The Israelites arrived in the wilderness of Sinai exactly two months after they left Egypt.
After breaking camp at Rephidim, they came to the base of Mount Sinai and set up camp there.
Then Moses climbed the mountain to appear before God. The LORD called out to him from the mountain and said, "Give these instructions to the descendants of Jacob, the people of Israel:
'You have seen what I did to the Egyptians. You know how I brought you to myself and carried you on eagle's wings.
Now if you will obey me and keep my covenant, you will be my own special treasure from among all the nations of the earth; for all the earth belongs to me.
And you will be to me a kingdom of priests, my holy nation.' Give this message to the Israelites."
Moses returned from the mountain and called together the leaders of the people and told them what the LORD had said.
They all responded together, "We will certainly do everything the LORD asks of us." So Moses brought the people's answer back to the LORD.
Then the LORD said to Moses, "I am going to come to you in a thick cloud so the people themselves can hear me as I speak to you. Then they will always have confidence in you."Moses told the LORD what the people had said.
Then the LORD told Moses, "Go down and prepare the people for my visit. Purify them today and tomorrow, and have them wash their clothing.
Be sure they are ready on the third day, for I will come down upon Mount Sinai as all the people watch.
Set boundary lines that the people may not pass. Warn them, 'Be careful! Do not go up on the mountain or even touch its boundaries. Those who do will certainly die!
Any people or animals that cross the boundary must be stoned to death or shot with arrows. They must not be touched by human hands.' The people must stay away from the mountain until they hear one long blast from the ram's horn. Then they must gather at the foot of the mountain."
So Moses went down to the people. He purified them for worship and had them wash their clothing.
He told them, "Get ready for an important event two days from now. And until then, abstain from having sexual intercourse."
On the morning of the third day, there was a powerful thunder and lightning storm, and a dense cloud came down upon the mountain. There was a long, loud blast from a ram's horn, and all the people trembled.
Moses led them out from the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain.
All Mount Sinai was covered with smoke because the LORD had descended on it in the form of fire. The smoke billowed into the sky like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain shook with a violent earthquake.
As the horn blast grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God thundered his reply for all to hear.
The LORD came down on the top of Mount Sinai and called Moses to the top of the mountain. So Moses climbed the mountain.
Then the LORD told Moses, "Go back down and warn the people not to cross the boundaries. They must not come up here to see the LORD, for those who do will die.
Even the priests who regularly come near to the LORD must purify themselves, or I will destroy them."
"But LORD, the people cannot come up on the mountain!" Moses protested. "You already told them not to. You told me to set boundaries around the mountain and to declare it off limits."
But the LORD said, "Go down anyway and bring Aaron back with you. In the meantime, do not let the priests or the people cross the boundaries to come up here. If they do, I will punish them."
So Moses went down to the people and told them what the LORD had said.
Then God instructed the people as follows:
"I am the LORD your God, who rescued you from slavery in Egypt.
"Do not worship any other gods besides me.
"Do not make idols of any kind, whether in the shape of birds or animals or fish.
You must never worship or bow down to them, for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God who will not share your affection with any other god! I do not leave unpunished the sins of those who hate me, but I punish the children for the sins of their parents to the third and fourth generations.
But I lavish my love on those who love me and obey my commands, even for a thousand generations.
"Do not misuse the name of the LORD your God. The LORD will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name.
"Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
Six days a week are set apart for your daily duties and regular work,
but the seventh day is a day of rest dedicated to the LORD your God. On that day no one in your household may do any kind of work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you.
For in six days the LORD made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; then he rested on the seventh day. That is why the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy.
"Honor your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the LORD your God will give you.
"Do not murder.
"Do not commit adultery.
"Do not steal.
"Do not testify falsely against your neighbor.
"Do not covet your neighbor's house. Do not covet your neighbor's wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else your neighbor owns."
When the people heard the thunder and the loud blast of the horn, and when they saw the lightning and the smoke billowing from the mountain, they stood at a distance, trembling with fear.
And they said to Moses, "You tell us what God says, and we will listen. But don't let God speak directly to us. If he does, we will die!"
"Don't be afraid," Moses said, "for God has come in this way to show you his awesome power. From now on, let your fear of him keep you from sinning!"
As the people stood in the distance, Moses entered into the deep darkness where God was.
And the LORD said to Moses, "Say this to the people of Israel: You are witnesses that I have spoken to you from heaven.
