In our last look in Exodus, Jethro came to visit Moses and recommended Moses only choose those who fear God as leaders in the community. If one wants absolute control over the people, this is a good move. Those who fear God will never question orders from Moses as he has convinced them he receives the direct word of God. Exodus 19 brings us to Mount Sinai. The chapter begins with God speaking to Moses.
“You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” – Exodus 19:4-6
God is clear that he will treasure the Israelites if they obey him, but what does ‘obey’ mean? If the rules are just, that’s one thing, but God has been known to make unjust rules. See Job, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, etc. for unjust rules and rules that simply do not make any sense.
“The Lord said to Moses, ‘I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, so that the people will hear me speaking with you and will always put their trust in you.’” – Exodus 19:9
Is this the moment God reveals himself to the Israelites instead of just Moses? Let’s find out.
“And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow. Have them wash their clothes and be ready by the third day, because on that day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. Put limits for the people around the mountain and tell them, ‘Be careful that you do not approach the mountain or touch the foot of it. Whoever touches the mountain is to be put to death. They are to be stoned or shot with arrows; not a hand is to be laid on them. No person or animal shall be permitted to live.’ Only when the ram’s horn sounds a long blast may they approach the mountain.’” – Exodus 19:10-13
And this is where the rules become unjust. Don’t touch the mountain or be stoned to death? Seriously? That’s the penalty for touching the mountain? What if someone is accidentally pushed forward and touches the mountain? After all, this is probably an exciting time for the Israelites. Seeing God in person would certainly be an exciting event. People will certainly push to get to the front. Well, let’s see how this plays out.
“Then he (Moses) said to the people, ‘Prepare yourselves for the third day. Abstain from sexual relations.’” – Exodus 19:15
Huh? Abstain from sexual relations? Says who? God says NOTHING about sexual relations to Moses. Moses added this little bit in. God certainly has a reputation for saying things about sex, the penis, the foreskin, semen, etc., but in this case, let’s give God some credit for not going all anti-sex in this moment.
“Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently. As the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him.” – Exodus 19:18-19
Sounds like a volcanic eruption to me, but let’s forget this for a second. God is here to speak to the Israelites, right? Think again.
“The Lord descended to the top of Mount Sinai and called Moses to the top of the mountain.” – Exodus 19:20
Not yet. God is still speaking only to Moses. Only Moses goes to the top of the mountain. The rest of the Israelites stay at the base. God tells Moses to again tell the people to not push forward onto the mountain. Only Moses and Aaron are allowed on the mountain.
That ends Exodus 19. Obviously the story continues and we’ll have to see what happens. God has yet to speak to the Israelites, but maybe He will soon. God says He will love the people, but puts a ridiculous rule of touching a mountain and being stoned to death. Why? What’s the point? To test the Israelites into obeying? Okay, I get that, but that seems kind of petty for an all-powerful God. That’s like telling a child, don’t get into the cookie jar or I will stone you to death. Seriously? It’s too easy for an accident to happen, and let’s not forget that at this point, God has only spoken to Moses. The Israelites have no direct evidence of God’s existence. There’s every reason to be skeptical. The authors of the Bible, however, don’t want you to think for yourself. Thinking is evil.
Coming Soon: Exodus – Chapter 20: The Ten Commandments