Exodus 19 (NRSV)
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;
It took them three months of trusting God to get to this place, but they finally arrived. They saw God’s deliverance from Egypt, received His guidance on the way to go, saw His glorious victory at the Red Sea, received God’s miraculous gifts of food and water, and they saw a prayerful victory won over the Amalekites.
Israel stayed in the Wilderness of Sinai until Numbers 10. More than 57 chapters of Scripture are devoted to what happened to Israel in the year they camped at Mount Sinai.
The word conventionally translated ‘wilderness’ is not a sandy desert, but grazing country, not settled by man.
Israel camped there in front of the mountain.
I offer this for you to consider:
There is good reason to believe that the traditional site of Mount Sinai –- on the Sinai Peninsula -– is not the correct location of the mountain where all this came to pass.
According to Exodus 2:15, 3:1, and 3:12 this mountain was in the region of Midian, which was on the east side of the Gulf of Aqaba, east of the Sinai Peninsula. The ancient land of Midian is in the modern nation of Saudi Arabia.
In Galatians 4:25, the Apostle Paul clearly described Mount Sinai as being in Arabia. Though some claim that this can also be understood as extending to the Sinai Peninsula, this isn’t the normal understanding of where Arabia is, either in the modern or the ancient understanding.
There is significant evidence – both historic and archaeological -– to associate the Arabian mountain Jebel al-Lawz with the site of Mount Sinai.
3Then Moses went up to God; the Lord 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.
“On Eagle’s Wings” written in 1979 by Michael Joncas, a Roman Catholic priest.
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.”
1 Peter 2:5 (New Living Translation)
And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests.Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God.
7So Moses came, summoned the elders of the people, and set before them all these words that the Lord had commanded him. 8The people all answered as one: “Everything that the Lord has spoken we will do.” Moses reported the words of the people to the Lord.
9Then the Lord 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 Lord, 10the Lord 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 Lord 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.
If there is anything basic to human nature, it is that we need boundaries. In setting these boundaries and providing the death penalty for breaching them, God showed Israel that obedience is more important than their feelings. We don’t doubt that some bold Israelites felt like going beyond the boundaries, but they were to submit their feelings to obedience.
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.”
16On 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 Lord had descended upon it in fire; the smoke went up like the smoke of a kiln, while the whole mountain shook violently.
Psalm 104:31-32 (New International Version)
May the glory of the LORD endure forever;
may the LORD rejoice in his works-
he who looks at the earth, and it trembles,
who touches the mountains, and they smoke.
19As the blast of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses would speak and God would answer him in thunder.
Mark 9:7 (New Living Translation)
Then a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son. Listen to him.”
20When the Lord descended upon Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain, the Lord summoned Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up.
21Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go down and warn the people not to break through to the Lord to look; otherwise many of them will perish. 22Even the priests who approach the Lord must consecrate themselves or the Lord will break out against them.”
23Moses said to the Lord, “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 Lord 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 Lord; otherwise he will break out against them.”
25So Moses went down to the people and told them.
The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.