Remember the teachings of Moses (Mal 4:4-4:4)


The teachings

Of my servant Moses!


The statutes,

The ordinances,

That I commanded him,

At Horeb

For all Israel!”

The Israelites were to remember the teachings of Yahweh’s servant, the law of Moses.  They were to remember all his statutes and ordinances, because Yahweh had commanded him to do so at Mount Horeb or Mount Sinai.  These commandments were for all the people of Israel.

Prayer to Elijah (Sir 48:4-48:8)

“How glorious you were!

O Elijah!

In your wondrous deeds!

Whose glory is equal to yours?

You raised a corpse

From death.

You raised him From Hades

By the word of the Most High.

You sent kings

Down to destruction.

You sent famous men

From their sickbeds.

You heard the rebuke

At Sinai.

You heard the judgments

Of vengeance at Horeb.

You anointed kings

To inflict retribution.

You anointed prophets

To succeed you.”

Sirach continues with his eulogy to Elijah with this second person singular prayer to him. In fact, Sirach almost treats Elijah like a god when he is talking about his great deeds. However, he carefully points out that Elijah raised the dead son of the widow by the word of the Most High, and not by himself as in 1 Kings, chapter 17. At the same time, he brought kings to destruction and saved people from their sick beds. Then Elijah went to where Moses got the 10 commandments, Horeb or Mount Sinai. Thus he is like a second Moses, certainly not in the Levitical line of Aaron, when he speaks with Yahweh as in 1 Kings, chapter 19. Yahweh told him whom he was to anoint as kings and prophets. Thus Elijah tried to follow out the orders of Yahweh.

Yahweh came from Sinai (Ps 68:17-68:19)

“With mighty chariots,

Twice ten thousand,

Thousands upon thousands,

Yahweh came from Sinai

Into the holy place.

You ascended the high mountain.

You lead captives in your train.

You received gifts from people,

Even from those who rebel against

Yahweh God’s abiding there.

Blessed be Yahweh!

He daily bears us up!

God is our salvation!”


Yahweh had 20,000 chariots lead him from Mount Sinai to the new Mount Zion in Jerusalem. This seems a little exaggerated. He came into the new holy place leaving many captives along the way. Everyone gave him gifts, even those opposed to his stay at Mount Zion. Once again, this section ended with the musical interlude pause, the Selah. This came after the refrain that Yahweh was blessed, that God was their salvation.

God provided rain (Ps 68:8-68:10)

“The earth quaked.

The heavens poured down rain

At the presence of God,

The God of Sinai,

At the presence of God,

The God of Israel.

Rain in abundance!

O God!

You showered abroad!

You restored your heritage

When it languished.

Your flock found a dwelling in it.

In your goodness,

O God!

You provided for the needy!

God provided for the rain in abundance while they were in the wilderness. The earth quaked and rains came tumbling down. Just when they were languishing in the desert, the rains came when the presence of God appeared, the God of Mount Sinai and Israel. God’s heritage continued in his goodness as he provided for the needy.

Jeremiah hides the cult material (2 Macc 2:4-2:8)

“It was also in the same document

Writing that the prophet,

Having received an oracle,

Ordered that the tent and the ark should follow with him.

He went out to the mountain

Where Moses had gone up.

He had seen the inheritance of God.

Jeremiah came and found a cave-dwelling.

He brought the tent there

With the ark and the altar of incense.

Then he sealed up the entrance.

Some of those who followed him

Came up intending to mark the way,

But they could not find it.

When Jeremiah learned of it,

He rebuked them and declared.

‘The place shall be unknown

Until God gathers his people together again

Until God shows his mercy.

Then the Lord will disclose these things.

The glory of the Lord

And the cloud will appear.

As they were shown in the case of Moses,

And as Solomon asked

That the place should be specially consecrated.’”

Once again, this letter refers to the Epistle of Jeremiah. However, this reference to Jeremiah is more about not being enticed by the idols of the gods that they will see in captivity. This implies that Jeremiah went to Mount Sinai to get the tent of Moses. He then hid it with the Ark of the Covenant and the altar of incense in some cave that was sealed. No one would know about this cave until the end of time when God would gather all his people. Here then is a hint of eschatology, the end times. People tried to find this cave but were unable to do so. King Solomon also had the Ark of the Covenant passed around. The glory and the cloud are how God appeared to Moses.

Ezra tells the Exodus history of Israel (Neh 9:9-9:15)

“You saw the distress of our ancestors in Egypt.

You heard the cry at the Red Sea.

You performed signs and wonders against Pharaoh,

And all his servants and all the people of his land.

You knew that they acted insolently against our ancestors.

You made a name for yourself,

That remains to this day.

You divided the sea before them.

They passed through the sea on dry land.

You threw their pursuers into the depths,

Like a stone into mighty waters.

You led them by day with a pillar of cloud.

You led them by night with a pillar of fire.

You gave them light on the way in which they should go.

You did come down upon Mount Sinai.

You spoke with them from heaven.

You gave them right ordinances and true laws,

You gave them good statutes and commandments.

You made known your holy Sabbath to them.

You gave them commandments and statutes.

You gave them a law through your servant Moses.

You gave them bread from heaven for their hunger.

You brought water for them out of the rock for their thirst.

You told them to go possess the land that you swore to give them.”

Ezra then told the story of how Yahweh had protected the Israelites from the time of their oppression in Egypt until they took possession of the Promised Land. He heard that cry against Pharaoh and the Egyptians. He performed signs and wonders as they crossed the sea without getting wet. He led them through the desert with a cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night. He spoke to them at Mount Sinai. He gave them ordinances, statutes, laws, and commandments. He gave them the Sabbath also through Moses. He fed them with bread and provided water for them. He helped them get to the Promised Land.

The revelation at Horeb (Deut 4:9-4:20)

“But take care and watch yourselves closely, so as neither to forget the things that your eyes have seen not to let them slip from your mind all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children. How you once stood before the Yahweh your God at Horeb, when Yahweh said to me, ‘Assemble the people for me. I will let them hear my words. Thus, they may learn to fear me as they live on the earth, and may teach their children so.’ You approached and stood at the foot of the mountain, while the mountain was blazing up to the very heavens, shrouded in dark clouds. Then Yahweh spoke to you out of the fire. You heard the sound of words, but saw no form. There was only a voice. He declared to you his covenant, that he charged you to observe, that is, the ten commandments. He wrote them on two stone tables. Yahweh charged me at that time to teach you the statutes and ordinances for you to observe in the land that you are about to cross into and occupy.”

Is this is Mount Sinai? They seem to be the same. Horeb may be more generic term. However, they might be different places. The Priestly and the Jahwist tradition call it Mount Sinai in Exodus and Numbers, but the Elohist and Deuteronomy strands clearly call it Mount Horeb. They appear to be the same place. The Israelites have to tell their children’s children what happened at Mt Horeb. The difficulty is that those who heard and saw things at the mountain are now all dead. Their children may have heard about this from their parents. The voice of Yahweh appeared without a form or face. Thus the word of Yahweh became important. The ‘Ten Words’ of Yahweh or the Ten Commandments can be found Exodus, chapter 20. These statutes and ordinances apply to the Israelites when they come into the good land across the Jordan.

“Since you saw no form when Yahweh spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire, take care and watch yourselves closely, so that you do not act corruptly by making an idol for yourselves. Do not make any form or figure, the likeness of any male or female, the likeness of any animal that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air, the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the water under the earth.  When you look to the heavens, and see the sun, the moon, and the stars, all the host of heaven, do not be led astray and bow down to them and serve them, things that Yahweh your God has allotted to all the peoples everywhere under heaven. But Yahweh has taken you, and brought you out of the iron-smelter, out of Egypt, to become a people of his very own possession, as you are now.”

Once again referring to Horeb, this is a very strong admonition against idol forms or figures of any kind, humans, animals, birds, fish, sun, moon or stars. Do not bow down before anything. Yahweh has you as a possession because he has taken you out of the iron smelter of Egypt.

The new stone tablets (Ex 34:1-34:5)

“Yahweh said to Moses, ‘Cut two tablets of stone like the former ones, and I will write on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke.  Be ready in the morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai.  Present yourself there to me, on the top of the mountain.  No man shall come up with you.  Do not let anyone be seen throughout the entire mountain.  Do not let the flocks or herds graze in front of that mountain.’  So Moses cut two tablets of stone like the former ones.  He rose early in the morning and went up on Mount Sinai, as Yahweh had commanded him.   He took in his hands the two tablets of stone.  Yahweh descended in the cloud and stood with him there.  He then proclaimed the name ‘Yahweh.’”

In this Yahweh tradition, things are going so good with Moses and God that he gives him a second chance by redoing the stone tablets that Moses had broke.  Once again, Moses has to go to the top of the mountain alone with the two stone tablets, not even letting any animals graze near the mountain.  Yahweh descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed his name ‘Yahweh.’

Moses on the mountain forty days (Ex 24:12-24:18)

“Yahweh said to Moses, ‘Come up to me on the mountain, and wait there.   I will give you tablets of stone, with the law and the commandments, which I have written for their instruction.’  So Moses set out with his assistant Joshua.  Moses went up into the mountain of God.  To the elders, he had said, ‘Wait here for us, until we come to you again.   Aaron and Hur are with you.  Whoever has a dispute may go to them.’”

Then Moses went to get the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandments on them.   Joshua, and not Aaron, was with him.  Now we have the book of the covenant written by Moses and the stone tablets written by Yahweh.

“Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain.  The glory of Yahweh settled on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days.  On the seventh day he called to Moses out of the cloud.  Now the appearance of the glory of Yahweh was like a devouring fire on the mountain in the sight of the Israelites.  Moses entered the cloud, and went up on the mountain.  Moses was on the mountain for forty days and forty nights.”

The cloud covered the mountain.  The glory of Yahweh settled on Mount Sinai.  Once again, we have the symbolism of six days and the importance of the seventh day.  Moses stayed on the mountain for forty days and forty nights, another symbolic number.

The theophany (Ex 19:16-19:25)

“On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, as well as a thick cloud on the mountain.  The blast of a trumpet was so loud that all the people who were in the camp trembled.  Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God.  They took their stand at the foot of the mountain.  Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke, because Yahweh had descended upon it in fire.  The smoke went up like the smoke of a kiln, while the whole mountain shook violently.  When the blast of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses would speak.  Then God would answer him in thunder.  When Yahweh descended upon Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain, Yahweh summoned Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up.  Then Yahweh said to Moses, ‘Go down and warn the people not to break through to Yahweh to look.  Otherwise many of them will perish.  Even the priests who approach Yahweh must consecrate themselves or Yahweh will break out against them.’  And Moses said to Yahweh, ‘The people are not permitted to come up to Mount Sinai.  You yourself warned us, saying, set limits around the mountain, and keep it holy.’  Yahweh said to him, ‘Go down, and come up bringing Aaron with you.  But do not let either the priests or the people break through to come up to Yahweh.  Otherwise, he will break out against them.’  So Moses went down to the people and told them.”

This is an example of a theophany, an appearance of God that is very rare.  Only the holy people get to speak directly with Yahweh.  Yahweh came in a thick cloud with thunder and lightning on the mountain.  There was a loud trumpet blast.  This is a big deal as God appears in thunder and lightning.  Yahweh comes from above and rests on the mountain.  This is the classic concept that up is good and down is bad.  The good up God is powerful and speaks down to the people.   With the blasts of the trumpet louder, Moses would speak and Yahweh would respond using thunder.  Yahweh summoned Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up.  Then Yahweh told him to get Aaron and bring him up to the mountain top.  However, Moses was not to let any other people up, even the priests.