THE MOUNTAIN THAT SMOKED AND THE WORDS THAT WERE SPOKEN FROM IT
Exodus 17:1 to 31:18
WHILE the Israelites were journeying through the desert they had great trouble from want of water. Between the wells of Elim and Mount Sinai, they found no streams nor springs. Their sheep and men suffered from thirst, and the little children were crying for water. The people came to Moses, and said in great anger:
"Give us water, or we shall die. Why have you brought us up from Egypt to kill us here in the desert?"
And Moses called on God, and said:
"Lord, what shall I do to this people? They are almost ready to stone me in their anger. How can I give them water?"
Then God told Moses what to do; and this was what Moses did:
He brought the people together before a great rock, and with his rod he struck the rock. Then out of the rock came forth a stream of water, which ran like a little river through the camp, and gave them plenty of water for themselves and for their flocks.
While they were in camp around this rock at Rephidim the wild people who had their homes in the desert, and were called the Amalekites, made sudden war on the Israelites. They came down upon them from the mountains, while they were weary with marching, and killed some of the Israelites. Then Moses called out those of the people who were fit for war, and made a young man named Joshua their leader; and they fought a battle with the Amalekites.
While they were fighting, Moses stood on a rock, where all could see him, and prayed the Lord God to help his people. His hands were stretched out toward heaven; and while Moses' hands were reaching upward the Israelites were strong, and drove back the enemy. But when Moses' arms fell down, then the enemy drove back the men of Israel.
So Aaron, Moses' brother, and Hur (who is thought to have been Moses' brother-in-law, the husband of his sister Miriam), stood beside Moses, and held up his hands until the Israelites won the victory, and overcame the men of Amalek.
In the third month after the Israelites had left the land of Egypt they came to a great mountain which rises straight up from the plain, so straight that one can walk up to it and touch it with his hand. This was Mount Sinai; and it was one of a group of mountains called Horeb, where Moses saw the burning bush, and heard God's voice, as we read in Story 21.
The Israelites made their camp in front of Mount Sinai, and stayed there for many days. And God said to Moses:
"Let none of the people go up on the mount, or come near to touch it. If even one of your cattle or sheep shall touch the mountain it must be killed. This is a holy place, where God will show his glory."
And a few days after this, the people heard the voice as of many trumpets sounding on the top of the mountain. They looked, and saw that the mountain was covered with clouds and smoke, and lightnings were flashing from it, while the thunder rolled and crashed. And the mountain shook and trembled, as though an earthquake were tearing it in pieces.
The people were filled with alarm. They came out of their tents, and ran back from the foot of the mountain, and stood far off, trembling with fear. Then God spoke in the hearing of all the people, as with a voice of thunder, and said:
"I am the Lord thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage."
And then God spoke to all the people the words of the Ten Commandments, to which you have listened many times. The words are these:
Thou shalt have none other gods but me.
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, nor any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them; for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.
Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
Remember the Sabbath-day to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God; in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day; wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath-day, and hallowed it.
Honor thy father and thy mother; that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
Thou shalt not kill.
Thou shalt not commit adultery.
Thou shalt not steal.
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbor's.
And all the people heard these words spoken by the Lord God; and they saw the mountain smoking, and the lightning flashing, and they were frightened. They said to Moses:
"Let not God speak to us any more; for the sound of his voice will take away our lives. Let God speak to you, Moses, and do you speak to us God's words."
"Fear not," said Moses, "for God has come to you, to speak with you, that you may fear him, and do his will."
And Moses drew near to the mountain, where the clouds and darkness and lightnings were. Then God called Moses up to the top of the mount; and Moses went up, and with him was his helper, the young man Joshua. Joshua stayed on the side of the mountain, but Moses went up alone to the top, among the clouds.
And there Moses stayed upon the mountain, alone with God, for forty days, talking with God, and listening to the words which God spoke to him, the laws for the people of Israel to obey. And God gave to Moses two flat tablets of stone, upon which God had written with his own hand the Ten Commandments.