FROM that moment the Amalekites put such fury into their fighting that the Israelites lost more ground than they had gained. (Ex. 17:11.) "I can see what's happening," Moses dismayedly muttered, "but I'm too tired to stand up here and hold out this rod any longer!" Aaron and Hur quickly rolled a bench-height rock up behind Moses, who sank to a sitting posture. Each of them seized a sagging arm and jerked them upward. Thus helped, Moses continued his supplication while still grasping the shepherd's rod in an upright position. The three men carried on like this until sundown. (Ex. 17:12.) By that time matters had changed back greatly in favor of the Israelites. The enemy was completely routed with little loss or injuries to the hastily-mustered army. God reminded Moses to record the day's events in the book he was writing about the Israelites, and to instruct Joshua to also write of the happenings. Moses later had an altar built to honor God for His protection.
On into the Mountains
After hovering for several weeks in the same place, the guiding cloud one morning began to move. The Israelites packed up, got their animals together and were ready to move when the cloud floated to the southeast. The mountains were even higher in that direction. There were those who complained at heading into such rugged terrain. To Moses it was like returning home because he had spent many peaceful years in that region tending flocks of sheep. After two or three days of travel, the cloud came to a halt right over the highest peak. That was rocky Mount Sinai, a mountain of more than seven thousand feet. Even the complainers had to admit that the numerous water springs, level areas for pitching tents and nearby patches of grass for grazing left little to be unhappy about. Moses advised the people that it would be wise to set up their camps for a long stay, inasmuch as he had more than just a feeling that they were at this particular place for more than just resting for two or three nights. (Ex. 19:1-2.) Not long after the Israelites were settled in their new location, Moses received a divine request to come up Mount Sinai alone to receive instructions directly from the Creator. It wasn't an easy hike up the rock-strewn shoulders, but Moses was spry for his eighty years. God wouldn't have asked him to do something impossible. He had to go up the mountain only far enough to be removed from the people.
Suddenly a clear, booming voice came from somewhere above on Mount Sinai: "Moses, you will deliver a message to the Israelites in the valley below!" the Voice spoke out. "Remind them that I, the Creator of all, have freed them from the Egyptians and have brought them safely here. Tell them that if they obey My laws, they will become a special people I will treasure above others. They shall become a kingdom of priests and a holy nation!" (Verses 3-6.) Trembling with fear and awe, Moses remained prostrate for a time where he had fallen when he had first heard the voice. When he felt that nothing more was going to be said, he stood up and hurried back down the mountain. Immediately he called the elders to repeat God's words to them and tell them to tell the people. The awed elders complied. The excited people solemnly agreed to obey whatever God asked of them. Later, after learning of their unanimous agreement to obey God (verse 8), Moses went back up to report what had taken place. Of course God already was aware of it, but He had further instructions for the people He wanted to convey through Moses, who was told that God would come down unusually close to the people in three days, and that they should be clean physically at that time, and that even their clothing should be washed and unsoiled. Barricades would have to be set up to prevent people or their animals from straying too far up the mountain. Otherwise they would be subject to death because of coming too near God's holy presence on sacred ground. After three days had passed, the more than two million people on the valley floor out from and below the mountain nervously wondered what
would happen. The first thing unusual was that thick, dark clouds formed to obscure all but the base slopes of Mount Sinai. The clouds weren't merely masses of water vapor. There was much smoke mixed in, causing growing alarm to the onlookers. Flashes of lightning, followed by stunning peals of thunder, caused every man, woman and child to tremble. The trembling was greater at the startlingly clear blast of what sounded like a giant trumpet announcing that God was descending to Mount Sinai! (Verse 19.) As the thunder and lightning subsided, the clouds lifted, exposing most of the mountain to the searching gazes of millions of eyes. Abruptly the peak broke out into towering flames. The top of the mountain appeared to be consumed in a giant holocaust! Pillars of lighted smoke spiraled skyward. The higher elevations seemed about to explode in an awesome burst of eye-paining light! People shielded their faces. Many of them fell to the ground, which was beginning to quiver from a rumbling earth tremor. The quake loosened huge boulders that crashed down into the ravines. Clouds of dust and smoke floated up from the ground as tons of smaller rock cascaded down to blanket the mountain's base. Like the others, Moses trembled at this display of divine power, though he had some awareness that it was far from what God was capable of doing, such as causing giant planets to collide or fusing whole suns in celestial cataclysms penetrating billions of miles of space. The ground stopped shaking and the blasting trumpet sound faded to a silence that was more terrible than the noise, because it caused people to be more fearfully expectant of what would happen next. Suddenly a thunderous voice cracked down from above the mountain, echoing terrifyingly across the valley. It spoke in Hebrew, the mother tongue of the Israelites, though its booming quality might have purposely made it difficult to be understood by anyone except Moses. "Come up the mountain, Moses!" the Voice thundered. "Come alone! Don't allow anyone to follow you!"