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Despite all of the miraculous power that they had witnessed from Him, the Israelites had little faith. They grumbled and whined constantly while The Lord patiently awaited their behaving in a more responsible manner for themselves. The Lord was giving them a chance to grow up.
"All the congregation of the people of Israel moved on from The Wilderness of Sin by stages, according to the commandment of The Lord, and camped at Rephidim; but there was no water for the people to drink. Therefore the people found fault with Moses, and said, "Give us water to drink." And Moses said to them, "Why do you find fault with me? Why do you put The Lord to the proof?"
"And The Lord said to Moses, "Pass on before the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel [see also The Senate]; and take in your hand the rod with which you struck The Nile, and go. Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, that the people may drink." And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel.
Even though they were psychologically weak, the Israelites were physically strong in battle. But even then, The Lord helped them when they were attacked by the Amalekites. Already, at that early point, Joshua was proving himself to be a worthy successor to Moses when the time would come.
"Then came Amalek and fought with Israel at Rephidim. And Moses said to Joshua, "Choose for us men, and go out, fight with Amalek; tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in my hand."
Exodus Chapter 18
Moses had two sons with his Midianite wife Zipporah, the daughter of Jethro. Zipporah and her children had remained in the Sinai when Moses went into Egypt for the Exodus. Afterward, the family was reunited.
"Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses' father-in-law, heard of all that God had done for Moses and for Israel his people, how The Lord had brought Israel out of Egypt.
Jethro had been Moses' mentor before the Exodus (see The Education Of Moses). Afterward, Jethro had more advice for Moses, in how to manage the government of a large number of people.
"So Moses gave heed to the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he had said.
Exodus Chapter 19
The Israelites by that time had arrived at Mount Sinai, also known as Mount Horeb, located in the southern area of the Sinai Peninsula (see the Fact Finder question below).
"On the third new moon after the people of Israel had gone forth out of the land of Egypt, on that day they came into the wilderness of Sinai. And when they set out from Rephidim and came into the wilderness of Sinai, they encamped in the wilderness; and there Israel encamped before the mountain." (Exodus 19:1-2 RSV)
The Israelites were about to experience one of the most well-known events of Bible History - the formal giving of The Ten Commandments (see The Decalogue; see also The Ten Commandments Before Sinai?). They were first given instructions in how to prepare.
"And The Lord said to Moses, "Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments, and be ready by the third day; for on the third day The Lord will come down upon Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. And you shall set bounds for the people round about, saying, 'Take heed that you do not go up into the mountain or touch the border of it; whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death; no hand shall touch him, but he shall be stoned or shot; whether beast or man, he shall not live.' When the trumpet sounds a long blast, they shall come up to the mountain." (Exodus 19:10-13 RSV)
When The Lord then descended upon Mount Sinai amidst smoke and lightning, Moses went up.
"On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God; and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain. And Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke, because The Lord descended upon it in fire; and the smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain quaked greatly. And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder.
Fact Finder: Why do some people mistakenly believe that Mount Sinai was in what is today known as Saudi Arabia?