Gods Sends Moses Up & Down and Up & Down the Mountain. Don’t Touch! No Priests!


Gods Sends Moses Up & Down and Up & Down the Mountain. Don’t Touch! No Priests!
Exodus 19 and parts of 20

There are two curiosities of interest to Bible Bits in chapter 19 of Exodus regarding the activities of God, Moses, the Israelites, and certain non-existent priests. All this takes place at camp Horeb and on Mount Sinai immediately prior to the delivery of the Ten Commandments in chapter 20. Our first curious bit is an immediate turnaround by Moses at the mountain top. The second curious bit is an unexpected insertion of Hebrew priests into the narrative. All of this curiosity occurs during a close reading of Exodus 19 and a careful counting of Moses’ trips up and down the mountain.

Let’s see what is happening:

Moses has gathered the Israelites in a camp near the foot of Mount Sinai (or Mt. Horeb, as it is also called). The Lord directs Moses to insist upon the Israelites that no person other than Moses may ascend the mountain or even touch the mountain. Nobody other than Moses is to set foot upon even the lowest base of the mountain, at the penalty of traumatic death. The mountain in its entirety is sacred, all the way down to its base.

We are in the first year after the great walk-out from Egypt. Let’s read in chapter 19:

1 In the third month, when the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, the same day came they into the wilderness of Sinai. 2 For they were departed from Rephidim, and were come to the desert of Sinai, and had pitched in the wilderness; and there Israel camped before the mount. 3 And Moses went up unto God, and the Lord called unto him out of the mountain, saying, Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel…. (from Exodus 19:1-3, Cambridge UK Authorized King James Version)

As the events play out, the mountain becomes enveloped in cloud of smoke. There is lightning and thunder. There is an intense sound of shofar / ram’s horn / trumpet blaring:

9 And the LORD said unto Moses: ‘Lo, I come unto thee in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with thee, and may also believe thee for ever.’… 16 And it came to pass on the third day, when it was morning, that there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of a horn exceeding loud; and all the people that were in the camp trembled. 17 And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet God; and they stood at the nether part of the mount. 18 Now mount Sinai was altogether on smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire; and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly. 19 And when the voice of the horn waxed louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him by a voice. (from Exodus 9 and 16-19, JPS Tanakh 1917)

We can imagine that Moses has placed some sort of marker or even a barricade at the foot of the mountain to remind the curious and prevent any stepping-of-foot on the mountain. Perhaps a fence. Perhaps a line of 1400 BC yellow police tape. Some sort of observable limits. Moses warns the Israelites, and the people seem to acknowledge the prohibition and respect the fear of glimpsing God and even hearing the Lord’s voice:

12 And you will establish limits for the people all around, and you will say to them: ‘Take care not to ascend to the mountain, and that you do not touch its parts. All who touch the mountain, shall die a death.’ 13 Hands shall not touch him, but he shall be crushed with stones, or he shall be pierced through with darts. Whether it be a beast or a man, he shall not live. For when the trumpet begins to sound, perhaps they might go up toward the mountain.” (Exodus 19:12-13, Catholic Public Domain Version)

In the course of Exodus chapter 19 and into 20, we at Bible Bits count Moses going up and down the mountain three times, while God descends from His heavenly throne to an in-person, up-close-and-personal presence at both mountain top plus a more or less simultaneous in-person personal-presence-encompassing of the entire mountain. We’ll point these out as we read Exodus 19 and the end of 20 from the New American Standard Bible.

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Chapter 19. 1 In the third month after the sons of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that very day they came into the wilderness of Sinai. 2 When they set out from Rephidim, they came to the wilderness of Sinai and camped in the wilderness; and there Israel camped in front of the mountain. 3 Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain…. (NASB)

The Israelites are camped in view of the sacred mountain.

Moses ascends the mountain. Trip up #1. God is at there at the top of the mountain.

God has a few things to say and directions to give:

3 Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob and tell the sons of Israel: 4 ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and [how] I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself. 5 ‘Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; 6 and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.” 7 So Moses came and called the elders of the people, and set before them all these words which the LORD had commanded him. 8 All the people answered together and said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do!” And Moses brought back the words of the people to the LORD. (NASB)

At verse 7, we see Moses descending the mountain. Trip down #1. Moses relays the words of God to the camp.

Now, in verse 9 and 10 Bible Bits sees Moses making a second ascent up the mountain to the presence of God at the top. Trip up #2. And another round of instructions and warnings.

