God’s Agreement With Israel

Exodus Chapter 19 The Israelites reached the desert of Sinai in the third month of their trip from Egypt. They had traveled from Rephidim to the Sinai desert. The Israelites camped in the desert near Mount Sinai. Then Moses climbed up the mountain to meet with God. The Lord spoke to him on the mountain and said, “Tell this to the Israelites, the great family of Jacob: ‘You people saw what I did to the people of Egypt. You saw that I carried you out of Egypt like an eagle and brought you here to me. So now I tell you to obey my commands and keep my agreement. So if you do this, you will be my own special people. The whole world belongs to me, but I am choosing you to be my own special people. You will be a special nation—a kingdom of priests.’ Moses, you must tell the Israelites what I have said.”

So Moses climbed down the mountain and called the elders of the people together. Moses told the elders everything the Lord had commanded him to tell them. All the people spoke at the same time and said, “We will obey everything the Lord says.”

Then Moses went back up the mountain and told the Lord that the people would obey him. Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will come to you in the thick cloud. I will speak to you. All the people will hear me talking to you. I will do this so that they will always believe what you tell them.”

Then Moses told God everything the people had said.

10 And the Lord said to Moses, “Today and tomorrow you must prepare the people for a special meeting. They must wash their clothes 11 and be ready for me on the third day. On the third day, the Lord will come down to Mount Sinai. And all the people will see me. 12-13 But you must tell the people to stay away from the mountain. Make a line and don’t let them cross it. Any person or animal that touches the mountain must be killed with stones or shot with arrows. But don’t let anyone touch them. The people must wait until the trumpet blows. Only then can they go up the mountain.”

14 So Moses climbed down the mountain and went to the people. He got them ready for the special meeting and they washed their clothes.

15 Then Moses said to the people, “Be ready for the meeting with God in three days. Until that time do not have sexual relations.”

16 On the morning of the third day, a thick cloud came down onto the mountain. There was thunder and lightning and a very loud sound from a trumpet. All the people in the camp were frightened. 17 Then Moses led the people out of the camp to a place near the mountain to meet God. 18 Mount Sinai was covered with smoke. Smoke rose off the mountain like smoke from a furnace. This happened because the Lord came down to the mountain in fire. Also the whole mountain began to shake. 19 The noise from the trumpet became louder and louder. Every time Moses spoke to God, God answered him with a voice like thunder.

20 So the Lord came down to Mount Sinai. He came from heaven to the top of the mountain. Then he called Moses to come up to the top of the mountain with him. So Moses went up the mountain.

21 The Lord said to Moses, “Go down and warn the people not to come near me and look at me. If they do, many will die. 22 Also tell the priests who come near the Lord that they must prepare themselves for this special meeting. If they don’t, I, the Lord, will punish them.”

23 Moses said to the Lord, “But the people cannot come up the mountain. You yourself told us to make a line and not allow the people to cross the line to holy ground.”

24 The Lord said to him, “Go down to the people. Get Aaron and bring him back with you. But don’t let the priests or the people come near me. I will punish them if they come too close.”

25 So Moses went down to the people and told them these things.

The Ten Commandments

Chapter 20 These are the things God told his people:

“I am the Lord your God. I am the one who freed you from the land of Egypt, where you were slaves.

“You must not worship any other gods except me.

“You must not make any idols. Don’t make any statues or pictures of anything up in the sky or of anything on the earth or of anything down in the water. Don’t worship or serve idols of any kind, because I, the Lord, am your God. I hate my people worshiping other gods.[a] People who sin against me become my enemies, and I will punish them. And I will punish their children, their grandchildren, and even their great-grandchildren. But I will be very kind to people who love me and obey my commands. I will be kind to their families for thousands of generations.[b]

“You must not use the name of the Lord your God to make empty promises. If you do, the Lord will not let you go unpunished.

“You must remember to keep the Sabbath a special day. You may work six days a week to do your job. 10 But the seventh day is a day of rest in honor of the Lord your God. So on that day no one should work—not you, your sons and daughters, or your men and women slaves. Even your animals and the foreigners living in your cities must not work! 11 That is because the Lord worked six days and made the sky, the earth, the sea, and everything in them. And on the seventh day, he rested. In this way the Lord blessed the Sabbath—the day of rest. He made that a very special day.

