Contemporary English Version
At Mount Sinai
19 1-2 The Israelites left Rephidim.[a] Then two months after leaving Egypt, they arrived at the desert near Mount Sinai, where they set up camp at the foot of the mountain.
3 Moses went up the mountain to meet with the Lord God, who told him to say to the people:
4 You saw what I did in Egypt, and you know how I brought you here to me, just as a mighty eagle carries its young. 5 Now if you will faithfully obey me, you will be my very own people. The whole world is mine, 6 but you will be my holy nation and serve me as priests.
Moses, that is what you must tell the Israelites.
7 After Moses went back, he reported to the leaders what the Lord had said, 8 and they promised, “We will do everything the Lord has commanded.” So Moses told the Lord about this.
9 The Lord said to Moses, “I will come to you in a thick cloud and let the people hear me speak to you. Then they will always trust you.” Again Moses reported to the people what the Lord had told him.
10 Once more the Lord spoke to Moses:
Go back and tell the people that today and tomorrow they must get themselves ready to meet me. They must wash their clothes 11 and be ready by the day after tomorrow, when I will come down to Mount Sinai, where all of them can see me.
12 Warn the people that they are forbidden to touch any part of the mountain. Anyone who does will be put to death, 13 either with stones or arrows, and no one must touch the body of a person killed in this way. Even an animal that touches this mountain must be put to death. You may go up the mountain only after a signal is given on the trumpet.
14 After Moses went down the mountain, he gave orders for the people to wash their clothes and make themselves acceptable to worship God. 15 He told them to be ready in three days and not to have sex in the meantime.
The Lord Comes to Mount Sinai
16 On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning. A thick cloud covered the mountain, a loud trumpet blast was heard, and everyone in camp trembled with fear. 17 Moses led them out of the camp to meet God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain.
18 Mount Sinai was covered with smoke because the Lord had come down in a flaming fire. Smoke poured out of the mountain just like a furnace, and the whole mountain shook. 19 The trumpet blew louder and louder. Moses spoke, and God answered him with thunder.
20 The Lord came down to the top of Mount Sinai and told Moses to meet him there. 21 Then he said, “Moses, go and warn the people not to cross the boundary that you set at the foot of the mountain. They must not cross it to come and look at me, because if they do, many of them will die. 22 Only the priests may come near me, and they must obey strict rules before I let them. If they don’t, they will be punished.”
23 Moses replied, “The people cannot come up the mountain. You warned us to stay away because it is holy.”
24 Then the Lord told Moses, “Go down and bring Aaron back here with you. But the priests and people must not try to push their way through, or I will rush at them like a flood!”
25 After Moses had gone back down, he told the people what the Lord had said.
The Ten Commandments
20 God said to the people of Israel:
2 I am the Lord your God, the one who brought you out of Egypt where you were slaves.
3 Do not worship any god except me.
4 Do not make idols that look like anything in the sky or on earth or in the ocean under the earth. 5 Don’t bow down and worship idols. I am the Lord your God, and I demand all your love. If you reject me, I will punish your families for three or four generations. 6 But if you love me and obey my laws, I will be kind to your families for thousands of generations.
7 Do not misuse my name.[b] I am the Lord your God, and I will punish anyone who misuses my name.
8 Remember that the Sabbath Day belongs to me. 9 You have six days when you can do your work, 10 but the seventh day of each week belongs to me, your God. No one is to work on that day—not you, your children, your slaves, your animals, or the foreigners who live in your towns. 11 In six days I made the sky, the earth, the oceans, and everything in them, but on the seventh day I rested. That’s why I made the Sabbath a special day that belongs to me.
12 Respect your father and your mother, and you will live a long time in the land I am giving you.
13 Do not murder.
14 Be faithful in marriage.
15 Do not steal.
16 Do not tell lies about others.
17 Do not want anything that belongs to someone else. Don’t want anyone’s house, wife or husband, slaves, oxen, donkeys or anything else.
The People Are Afraid
18 The people trembled with fear when they heard the thunder and the trumpet and saw the lightning and the smoke coming from the mountain. They stood a long way off 19 and said to Moses, “If you speak to us, we will listen. But don’t let God speak to us, or we will die!”
20 “Don’t be afraid!” Moses replied. “God has come only to test you, so that by obeying him you won’t sin.” 21 But when Moses went near the thick cloud where God was, the people stayed a long way off.
Idols and Altars
22 The Lord told Moses to say to the people of Israel:
With your own eyes, you saw me speak to you from heaven. 23 So you must never make idols of silver or gold to worship in place of me.[c]
24 Build an altar out of earth, and offer on it your sacrifices[d] of sheep, goats, and cattle. Wherever I choose to be worshiped, I will come down to bless you. 25 If you ever build an altar for me out of stones, do not use any tools to chisel the stones, because that would make the altar unfit. 26 And don’t build an altar that requires steps; you might expose yourself when you climb up.
