This chapter introduces the giving of the law upon Mount Sinai,
which was one of the most sensible appearances of the divine glory that
ever was in this lower world. Here are,
The circumstances of time and place, ver. 1, 2.
The covenant between God and Israel settled in general.
The gracious proposal God made to them, ver. 3 - 6.
And their consent to the proposal, ver. 7, 8.
Notice given three days before of God's design to give the law
out of a thick cloud, ver. 9.
Orders given to prepare the people to receive the law, ver. 10 - 13.
and care taken to execute those orders, ver. 14, 15.
A terrible appearance of God's glory, ver. 16 - 20.
Silence proclaimed, and strict charge given to the people to observe
a decorum while God spake to them, ver. 20 - 25.
1: In the third month after they came out of Egypt. It is
computed that the law was given just fifty days after their coming out of
Egypt, in remembrance of which the feast of Pentecost was observed
the fiftieth day after the passover, and in compliance with which the spirit
was poured out upon the apostles, at the feast of Pentecost, fifty days
after the death of Christ. Mount Sinai was a place which nature, not
art, had made conspicuous, for it was the highest in all that range of
mountains. Thus God put contempt upon cities and palaces, setting up his
pavilion on the top of a mountain, in a barren desert. It is called
Sinai, from the multitude of thorny bushes that over - spread it.
3: Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and the children of
Israel - The people are called by the names both of Jacob and
Israel, to mind them that they who had lately been as low as Jacob
when he went to Padan - aram, were now grown as great as God made him when
he came from thence, and was called Israel.
4: Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you
on Eagle's wings - An high expression of the wonderful tenderness God
shewed for them. It notes great speed; God not only came upon the wing
for their deliverance, but he hastened them out, as it were upon the wing.
Also that he did it with great ease, with the strength as well as with
the swiftness of an eagle. They that faint not, nor are weary, are said
to mount up with wings as eagles, (Isa 40:31). Especially it notes
God's particular care of them, and affection to them. Even Egypt was
the nest in which these young ones were first formed as the embryo of a
nation: when by the increase of their numbers they grew to some maturity,
they were carried out of that nest. I brought you unto myself - They were
brought not only into a state of liberty, but into covenant and communion
with God. This, God aims at in all the gracious methods of his providence
and grace, to bring us back to himself, from whom we have revolted, and
to bring us home to himself, in whom alone we can be happy.
5: Then ye shall be a peculiar treasure to me - He doth not instance
in any one particular favour, but expresseth it in that which was
inclusive of all happiness, that he would be to them a God in
covenant, and they should be to him a people. Nay you shall be
a peculiar treasure: not that God was enriched by them, as a man is
by his treasure, but he was pleased to value and esteem them as a
man doth his treasure; they were precious in his sight. He took them
under his special care and protection, as a treasure that is kept under lock
and key. He distinguished them from, and dignified them above all people,
as a people devoted to him, and to his service.
6: A kingdom of priests, a holy nation - All the Israelites,
if compared with other people, were priests unto God, so near were
they to him, so much employed in his immediate service, and such
intimate communion they had with him. The tendency of the laws given them
was to distinguish them from others, and engage them for God
as a holy nation. Thus all believers are, through Christ, made to our
God kings and priests, (Re 1:6),
a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, (1Pe 2:9).
7: And Moses laid before their faces all these words - He not only
explained to them what God had given him in charge, but put it to their
choice, whether they would accept these promises upon these terms or no.
His laying it to their faces speaks his laying it to their
8: And they answered together; all that the Lord hath spoken we
will do - Thus accepting the Lord to be to them a God, and giving up
themselves to be to him a people.
10: Sanctify the people - As Job before sent and sanctified
his sons, (Job 1:5).
Sanctify them, that is, call them off from their worldly business, and
call them to religious exercises, meditation and prayer, that they may
receive the law from God's mouth with reverence and devotion. Two things
particularly were prescribed as instances of their preparation.
1st, In token of cleansing of themselves from all sinful pollutions,
they must wash their clothes. Not that God regards our clothes, but
while they were washing their clothes, he would have them think of
washing their souls by repentance. It becomes us to appear in clean
clothes when we wait upon great men; so clean hearts are required in
our attendance on the great God.
2dly, In token of their devoting themselves entirely to religious
exercises upon this occasion they must abstain even from lawful enjoyments
during these three days, and not come at their wives.
11: In the sight of all the people - Though they should see no
manner of similitude, yet they should see so much as would convince
them, that God was among them of a truth. And so high was the top of
Mount Sinai, that it is supposed not only the camp of Israel, but
even the countries about might discern some extraordinary appearance of
glory upon it.
12: Set bounds - Probably he drew a ditch round at the foot of the
hill, which none were to pass upon pain of death. This was to intimate,
1st, That awful reverence which ought to possess the minds of all that
2dly, The distance which worshippers were kept at under that
dispensation, which we ought to take notice of, that we may the more value
our privilege under the gospel, having boldness to enter into the
holiest by the blood of Jesus, (Heb 10:19).
13: When the trumpet soundeth long - Then let them take their places
at the foot of the mount. Never was so great a congregation called together
and preached to at once as this was here. No one man's voice could have
reached so many, but the voice of God did.
16: Now at length is come that memorable day, in which Israel heard
the voice of the Lord God speaking to them out of the midst of the
fire and lived, (De 4:33). Never was there such a sermon
preached before or since, as this, which was here preached to the church
in the wilderness. For, the preacher was God himself, (Ex 19:17),
The Lord descended in fire; and (Ex 19:18).
The Lord came down upon mount Sinai. The Shechinah, or glory of the
Lord, appeared in the sight of all the people; he shined forth from
mount Paran with ten thousand of his saints, attended with a multitude
of the holy angels. Hence the law is said to be given by the
disposition of angels, (Ac 7:53). He spake from mount
Sinai, hung with a thick cloud, (Ex 19:16), covered with
smoke, (Ex 19:18), and made to
quake greatly. Now it was that the earth trembled at the presence
of the Lord, and the mountains skipped like rams, (Ps 114:4,7),
that Sinai itself, though rough and rocky, melted from before the
Lord God of Israel, (Jdg 5:5). The congregation was called together
by the sound of a trumpet exceeding loud, (Ex 19:16), and
waxing louder and louder, (Ex 19:19). This was done by the ministry
of the angels, and made all the people tremble. The introductions to
the service were thunders and lightnings, (Ex 19:16). These have
natural causes; but the scripture directs us in a particular manner to take
notice of the power of God, and his terror in them. Thunder is the
voice of God, and lightning the fire of God, proper to engage
both the learning senses of seeing and hearing.