A Tale Of Two Covenants 

by Christine Egbert

To get the most out of our Bible study, we should study the Hebrew Scriptures at its “cellular level”, those 3 letter roots.  Pastor Matthew Miller teaches at this level on a regular basis. Most of this article is from one of his teachings titled, “They Saw His Voice” (available on YouTube).

There are amazing parallels between that first Shavuot in Exodus 19 and the one in Acts chapter two. At the first Shavuot Lord  YHVH gave His TORAH to His covenant people, Israel. Then 1,200 years later, on the Shavuot following Yeshua’s resurrection, God poured out His Ruach (Holy Spirit) not only on Yeshua’s disciples, who earlier had been praying in the upper room of the Temple, but on “devout Jews from every nation”, who had gathered together in one accord and in one place, at the Temple in Jerusalem, to celebrate another Shavuot.


The First Shavuot

Exodus 19:1 opens with: “In the third month of the going out of the sons of Israel from the land of Egypt, on this day they came to the wilderness of Sinai.” By verse 10, Moses has ascended and descended the mountain a couple of times. Then he instructs the Israelites to sanctify themselves, for in three days YHVH will “go down before the eyes of all the people on the mountain of Sinai.” 

At the opening of Exodus 20, in verses 1 & 2, YHVH identifies Himself, and then proclaims His Torah (His instructions) to the children of Israel (versus 3-17). In verse 18, we read something quite incredible. “And all the people SAW the thunders, and the lightenings, and the sound of the rams horn, and the smoking mountain. And the people looked and they trembled, and they stood from a distance.”

Moses wrote that the people SAW (ra’ah/ Strong’s 7200) sounds (thunder and the ram’s horn). In a midrash about Israel seeing sound the famous Rabbi Rashi wrote, “They saw the audible, which cannot be seen under any other circumstances.”

Sight, as a sense, is thought of as more concrete than hearing. Hearing is abstract. In his book, “The Coming Revolution, Science Discovers Truths of the Bible,” Zamir Cohen writes the following: 

“Hearing entails the receiving of sounds. Yet sound lacks clear definition. Who is talking? From which direction are they speaking? In that sense, voices are more spiritual than visible, material objects. Hearing operates in the dimension of time, over which we have no control…In contrast, sight works within a spatial context that is under our control, and through which we can grasp events in a single glance…At Mount Sinai, the People of Israel saw mighty revelations. They saw into the distance to that which lies beyond the immediate senses. They saw the spiritual with the certainty of seeing the material. They saw the ineffable as tangibly real.” 

But Exodus 20:18 also speaks of seeing “lightening.” 

In Hebrew the word translated as lightening is “lap-peed”, Strong’s H3940. But literally, it means a “flaming torch or fire.” It’s the very same word used in Genesis 15:17. 

“And it happened, the sun had gone down, and it was dark. Behold! A smoking furnace and a TORCH of fire passed between those pieces.”

Israel SAW YHVH’s spoken WORDS. They SAW His voice as “flames of fire.” This should bring to mind those tongues of fire spoken of in the second chapter of Acts.


Deuteronomy 4:32-33

For ask now of the days past, which were before you, since the day that God created man on the earth, from one end of the heavens to the other end of the heavens, has there been a thing as great as this, or has anything like it been heard? Has a people heard the voice of God speaking from the midst of the FIRE, as you have heard and lived?

Psalms 29: 7

The voice of YHVH is cutting through the flame of fire.

Deuteronomy 5:26

For who, of all flesh that has heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived?

Jeremiah 23:29

Is not My Word thus like fire, says YHVH…

Philo of Alexandria, a Jewish philosopher and Bible commentator, who lived from about 20 BCE to 50 CE (during the time of the apostles), wrote “the flames became articulate speech in the language familiar to its audience”, and “the people seemed to see, rather than hear, the words formed by the flames.”

The Targums, which are ancient Aramaic translations of the Hebrew Scriptures, make similar claims. Both Pseudo-Johnathan and the Ganeza Targum fragments portray Yahweh’s words as shooting stars and flaming torches of fire. This idea of God’s word appearing as flames is rooted in the midrashic notion that at that first Shavuot each one of the LORD’s words was divided into 70 languages, the 70 languages of the 70 nations of Genesis chapter 10. 

At Mount Sinai, the word’s that Yahweh spoke floated down from the mountain, each letter becoming a flame above each person’s head, and both native born Israelites and the mixed multitude that came with them out of Egypt heard and saw God’s instructions, His Torah, in their own native tongue, just as it happened in Acts 2:11. 

And They Trembled

Seeing God’s spoken words, which turned into flames, the people looked and “trembled” Exodus 20:18 informs us. Trembling is another of the similarities between what happened at that first Shavuot and the one following Yeshua’s resurrection. Only “trembling” really isn’t the best translation. Let’s look at the Hebrew word itself. 

The word translated as “trembled” is a Hebrew word spelled with a nun, a vav, and an ayin. It’s pronounced “no’-ah”, and is Strong’s H5128. It means “to reel, to stagger, or to shake”, and is found also in the following passages.

In Isaiah 66:5 this Hebrew word is translated as “tremble.”

Hear the Word of YHVH, those who tremble at His Word. 

In Psalms 107:27 it is translated as “stagger.” 

They reel to and fro  and stagger   like a drunken man… 

In Isaiah 24:20 it is rendered “reel to and fro.”

The earth  shall reel to and fro   like a drunkard… 

And in Isaiah 29:9 the word is translated as “stagger.”

Stay yourselves  and wonder;   cry ye out,  and cry: they are drunken,   but not   with wine; they stagger,  but not   with strong drink.  

After reading these, you should be thinking of Peter statement in Acts 2:15: “These men are not drunk as you suppose.” Even Rashi and Rombam, two of the most revered Jewish Rabbis who often disagreed, agreed on the fact that, at the foot of Mount Sinai, the Israelites reeled two and fro like drunks. 

Closing thoughts…

At the codifying of that first Covenant at Mount Sinai, God wrote the Torah with His finger on tablets of stone. At the codifying of the Covenant’s renewal (see my article “Understanding The Book of Hebrews”), which occurred on the Shavuot written about in chapter two of Acts, God wrote His Torah (the very same one) on tablets of Hearts (Jer 31:31 & Heb 8:8). This is one of the reasons why Hebrews 8:6 calls our renewed covenant better

In both Covenants God gave His people gifts. In the first Israel received His instructions, His Torah. In Acts 2, YAH poured out His Spirit, not to start a new religion, but to “empower” His people to be witnesses of Yeshua, both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the very ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). But, make no mistake, both of these GIFTS, the Torah and the Ruach, go hand in hand. How are they related? The answer to this very important question is found in Romans 8:4, where Paul informs us that we have been given the Spirit so that we can fulfill the righteous requirements of God’s instructions, His Torah, which Paul, in Romans 7:14, says is Spiritual.