Exodus 19:10
And the LORD said to Moses, Go to the people, and sanctify them to day and to morrow, and let them wash their clothes,
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(10) Go unto the people, and sanctify them.—The approaching manifestation required, above all things, that the people should be “sanctified.” Sanctification is twofold—outward and inward. The real essential preparation for approach to God is inward sanctification; but no external command can secure this. Moses was therefore instructed to issue directions for outward purification; and it was left to the spiritual insight of the people to perceive and recognise that such purity symbolised and required internal purification as its counterpart. The external purification was to consist in three things—(1) Ablution, or washing of the person; (2) washing of clothes; and (3) abstinence from sexual intercourse (Exodus 19:15).

Let them wash their clothes.—The Levitical law required the washing of clothes on many occasions (Leviticus 11:25; Leviticus 11:28; Leviticus 11:40; Leviticus 13:6; Leviticus 13:34; Leviticus 13:58; Leviticus 14:8-9; Leviticus 14:47; Leviticus 15:5-22, &c.) In connection with purification. The same idea prevailed in Egypt (Herod., 2:37), in Greece (Horn. Od., iv. 1. 759), and in Rome (Dollinger, Jew and Gentile, vol. ii., p. 82). It is a natural extension of the idea that ablution of the person cleanses, not from physical only, but from moral defilement.

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.19:9-15 The solemn manner in which the law was delivered, was to impress the people with a right sense of the Divine majesty. Also to convince them of their own guilt, and to show that they could not stand in judgment before God by their own obedience. In the law, the sinner discovers what he ought to be, what he is, and what he wants. There he learns the nature, necessity, and glory of redemption, and of being made holy. Having been taught to flee to Christ, and to love him, the law is the rule of his obedience and faith.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. 9-15. The Lord said unto Moses, Lo, I come … in a thick cloud, &c.—The deepest impressions are made on the mind through the medium of the senses; and so He who knew what was in man signalized His descent at the inauguration of the ancient church, by all the sensible tokens of august majesty that were fitted to produce the conviction that He is the great and terrible God. The whole multitude must have anticipated the event with feelings of intense solemnity and awe. The extraordinary preparations enjoined, the ablutions and rigid abstinence they were required to observe, the barriers erected all round the base of the mount, and the stern penalties annexed to the breach of any of the conditions, all tended to create an earnest and solemn expectation which increased as the appointed day drew near. i.e. Command them to sanctify and cleanse themselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, and to prepare their hearts for the right receiving of my laws, and solemn entering into covenant with me. Compare Leviticus 11:45 Joshua 3:5 7:13.

Let them wash their clothes; by which external washing, which was agreeable to that state of the church, they were taught to cleanse their inward man. And the Lord said unto Moses,.... On the fourth day, according to the Targum of Jonathan:

go unto the people; go down from the mountain, from the top of it, where he now was, to the camp of Israel, which was pitched before it:

and sanctify them today and tomorrow; the fourth and fifth days of the month; that is, he was, to instruct them how they were to sanctify themselves in an external way, by washing themselves, as after mentioned, their bodies and clothes, and by abstaining from all sensual pleasures, lawful or unlawful:

and let them wash their clothes; which the Jews understood not of their garments, but of their bodies also; teaching them by these outward things the necessity of internal purity and holiness, to appear before God: these outward rites were in use before the law of Moses, as appears from Genesis 35:2 and the Heathens themselves have similar notions of the cleanness of bodies and garments, as well as the purity of mind, being acceptable to their deities (n).

(n) "Casta placent superis, pura cum veste venito". Tibullus.

And the LORD said unto Moses, Go unto the people, and {e} sanctify them to day and to morrow, and let them wash their clothes,

(e) Teach them to be pure in heart, as they show themselves outwardly clean by washing.

