Moses and 73 men climb Mount Sinai
- 1 The LORD told Moses, “I want you and Aaron along with Nadab, Abihu,1 and 70 elder leaders of Israel to come and stand before me on the mountain. You will be able to worship me at a distance.
- 2 Only you, Moses, may approach me more closely. The others must keep their distance.”
- 3 Moses told the people of Israel what the LORD told him. This included the laws God expected the people to obey. The people answered Moses in unison, “We will do everything the Lord said.”
- 4 Moses then took the time to write down everything the LORD told him. Early the following morning he got up and built an altar at the foot of the mountain. He built the altar out of 12 stones. Each stone represented one of the 12 tribes of Israel.2
- 5 Moses had some of the young men of Israel to offer sacrifices to the LORD. They offered both burnt sacrifices and peace offerings.3
- 6 Moses collected the blood from the sacrifices. He put half of the blood in bowls and basins. The other half he sprinkled onto the altar.4
Moses reads the contract
- 7 Moses took the Book of the Agreement he had just written—a record of the words of the LORD—and he read it to the people, as they listened intently. When Moses finished reading, the people replied, “We will do everything the LORD said. Yes, we will.”
- 8 Moses took the remaining blood and sprinkled it on the people. He said, “Look, this is the blood of the agreement that the Lord has made with you, which I just read to you.”
- 9 Moses went back up on the mountain with Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the 70 elder leaders of Israel.
- 10 This time, they saw the God of Israel. He seemed to be standing on pavement made of sapphire stone. It was as clear and blue as the sky.
- 11 God didn’t kill them. In fact, he let them eat a meal and drink in front of him.
Ten Commandments in stone
- 12 The LORD told Moses, “I want you to come up to me here on the mountain. I want you to stay here for a while. Then I’ll give you stone tablets inscribed with the Law—rules I have written for the people.
- 13 So Moses went up to God’s Mountain,5 with Joshua, who worked for him.
- 14 Moses told the elder leaders of Israel, “Wait here until we get back. If you have any problems or disputes while we’re gone, Aaron and Hur6 can help settle the matters.”
- 15 Moses climbed the mountain, ascending into a cloud that covered the top of it.
- 16 The LORD, in his radiant presence, settled in on the mountain and stayed there for six days. On the seventh day he ordered Moses to step out of the cloud.
- 17 When Moses stepped out of the cloud cover, the people of Israel saw him. God’s presence on the mountaintop looked like the light of a massive fire.
- 18 Moses stepped back into the cloud cover as he climbed back up the mountain. Moses camped there on the mountain for 40 days and 40 nights.
Nadab and Abihu were the sons of Aaron (Exodus 6:23).
The 12 tribes of Israel were each extended families from the 12 sons of Jacob. The family of Levi didn’t have a territory assigned to it, as the other families did. They would serve as priests throughout the nation. Joseph didn’t have a tribe either. He had two, one for each of his sons, Ephraim and Manasseh.
Burnt offerings involved sacrifices to atone for sinful behavior. The entire animal was burned on an altar. See Leviticus 1. A peace offering, described in Leviticus 3, is one of several prescribed offerings in Jewish tradition. When Jewish people wanted to give thanks to God for something, such as good health or safety, they would sacrifice a sheep, goat, cow, or bull. They would burn part of the animal, including the kidneys and fat covering the intestines. They would eat the rest in celebration, often with family and friends. It takes a fair number of hungry people to eat a cow. But people were eager to eat meat because it was rare in Bible times for common folks to eat meat, many Bible scholars say.
Some scholars say the altar represents God, and that Moses connects God and the people by sprinkling blood, first on the altar, and later on the people (24:8). It’s perhaps a bit like each party signing a contract on the dotted line. This contract is signed in blood, making it especially serious business.
Another name for Mount Sinai. “God’s Mountain” (Exodus 3:1) is where God would give Moses the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:2-13).
Hur was an associate of Aaron and possibly the grandfather of Bezalel (Exodus 31:2), the man in charge of building Israel’s most sacred object: the gold-plated chest called the Ark of the Covenant, which held the Ten Commandments.