Editor's note: Dr. Matt Lynch is Dean of Studies and Old Testament Lecturer at Westminster Theological Centre in the UK (wtctheology.org.uk)
10 And the Lord said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow. Have them wash their clothes 11 and be ready by the third day,because on that day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. 12 Put limits for the people around the mountain and tell them, ‘Be careful that you do not approach the mountain or touch the foot of it. Whoever touches the mountain is to be put to death. 13 They are to be stoned or shot with arrows; not a hand is to be laid on them. No person or animal shall be permitted to live.’ Only when the ram’s horn sounds a long blast may they approach the mountain.”
The command to stone or shoot an animal that touches Mt. Sinai borders on the melodramatic (Exod 19:10-13). God had called his people to come close to Mt. Sinai, but then warns them (and their animals) not to get too close, lest they ‘touch the edge of it.’ If anyone touched the mountain, they were to be put to death via stoning or arrows. The fact that animals would receive the death penalty is odd. The whole scene is odd. God had just delivered his people from Egypt, and then he brings the beleaguered ex-slaves to his mountain for what? to frighten them?