Rabbit Trail: Mount Horeb (Pt. 2)

Today we will be looking at how Mount Horeb is portrayed in Deuteronomy.  There are a lot of references, but at the same time, a lot of the references are near to each other.

For instance, Horeb comes up three times in the first chapter alone.  In Deuteronomy 1:2, there are instructions on how to get to Kadesh Barnea from Horeb ( “(It takes eleven days to go from Horeb to Kadesh Barnea by the Mount Seir road.)” (NIV1984, Deuteronomy 1:2)).

From verse 5, Deuteronomy is almost a recap of what has happened since Exodus – a history lesson told by Moses.  And the very first thing he says?  “The LORD our God said to us at Horeb, ‘You have stayed long enough at this mountain.  Break camp and advance into the hill country of the Amorites; go to all the neighboring peoples in the Arabah, in the mountains, in the western foothills, in the Negev and along the coast, to the land of the Canaanites and to Lebanon, as far as the great river, the Euphrates.  See, I have given you this land.  Go in and take possession of the land that the LORD swore he would give to your fathers—to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—and to their descendants after them.'” (NIV1984, Deuteronomy 1:6-8).

From their time at Horeb, God sent the Israelites out to receive their promised land.  In Deuteronomy 1:19, Moses tells the people that “Then, as the LORD our God commanded us, we set out from Horeb and went toward the hill country of the Amorites through all that vast and dreadful desert that you have seen, and so we reached Kadesh Barnea.” (NIV1984, Deuteronomy 1:19).  In this verse, the Israelites are initially obeying what the LORD told them to do in verse 6 – to leave the mountain and go to “the hill country of the Amorites” (NIV1984, Deuteronomy 1:7, 19).

But do they take that land?  No.  They rebel because they think the Amorites will destroy them and end up spending forty years wandering the desert.  But that’s another story.

What I really want to focus on, out of all the Deuteronomy passages referring to Mount Horeb, is the passage in Deuteronomy 4.  It’ll be a bit long, but it’s important and really enriches what we will read about Elijah’s Horeb experience in a few days.

(NIV1984) Deuteronomy 4:9-20 – “Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live.  Teach them to oyour children and to their children after them.  Remember the day you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb, when he said to me, ‘Assemble the people before me to hear my words so that they may learn to revere me as long as they live in the land and may teach them to their children.’  You came near and stood at the foot of the mountain while it blazed with fire to the very heavens, with black clouds and deep darkness.  Then the LORD spoke to you out of the fire.  You heard the sound of words but saw no form; there was only a voice.  He declared to you his covenant, the Ten Commandments, which he commanded you to follow and then wrote them on two stone tablets.  And the LORD directed me at that time to teach you the decrees and laws you are to follow in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess.
“You saw no form of any kind the day the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire.  Therefore watch yourselves very carefully, so that you do not become corrupt and make for yourselves an idol, an image of any shape, whether formed like a man or a woman, or like any animal on earth or any bird that flies in the air, or like any creature that moves along the ground or any fish in the waters below.  And when you look up to the sky and see the sun, the moon and the stars—all the heavenly array—do not be enticed into bowing down to them and worshiping things the LORD your God has apportioned to all the nations under heaven.  But as for you, the LORD took you and brought you out of the iron-smelting furnace, out of Egypt, to be the people of his inheritance, as you now are.”

I realize that this is a really long passage in comparison to the normally one or two verses a day that I’ve been doing – but this is really important.  It’s basically a command to remember, to not forget, and to watch and make sure that you don’t start making idols.
But what’s really going to be important – what I want you to remember from this passage as we go back into Elijah and 1 Kings – is the description of how God appeared to the Israelites at Mount Horeb.  He appeared to them not in any particular form but spoke to them as a voice “out of the fire” (NIV1984, Deuteronomy 4:12).

In Deuteronomy 5:2, the people of Israel are reminded that “The LORD our God made a covenant with us at Horeb.” (NIV1984, Deuteronomy 5:2), and only a few chapters later they are reminded that “At Horeb you aroused the LORD’s wrath so that he was angry enough to destroy you.” (NIV184, Deuteronomy 9:8) – which you, too, saw yesterday if you read the entirety of the last recommended reading (Exodus 32:1-34:35).

In Deuteronomy 18, we see that “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers.  You must listen to him.  For this is what you asked of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, ‘Let us not hear the voice of the LORD our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die.'” (NIV1984, Deuteronomy 18:15-16).  Furthermore, in Deuteronomy 29, the Israelites are reminded of other covenant terms given outside of those given at Horeb (“These are the terms of the covenant the LORD commanded Moses to make with the Israelites in Moab, in addition to the covenant he had made with them at Horeb.” (NIV1984, Deuteronomy 29:1). ).

And that’s all the references to Horeb in Deuteronomy.  Tomorrow we will see the references to Horeb in the rest of the Old Testament (outside of its reference in 1 Kings 19).  Then on Sunday we will return to 1 Kings and to Elijah with all this information about Horeb – about this place where so much happened – so that we can keep it in mind that this is the place that Elijah journeyed to over a period of forty days and forty nights when he was weak, and this was the place that Elijah met with God, that this was the place that all we’re going to study – well, not everything we’re studying – but, when it says that Elijah went to Mount Horeb, this is the place he went to.

Until tomorrow, God bless and much love, dear readers!

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