12 “You must honor and respect your father and your mother. Do this so that you will have a full life in the land that the Lord your God gives you.

13 “You must not murder anyone.

14 “You must not commit adultery.

15 “You must not steal anything.

16 “You must not tell lies about other people.[c]

17 “You must not want to take your neighbor’s house. You must not want his wife. And you must not want his men and women servants or his cattle or his donkeys. You must not want to take anything that belongs to another person.”

The People Are Afraid of God

18 During all this time, the people in the valley heard the thundering and saw the lightning on the mountain. They saw smoke rising from the mountain and heard the sound of the trumpet. They were afraid and shook with fear. They stood away from the mountain and watched. 19 Then the people said to Moses, “If you want to speak to us, then we will listen. But please don’t let God speak to us. If this happens, we will die.”

20 Then Moses said to them, “Don’t be afraid! God has come to test you. He wants you to respect him so that you will not sin.”

21 The people stood far away from the mountain while Moses went to the dark cloud where God was. 22 Then the Lord told Moses to say this to the Israelites: “You people have seen that I talked with you from heaven. 23 So you must not make idols using gold or silver to compete with me. You must not make these false gods.

24 “Make a special altar for me. You should use dirt to make this altar. Offer sheep and cattle as burnt offerings and fellowship offerings on this altar. Do this in every place where I tell you to remember me. Then I will come and bless you. 25 But if you use stones to make an altar, then don’t use stones that were cut with an iron tool.[d] If you do that, it will make the altar unacceptable. 26 And you must not make steps leading up to the altar. If there are steps, when people look up to the altar, they will be able to see under your clothes.”


  1. Exodus 20:5 I hate … gods Or “I am El Kanah—the Jealous God.”
  2. Exodus 20:6 Or “But I will show mercy to thousands of people who love me and obey my commands.”
  3. Exodus 20:16 Or “You must not be a false witness against your neighbor.”
  4. Exodus 20:25 iron tool Literally, “sword.”

The Golden Calf

Chapter 32 The people saw that a long time had passed and Moses had not come down from the mountain. So they gathered around Aaron. They said to him, “Look, Moses led us out of the land of Egypt, but we don’t know what has happened to him. So make us some gods to go before us and lead us.”

Aaron said to the people, “Bring me the gold earrings that belong to your wives, sons, and daughters.”

So the people collected all their gold earrings and brought them to Aaron. He took the gold from the people and used it to make an idol. Using a special tool, he shaped the gold into a statue of a calf.

Then the people said, “Israel, here are your gods! These are the gods that brought you out of the land of Egypt!”[a]

Aaron saw all these things, so he built an altar in front of the calf. Then Aaron made an announcement. He said, “Tomorrow will be a special festival to honor the Lord.”

The people woke up very early the next morning. They killed animals and offered them as burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. They sat down to eat and drink. Then they got up and had a wild party.

At the same time, the Lord said to Moses, “Go down from this mountain. Your people, the people you brought out of the land of Egypt, have committed a terrible sin. They have very quickly turned away from what I commanded them to do. They made a calf from melted gold for themselves. They are worshiping that calf and making sacrifices to it. The people have said, ‘Israel, these are the gods that led you out of Egypt.’”

The Lord said to Moses, “I have seen these people, and I know that they are very stubborn. They will always turn against me. 10 So now let me destroy them in anger. Then I will make a great nation from you.”

11 But Moses begged the Lord his God, “Lord, don’t let your anger destroy your people. You brought them out of Egypt with your great power and strength. 12 But if you destroy your people, the Egyptians will say, ‘God planned to do bad things to his people. That is why he led them out of Egypt. He wanted to kill them in the mountains. He wanted to wipe them off the earth.’ So don’t be angry with your people. Please change your mind! Don’t destroy them. 13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel. These men served you, and you used your name to make a promise to them. You said, ‘I will make your people as many as the stars in the sky. I will give your people all this land as I promised. This land will be theirs forever.’”

