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.Exodus 19:1. In the third month — After they came out of Egypt, including the latter part of May and the former part of June. 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.
Mount Sinai was a place which nature, not art, had made conspicuous, for it was the highest in all that range of mountains. Thus God put contempt upon cities and palaces, setting up his pavilion on the top of a mountain, in a barren desert. It is called Sinai, from the multitude of thorny bushes that overspread it.
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;Exodus 19:3. Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and Israel — The people are called by the names both of Jacob and Israel, to remind them that they who had been as low as Jacob when he went to Padan-aram, were now grown as great as God made him when he came from thence and was called Israel.
Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself.Exodus 19:4. Ye have seen how I bare you on eagles’ wings — A high expression of the wonderful tenderness God showed for them. It denotes great speed; God not only came upon the wing for their deliverance, but he hastened them out, as it were, upon the wing. Also that he did it with great ease, with the strength as well as the swiftness of an eagle. They that faint not, nor are weary, are said to “mount up with wings as eagles,” Isaiah 40:31. Especially it signifies God’s particular care of them, and affection to them. Even Egypt was the nest in which these young ones 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. I brought you unto myself — They were brought not only into a state of liberty, but into covenant and communion with 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.
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:Exodus 19:5. Then ye shall be a peculiar treasure to me — He doth not instance in any one particular favour, but expresseth 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. Nay, 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 doth his treasure; they were precious in his sight. He took them under his special care and protection, as a treasure that is kept under lock and key. He distinguished them from, and dignified them above all people, as a people devoted to him and to his service.
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.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, so much employed in his immediate service, and such intimate communion they had with him. 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.
And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words which the LORD commanded him.Exodus 19:7-8. And Moses laid before their faces all these words — He not only explained to them what God had given him in charge, but put it to their choice, whether they would accept these promises upon these terms or not. His laying it to their faces speaks his laying it to their consciences. And they answered together: All that the Lord hath spoken we will do — Thus accepting the Lord to be to them a God, and giving up themselves to be to him a people.
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.
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,Exodus 19:10. Sanctify the people — As Job sent and sanctified his sons, Job 1:5. Sanctify them — That is, call them off from their worldly business, and call them to religious exercises, meditation and prayer, that they may receive the law from God’s mouth with reverence and devotion. Two things particularly were prescribed as instances of their preparation.
1st, In token of cleansing of themselves from all sinful pollutions, they must wash their clothes — Not that God regards our clothes, but while they were washing their clothes, he would have them think of washing their souls, by repentance. It becomes us to appear in clean clothes when we wait upon great men; so clean hearts are required in our attendance on the great God. 2d, In token of their devoting themselves entirely to religious exercises, upon this occasion they must abstain even from lawful enjoyments during these three days.
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.Exodus 19:11. In the sight of all the people — Though they should see no manner of similitude, yet they should see so much as would convince them, that God was among them of a truth. And so high was the top of mount Sinai, that it is supposed not only the camp of Israel, but even the countries about might discern some extraordinary appearance of glory upon it.
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:Exodus 19:12. Set bounds — Probably he drew a ditch round the foot of the hill, which none were to pass upon pain of death. This was to intimate, 1st, That lawful reverence which ought to possess the minds of all that worship God. 2d, The distance at which worshippers were kept under that dispensation, which we ought to take notice of, that we may the more value our privilege under the gospel, having “boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,” Hebrews 10:19.
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.Exodus 19:13. When the trumpet soundeth long — Then let them take their places at the foot of the mount. Never was so great a congregation called together and preached to at once as this was here. No one man’s voice could have reached so many, but the voice of God did.
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.Exodus 19:16. Now at length is come that memorable day, in which Israel heard the voice of the Lord God speaking to them out of the midst of the fire and lived, Deuteronomy 4:33. Never was there such a sermon preached before or since, as this, which was here preached to the church in the wilderness. For the preacher was God himself, Exodus 19:18. The Lord descended in fire; and, Exodus 19:20, The Lord came down upon mount Sinai.
The Shechinah, or glory of the Lord, appeared in the sight of all the people; he shined forth from mount Paran with ten thousands of his saints, attended with a multitude of the holy angels. Hence the law is said to be given by the disposition of angels, Acts 7:53. He spake from mount Sinai, hung with a thick cloud, (Exodus 19:16,) covered with smoke, (Exodus 19:18,) and made to quake greatly. Now it was that the earth trembled at the presence of the Lord, and the mountains skipped like rams, (Psalm 114:4-7,) that Sinai itself, though rough and rocky, melted from before the Lord God of Israel, Jdg 5:5. The congregation was called together by the sound of a trumpet exceeding loud, (Exodus 19:16,) and waxing louder and louder, Exodus 19:19. This was done by the ministry of angels, and made all the people tremble. The introductions to the service were thunders and lightnings, Exodus 19:16. These have natural causes; but the Scripture directs us in a particular manner to take notice of the power of God, and his terror in them. Thunder is the voice of God, and lightning the fire of God, proper to engage both the learning senses of seeing and hearing.
And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with God; and they stood at the nether part of the mount.
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.Exodus 19:18. The whole mount quaked greatly — There cannot be a more grand, awful, and majestic description than this of the descent of Jehovah upon mount Sinai. We can scarcely read it without trembling; and all the tremendous majesty of God appears before our eyes. The psalmist seems to have conceived a most high idea of God from it: — “O God, when thou wentest forth before thy people, when thou didst march through the wilderness; the earth shook, the heavens also dropped at the presence of God, the God of Israel,” Psalm 68:7-8.
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.
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.