18. The Exodus – God reveals Himself to the Jews at Mount Sinai

Thus, delegating the responsibilities of everyday chores as per Jethro’s advice had greatly reduced the workload on Moses. Moreover, it was also the first step for the common Jews to gradually progress towards developing their own decision making capacity.

By successfully fending off their first manmade adversity after the Exodus, viz. the attack by the Amlekite tribesmen, the Jews had started to develop a fighting spirit and their self-confidence too had begun to grow.

Importantly, now the development of the judicial system at the local level too, was underway. Accordingly, there were lower courts for adjudicating small disputes and higher courts that judged matters remaining undecided in these courts and so went into appeal. Then there were other courts, still higher in the hierarchy, to judge and resolve disputes that could not be resolved in these higher courts too. However, cases which were extremely important or those that could have had far-reaching and strategic implications were brought before Moses, who adjudicated these matters. This verdict was in fact God’s word that Moses received, which then came into effect as law to be exercised in all pertinent matters. In short, the lifestyle of the Jews was now progressing towards becoming an even better-organized, more cultured society.

Besides, the events that they had witnessed over the past few months, had served to deepen their faith in God. The release of the descendants (the Jews) of the patriarch Abraham from the clutches of slavery that they suffered several hundred years at the hands of the Egyptians and this not losing sight of the covenant with Abraham; besetting the Egyptians with ten plagues one after the other; the saving of the Jews from the army of the Pharaoh by parting the Red Sea; the tender care extended to the Jews during their arduous journey through the desert; the daily provision of the divine food of ‘Manna and quail’ while still in the desert; the provision of drinking water by turning salty water sweet, the stream of water that poured out of a rock; the victory of the Jews in their first ever battle against the cruel Amlekite tribesmen – were miraculous occurrences that convinced the Jews that God loved them, He was theirs, He was ever accessible and was their support at all times. Their faith in God gained strength and became unshakable. They were aware also of God’s active presence in their lives, which sentiment kept gathering strength and became a firm because of the testimony they received by virtue of the events of the past few months. The qualities of being God-fearing and virtuous thus began to thrive in them.

After delegating the work responsibilities aptly, Jethro returned to Midian. The Jews too left Rephidim and proceeded with their journey, not to mention, the Pillar of Cloud and Fire continued to lead them. They were now passing through the desert of Sinai.

It was well past two months since they left Egypt and the journey had entered the third month. Trudging across the desert, the assemblage reached the foot of Mount Sinai. It was their new camping place.

Here again, God summoned Moses to the mountain and said to him – ‘Convey my message to the descendants of Jacob and the children of Israel! – They have witnessed what I did to the Egyptians who troubled them. They have also witnessed how, despite the adverse conditions, I carried them as if on the eagles’ wings and brought them to Myself. Now, if they obey My command and keep to My covenant (God’s covenant with Abraham), they will be my special dear ones, my loved people from among all the nations, for all the earth is Mine. Importantly, their nation will not be founded on slavery (as was the case in Egypt) but on righteousness. It will be a nation of God-fearing people, religious leaders; a holy nation’.

Descending the mountain, Moses gathered all the Jewish elders as commanded by God, and conveyed His words to them. And at that very moment the gathering replied in one voice saying – ‘We will do all that God has said!’ Their minds were now ready to accept and imbibe the word of God ‘exactly as it came to them’ and that too without any questions.

Moses then went to God and conveyed the people’s reply to Him.

Happy to hear the people’s words, God instructed Moses as follows: “Exactly three days from now, I shall become manifest in the form of fire at the peak of Mount Sinai. In view of this moment, talk to them today and tomorrow in order to make them aware of the importance of this blessed happening. The day after, wearing clean, freshly washed garments they must assemble at the foot of Mount Sinai. They must however, keep a distance. Draw a line to demarcate the limit. Should they try to go up the mountain crossing the line of demarcation, be it an animal or a man, death is sure to strike.”

The Parting of Red Sea
Mount Sinai in dust and clouds

The third day dawned to the sound of a horn. The Jews woke up with a start. The sound was so loud, so jarring that made land and mountain quake. There was lightning.

The whole atmosphere was charged.

As decided, Moses brought his Jewish brethren from the camp to the foot of Mount Sinai. In keeping with the instruction, they were all dressed in clean and freshly washed clothes.

All the people looked up at the mountain. It was enveloped in dust and clouds. Like God had said, the Fire had appeared at the peak of the mountain. With their eyes wide open, the Israelites stared at God in admiration and awe. It was Him! It was the God of Abraham-Isaac-Jacob!

The sound of the horn grew louder and continued to shake the mountain as well as the ground.

For a long time, the sound of the horn then crescendoed for a long time and scaling a particular high point, it suddenly ceased. A profound silence descended on the Jews, who now heard a sombre yet solemn voice, the voice of God….

God reveals Himself to the Jews at Mount Sinai

(To be continued…)

– Shulamith Penkar-Nigrekar

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