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The Israelites Reach Mount Sinai


On the third new moon after the Israelites had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that very day, they came into the wilderness of Sinai. 2They had journeyed from Rephidim, entered the wilderness of Sinai, and camped in the wilderness; Israel camped there in front of the mountain. 3Then Moses went up to God; the L ord called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the Israelites: 4You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth is mine, 6but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the Israelites.”

7 So Moses came, summoned the elders of the people, and set before them all these words that the L ord had commanded him. 8The people all answered as one: “Everything that the L ord has spoken we will do.” Moses reported the words of the people to the L ord. 9Then the L ord said to Moses, “I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, in order that the people may hear when I speak with you and so trust you ever after.”

The People Consecrated

When Moses had told the words of the people to the L ord, 10the L ord said to Moses: “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow. Have them wash their clothes 11and prepare for the third day, because on the third day the L ord will come down upon Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. 12You shall set limits for the people all around, saying, ‘Be careful not to go up the mountain or to touch the edge of it. Any who touch the mountain shall be put to death. 13No hand shall touch them, but they shall be stoned or shot with arrows; whether animal or human being, they shall not live.’ When the trumpet sounds a long blast, they may go up on the mountain.” 14So Moses went down from the mountain to the people. He consecrated the people, and they washed their clothes. 15And he said to the people, “Prepare for the third day; do not go near a woman.”

16 On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, as well as a thick cloud on the mountain, and a blast of a trumpet so loud that all the people who were in the camp trembled. 17Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God. They took their stand at the foot of the mountain. 18Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke, because the L ord had descended upon it in fire; the smoke went up like the smoke of a kiln, while the whole mountain shook violently. 19As the blast of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses would speak and God would answer him in thunder. 20When the L ord descended upon Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain, the L ord summoned Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up. 21Then the L ord said to Moses, “Go down and warn the people not to break through to the L ord to look; otherwise many of them will perish. 22Even the priests who approach the L ord must consecrate themselves or the L ord will break out against them.” 23Moses said to the L ord, “The people are not permitted to come up to Mount Sinai; for you yourself warned us, saying, ‘Set limits around the mountain and keep it holy.’ ” 24The L ord said to him, “Go down, and come up bringing Aaron with you; but do not let either the priests or the people break through to come up to the L ord; otherwise he will break out against them.” 25So Moses went down to the people and told them.

4. Ye have seen. With the view of gently inviting the people to obedience, He first recalls to their recollection the blessing of their deliverance, and then promises that the blessings of the future would be not inferior, if they on their part honored their deliverer with the piety and gratitude which belong to Him. He recounts the two parts of His loving-kindness, first that He had exerted His tremendous power against the Egyptians, and secondly, that He had marvelously brought His redeemed people through the sea, and the mighty wilderness, as through the clouds and the air; for this was an instance of His inestimable grace, that He had made war against a most powerful king, had afflicted a most flourishing nation, and had devastated a land remarkable for its extreme fertility, in order to succor a body of despised slaves. For there was no dignity in them, who first of all were strangers, and moreover abject herdsmen, and devoted to base and shameful slavery, whereby God might be incited for their sakes to destroy the Egyptians, who were illustrious in glory, in wealth, in the richness of their land, and in the splendor of their empire. Wherefore it would have been detestable ingratitude not to acknowledge their great obligations to God. What He adds in the second place, that He bare them as eagles are wont to carry their young, has reference to the constant course of His paternal care. Moses will hereafter use the same comparison in his song, and it often occurs in the prophets. But He mentions the eagle rather than other birds, in my opinion, that He may magnify their difficulties, and thus commend His grace; for eagles lift up their young ones upon high places, and accustom them to look at the sun; thus the people, as if carried above the clouds on the wings of God, had surmounted every obstacle, however great. For the notion which some have, that eagles are mentioned instead of other birds, because they alone bear up their young ones on their wings, is a foolish and truly Rabbinical gloss.208208     This Rabbinical comment is thus briefly stated in S. M., — I bare you as it were on my shoulders, as an eagle carries her young ones upon her wings, and not after the manner of other birds, who bear up their young ones with their feet wherever they wish to carry them. — W See Illustrated Commentary on Deuteronomy 32:11.

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