What is the role of the Kohanim in the ascent of Sinai? They are listed second in Exodus (19:22) as being prohibited from ascending, but are listed first in v. 24.

  • Why single them out?
  • why switch the order?

1 Answer 1


I don't know why the order is flipped, but R' Samson Raphael Hirsch, in his commentary on Exodus 19:20-25, does explain why the priests (actually, the firstborn at this point, he points out) are singled out.

As discussed in this other answer, God wanted the people to realize that the Torah laws He was giving are Divine in origin and objectively true, not from subjective human imagination. So, He forbade them from approaching the mountain. In addition, He required then to make preparations before receiving the Torah (19:10-11), to drive home the idea that the spiritual and moral level of behavior prescribed by the Torah is something they'd have to aspire to through hard work, and not something their prior subjective ideas could approach on their own.

These priests were used to being their families' representatives for bringing offerings and therefore would be especially susceptible to the mistaken notion that their own prior state was already approaching that of the Torah. Therefore, they needed extra warnings both to stay off of the mountain and to humbly prepare themselves ("יתקדשו" in v. 22), just like everyone else.

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