the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary
New American Standard Version
Bible Study Resources
Nave's Topical Bible - Israel; Time; Scofield Reference Index - Israel; Law of Moses; Sanctify; Sinai; Torrey's Topical Textbook - Desert, Journey of Israel through the; Deserts; Feast of Pentecost, the; Time;
Verse Exodus 19:1. In the third month — This was called Sivan, and answers to our May. For the Jewish months, years, c., see the tables at the end of Deuteronomy.
The same day — There are three opinions concerning the meaning of this place, which are supported by respectable arguments.
1. The same day means the same day of the third month with that, viz., the 15th, on which the Israelites had left Egypt.
2. The same day signifies here a day of the same number with the month to which it is applied, viz., the third day of the third month.
3. By the same day, the first day of the month is intended.
The Jews celebrate the feast of pentecost fifty days after the passover: from the departure out of Egypt to the coming to Sinai were forty-five days for they came out the fifteenth day of the first month, from which day to the first of the third month forty-five days are numbered. On the 2d day of this third month Moses went up into the mountain, when three days were given to the people to purify themselves; this gives the fourth day of the third month, or the forty-ninth from the departure out of Egypt. On the next day, which was the fiftieth from the celebration of the passover, the glory of God appeared on the mount; in commemoration of which the Jews celebrate the feast of pentecost. This is the opinion of St. Augustine and of several moderns, and is defended at large by Houbigant. As the word חדש chodesh, month, is put for new moon, which is with the Jews the first day of the month, this may be considered an additional confirmation of the above opinion.
The wilderness of Sinai. — Mount Sinai is called by the Arabs Jibel Mousa or the Mount of Moses, or, by way of eminence, El Tor, THE Mount. It is one hill, with two peaks or summits; one is called Horeb, the other Sinai. Horeb was probably its most ancient name, and might designate the whole mountain; but as the Lord had appeared to Moses on this mountain in a bush סנה seneh, Exodus 3:2, from this circumstance it might have received the name of Sinai or הר סיני har Sinai, the mount of the bush or the mount of bushes; for it is possible that it was not in a single bush, but in a thicket of bushes, that the Angel of God made his appearance. The word bush is often used for woods or forests.
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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Exodus 19:1". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​acc/​exodus-19.html. 1832.
19:1-24:18 MAKING OF THE COVENANT
Israel at Mount Sinai (19:1-25)
The arrival of the people at Mount Sinai marked the fulfilment of the promise God made to Moses on the occasion of the burning bush (see 3:12). The journey from Egypt took three months and was accomplished solely by God’s power and care. Long before the nation of Israel existed, God chose it to be his people and he confirmed this choice in a covenant made with Abraham. He then guided the history of Abraham’s descendants to bring his covenant promises to fulfilment (see Genesis 12:2; Genesis 15:7-21; Exodus 2:24; Exodus 4:22; Exodus 6:6-8; Exodus 15:13). (For the meaning of ‘covenant’ see note on Genesis 9:8-17.) The blessings of this covenant meant that the people of Israel were to belong to God and, as priests, worship and serve him. As God’s chosen people, Israel was to represent him to the nations of the world (19:1-6).
Although the covenant was established solely by God’s grace, the covenant’s central blessing of communion with God could become a reality only as the people were holy in life and devoted to him; and this could be so only as they understood God’s requirements and were obedient to them. The people acknowledged this and solemnly pledged themselves to carry out God’s commands. Thus, although the covenant originated in divine grace and was not conditional upon human works (see Galatians 3:17-18), the people were still required to keep their part of the covenant if they were to enjoy its blessings (7-9).
Before receiving the detailed requirements of the covenant, the people were reminded of the holiness of the God who initiated the covenant. So holy was he that the people had to carry out symbolic acts of cleansing over the next two days before they were allowed even to look on the mountain while God was speaking there with Moses. A boundary was drawn around the mountain to emphasize the distance between this holy God and his sinful people (10-15). The people were then given a brief view of the awesome power of the one to whom they had submitted themselves. He was not be treated lightly. Any, except those specially invited, who crossed the boundary around the mountain, whether out of idle curiosity or misguided zeal, would be struck with certain death (16-25).
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Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Exodus 19:1". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​bbc/​exodus-19.html. 2005.
"In the third month after the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, the same day came they into the wilderness of Sinai. And when they were departed from Rephidim, and were come to the wilderness of Sinai, they encamped in the wilderness; and there Israel encamped before the mount. And Moses went up unto God, and Jehovah called unto him out of the mountain, saying, Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel."
"In the third month ... the same day of the month ..." Scholars are uncertain as to the meaning of this last phrase; and, as a result of this, it is impossible to pinpoint accurately the exact time of their coming to Sinai. However, the traditional way of understanding this appears to us to be absolutely accurate. Jamieson fixed the time of their arrival at 45 days after the Passover, basing this upon the meaning ascribed by the Jews to the phrase, "the same day of the month, the first day of the month. If that is the case, then two days elapsed in: (1) making the encampment; and (2) returning the people's answers to God; and three more days elapsed during the three-day period of their sanctification, making five more days in all before the giving of the Law! The principal thing that commends this calculation to us is that this understanding makes the giving of God's Law to have occurred on "The Fiftieth Day," the Pentecost, which corresponds exactly to the N.T. revelation that the giving of the Gospel to mankind also occurred on the Pentecost (Acts 2).
Despite the fact that many scholars deny this understanding of the place, and in spite of the observation of Keil that, "The Jewish tradition that assigns the giving of the law to the fiftieth day after the Passover is of far too recent date to pass for historical," we still adhere to the view expressed by Jamieson. First, there is nothing in the text that denies this possibility; and second, we have here, in all probability, another example of light shed by one of the Testaments upon the other. It is the N.T. truth that explains this passage.
Some translations, such as the New English Bible, and the new translation of the Torah, render "the new moon" instead of month here, but as Keil said, "The Hebrew word here is never rendered `new moon' in the Pentateuch." This is merely another case of "Reed Sea" speculation - erroneous, of course.
So much for WHEN all this happened. The place of WHERE is also disputed and argued about almost endlessly. However, the traditional site assigned to Sinai is amply supported by all of the evidence that is needed. The preponderant opinion of all segments of faith, Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant, with near unanimity, accepts the traditional identification as Jebel Musa. Dummelow's presentation of this is:
"The prodigious mountain block of Ras es Sufsafeh, is identified by Dean Stanley and others as the mount on which the Law was given. It rises some 7,000 feet, sheer from the plain like a huge altar. Some, however (in fact the majority) believe that the actual mount of the Law was another peak of the same range, southward, 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."
There is really no good reason to set aside the Monastery of St. Catherine's at the foot of Mount Sinai being quite near the actual place. In the general sense, Mount Sinai is located near the southern apex of the Sinaitic peninsula. As Huey expressed it: "For hundreds of years Jebul Musa (Mountain of Moses), some 7,647 feet high in the southern Sinai peninsula has found the greatest number of supporters as the actual place." The whole question of exactly WHERE the Law was given is of much less importance than WHAT was done there!
"And Moses went up unto God ..." We should have expected Moses to do this, for God had told him that Moses and the children of Israel would worship God "upon this mountain" (Exodus 3:12). Moses and the people had now indeed come to that "mountain", and Moses promptly went up into the mountain to procure the instructions on just how that was to be done.
"The house of Jacob ..." "This expression does not occur anywhere else in the Pentateuch." This is an important fact because of the identication it makes certain as to what "covenant" is meant in Jeremiah's reference to the "house of Judah" (Jeremiah 31:31). Judah was "of Jacob" and no other. Furthermore, the apostasy of the other tribes made it inappropriate to use "Jacob" without a delimitation.
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Exodus 19:1". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​bcc/​exodus-19.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
The wilderness ... the desert of Sinai - If the mount from which the law was delivered be the rock of Ras Safsafeh, then the spacious plain of Er Rahah would be the “desert” of Sinai (see Exodus 5:17).
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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Exodus 19:1". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​bnb/​exodus-19.html. 1870.
1.In the third month. This chapter informs us by what means God rendered the people attentive and teachable when He would promulgate His laws. He had, indeed, previously delivered the rule of a just and pious life, but by writing the Law on tables, and by then adding its exposition, He not only embraced the perfect doctrine of piety and righteousness, but ratified it by a solemn rite, so that the recognition of it might remain and flourish in future times. And this is the main and principal thing which the prophets celebrate in the redemption of the people; and in this, as in a mirror, propose for consideration the image of the renewed Church, that God made known His testimonies to His redeemed, and bound the people, whom He had purchased, to Himself by a new covenant. He had indeed made with Abraham an eternal, and inviolable covenant; but because it had grown into disregard from the lapse of time, and the carelessness of mankind, it became needful that it should be again renewed. To this end, then, it was engraved upon the tables of stone, and written in a book, that the marvelous grace, which God had conferred on the race of Abraham, should never sink into oblivion. But in the first place we must observe that, although the Law is a testimony of God’s gratuitous adoption, and teaches that salvation is based upon His mercy, and invites men to call upon God with sure confidence, yet it has this peculiar property, that it; covenants conditionally. Therefore it is worth while to distinguish between the general doctrine, which was delivered by Moses, and the special command which he received. Moses everywhere exhorts men, by holding forth the hope of pardon, to reconcile themselves to God; and, whenever he prescribes expiatory rites, he doubtless encourages miserable sinners to have a good hope, and bears witness that God will be merciful to them. Meanwhile this office was separately imposed upon him, to demand perfect; righteousness of the people, and to promise them a reward, as if by compact, upon no other condition than that they should fulfill whatever was enjoined them, but to threaten and to denounce vengeance against them if ever they wandered from the way. It is certain indeed that the same covenant, of which Abraham had been the minister and keeper, was repeated to his descendants by the instrumentality of Moses; and yet Paul declares, that the Law “was added because of transgressions,” (Galatians 3:19,) and opposes it to the promise given to Abraham; because, as he is treating of the peculiar office, power, and end of the Law, he separates it from the promises of grace. With the same import, he elsewhere calls it “the ministration of death,” and “the letter that killeth.” (2 Corinthians 3:6.) Again, in another place, he states that it “worketh wrath,” (Romans 4:15;) as if by its arraignment it inflicted a deadly wound on the human race, and left them no hope of salvation. In this preparation, then, wherein God instructed the people to reverence and fear, a twofold object may be perceived; for, since men’s minds are partly swollen with pride and haughtiness, and partly stupified by indifference, they must needs be either humbled or awakened, in order to their reception of divine teaching with the attention it deserves; nor can any be prepared to obey God, except he be bowed down and subdued by fear. Moreover, they then begin to be afraid when God’s majesty is displayed to inspire them with terror. Thus, therefore, let the fact that the authority of the Law was ratified by many signs and wonders, teach us that this is the beginning of piety and faith in God’s children. To this end also did God shake the earth, to arouse men’s hearts from their slumber, or to correct them by taming their pride. This object is common to the Law, the Prophets, and the Gospel, and to the whole sum of divine teaching, to which due honor is never paid, unless God’s majesty first shines forth, whereby He casts down all the haughtiness of the world. But we must not pass over what I lately asserted to be peculiar to the Law, via, to fill men’s minds with fear, and by setting forth its terrible curse, to cut off the hope of salvation; for, whilst it consists of three parts, each of them tends to the same end, that all should acknowledge themselves deserving of the judgment of eternal death, because in it God sustains no other character than that of a Judge, who, after having rigidly exacted what is due to Him, promises only a just reward, and threatens the transgressors with vengeance. But who will be found to be a perfect keeper of the Law? Nay, it is certain that all, from the least to the greatest, are guilty of transgression, wherefore God’s wrath overhangs them all This is what Paul means, when he writes that believers
“have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but the spirit of adoption, whereby they cry, Abba, Father,”
showing how much better is our condition than that of the old fathers, because the Law kept them enslaved in its bondage, whilst the Gospel delivers us from anxiety, and frees us from the stings of conscience; for all must necessarily tremble, and finally be overwhelmed by despair, who seek for salvation by works; but peace and rest only exist in the mercy of God. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews pursues this idea at greater length, where he says,
“Ye are not come unto the mount that must be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words: which voice they that heard entreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more, etc., (whence Moses said I exceedingly fear and quake:) but ye are come unto Mount Sion,” etc.