10. sanctify] viz. by enjoining ablutions and abstention from anything that would render ‘unclean’ (cf. v. 15b): comp. Numbers 11:18 (in preparation for the approaching manifestation of Jehovah’s power), Joshua 3:5; Joshua 7:13, 1 Samuel 16:5.

wash their garments] often enjoined, as a purificatory rite, in the later ceremonial legislation, e.g. Leviticus 11:25; Leviticus 11:28; Leviticus 11:40, &c.

10–13. Preparations to be made in view of the approaching theophany. The people are to be sanctified (E), and (J) barriers set about the mountain, to prevent its being desecrated by idle intruders.Verses 10-15. - THE PREPARATION OF THE PEOPLE AND OF THE MOUNTAIN FOR THE MANIFESTATION OF GOD UPON IT. The people having accepted God's terms, the time had come for the revelation in all its fulness of the covenant which God designed to make with them. This, it was essential, they should perceive and know to come from God, and not to be the invention of Moses. God, therefore, was about to manifest himself. But ere he could do this with safety, it was requisite that certain preparations should be made. Before man can be fit to approach God, he needs to be sanctified. The essential sanctification is internal; but, as internal purity and holiness cannot be produced at a given moment, Moses was ordered to require its outward symbol, external bodily cleanliness, by ablution and the washing of clothes, as a preliminary to God's descent upon the mountain (vers. 10, 13). It would be generally understood that this external purity was symbolical only, and needed to be accompanied by internal cleanliness. Further, since even the purest of men is impure in God's sight, and since there would be many in the congregation who had attempted no internal cleansing, it was necessary to provide that they should not draw too near, so as to intrude on the holy ground or on God's presence. Moses was therefore required to have a fence erected round the mountain, between it and the people, and to proclaim the penalty of death against all who should pass it and touch the mount (vers. 12, 13). In executing these orders, Moses gave an additional charge to the heads of families, that they should purify themselves by an act of abstinence which he specified (ver. 15) Verse 10. - Go unto the people. Moses had withdrawn himself from the people to report their words to God (vers. 8, 9). He was now commanded to return to them. Sanctify them. Or "purify them." Purification in Egypt was partly by washing, partly, by shaving the hair, either front the head only, or from the entire body (Herod. 2:37), partly perhaps by other rites. The Israelites seem ordinarily to have purified themselves by washing only. To-day and to-morrow. The fourth and fifth of Sivan, according to the Jewish tradition, the Decalogue having been given upon the sixth. The requirement of a two-days' preparation marked the extreme sanctity of the occasion. Let them wash their clothes. Compare Leviticus 15:5. Rich people could "change their garments" on a sacred occasion (Genesis 35:2); the poorer sort, having no change, could only wash them. Moses had known from the time of his call that Israel would serve God on this mountain (Exodus 3:12); and as soon as the people were encamped opposite to it, he went up to God, i.e., up the mountain, to the top of which the cloud had probably withdrawn. There God gave him the necessary instructions for preparing for the covenant: first of all assuring him, that He had brought the Israelites to Himself to make them His own nation, and that He would speak to them from the mountain (Exodus 19:4-9); and then ordering him to sanctify the people for this revelation of the Lord (Exodus 19:10-15). The promise precedes the demand; for the grace of God always anticipates the wants of man, and does not demand before it has given. Jehovah spoke to Moses "from Mount Horeb." Moses had probably ascended one of the lower heights, whilst Jehovah is to be regarded as on the summit of the mountain. The words of God (Exodus 19:4.) refer first of all to what He had done for the Egyptians, and how He had borne the Israelites on eagles' wings; manifesting in this way not only the separation between Israel and the Egyptians, but the adoption of Israel as the nation of His especial grace and favour. The "eagles' wings" are figurative, and denote the strong and loving care of God. The eagle watches over its young in the most careful manner, flying under them when it leads them from the nest, least they should fall upon the rocks, and be injured or destroyed (cf. Deuteronomy 32:11, and for proofs from profane literature, Bochart, Hieroz, ii. pp. 762, 765ff.). "And brought you unto Myself:" i.e., not "led you to the dwelling-place of God on Sinai," as Knobel supposes; but took you into My protection and My especial care.
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