Sealing the Covenant
||[God] said to Moses, 'Go up to God along with Aaron, Nadav and Avihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel. [All of] you must bow down at a distance.
||Only Moses shall then approach God. The others may not come close, and the people may not go up with him.
||Moses came and told the people all of God's words and all the laws. The people all responded with a single voice, 'We will keep every word that God has spoken.'
||Moses wrote down all of God's words. He got up early in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, along with twelve pillars for the twelve tribes of Israel.
||He sent the [consecrated] young men among the Israelites, and they offered oxen as burnt offerings and peace offerings to God.
||Moses took half the blood [of these offerings], and put it into large bowls. The other half he sprinkled on the altar.
||He took the book of the covenant and read it aloud to the people. They replied, 'We will do and obey all that God has declared.'
||Moses then took [the rest of] the blood and sprinkled it on the people. He said, 'This is the blood of the covenant that God is making with you regarding all these words.'
||Moses then went up, along with Aaron, Nadav and Avihu, and seventy of Israel's elders.
||They saw a vision of the God of Israel, and under His feet was something like a sapphire brick, like the essence of a clear [blue] sky.
||[God] did not unleash His power against the leaders of the Israelites. They had a vision of the Divine, and they ate and drank.
||God said to Moses, 'Come up to Me, to the mountain, and remain there. I will give you the stone tablets, the Torah and the commandment that I have written for [the people's] instruction.'
||Moses and his aid Joshua set out. Moses went up on God's Mountain.
||He said to the elders, 'Wait for us here until we return to you. Aaron and Chur will remain with you. Whoever has a problem can go to them.'
||As soon as Moses reached the mountain top, the cloud covered the mountain.
||God's glory rested on Mount Sinai, and it was covered by the cloud for six days. On the seventh day, He called to Moses from the midst of the cloud.
||To the Israelites, the appearance of God's glory on the mountain top was like a devouring flame.
||Moses went into the cloud, and climbed to the mountain top. Moses was to remain on the mountain for forty days and forty nights.
(Ramban; Lekach Tov; Ralbag). Or 'an angel' (Sanhedrin 38b; Targum Yonathan; Malbim). Some say that it is the angel mentioned in Exodus 23:20 (Abarbanel).
According to many authorities, this is in chronological order, and Moses was now called after the Ten Commandments (Ibn Ezra; Ramban; Targum Yonathan). According to others, this was before the Ten Commandments, on the fourth day (Rashi; Mekhilta on Exodus 19:10; Lekach Tov; Midrash HaGadol).
|Nadav and Avihu|
Aaron's sons, see Exodus 6:23.
See note on Exodus 3:16.
See Exodus 20:21-23
To demonstrate the unity of Israel (Rashbam; Chizzkuni). Some say that the blood was sprinkled on these twelve pillars for the people's sake (Abarbanel on Exodus 24:8). See 1 Kings 18:31.
|consecrated young men|
These were the first-born, who served as priests before Aaron's sons were chosen (Zevachim 115b; Targum Yonathan; Rashi). See Numbers 4:8, 3:45; Note on Genesis 25:31.
(Ramban; Recanti; Bachya; Ralbag). Or, 'they offered burnt offerings and oxen as peace offerings' (both possibilities are discussed in Chagigah 6b; Yoma 52b).
See note on Genesis 8:20.
See note on Exodus 20:21. These sacrifices were an integral part of the covenant, and along with circumcision and immersion (Exodus 19:10), they were part of the conversion process for a proselyte in the time of the Temple (Kerithoth 8b). Some say that only a burnt offering (olah) is required (Yad, Issurey Biyah 13:5; Mechusar Kapparah 1:2), but one may bring a peace offering and a burnt offering (Yad, Maaseh HaKorbanoth 1:6).
|book of the covenant|
Some say that this includes all of Genesis and Exodus up to the giving of the Ten Commandments (Rashi; Mekhilta on Exodus 19:10). According to others, it was all the laws discussed up until this point (Mekhilta loc. cit. ), particularly 21:1-23:19 (Ramban; Ibn Ezra on Exodus 23:4; Hirsch), or the admonitions in Leviticus 25:1-26:46 (Mekhilta; Chizzkuni). Others say that it was the Ten Commandments (Rabbi Yehuda HaChasid, quoted in Paneach Raza) or the verse, Exodus 19:5 (Midrash HaGadol; Bachya). See Exodus 34:28, 2 Kings 23:2.
|on the people|
Or, 'on behalf of the people [on the altar]' (Targum). Some say that it was sprinkled on the 12 pillars (Abarbanel, see Exodus 24:4).
