SECOND DIVISION: MOSES AND SINAI.
FOUNDATION IN THE LARGER SENSE
The Arrival at Sinai and the Preparation for the Giving of the Law. The Covenant People and Covenant Kingdom. Institution of the Covenant
1In the third month when [after] the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, the same day came they into the wilderness of Sinai 2 For they were departed [And they journeyed] from Rephidim, and were come [and came] to the desert of Sinai, and had pitched [and encamped] in the wilderness, and there Israel camped [was encamped] before the mount 3 And Moses went up unto God, and Jehovah called unto him out of [from] the mountain, saying, Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel: 4Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles wings, and brought you unto myself 5 Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people [peoples]: for all the earth is mine: 6And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an [a] holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel 7 And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces8[before them] all these words which Jehovah commanded him. And all the people answered together, and said, All that Jehovah hath spoken we will do. And Moses 9 returned [brought back] the words of the people unto Jehovah. And Jehovah said unto Moses, Lo, I come unto thee in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with thee and believe [trust] thee for ever. And Moses told the 10 words of the people unto Jehovah. And Jehovah said unto Moses, Go unto the people, and sanctify them to-day and to-morrow, and let them wash their clothes, 11And be ready against the third day: for [for on] the third day Jehovah will come down in the sight of all the people upon mount Sinai 12 And thou shalt set bounds unto the people round about, saying, Take heed to yourselves, that ye go not up [Beware of going up] into the mount, or touch [touching] the border of it: whosoever toucheth the mount shall be surely [surely be] put to death 13 There shall not an [no] hand touch it [him],[FN1] but he shall surely be stoned, or shot through; whether it be beast or Prayer of Manasseh, it [he] shall not live: when the trumpet soundeth long, they shall come up to the mount 14 And Moses went down from the mount unto the people, and sanctified the people; and they washed their clothes 15 And he said unto the people, Be ready against the third day: come not at your wives [near a woman]. 16And it came to pass on the third day, in the morning [when morning came], that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the [a] trumpet exceeding loud; so that [and] all the people that was17[were] in the camp trembled. And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with [to meet] God; and they stood at the nether part [the foot] of the mount 18 And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke [all mount Sinai smoked], because Jehovah descended upon it in fire; and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly 19 And when the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder [And the voice of the trumpet waxed louder and louder], Moses spake [speaking] and God answered [answering] 20him by a voice.[FN2] And Jehovah came down upon mount Sinai, on [to] the top of the mount; and Jehovah called Moses up to the top of the mount; and Moses went 21 up. And Jehovah said unto Moses, Go down, charge the people, lest they break through unto Jehovah to gaze [behold], and many of them perish 22 And let the priests also, which [who] come near to Jehovah, sanctify themselves, lest Jehovah break forth upon them 23 And Moses said unto Jehovah, The people cannot come up to mount Sinai: for thou chargedst [hast charged] us, saying, Set bounds about 24 the mount, and sanctify it. And Jehovah said unto him, A way [Go], get thee down; and thou shalt come up, thou, and Aaron with thee: but let not the priests and the people break through to come up unto Jehovah, lest he break forth upon them 25 So Moses went down unto the people, and spake unto [told] them.
TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL
[ Exodus 19:13. The repetition of the word touch (נָגַע) naturally suggests the thought that the object is the same as in the preceding verse, viz, mount. But this cannot be the case. For (1) if this were Song of Solomon, it is not probable that the word hand would be used, especially after the more general prohibition. The second prohibition would be weaker than the first, for one would most naturally touch the mountain with the foot, not the hand. But (2) more decisive still is the consideration that the conjunction כִּי does not admit of this construction. It can here only have the meaning but in the sense of the German sondern, i.e, but on the contrary. As the verse stands in A. V, a reader would most naturally understand but to be equivalent to but that, and the meaning to be, No hand shall touch it wilhout his being stoned, etc., which, however, cannot have been the meaning of the translators, and certainly not of the Hebrew author. On the other hand, it makes no sense to say, No hand shall touch the mountain, but on the contrary he shell be stoned. The meaning must be: No hand shall touch him, i.e., the offender; but he shall be killed without such contact by being stoned or shot.Tr.]
