The Jews are in
the desert, fresh off the heels of escaping Egypt. Moses has
followed God's word and led them across the Red Sea and into
The Jews have been
in the desert for more than six weeks. During this time the
nation of Amalek attacks them. Moses instructs Joshua to gather
an army to fight them off. Moses sits above the people, his
staff by his side and his hands in the air. According to the
text, when his hands are raised over the people, Israel prevails.
The Jews arrive
at the brink of Mount Sinai. God tells Moses to give the people
the following message: "You've seen what I did to Egypt…if
you listen to my voice and keep my covenant, you'll be a treasure
to me from among the nations; the whole world is mine. You
shall be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (Exodus 19:4-6).
No pressure, of course.
The Jews meet the
call, though, saying "All that God has commanded, we will
God gives Moses
more instructions for the people. They should take the next
two days to prepare themselves-wash their bodies, their clothes,
and refrain from sexual relations. On the third day, God will
descend upon Mount Sinai. They should not approach the mountain;
whoever touches it will die, God says.
The third day comes.
God descends upon the mountain with thunder and lightning.
(You were expecting 70 and sunny?)
than Moses-hands down the original Top Ten List:
- I'm the Lord
your God who brought you out of Egypt, for you Israelites
who are really short of memory.
- Don't have
any other Gods or make engraved images.
- Don't take
the Lord's name in vain, G-d darn it.
- Keep the
- Honor your
father and mother, even when they ask you to clean up
because the maid is coming.
- Don't even
think about murdering.
- Same goes
- Yep, same
for adultery. I don't care what they do on Showtime.
- Don't bear
false witness against your neighbor. Don't lie, either.
- Don't covet
your neighbor's possessions, wife, servant, ox, or lawnmower.
Especially his wife (See #8).
(Note: the exact text of the Ten Commandments can be found
in Exodus 20:2-14.)
God then lays out
a series of laws for Moses to convey to the people, essentially
saying that to accept God and the Torah means to accept these
obligations. Here's a sampling:
Bribery is bad.
Cover any pits you dig, so that no one "falls in and breaks
their neck," as your mother might say.
Don't sleep with animals. 'Nuff said.
Moses relates the
obligations to the people, and they respond that "We will
do and we will listen," showing their acceptance first and
their concern over what is demanded of them second. This remark
would go down as one of the most famous in Jewish history,
along with Krusty the Clown reciting the Hamotzi.