Exodus 19-21 The Message Bible

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Israel at Mount Sinai

19 1  Three months after leaving Egypt the Israelites entered the Wilderness of Sinai. 2  They followed the route from Rephidim, arrived at the Wilderness of Sinai, and set up camp. Israel camped there facing the mountain. 3  As Moses went up to meet God, God called down to him from the mountain: "Speak to the House of Jacob, tell the People of Israel: 4  'You have seen what I did to Egypt and how I carried you on eagles' wings and brought you to me. 5  If you will listen obediently to what I say and keep my covenant, out of all peoples you'll be my special treasure. The whole Earth is mine to choose from, 6  but you're special: a kingdom of priests, a holy nation.' "This is what I want you to tell the People of Israel." 7  Moses came back and called the elders of Israel together and set before them all these words which God had commanded him. 8  The people were unanimous in their response: "Everything God says, we will do." Moses took the people's answer back to God.

9  God said to Moses, "Get ready. I'm about to come to you in a thick cloud so that the people can listen in and trust you completely when I speak with you." Again Moses reported the people's answer to God. 10  God said to Moses, "Go to the people. For the next two days get these people ready to meet the Holy God. Have them scrub their clothes 11  so that on the third day they'll be fully prepared, because on the third day God will come down on Mount Sinai and make his presence known to all the people. 12  Post boundaries for the people all around, telling them, 'Warning! Don't climb the mountain. Don't even touch its edge. Whoever touches the mountain dies - a certain death. 13  And no one is to touch that person, he's to be stoned. That's right - stoned. Or shot with arrows, shot to death. Animal or man, whichever - put to death.' "A long blast from the horn will signal that it's safe to climb the mountain." 14  Moses went down the mountain to the people and prepared them for the holy meeting. They gave their clothes a good scrubbing. 15  Then he addressed the people: "Be ready in three days. Don't sleep with a woman."

16  On the third day at daybreak, there were loud claps of thunder, flashes of lightning, a thick cloud covering the mountain, and an ear-piercing trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp shuddered in fear. 17  Moses led the people out of the camp to meet God. They stood at attention at the base of the mountain. 18  Mount Sinai was all smoke because God had come down on it as fire. Smoke poured from it like smoke from a furnace. The whole mountain shuddered in huge spasms. 19  The trumpet blasts grew louder and louder. Moses spoke and God answered in thunder. 20  God descended to the peak of Mount Sinai. God called Moses up to the peak and Moses climbed up. 21  God said to Moses, "Go down. Warn the people not to break through the barricades to get a look at God lest many of them die. 22  And the priests also, warn them to prepare themselves for the holy meeting, lest God break out against them." 23  Moses said to God, "But the people can't climb Mount Sinai. You've already warned us well telling us: 'Post boundaries around the mountain. Respect the holy mountain.'" 24  God told him, "Go down and then bring Aaron back up with you. But make sure that the priests and the people don't break through and come up to God, lest he break out against them." 25  So Moses went down to the people. He said to them:

The Ten Commandments

20 1  God spoke all these words: 2  I am God, your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of a life of slavery. 3  No other gods, only me. 4  No carved gods of any size, shape, or form of anything whatever, whether of things that fly or walk or swim. 5  Don't bow down to them and don't serve them because I am God, your God, and I'm a most jealous God, punishing the children for any sins their parents pass on to them to the third, and yes, even to the fourth generation of those who hate me. 6  But I'm unswervingly loyal to the thousands who love me and keep my commandments. 7  No using the name of God, your God, in curses or silly banter; God won't put up with the irreverant use of his name. 8  Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9  Work six days and do everything you need to do. 10  But the seventh day is a Sabbath to God, your God. Don't do any work - not you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your servant, nor your maid, nor your animals, not even the foreign guest visiting in your town. 11  For in six days God made Heaven, Earth, and sea, and everything in them; he rested on the seventh day. Therefore God blessed the Sabbath day; he set it apart as a holy day.

12  Honor your father and mother so that you'll live a long time in the land that God, your God, is giving you. 13  No murder. 14  No adultery. 15  No stealing. 16  No lies about your neighbor. 17  No lusting after your neighbor's house - or wife or servant or maid or ox or donkey. Don't set your heart on anything that is your neighbor's.