The antithesis here proves, that what was entrusted to Moses is separate and distinct from the Gospel; because God, who appeared in the Law as an avenger, now with fatherly kindness gently invites us unto salvation, and soothes our troubled minds by offering us the forgiveness of our sins. Now, Paul shows us that there is no contradiction in this diversity, because the people were taught by the Law not to seek for salvation anywhere but in the grace of Christ, and being convinced of the horrible condemnation under which they lay, were driven by fear to implore God’s mercy; for, as men are apt to (207) allow themselves in sin, “sin (as Paul says, Romans 5:13) is not imputed, where there is no law;” but those, who delight themselves in darkness, are by the teaching of the Law brought before God’s tribunal, that they may fully perceive their filthiness and be ashamed. Thus is Paul’s saying fulfilled, that the life of the Law is man’s death. (Romans 7:9.) Now we understand why the promulgation of the Law was ratified by so many miracles; viz., because, in general, the authority of the divine teaching was to be established among the dull and careless, or the proud and rebellious; and, secondly, because the Law was propounded to men, who sought the means of flattering themselves, as the mirror of the curse, so that, in themselves lost, they might fly to the refuge of pardon. I have thought it advisable to say thus much by way of preface, for the purpose of directing my readers to the proper object of the history, which is here related. But Moses first recounts that the people came, at a single march, from Rephidim into the region of Sinai; for so I interpret it, that there was no intervening station; for their interpretation is forced and unnatural, who take “the same day” for the beginning of the month.
(207) Se pardonnent et dispensent aisement. — Fr.
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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Exodus 19:1". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​cal/​exodus-19.html. 1840-57.
Now in the third month, when the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, in the same day they came into the wilderness of Sinai. For they were departed from Rephidim, and they were come to the desert of Sinai and they had pitched in the wilderness; and there Israel encamped before the mount. And Moses went up unto God, and the Lord called unto him out of the mountain, saying, Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel; You have see what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself ( Exodus 19:1-4 ).
First of all God said to Moses, "Now you tell them and point out to them what I have already done for them. I have delivered them from the Egyptians. I carried them on eagles' wings to bring them to Myself."
Now therefore, [That's the past, now the present, "Now therefore",] if you will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then [as far as the future] ye shall be a special treasure unto me above all of the people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, a holy nation ( Exodus 19:5-6 ).
Now a priest was a man who stood before God representing the people, but he also stood before the people representing God. And so being a kingdom of priests, they were to be a special people who would represent God before the world. God is looking for people to represent Him. So in a priestly kind of a ministry, in representing God before the world, Israel was to be God's representative to the world. That was God's desire and intention for these people that they might represent Him to the world. "A kingdom of priests, a holy nation."
Now these are the words [God said] which you shall speak to the children of Israel. So Moses came and he called for the elders of the people, and he laid before their faces all these words which the Lord commanded him. And the people answered together, and said, All that the Lord hath spoken we will do. [What a rash promise.] And Moses returned the words of the people unto the Lord ( Exodus 19:6-8 ).
Now at this point Moses was a priest; that is, he was going before God speaking for the people, and then he was coming to the people and speaking for God. Christ has become our great High Priest. He represents us to the Father, and He represents the Father to us. He's our great High Priest. "So there is one mediator between God and man. The man Christ Jesus our great High Priest" ( 1 Timothy 2:5 ).
But Moses was the priest, and in the Old Testament this was always the purpose of the priest, to represent the people to God. To go unto God, speak for the people, and then come for the people, and speak for God. So here's Moses operating in that whole concept of priesthood. So he goes back to God and he says, "Hey, they said they'll buy it, everything you say, they'll do." "All that the Lord has spoken we will do."
And the Lord said unto Moses, Lo, I come to thee in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I spake with you, and believe you for ever. And Moses told the words of the people unto the Lord. And the Lord said unto Moses, Go unto the people, and sanctify them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their clothes ( Exodus 19:9-10 ),
Now the washing of their clothes was actually just a symbolic action. The people were to really cleanse themselves before God. The washing of their clothes being a symbolic action that spoke of just the setting of themselves, or the washing of themselves of their hearts, their minds, their lives. It means to sanctify, means to set apart for, for use. So here I'm called to people to sanctify themselves, and to wash their clothes.
And be ready against the third day: for the third day the Lord will come down in the sight of all of the people on mount Sinai ( Exodus 19:11 ).
"So let the people sanctify themselves, really wash themselves, get themselves pure and all, because the third day's gonna be a big day. I'm gonna come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of the people. Gonna be an awesome day."
And thou shalt set bounds unto the people round about, saying, Take heed to yourselves, that you go not up into the mount, or touch the border of it: whosoever touches the mount shall surely be put to death: And there shall not a hand touch it, but he shall surely be stoned, or shot through; whether it be beast or man, it shall not live: when the trumpet sounds long, they shall come up to the mount. And Moses went down from the mount unto the people, and he sanctified the people; and they washed their clothes. And he said unto the people, Be ready against the third day; and come not at your wives. [In other words they were to refrain from sexual relations. They were just really, set themselves aside for God, for these three days.] And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of a trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that were in the camp trembled ( Exodus 19:12-16 ).
Can you imagine what that must have been when, when God began to demonstrate Himself to these people in this way? That there came down there on Mount Sinai, this smoke, there was this blasting trumpet sound, and the fire rolling around, and the lightnings and the thunders and the thick clouds.
And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with God; and they stood at the nether part of the mount. [Or away from the mountain.] And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, while the mount shook greatly ( Exodus 19:17-18 ).
So the mount was shaking violently, the smoke was ascending like a furnace, and there was this great blast like a trumpet.
And when the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder, Moses spake, and God answered him by a voice. The Lord came down upon mount Sinai, on the top of the mount: and the Lord called Moses up to the top of the mount; and Moses went up. And the Lord said unto Moses, Go down, and charge the people, lest they break through unto the Lord to gaze, and many of them perish. And let the priests also, which come near to the Lord, sanctify themselves, lest the Lord break forth upon them ( Exodus 19:19-22 ).
Now verse twenty-two indicates that perhaps some of the priests thought, "Well we don't have to sanctify ourselves. That's the common people." Some of the priests apparently didn't sanctify themselves. And in the book of Hebrews we read where some of the priests on this day died. So Moses is told to tell the priests that they're not excluded from this.
A lot of times people think, "Well I'm so holy, you know, and I'm above the general rules. I'm some kind of-God makes some kind of a special concession for me." But such is not the case. Verse twenty-five of Hebrews twelve, "See that you reprove not him that speaks, for if they escape not Him who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape if we turn away from Him that speaks from heaven whose voice then shook the earth."
But now he is promising yet once more, "I'll shake not the earth only, but heaven." So in Hebrews referring to this, speaks of some who perished, so evidently some of the priests. "The priests also which come near to the Lord, let them sanctify themselves, lest the Lord break forth on them."
And Moses said unto the Lord, The people cannot come up to the mount Sinai: for the people charged us saying, Set bounds about the mount, and sanctify it. And the Lord said unto him, Away, get down, and you shall come up, you, and Aaron with you: but let not the priests or the people break through to come up to the Lord, lest he break forth upon them. So Moses went down unto them, and the people, and he spake unto them ( Exodus 19:23-25 ).
Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Exodus 19:1". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​csc/​exodus-19.html. 2014.
The Israelites arrived at the base of the mountain where God gave them the law about three months after they had left Egypt, in May-June (Exodus 19:1). The mountain in the Sinai range that most scholars have regarded as the mountain peak referred to in this chapter stands in the southeastern part of the Sinai Peninsula. Its name in Arabic is Jebel Musa, mountain of Moses. [Note: See Israel Finkelstein, "Raider of the Lost Mountain-An Israeli Looks at the Most Recent Attempt to Locate Mt. Sinai," Biblical Archaeology Review 15:4 (July-August 1988):46-50.] There is a natural slope to the land to the southeast of this peak, and another plain to the north, which would have afforded Israel a good view of the mountain if the people camped there. However the location of biblical Mt. Sinai continues to be uncertain. The nation stayed at Mt. Sinai 11 months (Numbers 10:11). The record of their experiences here continues through Numbers 10:10.
Many reliable scholars have considered Exodus 19:3-6 the very heart of the Pentateuch because they contain the classic expression of the nature and purpose of the theocratic covenant that God made with Israel, the Mosaic Covenant.
God gave the Mosaic Law specifically "to the house of Jacob . . . the sons of Israel" (Exodus 19:3). [Note: For an illustration of the confusion that failure to observe this fact can create in teaching on the Christian’s relationship to the Law, see Sakae Kubo, "Why then the Law?" Ministry (March 1980), pp. 12-14.]
"The image of the eagle [Exodus 19:4] is based on the fact that the eagle, when its offspring learns [sic] to fly, will catch them on its wings when they fall." [Note: Gispen, p. 179.]
"Without doubt Exodus 19:4-6 is the most theologically significant text in the book of Exodus, for it is the linchpin between the patriarchal promises of the sonship of Israel and the Sinaitic Covenant whereby Israel became the servant nation of Yahweh." [Note: Merrill, "A Theology . . .," p. 32. Cf. William J. Dumbrell, Covenant and Creation, pp. 80-81.]
God’s promise to Israel here (Exodus 19:5-6) went beyond what He had promised Abraham. If Israel would be obedient to God, He would do three things for the nation (cf. Joshua 24:15).
