Moses used to take the Tent and set it up outside the camp, some distance away. He called it the Tent of Meeting. Anyone who sought God would go to the Tent of Meeting outside the camp. It went like this: When Moses would go to the Tent, all the people would stand at attention; each man would take his position at the entrance to his tent with his eyes on Moses until he entered the Tent; whenever Moses entered the Tent, the Pillar of Cloud descended to the entrance to the Tent and God spoke with Moses. All the people would see the Pillar of Cloud at the entrance to the Tent, stand at attention, and then bow down in worship, each man at the entrance to his tent.
And God spoke with Moses face-to-face, as neighbors speak to one another. When he would return to the camp, his attendant, the young man Joshua, stayed—he didn’t leave the Tent.
Moses said to God, “Look, you tell me, ‘Lead this people,’ but you don’t let me know whom you’re going to send with me. You tell me, ‘I know you well and you are special to me.’ If I am so special to you, let me in on your plans. That way, I will continue being special to you. Don’t forget, this is your people, your responsibility.”
God said, “My presence will go with you. I’ll see the journey to the end.”
Moses said, “If your presence doesn’t take the lead here, call this trip off right now. How else will it be known that you’re with me in this, with me and your people? Are you traveling with us or not? How else will we know that we’re special, I and your people, among all other people on this planet Earth?”
God said to Moses: “All right. Just as you say; this also I will do, for I know you well and you are special to me. I know you by name.”
Moses said, “Please. Let me see your Glory.”
God said, “I will make my Goodness pass right in front of you; I’ll call out the name, God, right before you. I’ll treat well whomever I want to treat well and I’ll be kind to whomever I want to be kind.”
God continued, “But you may not see my face. No one can see me and live.”
God said, “Look, here is a place right beside me. Put yourself on this rock. When my Glory passes by, I’ll put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with my hand until I’ve passed by. Then I’ll take my hand away and you’ll see my back. But you won’t see my face.”
God spoke to Moses: “Cut out two tablets of stone just like the originals and engrave on them the words that were on the original tablets you smashed. Be ready in the morning to climb Mount Sinai and get set to meet me on top of the mountain. Not a soul is to go with you; the whole mountain must be clear of people, even animals—not even sheep or oxen can be grazing in front of the mountain.”
So Moses cut two tablets of stone just like the originals. He got up early in the morning and climbed Mount Sinai as God had commanded him, carrying the two tablets of stone. God descended in the cloud and took up his position there beside him and called out the name, God. God passed in front of him and called out, “God, God, a God of mercy and grace, endlessly patient—so much love, so deeply true—loyal in love for a thousand generations, forgiving iniquity, rebellion, and sin. Still, he doesn’t ignore sin. He holds sons and grandsons responsible for a father’s sins to the third and even fourth generation.”
At once, Moses fell to the ground and worshiped, saying, “Please, O Master, if you see anything good in me, please Master, travel with us, hard-headed as these people are. Forgive our iniquity and sin. Own us, possess us.”
And God said, “As of right now, I’m making a covenant with you: In full sight of your people I will work wonders that have never been created in all the Earth, in any nation. Then all the people with whom you’re living will see how tremendous God’s work is, the work I’ll do for you. Take careful note of all I command you today. I’m clearing your way by driving out Amorites, Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. Stay vigilant. Don’t let down your guard lest you make covenant with the people who live in the land that you are entering and they trip you up.
“Tear down their altars, smash their phallic pillars, chop down their fertility poles. Don’t worship any other god. God—his name is The-Jealous-One—is a jealous God. Be careful that you don’t make a covenant with the people who live in the land and take up with their sex-and-religion life, join them in meals at their altars, marry your sons to their women, women who take up with any convenient god or goddess and will get your sons to do the same thing.
“Don’t make molten gods for yourselves.
“Keep the Feast of Unraised Bread. Eat only unraised bread for seven days in the month of Abib—it was in the month of Abib that you came out of Egypt.
“Every firstborn from the womb is mine, all the males of your herds, your firstborn oxen and sheep.
“Redeem your firstborn donkey with a lamb. If you don’t redeem it you must break its neck.
“Redeem each of your firstborn sons.
“No one is to show up in my presence empty-handed.
“Work six days and rest the seventh. Stop working even during plowing and harvesting.
“Keep the Feast of Weeks with the first cutting of the wheat harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering at the turn of the year.
“All your men are to appear before the Master, the God of Israel, three times a year. You won’t have to worry about your land when you appear before your God three times each year, for I will drive out the nations before you and give you plenty of land. Nobody’s going to be hanging around plotting ways to get it from you.
“Don’t mix the blood of my sacrifices with anything fermented.
“Don’t leave leftovers from the Passover Feast until morning.
“Bring the finest of the firstfruits of your produce to the house of your God.
“Don’t boil a kid in its mother’s milk.”
God said to Moses: “Now write down these words, for by these words I’ve made a covenant with you and Israel.”
Moses was there with God forty days and forty nights. He didn’t eat any food; he didn’t drink any water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Words.
When Moses came down from Mount Sinai carrying the two Tablets of The Testimony, he didn’t know that the skin of his face glowed because he had been speaking with God. Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, saw his radiant face, and held back, afraid to get close to him.
Moses called out to them. Aaron and the leaders in the community came back and Moses talked with them. Later all the Israelites came up to him and he passed on the commands, everything that God had told him on Mount Sinai.
When Moses finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face, but when he went into the presence of God to speak with him, he removed the veil until he came out. When he came out and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, they would see Moses’ face, its skin glowing, and then he would again put the veil on his face until he went back in to speak with God.