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Moses on Sinai

19 In the third month after the children of Israel had left the land of Egypt, the very same day, they came into the Wilderness of Sinai. When they moved out from Rephidim, they came to the Wilderness of Sinai and they camped there; Israel camped at the base of the mountain [of Sinai]. Moses went up to God [on the mountain], and the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, “Say this to the house of Jacob and tell the Israelites: ‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself. Now therefore, if you will in fact obey My voice and keep My covenant (agreement), then you shall be My own special possession and treasure from among all peoples [of the world], for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation [set apart for My purpose].’ These are the words that you shall speak to the Israelites.”

So Moses called for the elders of the people, and told them all these words which the Lord commanded him. All the people answered together and said, “We will do everything that the Lord has spoken.” And Moses reported the words of the people to the Lord. 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 believe and trust in you forever.” Then Moses repeated 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 [that is, prepare them for My sacred purpose], and have them wash their clothes 11 and be ready by the third day, because on the third day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai [in the cloud] in the sight of all the people. 12 You shall set barriers for the people all around [the mountain], saying, ‘Beware that you do not go up on the mountain or touch its border; whoever touches the mountain must be put to death. 13 No hand shall touch him [that is, no one shall try to save the guilty party], but the offender must be stoned or shot through [with arrows]; whether man or animal [that touches the mountain], he shall not live.’ When the ram’s horn sounds a long blast, they shall come up to the mountain.”(A) 14 So Moses went down from the mountain to the people and sanctified them [for God’s sacred purpose], and they washed their clothes. 15 He said to the people, “Be prepared for the third day; do not [a]be intimate with a woman.”

16 So it happened on the third day, when it was morning, that there were thunder and flashes of lightning, and a thick cloud was on the mountain, and a very loud blast was sounded on a ram’s horn, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. 17 Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they stood and presented themselves at the foot of the mountain.

The Lord Visits Sinai

18 Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the Lord descended upon it in fire; its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked violently. 19 And it happened, as the blast of the ram’s horn grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and God answered him with [a voice of] thunder.(B) 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 he went up. 21 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, “Go down, warn the people, so that they do not break through [the barriers around the mountain] to the Lord to see [Me], and many of them perish [as a result]. 22 Also have the priests who approach the Lord consecrate (sanctify, set apart) themselves [for My sacred purpose], or else the Lord will break forth [in judgment] against them [and destroy them].” 23 Moses said to the Lord, “The people cannot come up to Mount Sinai, because You warned us, saying, ‘Set barriers around 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 [the barriers] to come up to the Lord, or He will break forth [in judgment] against them [and destroy them].” 25 So Moses went down to the people and told them [again about God’s warning].

The Ten Commandments

20 Then God spoke all these words:

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

“You shall have no other gods before Me.

“You shall not make for yourself any idol, or any likeness (form, manifestation) of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth [as an object to worship]. You shall not worship them nor serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous (impassioned) God [[b]demanding what is rightfully and uniquely mine], visiting (avenging) the iniquity (sin, guilt) of the fathers on the children [that is, calling the children to account for the sins of their fathers], to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me,(C) but showing graciousness and steadfast lovingkindness to thousands [of generations] of those who love Me and keep My commandments.

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain [that is, irreverently, in false affirmations or in ways that impugn the character of God]; for the Lord will not hold guiltless nor leave unpunished the one who [c]takes His name in vain [disregarding its reverence and its power].

“Remember the Sabbath (seventh) day to keep it holy (set apart, dedicated to God). Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath [a day of rest dedicated] to the Lord your God; on that day you shall not do any work, you or your son, or your daughter, or your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock or the temporary resident (foreigner) who stays within your [city] gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and everything that is in them, and He rested (ceased) on the seventh day. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy [that is, set it apart for His purposes].

12 “Honor (respect, obey, care for) your father and your mother, so that your days may be prolonged in the land the Lord your God gives you.

13 “You shall not commit murder (unjustified, deliberate homicide).(D)

14 “You shall not commit [d]adultery.(E)

15 “You shall not steal [secretly, openly, fraudulently, or through carelessness].(F)

16 “You shall not testify falsely [that is, lie, withhold, or manipulate the truth] against your neighbor (any person).(G)

17 “You shall not covet [that is, selfishly desire and attempt to acquire] your neighbor’s house; 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.”(H)

18 Now all the people witnessed the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the smoking mountain; and as they looked, the people were afraid, and they trembled [and moved backward] and stood at a [safe] distance. 19 Then they said to Moses, “You speak to us and we will listen, but do not let 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 [that is, a profound reverence for Him] will remain with you, so that you do not sin.” 21 So the people stood at a [safe] distance, but Moses approached the thick cloud where God was.

22 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘You have seen for yourselves that I have spoken to you from heaven. 23 You shall not make other gods [to worship] besides Me; gods of silver or gods of gold, you shall not make [these lifeless idols] for yourselves. 24 You shall make an altar of earth for Me, and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen. In every place where I cause My Name to be recorded and remembered [through revelation of My divine nature] I will come to you and bless you. 25 If you make an altar of stone for Me, you shall not build it of cut stones, for if you use a chisel on it, you will [e]profane it. 26 Nor shall you go up to My altar on steps, so that your nakedness will not be [f]exposed on it.’