1. Israel would become God’s special treasure (Exodus 19:5). This means that Israel would enjoy a unique relationship with God compared with all other nations. This was not due to any special goodness in Israel but strictly to the sovereign choice of God.
2. Israel would become a kingdom of priests (Exodus 19:6). This is the first occurrence in Scripture of the word "kingdom" as referring to God’s rule through men on earth. A priest stands between God and people. Israel could become a nation of mediators standing between God and the other nations, responsible for bringing them to God and God to them. Israel would not be a kingdom run by politicians depending on strength and wit but by priests depending on faith in Yahweh: a servant nation rather than a ruling nation. [Note: Durham, p. 263.]
3. Israel would become a holy nation (Exodus 19:6). "Holy" means set apart and therefore different. The Israelites would become different from other peoples because they would devote themselves to God and separate from sin and defilement as they obeyed the law of God. In these notes I have capitalized "Law" when referring to the Pentateuch, the Law of Moses, or the Ten Commandments and have used the lowercase "law" for all other references to law.
In short, Israel could have become a testimony to the whole world of how glorious it can be to live under the government of God. The people experienced these blessings only partially because their obedience was partial. Israel’s disobedience to the Mosaic Covenant did not invalidate any of God’s promises to Abraham, however. Those promises did not rest on Israel’s obedience, as these did (cf. Genesis 15:17-21 and Exodus 19:5-6). [Note: See Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, "Israel and the Church," in Issues in Dispensationalism, pp. 113-15, for a good discussion of Israel’s national election and how this relates to the individual election of Israelites.]
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Exodus 19:1". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​dcc/​exodus-19.html. 2012.
In the third month, when the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt,.... Which was the month Sivan, and answers to part of May and part of June:
the same day came they into the wilderness of Sinai; which had its name from the mountain situated in it, and that from the bushes which grew upon it. Justin z calls it Synan, which he says Moses occupied, and Strabo a, Sinnan. Hither they came either on the same day they came from Rephidim; which, according to Bunting b, were eight miles from it, or on the same day of the month, as to number, that is, on the third day of the third month; and so Jerom c and others say it was on the forty seventh day after their coming out of Egypt, three days after which they received the law on Mount Sinai, it being a generally received notion that the law was given fifty days after the passover; hence the feast of weeks is called from thence the feast of pentecost, or fifty days: or rather this was the first day of the month, as Jarchi and R. Moses; with which agrees the Targum of Jonathan; and so was the forty fifth of their coming out of Egypt, five days after which they received the law; it being a tradition with the Jews, as Aben Ezra observes, that that was given on the sixth of Sivan, and may be accounted for thus; on the first day they came to Sinai, and encamped there, on the day following Moses went up to God, Exodus 19:3, on the third day Moses gathered the elders together, Exodus 19:7, and declared to them the words of God, and on the third day after that, which was the sixth, the law was delivered to them.
z E Trogo, l. 36. c. 2. a Geograph. l. 16. p. 520. b Travels, p. 82. c Epist. Fabiolae de 42 mansion. fol. 15. c. 1. tom. 3.
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
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Gill, John. "Commentary on Exodus 19:1". "Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​geb/​exodus-19.html. 1999.
|The Covenant of Sinai.||B. C. 1491.|
1 In the third month, when 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 from Rephidim, and were come to the desert of Sinai, and had pitched in the wilderness; and there Israel camped before the mount. 3 And Moses went up unto God, and the LORD called unto him out of the mountain, saying, Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel; 4 Ye 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: for all the earth is mine: 6 And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an 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 faces all these words which the LORD commanded him. 8 And all the people answered together, and said, All that the LORD hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the LORD.
Here is, I. The date of that great charter by which Israel was incorporated. 1. The time when it bears date (Exodus 19:1; Exodus 19:1)--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. In Egypt they had spoken of a three days' journey into the wilderness to the place of their sacrifice (Exodus 5:3; Exodus 5:3), but it proved to be almost a two months' journey; so often are we out in the calculation of times, and things prove longer in the doing than we expected. 2. The place whence it bears date--from Mount Sinai, a place which nature, not art, had made eminent and conspicuous, for it was the highest in all that range of mountains. Thus God put contempt upon cities, and palaces, and magnificent structures, setting up his pavilion on the top of a high mountain, in a waste and barren desert, there to carry on this treaty. It is called Sinai, from the multitude of thorny bushes that overspread it.
II. The charter itself. Moses was called up the mountain (on the top of which God had pitched his tent, and at the foot of which Israel had pitched theirs), and was employed as the mediator, or rather no more than the messenger of the covenant: Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel,Exodus 19:3; Exodus 19:3. Here the learned bishop Patrick observes that the people are called by the names both of Jacob and Israel, to remind them that those who had lately been as low as Jacob when he went to Padan-aram had now grown as great as God made him when he came thence (justly enriched with the spoils of him that had oppressed him) and was called Israel. Now observe, 1. That the maker, and first mover, of the covenant, is God himself. Nothing was said nor done by this stupid unthinking people themselves towards this settlement; no motion made, no petition put up for God's favour, but this blessed charter was granted ex mero motu--purely out of God's own good-will. Note, In all our dealings with God, free grace anticipates us with the blessings of goodness, and all our comfort is owing, not to our knowing God, but rather to our being known of him,Galatians 4:9. We love him, visit him, and covenant with him, because he first loved us, visited us, and covenanted with us. God is the Alpha, and therefore must be the Omega. 2. That the matter of the covenant is not only just and unexceptionable, and such as puts no hardship upon them, but kind and gracious, and such as gives them the greatest privileges and advantages imaginable. (1.) He reminds them of what he had done for them, Exodus 19:4; Exodus 19:4. He had righted them, and avenged them upon their persecutors and oppressors: "You have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, how many lives were sacrificed to Israel's honour and interests:" He had given them unparalleled instances of his favour to them, and his care of them: I bore you on eagles' wings, a high expression of the wonderful tenderness God had shown for them. It is explained, Deuteronomy 32:11; Deuteronomy 32:12. It denotes great speed. God not only came upon the wing for their deliverance (when the set time was come, he rode on a cherub, and did fly), but he hastened them out, as it were, upon the wing. He did it also with great ease, with the strength as well as with the swiftness of an eagle: those that faint not, nor are weary, are said to mount up with wings as eagles,Isaiah 40:31. Especially, it denotes God's particular care of them and affection to them. Even Egypt, that iron furnace, was the nest in which these young ones were hatched, where they 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. Other birds carry their young in their talons, but the eagle (they say) upon her wings, so that even those archers who shoot flying cannot hurt the young ones, unless they first shoot through the old one. Thus, in the Red Sea, the pillar of cloud and fire, the token of God's presence, interposed itself between the Israelites and their pursuers (lines of defence which could not be forced, a wall which could not be penetrated): yet this was not all; their way so paved, so guarded, was glorious, but their end much more so: I brought you unto myself. They were brought not only into a state of liberty and honour, but into covenant and communion with God. This, this was the glory of their deliverance, as it is of ours by Christ, that he died, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to 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. He appeals to themselves, and their own observation and experience, for the truth of what is here insisted on: You have seen what I did; so that they could not disbelieve God, unless they would first disbelieve their own eyes. They saw how all that was done was purely the Lord's doing. It was not they that reached towards God, but it was he that brought them to himself. Some have well observed that the Old-Testament church is said to be borne upon eagles' wings, denoting the power of that dispensation, which was carried on with a high hand an out-stretched arm; but the New-Testament church is said to be gathered by the Lord Jesus, as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings (Matthew 23:37), denoting the grace and compassion of that dispensation, and the admirable condescension and humiliation of the Redeemer. (2.) He tells them plainly what he expected and required from them in one word, obedience (Exodus 19:5; Exodus 19:5), that they should obey his voice indeed and keep his covenant. Being thus saved by him, that which he insisted upon was that they should be ruled by him. The reasonableness of this demand is, long after, pleaded with them, that in the day he brought them out of the land of Egypt this was the condition of the covenant, Obey my voice (Jeremiah 7:23); and this he is said to protest earnestly to them, Jeremiah 11:4; Jeremiah 11:7. Only obey indeed, not in profession and promise only, not in pretence, but in sincerity. God had shown them real favours, and therefore required real obedience. (3.) He assures them of the honour he would put upon them, and the kindness he would show them, in case they did thus keep his covenant (Exodus 19:5; Exodus 19:6): Then you shall be a peculiar treasure to me. He does not specify any one particular favour, as giving them the land of Canaan, or the like, but expresses 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. [1.] God here asserts his sovereignty over, and propriety in, the whole visible creation: All the earth is mine. Therefore he needed them not; he that had so vast a dominion was great enough, and happy enough, without concerning himself for so small a demesne as Israel was. All nations on the earth being his, he might choose which he pleased for his peculiar, and act in a way of sovereignty. [2.] He appropriates Israel to himself, First, As a people dear unto him. 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 does his treasure; they were precious in his sight and honourable (Isaiah 43:4); he set his love upon them (Deuteronomy 7:7), took them under his special care and protection, as a treasure that is kept under lock and key. He looked upon the rest of the world but as trash and lumber in comparison with them. By giving them divine revelation, instituted ordinances, and promises inclusive of eternal life, by sending his prophets among them, and pouring out his Spirit upon them, he distinguished them from, and dignified them above, all people. And this honour have all the saints; they are unto God a peculiar people (Titus 2:4), his when he makes up his jewels. Secondly, As a people devoted to him, to his honour and service (Exodus 19:6; Exodus 19:6), 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 (Psalms 148:14), so much employed in his immediate service, and such intimate communion they had with him. When they were first made a free people it was that they might sacrifice to the Lord their God, as priests; they were under God's immediate government, and 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 (Revelation 1:6), a chosen generation, a royal priesthood,1 Peter 2:9.
III. Israel's acceptance of this charter, and consent to the conditions of it. 1. Moses faithfully delivered God's message to them (Exodus 19:7; Exodus 19:7): He laid before their faces all those words; he not only explained to them what God had given him in charge, but he put it to their choice whether they would accept these promises upon these terms or no. His laying it to their faces denotes his laying it to their consciences. 2. They readily agreed to the covenant proposed. They would oblige themselves to obey the voice of God, and take it as a great favour to be made a kingdom of priests to him. They answered together as one man, nemine contradicente--without a dissentient voice (Exodus 19:8; Exodus 19:8): All that the Lord hath spoken we will do. Thus they strike the bargain, accepting the Lord to be to them a God, and giving up themselves to be to him a people. O that there had been such a heart in them! 3. Moses, as a mediator, returned the words of the people to God, Exodus 19:8; Exodus 19:8. Thus Christ, the Mediator between us and God, as a prophet reveals God's will to us, his precepts and promises, and then as a priest offers up to God our spiritual sacrifices, not only of prayer and praise, but of devout affections and pious resolutions, the work of his own Spirit in us. Thus he is that blessed days-man who lays his hand upon us both.
