Pondering Shavuot and Pentecost
Shavuot (pronounced shah-vu-ote) arrives on May 22-24 this year, 2007. This is the anniversary of Moses receiving the Ten Commandments from God on the mountain somewhere between 1500 and 1250 BCE. (Dates vary.) It is also the celebration of Pentecost which took place on the same day in the Hebrew calendar 50 days after Yeshua rose from the dead in the first century A.D. They are really the same holiday, the celebration of God entering the affairs of men in a profound way. One, Shavuot, to teach people how to live as the community of God and the other, Pentecost, to empower them to do so.
As for "seeing" the words of the Ten Commandments, the word "ra'ah" in Hebrew can mean saw, looked upon or perceived. While some Hebrew/English translations do use the word "saw" with regard to the sounds they heard, the Jewish Publication Society (JPS) Holy Scriptures says, "And all the people perceived the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the voice of the horn, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled, and stood afar off." (Ex. 20:15,16 JBS)
The NKJV says, "Now all the people witnessed the thunderings..." (20:18 -- note the address numbers differ slightly from JBS numbering.) It appears that the people observed or perceived or witnessed what was visible and in the midst of all that were the sounds of the shofar (horn) and of thunder which they could have interpreted as the voice of God. There is an example in the New Covenant where "a voice came from heaven...[and] the people who stood by and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said 'An angel has spoken to Him.'" (John 12:28, 29) However, there is nothing in the text to indicate anything relating to "seeing the sounds" of the Ten Commandments as God gave them to Moses.
All the manifestations of His unapproachable quality did not mean that God wasn't able to communicate directly with Moses whom He allowed to come near. Again, I believe this premise of some altered way of communicating comes from the sense of God being "ineffable" to our rabbi friend, which means: indescribable, indefinable, inexpressible, beyond words, overwhelming, unutterable and unspeakable. While I agree wholeheartedly that God is magnificently above all we can imagine in His holiness and power, yet how personal and intimate and tender He is with those of us whose sins are forgiven so we can draw near to Him. We can know Him personally! He is not far off and indefinable. How exquisitely close He is to us! This overflows my heart with gratefulness for what Yeshua did in putting to death through His own death the separation that kept God so far away from us. Hallelu-Yah!
Back to our topic. It is highly unlikely that Moses received all 613 commandments in one fell celestial swoop from the Almighty based upon Deut. 31:9 which says, "So Moses wrote this law (Torah) and delivered it to the priests, the sons of Levi, who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and to all the elders of Israel." First of all, the text tells us that Moses wrote the Torah, he didn't just carry it down the mountain already written -- not to mention that tablets containing 613 commandments would have been more "rocks" than he could possibly have carried in one trip down the mountain and we're not told of him going up and down to shlep (carry) down more tablets.
Even if Moses had gotten the full commandments on the mountain, he couldn't have given them to the Levites yet as they weren't carrying (bearing) the ark of the covenant until after the tabernacle was set up according to the pattern given on the mountain. Indeed the priesthood wasn't called into being yet when Moses came down from the mountain. So some time elapsed from when he came down from the mountain and when he gave the Torah to the Levites.
Even later, after the seventy elders came part way up the mountain and worshipped from afar, Moses then "wrote (down) all the words of the Lord" (Exodus 24:4) and read all the words of the Covenant to the people. It would appear that it was all written down by then but again God tells Moses to "Come up to Me on the mountain and be there; and I will give you tablets of stone, and the law and commandments which I have written, that you may teach them." (24:12). It appears that Moses is now not to just record God's words but to teach them as well. This is all to say that the writing of the Commandments evidently took place on more than one visit with God on the mountain and in some cases God Himself wrote them on stone tablets and in other cases Moses wrote them down.
While there might be much we could say about sound or voice creating matter -- even just knowing that life and death is in the power of the tongue (Prov. 18:21) and what words can cause to happen in that regard, that the Israelites could "see" the words of the Ten Commandments when God gave them to Moses or that Moses received all 613 at once may make for good Jewish mystical midrash, but it doesn't seem to work Scripturally.
Lonnie Lane comes from a family of four generations of Jewish believers, being the first one saved in 1975. Lonnie has been in church leadership for many years, and has planted two “one new man” house fellowships, one in Philadelphia suburbs and the other in Jacksonville, Florida, where she now lives near 6 of her 8 grandchildren. Lonnie is the author of “Because They Never Asked” and numerous articles on this website. She has been the Producer of Messianic Vision's radio and TV shows and the International Prayer Co-Coordinator for Messianic Vision's intercessors. Click Here to order Lonnie's book, "Because They Never Asked."
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright ©1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.