Ordinances for the People

21 “Now these are the ordinances (laws) which you shall set before the Israelites:

“If you purchase a Hebrew servant [because of his debt or poverty], he shall serve six years, and in the seventh [year] he shall leave as a free man, paying nothing.(I) If he came [to you] alone, he shall leave alone; if he came married, then his wife shall leave with him. If his master gives him a wife, and she gives birth to sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall belong to her master, and he shall leave [your service] alone. But if the servant plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife and my children; I will not leave as a free man,’ then his master shall bring him to God [that is, to the judges who act in God’s name], then he shall bring him to the door or doorpost. And his master shall pierce his ear with an awl (strong needle); and he shall serve him for life.

“If a man sells his daughter to be a female servant, she shall not go free [after six years] as male servants do. If she does not please her master who has chosen her for himself [as a wife], he shall let her be redeemed [by her family]. He does not have the authority to sell her to a foreign people, because he has been unfair to her. If her master chooses her [as a wife] for his son, he shall act toward her as if she were legally his daughter. 10 If her master marries another wife, he may not reduce her food, her clothing, or her privilege as a wife. 11 If he does not do these three things for her, then shall she leave free, without payment of money.

Personal Injuries

12 “Whoever strikes a man so that he dies must be put to death. 13 However, [g]if he did not lie in wait [for him], but God allowed him to fall into his hand, then I will establish for you a [h]place to which he may escape [for protection until duly tried].(J) 14 But if a man acts intentionally against another and kills him by [design through] treachery, you are to take him from My altar [to which he may have fled for protection], so that he may be put to death.

15 “Whoever strikes his father or his mother must be put to death.

16 “Whoever kidnaps a man, whether he sells him or is found with him in his possession, must be put to death.

17 “Whoever [i]curses his father or his mother or treats them contemptuously must be put to death.

18 “If men quarrel and one strikes another with a stone or with his fist, and he does not die but is confined to bed, 19 if he gets up and walks around leaning on his cane, then the one who struck him shall be left [physically] unpunished; he must only pay for his loss of time [at work], and the costs [of treatment and recuperation] until he is thoroughly healed.

20 “If a man strikes his male or his female servant with a staff and the servant dies at his hand, he must be punished. 21 If, however, the servant survives for a day or two, the offender shall not be punished, for the [injured] servant is his own property.

22 “If men fight with each other and injure a pregnant woman so that she gives birth prematurely [and the baby lives], yet there is no further injury, the one who hurt her must be punished with a fine [paid] to the woman’s husband, as much as the judges decide. 23 But if there is any further injury, then you shall require [as a penalty] life for life, 24 [j]eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.

26 “If a man hits the eye of his male servant or female servant and it is destroyed, he must let the servant go free because of [the loss of] the eye. 27 And if he knocks out the tooth of his male servant or female servant, he must let the servant go free because of [the loss of] the tooth.

28 “If an ox gores a man or a woman to death, the ox must be stoned and its meat shall not be eaten; but the owner of the ox shall be cleared [of responsibility]. 29 But if the ox has tried to gore on a previous occasion, and its owner has been warned, but has not kept it confined and it kills a man or a woman, the ox shall be stoned and its owner shall be put to death as well. 30 If a ransom is demanded of him [in return for his life], then he shall give whatever is demanded for the redemption of his life. 31 If the ox has gored another’s son or daughter, he shall be dealt with according to this same rule. 32 If the ox gores a male or a female servant, the owner shall give to the servant’s master thirty shekels of silver [the purchase price for a slave], and the ox shall be stoned.

33 “If a man leaves a pit open, or digs a pit and does not cover it, and an ox or a donkey falls into it, 34 the owner of the pit shall make restitution; he shall give money to the animal’s owner, but the dead [animal] shall be his.

35 “If one man’s ox injures another’s so that it dies, then they shall sell the live ox and divide the proceeds equally; they shall also divide the dead ox [between them]. 36 Or if it is known that the ox was previously in the habit of goring, and its owner has not kept it confined, he must make restitution of ox for ox, and the dead [animal] shall be his.


  1. Exodus 19:15 Lit go near.
  2. Exodus 20:5 God does not tolerate the transfer of the honor and worship that is due Him to any other being or object.
  3. Exodus 20:7 Using the name of God in a casual, frivolous way establishes a mindset that diminishes and dishonors the omnipotent God. Using the name of God to abuse, manipulate, or deceive invites judgment.
  4. Exodus 20:14 Jesus amplified this commandment in Matt 5:27, 28. Not only is adultery forbidden, but also any act of sexual impurity or unchastity, and any form of pornography or other obscenity.
  5. Exodus 20:25 I.e. make it common and unholy.
  6. Exodus 20:26 How the “nakedness” (private parts) would be exposed is not clear. Even the rabbis were puzzled because the regulation in 28:42 about linen undergarments would appear to solve any problem (according to the Talmud).
  7. Exodus 21:13 I.e. if the act causing the death of another was unintentional.
  8. Exodus 21:13 I.e. after the children of Israel possessed the promised land, six cities of refuge were established.
  9. Exodus 21:17 The one who dishonors his parents in this way also dishonors God by violating God’s created order of honor.
  10. Exodus 21:24 The concept of reciprocal punishment for a wrongful injury is applied mainly to special cases not already covered by more complex laws.

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