The People's Fear

18  All the people, experiencing the thunder and lightning, the trumpet blast and the smoking mountain, were afraid - they pulled back and stood at a distance. 19  They said to Moses, "You speak to us and we'll listen, but don't have God speak to us or we'll die." 20  Moses spoke to the people: "Don't be afraid. God has come to test you and instill a deep and reverent awe within you so that you won't sin." 21  The people kept their distance while Moses approached the thick cloud where God was.

22  God said to Moses, "Give this Message to the People of Israel: 'You've experienced firsthand how I spoke with you from Heaven. 23  Don't make gods of silver and gods of gold and then set them alongside me. 24  Make me an earthen Altar. Sacrifice your Whole-Burnt-Offerings, your Peace-Offerings, your sheep, and your cattle on it. Every place where I cause my name to be honored in your worship, I'll be there myself and bless you. 25  If you use stones to make my Altar, don't use dressed stones. If you use a chisel on the stones you'll profane the Altar. 26  Don't use steps to climb to my Altar because that will expose your nakedness.'

The Treatment of Servants

21 1  "These are the laws that you are to place before them: 2  "When you buy a Hebrew slave, he will serve six years. The seventh year he goes free, for nothing. 3  If he came in single he leaves single. If he came in married he leaves with his wife. 4  If the master gives him a wife and she gave him sons and daughters, the wife and children stay with the master and he leaves by himself. 5  But suppose the slave should say, 'I love my master and my wife and children - I don't want my freedom,' 6  then his master is to bring him before God and to a door or doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl, a sign that he is a slave for life. 7  "When a man sells his daughter to be a handmaid, she doesn't go free after six years like the men. 8  If she doesn't please her master, her family must buy her back; her master doesn't have the right to sell her to foreigners since he broke his word to her. 9  If he turns her over to his son, he has to treat her like a daughter. 10  If he marries another woman, she retains all her full rights to meals, clothing, and marital relations. 11  If he won't do any of these three things for her, she goes free, for nothing.

Laws concerning Acts of Violence

12  "If someone hits another and death results, the penalty is death. 13  But if there was no intent to kill - if it was an accident, an 'act of God' - I'll set aside a place to which the killer can flee for refuge. 14  But if the murder was premeditated, cunningly plotted, then drag the killer away, even if it's from my Altar, to be put to death. 15  "If someone hits father or mother, the penalty is death. 16  "If someone kidnaps a person, the penalty is death, regardless of whether the person has been sold or is still held in possession. 17  "If someone curses father or mother, the penalty is death. 18  "If a quarrel breaks out and one hits the other with a rock or a fist and the injured one doesn't die but is confined to bed 19  and then later gets better and can get about on a crutch, the one who hit him is in the clear, except to pay for the loss of time and make sure of complete recovery. 20  "If a slave owner hits a slave, male or female, with a stick and the slave dies on the spot, the slave must be avenged. 21  But if the slave survives a day or two, he's not to be avenged - the slave is the owner's property.

22  "When there's a fight and in the fight a pregnant woman is hit so that she miscarries but is not otherwise hurt, the one responsible has to pay whatever the husband demands in compensation. 23  But if there is further damage, then you must give life for life 24  - eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25  burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.

Laws concerning Responsibility of Owners

26  "If a slave owner hits the eye of a slave or handmaid and ruins it, the owner must let the slave go free because of the eye. 27  If the owner knocks out the tooth of the male or female slave, the slave must be released and go free because of the tooth. 28  "If an ox gores a man or a woman to death, the ox must be stoned. The meat cannot be eaten but the owner of the ox is in the clear. 29  But if the ox has a history of goring and the owner knew it and did nothing to guard against it, then if the ox kills a man or a woman, the ox is to be stoned and the owner given the death penalty. 30  If a ransom is agreed upon instead of death, he must pay it in full as a redemption for his life. 31  If a son or daughter is gored, the same judgment holds. 32  If it is a slave or a handmaid the ox gores, thirty shekels of silver is to be paid to the owner and the ox stoned. 33  "If someone uncovers a cistern or digs a pit and leaves it open and an ox or donkey falls into it, 34  the owner of the pit must pay whatever the animal is worth to its owner but can keep the dead animal. 35  "If someone's ox injures a neighbor's ox and the ox dies, they must sell the live ox and split the price; they must also split the dead animal. 36  But if the ox had a history of goring and the owner knew it and did nothing to guard against it, the owner must pay an ox for an ox but can keep the dead animal.

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