21 The Lord gave Moses the following laws for his people:
2 If you buy a Hebrew slave, he must remain your slave for six years. But in the seventh year you must set him free, without cost to him. 3 If he was single at the time you bought him, he alone must be set free. But if he was married at the time, both he and his wife must be given their freedom. 4 If you give him a wife, and they have children, only the man himself must be set free; his wife and children remain the property of his owner.
5 But suppose the slave loves his wife and children so much that he won’t leave without them. 6 Then he must stand beside either the door or the doorpost at the place of worship,[e] while his owner punches a small hole through one of his ears with a sharp metal rod. This makes him a slave for life.
7 A young woman who was sold by her father doesn’t gain her freedom in the same way that a man does. 8 If she doesn’t please the man who bought her to be his wife, he must let her be bought back.[f] He cannot sell her to foreigners; this would break the contract he made with her. 9 If he selects her as a wife for his son, he must treat her as his own daughter.
10 If the man later marries another woman, he must continue to provide food and clothing for the one he bought and to treat her as a wife. 11 If he fails to do any of these things, she must be given her freedom without cost.
Murder and Other Violent Crimes
The Lord said:
12 Death is the punishment for murder. 13 But if you did not intend to kill someone, and I, the Lord, let it happen anyway, you may run for safety to a place that I have set aside. 14 If you plan in advance to murder someone, there’s no escape, not even by holding on to my altar.[g] You will be dragged off and killed.
15 Death is the punishment for attacking your father or mother.
16 Death is the punishment for kidnapping. If you sell the person you kidnapped, or if you are caught with that person, the penalty is death.
17 Death is the punishment for cursing your father or mother.
18 Suppose two of you are arguing, and you hit the other with either a rock or your fist, without causing a fatal injury. If the victim has to stay in bed, 19 and later has to use a stick when walking outside, you must pay for the loss of time and do what you can to help until the injury is completely healed. That’s your only responsibility.
20 Death is the punishment for beating to death any of your slaves. 21 However, if the slave lives a few days after the beating, you are not to be punished. After all, you have already lost the services of that slave who was your property.
22 Suppose a pregnant woman suffers a miscarriage[h] as the result of an injury caused by someone who is fighting. If she isn’t badly hurt, the one who injured her must pay whatever fine her husband demands and the judges approve. 23 But if she is seriously injured, the payment will be life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, cut for cut, and bruise for bruise.
26 If you hit one of your slaves and cause the loss of an eye, the slave must be set free. 27 The same law applies if you knock out a slave’s tooth—the slave goes free.
28 A bull that kills someone with its horns must be killed and its meat destroyed, but the owner of the bull isn’t responsible for the death.
29 Suppose you own a bull that has been in the habit of attacking people, but you have refused to keep it fenced in. If that bull kills someone, both you and the bull must be put to death by stoning. 30 However, you may save your own life by paying whatever fine is demanded. 31 This same law applies if the bull gores someone’s son or daughter. 32 If the bull kills a slave, you must pay the slave owner thirty pieces of silver for the loss of the slave, and the bull must be killed by stoning.
33 Suppose someone’s ox or donkey is killed by falling into an open pit that you dug or left uncovered on your property. 34 You must pay for the dead animal, and it becomes yours.
35 If your bull kills someone else’s, yours must be sold. Then the money from your bull and the meat from the dead bull must be divided equally between you and the other owner.
36 If you refuse to fence in a bull that is known to attack others, you must pay for any animal it kills, but the dead animal will belong to you.
- 19.1,2 Rephidim: See the note at 17.1.
- 20.7 misuse my name: Probably includes breaking promises, telling lies after swearing to tell the truth, using the Lord’s name as a curse word or a magic formula, and trying to control the Lord by using his name.
- 20.23 in place of me: Or “together with me.”
- 20.24 sacrifices: The Hebrew text mentions two types of sacrifices: Sacrifices to please the Lord (traditionally called “whole burnt offerings”) and sacrifices to ask the Lord’s blessing (traditionally called “peace offerings”).
- 21.6 at the place of worship: The Hebrew text has “in the presence of God,” which probably refers to the place where God was worshiped.
- 21.8 bought back: Either by her family or by another Israelite who wanted to marry her.
- 21.14 altar: As a rule, anyone who ran to the altar was safe from the death penalty, until proven guilty.
- 21.22 suffers a miscarriage: Or “gives birth before her time.”