Reformed Chicks Blabbing

OK, so I didn’t really like this paper at all. I’m not sure what grade I received for it since I haven’t picked it up yet. I did get an A- for the course so I must have gotten a decent grade. I was unhappy with it because I couldn’t find any research on the passage. No one had anything interesting to say about it. I picked it because I really loved the passage from Hebrews (12:18-24) that I researched for my exegetical paper in General Epistles and Revelation (which I posted on Wednesday). This was a parallel verse. Only after I told the professor I was using this passage and I started researching it did I realize I’d made a mistake picking it. It wasn’t as interesting as the Hebrews passage and since there wasn’t any thing of interest written about it, I had to come up with my own stuff which is hard to do for 10 pages 🙂

Hebrew fonts can be found at Bibleworks.


Before Israel entered the land of
Canaan to take possession of the land the Lord had given to them as an
inheritance, Moses assembled the nation together as the “Lord had instructed
him to do.”[1] The
book of Deuteronomy contains the instructions, exhortations, reminders, and
commandments that Moses conveyed to the assembled nation that day.  He would not be entering the land with them,
so he wanted to prepare them to be faithful to God and his covenant by keeping
his commandments so that all would go well with them and they would remain in
the land forever.

He exhorted them to covenant
faithfulness by reminding them of all that the Lord had done for them and to
use that knowledge as motivation to obey his commandments and to refrain from following
after other gods. He reminded them of their lack of faith when they were too
fearful to fight the inhabitants of the land that the Lord have given them and
how God punished them by making them wander in the wilderness until that
faithless generation died off but he did not abandon them and continued to lead
them and prepare them to enter the land he swore to Abraham he would give to
his descendants.  Moses reminds them of
their military victories through the grace of God and exhorts them to remember
God’s faithfulness by responding in worship and obedience to all that he had
commanded them to do.

As Moses recounts the covenant that
Israel made with God, he reminds them of their first encounter with God, the
day he spoke to them out of the midst of the fire on Mount Sinai and revealed
himself through his word and through an awesome display of his power and glory.
He overwhelmed them to the point that they did not want to hear his voice again
for they feared they would die. They asked Moses to be their mediator so that
they would not be consumed by the fire.

This paper will explore God’s
divine revelation that day and the response of Israel to it and the
implications of God’s revelation for not only the original reader but for Christians

Deut. 1:3

Translation of Deuteronomy 5:22-27

22 YHWH spoke these
words to your whole assembly[1]
at the mountain, out of the midst of the fire, the cloud and the thick
darkness, with a loud voice. Then he added no more[2]
but he wrote them on two tablets of stone and he gave them to me. 23
But when you heard the voice out of the midst of the darkness[3]
while the mountain was burning with fire you approached me, all the heads of
your tribes and your elders. 24 And you said, “Behold, YHWH our God
has shown us his glory and his greatness and his voice that we heard out of the
midst of the fire.  This day we have seen
God speak with man and he has lived. 25 But now why should we die?
For this great fire will consume us, if we hear the voice of YHWH our God anymore,
then we shall die.

26 For who is there of
all flesh who has heard the voice of the living[4]
God speaking out of the midst of the fire as we have and lived? 27 You
approach and hear all that YHWH our God says and speak to us all that the Lord
our God says to you and we will listen and do.”

Divine Revelation at Horeb[5]

                 In preparation for entering the land of
Canaan, Moses reminds Israel of their covenantal obligation to keep the commandments
of God.  To emphasize the importance of
keeping the covenant he reminds them of their encounter with God at Horeb[6]
where God commanded the nation to be consecrated and their clothes washed and
to be assembled before him on the mountain so that he could speak to the Israel
and covey his commandments to them. He reminds that God spoke “face to face, on
the mountain out of the midst of the fire.”[7]
he reminds them of their fear of God which prevented them from ascending the
mountain with him. He also reminds them of the “ten words”[8]
which the Lord spoke to them as they were assembled before him. They had been
commanded by God to be consecrated and their clothes washed and they were gathered
together before God in worship. They had been told not to touch the mountain
since to do so would mean.[9]
And on the third day the Lord descended on Mount Sinai in fire and the whole
mountain was wrapped in smoke, it trembled greatly and there was the sound of a
trumpet, increasing in volume. There was thunder and lighting and the experience
was frightening.  The Lord called Moses
up to instruct him to remind Israel not to touch the mountain. God then spoke
to the nation of Israel, revealing his commandments to them.

