Israel Arrives at Sinai

It was during the third month of the Israelites leaving Egypt that they came to Sinai.

In the third month, when the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, the same day came they into the wilderness of Sinai. (Exodus 19:1)

A quick reading of this seems like it was 90 days since leaving Egypt that they arrived at Sinai but that is not the case. The scripture says “the same day”. What day? “In the third month…on the same day” means the first day of the third month.

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Israel left Egypt on the 15th day of the first month [Exodus 12]. The fifteenth day of the second month would be 30 days after leaving Egypt. From the 15th of the second month to the end of the month would be another 15 days making a total of 45 days. The first day of the third month would be the 46th day. This timeline is important because God came down on Mount Sinai on the 50th day, as we will see in a moment.

God commanded Israel to keep a feast every year on the 50th day after Passover. It is called the Feast of Pentecost. The experience of Israel at Mount Sinai is a prophetic picture, a type or shadow. Understanding this helps us understand the importance of Pentecost in Acts 2.

On the 47th day after leaving Egypt, Moses went up Mount Sinai to meet with God. God revealed His plan for Israel, which was to make Israel a kingdom of priests, a holy nation, and a people for His own possession [Exodus 19:1-11]. To receive these benefits, God’s requirements are simple: obey His voice and keep His covenant.

Moses went back down the mountain and told the people what God had said and they said, “All that the LORD hath spoken we will do.” Moses went back up the mountain and told God that the people agreed with God’s purpose on the 48th day since leaving Egypt.

God told Moses to tell the people to consecrate themselves today and tomorrow because He would come down on the mountain on the third day. The LORD also said to Moses, “And the LORD said unto Moses, Go unto the people, and sanctify them to day and to morrow, and let them wash their clothes, And be ready against the third day: for the third day the LORD will come down in the sight of all the people upon mount Sinai. (Exodus 19:10-11)

So, our timeline is complete: today = 48th day; tomorrow = 49th day; and the third day = the 50th day. God would come down on Mount Sinai on the 50th day since the children of Israel left Egypt.

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When God Came Down

On the 50th day, God came down on the mountain in fire and smoke and Mount Sinai became like a furnace of fire. The whole mountain began to shake violently in an earthquake. The voice of the trumpet sounded louder and louder. Moses said something to God and God answered him back with a loud voice. God called Moses up to the top of the mountain and told him to go down and tell the people not to come up the mountain.

Since this is a type or shadow picture of Pentecost, it is important to understand what really happened on the 50th day.

And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off. And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die. And Moses said unto the people, Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not. (Exodus 20:18-20)

Because the people were afraid, they told Moses that they wanted Him to hear from God and speak what he heard to them. It set the tone for Israel’s relationship with God until the Word became flesh and walked among us and spoke to us God’s words directly. Even today, there are people who want someone else to hear God for them and then tell them what He said.

Moses recaps this experience in Deuteronomy and provides a few more details of what happened and what God did to unfold His plan.

Specially the day that thou stoodest before the LORD thy God in Horeb, when the LORD said unto me, Gather me the people together, and I will make them hear my words, that they may learn to fear me all the days that they shall live upon the earth, and that they may teach their children. And ye came near and stood under the mountain; and the mountain burned with fire unto the midst of heaven, with darkness, clouds, and thick darkness. And the LORD spake unto you out of the midst of the fire: ye heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude; only ye heard a voice. And he declared unto you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, even ten commandments; and he wrote them upon two tables of stone. (Deuteronomy 4:10-13)

While this scripture sounds like God spoke the 10 commandments and wrote them on stone tablets at the same time, there were actually about 40 days between God speaking the 10 commandments and writing them on the stone tables. After God spoke the 10 commandments to Israel at Mount Sinai, He called Moses to come back up the mountain to speak to Him. This was Moses’ fourth trip up the mountain to speak to God [Exodus 19]. God told Moses to go down, come back up, and bring Aaron with him [Exodus 19:24]. It was on this occasion that God gave the statures, ordinances and judgments, which detailed the interactions between the children of Israel, servants, violence, animals, restitution requirements, Sabbaths, the feasts and God’s commandments concerning the heathen living in Canaan. Then God told Moses to bring Aaron and his sons along with the 70 elders on his next trip up the mountain.

And he said unto Moses, Come up unto the LORD, thou, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel; and worship ye afar off. And Moses alone shall come near the LORD: but they shall not come nigh; neither shall the people go up with him. (Exodus 24:1-2)

So, Moses went down and told the people all that the Lord had said. Moses wrote these things in a book of covenant before building an altar, offering sacrifices, reading the book of the covenant to the people, and sprinkling blood on the people.

And Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD, and all the judgments: and all the people answered with one voice, and said, All the words which the LORD hath said will we do. And Moses wrote all the words of the LORD, and rose up early in the morning, and builded an altar under the hill, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. And he sent young men of the children of Israel, which offered burnt offerings, and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen unto the LORD. And Moses took half of the blood, and put it in basons; and half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that the LORD hath said will we do, and be obedient. And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD hath made with you concerning all these words. (Exodus 24:3-8)

After doing all of this and completing the process of establishing God’s covenant with the people, Moses went back up the mountain with Aaron, Aaron’s sons, and the 70 elders.

Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel: And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness. And upon the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand: also they saw God, and did eat and drink. And the LORD said unto Moses, Come up to me into the mount, and be there: and I will give thee tables of stone, and a law, and commandments which I have written; that thou mayest teach them. And Moses rose up, and his minister Joshua: and Moses went up into the mount of God. And he said unto the elders, Tarry ye here for us, until we come again unto you: and, behold, Aaron and Hur are with you: if any man have any matters to do, let him come unto them. And Moses went up into the mount, and a cloud covered the mount. And the glory of the LORD abode upon mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days: and the seventh day he called unto Moses out of the midst of the cloud. And the sight of the glory of the LORD was like devouring fire on the top of the mount in the eyes of the children of Israel. And Moses went into the midst of the cloud, and gat him up into the mount: and Moses was in the mount forty days and forty nights. (Exodus 24:9-18)

About 75 people went up the mountain and saw God, worshipped, ate, and drank: Moses, Joshua, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and 70 elders. Then, God called Moses further up the mountain to speak to him and Moses told the others to wait there for him to return. While on the mountain with God, Moses received instructions on how to build the tabernacle along with its furnishings, the anointing of the priests and their garments, and the procedures for the sacrifices and offerings.

Apparently while Moses was with God on the mountain for 40 days, Aaron and his sons along with the 70 elders became impatient waiting on Moses as he had instructed, and decided to go back down the mountain to the people.

And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him. And Aaron said unto them, Break off the golden earrings, which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring them unto me. And all the people brake off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them unto Aaron. And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, To morrow is a feast to the LORD. And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play. (Exodus 32:1-6)

A few days previously (we don’t know how long they waited before coming back down to the people), Aaron had seen the Lord in His glory, ate and drank before Him, and worshipped Him. Now he seems to have quickly yielded to the people to make an idol along with an altar for it. He even called the thing Jehovah. On the mountain, God told Moses what was going on below and told him that He will wipe them out and raise up a new people. However, Moses interceded for them and God stayed His hand. Moses descended back down the mountain and saw the idol’s worship party going on and he threw down the stone tablets, which broke, signifying the broken covenant. He asked who is on the Lord’s side and the tribe of Levi stepped forward. Moses told them to draw their swords and kill their brethren, which they did, killing about 3,000 men. Because of their obedience and commitment, the tribe of Levi became priests instead of the whole nation, who had defaulted from that calling through idolatry.

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Application for Us

Israel didn’t learn a proper fear of the Lord at Mount Sinai and they disobeyed. They walked according to their own council, their own carnal mind, and their stubborn heart. God’s purpose was a people for His own possession who would be a kingdom of priests. They were to go up the mountain for God’s purpose. Instead they backed away and stood at a distance. This is true of many people of God today. They want the blessings of God but want someone else to seek God for them and then lay hands on them and “impart” the blessings and prophesy the words of God.

Israel asked God to appoint a man over them who would hear His voice and tell them what He said, and then they would do it. We still seek the “appointed” man today. We want a “pastor”, a “prophet”, an “apostle”, a “spiritual father”, or a “set man” to hear God for us—to tell us what to do.

God ordained a feast every year so that Israel would remember their experience at Mount Sinai. It was called “The Feast Of The 50th Day”, “The Feast Of Weeks”, or “The Feast Of Harvest”. The feast began on the 50th day after Passover. It was on this very day that God poured out His Spirit in Acts 2, the first day of the Feast Of The 50th Day—The Feast Of Pentecost. Mount Sinai is the shadow. Pentecost is the reality. Israel rejected God’s plan at Mount Sinai. Some of the church have rejected God’s plan at Pentecost and some who have accepted the Feast Of Pentecost have not experienced all of the reality of what God showed at Mount Sinai.

