AMONG THE EARLIEST TEXTS OF THE HEBREW BIBLE (E.G, JUDG. 5:5; Ps. 68:9) YHWH is identified as “the One of Sinai” (zeh sinay). The ascription serves as an ancient epithet for God. As J. Levenson has put it, Israel's God is the One “of whom Sinai is characteristic.”1 This identification with Sinai suggests two characteristics of God that are especially pertinent for the concerns of the present chapter.
First, the location of Sinai is finally indeterminate; it lies in the wilderness somewhere between Egypt and Canaan. This elusiveness functions in Hebraic tradition as a symbol of both YHWH's freedom and YHWH's authority. Like Sinai, YHWH's domain is beyond the boundaries of Egypt, of Canaan, of any given regime or state, ancient or modern, that may be located on a map. Like Sinai, YHWH's authority is not confined by, indeed may stand in opposition to, the sovereignty claimed by any earthly kingdom.
Second, Hebraic tradition identifies Sinai not primarily with an earthly place but with a divine act.2 Sinai is the place of God's salvation: for Moses and the people who flee from the Egyptians (Exod. 19); for Deborah and Barak who defeat the Canaanites (Judg. 5); for Elijah who flees in despair from Jezebel and the putative powers of state-sanctioned Baalism (1 Kings 19). Hebraic tradition asserts that whenever and wherever people encounter the God of Sinai, they will celebrate the memory of the One who rises up against the enemies of the righteous, nullifying their power and preserving the faithful with love and compassion. From their disparate experiences will come a uniform confession: “Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up; God is our salvation” (Ps. 68:19).
1. J. D. Levenson, Sinai and Zion: An Entry into the Jewish Bible (Minneapolis: Winston,
2. On Sinai as the mountain that signifies God's salvation in the earliest traditions of the
Hebrew Bible, see F. Crüsemann, The Torah: Theology and Social History of Old Testament Law,
trans. A. W. Mahnke (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996), 31–37.