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.
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).
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.
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;
Moses went up unto God - This seems to imply that the voice was heard by Moses as he was ascending the mount.
House of Jacob - This expression does not occur elsewhere in the Pentateuch. It has a special fitness here, referring doubtless to the special promises made to the Patriarch.
Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself.
On eagles' wings - Both in the law Deuteronomy 32:11 and in the Gospel Matthew 23:37, the Church is compared to fledgelings which the mother cherishes and protects under her wings: but in the law that mother is an eagle, in the Gospels "a hen"; thus shadowing forth the diversity of administration under each covenant: the one of power, which God manifested when He brought His people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and led them into the promised land; the other of grace, when Christ came in humility and took the form of a servant and became obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross. Compare also Revelation 12:14.
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:
A peculiar treasure - A costly possession acquired with exertion, and carefully guarded. The special relation in which Israel stands, taken out of the pagan world and consecrated to God, as His slaves, subjects, and children, determines their privileges, and is the foundation of their duties. The same principle applies even in a stronger sense to the Church. See Acts 20:28; 1 Corinthians 6:20; 1 Peter 2:9.
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.
A kingdom of priests - Israel collectively is a royal and priestly race: a dynasty of priests, each true member uniting in himself the attributes of a king and priest. Compare 1 Peter 2:5; Revelation 1:6.
An holy nation - The holiness of Israel consisted in its special consecration to God: it was a sacred nation, sacred by adoption, by covenant, and by participation in all means of grace. Compare Deuteronomy 7:6; Deuteronomy 26:19; Deuteronomy 28:9; 1 Corinthians 3:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:27.
And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words which the LORD commanded him.
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.
All that the Lord ... - By this answer the people accepted the covenant. It was the preliminary condition of their complete admission into the state of a royal priesthood.
And the LORD said unto Moses, Lo, I come unto thee in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with thee, and believe thee 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 to day and to morrow, and let them wash their clothes,
Sanctify them - The injunction involves bodily purification and undoubtedly also spiritual preparation. Compare Hebrews 10:22. The washing of the clothes was an outward symbol well understood in all nations.
And be ready against the third day: for the third day the LORD will come down in the sight of all the people upon mount Sinai.
And thou shalt set bounds unto the people round about, saying, Take heed to yourselves, that ye go not up into the mount, or touch the border of it: whosoever toucheth the mount shall be surely put to death:
Set bounds unto the people - The low line of alluvial mounds at the foot of the cliff of Ras Safsafeh exactly answers to the bounds which were to keep the people off from touching the mount: but the bounds here spoken of were to be set up by Moses.
There shall not an 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 soundeth long, they shall come up to the mount.
Touch it - Rather "touch him." The person who had touched the mount was not to be touched, since the contact would be pollution.
And Moses went down from the mount unto the people, and sanctified the people; and they washed their clothes.
And he said unto the people, Be ready against the third day: come not at your wives.
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 the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled.
And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with God; and they stood at the nether part of the mount.
Out of the camp - The encampment must have extended far and wide over the plain in front of the mountain. From one entrance of the plain to the other there is space for the whole host of the Israelites.
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, and the whole mount quaked greatly.
A furnace - The word in the original is Egyptian, and occurs only in the Pentateuch.
And when the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder, Moses spake, and God answered him by a voice.
And 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, 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.
The priests also - Sacrifices had hitherto been offered by firstborn, or the heads of families. See Genesis 14:18 note.
And Moses said unto the LORD, The people cannot come up to mount Sinai: for thou chargedst us, saying, Set bounds about the mount, and sanctify it.
And the LORD said unto him, Away, get thee down, and thou shalt come up, thou, and Aaron with thee: but let not the priests and the people break through to come up unto the LORD, lest he break forth upon them.
So Moses went down unto the people, and spake unto them.