Exodus 19:13
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.
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(13) There shall not an hand touch it.—This translation gives an entirely wrong sense. The meaning is, beyond all doubt, “There shall not a hand touch him,” i.e., the transgressor. To stop him and seize him, another person must have transgressed the bounds, and so have repeated the act which was forbidden. This course was to be avoided, and punishment was to be inflicted on the transgressor by stoning him, or transfixing him with arrows, from within the barrier.

Whether it be beast or man.—Though beasts are innocent of wrong-doing, and are thus no proper objects of punishment, yet the law of God requires their slaughter in certain eases—e.g. (1) when they are dangerous (Exodus 21:28); (2) when they have become polluted (Leviticus 20:15); (3) When their owner’s sin is appropriately punished through their loss (Exodus 13:13). In the present case, it could only be through the culpable carelessness of an owner that a beast could get inside the barrier.

When the trumpet soundeth long.—Comp. Exodus 19:19.

They shall come up to the mount.—Rather, into the mount. The expression used is identical with that of the preceding verse, and there rendered “go up into the mount.” Thus the act forbidden in Exodus 19:12 is allowed in Exodus 19:13; it is not, however, allowed to the same persons. The word “they” (hêmah) in this present place is emphatic, and refers to certain privileged persons, as Moses and Aaron (Exodus 19:24), not to the people generally.

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.

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.Touch it - Rather "touch him." The person who had touched the mount was not to be touched, since the contact would be pollution. 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. There shall not an hand touch it, i.e. the mountain. But,

1. This seems to be a gross tautology, for it was twice forbidden in the words next foregoing.

2. So the word hand would seem to be ascribed both to man and beast. Others therefore render it

touch him, i.e. they shall look upon such an impudent transgressor of my express command as an abominable person, whom they cannot touch without defilement, and therefore he shall be put to death in such a manner as may be performed without touching him.

Whether it be beast; for though the beasts are not capable of a law, yet they might be threatened for man’s caution, and punished for the fault of their owners in not keeping them at a distance from the mount.

When the trumpet soundeth long, i.e. with one continued, equal, and gentle sound, as is usual in the end of the music song, which is opposed to a rough, and loud, and unequal sound. There was no real trumpet here, but an angel made a sound like that of a trumpet.

They shall come up to the mount.

Object. This was forbidden to them, Exodus 19:12.

Answ. 1. They were forbidden to come up to the mount whilst God was delivering his laws, but allowed it afterwards when that action ceased, which was signified by the long sound of the trumpet.

2. They might not come into the mount or towards the top of it, but they might come to the bottom or lower parts of it, where the bounds were set, or at least towards or near it, as the Hebrew preposition beth is sometimes used. So the mount may be understood, more strictly, Exodus 19:12, for an eminent part or top of it, where the thick cloud appeared, and where Moses was, and here more largely for the whole mountain.

There shall not a hand touch it,.... The mountain or the border of it, which is repeated that it might be taken notice of; and to show that it would be resented if they were to stretch out their hand and only lightly touch it, much more should they set their feet upon it and attempt to ascend it: or rather, "shall not touch him" (o); that is, the man that shall touch the mountain; he shall be so detestable and abominable, whoever touches it or breaks through the bounds of it, and attempts to ascend it, that no man shall follow him to lay hold on him, in order to bring him back to justice, but shall dispatch him at once in one or other of the ways directed to:

but he shall surely be stoned, or shot through; if near at hand, all about him shall rise upon him, and take up stones and stone him; but if he is got at a distance, then they were to shoot arrows at him; and in this way Aben Ezra interprets it; the words, says he, refer to the man that toucheth the mount, who is not to be followed and apprehended, but those that see him, and are near, abiding in the place where they are, are to stone him immediately, and if afar off they are to throw darts at him: though the Targum of Jonathan seems to understand it, as if punishment would be immediately inflicted upon such a person, not by the hands of men, but by the hand of God; for it says, such an one shall be stoned with hailstones, and fiery darts shall be spread upon him; or, as the Jerusalem Targum, shall be shot at him:

whether it be beast, or man, it shall not live; that touches the mountain, and so it is explained, Hebrews 12:20, the word beast comprehends all kinds of beasts, wild and tame, and all sorts of cattle, of the herd or flock; as the word "man" takes in women as well as men, as Ben Gersom observes; Aben Ezra thinks fowls are not mentioned, because they cannot be taken, but fly away immediately; but then they might be shot:

when the trumpet soundeth long, they shall come up to the mount; this, according to Jarchi, was a trumpet of a ram's horn; the word used in the Arabic language signifying a ram; but it is a mere fancy and fable of his, that this was of the ram of Isaac which was sacrificed in his stead; it is much more likely that there was indeed no real trumpet, only a sound was formed like the sound of one; and, it is highly probable, was formed by the ministering angels; Aben Ezra observes, that the sound of a trumpet was never heard until the day of the decalogue, until the day that was given; and that there was not a greater wonder on Mount Sinai than this: the design and use of it was to gather, this vast body of people together, to come and hear what God had to say unto them; and when its sound was protracted to a great length, or was in one continued tone, and somewhat lower, as is usual when a trumpet is about to cease blowing, then the people were to take it as a token that they should approach the mountain; not to ascend it, but come to the lower and nether part of it, where bounds were set to direct them how far they might go, and no further: so the Septuagint version is,"when the voices (or thunders) and the trumpets and the cloud departed from the mountain, they went up to the mountain:''a certain Jewish writer (p) interprets this, not of the people in general, but of Aaron and his sons, and of the seventy elders, see Exodus 19:24.

