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Related to, but converse to How was Moses able to speak to at least 600,000 people?

There are at least a few narratives where we see statements like this:

Exodus 20:19Then they said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die.”

So my question is how would these have occurred in practice? Do we picture in our mind everyone in front of Moses talking to him, or the leaders representing the people talking to him?

I find myself assuming that they are not all literally identically speaking at the same time, that perhaps representative leaders were speaking for the leaders, or the tribes? Is there tradition or other passed down writings that give us insight into this?

  • Offhand, several explanations. Often, the message was conveyed to the tribal leaders so the term "all of Israel" is synonymous with the representatives (leaders) of all Israel. Another possibility. When there is commotion or chaos among the majority, such as the Golden Calf, it's very noticeable. Thus, while the may have been exceptions, because the majority complained, it was called "all". – DanF May 26 '15 at 13:49

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