19 The Israelis arrived in the Sinai peninsula three months after the night of their departure from Egypt. 2-3 After breaking camp at Rephidim, they came to the base of Mount Sinai and set up camp there. Moses climbed the rugged mountain to meet with God, and from somewhere in the mountain God called to him and said, “Give these instructions to the people of Israel. Tell them, 4 ‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I brought you to myself as though on eagles’ wings. 5 Now if you will obey me and keep your part of my contract with you, you shall be my own little flock from among all the nations of the earth; for all the earth is mine. 6 And you shall be a kingdom of priests to God, a holy nation.’”
7 Moses returned from the mountain and called together the leaders of the people and told them what the Lord had said.
8 They all responded in unison, “We will certainly do everything he asks of us.” Moses reported the words of the people to the Lord.
9 Then he said to Moses, “I am going to come to you in the form of a dark cloud, so that the people themselves can hear me when I talk with you, and then they will always believe you. 10 Go down now and see that the people are ready for my visit. Sanctify them today and tomorrow, and have them wash their clothes. 11 Then, the day after tomorrow, I will come down upon Mount Sinai as all the people watch. 12 Set boundary lines the people may not pass, and tell them, ‘Beware! Do not go up into the mountain or even touch its boundaries; whoever does shall die— 13 no hand shall touch him, but he shall be stoned or shot to death with arrows, whether man or animal.’ Stay away from the mountain entirely until you hear a ram’s horn sounding one long blast; then gather at the foot of the mountain!”
14 So Moses went down to the people and sanctified them and they washed their clothing.
15 He told them, “Get ready for God’s appearance two days from now, and do not have sexual intercourse with your wives.”
16 On the morning of the third day there was a terrific thunder and lightning storm, and a huge cloud came down upon the mountain, and there was a long, loud blast as from a ram’s horn; and all the people trembled. 17 Moses led them out from the camp to meet God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. 18 All Mount Sinai was covered with smoke because Jehovah descended upon it in the form of fire; the smoke billowed into the sky as from a furnace, and the whole mountain shook with a violent earthquake. 19 As the trumpet blast grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and God thundered his reply. 20 So the Lord came down upon the top of Mount Sinai and called Moses up to the top of the mountain, and Moses ascended to God.
21 But the Lord told Moses, “Go back down and warn the people not to cross the boundaries. They must not come up here to try to see God, for if they do, many of them will die. 22 Even the priests on duty[a] must sanctify themselves, or else I will destroy them.”
23 “But the people won’t come up into the mountain!” Moses protested. “You told them not to! You told me to set boundaries around the mountain and to declare it off limits because it is reserved for God.”
24 But Jehovah said, “Go down and bring Aaron back with you, and don’t let the priests and the people break across the boundaries to try to come up here, or I will punish them.”
25 So Moses went down to the people and told them what God had said.
- Exodus 19:22 the priests on duty, literally, “the priests who come near to Jehovah.”