9 The LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I will come to you in a thick cloud, so that the people may hear when I speak with you and may also believe in you forever.” Then Moses told the words of the people to the LORD. 10 The LORD also said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments; 11 and let them be ready for the third day, for on the third day the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. 12 “You shall set bounds for the people all around, saying, ‘Beware that you do not go up on the mountain or touch the border of it; whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death. 13 ‘No hand shall touch him, but he shall surely be stoned or shot through; whether beast or man, he shall not live.’ When the ram’s horn sounds a long blast, they shall come up to the mountain.” 14 So Moses went down from the mountain to the people and consecrated the people, and they washed their garments. (NASB)

We assume Moses makes a second ascent within the context of verse 9 because he was back in camp at verse 7, and we see Moses making a second descent at verse 14. Do you agree?

Trip up #2.

Trip down #2.

Now notice above in verses 12 and 13 one of God’s instructions which is of interest to Bible Bits. In these God tells Moses to warn the Israelites that none of the Israelites are to touch the mountain, even at its base. Nobody other than Moses may touch the mountain, much less hike to the top. We can assume that nobody other than Moses is allowed on Sinai. The Bible mentions (so far) nothing of Aaron, priests, tour guides, sherpas, or anybody else.

Notice also, in verse 11, God announces that He will encompass the entire mountain with his tangible presence. Up until now, God’s tangible presence has been on the mountain top only, during God’s more or less face-to-face encounters with Moses.

Next, at 15, we are back in camp after the second descent and Moses passes along God’s announcements and the don’t-touch-the-mountain warning (presumably, yes?):

15 He said to the people, “Be ready for the third day; do not go near a woman.” 16 So it came about on the third day, when it was morning, that there were thunder and lightning flashes and a thick cloud upon the mountain and a very loud trumpet sound, so that all the people who [were] in the camp trembled. 17 And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. 18 Now Mount Sinai [was] all in smoke because the LORD descended upon it in fire; and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked violently. 19 When the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and God answered him with thunder.

It seems that God is now, as He said, encompassing the mountain in its entirety. Or something of the sort, as the presence is visible to the Israelites in the camp and they are trembling.

But then:

20 The LORD came down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain; and the LORD called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up. 21 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, “Go down, warn the people, so that they do not break through to the LORD to gaze, and many of them perish.

Moses makes his third ascent of Mount Sinai. Trip up #3.

Even though verses 16-19 have God occupying the entirety of the mountain, verse 20 declares that God comes down (from heaven, yes?) “to the top of the mountain” where he calls for Moses. Is God everywhere on the mountain or is God at the top only? (And no, at the end of the day, this doesn’t really matter. But these little details are nevertheless intriguing.)

Remember that only eight verses ago God told Moses to warn the people not to touch the mountain. And yet God demands of Moses: “Get back up here! Now turn around immediately and get your tail back down there. And tell the people again what you’ve already told them about not setting foot on the mountain. Remind them of the barrier. Now get down there!”

Yes?

This is our first intriguing Bible Bit.

Why does God re-emphasize a direction which has (presumably) already been announced and performed by Moses? Did Moses NOT announce the don’t-touch-the-mountain warning? Is God forgetful? Is God erratic? Is God jerking Moses around? And then is Moses worn out after the quick up-and-down and up-and-down?

Next, at verses 22 and following, God adds a puzzling instruction regarding priests, their consecration, and a specific admonishment that priests are forbidden (along with everybody else) to touch and ascend the mountain:

22 “Also let the priests who come near to the LORD consecrate themselves, or else the LORD will break out against them.” 23 Moses said to the LORD, “The people cannot come up to Mount Sinai, for You warned us, saying, ‘Set bounds about the mountain and consecrate it.'” 24 Then the LORD said to him, “Go down and come up [again,] you and Aaron with you; but do not let the priests and the people break through to come up to the LORD, or He will break forth upon them.” 25 So Moses went down to the people and told them.

Moses descends for the third time. Trip down #3 by our count.

Note also, above in 24, brother Aaron is tossed into the mix of itemization of who is and who is not specifically allowed to ascend the mountain and see the presence of God up close and personal.

But these priests?

