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Bible Commentaries
Exodus 19

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-6


Verses 1-6:

Israel arrived in the "desert of Sinai" on the first day of the third month, Sivan, corresponding roughly to June. The topography of the land is such that they likely traveled along two passes, Wadi Solan and Wadi-esh-Sheikh, which converge at the entrance of the plain Er-Rahah. This plain is about two miles long and half a mile wide, virtually flat, dotted with tamarisk trees. The mountains which surround the plain have mostly sloping sides. The area forms a kind of natural arena. Mount Sinai stands at the head of this plain, rising like a huge altar. Scientific explorers visiting this region affirm its ideal setting for the events described in the following chapters.

The site of Israel’s encampment is known by two names: Horeb, and Sinai. The former denotes the mountain range, the latter designates the specific peak.

It is suggested that this was the site of Moses’ experience at the "burning bush" (chs. 3, 4). Jehovah had promised that he would return to the "mount" and there serve Him. This was the fulfillment of that promise.

God gave Moses a message for Israel. It began with a reminder of His mighty power in His dealings with Egypt. It reminded them of His care for Israel, "on eagles’ wings" (see De 32:11), to bring them to this Mount, where He could reveal Himself to them.

The condition under which Israel could enjoy God’s blessings was simple: obey His voice, and keep His covenant. If they would do this, the nation would be a "peculiar treasure," a precious possession, highly esteemed, and carefully protected from all harm (see Ps 135:4; Isa 48:1-4).

This principle which applied to Israel, applies likewise to God’s people today. God promises blessing in response to faithful obedience.

"A kingdom of priests," that is, a "royalty of priests." Israel would be both kings and priests. (See 1Pe 2:9; Re 1:6; 5:9, 10.)

"An holy nation," separate and distinct from all other nations, see De 26:16-19.

Verses 7-9

Verses 7-9

Moses came down from the mount and called Israel’s elders together, to deliver Jehovah’s message. Their response was that they would heed and obey all the Lord had spoken. Moses then returned to the mount, and repeated the people’s words to Jehovah.

Jehovah came to Israel "in the thickness of a cloud." It is always necessary that God veil Himself when He speaks with man. No man can bear the brightness of His presence (see Re 1:12-17). When God came initially to meet with Moses, He veiled Himself in the burning bush. When he appeared to the patriarchs (as Abraham, Ge 18), He veiled Himself in human form. When He came to earth as the seeking Savior, He veiled Himself in the human Person and Form of Jesus of Nazareth.

Verses 10-13

Verses 10-13:

Israel was to undergo a two-day purification. On the third day, Jehovah promised to descend in the sight of the people, upon Mount Sinai. The previous verse describes the manner in which He would appear: in a "thick cloud." The boundary at the base of the mountain was to be strictly observed. The presence of Jehovah would hallow the mount, and neither man nor beast could cross the boundary, on penalty of death.

"Trumpet" shophar, the "ram’s horn," is the only instrument still in use in the synagogue. It was mainly an instrument used in signaling, both in religious and secular ceremonies. The word occurs in Jos 6:20 and Jg 7:16-22. Jehovah Himself is said to blow the shophar, to gather the scattered remnant of Israel, Zec 9:14, 15.

Verses 14-15

Verses 14, 15:

Moses returned from the mountain to call the people to consecration. The first step: ceremonial washing of clothes.

The second step: abstain from sexual relations. This is not to imply that marital relations are sinful or unclean. It was a provision of self-denial, in preparation for a deep spiritual experience, see 1Sa 21:4, 5; 1Co 7:5.

Verses 16-25

Verses 16-25:

Jehovah came to Mount Sinai "the third day," as He had promised. From the thick darkness came the "voice of the trumpet" The term in v. 13 is yobel, and is translated "cornet." This word appears to be used interchangeably with shophar, which occurs in v. 19, and Ex 20:18.

The text indicates that Moses went up alone into the top of the mount where Jehovah met with him. God instructed Moses to repeat the warning to Israel, that none should approach the mount, lest he die. Moses protested that his warning was unnecessary, that precautions had already been taken. But Jehovah insisted, and so Moses went back once more to warn the people.

The precautions taken emphasize both the holiness and the grace of God: holiness, in that none might trespass into His presence; and holiness, in that He gave ample warning so that none might perish.

Heb 12:18-21 refers to the presence of Jehovah on Sinai, and the terrifying demonstrations of power accompanying this event.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Exodus 19". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/exodus-19.html. 1985.
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