In each of the passages that
recount the Sinai experience, there is an emphasis that God spoke “out of the
midst of the fire.” This phrase is not used in the Sinai account in Exodus
19-20 and is used only in Deuteronomy and only in conjunction with the Lord
speaking to the people of Israel.[10]
According to Ian Wilson the use of this phrase indicates that “YHWH himself was
in some sense localized within the fire.”[11]  He supports this interpretation by noting
that when Moses recounts the Sinai theophany his choice of words denotes God’s
presence at Sinai: “on the day you stood before the Lord your God,”[12]
“the Lord spoke to you face to face at the mountain…while I stood between the
Lord and you at that time,”[13]
“heard the sound of words, but saw no form; there was only a voice,”[14]
These are words that are associated with location and clearly demonstrate that
God was present at Mount Sinai.

The fact that there is no mention
of God descending in Deuteronomy (as there is in the Sinai account[15])
and that Moses says it was “out of heaven he let you hear his voice”[16]
has led some[17]
to believe that God was not considered physically present at Horeb by the
author of Deuteronomy but Wilson demonstrates that the “first four words of
each half of the verse are meant to be parallel” which would mean that YHWH was
present both in heaven and on earth speaking to them out of the midst of the

It is clear that the revelation recorded
in Deuteronomy was considered by Moses to be a divine revelation, that God was
present at Horeb and that he spoke to them out of the midst of the fire and
revealed to them the words of the covenant. The majority instances of the use
of the phrase “indicate that it was the initial giving of the law which
occurred ‘out of the midst of the fire.'”[19]  The revelation was both the words of the
covenant and God’s presence.  It was both
a visual and auditory experience. Moses repeatedly notes that the Lord spoke to
them and they heard his voice. The verb rb’D’i is used four times in this passage, lAq is used five times and [m;v’ is used six times but ha’r’ is used only twice. The predominate
aspect of the theophany seems to be auditory but the response of the elders and
heads of the tribes is described in visual terms that describe their auditory
response.  The voice of God came out of the midst of the fire and when the elders
approached Moses in response to the theophany, they said that God “has shown us his glory and his greatness
and we have heard his voice” and “we
have seen God speak with man.” There is a comingling of the auditory and the
visual. It is by “hearing” the word of God that they “had seen” his glory and

The revelation of God was both his
nature and his word (the law[20])
as this pericope demonstrate.  The elders
and heads of tribes said they saw his glory and his greatness and they feared
remaining in his presence for fear of being consumed by the “great fire.”  It is evident from their response that God
had revealed himself as holy, righteous and almighty. It is also evident that
they realized that there was a distinction between the creature and the
Creator, that they were mere flesh and he is a living God, not like the gods of
the other nations but a God who can communicate with them and who could destroy
them if they remained in his presence or touched the mountain.

God not only revealed his glory and
power in the theophany but in his law. God spoke his commandments (the
Decalogue) to the people and then “he added no more but wrote them on two
tablets of stone.” Thompson notes that the expression, “added no more” may be
used to indicate that the “commandments were such a complete summary of the
fundamental requirements of the covenant that no other law needed to be added.”[21]
There is a distinction being made between the Decalogue and the rest of the
civil ordnances and that the Decalogue was recorded on stone by God because the
Decalogue is “the fixed basis, indelibly recorded in stone, years earlier; the
rest of the law is more contingent, for it relates specially to life in
Also the Decalogue came from YWHW and the rest through the mediation of Moses.
“The separation between the Decalogue and other laws, therefore, is part of the
same picture as the insistence that the people saw no form, but heard only a
voice, namely an insistence on the primacy of the word in Israel’s relationship
with Yahweh.”[23]