Moses was given the pattern for the Tabernacle after he ascended to the top of the mountain the 5thtime. Our problem is that we think one time is all it takes to hear God’s complete plan. God’s plan is revealed in stages and according to His people’s response. It was the 5th time up the mountain that God gave Moses the plan for the priesthood of Aaron and his sons. They were appointed to minister to God. Their garments were carefully specified. Their consecration was carefully ordained, even to the filling of their hands. After the priests fully consecrated themselves to His purpose, God said He would consecrate the priests to minister TO HIM. God also called craftsmen of all kinds and filled them with the Spirit of God in all wisdom and understanding, in knowledge and in special craftsmanship to make the appointments for the tabernacle [Exodus 31:3].

God appointed a priesthood to stand in the people’s place to do the work of service in the tabernacle and to stand before the Lord to minister to Him. God also appointed the priesthood to stand before the people to minister to the people as a substitute for God ministering to the people Himself.

God’s original offer was to make all of Israel a kingdom of priests. So why did God choose the Levites as the next level of priests? First, the Levites stood on God’s side at Massah when there was no water. The rest of Israel quarreled with Moses and said “Wherefore is this that thou hast brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst?” (Exodus 17:3)

At that time, the Levites observed the word of the Lord and kept God’s covenant. Again at Mount Sinai when Israel made the golden calf, the tribe of Levi did not participate. Moses called all those who would stand on the Lord’s side, and who would stand against the ones who had worshiped the golden calf, to stand by him. The tribe of Levi stood on God’s side and against those who had worshipped the idol. Even though the tribe of Levi didn’t respond to God’s offer to come up the mountain, they were still chosen as priests because of their faithfulness at Massah and at Mount Sinai.

All that happened at Mount Sinai was a prophetic shadow picture for us of what God wants to do at the fulfillment of the reality at Pentecost. If we understand the shadow, the reality is much clearer. All the confusion about Pentecost is not necessary. Mount Sinai is the shadow. Pentecost is the reality. The confusion could be reduced if we would just accept that Pentecost is much more than speaking in tongues.

The whole year spent at Mount Sinai is the unfolding revelation of Pentecost. No one thing says it all. Speaking in tongues is the introduction, but surely not the complete, comprehensive experience. We also can’t stand “at a distance” and think we see the whole picture. Mount Sinai stands alone in all the other experiences of Israel. Nothing else takes its place. It is the place of covenant.

What happened at the Red Sea was tremendous. The manna from heaven was tremendous. The water out of the rock was tremendous, but Mount Sinai stands alone with its own blessing. None of the other experiences can substitute. How can we compare the cloud leading Israel out of Egypt with the mighty presence of God at Mount Sinai? Israel wasn’t afraid of the cloud. God didn’t shake the earth at the Red Sea. God didn’t reveal his purpose at Elim. If we look objectively and honestly at Mount Sinai, we will see it stands alone. If we look objectively and honestly at Pentecost, we will see it also is unique.


hebrew_unscrambledMount Sinai was the place of Covenant, the place of hearing the voice of God, the place of receiving the Law, the place of calling and appointment of priests, the place of the revealing of the plan and purpose of God, the place of the presence of God. As this was the type under the Old Covenant, so it is for us in the New Covenant with Pentecost.

Just as there were experiences before Sinai such as the Passover where they were redeemed by the blood of the lamb on the doorpost and the Red Sea where they were baptized unto Moses [I Corinthians 10:2], we have experiences before Pentecost such as repentance and water baptism for the forgiveness of sins [Acts 2:38].

There is much more to Pentecost than speaking in tongues. Pentecost is when God in the form of the Holy Spirit came down to dwell in His people. At Sinai they received the Law on tablets of stone. At Pentecost we receive the Holy Spirit who will write the law on our heart and mind [Jeremiah 31:33].

At Sinai they were called to be a nation of priests, but rejected God’s plan. At Pentecost, we are called as a Holy nation, a royal priesthood [I Peter 2:9]. We have not come to a physical mountain as was Mount Sinai, which was a shadow of the spiritual mountain.

For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard intreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more: (For they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart: And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:)(Hebrews 12:18-21)

We have come to the reality—Mount Zion.

But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel. See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven: (Hebrews 12:22-25)

If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how will we escape who have all of the benefits of the reality in Pentecost? “For our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:29)

Excerpts taken from

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