[The last two verbs in this verse are in the Imperfect tense, and hence express continued action. The Hebrew does not say, when the voice. waxed louder and londer, [then] Moses spake, etc., especially not, if when is understood to be equivalent to atter. We have endeavored to give the true sense by the participial rendering.Tr.]
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
1. Sinai and the Arrival there.
A full geographical treatise on the whole Horeb group, and especially Sinai, is given by Ritter VIII:2, p527 sqq.; Robinson, 1, p140 sqq.; Tischendorf, Aus dem heiligen Lande, p 61 sqq.; Strauss, p 133 sqq. See also the lexicons and commentaries. We quote from Zellers Biblisches Wörterbuch, II, p. Exodus 482: A few remarks on the question respecting the scene of the giving of the law. There are two different localities which have their advocates. Some find the place in Sinai proper, Jebel Musa and the plain Esther -Sebaiyeh lying south of it; others, in the northern terrace of Sinai, that which is now called Horeb, especially the peak of Ras Esther -Safsafeh, with the plain er-Rahah, which stretches out before it in the north. Both plains would be in themselves suitable for the purpose; for they are about equally large, and furnish room for the marshalling of a large multitude. Each is so sharply distinguished from the mountain rising up from it that the latter might in the most literal sense be said to be touched by one in the plain;which gives an excellent illustration of the expression used by Moses ( Exodus 19:12): whosoever toucheth the mount, etc. Yet perhaps the weight of the evidence is in favor of the southern plain, Esther -Sebaiyeh. For (1) the mountains within which the plain reposes, like a secluded asylum, rise up from it in an amphitheatrical form and very gradually, and therefore its slopes could have been used for the marshalling of the people if at any time there was not quite space enough in the plain itself; whereas the mountains bordering on the plain er-Rahah are so abrupt and steep that they could not have been used for this purpose. (2) The plain er-Rahah has a water-shed from which the ground to the north falls away more and more, so that to the view of those standing there, Ras Esther -Safsafeh must have become less and less prominent, whereas the plain Esther -Sebaiyeh rises higher and higher towards the south, and Jebel Musa or Sinai becomes more and more majestic in appearance. (3) The view on the south side of Sinai, where this mountain towers up perpendicularly nearly2000 feet, like an immense altar, is decidedly more grand. (4) In Exodus 19:17 it is said that Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God. Now we can hardly conceive a place better fitted for a camping-place than the plain er-Rahah with the valleys and pastures of the environs, especially the wady Esther -Sheikh closely adjoining it. But if this was the camping place, and at the same time the place where the people were drawn up at the time of the giving of the law, how are we to conceive of that bringing forth out of the camp? This expression would have no meaning. Whereas this expression becomes full of appositeness, if we assume the plain er-Rahah on the north of Horeb to be the camping-place, but the plain Esther -Sebaiyeh south of Jebel Musa to be the standing-place of the people when the law was given. From that northern plain600,000 men (for children and minors, as well as women and old men doubtless remained behind in the camp) might well have gone in the course of a day through the short wadies Esther -Sebaiyeh and Shoeib into the southern plain, and back again into the camp; for the distance is only a short hours journey.On the difficulties attending the combination of both places, see Keil, II, p94. The expression, Israel camped before the mount ( Exodus 19:2), is certainly opposed to the assumption of two camps over against two mountains. Comp. the graphic description in Strauss. On the relation between the names Sinai and Horeb, comp. Knobel, p188. Note: (1) that the whole region is named, after the mountain where the law was given, sometimes Sinai, sometimes Horeb; (2) that Horeb, being reached while the people were in Rephidim, may include Sinai; (3) that Horeb, as a separate mountain, lies to the north of Sinai, and therefore was first reached by the Israelites. See also Keil, p90, and Philippson, p403.This group of lofty granite mountains cannot primarily be designed to serve as a terror to sinners; it rather represents the majesty and immovable fixedness of Gods moral Revelation, of His law, in a physical form; it is therefore a positive, imposing fact, which disseminates no life, yet on which the sinners false life may be dashed to destruction.Lepsius hypothesis, that Sinai or Horeb is to be looked for in Mt. Serbal, has rightly met no approval. In opposition to it consult Dieterici, Reisebilder, II, p 53 sqq.; Ritter, Erdkunde, XIV, p738 sqq.; and Kurtz, History, etc., III, p93 (Keil).