What priests? At this point in the Old Testament, the Israelites have no priests. At least none that the Bible has mentioned. We have to wait until we reach Exodus 25 (we are now at 19 and 20) before we see God beginning His instructions regarding and eventual Israelite priesthood. And then we must wait until chapters 27 and 28 and beyond to see references to Aaron as priest and the existence of an actual priesthood. The remainder of Exodus and Leviticus are thick with passages pertaining to the duties of priests, the defining of their Aaronic line, and the distinction between priests and their tabernacle partners/assistants, the Levite tabernacle maintenance crews.

Up to this point in our Bible, at Exodus 19, the only time priests of any sort have been mentioned are in Genesis 14 where we encounter the mysterious Melchizedek king of Salem, then in Exodus 2, 3, and 18 where we see Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, a priest of the foreign Midianite clan, and then several places in Genesis where priests of Egypt are mentioned.

Later on, in Leviticus and Numbers, we hear plenty about priests and the priesthood. But at this point in Exodus 19 and 20, there are no Israelite priests.

And oh, by the way, right here in chapter 19 back inverse 6, God declares that ALL God-fearing Israelites are priests — that they are a kingdom of priests:

5 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, 6 you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.” (Exodus 19:5-6, New International Version)

Chapter 19 closes (see above) with verse 25, “and so Moses went back down and told them.” Right after this, chapter 20 opens (and continues the narrative) with God speaking directly to the people from His encompassing of the mountain:

Chapter 20. 1 Then God spoke all these words, saying, 2 “I am the LORD your God … [next comes the Ten Commands, which we will skip for this Bible Bit] … 17 …you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” (NASB)

The remainder of Exodus 20 wraps up our narrative of the God-Moses-people-mountain-flash-bang experience:

18 All the people perceived the thunder and the lightning flashes and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw [it,] they trembled and stood at a distance. 19 Then they said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die.” 20 Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin.” 21 So the people stood at a distance, while Moses approached the thick cloud where God [was.] 22 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘You yourselves have seen that I have spoken to you from heaven. … [four more verses in 20] …. (Exodus 19 and 20, NASB)

And so, our two items of interest: Why does God direct Moses up the mountain and then immediately down the mountain with instructions for a task he has (presumably) already performed? And why do these instructions now include a demand regarding a non-existent priesthood and non-existent priests, forbidding these non-existent priests from accompanying Moses up the mountain?


What do the commentaries say regarding our two items?

Our perusal of the commentaries regarding our two items of interest finds these observations:

  • God’s third up/down demand of Moses, and repetition of the “don’t touch” command is curious, notable
  • God’s repetition/reminder is for the purpose of emphasis
  • God’s reminder comes from his knowing the inclination of people, but especially the defacto priests (whoever they are), to meet God in person
  • God’s reminder comes from knowing that these priests presumptiously think too highly of themselves, and equal to Moses and Aaron
  • The priests are definitely not from the Levitical and Aaronic line, which comes later
  • It is understandable that some sort of priestly functions and priests themselves have been established
  • The priests are perhaps first born sons (as these are dedicated to God)
  • No, the priests are not the first born sons
  • The priests are perhaps designated younger men
  • The mention of priests is a reference to the future, when there will be a God-prescribed priesthood
  • Our text seems to be garbled in verses 21-25

We have pulled from a variety of commentaries and show these quotes here. Some of these are in the public domain while others are from current commercial products:

Believer’s Bible Commentary

The LORD repeated His warning to Moses that the people should not touch the mount. Moses at first thought it unnecessary to remind the people but later obeyed. The priests in verses 22 and 24 were probably the firstborn sons.

Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers

Warning was given, as soon as God announced His intention of descending upon Sinai, that the people must not approach too near. “Bounds” were set, and the people required to keep within them. Actual contact with the mountain was forbidden under penalty of death (Exodus 19:12). It is evident from Exodus 19:23 that the command to “set bounds” had been obeyed, and a fence erected which it would have required some force to “break through;” nor can there be any doubt that Moses had promulgated the directions, which he had received from God, forbidding any approach to the mount, and threatening death to those who should “touch” it. Yet still it is evident from this concluding paragraph of the chapter (Exodus 19:21-25) that the first warning was insufficient. An intention to “break through, to gaze,” must have been entertained by many. To this intention the existing priesthood, whatever it was, were parties (Exodus 19:22).

ESV Study Bible

The reference to the priests precedes the Lord’s instructions that Aaron and his sons will fill the role (see 28:1). If Aaron’s sons are being referred to here, they are grouped together with the people as those who are restricted from coming up on the mountain. break out against them. I.e., kill them (cf. Lev. 10:1–2; 2 Sam. 6:6–8).

Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Abridged Edition): Old Testament

“Even” the priests who approached the Lord were to consecrate themselves. Certainly this was not the Aaronic priesthood, because that had not yet been established. It must be a reference to the “firstborn” of every family who were dedicated and consecrated to God (13:2). Only later was the tribe of Levi substituted for each firstborn male (Nu 3:45). Should the people fail to observe this request, the Lord would “break out against them.”

Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible

As soon as he was got to the top of the mount he was bid to go down again to the bottom, with a message to the people… [The Lord] ordered Moses to give them a strict charge not to transgress the bounds set them, or to break down or break through the fence of stones and sand, or hedge of bushes, brambles, and branches of trees, or whatever was placed for bounds:

The Interpreter’s Bible (1952 release)

But [Moses] has hardly entered the divine presence when Yahweh tells him to return and warn the people lest they break through to the LORD to gaze. In view of vss. 12, 16 this seems anomalous. Vs. 23 appears to be a redactor’s note seeking to harmonize the discrepancy, a harmonization in which Yahweh is revealed as very absent-minded! Moses is also to command the priests who will come near to share in the solemnities to consecrate themselves (cf. vs. 10). The arrangements at the mountain with respect to the order of relative holiness are probably consciously patterned upon those which later prevailed in the temple. It seems possible to read vs. 24 as it stands only by assuming that it refers to those priests who were not to come near (vs. 22) to share in the ceremony. Otherwise one must either be content with the RSV’s translation, Go down and come up, bringing Aaron with you; but do not let the priests and the people… or conclude with Beer (Exodus, p. 97) that vss. 21-25 are a badly garbled repetition.

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

No sooner had Moses proceeded a little up the mount, than he was suddenly ordered to return, in order to keep the people from breaking through to gaze — a course adopted to heighten the impressive solemnity of the scene. The strict injunctions renewed to all, whatever their condition, at a time and in circumstances when the whole multitude of Israel were standing at the base of the mount, was calculated in the highest degree to solemnize and awe every heart.

Jewish Study Bible

Even the [priests who come near the Lord] when performing their sacrificial duties [must stay pure], or “purify themselves,” like the rest of the people. Although priests will later have access to the sanctuary, at the theophany they are restricted like the rest of the people.

Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament

He then commanded him to go down again, and impress upon the people that no one was to break through to Jehovah to see, i.e., to break down the barriers that were erected around the mountain as the sacred place of God, and attempt to penetrate into the presence of Jehovah. Even the priests, who were allowed to approach God by virtue of their office, were to sanctify themselves, that Jehovah might not break forth upon them … i.e., dash them to pieces. …The priests were neither “the sons of Aaron,” i.e., Levitical priest, nor the first-born or principes populi, but “those who had hitherto discharged the duties of the priestly office according to natural right and custom” (Baumgarten). Even these priests were too unholy to be able to come into the presence of the holy God. This repeated enforcement of the command not to touch the mountain, and the special extension of it even to the priests, were intended to awaken in the people a consciousness of their own unholiness quite as much as of the unapproachable holiness of Jehovah. But this separation from God, which arose from the unholiness of the nation, did not extend to Moses and Aaron, who were to act as mediators, and were permitted to ascend the mountain.

Matthew Henry Commentary (Complete) on the Whole Bible

No sooner had Moses got up a little way towards the top of the mount than he was sent down again to keep the people from breaking through to gaze, v. 21. Even the priests or princes, the heads of the houses of their fathers, who officiated for their respective families, and therefore are said to come near to the Lord at other times, must now keep their distance, and conduct themselves with a great deal of caution. Moses pleads that they needed not to have any further orders given them, effectual care being taken already to prevent any intrusions, v. 23. But God, who knew their wilfulness and presumption, and what was now in the hearts of some of them, hastens him down with this in charge, that neither the priests nor the people should offer to force the lines that were set, to come up unto the Lord, but Moses and Aaron on, the men whom God delighted to honour.

NET Bible Notes [re v.43]

The construction is emphatic: “because you—you solemnly warned us.” Moses’ response to God is to ask how they would break through when God had already charged them not to. God knew them better than Moses did.

NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible

priests. Arguably those who functioned as priests (cf. 24:5) before God instituted the Aaronic priesthood (28:1) But in view of the immediate context, it more likely anticipates the subsequent role of Aaron and his sons (24:1)—in particular, the incident involving Nadab and Abihu (Lev 10:1–2; 16:1).

