In Exodus 19:8 it reads:

8 All the people answered together and said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do!” And Moses brought back the words of the people to the Lord.

The part I am interested in is the part that the people say "we will do". It seems to be that the time before the Law was a time of Mercy (2500 years) and the Law came in after the Isrealites said what they said in verse 8, which coincidentally also lasted for 2500 years. (My timescales are approximations of course) Until Nowadays, where we live in a time of Grace.

My understanding of this passage is that the Israelites are signing up to what God has said, and they have responded positively to God. However, I have heard that the Law came (instead of Grace, which was what God really wanted to establish at the time) as a result of the Israelites claiming that they would do all God asked, but claiming with the attitude that they can do it in their own power.

What are the views of others in this forum, and what understanding can they bring to this backed up of course and as usual with biblical verses. I am particularly interested in goig back to the Hebrew to understand the connotations of this verse to see if there are any indications of the attitude of the Israelites in their promise to do as God had spoken.


Ok, so to add a bit more context to what I asked and why I have asked it I will explain a few things which caused me to ask this question.

My understanding is that the Israelites were trying to be obedient and had the right intentions, I had not even considered that the Israelites had anything but the right intentions and right attitude. So, I am trying to ask this question from a point of view that I am not sure I agree with. However let me continue trying to give a fuller explanation of the argument I had heard around this.

The argument put forward gave reference to Adam and how he was cast out of Eden as an act of mercy because God could not allow Adam to remain alive in Eden after what had happened. So as an act of mercy God cast Adam out and continued to maintain a relationship with Adam. The next phase happened with Cain and how God dealt with him after he murder Abel. God showed mercy to Cain. I am glossing over this a lot he so please bear with me as I try and get the gist across of what I heard. The next part spoke about the decisions Abraham took and how it affected his relationship with God. For example when God told him to leave Canaan and take no one but Sarah with him, but he also took Lot, an act of disobedience to God which triggered quite a few issues for Abram in the future. Abraham also lied/deceived about Sarah being his wife instead of trusting his safety to God who had sent him on his journey. Abraham later took matters into his own hands in trying to take matters into his own hands regarding the promise God made to him about having descendants. This gave rise to Ismael, but also 13 years of silence from God because Abraham tried to take matters into his own hands rather than trust in the promises and provision of God.

Another example was taken from the New Testament; the story of the rich young ruler who had come to Jesus asking what more he should do and explaining to Jesus how he kept all the rules and done all that was required of him. Jesus responded to him by saying sell all you own at which point the young ruler went away upset because he could not do what was asked of him. He could not do it because he did not trust that God was more than able to provide but Jesus also knew the young rulers heart as someone that did things by their own strength rather than rely on God to provide the answer for him. What was interesting is that the very next story was also about a rich man Zachaeus, who was likely even wealthier than the young ruler. The story highlights how Jesus went and ate with Zachaeus and Jesus said 'Salvation has come to this house' instead of putting a regulation or demand on Zachaeus. The reason was that Zachaeus came with an attitude of allowing Jesus to do what was neccessary rather than like the young ruler who wanted to know what he must do rather than what Jesus would do.

I hope that I have managed to explain the premises sufficiently (I probably haven't) for you to see the arguments presented. I have come to the conclusion that the only way to know if there is any meaning lost in the translation from Hebrew to English as to whether or not the Israelites demonstrated the same attitude as the rich young ruler or whether they were truly submitting with the attitude that Zachaeus demonstrated, is to go back to the Hebrew and understand what it means in the original Hebrew and see if it does indeed connote what the arguments say they were attempting to do.

Of course if the former truly is the case then it has massive significance to understanding how the Covenant God made with the Israelites was based around the Law, because it would mean that the Israelites were given what they had asked for rather than what God wanted to give them, which is a covenent based more around the grace principles rather than a rule based system. If you see what I am saying.

2 Answers 2


This is the verse in hebrew. I highlighted the word "naase". It's the first person plural form of "asah" (Strong's H6213)

:ח. וַיַּעֲנוּ כָל הָעָם יַחְדָּו וַיֹּאמְרוּ כֹּל אֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר יְהוָֹה נַעֲשֶׂה וַיָּשֶׁב משֶׁה אֶת דִּבְרֵי הָעָם אֶל יְהוָֹה

I found at least one [commentary] that describes the relationship with God as a two-sided agreement. The Jews agreed to obey God and God agreed to teach, protect and provide for them. this is reflected in many other places.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you. Psalm 32:8 (NIV)

Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. Psalm 25:4-5 (NIV)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

Based on this I would call it a stretch to say that the Jews intended to obey God under their own power. It's more accurate to say that they trusted God to help them obey his laws and thus attain salvation.

  • Thanks for your input especially the Hebrew part. From your answer I am still not sure whether or not the Israelites had intended to work in their own strength. The other links from Psalms are not clear enough either I'm afraid, as they were written centuries after and seem, to me at least, as personal promises/prayers/thoughts between David and God, but nevertheless your addition is gratefully received.
    – Mr. Mr.
    Commented Sep 18, 2013 at 6:23
  • @Monkieboy It was a covenant. You cannot have a covenant with just one side agreeing. Maybe this happened later on after they lost their way, but it is clear that when the pact was made, they agreed to let God be the teacher. Commented Sep 18, 2013 at 12:29
  • @jlaverde The verse I have linked was before the covenent of Law was made, I think I need to add an update to the question to provide a bit more context around the angle I am coming from so that a comprehensive answer can be provided. I will update my question later, after work.
    – Mr. Mr.
    Commented Sep 18, 2013 at 13:35
  • @Monkieboy. The Law, the 10 Commandments, were the words of the covenant (Exodus 34:28). The covenant itself was the covenant of circumcision which was given to Abraham and his descendants. You can tell the Law was already there because of Exodus 18:16. In Exodus 19:8 they agreed to keep the covenant whose words they had already heard. And in Exodus 20, God ceremoniously presents the 10 Commandments showing their importance. This was because they were the words of the covenant and they heard it, not through Moses, but straight from the mouth of Almighty God, Jesus Christ. Commented Sep 18, 2013 at 13:58
  • So the covenant was already in place. God had made the covenant with Abraham. In Exodus 19 God reaffirms His part of the covenant and they respond that they will keep their side of the covenant which are to keep the 10 Commandments and obey His voice. (Exodus 19:5) Commented Sep 18, 2013 at 14:02

The truth is "probably" the Hebrews intended to follow the commands just like many in the church today voice that same willingness to follow the commands of Messiah. But we all know that you can not do either without the renewal of the heart. So since they pledged- then they and the church move in their own strength then and now. Remember the Hebrews went to the mountain and could not stand hearing the voice (obey my commands- the voice of the Father) so they asked that Moses go before the Father for them and they would do everything the Father told them. The commands are then written in stone and not directly from the father, they have no power and come from a mediator. The Israelites and the church today have a zeal to be obedient- the Hebrews zeal to works salvation and the church today ignoring the Law as if it were obsolete- the law of Moses does become obsolete when written on your heart but the Law that is written on the heart is eternal. The part of the law of Moses that becomes obsolete is the part written on the heart-- how long do you think it will take to write the whole law-- more than a lifetime so the mosaic law remains as our school teacher-- day by day we clothe ourselves more and more with messiahs commands -- always reaching toward the goal.

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