16 When the morning of the third day arrived, thunder cracked and lightning lit up the sky. A thick cloud veiled the mountain, and there was a long, loud blast of a ram’s horn. Every person in the camp trembled. 17 Moses led the anxious people away from camp to encounter God. Everyone waited at the base of the mountain. 18 Now Mount Sinai was covered in thick smoke because the Eternal descended on the mountain in fire; and the smoke of that fire rose up to the sky as if it were billowing out of a furnace, and the entire mountain shuddered and quaked intensely. 19 The blast of the ram’s horn grew louder and louder. Moses spoke, and God answered with a voice that rumbled like thunder.
20 The Eternal descended to the summit of Mount Sinai. He called for Moses to come and meet Him, so Moses began the long, hard climb up the mountain.
Eternal One (to Moses): 21 Go down, and warn the people not to cross the boundaries in order to try to see Me, or else many of them will die. 22 Any of the priests who draw near to Me must first rid themselves of any impurity so that I do not break loose and kill them.
Moses (to the Eternal): 23 No one can approach Mount Sinai because You warned them when You said, “Set up boundaries around the mountain and keep the area holy and separate.”
Eternal One: 24 Go back down and bring Aaron with you next time. But do not let any of the people (including priests) cross those boundaries to come up and meet Me, unless they want Me to break loose and kill them.
25 Moses went back down the mountain and told the people all the Eternal had said.
20 Then God began to speak directly to all the people.
Until now God has dealt only with Moses on behalf of His people; at Mount Sinai, He turns to address them directly in order to express the core of His covenant obligations. He begins by reminding them of all He has done for them. His miraculous deeds in liberating the Hebrew slaves and providing for them in the desert become the basis of this new relationship. He then proceeds to lay out the Ten Directives that will define and shape their lives together. The first four Directives concern their duties to know and worship the one True God. The last six pertain to how Israel is to live with one another in a covenant-based society. Properly understood, all the other teachings, prescriptions, and directives that come in later chapters derive from these Ten Directives.
Eternal One: 2 I am the Eternal your God. I led you out of Egypt and liberated you from lives of slavery and oppression.
3 You are not to serve any other gods before Me.
4 You are not to make any idol or image of other gods. In fact, you are not to make an image of anything in the heavens above, on the earth below, or in the waters beneath. 5 You are not to bow down and serve any image, for I, the Eternal your God, am a jealous God. As for those who are not loyal to Me, their children will endure the consequences of their sins for three or four generations. 6 But for those who love Me and keep My directives, their children will experience My loyal love for a thousand generations.
7 You are not to use My name for your own idle purposes, for the Eternal will punish anyone who treats His name as anything less than sacred.
8 You and your family are to remember the Sabbath Day; set it apart, and keep it holy. 9 You have six days to do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is to be different; it is the Sabbath of the Eternal your God. Keep it holy by not doing any work—not you, your sons, your daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, or any outsiders living among you. 11 For the Eternal made the heavens above, the earth below, the seas, and all the creatures in them in six days. Then, on the seventh day, He rested. That is why He blessed the Sabbath Day and made it sacred.
12 You are to honor your father and mother. If you do, you and your children will live long and well in the land the Eternal your God has promised to give you.
13 You are not to murder.
14 You are not to commit adultery.
15 You are not to take what is not yours.
16 You are not to give false testimony against your neighbor.
17 You are not to covet what your neighbor has or set your heart on getting his house, his wife, his male or female servants, his ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor.
18 As all the people witnessed the signs of God’s presence—the blast of the ram’s horn, the roaring thunder, the flashing lightning, and the smoke-covered mountain—they shook with fear and astonishment and wisely kept their distance.
Israelites (to Moses): 19 We are afraid to have God speak directly to us; we are certain that we will die. You speak to us instead; we promise to listen.
Moses: 20 Don’t be afraid. These powerful manifestations are God’s way of instilling awe and fear in you so that you will not sin; He is testing you for your own good.
21 But everyone remained far away from the mountain as Moses began moving toward the thick, dark cloud where God was.
Eternal One (to Moses): 22 This is what I want you to tell the people of Israel: “You yourselves witnessed that I have spoken to you from heaven. 23 It is essential that you not make any idols to rival Me. Do not make any idols out of silver or gold for yourselves! 24 Take earth and build an altar to Me and sacrifice all of your burnt offerings and peace offerings there. Offer Me the best of your sheep and oxen. Wherever I choose for My name to be remembered, I will come to you and shower blessings upon you. 25 But if you decide to build an altar out of stones for Me, use only natural stones, not hand-cut stones, because any attempt to shape them with your tools will desecrate the altar. 26 Also, do not approach My altar by walking up steps, for you might profane the altar by exposing your nakedness.”
After God gives Israel the Ten Directives, He gives them other instructions that derive from the first ten. They do not cover every situation but provide guidance for how God’s people should live.
21 Eternal One (to Moses): These are other rules and guiding principles that you must present to the Israelites:
2 If you purchase a male Hebrew slave, he will be your servant for six years only. When the seventh year arrives, he will go free without having to pay a price for his freedom.
In Moses’ day, slavery exists everywhere in the world, and slaves are the first to be given protection under these guiding principles or judgments.
3 If you acquire a slave who is not married, then he will depart as a single man. But if you acquire a man who is married, then his wife will also leave when he goes free.
4 If his master provides a wife for him, and the wife gives him sons and daughters, then both the wife and the children belong to the master, and only the slave will leave the master’s service when the seventh year arrives.
5 But if the seventh year arrives and the slave freely renounces his right to freedom, saying, “My heart is full of love for my master, my wife, and my children. I will not leave my master’s service as a free man,” 6 then his master will present him to the True God.[a] Next his master will escort him to the doorway and pierce his ear against the doorpost with an awl. Then everyone will know this slave will serve his master for life.
7 Women are to be treated differently. If a man decides to sell his daughter as a slave, she will not be freed as male slaves are when the seventh year arrives. 8 If for any reason she does not please her master who handpicked her for a wife, then he is to allow her to be bought by another. He has no right to sell her to a foreign people because he has broken the agreement with her.
9 If the master chooses her as a wife for his son, then the master must treat her just as he would his own daughter.
10 If the master decides he wants to marry an additional wife, then he must not reduce his slave-wife’s food or clothing or any other marital rights. 11 If he does not provide these three things for her, then she is free to leave without owing him any money for her freedom.
12 If a man attacks another and the victim dies from the attack, then the attacker must be put to death. 13 But if God allows a person to die at the hands of another who never intended to kill him in the first place, then I will appoint a place where he can run and take refuge from those who would exact revenge. 14 But if a man plans an attack and cunningly kills his victim, then he will find no refuge at my altar. Take him from there and put him to death.
15 Also, anyone who strikes one of his parents must be put to death.
16 Anyone who kidnaps another—whether he has already sold his victim or still has him when he is caught—must be put to death.
17 And anyone who curses either of his parents must be put to death.[b]
18 If people are engaged in an argument and one hits the other with a rock or his fist, and the victim does not die but is bedridden for a time and unable to work, 19 then the one who struck him will not be punished as long as the injured party recovers enough to be able to get out of bed and walk around with the help of his staff; however, he must pay his victim for lost time and wages, and make sure he has the care he needs until he recovers. 20 If a person hits his male or female slave with a rod, and the slave dies because of the blow, then that person must be punished. 21 But if the slave survives a couple of days, then there will be no penalty because the slave belongs to the master.
13 Woe to you, you teachers of the law and Pharisees. There is such a gulf between what you say and what you do. You will stand before a crowd and lock the door of the kingdom of heaven right in front of everyone; you won’t enter the Kingdom yourselves, and you prevent others from doing so.
[14 Woe to you, you teachers of the law and Pharisees. What you say is not what you do. You steal the homes from under the widows while you pretend to pray for them. You will suffer great condemnation for this.][a]
15 Woe to you Pharisees, woe to you who teach the law, hypocrites! You traverse hills and mountains and seas to make one convert, and then when he does convert, you make him much more a son of hell than you are.
16 Woe to you who are blind but deign to lead others. You say, “Swearing by the temple means nothing, but he who swears by the gold in the temple is bound by his oath.” 17 Are you fools? You must be blind! For which is greater: the gold or the temple that makes the gold sacred? 18 You also say, “Swearing by the altar means nothing, but he who swears by the sacrifice on the altar is bound by his oath.” 19 You must be blind! Which is greater: the sacrifice or the altar that makes it sacred? 20 So anyone who swears by the altar swears by it and by the sacrifices and gifts laid upon it. 21 And anyone who swears by the temple swears by it and by the God who sanctifies it. 22 And when you swear by heaven, you are swearing by God’s throne and by Him who sits upon it.
23 So woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees. You hypocrites! You tithe from your luxuries and your spices, giving away a tenth of your mint, your dill, and your cumin. But you have ignored the essentials of the law: justice, mercy, faithfulness. It is practice of the latter that makes sense of the former. 24 You hypocritical, blind leaders. You spoon a fly from your soup and swallow a camel.
25 Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You remove fine layers of film and dust from the outside of a cup or bowl, but you leave the inside full of greed and covetousness and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee—can’t you see that if you clean the inside of the cup, the outside will be clean too?
27 Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like a grave that has been whitewashed. You look beautiful on the outside, but on the inside you are full of moldering bones and decaying rot. 28 You appear, at first blush, to be righteous, selfless, and pure; but on the inside you are polluted, sunk in hypocrisy and confusion and lawlessness.
29 Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build monuments to your dead, you mouth pieties over the bodies of prophets, you decorate the graves of your righteous ancestors. 30 And you say, “If we had lived when our forefathers lived, we would have known better—we would not have joined them when they rose up against the prophets.” 31 Even when you are preening, you make plain that you descended from those who murdered our prophets. 32 So why don’t you finish what your forefathers started? 33 You are children of vipers, you belly-dragging snakes. You won’t escape the judgment of hell.
34 That is why I am sending you prophets and wise men, teachers of breadth and depth and substance. You will kill some of them and crucify others. You will flog others in your synagogues. You will pursue them from town to town. 35 And on your heads, stained through your hands and drenching your clothes, my friends, will be all the righteous blood ever shed on this earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berechiah whom you murdered in the house of the Lord between the sanctuary and the altar. 36 I tell you: this generation will bear the blood of all that has gone before.
37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem. You kill the prophets whom God gives you; you stone those God sends you. I have longed to gather your children the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you refuse to be gathered. 38 Surely you can see that God has already removed His blessing from the house of Israel. 39 I tell you this: you will not see Me again until you say, with the psalmist, “Anyone who comes in the name of the Eternal One will be blessed.”[b]
A song of David.
1 Eternal One, I am calling out to You;
You are the foundation of my life. Please, don’t turn Your ear from me.
If You respond to my pleas with silence,
I will lose all hope like those silenced by death’s grave.
2 Listen to my voice.
You will hear me begging for Your help
With my hands lifted up in prayer,
my body turned toward Your holy home.
This Davidic psalm pleads with God to spare him and repay his enemies. It would be difficult to locate this psalm in any one event. During his life David faced many threats from different enemies; not only were these threats from outside his realm, but some of his most difficult challenges came from inside his own family.
3 I beg You; don’t punish me with the most heinous men.
They spend their days doing evil.
Even when they engage their neighbors in pleasantness,
they are scheming against them.
4 Pay them back for their deeds;
hold them accountable for their malice.
Give them what they deserve.
5 Because these are people who have no respect for You, O Eternal,
they ignore everything You have done.
So He will tear them down with His powerful hands;
never will they be built again.
6 The Eternal should be honored and revered;
He has heard my cries for help.
7 The Eternal is the source of my strength and the shield that guards me.
When I learn to rest and truly trust Him,
He sends His help. This is why my heart is singing!
I open my mouth to praise Him, and thankfulness rises as song.
8 The Eternal gives life and power to all His chosen ones;
to His anointed He is a sturdy fortress.
9 Rescue Your people, and bring prosperity to Your legacy;
may they know You as a shepherd, carrying them at all times.
7 My son, live according to what I am telling you;
guard my instructions as you would a treasure deep within you.
2 Stay true to my directives, and they will serve you well;
make my teachings the lens through which you see life.
3 Bind cords around your fingers to remind you of them;
meditate on them, and you’ll engrave them upon your heart.
4 Say to Lady Wisdom, “My sister”;
recognize that understanding is your best friend,
5 And they will keep you from the arms of another woman—
protect you from the enchantress who entices men into her bed.