(o) "non tanget eum", Vatablus, Drusius, "non feriet eum", Tigurine version. (p) R. Samuel Ben Hophni, apud Aben Ezram, in loc.

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.
13. no hand, &c.] i.e. he is not to be followed, and seized on the mount, but to be stoned or shot from a distance. Possibly the underlying idea may be (Bä.) that the trespasser, having touched sacred ground without proper authority, becomes thereby taboo—i.e. dangerous to touch, on account of the supernatural penalties that would be thereby incurred (see DB. ii. 395b n., iv. 826 ff.)—and forfeits his life to the deity, and anyone touching him afterwards is liable to become taboo likewise (cf. on Exodus 29:37). RVm. it means the mountain; but this is not probable.

13b. the ram(’s horn)] Heb. yôbçl, as Joshua 6:5 (קרן היובל, also with ‘soundeth long’); 4, 6, 8, 13 (שופרות (ה)יובלים). Not the word rendered ‘trumpet’ in vv. 16, 19, Exodus 20:18.

they (emph.) may come up into (Heb., as v. 12) the mount, &c.] It may be doubted whether this clause is in its original position. Where it stands, it apparently refers to what may be done when the signal is given by the ‘ram’s horn’ at the end of the solemnity. Bacon would transfer vv. 11b–13 to v. 24, to follow priests (as in the note): ‘they shall come’ would then refer to the priests, and, vv. 23, 24 (to down) being rejected as a gloss, vv. 20–22, 24a, 11b–13, 24b would read consecutively (cf. McNeile, pp. xxvi. 113).

Verse 13. - There shall not an hand touch it. Rather, "there shall not an hand touch him." The transgressor shall not be seized and apprehended, for that would involve the repetition of the offence by his arrester, who must overpass the "bounds" set by Moses, in order to make the arrest. Instead of seizing him, they were to kill him with stones or arrows from within the "bounds," and the same was to be done, if any stray beast approached the mountain. When the trumpet soundeth long, they shall come up to the mount. By translating the same Hebrew phrase differently here and in verse 12, the A. V. avoids the difficulty which most commentators see in this passage. According to the apparent construction, the people are first told that they may, on no account, ascend the mountain (ver. ,12), and then that they may do so, so soon as the trumpet sounds long (ver. 13). But they do not ascend at that time (ver. 19), nor are they allowed to do so - on the contrary, Moses is charged anew to prevent it (ver. 21-25); nor indeed do the people ever ascend, but only Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the seventy eiders (Exodus 24:1, 2). What, then, is the permission here given? When we scrutinise the passage closely, we observe that the pronoun "they" is in the Hebrew, emphatic, and, therefore, unlikely to refer to "the people" of ver. 12. To whom then does it refer? Not, certainly, to "the Elders" of ver. 7, which would be too remote an antecedent, but to those chosen persons who are in the writer's mind, whom God was about to allow to ascend. Even these were not allowed to go up until summoned by the prolonged blast of the trumpet. Exodus 19:13God then commanded Moses to prepare the people for His appearing or speaking to them: (1) by their sanctification, through the washing of the body and clothes (see Genesis 35:2), and abstinence from conjugal intercourse (Exodus 19:15) on account of the defilement connected therewith (Leviticus 15:18); and (2) by setting bounds round the people, that they might not ascend or touch the mountain. The hedging or bounding (הגבּיל) of the people is spoken of in Exodus 19:23 as setting bounds about the mountain, and consisted therefore in the erection of a barrier round the mountain, which was to prevent the people form ascending or touching it. Any one who touched it (קצהוּ, "its end," i.e., the outermost or lowest part of the mountain) was to be put to death, whether man or beast. "No hand shall touch him" (the individual who passed the barrier and touched the mountain), i.e., no one was to follow him within the appointed boundaries, but he was to be killed from a distance either by stones or darts. (יּיּרה for יוּרה, see Gesenius, 69.) Not till "the drawing out of the trumpet blast," or, as Luther renders it, "only when it sounded long," could they ascend the mountain (Exodus 19:13). היּבל, from יבל to stream violently with noise, is synonymous with היּבל קרן (Joshua 6:5), and was really the same thing as the שׁופר, i.e., a long wind instrument shaped like a horn. היּבל משׁך is to draw the horn, i.e., to blow the horn with tones long drawn out. This was done either to give a signal to summon the people to war (Judges 3:27; Judges 6:34), or to call them to battle (Judges 7:18; Job 39:24-25, etc.), or for other public proclamations. No one (this is the idea) was to ascend the mountain on pain of death, or even to touch its outermost edge; but when the horn was blown with a long blast, and the signal to approach was given thereby, then they might ascend it (see Exodus 19:21), - of course not 600,000 men, which would have been physically impossible, but the people in the persons of their representatives the elders. בּהר עלות signifies to go up the mountain in Exodus 19:13 as well as in Exodus 19:12, and not merely to come to the foot of the mountain (see Deuteronomy 5:5).
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