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The Timing of Exodus 20

Exodus 20, Jubilees, Covenant Sinai Moses Ten Commandments Mt. Sinai Law of God Exodus timing God's Law

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The Feast of Weeks is a festival mentioned in Leviticus 23:15-22.  It was celebrated based on a calculation from the Passover and/or Days of Unleavened Bread, mentioned in verses 4-8 of this same chapter.  The Greeks gave this festival the name Pentecost.  That word means 'fifty count'.  Pentecost was fifty days after the Unleavened Bread ritual of cutting the wave sheaf (see vss.9-14).

Since Israel left Egypt on the first day of Unleavened Bread (Num 33:3, Lev 23:6), the countdown to Pentecost started shortly thereafter.  Depending on circumstances and who's calculating, Pentecost can fall anywhere between the 4th day and the 14th day of the third Hebrew month.  Exodus 19:1 indicates Israel arrived at the base of Mt. Sinai on the first day of the third month.(see JFB commentary, Ex 19:1) .

The ancient text of Jubilees, which was familiar to many Jews in New Testament times, claims that Moses went up to get the tablets of the covenant on the 16th day of the third month.  (Jub 1:1) This seems to be the same ascension as recorded in Exodus 24:9.  So the event of Exodus 20 on Sinai would have taken place immediately before the 16th, but after the 1st.

Jubilees also mentions that the Feast of Weeks was celebrated as a memorial of the covenant God made with Noah (Jub 2:17).  It then goes on to say that "ye celebrated it anew on this mountain" (vs 19). This would seem to indicate that the Sinai covenant was a renewal of the covenant God made with Noah, which was memorialized in Pentecost.  Indeed this was certainly about that time of year.

Exodus 19 also doesn't seem to allow for much time to have passed between verse 1 and verse 10 & 11 where the day is set when the Creator will speak to the people from Mt Sinai.  Israel camped by the mountain and Moses went up to consult with God in verse 3. Then Moses came back down and consulted with the elders of Israel in verse 7.  Evidently Moses went back up the mountain for another brief communication, verses 9, 14.  Then Moses had two days to prepare the people for the event, cordon off the base of the mountain and warn everyone of how to conduct themselves, verses 10-13, 15.  Then as the Creator showed His presence on the Mountain He called Moses up again and warned Him to make sure the people did not rush the mountain.  He then sent Moses back down and told Him to bring Aaron back up.

So Moses was pretty busy and there seems to be no break in activity.  There is good reason to believe that the Sinai covenant was spoken or confirmed on Pentecost, known as the Feast of Weeks or Hebrew: Shavuot.  This was also the day of the giving of the Holy Spirit after Jesus resurrection. (Acts 2:1)