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Exodus 19:1". "Henry's Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​mhm/​exodus-19.html. 1706.
"In the third month, when the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, the same day came they into the wilderness of Sinai." Up to this point all the dealings of God have been the simple application and outflow of His own grace. This is all the more striking too, because even after the redemption of the people from Egypt there are grievous faults, unbelief, complaints, and murmurs; nevertheless, not a blow, not a single answer on God's part save in tender mercy towards a poor and failing people. All changes now.
The reason is manifest. They left the ground of the grace of God, which they had in no wise appreciated. Their conduct proved that His grace had not at all entered into their hearts. It was a perfectly righteous thing therefore that God should propose terms of law. Had He not done so, we should not have had duly raised the solemn question of man's competence to take the ground of his own fidelity before God. Not a soul that has been since brought to the knowledge of God but what at least ought to have profited in point of fact, must have profited by this grave lesson. It is true that God had taken every care to show His own mind about it. From the time that man fell, He presented grace as the only hope for a sinner. But man was insensible, and therefore, inasmuch as his heart was continually taking the place of self-righteousness, God's law put him thoroughly to the test. This accordingly was proposed. Had there been any true understanding of their own state in the sight of God they had confessed that, however righteous the obligation to render obedience to the law, they being unrighteous could only be proved guilty under such a proof. The test must have brought inevitable ruin. But they had no such thoughts of themselves, more than real knowledge of God.
Hence therefore, no sooner does God propose to them that they should obey His law as the condition of their blessing at His hands, than they at once accept the terms: "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: for all the earth is mine." The result soon appears in their ruin; but Jehovah shows that He knew from the first, before any result appeared, their inability to stand before Him: "Lo," says He to Moses, "I come unto thee in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with thee, and believe thee for ever." But in this chapter, and indeed in the next still more, the people entreat that God's voice should not speak to them any more.
Then (Exodus 20:1-26) are uttered those wonderful ten commandments which are the great centre of divine communications through Moses the fundamental expression of God's law. On this, being so thoroughly familiar to all, I of course do not enlarge. We know from our Lord Jesus its moral summary and essence the love of God, and the love of man. But it was presented here for the most part in a way that betrayed the condition of man not in positive precepts but in negative ones a most humbling proof of man's estate. He loved sin so well that God had to interdict it. In the greater part of the ten commandments, in short, it was not "Thou shalt," but "Thou shalt not." That is, it was a prohibition of man's will. He was a sinner, and nothing else.
A few words on the law may be well here. It may be looked at in its general and historical bearing, more abstractly as a moral test.
First, God was dealing with Israel in their responsibility as witnesses of Jehovah, the one true self-existing God, the almighty God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. His relationship was with them as they then were, redeemed from Egypt by His power and brought to Himself indeed, but only after an outward sort, neither born of God, nor justified. They were a people in the flesh. They had been wholly insensible to His ways of grace in leading them out of Egypt to Sinai. They lost sight of His promises to the fathers. They stood in their own strength to obey the law of God, as ignorant of their impotence or of His holy majesty. Accordingly we may regard the law as a whole, consisting not only of moral claims but of national institutes, ordinances, statutes, and judgment) under which Israel were put. These consequently were to form and regulate them as a people under His special government, God suiting them to their condition and in no way revealing His own nature as He afterwards did personally in the Word made flesh in the New Testament as a full display of His mind, and in the Christian individually or the church corporately as responsible to represent Christ, like Israel in relation to the tables of stone. (2 Corinthians 3:1-18) Hence we can understand the earthly, external, and temporal character of the legal economy. There were believers before it and all through; but this of course wholly distinct from Judaism. It was now a question of a nation, and not of individuals merely, thus governed of one nation in the midst of many which were to behold in it the consequences of fidelity or the lack of it toward the law of Jehovah. The Old Testament proves, and indeed the New Testament also, how utterly Israel failed, and what the consequences have been alike in the justice and in the grace of God.
But, secondly, the law is a test morally and individually. This always abides; for the law is lawful if a man use it lawfully. Christianity teaches its value instead of neutralising it. It is false that the law is dead. It is not thus that the believer, even if a Jew and therefore under law, was withdrawn from its condemning power. By the law he died to the law that he might live to God. He is crucified with Christ and nevertheless he lives, yet not himself but Christ in him. He underwent death to the law by the body of Christ that he should belong to another Him that was raised from the dead in order that we should bear fruit to God. But it is as far as possible from the truth that "the discipline of the law comes in to supply the deficiencies of the Spirit, and curb the still remaining tendencies to sin."* Such was no doubt the doctrine of those whom the apostle censures as wishing to be law-teachers, understanding neither what things they say nor whereof they stoutly affirm. It is not Christianity to talk of "deficiencies of the Spirit," any more than of "still remaining tendencies to sin;" still less to call in the discipline of the law to mend matters. Is it not known that for a righteous man (which assuredly the believer is) law is not in force, but for lawless and insubordinate, the ungodly and sinful. They that are of Christ Jesus crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts. It is a question of mortifying our members which are on earth, on the ground of our being dead, and of walking by the Spirit, even as we live by Him, and of those not in anywise fulfilling flesh's lust. Thus, if the law be the power of sin, grace is of holiness. Thanks be to God who gives us the victory by our Lord Jesus Christ.
* Dr. P. Fairbairn's Typology, ii. p. 190.
However, we find that God was pleased to give subsequently and separately, but yet in connection with the ten words, certain ordinances which concerned Israel in their worship.
All the people then saw the thunderings and the lightnings, and the voice of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking, and stood afar off, asking that not God but Moses should speak with them. He accordingly drew near into the thick darkness; for so God dealt with Israel as a people in the flesh. For the Christian it is not so. The veil is rent; and we walk in the light as He is in the light. Yet even then Jehovah, while warning against making gods of silver and gold, deigned to direct them to make to Him an altar of ground for burnt-offerings and peace-offerings: if of stone two prohibitions instruct His people. It must not be of hewn stone, as their work would profane it; neither must the Israelite go up by steps, as thereby his nakedness would be manifested. Grace covers through the expiation of Christ, as it flows in virtue of God's work and in maintaining God's order.
In the beginning ofExodus 21:1-36; Exodus 21:1-36 we find the type of the servant. There cannot be a more striking illustration of the truth that Christ is the continual object of the Holy Ghost than that, even in these temporary ordinances, God cannot refrain from looking onward to His Son. No doubt it was connected with the earth, and what was in itself anything but a condition suitable to the mind of God. It is the condition of a slave; nevertheless even there God has Christ before Him. If a Hebrew servant were bought, he was to serve for six years, in the seventh to go out free for nothing "If he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself: if he were married, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master have given him a wife, and she have borne him sons or daughters; the wife and her children shall be her master's, and he shall go out by himself. And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free: then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl; and he shall serve him for ever."
Such was the choice of Jesus not to be merely a servant here on the earth for a time He has chosen of His own gracious will to be servant for ever. No doubt He cannot but be a divine person, the Son, as He is also the exalted Lord; but He is nevertheless by His own grace the servant for ever. Even in glory we shall know Him thus. What is He doing now? He gave a sample of it before He went up on high. When the time was come, He took a basin of water and a towel, and washed His disciples' feet. What they knew not then, they were to know hereafter, as we know it now. Intimacy with what is unseen and heavenly is quite as much the portion of a Christian and even more characteristically so than the knowledge of what passes around us now. We ought to know heaven better than the earth. We may know and ought to judge what is passing in the world, though it be through an imperfect medium; but we know heaven and heavenly things from God. It is not merely as having the word that reveals heaven; but we know it from Him who comes from heaven and is above all, and testifies what He has seen and heard; we know it through the Holy Ghost who has come down from it, and hence should know it better than the earth, and the things of the world which ensnare the flesh. But looking onward to the day of glory that is coming, when the Lord will be publicly manifested, and we manifested with Him, changed into His glorious likeness, it might have been thought that surely His service will cease then. But not so: it will take a new shape. He is the servant of His own choice for ever. As He will never cease to be God, He will never cease to be man. In His love He is become a servant for ever; and He loves to be so.
After this follow the general institutions of the law, which mainly insist on retribution. Advantage must not be taken of the weak or subject; violence cannot go unpunished, any more than dishonour where we owe reverence; responsibility for what is allowed, were it but a mischievous brute; restitution must be made, and this double, fourfold, or even fivefold, according to the wrong; neither a witch nor an offender unnaturally could live; neither stranger nor widow nor orphan must be vexed or afflicted; neither poor must be burdened, nor judges reviled; but God is to be honoured with the first of the fruits, and of the sons, as well as of the cattle. Israel are to approve themselves as holy men to God. False report and testimony are forbidden, were a multitude to lead the way; as on the other hand there must be no partiality to the poor man's cause, nor a refusal to help an enemy, nor falsehood, nor bribery, nor oppression. The seventh year was to be enjoyed as the land's Sabbath, even as the seventh day by each Israelite, who must avoid naming false gods, but keep the due feasts thrice a year to the true God, not offering blood with leavened bread, nor letting the fat remain till the morning A prohibition occurs of a peculiar kind, and is repeated not only in a later part of this book, but also in Deuteronomy: "Thou shalt not seethe a kid in its mother's milk." God would guard His people from an outrage in comeliness, were it even about a dumb or dead animal; as Satan triumphs in all that is abnormal and unnatural in the superstitions which usurp the place of the truth, and are bound up with idolatry. His angel is promised, not only to keep and lead Israel, but to bring them in, spite of the doomed Canaanites, who should be driven out: they should have no covenant with them or their gods. (Exodus 21:1-36; Exodus 22:1-31; Exodus 23:1-33) These points do not call for particular remarks.
Along with them there is the greatest possible care for the maintenance of one true God an immense principle. No doubt the time was not yet come for God to reveal Himself as He is. Into that wondrous knowledge we are brought by the Son come down here below; and above all by the Holy Ghost, now that Christ is gone up on high For in point of fact, when God was only known as the one God, however true this may be, He could not really be known as He is. Now we do so know Him. We know Him better than even His earthly people will know Him by and by. The knowledge of Israel in the millennium will be genuine, for they shall be all taught of God. But there is now an intimacy of acquaintance with the God and Father of the Lord Jesus which none on earth can ever know as a Christian ought to know it. The reason is manifest; for the proper knowledge of the Christian is such knowledge as the Son, speaking according to His own communion with His Father, communicates to us.
