The account of the giving of the Ten Commandments and the Law in the Book of Exodus is a pivotal point in the Bible. And there is much information to be found in that account. I will begin with the description of Mount Sinai as given by the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus.
“Now Moses called the multitude together, and told them that he was going from them unto Mount Sinai to converse with God; to receive from him, and to bring back with him, a certain oracle; but he enjoined them to pitch their tents near the mountain, and prefer the habitation that was nearest to God, before one more remote. When he had said this, he ascended up to Mount Sinai, which is the highest of all the mountains that are in that country and is not only very difficult to be ascended by men, on account of its vast altitude, but because of the sharpness of its precipices also; nay, indeed, it cannot be looked at without pain of the eyes: and besides this, it was terrible and inaccessible, on account of the rumor that passed about, that God dwelt there.” (Antiquities of the Jews, Book 3, Chapter 5)
As we know from last week’s lesson, Moses ascended Mount Sinai seven times. Bear in mind at that time Moses was eighty years old. Adding to the supernatural nature of these ascents up Mount Sinai, during the last time Moses went up to meet the Lord, he neither ate nor drank during the forty day period. (Exodus 34:28) When Moses returned from his encounter with the Lord, his face glowed so much it frightened the people. (Exodus 34:30)
This account of the giving of the Law also includes the incident of worshiping the Golden Calf. I have always had difficulty understanding this after the many remarkable and supernatural events the Children of Israel witnessed. They saw the parting of the Red Sea, they were given Manna to eat, they saw water come from a rock, and they heard the Voice of God!
The name “Sinai” is of uncertain derivation. Probably the name is related to the location of the mountain near the Desert of Sin. This “sin” is not the English word, but possibly was derived from an Egyptian name. While we can find no definition of the name Sinai, it is found thirteen times in the Book of Exodus. Thirteen is the number of rebellion, and it was at Sinai that the Children of Israel rebelled against the Lord. Also, in Mark 7:21-22 Jesus lists thirteen things that show a rebellious and depraved heart.
In the Book of Exodus, Sinai and Horeb are listed interchangeably. But Horeb has a much nicer implication. Horeb is found only three times in Exodus, possibly indicating Spiritual completeness (the Father, Son and Holy Spirit). It is defined as “dry or desert” (Strong’s H2722) which fits the location, but the outer Hebrew letters, chet beit, forming the body of the word, are defined as a cherisher or the bosom (Strong’s H2243). The inner Hebrew letters, chet resh, are defined as white or pure (Strong’s H2715).
Horeb gives us a picture of the purity of the Lord and the fact that He cherishes His Chosen People. Whereas Sinai shows us the rebellion of those people. The definition bosom reminds me of the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man, where Lazarus was in or by the comfort of the bosom of Abraham. (Luke 16:20-31) I praise the Lord for His love for us and for sending Jesus to be our Salvation.
Now, if we only knew with certainty where Mount Sinai or Mount Horeb is located . . .