The Arrival at Sinai.In the third month. Two months then have passed thus far, of which probably the greater part belongs to the encampment in Elim and Rephidim. The same day.According to the Jewish tradition this means on the first day of the third month, but grammatically it may be taken more indefinitely = at this time.
2. Jehovahs Proposal of a Covenant, and the Assent of the People. Exodus 19:3-8.
And Moses went up.On Sinai Moses received his commission from Jehovah to lead out the people. Therefore he must now again appear before Jehovah on Sinai, to complete his first mission, and receive Jehovahs further commands. It is a characteristic feature of the following transaction concerning the covenant, that Jehovah calls out to Moses as he goes up. A covenant is a coming together of two parties. It has been said indeed, that בְּרִית, διαθήκη, testamentum, means, not covenant, but institution. It is true, the divine institution is the starting-point and foundation, but the product of this institution is the covenant. This is true of all the covenants throughout the Bible. They everywhere presuppose personal relations, reciprocity, freedom; i.e., free self-determination.
So here the people are induced by Jehovahs proposal to declare their voluntary adoption of the covenant ( Exodus 19:8). After this general adoption of the covenant, there follows a special adoption of the covenant law, Exodus 24:3. Not till after this does the solemn covenant transaction take place, in which the people again avow their assent, their free subjection to the law of Jehovah ( Exodus 24:7). This relation is so far from being an absolute enslavement of the human individuality by the majesty of the divine personality, as Hegel imagines (Vol. xi2, 46), that on the basis of this relation the notion of a bridal and conjugal relation between Jehovah and His people gradually comes to view. But the characteristic feature of the law Isaiah, that it rests, in general, on a germ of ideality, of knowledge, of redemption, but, in particular, everywhere requires an unconditional, and even blind, obedience. Hence it may be said: In general it is doctrine (Thorah), in particular it is statute. The ideal and empirical basis is the typical redemption: I am Jehovah, thy God, that have brought thee out of Egypt, etc., as a fact of divine goodness and grace; and the spirit of it is expressed in the rhythmically solemn form in which the covenant is proclaimed in Exodus 19:3-6. The parallel phrases, House of Jacob, and Children of Israel, present in conjunction the natural descent of the people, and the spiritual blessings allotted to them. Ye have seen.A certain degree of religious experience is essential in order to be able to enter into covenant relations with Jehovah. This experience is specifically an experience of the sway of His justice over His enemies, and of His grace over His chosen people. Eagles wings.The eagles wings are an image of the strong and affectionate care of God; for the eagle cherishes and fosters her young very carefully; she flies under them, when she takes them out of the nest, in order that they may not fall down upon rocks and injure themselves or perish. Comp. Deuteronomy 32:11, and illustrations from profane writers, in Bochart, Hieroz. II, pp762, 765 sqq. (Keil).And brought you unto myself.Knobel: to the dwelling-place on Sinai. Keil: unto my protection and care. It probably means: to the revelation of myself in the form of law, symbolized indeed by the sanctuary of the lawgiver, viz., Sinai. But that is a very outward conception of Keils, that the pillar of cloud probably retired to mount Sinai. Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed.According to Keil the promise precedes the requirement, for Gods grace always anticipates mans action; it demands nothing before it has given. But here evidently the requirement precedes the promise; and this is appropriate to the legal religion of Moses in the narrower sense. In the patriarchal religion of Abraham the promise precedes the requirement; under Moses the requirement precedes the promise, but not till after the fulfilment of a former patriarchal promise, an act of redemption, had preceded the requirement. The requirement is very definite and decided, accordant with the law.The promise Isaiah, first: Ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me.Keil says: סְגֻלָּה signifies not possession in general, but a precious possession, which one saves, lays up (סָגַל), hence treasure of gold and silver, 1 Chronicles 29:3, etc. (λαὸς περιούσιος, etc. Malachi 3:17; Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 2:9). We translate, above all people, not, out of all people, in accordance with the following words: for all the earth is mine.This reason for choosing Israel at once guards against the exclusiveness which would regard Jehovah as merely a national God (Keil). It may be observed that the people are to be as distinctively the lot (κλῆρος) of Jehovah, as Jehovah desires to be the lot of His people.In the second place, the first promise, or the סְגֻלָּה, is explained: Ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests.The LXX. translate, βασίλειον ἱεράτευμα; so Peter, 1 Peter 2:9. Onkelos: kings, priests. Jonathan: crowned kings, ministering priests. According to the Hebrew text, the kingdom as a unit, or the realm as a body of citizens, is a nation of priests. The individuals are priests; the unity of their commonwealth is a kingdom, whose king is Jehovah. It is therefore a kingdom whose royal authority operates every way to liberate and ennoble, to sanctify and dignify; the priests are related to the king; in their totality under the king they constitute the priesthood, but only under the condition that they offer sacrifice as priests. The N. T. term, a royal priesthood, derived from the LXX, merges the several priests in the higher unity of a single priesthood, whose attribute, royal, expresses the truth that the king, through his royal spirit, has incorporated himself into the midst of his people. All this, now, the Israelites are to be, in their general attitude, first in the typical sense, which points forward to the actual fulfilment, and prophetically includes it. Keil, therefore, is wrong in saying that the notion of theocracy or divine rule (referring to the preceding explanations, II, p97), as founded by the establishment of the Sinaitic covenant, does not at all lie in the phrase מַמְלֶכֶת כֹּהֲנִים [kingdom of priests]. The theocracy established by the formation of the covenant (chap24) is only the means by which Jehovah designs to make His chosen people a kingdom of priests. Whilst here the theocracy is made not even a type, but only the medium of a type, of the New Testament kingdom of heaven, the people of Israel are raised high above their typical significance (p98), much as is done in the Judaizing theories of Hofmann and others. The relations are rather quite homogeneous: a typical people, a typical kingdom of God, a typical law, a typical sacrifice, etc. On the other hand, Keils sentiment, that Israel, as a nation of priests, has a part to act in behalf of other people, is every way accordant with the Old Testament prophecy and with the New Testament. ( Isaiah 42; Romans 11:15; Romans 15:16.) And a holy nation.The notion of the holiness of Jehovah first appears in chap15. Here the notion of a holy people. The holiness of Jehovah is the originating cause of the creation of a holy people. On the various explanations of the notion of holiness, vid. Keil, p99. Neither the notion of newness or brilliancy, nor that of purity or clearness satisfies the concrete import of holiness. Jehovah keeps Himself pure in His personality, He protects His glory by His purity, His universality by His particularitythus is He the Holy One. And so He creates for Himself a holy people that in a peculiar sense exist for Him, separated from the ungodly world, as He in a peculiar sense exists for them, and keeps Himself aloof from notions and forms of worship that conflict with true views of His personality. The opposite of קָדוֹשׁ is חֹל, κοινός, profanus (Keil). See the passages 1 Peter 1:15; comp. Leviticus 11:44; Leviticus 19:2.And all the people answered together. Thus a historical, positive, conscious obligation is entered into, resting, it is true, on an obligation inherent in the nature of things.
3. Provisions for the Negotiation of the Covenant. Exodus 19:9-13.
First: Jehovah will reveal Himself to Moses in the thick cloud. The people are to listen while He talks with Moses. Keil seems to assume that the people also are to hear with their own ears the words of the fundamental law. But Exodus 19:16-19 show what is meant by the peoples hearing. The sound of thunder and of the trumpet which the people hear sanctions the words which Moses hears. In consequence of this the people are to believe him for ever. The perpetual belief in Moses is the perpetual belief in the revelation and authority of the law. What follows shows that mediately the people did hear the words.
