|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
20:22-26 Moses having entered into the thick darkness, God there spake in his hearing all that follows from hence to the end of chap. 23, which is mostly an exposition of the ten commandments. The laws in these verses relate to God's worship. The Israelites are assured of God's gracious acceptance of their devotions. Under the gospel, men are encouraged to pray every where, and wherever God's people meet in his name to worship him, he will be in the midst of them; there he will come unto them, and will bless them.
Verse 26. - Neither shalt thou go up by steps unto mine altar. Here the reason of decency, added in the text, is obvious; and the law would necessarily continue until sacerdotal vestments of a very different character from the clothes commonly worn by Orientals were introduced (38:3-43). After their introduction, the reason for the law, and with it the law itself, would drop The supposed "slope of earth" by which the priests are thought to have ascended to the "ledge" on the altar of burnt offerings, and the "inclined plane," said by Josephus to have given access to the great altar of Solomon, rest on no sufficient authority, and are probably pure fictions. As soon as an ascent was needed, owing to the height of the altar, it was probably an ascent by steps (See Ezekiel 43:17.)
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Neither shalt thou go up by steps unto mine altar,.... That is, you priests, the sons of Aaron, as the Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem paraphrase the words; the altar of burnt offering built when the tabernacle was seemed not to require any, being but three cubits high, Exodus 27:1 but that in Solomon's temple did, being ten cubits high, 2 Chronicles 4:1 and therefore some method must be used to ascend it, and do the business that was to be done on it: now the Jews say (b), there was what they call "Kibbesh", a sort of a causeway made of earth thrown up, which rose gradually and led to the top of the altar, and was about thirty two cubits long and sixteen broad: and so the Targum of Jonathan paraphrases the words,"thou shalt not go up by steps to mine altar, but by bridges;''express mention is made of stairs to the altar in Ezekiel's vision, Ezekiel 43:17.
that thy nakedness be not discovered thereon; that part of the body which is not to be named, and ought not to be seen, and which would be exposed if there were many steps, and these at a distance from each other; which would oblige them to take large strides, and so be in danger of discovering those parts which would make them the object of contempt and ridicule with the people; since as yet breeches were not used, and the garments were long loose ones, which were easily turned aside, or the parts under them seen by those below; to prevent which, afterwards linen breeches were ordered to be made for the priests, and to be used by them in their service: Maimonides (c) thinks the reason of this was, because formerly the idolatrous worship of Peor was performed by uncovering of their nakedness before it; and so by this is expressed God's detestation of such an impure and abominable practice; but this is uncertain; however, this we may be sure of, that this is the will of God, that all immodesty and indecency, and whatever tends to create impure thoughts and stir up unclean lusts, should be carefully avoided in his worship.
(b) Middot, c. 3. sect. 3.((c) Ut supra. (Apud L'Empereur in Middot, ib.)
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
26. by steps—a precaution taken for the sake of decency, in consequence of the loose, wide, flowing garments of the priests.
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