Exodus 20:18-19, Do Not Let God Speak!

When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.”

//When Moses came down the mountain with the ten commandments, he started listing them off to the people.

1. You shall have no other gods before me.

2. You shall not make idols … for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God …

… and the people freaked out. They cried, “Moses, you talk to us. But don’t let God do the talking, or we’ll die!”

But isn’t this Moses talking in the first place, just repeating what God told him? Maybe not. The chapter starts with:

And God spoke all these words

Curiously, though, after these first two commandments, the tense switches from first-person to third-person:

3. You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

… and so on. No longer “me” and “I” but “the LORD.” It sounds like someone else is talking now. So, according to Jewish tradition, Moses must have stepped in for God and spoke the remaining eight commandments.


  1. It seems to speak to the apparent truth that the majority of people (then, and maybe even now?) felt small and unworthy, perhaps still in a slave mindset. They were afraid of any one-to-one communication with God, and therefore the need or desire for an intercessor, Moses in the case of Exodus.

    With the arrival of Jesus, perhaps the message (with the rending of the veil) is that we no longer have need of intercessors — priests! — we can have a direct relationship and communication with God, as Jesus revealed Him to us.

    The author of Revelation, in 1:6, says of Jesus, he “has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father.” We are each of us a priest, we no longer have need of priests or other intercessors. Indeed, we have become beloved and worthy children of God, and He wants an intimate relationship with each one of his children.

  2. Lee Harmon

    I tend to resist reinterpreting the old testament through the new, but I see your point, WP!

    Given what God was understood to be like then (lotsa fire and destruction and plagues) I wholeheartedly sympathize with the people, lol. I think I’d rather have a buffer between me and God too!

    • Lee, I didn’t even reallize I was interpreting the OT through the NT. I usually don’t do that either, that was not mmy intent, LOL!

      For me, it’s clear that the Israelites wandering around in the wilderness were having a difficult time becoming “Hebrews” — those who “cross over” into a new way of thinking of and relating with the one eternal, ineffable, transcendent God (vs. as an idol, a god/s with a small “g”). They were stuck, spiritually lost (hence the image of wandering in the wilderness for a long time, 40 years). They we so lost and afraid of their journey toward “crossing over” into an as yet unknown and unimaginable “promised land” that they were willing to quit at one point and go beck to Egypt, back into slavery. These are all mental and emotional states we encounter on the way to that intimate relationship with God that Moses had found. Internal transformation, change, is never easy — if we’re honest with ourselves, it can take a lot of work, self-development — and many times we might feel lost and might want to give up and turn back to our old ways.

      I do think Jesus was trying to teach us, along the same lines as above, that the I AM presence is not necessarily a harsh, loud, scary, angry God that lives somewhere beyond us, outside of us. God can be a loving parent and guide, who can speak in a whisper, dwelling within each one of us. Our bodies become the temple of the Lord within. It’s changing our hearts and thinking (repentance) that gets us across the river and into the promised land. We become children of God in intimate relationship with God. That’s a true “ibri” or “Hebrew” in spirit. This is what I believe the ritual of baptism in the Jordan River symbolized – it’s “washing away the old” and it’s the “crossing over” into a whole new way of thinking and being. Those baptized actually crossed from one side of the Jordan to the other, just as the Israelites did in Exodus. It’s being born again. Jesus used new imagery and rituals to get across the same “old” spiritual message and truth of walking in “the Way of Life” as presented in Torah.

      And this is the spiritual journey for each one of us — to leave behind the bondage of slavery (small victim mindset, akin to being “dead”), to cross that river into a promised land, a kingdom of the “living” as children of the living God, in an intimate, one-on-one relationship with God. No need for priests to get us there.

  3. Lee Harmon

    I enjoy your insights, WP! Yes, Jesus held a different understanding of God, for sure. We even have that verse in John–take it however you wish–where Jesus claims the Jews never even knew God. Perhaps never did.

    I’ve often thought of the Bible as the story of a nation growing up and learning about God.

  4. desmerina

    The truth in its entirety can be found in the teachings of Michael Rood of Rood Awakening. The guy is out of anyone’s league. In listening to his Chronological Gospels, only a fool would think that Jesus’ ministry was anything more than 1 year. The King James was altered and boy can he tell you how! But that’s just one of his amazing discoveries. Your understanding of the Gospel will never be the same, trust me. Good Bless.

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