Now the Lord Jesus will not be dealing then as Son, though then as evermore the Son of God. He will not undertake to unfold His Father's words to men in the millennium. He will reign as the great King King of kings and Lord of lords, but still as King. It would not be suitable to such a position that there should be undue familiarity. The very notion of a king and a kingdom puts the subjects at a greater distance. A certain reserve becomes requisite to majesty; whereas such considerations disappear in the nearness of relationship He is pleased to enter into with us. It is true He was born King of the Jews, and He never can cease to be really so; but it is not so that we know Him. The Son of the Father, He brings us into the knowledge of the true God as the Son knew Him in heaven, as the Son still of course knew Him on earth. And the Holy Ghost completes this wonderful circle of divine intimacy. If I may venture on such an expression without irreverence, it is the introducing us into the family circle of the heavens the Father made known in the Son by the Holy Ghost. This I maintain to be peculiar to Christianity in all its fulness. When God the Father shall have accomplished His present purpose here below, then will be caught up to meet the Lord those among whom the Spirit is thus making known God; and after that the ordinary dealings of God will resume their course through this world. No doubt all was advancing as regards the world; but that which was brought to us now was before the world, and altogether above the world in its own nature. How greatly blessed then is the Christian, and what the manner and measure of the worship and the walk which become those to whom grace has given such a knowledge of God!
At the end of these communications a call is given Moses to come up to Jehovah. (Exodus 24:1-18) "And he said unto Moses, Come up unto Jehovah, thou, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and worship ye afar off." There is distance, even though they are called to this place of distinction. "And Moses alone shall come near Jehovah, but they shall not come nigh, neither shall the people go up with him." And there the solemn compact into which Israel had passed is renewed. All the people answer when the words and judgments are pronounced, "All the words which Jehovah hath said will we do." They promise obedience, but it is obedience of the law. Now we must always bear in mind that, though in the Christian walking aright the righteousness of the law will surely be fulfilled, never has Christianity either a legal principle or a legal character: not a legal principle because it flows from the known grace of God to the soul; not a legal character because it is consistency with Christ risen from the dead, not merely with the Ten Command meets. But inasmuch as Christ differed from Moses, as grace differs from law; as that which suits God the Father known in heaven, though manifesting Himself upon earth, differs from a process of mere dealing with the first man according to righteous claim; so it is with the Christian man: while faithful to Christ, as he knows Him, he will never do anything which the law could possibly condemn. Against the fruits of the Spirit there is no law, as the apostle so emphatically says to the Galatians. But then the fruits of the Spirit can never be attained by the law; nor are they even contemplated by a legal measure.
In short therefore the children of Israel stood on the ground of man in the flesh; and man in the flesh, as he is a sinful being, can neither deny nor accomplish his obligation to do the will of God. As surely as God is, man's conscience bears witness to Him. If the true God deigns to give a law to man, it must be an unimpeachably wise and worthy law adapted to the condition of man, as far as a law possibly can be; and such is God's law holy, just, and good. But the difficulty is this, that man being a sinner is as far as possible from ability to meet God's law; for how indeed can there be any real stable bond between a bad man and a good law? There lay the insuperable difficulty once; but now grace perfectly meets it, and meets it in a way which evinces alike the goodness and the wisdom of God.
Law is essentially incapable of helping, because being only a claim on God's part, and a definition of His demands, it can only condemn him whose condition makes due obedience impossible. It is evident that law as such, first of all, has no object to present to man. It can press duty to God and man on pain of death, but it has no object to reveal. Secondly, it cannot give life; and this is another necessity of man. In addition to atonement, these are the two urgent wants of fallen humanity. Without life it is impossible for one to produce that which is according to God; and without a worthy object, nay without a divine object presented, there can be nothing to draw out divine affections. As divine life alone can have affections according to God, so a divine object alone can either act on those affections or minister to them. Now this is exactly what grace does in Christ. He who has wrought expiation for our sins is our life, and at the same time He is the object whom God has revealed to our faith. This shows the essential difference between law and grace, which last means God giving in Christ all that man really needs for His own glory.
Undoubtedly there is another measure of responsibility. A few words on this subject may not be amiss for any souls that have not adequately considered the matter, as there is hardly anything on which men are so much at fault as this question. Some seem on the very verge of denying it altogether, in their one-sided zeal for the grace of God; others who stand stoutly and so far well for the responsibility of man misuse this truth so as apparently to swamp God's grace. Scripture never sacrifices one truth to another. It is the peculiar property and glory of the word of God that it communicates not merely a truth here and there, but the truth; and this in the person of Christ. The Holy Ghost is the only power for rightly using, and applying, and enjoying the truth; and therefore He is called "the truth" no less than the Lord Jesus. He is the intrinsic power by which the truth is received into the heart, but Christ is the object. Where Christ is thus received in the Holy Ghost, a new kind of responsibility is created. The measure of it for the Christian is based on the fact that he possesses life, and that he has Christ Himself, the object which shows him the position in which he stands, and consequently the character of the relationship that attaches to him. His relationship is that of a son, not merely of one adopted into that place with no more reality than he obtains in human things. We are adopted sons; but then we are more than that. We are children, members of the family of God. That is, we are children as having God's own nature. We are born of God, and not merely adopted as if we were strangers to Him. Every Christian has a nature that is intrinsically divine, as we are told in 2 Peter 1:1-21.
Thus, it is plain, nothing can be more complete. We have a nature which answers morally to God whom we imitate as well as obey in light and love, in holy and righteous ways, in mercy, truthfulness, and humility. We have the position of sons, a relationship which the Lord Jesus had in all its perfection, and in an infinitely higher sense, in which no creature can share it along with Him. Still Christ does bring us into His own relationship as far as it is possible for the creature to possess it. Hence, as duty is ever measured by responsibility, that of the Christian is according to the place in which grace has put him. It is certain therefore that all the common-places about the law as the rule of the Christian's life are practically a denial of what Christianity is. Those who reason from Israel to us, without intending it, ignore the relationship of the Christian, and set aside the bearing of redemption on our walk: so serious is that error which to many seems a pious thought, and I am sure taken up by them with the desire of honouring God and His will. But sincerity will not serve in lieu of His word; and our own thoughts and desires can never be trusted as a standard of principle or of practice. God has revealed His mind, and to this, if wise, we must needs be subject. In divine things there is nothing like simplicity; by it we enjoy a wisdom far higher than our own and real power to strengthen and guide the heart.
In Israel's case it was not so. First of all they promised obedience; but it was the obedience of the law. Secondly, when the blood of the victims was shed, it was sprinkled on the book as well as on the people (verses 7, 8). What was the meaning of the blood? Not atonement. The prime idea in blood seems always to be the life given up, i.e., death, in acknowledgment of the guilt of the one concerned. This is true, no doubt; but unless it goes farther than this, it is a declarative sanction of God's punishing in case of failure to meet His demands. The grace of God applies the blood of Christ in a totally different way; and this is what is referred to in1 Peter 1:2; 1 Peter 1:2. He describes the Christian in terms which at once recallExodus 24:1-18; Exodus 24:1-18. He says that we are elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father through sanctification of the Spirit unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus. The Israelites were elect as a nation according to the sovereign call of Jehovah the known God of their fathers. Ignorant of God as well as of themselves, they dared to take their stand on His law. Accordingly they were severed by the ordinance of circumcision and other rites. They were sanctified from the nations by this fleshly separation to obey the law under its solemn and extreme penalty. The blood threatened death on every one who transgressed. The Christian position is altogether different: we are elect as children "according to the foreknowledge of God the Father through sanctification of the Spirit," meaning by this the separating power of the Holy Ghost from the very first moment of our conversion. This vital separation to God, and not practical holiness, is what is here called sanctification of the Spirit the most fundamental meaning of it indeed anywhere. But practical sanctification there is, and amply insisted on elsewhere; but it is not the point here, and if we attempt to bring practical sanctification into this verse, we destroy the gospel of grace. Nobody doubts the good intentions of such as interpret it thus; but these are not enough with the word of God.
We must take care that we receive the sense which God intends, otherwise we may err seriously, to His dishonour and to our own hurt and that of others. Let us then bow to God instead of forcing our own meaning on scripture. What for instance would be the meaning of our being practically sanctified to obedience as well as to have the blood of Jesus sprinkled upon us? It simply proves that he who expounds unwittingly sets aside the gospel. Practical sanctification for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus! What do people mean by restricting themselves to a sense of sanctification which necessarily involves in it so portentous a conclusion? Evidently the language of the Spirit of God is as unambiguous, and the construction as plain and simple as possible.
Take a case in illustration. A man hitherto has been altogether indifferent to the word of God. He hears it now; he receives Jesus as the gift of God's love with all simplicity. Perhaps he has not peace at once, but at any rate he is thoroughly arrested; he desires earnestly to know the gospel from the very first. If the Spirit of God has thus wrought in him, he is separated to God from what he was. This is here called "sanctification of the Spirit." For, as we said, the sanctification is "to obedience;" and this is the very first desire implanted in a soul from the moment that there is a real divine work in him. Such an one may be very ignorant, no doubt; but at any rate his heart is made up to obey the Lord his desire is Godward. It is not a merely legal way of escaping the dreadful doom that he sees is the just portion of those that despise God. The truth has touched his conscience by grace, and God's mercy, however dimly seen, is enough to attract his heart to obey. Thus he is sanctified by the Spirit unto the obedience and the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus. He would now obey, because he has the new nature through receiving the name of the Lord Jesus, and would enter into the grace of God that sprinkles the guilty with the blood of Jesus. He would obey like Jesus, not under compulsion like a Jew, and is sprinkled with His blood in remission for his sins, instead of having the blood sprinkled on him as a menace of death in case of disobeying the law. The Christian loves to obey, and is already forgiven through faith of Jesus and His blood. This I believe to be the true meaning of the passage, and especially of the term "sanctification of the Spirit" here; though it is frankly and fully allowed that this is not the only meaning of "sanctification" in scripture.
The sanctification here in question then applies from the start of an effectual inward work even before a soul knows pardon and peace, but there is also room for the practical power of the Holy Ghost in subsequent work in heart and conscience severing us more and more by the truth to the Lord. The latter is practical sanctification, admits of degrees, and is thus relative. But in every soul there is the absolute separation of the Holy Spirit from conversion. Thus there are plainly two distinct senses of sanctification: one absolute, in which a man is severed once for all from the world to God; the other relative, as being practical and hence differing in measure in the after career of each Christian. "But ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God." Here it seems in substance the same thing as in 1 Peter 1:2. "Sanctified" in this sense is clearly before justification; and so the apostle puts it. It is of no use to decry the plain meaning of the scripture because the Romanist theologian perverts the fact more fatally than the Protestant. If the Spirit of God here puts "sanctified" before "justified," our plain duty is to learn what is meant, not to wrest His word because of Popish misuse of it a misuse due largely to the common ignorance of the primary force of sanctification. Why should souls be driven from the truth by prejudice or clamour? It is not to be allowed that God's word makes mistakes: man does, but is it with the Spirit of God? Does not He mean what He says? When He says they were washed, He is referring to the water of the word used by the Spirit of God to deal with man. This looks more at evil; "sanctified" to the good which attracted the heart now. But these are not the only things. "Justified" is not when the prodigal son returns to his father, but when the best robe is put upon him; then he is, according to1 Corinthians 6:1-20; 1 Corinthians 6:1-20, not washed and sanctified alone but "justified." It is the application of the full power of the work of the Lord Jesus. It is not always immediate on conversion It may be, and, if you please, ought to be, soon; but still it is far from being always so; and in fact there is and perhaps must be always an interval more or less before comfort or peace is enjoyed. It may be ever so minute, but there is habitually a dealing of Christ between the touch that stays the issue and the word which declares with no less authority than love, "Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace." Very often it is not so little a while, as many of us know to our cost. But it remains always true that there is this difference. And it seems well to remark it, because it is of considerable practical and also doctrinal importance, contrasting as it does the place of the Christian with that of the Jew. The tendency of some to insist on the whole in an instant is a reaction from the popular unbelief, which, if it allow peace at all, allows it as a matter of slow, laborious and uncertain attainment. But we must not be driven into any error, even the least to avoid the greatest; and it is certainly an error to swamp in one all the ways of God with the soul.
