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—I stood between the LORD and you at that time to convey the LORD‘s words to you, for you were afraid of the fire and did not [וְלֹֽא־] go up [עֲלִיתֶ֥ם Qal perfect 2nd person masculine plural of עלה - you went up] the mountain— (Deut. 5:5, JPS Tanakh)

The wording of Deut. 5:5 seems to indicate that "they may go up on the mountain" at the of Exodus 19:13 meant all of Israel was supposed to have climbed the mountain.

12 You shall set bounds for the people round about, saying, ‘Beware of going up the mountain or touching the border of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death: 13 no hand shall touch him, but he shall be either stoned or shot; beast or man, he shall not live.’ When the ram’s horn sounds a long blast, they may go up on the mountain.” (Exodus 19:12–13, JPS Tanakh)

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  • The fact is they could not go up the mountain or they would die (Ex 19) so they were afraid (Deut 5). I can't see a problem here, myself.
    – Nigel J
    Feb 11, 2022 at 8:24

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Deuteronomy consists of a series of final/parting speeches of Moses. That in Deut 5 recounts how the law was given 40 years earlier.

In Deut 5:5 we have two ways of translating the verse:

  1. (ESV): while I stood between the LORD and you at that time, to declare to you the word of the LORD. For you were afraid because of the fire, and you did not go up into the mountain.
  2. (BSB): At that time I was standing between the LORD and you to declare to you the word of the LORD, because you were afraid of the fire and would not go up the mountain.

Most translation appear to prefer the second type as listed above suggesting Israel's would not go rather than the ESV's version which states that Israel did not go, presumably because they were told not to. Thus, the question could be stated another way:

וְלֹֽא־עֲלִיתֶ֥ם - does this mean, "would not go", or, "did not go"?

I think the OP has answered his own question - the verb involved is a simple Qal perfect - a statement of historical fact. Therefore, I believe that the ESV has it most accurately because it does not suggest any reluctance either in the Hebrew or the English.

Thus, there is nothing strange about the correct facts that Moses recounts.

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