The giving of the law is the focus
of this periscope (as well as Deut. 5). Moses recounts the giving of the Decalogue
to remind Israel of their desire on the mountain to be obedient to what God
revealed to them.  The center of Deut.5
is the restatement of the Decalogue, it is enveloped by a reminder of the
covenant that they made that day on Horeb and their response to God speaking to
them out of the midst of the fire. 
Though those assembled in Moab were not present on the day Israel stood
before the Lord at Horeb, Moses considers them present and accountable for the
promise that the elders and the leaders of the tribes made to be obedient to
all that the Lord commanded them to do. They bear the weight of their covenant
responsibility to be obedient to God.  McConville sees Horeb as a unifying event that
stretches backward and forward that “becomes a model for all time of Israel’s
position before God, at the place of decision…This paradigm encounter affirms
that Israel did once meet Yahweh in a way that was decisive for its life, and
therefore that it can and must go on doing so.”[24]
It is a solemn responsibility to be the people of God as God makes clear by the
revelation of his holiness in the law. They saw and heard that he is a holy God
and he expects them to be holy as he is holy. Each generation was expected to
bear the weight of that responsibility.

Israel’s Response to the Divine Revelation

When God revealed himself on Sinai,
Israel understood that they had seen God’s glory and greatness and when they
saw it they desired not to see it anymore so that they would not have to face
the judgment of God’s consuming fire (Deut. 4:24; 5:25). The theophany was
meant to provoke fear in them (Ex. 20:20; Deut. 4:36) and obedience to the law.
God wanted them to be his holy people and not to follow the gods of the other
nations. He showed them his power and glory so that they would understand the
power and wrath that he could unleash on them if they disobeyed but he also wanted
them to realize that no other nation had a god as powerful and majestic as he
is. What other nation could say that their god revealed himself on a mountain
and spoke to them out of the midst of the fire? What other nation knew exactly
what their god expected of them? What other nation had such a powerful and
living God to worship and obey?

In the Exodus account, Israel
feared God “when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning
and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid
and trembled, and they stood far off.”[25]
But Moses was concerned that they have the right kind of fear so he rebuked
them “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be
before you, that you may not sin.”

This inappropriate fear aspect and Moses’
rebuke is missing from this periscope.[26]
When the elders and the heads of the tribes[27]
approach Moses they do so because they are amazed that they are still living
even though they heard “the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst
of fire”[28] and
they wanted to continue to do so. They request that Moses approach God for them
and they promise to do everything that God commands them to do. Moses does not
recount his response to them but he does tell them that God found their request
acceptable and deemed it “good” which is missing from the Exodus account.

God was pleased with their response
because it was the reason for the revelation he wanted them to learn to fear
him “all the days that they live on the earth, and that they may teach their
children so.”[29]
He wanted them to fear him so that they would keep his commandments and would not
face his wrath. The wrath of God, that consuming fire should have reminded them
not to follow after other gods, other gods who did not come to them in glory
and greatness and in fire, who did not bring them out of the land of Egypt into
the land in which they were living, a land that he had given them as an
inheritance.  The fear of God’s wrath
should have been enough to keep them from straying from his word.

The revelation of God’s glory and
greatness and the voice speaking out of the midst of the fire not only provoked
them to promise to be obedient to his commandments but it also demonstrated their
need for a mediator. They understood that they needed someone to stand between
them and God.  Why should they risk their
life when Moses has been in the presence of God repeatedly and was still
living? Moses was even able to see much more than they did and yet still lived.[30]
Maybe that should have given them reassurance. Moses had already experienced
God speaking from a fire before so he understood already that God was a
consuming fire and that he was mighty and just in his judgments.

God wanted Israel to put their
trust in the mediatory work of Moses, it was one of the reasons for the
theophany, “I am coming to you in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when
I speak with you, and may also believe you forever.”  Seeing the power of God, hearing God’s voice
speaking his commandments, seeing the fire and realizing the awesome
responsibility of standing in the presence of God, Israel saw their need to put
their trust in Moses just as the Lord intended for them to do.

Israel’s Request in Light of Deuteronomy 18:15-22

In Deut. 18:15-22, Moses explains
to the Israel that God will raise up a prophet like him from among them.  Just as they desired Moses to listen to YHWH
for them and tell them what he wanted them to do, God will raise up a prophet
and put his words in the prophet’s mouth and they are to listen to him. In
recounting their request for a mediator, Moses focuses on the auditory aspect
of their encounter, “Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God or see
this great fire any more, lest I die.”[31]
Since the words of the prophet are the emphasis of this passage, the focus is
more on hearing God speak instead of seeing him. Israel is able to hear the
word of the Lord through a brother like them and not a powerful voice speaking
in the midst of a fire that reminds them of the wrath of God that will consume them
when they fail.