Secondly: The people, in order to receive the law, are to be sanctified for three days, i.e., are to dispose themselves to give exclusive attention to it. The symbolical expression for this consists in their washing their garments, ceremonially purifying them. It shows a want of appreciation of propriety to include, as Keil does, the explanatory precept of Exodus 19:15 among the immediate requirements of Jehovah.
Thirdly: The people are to be kept back by a fence enclosing the mountain. That Isaiah, the restraining of the people from profaning the mountain as the throne of legislation serves to protect them; comp. the significance of the parables in Matthew 13. The transgressor is exposed to capital punishment; but inasmuch as his transgression finds him on the other side of the limit, no one could seize him without himself becoming guilty of the transgression; hence the direction that he should be killed from a distance with stones or darts.[FN3] Consistency requires that the same should be done with beasts that break through. Reverence for the law is thus to be cultivated by the most terrifying and rigorous means. When the trumpet.שׁוֹפָר = קֶרֶן חַֹיּבֵל,חַֹיּבֵל. To draw out the horn [as the Hebrew expresses it] is the same as to blow the horn in prolonged notes (Keil). Vid. Winer, Realwörterbuch, Art. Musikalische Instrumente. It is a question when the prohibition to come near the mountain was to be terminated. According to Keil, a signal was to be given summoning the people to approach, and that then the people, as represented by the elders, were to ascend the mountain. But nothing is anywhere said of such a signal. It is simpler, with Knobel, thus to understand the direction: When at the close of the divine appearances and communications an alarm is sounded, and so the people are summoned to start, to separate.[FN4] When the tabernacle was finished, this became the sacred meeting-place of the people, to which they were called. Soon afterwards the trumpets summoned them to set forth, perhaps Revelation -enforced, on account of the importance of the occasion, by the jubilee horn, or itself identified with it.
4. The Preparation of the People. Exodus 19:14-15.
The direction given by Jehovah respecting the sanctification of the people is further explained by Moses. The distinction between the divine revelation and the human expansion of it appears here as in 1 Corinthians7.
5. The Signs accompanying the Appearance of Jehovah, the Lawgiver, on Sinai. Exodus 19:16-19.
And it came to pass on the third day. Here is another prominent element in the miracle of Sinai, that is generally overlooked, viz., the fact that Moses through divine illumination so definitely predicted that the miraculous occurrence would take place in three days. By identifying him all along with Gods revelation the miraculous mystery of his inner life is obliterated. That there were thunders and lightnings.All this animated description of the miraculous event Keil takes literally, and following Deuteronomy 4:11; Deuteronomy 5:20 (23), expands the account, although if the mountain was burning in the literal sense of the word so that its flame ascended up to heaven, there would be no place for clouds and cloudy darkness. In a thunder-storm are united both nocturnal darkness and flaming light. Keil quotes various conjectures concerning the trumpet sound. No reference is had to the trumpet sound made by the voice of God in the ghostly sphere of the remorseful conscience of a whole people. But comp. John 12:29. That the darkness indicates the invisibility and unapproachableness of the holy God who veils Himself from mortals even when He discloses Himself, is evident from all the analogies of clouds up to the sacred one in which Christ ascended. Fire has a twofold side, according to mans attitude towards the divine government; it is therefore, as Keil says, at once the fire of the zeal of anger and the zeal of love. To unite both ideas in one, it is the fire of the power that sanctifies, which therefore purges, transforms, vivifies, and draws upward, as is shown by the ascension of Elijah and the phenomena of the day of Pentecost. The same is true of thunder. Since the law is now given for the first time, this can have nothing to do with the thunder of the last judgment. Vid. on Revelation, p197.All the people trembled. While in this mood they are led by Moses out of the camp to the foot of the mountain. It Isaiah, to be sure, hardly to be supposed that this denotes a march from the plain of Rahah into that of Sebaiyeh. The people, i.e., the men, says Keil,a limitation for which there is little reason.And all mount Sinai smoked.The view of the scene is renewed and intensified, the nearer the people come to the foot of the mountain. Moses speaking, and God answering.Glorious definition of the nature of law! All of Gods commands are, so to speak, answers to the commands and questions of Gods chosen servant; they grow out of a reciprocal action of God and the inmost heart of humanity.