In the latter part of the chapter we have clearly the legal glory. This does not take them out of their condition of flesh and blood and all that pertains to it. It is in no way the glory which is the hope of the Christian.
Exodus 25:1-40 introduces us to a new order of figures, not only earthly ordinances, but that which appertains to the tabernacle. Undoubtedly in itself it composed a worldly tabernacle; but this does not hinder these figures from typifying what was to be for the most part of a heavenly character.
After the call to the people to bring their offerings, we find the use to which they were to be applied First and foremost stands the centre of Levitical worship the ark. We must remember that they are but shadows, and not the very image of the thing. In none of these types can one find the full truth of Christ and of His work. They are only a faint and partial adumbration of the infinite reality, and could not possibly be more. Hence they have the imperfection of a shadow. In fact we could not have the full image till Christ appeared and died on the cross and went to heaven. As Christ is the true and perfect image of God, so is He the expression of all that is good and holy in man. Where will one find what man should be but in Christ? Where the faultless picture of a servant but in Him? And so one might go through every quality and every office, and find them only in perfection in our Lord Jesus. There indeed is the truth. The legal ordinances and institutes were but shadows; still they were types distinctly constituted; and we should learn by them all.
In these shadows* we may see two very different characters or classes, we may say, into which they are divisible. The first and foundation of all the rest is this: God would disclose Himself in some of them to man, as far as this was possible then; secondly, founded on that and growing out of it, man would be taught to draw near to God. Impossible for such access to exist and be enjoyed till God had drawn near to man and shown us what He is to man. We can see therefore the moral propriety and beauty of this distinction, which at once separates the shadows of the latter part of Exodus into two main sections. The ark, the golden table, the golden candlestick, the tabernacle with its curtains, the veil, the brazen altar, and the court, form the first division of the types, the common object of them all being the display of God in Christ to man.
*Dr. Fairbairn's "Typology" is here, as in general, poverty itself. He considers that distinct meanings to be attached to the materials, colours, etc., can have no solid foundation, and are " here out of place"! Even the force of the silver redemption-money he thinks disproved by the fact that the sockets of the door were made of brass. This is the way to lose all but a minimum of truth.
Of these the highest is the ark. It was the seat of Divine Majesty in Israel; and as all know (and most significant it is), the mercy-seat was pre-eminently that throne of God the mercy-seat which afterwards we see with blood sprinkled on it and before it the mercy-seat which concealed the law destructive to the pretensions of man, but maintained it in the place of highest honour, though hidden from human view. Was this nothing? Was there not comfort for any heart which confides in God, that He should take such a seat as this, and give it such a name, in relationship with a guilty people on the earth?
Next came the table,* and upon it a defined supply of bread. For what was presented there? One loaf? No such carnal thought entered as if God had need of bread from man. The bread that was set on the golden table consisted of twelve loaves in evident correspondence with the twelve tribes of Israel, but this assuredly in connection with Christ, for He is ever the object of God's counsels. It is God displaying Himself in Christ; but those who had this connection with Christ were Israel. Of them He came, and He deigned to have the memorial of them on this table before God.
*Dr. Fairbairn views Christ's whole undertaking as symbolized already in the furniture and services of the Most Holy Place, and therefore considers the things belonging to the Holy Place as directly referring only to the works and services of His people. The consequence of such a division is indeed lowering in the extreme.
In the candlestick another truth comes before us. It is not God who thus deals with humanity, of which Israel was the chosen specimen, and the one remembered before Him; but in the seven candlesticks, or rather the candelabrum with its seven lights, we clearly see the type of Christ as the power and giver of the Holy Ghost in testimony for God. This is in connection with God's sanctuary and presence. Now, in all these things it is the display of what God is to man; God Himself in His own sole majesty in the ark, God Himself associated with man, with Israel, in the show-bread, God Himself with this light of the sanctuary or the power of the Spirit of God.
All this was plain, but in the tabernacle we have more than this. (Exodus 26:1-37) Christ is set forth in various ways by the curtains Christ in His human purity and righteousness Christ in what was heavenly Christ in His glory whether Jewish or extending over Gentiles also, with His judicial title asserted. The goats' hair would seem to speak of Christ in His prophetic separateness; the rams' skins dyed red point to His absolute consecration to God; as the power which kept out all evil would appear to be meant by the badgers' or tachach skins, which covered the tent above. The reference is to the fine linen and blue, etc., with the various coverings of goats' hair and badger skins. All these, I have no doubt, have their own proper significance, as manifesting the character of Christ here below.
Next (versesExodus 26:15-30; Exodus 26:15-30) follows the account of the acacia boards with their tenons and bolts, the sockets of silver and the rings of gold.
Then we have the veil and screen. Now we know what these mean. Scripture is positive that the veil is His flesh, but then it is as manifesting the Lord as man here below. As long as this was the case only, man could not come to God. When the veil was rent (namely, by Christ dying as a man), man could go into the presence of God, at least the believer. I do not mean man as man, but that there was no bar to man. The way was now open into the presence of God.
In the brazen altar it is the same side of truth, but there is this characteristic difference. (Exodus 27:1-21) Not less than the ark, the golden throne of God in the most holy place, it shows us God's righteousness; but with this difference between them that gold is the righteousness of God for drawing near where God is; brass is the righteousness of God for dealing with man's evil where man is. Such is the line which divides them. It is the display of God in both cases the one in the presence of God where He manifests Himself; the other in dealing with man and his wants in this world. Hence we find, for instance, the righteousness of God in Romans. If we consider with any care Romans 3:1-31, it is the righteousness of God presented to man as a sinful being in this world. But if I look at the passage where it is said, "He made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him," it is evident that we are brought into the very presence of God. Thus 2 Corinthians 5:1-21 corresponds with the ark rather than the brazen altar. Everything has its beautiful and perfect answer in the word of God; but then all is useless to the soul, except just so far as one sees and receives the Lord Jesus Christ.
Next, from the latter part ofExodus 27:1-21; Exodus 27:1-21 we have a change evident, and of more weight.
The last two verses are, I think, transitional. They prepare the way for types which, instead of displaying God in Christ to man, set forth rather man drawing near by the appointed channel to God. They are occupied with the provision of light where God manifested Himself, and in order to the due service of those who entered the sanctuary. "And thou shalt command the children of Israel, that they bring thee pure oil olive beaten for the light, to cause the lamp to burn always." It may be added here, as some have found an apparent inconsistency in comparing the passage with 1 Samuel 3:3, that the Hebrew means not "always" in the absolute sense, but continually or constantly. It was from evening to morning" and of course uninterruptedly for that time. "In the tabernacle of the congregation without the veil, which is before the testimony, Aaron and his sons shall order it from evening to morning before Jehovah." This is greatly confirmed by what follows.
In Exodus 28:1-43; Exodus 29:1-46 is given the prescribed ceremonial in consecrating the priesthood. And what was the object of the priesthood? Clearly it was for drawing near to God. This is the new division brought in and what might seem at first sight a notable irregularity, as has been observed before, is simply an effect of the perfect arrangement of God's mind. Doubtless to a superficial glance it appears somewhat unaccountable, in the midst of describing the various parts of the sanctuary, to interrupt the course of it by dragging into the very midst of it the consecration of Aaron and his sons. But if there be two separate objects in these types first, God displaying Himself to man; and, secondly, man in consequence drawing near to God the way of all is clear. The priesthood undeniably consisted of that class of persons who had the privilege and duty of going into the sanctuary on behalf of the people. And the vessels of the sanctuary described after the priesthood are those which preserve the same common character of presenting the service due to God approached in His sanctuary. Now, let me ask, what mind of man could ever have thought of a decision so excellent, though surely far below the surface? As the foolishness of God, says the apostle, is wiser than man, so (may we not say?) the seeming disorder of God is incomparably more orderly than man's best order.
Thus it will always be found in the long run. We may have absolute confidence in the word of God. Our only business is to learn what He is, what He says, and, more than that, to confide in Him; and when we do not know what He means, always to take the ground of faith against all adversaries. We may be ignorant, and unable to expose them; but we may rest perfectly sure that God is never wrong and man ever untrustworthy. The habitual means whereby God gives proof that He is right, graciously enabling us to understand is by His word. There is no other means of knowing the mind of God; the power for understanding is the Spirit of God; and the object in whose light alone it can be understood is Christ. But the written word of God is the sole instrumental means and the revelation of it all.
Then, after the priesthood has been fully brought before us, we have the various portions of their dress. A few words will suffice here before passing on. A remarkable provision is that the ephod of the high priest, which was the most important part of his costume, had the names of the children of Israel twice over. One inscription was in the shoulder-pieces. There were the names in a general way six on one shoulder, six on the other. Besides this their names were written on the breastplate. There the names were all found together on his heart. He who cannot appreciate the blessedness of such a place, with the great high priest bearing up thus the names of God's people before God, must be very insensible to the highest favours. But God, who showed how He would continually remember those He loved, and who could not have a high priest without having their names in honour and love before Him that blessed God has given us much more. He ordered that there should be the Urim and the Thummim connected with the high priest's breastplate; that is the means of divine guidance for the people. The Christian has it also, and in a far better way. The Jew had it after this outward sort, all being comparatively external in Israel. We have it intrinsically by the Holy Ghost Himself. It is in vain for any person to pretend that it was better to have the Urim and Thummim, for which one had to seek the priest from time to time when wanted, than to be indwelt always by One who knows all the truth. May Christians believe and use for God the portion each has in Christ!
