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Preparation for the Giving of the Law
1. The same day] the 15th day of the month: cp. Exodus 12:18, Exodus 12:29; Exodus 16:1. Marching slowly, with long halts at the various stations on the route, the host took two months to traverse the 150 m between Egypt and Sinai. Here they remained eleven months (see Numbers 10:11-12), during which time the nation entered into a formal covenant with Jehovah on the basis of the moral law received from God by Moses, and promulgated by him.
Wilderness of Sinai] This must not be confounded with the ’wilderness of Sin’ (see on Exodus 16:1). The wilderness of Sinai is generally identified with the modern Wady Er-Rahah, a plain fully 2 m. long by half-a-m. wide, ’enclosed between two precipitous mountain ranges of black and yellow granite, and having at its end the prodigious mountain block of Ras es-Sufsafeh,’ which Dean Stanley and others take to be the mount on which the Law was given. Ras es-Sufsafeh is some 7,000 ft. in height, and rises sheer from the plain ’like a huge altar.’ Some, however, believe that the actual mount of the Law was another peak of the same mountain mass S. of Sufsafeh, called Jebel Musa, the traditional site. The whole district has been described as one of the most awe-inspiring regions on the face of the earth, and as such it accorded well with the dread revelation of the divine majesty here given to Israel.
4. I bare you on eagles’ wings] God’s grace and care were the source of Israel’s duty of obedience and loyalty: see on Exodus 15:16. The image here employed to illustrate the watchful solicitude of God is true and beautiful. When the eaglets first attempt to fly, the parent bird is said to hover round them and beneath them, so as to support them on its expanded wings when they are exhausted: see Deuteronomy 32:11. Brought you unto myself] i.e. to Sinai, the ’mount of God,’ where He was about to make a special revelation of Himself. It is possible, however, to take the words in a spiritual sense, as denoting the divine nurture and education of the Israelites in the fuller knowledge of the true God: see on Exodus 19:5, Exodus 19:6.
5. If ye will obey] Although God’s grace preceded the covenant (see previous v.), the latter was made upon condition of perfect obedience. But as the law only serves to accentuate man’s feeling of inability to keep it, it becomes a ’schoolmaster to lead to Christ,’ and the redemption that is by faith in Him: see Romans 7:22-25; Galatians 3:23, Galatians 3:24. A peculiar treasure] a private and treasured possession. In later times the Jewish nation presumed upon their privilege as a chosen people, and believed in their unconditional possession of God’s favour. From this false security it was the task of the prophets to rouse them: see e.g. Jeremiah 7:4-16; Matthew 3:9; Matthew 8:11-12; Matthew 21:31. Above all people] RV ’from among all peoples.’ All the earth is the Lord’s, but Israel belongs to Him in a special degree: cp. Exodus 33:16; Amos 9:7.
6. A kingdom of priests] a kingdom of which every member is consecrated to the service of God, and so ’a holy nation’: see on Leviticus 20:24, The designation expresses also the high calling of Israel. They are to be the medium of communicating the knowledge of the divine nature and will to the world. In general, it may be allowed that the Jewish nation has fulfilled its destiny. It has taught the world true religion. Through its rejection of the Messiah its sacred function has passed over to the Christian church, to which St. Peter transfers the titles given to Israel in these two vv.: see 1 Peter 2:9; Revelation 1:6.
7. The elders] see on Exodus 3:16.
9. In a thick cloud] No one, not even Moses, is able to gaze upon the unveiled majesty of God: see Exodus 3:6; Exodus 33:20; Leviticus 16:2; Judges 13:22. Hence when He appears it is in a cloud, which becomes the symbol and vehicle of the divine presence: see Judges 13:21, also Numbers 11:25; 1 Kings 8:10-11; Isaiah 6:4; Matthew 17:5; Matthew 26:64; 1 Thessalonians 4:17; Revelation 1:7; And believe thee] The superior favour shown to Moses as the direct recipient of the divine revelation would attest his authority. See on Numbers 12:7, Numbers 12:8.
10. Sanctify them] bid them sanctify themselves. The outward preparation consisted in washing their persons and clothes, and in abstinence from sexual intercourse: see Exodus 19:15 and cp. Leviticus 15:16-18. These outward purifications symbolised the inward purity required in those who draw near to God: see Isaiah 1:16; Psalms 51:6-7; 1 Peter 3:21.
12. Set bounds unto the people] This was intended to impress the people with the unapproachable holiness of God. They could only draw near to God in the person of the mediator whom God Himself had chosen. The NT. writers emphasise the superior privilege of Christians, who enjoy access into the holiest through Christ ’the mediator of the new covenant’: see Hebrews 10:19-22; Hebrews 12:18-24.
13. They shall come up] not the mass of the people, but their privileged representatives: see Exodus 19:23-24, and cp. Exodus 24:1, Exodus 24:2.
22 The priests] The Levitical priesthood was not yet instituted, but among the Hebrews, as among other nations of antiquity, there were those, mainly the heads of tribes and families, who exercised priestly functions. Melchizedek was prince and priest in Jerusalem at the time of Abraham (Genesis 14:18), and Jethro was both prince and priest of Midian, and offered sacrifice as such (Exodus 2:16; Exodus 3:1; Exodus 18:1, Exodus 18:12).
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Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Exodus 19". "Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany