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Tuesday, September 26th, 2023
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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Bible Commentaries
Exodus 19

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-25

Exodus 19:1. The third month. On the fourteenth day at night the paschal lamb was slain. The two months contain sixty days, and on the fourth day of the third month the law was given, or the sixty fourth day of the Hebrew ecclesiastical year. From these we deduct the fourteen days before the passover, which leave exactly fifty days, the last of which was the day of Pentecost, a festival when the first fruits were offered, which lasted but one day. Thus a perfect type was given of the Lord’s descent on the holy apostles, “when the day of Pentecost was fully come.” Acts 2:0.

Exodus 19:2. The desert of Sinai. This desert lay on the side of the mount, opposite to Rephidim. Hence their journey was but a short removal round the hill. The time also is noticed; it was the first day of Sivan, or of the third moon, after their departure out of Egypt, making in all forty seven days. Three days after, the law was published, agreeing in figure with the christian pentecost, or fiftieth day. What a proof that our most holy religion is built on the foundation of the law and the prophets?

Exodus 19:6. A kingdom of priests, holy in body, and pure in heart. An apostle calls the christian church a royal priesthood, a consecrated generation. 1 Peter 2:9. All Shem’s race, to the present age, affect purity. Shungee, of New Zealand, when going to murder his neighbours, was so pure that he could neither feed himself, nor enter the Mission-house.

Exodus 19:15. Come not, &c. This abstinence, before sacrifice, was generally observed by the Israelites. 1 Samuel 21:5. Ecclesiastes 3:5. It was likewise observed by the heathens, as appears from many expressions of their poets. Vide Poli Syn. in Loc.

Exodus 19:22. The priests. Some understand here the seventy elders, or presbyters, who were mostly the firstborn, and consequently priests by the rights of birth. The Levites were afterwards substituted. Numbers 3:12-13.


We are here presented with the preparations and arrangements of heaven for the promulgation of the law. The people assembled in their encampments, and approached in order. The seventy rulers stood at the foot of the mount, and the mixed multitude surrounded the skirts of the assembly.

Mark next the introductory steps which had been taken, three days before the national convocation. The Lord had given them an epitome of the blessings of the covenant, with its great condition, “If ye will obey my voice.” Therefore they approached with an enlightened mind to accept the covenant, and prepared to subscribe it with a willing heart. The christian is called in like manner to receive the yoke of Christ, that his soul may delight in the law of God, and find his service to be perfect freedom.

In the characteristics of the lawgiver, who says “All the earth is mine;” who promises the highest privileges to obedience, and who punishes transgression with death; we see displayed the Godhead of Jehovah, the Angel. Who can avoid discovering the same person, when he said, veiled in the flesh, as his glory had been obscured in the cloud: A new commandment I give unto you: and again, if ye keep my commandments ye shall abide in my love, even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. John 15:10. Surely this is the voice of the ratifier and guarantee of the new covenant, appointed in the hands of a Mediator.

Before the people received the law from God, and subscribed to his gracious covenant, their clothes and their persons were cleansed from every legal impurity: and the abstinence and washings of the people are figurative of that purity of heart and of purpose, with which we should draw near to God. In his presence we must lift up holy hands, without wrath or doubting. He is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity in his worshippers; and he cut off the old world, because the thoughts and imaginations of their hearts were only evil continually. The dirt and filth of Egypt must be washed away in the laver of regeneration, and in the sincerest efforts to serve and please God, or he will spurn us in anger from his presence.

But although the people were now ceremonially pure, yet they were not suffered on pain of death to approach their God beyond certain limits and bounds. Moses the mediator, and Aaron the priest, were alone permitted to approach the skirts of the cloud. Thus Jesus, having exercised on earth the prophetic office, is now ascended to the throne of God to exercise for us the offices of Mediator and High Priest, after the order of Melchizedek, that in due time we may enter the holiest by his blood. In the cloud of impervious darkness, in the lightnings and thunders, in the voice of the trumpet with increasing sound, in the shaking of the mountain, and the trembling of the people, we discover the character of a holy God, covenanting with a guilty people. Ah, and more awful still shall be his wrath to punish the transgressors of his covenant, which graciously provided a sacrifice for sin. How awful the day when not only Sinai, but the whole heavens shall be enveloped in smoke and flame; when not only revolting Israel, but all nations that obey not the gospel, shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power. Wherefore, knowing the terrors of the Lord, we persuade men. We entreat them to obey that voice, which then shook the earth, but now shall shake heaven also.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Exodus 19". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/exodus-19.html. 1835.
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