14 So the Lord felt sorry for the people. He did not do what he said he might do—he did not destroy them.

15 Then Moses went down the mountain. He had the two stone tablets with the agreement on them. The commandments were written on both sides of the stone, front and back. 16 God himself made the stones, and God himself wrote the commandments on them.

17 Joshua heard the noise from the party in camp. He said to Moses, “It sounds like war down in the camp!”

18 Moses answered, “It is not the noise of an army shouting for victory. And it is not the noise of an army crying from defeat. The noise I hear is the sound of music.[b]

19 When Moses came near the camp, he saw the golden calf and the people dancing. He became very angry, and he threw the stone tablets on the ground. The stones broke into several pieces at the bottom of the mountain. 20 Then Moses destroyed the calf that the people had made. He melted it in the fire. Then he ground the gold until it became dust and threw it into the water. Then he forced the Israelites to drink that water.

21 Moses said to Aaron, “What did these people do to you that would make you do this? Why did you lead them to do such a terrible sin?”

22 Aaron answered, “Don’t be angry, sir. You know that these people are always ready to do wrong. 23 The people said to me, ‘Moses led us out of Egypt, but we don’t know what has happened to him. So make us some gods to lead us.’ 24 So I told the people, ‘If you have any gold rings, then give them to me.’ The people gave me their gold. I threw the gold into the fire, and out of the fire came this calf!”

25 Moses saw that Aaron had let the people get out of control. They were being wild, and all their enemies could see them acting like fools. 26 So Moses stood at the entrance to the camp and said, “Anyone who wants to follow the Lord should come to me.” Everyone from the tribe of Levi ran to Moses.

27 Then Moses said to them, “I will tell you what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Every man must get his sword and go from one end of the camp to the other. You men must kill those who are against the Lord, even if they are your brothers, friends, or neighbors.’”

28 The people from the tribe of Levi obeyed Moses. That day about 3000 of the people died. 29 Then Moses said, “Take your role today as special servants of the Lord because you were willing to fight against even your own sons and brothers. You will receive a blessing for this.”[c]

30 The next morning Moses told the people, “You have committed a terrible sin! But now I will go up to the Lord, and maybe I can do something so that he will forgive you for your sin.” 31 So Moses went back to the Lord and said, “Please listen! These people committed a terrible sin and made a god from gold. 32 Now, forgive them of this sin. If you will not forgive them, then erase my name from your book.[d]

33 But the Lord said to Moses, “The only people I erase from my book are those who sin against me. 34 So now, go down and lead the people where I tell you to go. My angel will go before you and lead you. When the time comes to punish those who sinned, they will be punished.” 35 So the Lord caused a terrible sickness to come to the people. He did this because they told Aaron to make the golden calf.

I Will Not Go With You

Chapter 33 Then the Lord said to Moses, “You and the people you brought out of Egypt must leave this place. Go to the land that I promised to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I promised them that I would give that land to their descendants. So I will send an angel to go before you, and I will defeat the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. I will force them to leave your land. So go to the land filled with many good things,[e] but I will not go with you. You people are very stubborn. If I go with you, I might destroy you along the way.”

The people heard this bad news and became very sad, so they stopped wearing jewelry. This was because the Lord said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites, ‘You are a stubborn people. I might destroy you even if I travel with you only a short time. So take off all your jewelry while I decide[f] what to do with you.’” So the Israelites stopped wearing their jewelry at Mount Horeb.

The Meeting Tent: 

Moses used to take a tent a short way outside the camp. He called it “the meeting tent.[g]” Anyone who wanted to ask something from the Lord would go to the meeting tent outside the camp. Any time Moses went out to the tent, all the people watched him. They stood at the entrance of their tents and watched Moses until he entered the meeting tent. Whenever Moses went into the tent, the tall cloud would come down and stay at the entrance to the tent. And the Lord would speak with Moses. 10 So when the people saw the cloud at the entrance of the tent, they would go to the entrance of their own tents and bow down to worship God.