NIV Study Bible Notes, Fully Revised Edition

priests. See also v. 24. Before the Aaronic priesthood was established (28:1), priestly functions were performed either by the elders … or by designated younger men (24:5). But perhaps the verse anticipates the regulations for the Aaronic priests who will be appointed. who approach the Lord. To officiate at sacrifices (40:32; Lev 21:23).

NIV Storyline Bible

Approximately three months after escaping Egypt, the Israelites came to the vicinity of Mount Sinai. God revealed Himself in power on the mountain — with fire, smoke, earthquake, and even a jewel-like path (Exodus 24:10). He commanded the people not to touch Sinai under penalty of death and then led Moses … up into its heights. There, over a forty-day period, He presented to Moses a variety of rules, beginning with the ten most important ones. …Israel’s encounter with God at Sinai lasted for nearly a year and constitutes a larger portion of the first five books of the Old Testament (see article “Torah”) than any other event. The latter half of Exodus, the entire book of Leviticus, and the first portion of Numbers all recount the giving of the law at Sinai. …It was at Sinai that the people became a “kingdom of priests” in covenant with Yahweh (Exodus 19:6)…

NKJV Chronological Study Bible Notes

The Israelites arrived at Mount Sinai in the 3rd month following their exodus from Egypt (Ex. 19:1). Here they would remain for several months while God’s glory rested on the mountain. They completed work on the tabernacle in the 1st month of the 2nd year of the Exodus (Ex. 40:17), thus one year after leaving Egypt (Ex. 12:2, 3).

New International Bible Commentary

The warning is repeated in v. 24 (cf. vv. 12 f.) to convey the absolute necessity of keeping within the appointed limits…. It would be surprising if the Israelites did not have some religious functionaries before the consecration of the ‘Levitical priests’. The term may even be used proleptically of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, in consideration of their later appointment to the priesthood.

Pulpit Commentary

The further warning to the people and the priests. It is very remarkable that, after all the directions given (vers. 10-13), and all the pains taken by Moses and the Israelites themselves (vers. 14, 15, 23), God should still have thought it necessary to interpose with a fresh warning, and to send Moses back from the top of the mount to the bottom, in order to communicate the renewed warning to the people. We can only suppose that, in spite of the instructions previously given and the precautions taken, there were those among the people who were prepared to “break through” the fence, and invade the mount, and who would have done so, to their own destruction (ver. 21), but for this second warning. The special mention of the “priests” (vers. 22, 24) raises the suspicion, that this proud and rebellious spirit was particularly developed among them. Accustomed to the exercise of sacred functions, they may have been inclined to regard their own purity as equal to that of Moses and Aaron; and they may even have resented their exclusion from a sacred spot to which the two sons of Amram were admitted. Apparently, they had conceived that the injunction to go through the recognised ceremonies of purification (ver. 10) did not apply to them, and had neglected to do so, on which account a special command had to be issued, addressed to them only (ver. 22).

Vines Expository Bible Notes

The Hebrew people arrived at Mount Sinai after a three-month grueling trip (Ex. 19:1, 2). Awaiting instructions from their leader, Moses, they set up camp hoping to hear from God. Moses wasted no time ascending the mountain (19:3).

Zondervan NIV Study Commentary (Vol. 1, Old Testament)

The triple emphasis (vv. 12-13, 21-22, 25) is a standard literary practice when the text wants us to notice an important subject. Thus the boundary line between human and the divine was not to be taken lightly by mortals. … “Even” the priests who approached the Lord were to consecrate themselves. Certainly this was not the Aaronic priesthood, because that had not yet been established. It must be a reference to the “firstborn” of every family who were dedicated and consecrated to God. Only later was the tribe of Levi substituted for each firstborn male (Num 3:45).

Zondervan Bible Commentary in One Volume

The warning [of verse 21] is repeated in v. 24 (cf. vv. 12 f.) to convey the absolute necessity of keeping within the appointed limits. 22. priests: it would be surprising if the Israelites did not have some religious functionaries before the consecration of the ‘Levitical priests’. The term may even be used proleptically of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, in consideration of their later appointment to the priesthood (28:1; cf. 24:1 f., 9 ff). In 24:5 ‘young men’ are instructed to offer sacrifices in connection with the covenant ceremony. … 25. and told them makes the most of the present text. A truer rendering would be ‘and said to them’, in which case Moses’ words have been lost in transmission. (MT [Masoretic Text] has suffered a similar accident in transmission at Gen. 4:8, but there the ancient versions come to the rescue.)