Remember, you must not make or worship idols of silver or gold.
"The altars you make for me must be simple altars of earth. Offer on such altars your sacrifices to me -- your burnt offerings and peace offerings, your sheep and goats and your cattle. Build altars in the places where I remind you who I am, and I will come and bless you there.
If you build altars from stone, use only uncut stones. Do not chip or shape the stones with a tool, for that would make them unfit for holy use.
And you may not approach my altar by steps. If you do, someone might look up under the skirts of your clothing and see your nakedness.
"Here are some other instructions you must present to Israel:
"If you buy a Hebrew slave, he is to serve for only six years. Set him free in the seventh year, and he will owe you nothing for his freedom.
If he was single when he became your slave and then married afterward, only he will go free in the seventh year. But if he was married before he became a slave, then his wife will be freed with him.
"If his master gave him a wife while he was a slave, and they had sons or daughters, then the man will be free in the seventh year, but his wife and children will still belong to his master.
But the slave may plainly declare, 'I love my master, my wife, and my children. I would rather not go free.'
If he does this, his master must present him before God. Then his master must take him to the door and publicly pierce his ear with an awl. After that, the slave will belong to his master forever.
"When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she will not be freed at the end of six years as the men are.
If she does not please the man who bought her, he may allow her to be bought back again. But he is not allowed to sell her to foreigners, since he is the one who broke the contract with her.
And if the slave girl's owner arranges for her to marry his son, he may no longer treat her as a slave girl, but he must treat her as his daughter.
If he himself marries her and then takes another wife, he may not reduce her food or clothing or fail to sleep with her as his wife.
If he fails in any of these three ways, she may leave as a free woman without making any payment.
"Anyone who hits a person hard enough to cause death must be put to death.
But if it is an accident and God allows it to happen, I will appoint a place where the slayer can run for safety.
However, if someone deliberately attacks and kills another person, then the slayer must be dragged even from my altar and put to death.
"Anyone who strikes father or mother must be put to death.
"Kidnappers must be killed, whether they are caught in possession of their victims or have already sold them as slaves.
"Anyone who curses father or mother must be put to death.
"Now suppose two people quarrel, and one hits the other with a stone or fist, causing injury but not death.
If the injured person is later able to walk again, even with a crutch, the assailant will be innocent. Nonetheless, the assailant must pay for time lost because of the injury and must pay for the medical expenses.
"If a male or female slave is beaten and dies, the owner must be punished.
If the slave recovers after a couple of days, however, then the owner should not be punished, since the slave is the owner's property.
"Now suppose two people are fighting, and in the process, they hurt a pregnant woman so her child is born prematurely. If no further harm results, then the person responsible must pay damages in the amount the woman's husband demands and the judges approve.
But if any harm results, then the offender must be punished according to the injury. If the result is death, the offender must be executed.
If an eye is injured, injure the eye of the person who did it. If a tooth gets knocked out, knock out the tooth of the person who did it. Similarly, the payment must be hand for hand, foot for foot,
burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.
"If an owner hits a male or female slave in the eye and the eye is blinded, then the slave may go free because of the eye.
And if an owner knocks out the tooth of a male or female slave, the slave should be released in payment for the tooth.
"If a bull gores a man or woman to death, the bull must be stoned, and its flesh may not be eaten. In such a case, however, the owner will not be held liable.
Suppose, on the other hand, that the owner knew the bull had gored people in the past, yet the bull was not kept under control. If this is true and if the bull kills someone, it must be stoned, and the owner must also be killed.
However, the dead person's relatives may accept payment from the owner of the bull to compensate for the loss of life. The owner will have to pay whatever is demanded.
"The same principle applies if the bull gores a boy or a girl.
But if the bull gores a slave, either male or female, the slave's owner is to be given thirty silver coins in payment, and the bull must be stoned.
"Suppose someone digs or uncovers a well and fails to cover it, and then an ox or a donkey falls into it.
The owner of the well must pay in full for the dead animal but then gets to keep it.
"If someone's bull injures a neighbor's bull and the injured bull dies, then the two owners must sell the live bull and divide the money between them. Each will also own half of the dead bull.
But if the bull was known from past experience to gore, yet its owner failed to keep it under control, the money will not be divided. The owner of the living bull must pay in full for the dead bull but then gets to keep it.
Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved. (New Living Translation - The Bible Online)