Mount SinaiThe great deliverance from Egypt forged the numerous descendants of the sons of Jacob into a unified nation. Their national destiny was revealed during the revelation of the Torah which contained the moral, ethical, and ritual codes that would sustain them in the desert and guide them once they reached the Promised Land. Later Jewish tradition understood the Sinai revelation as including the entire Torah. Chapter 20 contains the Ten Commandments which the Rabbis noted were divided into the first five (verses 1-11) which deal with the relationship between humanity and God, and the second five (verses 12-14) which deal with human interrelationships.

19- 18 Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke, for the Lord had come down upon it in fire; the smoke rose like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled violently. 19 The blare of the horn grew louder and louder. As Moses spoke, God answered him in thunder. 20 The Lord came down upon Mount Sinai, on the top of the mountain, and the Lord called Moses to the top of the mountain and Moses went up. 21 The Lord said to Moses, “Go down, warn the people not to break through to the Lord to gaze, lest many of them perish. 22 The priests also, who come near the Lord, must stay pure, lest the Lord break out against them.” 23 But Moses said to the Lord, “The people cannot come up to Mount Sinai, for You warned us saying, ‘Set bounds about the mountain and sanctify it.’” 24 So the Lord said to him, “Go down, and come back together with Aaron; but let not the priests or the people break through to come up to the Lord, lest He break out against them.” 25 And Moses went down to the people and spoke to them.

20- 1 God spoke all these words, saying-

2 I the Lord am your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, the house of bondage- 3 You shall have no other gods besides Me.

4 You shall not make for yourself a sculptured image, or any likeness of what is in the heavens above, or on the earth below, or in the waters under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them. For I the Lord Your God am an impassioned God, visiting the guilt of the parents upon the children, upon the third and upon the fourth generations of those who reject Me, 6 but showing kindness to the thousandth generation of those who love Me and keep My commandments.

7 You shall not swear falsely by the name of the Lord your God; for the Lord will not clear one who swears falsely by His name.

8 Remember the sabbath day and keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God- you shall not do any work—you, your son or daughter, your male or female slave, or your cattle, or the stranger who is within your settlements. 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth and sea, and all that is in them, and He rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and hallowed it.

12 Honor your father and your mother, that you may long endure on the land that the Lord Your God is assigning to you.

13 You shall not murder.

You shall not commit adultery.

You shall not steal.

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

14 You shall not covet your neighbor’s house- you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female slave, or his ox or his ass, or anything that is your neighbor’s.

15 All the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the blare of the horn and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they fell back and stood at a distance. 16 “You speak to us,” they said to Moses, “and we will obey; but let not God speak to us, lest we die.” 17 Moses answered the people, “Be not afraid; for God has come only in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may be ever with you, so that you do not go astray.” 18 So the people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick cloud where God was.