Zondervan KJV Commentary

For a third time, the Lord (v. 20) summoned Moses … to the top of the mount. As soon as Moses arrived, the Lord commanded that he descend immediately to yet again remind the people not to let their curiosity get the better of them lest they break through unto the Lord to gaze, and many of them perish (v. 21). Moses objected to the need to repeat the warning, as the people had already been alerted to the danger. The Lord knew the Hebrews just a bit better than did their leader, however, and was conscious of their propensity to rebellion.

Moses was sent down again, with instructions to return to the mountain with Aaron and with a final reminder to keep vigilance over the people’s proximity to the mountain. The priests also, which come near to the Lord (v. 22). This phrase is a euphemism for those who lead in worship. As the Levitical priesthood had not yet been established, the Lord may have been referring to the firstborn males, who temporarily served as Israel’s priests (13:1-2; 24:5).

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God’s blessings to you! God’s extra blessings to you for wading through all this!

If you wish to reply, try to stick to our narrow topic. Also provide scripture and pull from good commentary.

And as always, please read the actual Bible for yourself!

We’ve added scripture below in nice large chunks to help you examine our Exodus 19 passage more closely for yourself.

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We provide finally the complete chapter 19 of Exodus in the (public domain) 1917 JPS Tanakh, the Cambridge Authorized King James, and the Berean Bible. Note that episode continues in chapter 20, where the Ten Commandments are given and we see further reaction of the people in camp Horeb witnessing all this.

JPS Tanakh 1917

Exodus 19 (JPS 1917) 1 In the third month after the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, the same day came they into the wilderness of Sinai. 2 And when they were departed from Rephidim, and were come to the wilderness of Sinai, they encamped in the wilderness; and there Israel encamped before the mount. 3 And Moses went up unto God, and the LORD called unto him out of the mountain, saying: ‘Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel: 4 Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto Myself. 5 Now therefore, if ye will hearken unto My voice indeed, and keep My covenant, then ye shall be Mine own treasure from among all peoples; for all the earth is Mine; 6 and ye shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.’ 7 And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and set before them all these words which the LORD commanded him. 8 And all the people answered together, and said: ‘All that the LORD hath spoken we will do.’ And Moses reported the words of the people unto the LORD. 9 And the LORD said unto Moses: ‘Lo, I come unto thee in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with thee, and may also believe thee for ever.’ And Moses told the words of the people unto the LORD. 10 And the LORD said unto Moses: ‘Go unto the people, and sanctify them to-day and to-morrow, and let them wash their garments, 11 and be ready against the third day; for the third day the LORD will come down in the sight of all the people upon mount Sinai. 12 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; 13 no hand shall touch him, but he shall surely be stoned, or shot through; whether it be beast or man, it shall not live; when the ram’s horn soundeth long, they shall come up to the mount.’ 14 And Moses went down from the mount unto the people, and sanctified the people; and they washed their garments. 15 And he said unto the people: ‘Be ready against the third day; come not near a woman.’ 16 And it came to pass on the third day, when it was morning, that there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of a horn exceeding loud; and all the people that were in the camp trembled. 17 And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet God; and they stood at the nether part of the mount. 18 Now mount Sinai was altogether on smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire; and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly. 19 And when the voice of the horn waxed louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him by a voice. 20 And the LORD came down upon mount Sinai, to the top of the mount; and the LORD called Moses to the top of the mount; and Moses went up. 21 And the LORD said unto Moses: ‘Go down, charge the people, lest they break through unto the LORD to gaze, and many of them perish. 22 And let the priests also, that come near to the LORD, sanctify themselves, lest the LORD break forth upon them.’ 23 And Moses said unto the LORD: ‘The people cannot come up to mount Sinai; for thou didst charge us, saying: Set bounds about the mount, and sanctify it.’ 24 And the LORD said unto him: ‘Go, get thee down, and thou shalt come up, thou, and Aaron with thee; but let not the priests and the people break through to come up unto the LORD, lest He break forth upon them.’ 25 So Moses went down unto the people, and told them.