But besides, when the high priest went into Jehovah's presence, there was the sounding of the bells between the pomegranates of blue, and purple, and scarlet on the skirts of his garment. Such is the effect, it is to be observed, "when he goeth in" and "when he cometh out." Under this falls the Christian testimony now, as the result of the entrance of Christ into heavenly places; and under this will fall the future fruit-bearing portion and testimony of Israel in the day when Christ will appear in glory from the heavens. The bells give their sound when the high priest goes in and when he comes out. When Christ went into the presence of God, what a mighty effect did not the Spirit produce! The church comes under that now. When Christ returns the Spirit will be poured out once more on all flesh, and Israel will be brought into the blessed position of bearing fruit in testimony for God. But, again, Aaron with the golden plate (engraved "Holiness to Jehovah") always on his forehead, bears the iniquity of Israel's holy things that they may be accepted; an important consideration, especially when we know the seriousness and the facility of iniquity therein. Is it not true that there is scarce anything in which we feel more the need of gracious care than in the holy things of God? We know His tender mercy in the smallest matters; but in that which so nearly concerns His honour, it is indeed a truly merciful provision that the Great High Priest bears the iniquity of holy things, where other wise defilement would be fatal. The coat of fine linen embroidered means personal righteousness in ways, set off with every beauty of grace. Aaron's sons were to have coats, priests' girdles, and bonnets for glory and for beauty. It is Christ put on us. Then follows the ritual required in the act of consecrating Aaron and his sons.
In the hallowing of the priestly family the following points are observable. First, they were all washed in the water, Aaron and his sons. "He who sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one." Christ is essentially apart from sin and sinners; we by grace are set apart. Further, our Lord says, "For their sakes I sanctify myself ( i.e. on high), that they also might be sanctified by the truth." Then Aaron is duly clothed; as in the priestly character Christ appears before God for us. Then the high priest alone was anointed; as we know Christ could be and was sealed of God the Father without blood, the Spirit thus attesting both the absolute purity of His person and the truth of His Sonship as man. Aaron's sons were then clothed, and girded for priestly work. The blood of the bullock for a sin-offering was put on the horns of the altar; the blood of one ram for a burnt-offering was sprinkled round about upon the altar; and the blood of the other ram for consecration was put on Aaron's right ear, and that of his sons, on their right thumb and right great toe. It was necessarily so with the high priest taken from among men, after the witness already given to Christ's exceptional place. So Christ entered by His own blood entered in once for all into the holies, having obtained eternal redemption that we might have a common place with Him by blood and in the Spirit's power. Grace binds us with Christ as Aaron with his sons. As no sacrifice was absent here, so we enjoy all the value of Christ and His work.
But after the form of hallowing the priests, the Spirit prescribes in the end of Exodus 39:1-43 (ver. Exodus 39:38-43) the sacrifice of the daily lambs which presented the continual acceptance of the people of God, with the renewed and most express assurance of His dwelling among them. Exodus 30:1-38; Exodus 30:1-38 resumes the account, for a reason already explained, of the various vessels of the sanctuary which had to follow the priesthood, and pursue the truth meant by it, namely, the means of access to God.
Among the vessels of the sanctuary the altar of incense stands first (versesExodus 30:1-10; Exodus 30:1-10). Who does not know that this was to secure the people always being acceptable before God! It is the type of Christ interceding for us, and along with this the high priest's work that the manifestation of the Spirit be not hindered.
In verses 11-16 is introduced the ransom money of the people, rich and poor alike, as an offering to Jehovah, their atonement money for the service of the sanctuary (for this is the great point here), the link of all with the priests who actually entered on their behalf.
But there was another requisite next set forth. The brazen laver judged sin by the word of God, just as the brazen altar judged it sacrificially. We need "the washing of regeneration" and generally the washing of water by the word. This follows here. The former in its scriptural usage is not merely, I apprehend, that we are born of God, but goes beyond new birth. It is the putting the believer into an entirely new place before God, which is a different thought from his receiving a new nature. As being a position, it may have so far a more external sound, but it is a real deliverance, which grace now confers on us in Christ Jesus, not merely the communication of a life which hates sin, but the putting one according to the new place of Christ Himself before God. With this goes also the action of the Spirit of God in dealing with us day by day according to such a beginning. This we need, the application of the word of God by the Spirit to deal with every kind of impurity. Just as in the type the priests had not only to be washed completely in the laver in order to be consecrated; but whenever they entered into the presence of God, they washed their hands and feet. We have what answers to it. Let us not forget it.
Then we have the holy anointing oil, which also had to do with fitting the priests for drawing near to God. It was the power of the Spirit. It was not merely a new nature or a new position, but it was a corresponding power of the Spirit of God. For the bare possession of a new nature or place would not enable us to do the will of God. It would make us feel what ought to be done, but gives not of itself the power to do it. The Spirit given to the Christian is of power, love, and a sound mind. A new nature finds its great characteristic in dependence in weakness, or sense of weakness certainly; but the Holy Ghost gives the consciousness of power, though no doubt exercised in dependence. The new nature accordingly has right affections and gracious desires; but there is power in the Spirit through Christ Jesus. God "hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."
The last of these types is the holy perfume. Here it seems to be not so much what we have by Christ, but that fragrance in Christ Himself of which God alone is the adequate judge, and which rises up before Him in all its perfection. How blessed for us! It is for us, but it is only in Him before God.
In Exodus 31:1-18 we have all this closed with two facts the Spirit of God empowering man to make a tabernacle according to the pattern, and the Sabbath-day connected with the order of the tabernacle. It has been remarked by another, and it is perfectly true, that in this book when we meet with any dealing of God, of whatever kind it may be, the Sabbath-day is always introduced. For instance, in the earlier half of Exodus, where we have God's dealings in grace, the Sabbath-day is brought in, marked out by the bread God provided for His people, the manna the figure of Christ come down from heaven to be the food of the hungry on earth: then followed the Sabbath at once. Next, when the law was given, in the very centre of its requirements stands the Sabbath-day. Again, in these various figures or institutions of good things to come, the Sabbath re-appears. Thus it is evident that, no matter what the subject may be, the Sabbath has always a place assigned to it. God therefore makes much of the sign. The reason is that He would impress on His people that all His dealings, varied as they may be, are intended to keep before their minds that rest to which He was steadily working, and into which He means to bring His own in due time. Therefore whatever the work introduced meanwhile whether of grace, as the effectual working of God, or whether of law as proving the inefficiency of man He always holds out His rest, to which He would also direct the eyes of all who love Him.
Exodus 32:1-35 reveals a sad interruption after the wonderful communications of God to His servant. Here at least the people are at their work earnestly at work in dishonouring God striking at the very foundation of His truth and honour to their own shame and ruin. Poor people! the objects of such countless favours, and of such signal honour on God's part. They, with Aaron to help them, aimed a blow at the throne of God by making a golden calf. It is needless to linger on the scene of the rebellion. Jehovah directs the attention of Moses to the camp, saying, "I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiff-necked people. Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them; and I will make of thee a great nation." He wanted to prove and manifest the heart of His servant. He loved the people Himself, and delighted in Moses' love for them. If the people were under the test of law, Moses was under the test of grace.
"And Moses besought Jehovah his God and said, Jehovah, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people, which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand? Wherefore should the Egyptians speak and say, For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth? Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and [not merely Jacob, but] Israel, thy servants, to whom thou swarest by thine own self, and saidst unto them, I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of will I give unto your seed, and they shall inherit it for ever."
See the ground Moses took the unqualified promises of God's mercy, the grace assured to the fathers Impossible for Jehovah to set aside such a plea Nevertheless Moses comes down with the two tables in his hand, the work of God. He hears the noise, which Joshua could not so well understand, but which his own keener and more practised ear fails not to interpret aright; and as soon as he came near, and saw the confirmation of his fears the calf and the dancing his "anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount. And he took the calf which they had made, and burnt it in the fire, and ground it to powder, and strewed it upon the water, and made the children of Israel drink of it."
At once we find him reproaching Aaron, the most responsible man there, who makes a sorry excuse, not without sin. But Moses took his stand in the gate and said, "Who is on Jehovah's side? Let him come unto me." Thus he who rejected every overture for his own advancement at the expense of the people now arms the Levites against their brethren. "And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses; and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men." Yet we know on the best authority that Moses loved the people as not another soul in the camp did. There is hardly a subject on which men are so apt to make mistakes as the true nature and application of love. Moses loved Israel with a love stronger than death; yet he who thus loved them showed unsparingly his horror of the leprosy that had broken out among them. He felt that such evil must at all cost be rooted out, and banished from amongst them. But the same Moses returns to Jehovah with the confession "Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold. Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin -; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written."
Jehovah however stands to His own ways, and says to Moses, "Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book. Therefore now go, lead the people unto the place of which I have spoken unto thee: behold, mine angel shall go before thee: nevertheless in the day when I visit I will visit their sin upon them. And Jehovah plagued the people, because they made the calf, which Aaron made." Nevertheless Moses persists in his plea with Jehovah, who does not fail to try him to the utmost by adopting the language of the people. They had denied God, and attributed their deliverance merely to Moses: so Jehovah takes up these very words, and says, "Depart and go up hence, thou and the people which thou hast brought up out of the land of Egypt, unto the land which I sware unto Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, Unto thy seed will I give it." He reproaches them once more with being a stiff-necked people; He will not go up in the midst of them, lest He should consume them in the way. The people thereon mourn; and Moses has recourse to a remarkable act. He takes and pitches the tabernacle, it is said, "without the camp, afar off from the camp, and called it the Tabernacle of the Congregation." After this follow two things worthy of all heed, a nearness of communication between Jehovah and His servant never enjoyed before, and more than that, a blessing secured to the people never vouchsafed before.
From this moment a new plea is urged: the faultiness of the people is used as a reason why God should go up the very reason which righteousness made a ground for refusing to go with them, lest His anger should burn against such a stiff-necked people. But, argues Moses, for this very reason, we most of all want Jehovah's presence. Astonishing is the boldness of faith; but then its pleading is grounded on the known grace of God Himself. Moses was near enough to God in the tabernacle, outside the camp, to get a better view of His grace than he ever enjoyed before. And so it always is No doubt there was large and rich blessing and of the most unexpected kind when God sent down the Holy Spirit here below, and His church was first seen. But is it a fact that the church at Jerusalem had the deepest enjoyment of God in apostolic times? This, one may be permitted to question. I grant you that, looking at the Pentecostal saints, in them we see the most powerful united testimony that ever was borne in this world; but it was borne in what was comparatively not the severest trial in earthly things chiefly, the superiority of those who had been newly created in Christ to the wretched selfishness of human nature. But is that the highest form of blessedness? Is that the way in which Christ was most glorified?
