And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them.
The English narrative that concludes God’s uttering of His Ten Statements at Mt. Horeb says, Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking … (Exodus 20:18). The Hebrew on the other hand literally reads, “And all the people saw the voices and the torches”. One may see a ‘torch’, but how does one see a “voice”? The question may have pushed English translators to stray from a literal rendition of the verse, but it did not puzzle Hebrew sages. Also, the congregation at Horeb was composed of people from many nations, so for everyone to ‘understand’ (a Hebrew synonym for ‘seeing’) the Ten Statements would have had to be uttered in several languages.
How do you see a voice, and how does a single voice speak in many languages? When Moses recounts these events to the second generation of the Children of Israel in the desert he says, Then the LORD spoke to you out of the midst of the fire (Deuteronomy 4:12). One of the sages saw this verse through the following passage, Is not my word like fire, declares the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces (Jeremiah 23:29)? The sages of Israel have always described these events as the Voice of God splitting into seventy voices speaking seventy different tongues and that these voices were actually like hot sparks flying forth from a hammer’s blow on a stone and becoming tongues of fire. This may sound farfetched, but is it really?
Fourteen hundred years after these events Yeshua, the Prophet like unto Moses, (Deuteronomy 18:15) came to give His elucidation of the Heavenly Voices. When He was on earth, like Moses He climbed a mountain and His disciples came to Him (Exodus 24:9; Matthew 5:1-2). Later, on the same Jewish calendar date as the Horeb events (Pentecost, or fifty days after the resurrection) as the disciples were celebrating the festival of Pentecost they saw these voices in the form of tongues of fire that gave them ability to speak in the languages of all the foreign pilgrims then present for the festival in Jerusalem (Acts 2:1-5). These ‘voices’ were later to be sent to all the world to reach out to the lost sheep of the House of Israel and to the nations with their message.
Today we, as followers of the Jewish Messiah Yeshua HaMashiach, are these ‘Voices’ of fire from Sinai. Today, from where ever we are in the world we are God’s emissaries and apostles of the great message spoken at Sinai. I usually teach my students that the Words of the Ten Statements uttered at Horeb elucidated by God’s Agent Yeshua, constitute the solution to all of the world’s social problems.
But the people must not only hear the message, they must also see it. They must see it in the exemplary walk of our lives. A tall order maybe, but a lot is at stake and His Spirit is ever present to help us. Truly, Yeshua ever lives to make intercession off us (John 14:26; Hebrews 7:25).
May we not fail in our mission!