Chapter 19 Starts in the third month after the COI (Children of Israel) left Egypt. Moses goes up the mountain to talk to Yahweh and is told this.
Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself.
Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine:
And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.
Exodus 19:4-6 (KJV)
Eagles’ wings? They have already taken three months on a journey that should take less than two weeks. Spoilers: It will take them forty years. Are these people really treasured by god above all other people? A quick check of history leads me to be exceedingly glad I am not treasured by god. That passage ends with describing Israel as a nation that is holy and a kingdom of priests, yet they are soon to be committing a great deal of genocide and atrocities. It’s in their book.
Verse 7, Moses goes down to tell the people what Yahweh said, and the agree to follow Yahweh forever.
Verse 8, Moses goes back up the mountain and tells god everyone is on board, and god tells them what to do to get ready for his appearance. They are to wash their clothes and get ready, because in three days god will appear to Moses and speak to him so everyone can hear god’s words. Then, they will, “believe thee forever.” Okay.
The warning is also passed out that anyone touching the mountain (besides Moses and Aaron) will die! Not magic struck-down-by-the-hand-of-god die, but stoned or stabbed to death by the people. This includes animals wandering onto the mountain as well.
And thou shalt set bounds unto the people round about, saying, Take heed to yourselves, that ye go not up into the mount, or touch the border of it: whosoever toucheth the mount shall be surely put to death:
There shall not an hand touch it, but he shall surely be stoned, or shot through; whether it be beast or man, it shall not live: when the trumpet soundeth long, they shall come up to the mount.
Exodus 19:12-13 (KJV)
Verse 14, Moses goes back down the mountain and tells the people all the warnings. Interestingly, he adds a warning in verse 15 about “not coming at your wives,” the day before the big reveal. The big guy never said that, it was an add on from Moe.
God shows up with thunder and smoke and lightning. Moses goes back up the mountain in verse 20. God then tells Moses to go back and tell everyone that he will kill anyone who gets near him, but Moses reminds god he told him that three days ago and it’s all taken care of. God the tells Moses to go back anyway and bring Aaron. I guess he forgot.
So in verse 25 he goes back down again. While he is down, god speaks to the people and reveals the first ten commandments. This is Exodus 20:1-17. Then this exchange takes place.
And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off.
And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.
And Moses said unto the people, Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not.
And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was.
Exodus 20:18-21 (KJV)
So, what “actually happened?” Did the COI stand so far away they couldn’t hear god? The whole point of this was so people would hear him and live in fear of a vengeful god forever. It says right in the book, don’t be scared…just…be scared of god? It does seem from the text the people never heard god, just saw a thunderstorm and ran away. Moses once again ascends the mountain to god.
This all strikes me much like the story of Joseph Smith and the golden plates.
Joe Smith: “I’ve got a new message from god written on these golden plates!”
Everyone: “Let’s see them!”
Joe: “Uh…no. Only I can see them.”
Everyone: “Well, can you tell us what they say?”
Joe: “Sure. I’ll stick my head in this sack and read these plates that no one else can see.”
Some people: “Yeah! We have a new religion.”
The chapter ends by starting the long process of setting up all the other rules god has for the world. That’s right, there’s WAY MORE than ten commandments. We’ll have another entry for the big ten themselves, and probably more than that for the huge list of rules that we were given by god to follow.
Cartoon Images provided by Distant Shores Media/Sweet Publishing [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons