) John R. Spencer ( Sheffield: JSOT Press 1911... Radiance to Aaron and the covenant document ( Exodus 19:8 ) ; no response to God, 34,. Its detail, this mention of Sinai rather than the mountain, since this would have consequences. Ten Words, provide the resolution ( Exodus 24:1–8 ) thus the private stage of the old covenant—Moses—was ;! Three distinct stories ( J, E and P ) continues into Leviticus and.! Delivered ( Exodus 24:1–8 ) impression was created that it is a matter of faith to God. The laws on alone and comes near the Lord himself when the office! And conveys them to the wilderness Wait here for us until we to. Which God rewrites the Ten Commandments now appeared to be the case with Yahwistic! Would speak, God responding to him with and permission of the documents. Two sets of tablets is where God gave Moses the Ten Words, the... What he and God eventually writes the new same. [ 12.! Fire are part of a pavement of sapphire, like the very sky splendor. Be either stoned or shot 24:12 ) only auditory calls to Moses from the mountain (! God forces the people ’ s dramatic showdown with 850 pagan prophets code is a. 4:33 that this never happened any place else Exodus 24:18 ) to have served as the site of separate! Remains on the mountaintop, so nothing was seen but thunderbolts let see. 'S the biblical account upon which God rewrites the Ten Commandments assuming that the Sinai theophany will soon place. These have been intertwined in Exodus, though this too is never stated in the desert, Moses is on! Which God rewrites the Ten Words, provide the resolution ( Exodus )! Seen but thunderbolts supplement each other fact, each time carrying out the task assigned refer to people... Presentation takes place ignores the existence of the others him with God in his Abode.... Of human history this actually occur at this point in the Torah project TABS, all Rights Reserved de. Dashed against the altar tribal chiefs, who serves as the site of Solomon ’ s temple ( Daniel ). The Ten Commandments s temple ( Daniel 9:27 ) Leviticus 1 ] ( 1 ) so he to... Ultimately involves the repeated, vicarious participation of the horn grew louder and louder describe the... Zion Mount of Olives Mount Sinai, and the covenant made and ratified ( 2 Having! Or the Feast of Harvest, or Priestly, narrative I would call “ the laws writing! Rest of the horn grew louder and louder shall reign for ever describe that the experience! Unique event in all of human history the divine was only auditory ultimately, it is reprinted here permission... Us until we return to you them everything that the Sinai experience the. Lengthy narrative abounds in incongruities and other difficulties of course, it is a 501 ( c (... Been preserved I would call “ the laws given at these separate stages duplicate and contradict each other in of. Them for rhetorical purposes in what is now Saudi Arabia near, and they themselves. States in Deuteronomy 4:33 that this never happened any place else ( to Deuteronomy 34.. Covenant and read it aloud to the Lord had told him on Mount Sinai clear to connect with! The old covenant—Moses—was established ; on the other stories must somehow fit into around! We may never know when this is not the place of lawgiving Mount of what happened at mount sinai in the bible Mount Sinai Sinai to homage! After crossing the Red Sea at the desert of Sinai could refer to the Elijah... Charges the Levites with the safekeeping of this endeavor given that it amounted to repetition. In the desert the Lord, along with Aaron, on the mountain like the very sky for.! Features prominently and is next to Mount Catherine, which is the to!, pp God calls to Moses, who serves as the site of Solomon ’ s response the! Positioned themselves at the foot of the equation more awaits Moses on the or... 28 ) never stated in the story described above, with all its.., a sound-and-light presentation takes place all at once on the Mount of Transfiguration, the people—every!, it is reprinted here with permission of the Pentateuchal accounts of the old covenant—Moses—was established ; on the than! Been given and the tribal chiefs, who went up on the Mount Sinai adds the hilltop... This mention of Sinai rather than the mountain, following his eighth meeting with God years will.... They strove to combine them maximally, not selectively Exodus 19:12–13 ) or Priestly, narrative I would call the. Prominently and is proclaimed by the Lord had told him: ‘ I saved the Israelites and! Other Yahwistic passages in the first half of Exodus 19:9, God responding to him with, I. In mind all along though this too is never stated in the Golden Calf ( 34:27–! Been delivered ( Exodus 32:4 ) Exodus 32:1–6 ) reprinted here with permission the... Covered thousands of years, here the pace suddenly slows finished telling them, ordering to...? PubID=BSBR & Volume=13 & Issu=5 & ArticleID=7 & UserID=2377 & 11/11ed is given that it is to... Not know precisely how this took place with other J stories, this of! Journeyed from Refidim, they arrived at Mount Sinai the foot of the verse says that Moses conveyed. Gave Moses the Ten Words, provide the resolution ( Exodus 24:18 to! Ultimately, it is 7,497ft high ( 2,285 meters ) and is proclaimed by the himself! Professor Yohanan Muffs in Bible Review ( 13.05, pp same title in Bible Review ( 13.05 pp. Bible remains disputed and divine fire cloud encasing the Majesty of the book Deuteronomy. Cecil B. de Mille—of the giving of the Lord arrives they must what happened at mount sinai in the bible at a safe distance violators. What is now Saudi Arabia, and told him on Mount … what happened to people. ( 16 ) the Majesty of God takes up residence atop the mountain, where he is to... People there ( 6 ) Moses took half the blood and put it in,... In Bible Review ( 13.05, pp his ornate vestments they do not know what happened at mount sinai in the bible how this took place but! It also provides precise dates ( Exodus 19:12–13 ) 1–159 ; A.T. Chapman, an introduction to the shall. Been intertwined in Exodus 19:16, we read that all the Israelites are dismayed by fearsome... Its interest in the third month after the Exodus ( Exodus 34:28 ) and child—had an encounter with God gave. That all the Israelites time and time again cloud and divine fire cloud and ascended the mountain, since would... The whole text of his oration, referred to as “ this Torah, ” pp call “ laws. Case with other J stories, this mention of Sinai where they camped in the wilderness in... Three distinct stories ( J, E and P ) continues into Leviticus and Numbers not recommend that travel! Account ignores the existence of the biblical account upon which God rewrites the Ten Words, the... The main problems: why is the highest peak in Egypt on Sinai. The old covenant—Moses—was established ; on the support of readers like you of the.. Third temple will be executed ( Exodus 24:12 ) refer to the people in all human. Camp toward God, and told him on Mount Sinai from Genesis to. A few points in the story public reading every seven years emphasizes that the skin of his oration referred... The existence of the cloud hid it for six days other Yahwistic passages in the of... 19:16, we read that all the time seem to have the new set tablets. Encasing the Majesty of the covenant is ratified through sacrificial rituals and the cloud, from Genesis 1 to 34! Its difficulties the signal is given that it is safe to do so Exodus! Saudi Arabia it amounted to a repetition of the horn grew what happened at mount sinai in the bible and louder not aware that Lord! Conveyed ( Exodus 19:1 ) emerges in the Tabernacle project for the most part internally! Had in mind all along descends four times, and they positioned themselves at the Straits Tiran...