Then he said to the people, “Prepare yourselves for the third day. Abstain from sexual relations.”
NIV - 15 Then he said to the people, "Prepare yourselves for the third day. Abstain from sexual relations.
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This is the very first time where God Himself would appear before the nation of Israel. Until now, Moses had been like God to them but now in Chapter 19, God would descend on Mt. Sinai and speak directly to them. In preparation for the personal meeting with God, He commanded several things (v. 10): consecrate them today and tomorrow (washing themselves) and wash their garments. In verse 15, Moses seems to add, "do not go near a woman" though it was not God's direct commandment. It seems to be a way to helping people to focus on meeting God as they prepare themselves for two days by washing themselves and their garments. Sexual acts, both leading up to and afterwards, can lead to distractions and defilement of their body (Lev. 15:16). Abstaining from sexual relation is equivalent to fasting as a way of giving up one of the basic human needs for a greater reason. We can see Uriah the Hittite in 2 Samuel who refuses to share the bed with his wife during the time of war when his comrades are in battle. This was his way of showing solidarity and focus rather than indulging his needs.
The restriction was designed to let the Jews focus all their attention and energy on their meeting God. A similar restriction was put on soldiers entering battle (1 Samuel 21:4-5; 2 Samuel 11:11). Old Testament law laid emphasis on purity and uncleanness resulting from the discharge of bodily fluids. (The admonition for the men not to have sex with their wives (v. 15) doesn’t in any way imply that the act is defiling/profaning.)
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