|saw a vision|
(Ibn Ezra; Emunoth VeDeyoth 2:12). See 1 Kings 22:19, 2 Chronicles 18:18, Isaiah 6:1.
|under His feet|
Just as feet come in contact with the ground, so allegorically, God's 'feet' are the attribute that comes in contact with the level below. They are therefore seen as the means of prophecy (Zohar 2:104b; 2:169b, 3:53b, 3:68a). Others say that God's 'feet' denote the ultimate essence of creation (Moreh Nevukhim 1:28). Others say that their vision consisted of the feet of the Throne of Glory (Targum; Emunoth VeDeyoth 2:9). See Isaiah 6:1, Ezekiel 1:26.
See Exodus 28:18. The Throne of Glory was seen as made of sapphire (Ezekiel 1:26, 10:1). The sapphire is blue, and it may be that they saw a vision of the sky as being below God. Others say that the sapphire mentioned here is ultimately transparent (Sforno; see Yad, Yesodey HaTorah 3:1). This stone is related to wisdom (Bachya on Exodus 28:18), and the Hebrew word sappir is related to sefer, a book (Tzioni). It is also related to vision (Bachya loc. cit.). Some say that this 'sapphire' is like a 'third eye,' through which mystical vision is attained (Raavad on Sefer Yetzirah 1:1), and indeed, this third eye is associated with a sapphire blue color. It involves meditating on a single point (Tikkuney Zohar 7a) and complete quietness of mind (cf. Likutey Moharan 6:5).
(Rashi; Ibn Ezra; Ramban; Septuagint). According to some, this brick showed God's closeness to Israel, since the brick symbolized that He had in mind the bricks that the Israelites had been forced to make (Targum Yonathan; Rashi). According to others, this was the brick out of which the Tablets of the Law would be carved (Sifri, BeHaAlothekha 101). Some say that they saw brickworking tools (Yerushalmi, Sukkah 4:3).
Others translate this verse, 'something like the whiteness of sapphire' (Saadia, Ibn Janach; cf. Ibn Ezra; Rashbam; Chizzkuni; Lekach Tov), or 'transparency of sapphire' (Sforno; Moreh Nevukhim 1:28; see note, this verse, 'sapphire'). See Joshua 19:26. Their vision may have been that of pure empty space (Ralbag), the primeval formless matter or hyle (Maaseh HaShem, Maaseh Torah 10), or a pure spiritual essence (Avodath HaKodesh 3:36; Abarbanel).
|like the essence...|
(Rashbam; Bekhor Shor). Or, like the essence of heaven in purity;' or, 'transparent as the sky itself.'
|unleash His power|
(Targum Yonathan; Saadia; Rashi; Rashbam; Ibn Ezra; Ramban). Literally, 'send forth His hand.' Or, 'did not send forth His hand [to grant prophecy]' (Lekach Tov; Tzeror HaMor; Sforno; Hirsch; Malbim); or, 'did not send forth His hand [to conceal Himself]' (Baaley Tosafoth).
Those who went with Moses (Targum Yonathan; Rashi). Or possibly, those lower in stature (Abarbanel).
|ate and drank|
Some say that this was disrespectful (Rashi), or that they lacked true meditation (Moreh Nevukhim 1:5; Ralbag). Others state that they did not need meditation (Abarbanel). Still others say that they made a feast later to celebrate (Ramban; Sforno), possibly eating the peace offerings (Ibn Ezra).
According to others, 'They saw the Divine, but they could still eat and drink' (Malbim). Or, unlike Moses who went forty days without food when he saw the Divine (Exodus 34:28), they had to eat and drink (Tanchuma B. Acharey 13a; Midrash Agadah on Leviticus 16:1; Ibn Ezra). Others say that the vision of the Divine nourished them like food (Zohar 1:135a,b; cf. VaYikra Rabbah 20:10; Berakhoth 17a; Targum; Lekach Tov).
There is a dispute as to whether this is in chronological order, or whether it was before the Ten Commandments (Yoma 4a).
See Exodus 31:18, 32:15, Deuteronomy 4:13, 5:19. These may have been made of the sapphire brick the Israelites saw, see note on Exodus 24:10.
See Exodus 17:9.
See Exodus 17:10.
The mountain (Rashi). Or, 'and Moses was covered' (Ibn Ezra). Both are opinions found in the Talmud (Yoma 4b).
(Ibn Ezra). Literally, 'mountain.'
The narrative continues in Exodus 31:18.