The use of the word ~wq indicates that the Lord would chose
someone when the need arose, it was not an office like the king or the priests
that were dynastic in nature. When God wanted to speak to Israel, he would send
a prophet to do so.

Israel’s Response in Light of Hebrews 12:18-24

In the passages in Exodus and Deuteronomy relating
to the Mount Sinai theophany there is only a hint of judgment. The language
used to describe the theophany is used elsewhere to describe God’s  judgment[32] but the
only hint that the Israelites feared the wrath of God was their surprise at still
being alive and their request not to have to face God again so that they would
not be “consumed by fire.” From the Old Testament perspective, God came to
Israel in greatness and glory to institute a covenant with them. He came to
make them a people for his own possession and to invoke fear in them so that
they would keep the covenant and remain forever in the land that he had given
them for an inheritance.

But the author of Hebrews understood much more
about that encounter than they did. He understood that they could not keep the
commandments of God, that even while Moses was acting as their mediator they
set up an idol of the gods who brought them out of Egypt, and when they entered
the land the next generation did not drive out the nations before them, they
intermarried and worshipped the gods of the other nations. And they continued
to do so generation after generation and their kings led the people astray to
worship other gods and committed the same heinous sins and even worse than the
nations who lived in Canaan and were destroyed by God before them. He
understood that they did not listen to the prophets that God graciously sent to
warn them and they continued to sin against the God who gave them so much.
Their kings committed great sins and shed the blood of innocents and lead the
people astray so God expelled them from the land. The author of Hebrews
understood quite well that they would not do all that God had commanded them to
do. He understood that their promise did not last too long.

He also understood the inadequacy of the covenant
made that day when compared to the covenant the believer has in Christ.[33] He
understood the inadequacy of the mediator of the old covenant compared to the Mediator
of the new.[34]
He understood the inadequacy of the law to make men perfect[35] and of the
blood of goats and bulls to take away sin.[36]

When he recounts the Sinai theophany, he does so
from the perspective of that knowledge. Whereas the Old Testament views that
encounter as fearful, yet hopeful and a revelation of the glory and greatness
of God, the author of Hebrews brings an element of judgment, obscurity and
murkiness to the encounter. He does so as a way of demonstrating the
superiority of the new covenant when compared to the old and the relationship
that the believer has in Christ compared to the sound of a voice coming out of the
midst of a fire.

The author of Hebrews does not even mention that he
is describing Mount Sinai, “For you have not come to something that can be
touched, to a burning fire and darkness and gloom and a whirlwind and the blast
of a trumpet and a voice uttering words such that those who heard begged to
hear no more.”[37]
Here the fear is of the words and not the fire. They feared what God said. The
holiness of God was revealed to them in his commandments and it was too hard to
take. Not only that but they even feared the commandment that was meant to
protect them from God’s wrath for trampling on holy ground, “For they could not
bear what was commanded: ‘If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be
stoned.'” A holy God that would punish even an animal for touching the
mountain was fearsome to behold.  The
scene was so terrifying that even Moses was afraid and shuddered with fear but
this element is totally lacking in the Sinai experience recorded in Exodus and
any of the passages where it is recounted.

The author of Hebrews understands what is only
hinted at in the Old Testament, the understanding that man cannot stand before
a holy God, the people feared and requested mediator, but their mediator was
afraid as well. He understood that God is a consuming fire, ready to avenge his
holy name. The mediator under the old covenant trembled with the people as they
approached Mount Sinai but believers do not fear when they approach God for they
do so in the knowledge that they stand before the holy God united with their
mediator. They do not need to stand off in fear but may boldly come into the
presence of God, they have been invited to draw near to Mount Zion and the
living God.


At creation God’s relationship with
man was expressed as walking in the garden together but at recreation, God’s
relationship is expressed in terms of fire, thick darkness and clouds. The
revelation of God at Sinai sounds more like concealing than revealing but in concealing
God revealed quite a bit about himself. He revealed enough that those who heard
him feared him and understood the weight of continued encounters, they
understood that they could be consumed by the fire of his judgment if they
remained in his presence. They understood their need for a mediator to stand
between them and God.