Cambridge Authorized (King James) Version

Exodus 19 (KJV) 1 In the third month, when the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, the same day came they into the wilderness of Sinai. 2 For they were departed from Rephidim, and were come to the desert of Sinai, and had pitched in the wilderness; and there Israel camped before the mount. 3 And Moses went up unto God, and the Lord called unto him out of the mountain, saying, Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel; 4 Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself. 5 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: 6 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.

7 And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words which the Lord commanded him. 8 And all the people answered together, and said, All that the Lord hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the Lord. 9 And the Lord said unto Moses, Lo, I come unto thee in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with thee, and believe thee for ever. And Moses told the words of the people unto the Lord.

10 And the Lord said unto Moses, Go unto the people, and sanctify them to day and to morrow, and let them wash their clothes, 11 and be ready against the third day: for the third day the Lord will come down in the sight of all the people upon mount Sinai. 12 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: 13 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.

14 And Moses went down from the mount unto the people, and sanctified the people; and they washed their clothes. 15 And he said unto the people, Be ready against the third day: come not at your wives.

16 And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled. 17 And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with God; and they stood at the nether part of the mount. 18 And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly. 19 And when the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder, Moses spake, and God answered him by a voice. 20 And the Lord came down upon mount Sinai, on the top of the mount: and the Lord called Moses up to the top of the mount; and Moses went up. 21 And the Lord said unto Moses, Go down, charge the people, lest they break through unto the Lord to gaze, and many of them perish. 22 And let the priests also, which come near to the Lord, sanctify themselves, lest the Lord break forth upon them. 23 And Moses said unto the Lord, The people cannot come up to mount Sinai: for thou chargedst us, saying, Set bounds about the mount, and sanctify it. 24 And the Lord said unto him, Away, get thee down, and thou shalt come up, thou, and Aaron with thee: but let not the priests and the people break through to come up unto the Lord, lest he break forth upon them. 25 So Moses went down unto the people, and spake unto them.

Berean Study Bible

Exodus 19 (Berean) 1 In the third month, on the same day of the month that the Israelites had left the land of Egypt, they came to the Wilderness of Sinai. 2 After they had set out from Rephidim, they entered the Wilderness of Sinai, and Israel camped there in front of the mountain.

3 Then Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain, “This is what you are to tell the house of Jacob and explain to the sons of Israel: 4 ‘You have seen for yourselves what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. 5 Now if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, you will be My treasured possession out of all the nations—for the whole earth is Mine. 6 And unto Me you shall be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you are to speak to the Israelites.”

7 So Moses went back and summoned the elders of the people and set before them all these words that the LORD had commanded him. 8 And all the people answered together, “We will do everything that the LORD has spoken.”

So Moses brought their words back to the LORD.

9 The LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I will come to you in a dense cloud, so that the people will hear when I speak with you, and they will always put their trust in you.”

And Moses relayed to the LORD what the people had said.

10 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow. They must wash their clothes 11 and be prepared by the third day, for on the third day the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people.

12 And you are to set up a boundary for the people around the mountain and tell them, ‘Be careful not to go up on the mountain or touch its base. Whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death. 13 No hand shall touch him, but he shall surely be stoned or shot with arrows—whether man or beast, he must not live.’

Only when the ram’s horn sounds a long blast may they approach the mountain.”

14 When Moses came down from the mountain to the people, he consecrated them, and they washed their clothes. 15 “Be prepared for the third day,” he said to the people. “Do not draw near to a woman.”

16 On the third day, when morning came, there was thunder and lightning. A thick cloud was upon the mountain, and a very loud blast of the ram’s horn went out, so that all the people in the camp trembled. 17 Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain.

18 Mount Sinai was completely enveloped in smoke, because the LORD had descended on it in fire. And the smoke rose like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked violently. 19 And as the sound of the ram’s horn grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and God answered him in the thunder.

20 The LORD descended to the top of Mount Sinai and called Moses to the summit. So Moses went up, 21 and the LORD said to him, “Go down and warn the people not to break through to see the LORD, lest many of them perish. 22 Even the priests who approach the LORD must consecrate themselves, or the LORD will break out against them.”

23 But Moses said to the LORD, “The people cannot come up Mount Sinai, for You solemnly warned us, ‘Put a boundary around the mountain and set it apart as holy.’ ”

24 And the LORD replied, “Go down and bring Aaron with you. But the priests and the people must not break through to come up to the LORD, or He will break out against them.”

25 So Moses went down to the people and spoke to them.

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