When the earliest phase of things passed away when not merely there was the unbelief of the Jewish people but the unworthy sights and sounds which Satan introduced among that fair company God, always equal to the occasion, acts in the supremacy of His own grace, and brings out a deeper understanding of His truth more difficult to appreciate; not striking the people of the world perhaps in the same way, but that which I think has a more intimate character of communion with Christ Himself than anything that was found before. It will scarcely be affirmed that what we discern in the church, while limited to the circumcision, had the same depth and heavenly character stamped upon it, as what was found when the full grace of God broke all barriers and flowed freely among the Gentiles. It is in vain to argue that the fruit of the teaching of Peter or of James had the same power with it as the fruit of Paul not very long after, or of John latest of all. I grant you this that, looked at as a whole, distressing failure was setting in just as it was here; yet as here the very failure isolated the truehearted, but isolated them not in want of love but in the strongest possible manifestation of divine charity and sense of God's glory. Assuredly Moses in the tabernacle outside had not less love for the people, nor more loyalty to God, than within the borders of Sinai when the ten commandments were uttered.
In the scene which follows we have the magnificent pleading of Moses still more touchingly, and, I am persuaded, in advance on what went before. This is not the time to enter into details; but hear what Moses says to Jehovah now: "See, thou sayest unto me, Bring up this people: and thou hast not let me know whom thou wilt send with me. Yet thou hast said, I know thee by name, and thou hast also found grace in my sight." What can be more lovely, more according to Christ, than this? He uses all the personal confidence that God had in him on behalf of the people. That is the bearing of it all. "Now therefore, I pray thee, if I have found grace in thy sight, show me now thy way, that I may know thee, that I may find grace in thy sight: and consider that this nation is thine." He will not give up his love and desire for Israel. God may treat them as the people of Moses, and say, "They are the people you have brought up: they are your people." "Oh no," says Moses, "they are Thine; and Thou art their only hope." He will not be put off. Jehovah loves to surrender to Moses, as of old to Jacob with far feebler forces. Faith, hope, and charity abounded in the mediator; and if the people were to be blessed, from God he drew on every spring of the blessing for His own glory. Mark the answer of Jehovah: "And he said, My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest. And he said unto him, If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence." Moses wanted` nothing apart from the people; even if he went out of the camp, it was to gather so much more of blessing for the people that he had left behind. "And Jehovah said unto Moses, I will do this thing also that thou has spoken: for thou hast found grace in my sight, and I know thee by thy name." He asked to see His glory. This was impossible yet. It awaited the coming of a greater than Moses. But at any rate His goodness is caused to pass before him, which in Exodus 34:1-35 he sees.
But here we must take care. It is a great mistake to suppose that the proclamation of divine goodness in this scene is the gospel. They greatly err who in this sense quote "Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin," and stop there. God does not stop here. He immediately adds, "and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation." There is no doubt that it is the goodness and mercy of God; but it is to a people still under the government of the law. This is the peculiarity. What we find here then is not law pure and simple, but law with mercy and goodness and long-suffering in the government of God His condescending love and patience mingled along with law. Hence we see its character and the reason why it appears here. Without it the guilty people never could have been spared, but must have perished root and branch, as it was in consequence of this change that a new generation of the people of Israel entered into the land at all. Had He dealt on the ground of pure law, how could it have been? They were guilty, and must have been cut off.
Now this mingling of grace with the law is the kind of system which Christians have accepted as Christianity. No real believer ever takes the ground of pure law. They take a mingled system; they mix up law and grace together. This is what is going on every day now in Christendom. It was the state in which the children of Israel were put here, and was a very great mercy for them in a certain sense. It is no less a misfortune for the Christian, because what those in Christ are called to is neither law, nor the mingled system of law interspersed with the gracious care of those under it (who must have been consumed had law reigned alone), but pure grace in Christ without the law. At the same time the righteousness of the law is fulfilled so much the more in those that "walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit."
In answer to Moses who advances in his demands, yet withal no less suiting them to the divine glory than to the people's wants according to the light then vouchsafed, God makes a covenant different from what went before. (Exodus 34:10) Moses had prayed Him as Adonai to "go among us; for it is a stiff-necked people; and pardon our sin, and take us for thine inheritance." Thus he avails himself of the special affection God had shown him to put himself with the people, and to secure God's presence going with the people, who otherwise could never enter the land. It was bold faith, working in unfeigned love of the people, and with a deep sense of what God is spite of all demerits; yet its highest petition is based on revealed grace, and is therefore the very reverse of human presumption.
The Lord accordingly hearkens in grace, and undertakes for Israel against the Canaanites, warning them against a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and insisting on His own sole worship, His feasts, His firstlings and firstfruits; on His sabbaths, on the absence of leaven and unseemly ways, the fruit of Satan's wiles among the heathen.
This is pursued to the end of the chapter, and in a very interesting way. We have a figure to which the apostle refers (2 Corinthians 3:1-18), confirming what has just now been stated. For the first time the face of Moses shines after communications with God. There was no such effect when it was merely the ten commandments or the ordinances connected with the people and the land; but after the communications of heavenly shadows and the mercy of God which intermixed itself with the law, Moses' face shines, and the people of Israel could not bear it. The glory of God, or at any rate the effect of seeing His goodness, was brought too near to them. He had to put a veil on his face. The apostle uses this to show that, as the veiled Moses speaking to the people of Israel is the most apt possible figure of the actual state in which they were placed (that is, not law simply, but with gracious care for the people mingled with it), so the condition of the Christian is in marked contrast. For our position the true image is Moses not when speaking to the people, but when he goes up into the presence of God. In him unveiled there we have our figure, not in Moses veiled, still less in Israel The Christian in his full place is nowhere set forth by the Jew. Certain things which happened to Israel may be types for the Christian, but nothing more. As far as this figure is concerned, then, our place is represented by Moses when he takes off the vail and is face to face with the glory of God Himself. What a place for us, and for us now! Surely this is a wondrous truth, and of the greatest possible importance. We should remember that we are heavenly now (1 Corinthians 15:1-58) as truly as we ever shall be. More manifestly we shall be heavenly at the coming of Christ, but not more really than at present. I speak of our relationship and title. "As is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly." By and by we shall bear the image of the heavenly. This is another thing, and only a consequence when the due moment arrives. For the soul the great change is a fact; it remains for the body when the Lord comes.
The rest of the book of Exodus consists of the people's response, and the actual accomplishment of the directions that were given inExodus 25:1-40; Exodus 25:1-40; Exodus 26:1-37; Exodus 27:1-21; Exodus 28:1-43; Exodus 29:1-46; Exodus 30:1-38, and calls for no lengthened remarks in such a sketch as this. But we may refer toExodus 35:1-35; Exodus 35:1-35 as the witness to the zeal of the congregation for the construction and service of the sanctuary, opened by the law of the sabbath stated here for the last time in the book. Whatever be the work of God, His rest remains for His people. The utmost alacrity in answer to the call for material, useful and ornamental, common or costly, is shown by all. "And they came, every one whose heart stirred him up, and every one whom his spirit made willing, and they brought Jehovah's offering to the work of the tabernacle of the congregation, and for all his service, and for the holy garments. And they came, both men and women, as many as were willing hearted, and brought bracelets, and earrings, and rings, and tablets, all jewels of gold: and every man that offered offered an offering of gold unto Jehovah. And every man, with whom was found blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen, and goats' hair, and red skins of rams, and badgers' skins, brought them. Every one that did offer an offering of silver and brass brought Jehovah's offering: and every man, with whom was found shittim wood for any work of the service, brought it. And all the women that were wise hearted did spin with their hands, and brought that which they had spun, both of blue, and of purple, and of scarlet, and of fine linen. And all the women whose heart stirred them up in wisdom spun goats' hair. And the rulers brought onyx stones, and stones to be set, for the ephod and for the breastplate: and spice, and oil for the light, and for the anointing oil, and for the sweet incense. The children of Israel brought a willing offering unto Jehovah, every man and woman, whose heart made them willing to bring for all manner of work, which Jehovah had commanded to be made by the hand of Moses" (verses Exodus 35:21-29).
Nevertheless, here as everywhere God maintains His right to call, and gives the requisite gifts. "And Moses said unto the children of Israel, See, the Lord hath called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; and he hath filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship; and to devise curious works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass, and in the cutting of stones, to set them, and in carving of wood, to make any manner of cunning work. And he hath put in his heart that he may teach, both he, and Aholiab, the son of Abisamach, of the tribe of Dan. Them hath he filled with wisdom of heart, to work all manner of work, of the engraver, and of the cunning workman, and of the embroiderer, in blue, and in purple, in scarlet, and in fine linen, and of the weaver, even of them that do any work, and of those that devise cunning work" (versesExodus 35:30-35; Exodus 35:30-35).
Exodus 36:1-38 shows us the chosen workmen engaged in their allotted tasks, and even begging Moses to check the over-abounding supplies of Israel's liberality. The work is described with as much minuteness, in the execution as in the plan, throughoutExodus 36:1-38; Exodus 36:1-38; Exodus 37:1-29; Exodus 38:1-31; Exodus 39:1-43 till Moses, inspecting all and seeing that they had done it as Jehovah had commanded, blessed them.
It is of great interest to observe that the silver paid in by the children of Israel, a bekah or half shekel each, was applied to the production of the silver sockets of the veil, and the hooks of the columns. Now if gold represents God's righteousness which we approach within; and if brass or rather copper means, when thus symbolically viewed, His righteousness as applied to man outside in His immutable judgment, what is the force of silver in this connection? Is it not His grace shown in man, even in the man Christ Jesus? Thus the redemption price was the basis; and on hooks made of the silver expiation money were suspended the hangings of the court which separated the sanctuary service of God from the world. The judgment of One who could not bear sin was represented in the copper sockets of the boards which gave immutable stability; but grace in redemption was that on which all hung and shone in the chapiters and fillets also, the ornament of the work. Both unite in Christ and His atoning death.
The last chapter records, first, Jehovah's call to Moses to set up the dwelling of the appointed tent on the first day of the first month (i.e., in the second year, ver. Exodus 40:17), with all its parts and vessels in due order; secondly, the obedience of Moses according to all that Jehovah commanded him. It is remarkable that on this occasion the tabernacle and all within it were anointed with oil. Thus, whatever sin on our part may call for, we have here the whole scene of creation, all things in heaven and all things on earth, claimed in the power of the Spirit in virtue of Christ's person and title, just as He was in fact anointed with the Holy Ghost and with power apart from blood-shedding.
Finally, when the work was finished and all duly set up, a cloud covered the appointed tent, and the glory of Jehovah filled the dwelling. And Moses was not able to enter because the cloud dwelt thereon, and the glory filled the tabernacle. Thus solemnly did Jehovah mark His dwelling-place in the midst of His people redeemed from Egypt; and He deigned to guide their journeys through the desert also by the same sign; for when the cloud was taken up, they journeyed; and if not taken up, they abode till it was. But cloud by day and fire by night, the token of is presence was ever before all Israel (versesExodus 40:34-38; Exodus 40:34-38).
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Kelly, William. "Commentary on Exodus 19:1". Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​wkc/​exodus-19.html. 1860-1890.