But now God has revealed himself in
his Son and the believer has a much closer relationship to God through union
with him. God is no longer revealed as a voice in the midst of a fire but by
the Holy Spirit who indwells the believer. Fear has been replaced with joy, and
murkiness with clarity.  God’s consuming
fire has been replaced with redemption and salvation from the coming judgment.

“Deut. Likes to use the word q?h?l to signify the wholeness and unity of the
people of Israel, just as it frequently uses ‘all Israel.’ It uses it most
frequently to refer to the ‘day’ of the great original assembly at Horeb
(Sinai), 4:10; 9:10; 10:4; 18:16 and 33:4.” Christopher J. H. Wright,  Deuteronomy
(New International Biblical Commentary; Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.,
1996), 93

“The Talmud (y. Megilah 70.4)
translates this latter phrase as ‘he ceased’ to speak to Israel directly, and
that, of course, is a proper interpretation of the event” John D. Currid, A Study Commentary of Deuteronomy
(Webster, New York : Evangelical Press, 2006),  155

LXX has “fire”

Usually when referring to God, the adjective will be in the singular but here
it is in the plural. This is probably “an intensive plural that underscores the
truth conveyed by the adjective.” John D. Currid, 157

Horeb is the term that is used for Mount Sinai throughout Deuteronomy except
for 33:2. It refers to “the locality within which Mount Sinai was located.”
Peter C. Craigie, The Book of Deuteronomy
(The New International Commentary on the Old Testament; Grand Rapids, Mich.:
William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1976), 91

Throughout Deuteronomy Moses talks to the nation as if they, instead of the
parents, stood before the Lord at Sinai. He views them as present because they
bear the weight of the covenant as if they had been there (Deut. 5:3).

Deut. 5:4

“These words” refer to the Decalogue which is made clear in Deut. 4:13 “And he
declared to you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, that is, the
Ten Commandments, and he wrote them on two tablets of stone.”  In Deut. 5:22, Moses said that “these words”
are written on two tablets of stone. “The term is also found outside the Old
Testament used in treaties for the treaty stipulations” A.D.H. Mayes, Deuteronomy (The New Century Bible
Commentary; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1981), 172.

This account is taken from Exodus 19-20.

The phrase is used in ten verses: 4:12, 15, 33, 36; 5:4, 22, 24, 26; 9:10;

Ian Wilson, Out of the Midst of the Fire:
Divine Presence in Deuteronomy
(Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1995), 65

Deut. 4:12 (ESV)

Deut. 5:4-5 (ESV)

Deut. 4:12 (ESV)

[15] Exodus

Deut. 4:36 (ESV)

Ian Wilson, 66-67


Ibid., 58

Deut. 5:22 (ESV) states that “These words the LORD spoke” which refers to the
commandments from the previous section (Deut. 5:6-21) and Deut. 4:13 (ESV) “And
he declared to you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, that is,
the Ten Commandments, and he wrote them on two tablets of stone.”

J. A. Thompson, Deuteronomy (The
Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries; London : Inter-Varsity Press, 1974), 119

David F. Payne, Deuteronomy (The
Daily Study Bible Series; Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1985), 44

J. G. McConville, Deuteronomy (Apollos
; Downers Grove, Ill. : InterVarsity Press, 2002), 106

McConville, 107

Exodus 20:18 (ESV)

Moses had mentioned that they were afraid of the fire in Deut. 5:5 but again
does not mention his rebuke.

There is not mention of elders or heads of tribes in Exodus 20, it was “the
people” who were afraid and asked Moses to mediate for them. Moses adds further
clarity to the passage 

Deut. 5:26 (ESV)

Deut. 4:10 (ESV)

In Exodus 33 Moses requests to see God’s glory but God warned that it was
impossible to see his face and live so he showed him his back (Ex. 33:18-23).

Deut. 18:16 (ESV)

The words used in Deut. 5:22 to describe God’s theophany at Horeb are the same
words used to describe the day of the Lord (Joel 2:1-2; Zeph. 1:14-15) and fire
is used throughout the Old Testament and New to describe the wrath of God and
his judgment (cf. Joel 2:3; Jer. 4:4)

Hebrews 7:22

Hebrews 3; 12:24

Hebrews 7:19

Hebrews 10:4

Hebrews 12:18-19 (ESV)

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