6. The Calling of Moses alone up to the Mount, etc. Exodus 19:20-25.
And Jehovah said unto Moses.There must be some significance in the fact that Moses is required again to descend from Sinai, in order repeatedly to charge the people not to cross the limit in order to gaze, because by this sin many might perish. This direction is now even extended to the priests; and in accordance with their position they are exposed to the sentence of death even in the camp unless they sanctify themselves; only Aaron is permitted to go up in company with Moses. So sharp a distinction is made between the theocratic life of the people, between the sphere of sacerdotal ordinances (which, therefore, already exist), and the sphere of Revelation, of which Moses is the organ. That Aaron is allowed to accompany him when the first oral revelation of the law is made, indicates that in and with him the priests, and gradually also the whole priestly nation, which begins to assume a priestly relation to mankind in the near presence of the law, are to be lifted up into the light of revelation. Various views of this passage, especially a discussion of Kurtzs opinion, are to be found in Keil. Knobel finds here an interpolation of the Jehovist.
Inasmuch now as the narrative makes the law of the ten commandments follow immediately, whilst Moses seems to be standing below with the people, a literal interpretation concludes that Jehovah communicated the ten commandments down from Mt. Sinai immediately to the people, and so the fundamental law of the theocracy has a precedence over all others (Knobel; see also Keil, p106). The fact that Jehovah has already given answer to Moses on the mountain, is overlooked; as also the passages Exodus 24:15 sqq.; 34; Deuteronomy 5:5; Deuteronomy 33:4, to say nothing of Galatians 3and other passages. It is true, the representation here is designed to make the impression that the law of the ten commandments, although mediated by Moses, has yet the same authority as if Jehovah had spoken it directly to the people from Sinai; and no less does it express the pre-eminent importance of the ten commandments. The following distinctions are marked: As oral (or spiritual) words Moses receives the divine answers on the mountain ( Exodus 19:19). Then God addresses the same words from Sinai in the voices of thunder to the people at the foot of the mountain; and Moses, who stands below with the people, is the interpreter of these voices, as is clearly shown by Deuteronomy 5:5. This oral, spiritual law of principles, which is echoed in the conscience of all the people, as if Jehovah were directly talking with them, is the foundation for the establishment and enforcement of the written law engraved on the stone tablets.
FN#1 - Exodus 19:13. The repetition of the word touch (נָגַע) naturally suggests the thought that the object is the same as in the preceding verse, viz, mount. But this cannot be the case. For (1) if this were Song of Solomon, it is not probable that the word hand would be used, especially after the more general prohibition. The second prohibition would be weaker than the first, for one would most naturally touch the mountain with the foot, not the hand. But (2) more decisive still is the consideration that the conjunction כִּי does not admit of this construction. It can here only have the meaning but in the sense of the German sondern, i.e, but on the contrary. As the verse stands in A. V, a reader would most naturally understand but to be equivalent to but that, and the meaning to be, No hand shall touch it wilhout his being stoned, etc., which, however, cannot have been the meaning of the translators, and certainly not of the Hebrew author. On the other hand, it makes no sense to say, No hand shall touch the mountain, but on the contrary he shell be stoned. The meaning must be: No hand shall touch him, i.e., the offender; but he shall be killed without such contact by being stoned or shot.Tr.]
FN#2 - The last two verbs in this verse are in the Imperfect tense, and hence express continued action. The Hebrew does not say, when the voice. waxed louder and londer, [then] Moses spake, etc., especially not, if when is understood to be equivalent to atter. We have endeavored to give the true sense by the participial rendering.Tr.]
FN#3 - This is perhaps in general the reason for stoning.
FN#4 - There seems to be no inconsistency between Knobels view and that of Keil. The latter understands the sound of the trumpet ( Exodus 19:13) to be the signal, and so does Knobel. And both assume that the signal was to follow the promulgation of the law.Tr.].
These files are a derivative of an electronic edition available at BibleSupport.com. Public Domain.
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Exodus 19". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany