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Exodus 17-20 Common English Bible (CEB)

Water from a rock

17 The whole Israelite community broke camp and set out from the Sin desert to continue their journey, as the Lord commanded. They set up their camp at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. The people argued with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.”

Moses said to them, “Why are you arguing with me? Why are you testing the Lord?”

But the people were very thirsty for water there, and they complained to Moses, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt to kill us, our children, and our livestock with thirst?”

So Moses cried out to the Lord, “What should I do with this people? They are getting ready to stone me.”

The Lord said to Moses, “Go on ahead of the people, and take some of Israel’s elders with you. Take in your hand the shepherd’s rod that you used to strike the Nile River, and go. I’ll be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Hit the rock. Water will come out of it, and the people will be able to drink.” Moses did so while Israel’s elders watched. He called the place Massah[a] and Meribah,[b] because the Israelites argued with and tested the Lord, asking, “Is the Lord really with us or not?”

Israel defeats Amalek

Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim. Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some men for us and go fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I’ll stand on top of the hill with the shepherd’s rod of God in my hand.” 10 So Joshua did as Moses told him. He fought with Amalek while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. 11 Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel would start winning the battle. Whenever Moses lowered his hand, Amalek would start winning. 12 But Moses’ hands grew tired. So they took a stone and put it under Moses so he could sit down on it. Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on each side of him so that his hands remained steady until sunset. 13 So Joshua defeated Amalek and his army with the sword.

14 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this as a reminder on a scroll and read it to Joshua: I will completely wipe out the memory of Amalek under the sky.”

15 Moses built an altar there and called it, “The Lord is my banner.” 16 He said, “The power of the Lord’s banner![c] The Lord is at war with Amalek in every generation.”

Sharing the burden of leadership

18 Jethro, Midian’s priest and Moses’ father-in-law, heard about everything that God had done for Moses and for God’s people Israel, how the Lord had brought Israel out of Egypt. Moses’ father-in-law Jethro took with him Zipporah, Moses’ wife whom he had sent away, along with her two sons. One was named Gershom because he said, “I have been an immigrant[d] living in a foreign land.” The other was named Eliezer[e] because he said, “The God of my ancestors was my helper who rescued me from Pharaoh’s sword.” Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, brought Moses’ sons and wife back to him in the desert where he had set up camp at God’s mountain. He sent word to Moses: “I, your father-in-law Jethro, am coming to you along with your wife and her two sons.” Moses went out to meet his father-in-law, and he bowed down and kissed him. They asked each other how they were doing, and then they went into the tent. Moses then told his father-in-law everything that the Lord had done to Pharaoh and to the Egyptians on Israel’s behalf, all the difficulty they had on their journey, and how the Lord had rescued them. Jethro was glad about all the good things that the Lord had done for Israel in saving them from the Egyptians’ power.

10 Jethro said, “Bless the Lord who rescued you from the Egyptians’ power and from Pharaoh’s power, who rescued the people from Egypt’s oppressive power. 11 Now I know that the Lord is greater than all the gods, because of what happened when the Egyptians plotted against them.” 12 Then Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, brought an entirely burned offering and sacrifices to God. Aaron came with all of Israel’s elders to eat a meal with Moses’ father-in-law in God’s presence.

13 The next day Moses sat as a judge for the people, while the people stood around Moses from morning until evening. 14 When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, “What’s this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone, while all the people are standing around you from morning until evening?”

15 Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God. 16 When a conflict arises between them, they come to me and I judge between the two of them. I also teach them God’s regulations and instructions.”

17 Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “What you are doing isn’t good. 18 You will end up totally wearing yourself out, both you and these people who are with you. The work is too difficult for you. You can’t do it alone. 19 Now listen to me and let me give you some advice. And may God be with you! Your role should be to represent the people before God. You should bring their disputes before God yourself. 20 Explain the regulations and instructions to them. Let them know the way they are supposed to go and the things they are supposed to do. 21 But you should also look among all the people for capable persons who respect God. They should be trustworthy and not corrupt. Set these persons over the people as officers of groups of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. 22 Let them sit as judges for the people at all times. They should bring every major dispute to you, but they should decide all of the minor cases themselves. This will be much easier for you, and they will share your load. 23 If you do this and God directs you, then you will be able to endure. And all these people will be able to go back to their homes much happier.”

24 Moses listened to his father-in-law’s suggestions and did everything that he had said. 25 Moses chose capable persons from all Israel and set them as leaders over the people, as officers over groups of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. 26 They acted as judges for the people at all times. They would refer the hard cases to Moses, but all of the minor cases they decided themselves. 27 Then Moses said good-bye to his father-in-law, and Jethro went back to his own country.

Arrival at Mount Sinai

19 On exactly the third-month anniversary of the Israelites’ leaving the land of Egypt, they came into the Sinai desert. They traveled from Rephidim, came into the Sinai desert, and set up camp there. Israel camped there in front of the mountain while Moses went up to God. The Lord called to him from the mountain, “This is what you should say to Jacob’s household and declare to the Israelites: You saw what I did to the Egyptians, and how I lifted you up on eagles’ wings and brought you to me. So now, if you faithfully obey me and stay true to my covenant, you will be my most precious possession out of all the peoples, since the whole earth belongs to me. You will be a kingdom of priests for me and a holy nation. These are the words you should say to the Israelites.”

So Moses came down, called together the people’s elders, and set before them all these words that the Lord had commanded him. The people all responded with one voice: “Everything that the Lord has said we will do.” Moses reported to the Lord what the people said.

Preparing for a divine encounter

Then the Lord said to Moses, “I’m about to come to you in a thick cloud in order that the people will hear me talking with you so that they will always trust you.”

Moses told the Lord what the people said, 10 and the Lord said to Moses: “Go to the people and take today and tomorrow to make them holy. Have them wash their clothes. 11 Be ready for the third day, because on the third day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai for all the people to see. 12 Set up a fence for the people all around and tell them, ‘Be careful not to go up the mountain or to touch any part of it.’ Anyone who even touches the mountain must be put to death. 13 No one should touch anyone who has touched it, or they must be either stoned to death or shot with arrows. Whether an animal or a human being, they must not be allowed to live. Only when the ram’s horn sounds may they go up on the mountain.”

14 So Moses went down the mountain to the people. He made sure the people were holy and that they washed their clothes. 15 He told the men, “Prepare yourselves for three days. Don’t go near a woman.”

16 When morning dawned on the third day, there was thunder, lightning, and a thick cloud on the mountain, and a very loud blast of a horn. All the people in the camp shook with fear. 17 Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they took their place at the foot of the mountain. 18 Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the Lord had come down on it with lightning. The smoke went up like the smoke of a hot furnace, while the whole mountain shook violently. 19 The blasts of the horn grew louder and louder. Moses would speak, and God would answer him with thunder. 20 The Lord came down on Mount Sinai to the top of the mountain. The Lord called Moses to come up to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up. 21 The Lord said to Moses, “Go down and warn the people not to break through to try to see the Lord, or many of them will fall dead. 22 Even the priests who come near to the Lord must keep themselves holy, or the Lord will break loose against them.”

23 Moses said to the Lord, “The people aren’t allowed to come up on Mount Sinai because you warned us and said, ‘Set up a fence around the mountain to keep it holy.’”

24 The Lord said to him, “Go down, and bring Aaron back up with you. But the priests and the people must not break through and come up to the Lord. Otherwise, the Lord will break loose against them.” 25 So Moses went down to the people and told them.

The Ten Commandments

20 Then God spoke all these words:

I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

You must have no other gods before[f] me.

Do not make an idol for yourself—no form whatsoever—of anything in the sky above or on the earth below or in the waters under the earth. Do not bow down to them or worship them, because I, the Lord your God, am a passionate God. I punish children for their parents’ sins even to the third and fourth generations of those who hate me. But I am loyal and gracious to the thousandth generation[g] of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Do not use the Lord your God’s name as if it were of no significance; the Lord won’t forgive anyone who uses his name that way.

Remember the Sabbath day and treat it as holy. Six days you may work and do all your tasks, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. Do not do any work on it—not you, your sons or daughters, your male or female servants, your animals, or the immigrant who is living with you. 11 Because the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and everything that is in them in six days, but rested on the seventh day. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

12 Honor your father and your mother so that your life will be long on the fertile land that the Lord your God is giving you.

13 Do not kill.[h]

14 Do not commit adultery.

15 Do not steal.

16 Do not testify falsely against your neighbor.

17 Do not desire your neighbor’s house. Do not desire and try to take your neighbor’s wife, male or female servant, ox, donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor.

18 When all the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the sound of the horn, and the mountain smoking, the people shook with fear and stood at a distance. 19 They said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we’ll listen. But don’t let God speak to us, or we’ll die.”

20 Moses said to the people, “Don’t be afraid, because God has come only to test you and to make sure you are always in awe of God so that you don’t sin.” 21 The people stood at a distance while Moses approached the thick darkness in which God was present.

Instructions about worship

22 The Lord said to Moses: “Say this to the Israelites: You saw for yourselves how I spoke with you from heaven. 23 Don’t make alongside me gods of silver or gold for yourselves. 24 Make for me an altar from fertile soil on which to sacrifice your entirely burned offerings, your well-being sacrifices, your sheep, and your oxen. I will come to you and bless you in every place where I make sure my name is remembered. 25 But if you do make for me an altar from stones, don’t build it with chiseled stone since using your chisel on the stone will make it impure. 26 Don’t climb onto my altar using steps: then your genitals won’t be exposed by doing so.”

Footnotes:

  1. Exodus 17:7 Or test
  2. Exodus 17:7 Or argument
  3. Exodus 17:16 Heb uncertain
  4. Exodus 18:3 Heb ger sounds like Gershom.
  5. Exodus 18:4 Or my God is a helper.
  6. Exodus 20:3 Or besides
  7. Exodus 20:6 Or to thousands
  8. Exodus 20:13 Or murder
Common English Bible (CEB)

Copyright © 2011 by Common English Bible

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