11 In this way the Lord spoke to Moses face to face like a man speaks with his friend. Then Moses would go back to the camp, but his helper, Joshua son of Nun, always stayed in the tent.

Moses Sees the Glory of the Lord

12 Moses said to the Lord, “You told me to lead these people, but you did not say who you would send with me. You said to me, ‘I know you very well, and I am pleased with you.’ 13 If I have really pleased you, then teach me your ways. I want to know you. Then I can continue to please you. Remember that these people are your nation.”

14 The Lord answered, “I myself will go with you. I will lead you.”[h]

15 Then Moses said to him, “If you don’t go with us, then don’t make us leave this place. 16 Also, how will we know if you are pleased with me and these people? If you go with us, we will know for sure. If you don’t go with us, these people and I will be no different from any other people on the earth.”

17 Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will do what you ask. I will do this because I am pleased with you and because I know you very well.”[i]

18 Then Moses said, “Now, please show me your Glory.”

19 Then the Lord answered, “I will show my love and mercy to anyone I want to. So I will cause my perfect goodness to pass by in front of you, and I will speak my name, Yahweh, so that you can hear it. 20 But you cannot see my face. No one can see me and continue to live.”

21 Then the Lord said, “Here is a place for you to stand by me on this large rock. 22 I will put you in a large crack in that rock. Then I will cover you with my hand, and my Glory will pass by. 23 Then I will take away my hand, and you will see my back. But you will not see my face.”

The New Stone Tablets

Chapter 34 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Make two more stone tablets like the first two that were broken. I will write the same words on these stones that were written on the first two stones. Be ready tomorrow morning and come up on Mount Sinai. Stand before me there on the top of the mountain. No one will be allowed to come with you. No one should even be seen anywhere on the mountain. Even your herds of animals or flocks of sheep will not be allowed to eat grass at the bottom of the mountain.”

So Moses made two more stone tablets like the first ones. Early the next morning Moses went up Mount Sinai, just as the Lord had commanded. Moses carried the two stone tablets with him. Then the Lord came down to him in a cloud, stood there with Moses, and spoke his own name. That is, the Lord passed in front of Moses and said, “Yahweh, the Lord, is a kind and merciful God. He is slow to become angry. He is full of great love. He can be trusted. He shows his faithful love to thousands of people.[j] He forgives people for the wrong things they do, but he does not forget to punish guilty people. Not only will he punish the guilty people, but their children, their grandchildren, and their great-grandchildren will also suffer for the bad things these people do.”

Then Moses quickly bowed to the ground and worshiped the Lord. Moses said, “Lord, if you are pleased with me, please go with us. I know that these are stubborn people, but forgive us for the bad things we did. Accept us as your people.”

10 Then the Lord said, “I am making this agreement with all of your people. I will do amazing things that have never before been done for any other nation on earth. The people with you will see that I, the Lord, am very great. They will see the wonderful things that I will do for you. 11 Obey what I command you today, and I will force your enemies to leave your land. I will force out the Amorites, Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. 12 Be careful! Don’t make any agreement with the people who live in the land where you are going. If you make an agreement with them, it will bring you trouble. 13 So destroy their altars, break the stones they worship, and cut down their idols.[k] 14 Don’t worship any other god. I am Yahweh Kanah—the jealous Lord. That is my name. I hate for my people to worship other gods.[l]

15 “Be careful not to make any agreements with the people who live in that land. If you do this, you might join them when they worship their gods. They will invite you to join them, and you will eat their sacrifices. 16 You might choose some of their daughters as wives for your sons. Those daughters serve false gods. They might lead your sons to do the same thing.

17 “Don’t make idols.

18 “Celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread. For seven days, eat the bread made without yeast as I commanded you before. Do this during the month I have chosen, the month of Abib, because that is the month you came out of Egypt.

19 “A woman’s first baby always belongs to me. Even the first animals that are born from your cattle or sheep belong to me. 20 If you want to keep a donkey that is the first born, then you can buy it with a lamb. But if you don’t buy that donkey with a lamb, you must break the donkey’s neck. You must buy back all of your firstborn sons from me. No one should come before me without a gift.

21 “You will work for six days, but on the seventh day you must rest. You must rest even during the times of planting and harvesting.

22 “Celebrate the Festival of Harvest. Use the first grain from the wheat harvest for this festival. And in the fall[m] celebrate the Festival of Shelters.

23 “Three times each year all your men must go to be with the Lord God, the God of Israel.

24 “When you go into your land, I will force your enemies out of that land. I will expand your borders—you will get more and more land. You will go before the Lord your God three times each year. At that time no one will try to take your land from you.

25 “When you kill an animal and offer its blood as a sacrifice, you must not include anything that has yeast in it.

“Don’t let any of the meat from the Passover meal remain until morning.

26 “Give the Lord the very first crops that you harvest. Bring them to the house[n] of the Lord your God.

“Never cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.”

27 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write everything that I have told you. This is the agreement that I made with you and the Israelites.”

28 Moses stayed there with the Lord for 40 days and 40 nights. Moses did not eat any food or drink any water. And he wrote the words of the agreement (the Ten Commandments) on the two stone tablets.

Moses’ Shining Face

29 When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, he carried the two stone tablets of the agreement. Because he had talked with the Lord, his face was shining, but he did not know it. 30 Aaron and all the people of Israel saw that Moses’ face was shining bright. So they were afraid to go near him. 31 But Moses called to them. So Aaron and all the leaders of the people went to him. Moses talked with them. 32 After that all the Israelites came near Moses, and he gave them the commands that the Lord had given him on Mount Sinai.

33 When Moses finished speaking to the people, he put a covering over his face. 34 Any time Moses went before the Lord to speak with him, Moses took off the covering. Then Moses would come out and tell the Israelites what the Lord commanded. 35 The people would see that Moses’ face was shining bright, so he would cover his face again. He kept his face covered until the next time he went in to speak with the Lord.


  1. Exodus 32:4 Israel … Egypt This shows that the people worshiped the calf as a special symbol for the Lord, and even this was forbidden. See 1 Kings 12:26-30.
  2. Exodus 32:18 music Or “singing.”
  3. Exodus 32:29 Take your role … blessing for this This seems to be the point when the priesthood changed. Before this time, the priests came from the firstborn sons; after this time, they came from the sons of Aaron of the tribe of Levi.
  4. Exodus 32:32 your book The book of life, in which God has written the names of his chosen people. See Rev. 3:5; 21:27.
  5. Exodus 33:3 land … things Literally, “land flowing with milk and honey.”
  6. Exodus 33:5 jewelry … decide This is a wordplay in Hebrew, but people often wore jewelry to remind them of their false gods.
  7. Exodus 33:7 meeting tent This is probably a tent that Moses used only until the real Meeting Tent was built.
  8. Exodus 33:14 lead you Or “give you rest.”
  9. Exodus 33:17 I know you very well Literally, “I know you by name.”
  10. Exodus 34:7 people Or “generations.”
  11. Exodus 34:13 stones … idols Literally, “memorials … Asherah poles.” These were stone markers and wood poles that the people set up to help them remember and honor false gods.
  12. Exodus 34:14 I hate … gods Or “I am El Kanah—the Jealous God.”
  13. Exodus 34:22 fall Literally, “at the changing of the year.”
  14. Exodus 34:26 house The “Holy Tent” where the people went to meet with God. See Ex. 25:8, 9.

The Bronze Snake

Numbers Chapter 21

The Israelites left Mount Hor and traveled on the road that goes to the Red Sea. They did this to go around the country of Edom. But the people became impatient. They began complaining against God and Moses. The people said, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt? We will die here in the desert! There is no bread and no water! And we hate this terrible food!”

So the Lord sent poisonous snakes among the people. The snakes bit the people, and many of the Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We know that we sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord. Ask him to take away these snakes.” So Moses prayed for them.

The Lord said to Moses, “Make a bronze snake and put it on a pole. If anyone is bitten by a snake, that person should look at the bronze snake on the pole. Then that person will not die.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it on a pole. Then when a snake bit anyone, that person looked at the bronze snake on the pole and lived.

Next: Study 9 Reflection & Discussion