Exodus 19:5
Now therefore, if you will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then you shall be a peculiar treasure to me above all people: for all the earth is mine:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(5) A peculiar treasure.—The Hebrew sĕgullah is from a root, found in Chaldee, signifying “to earn,” or “acquire,” and means primarily some valuable possession, which the owner has got by his own exertions. (Comp. 1Chronicles 29:3, where the English Version translates it by “mine own proper good.”) God views the Israelites as made His own by the long series of mighty works done for their deliverance, whereby He is sometimes said to have “redeemed” (Exodus 6:6; Exodus 15:13), or “purchased” them (Exodus 15:16). The word sĕgullah is here used for the first time. Later it be comes an epitheton usitatum of Israel. (See Deuteronomy 7:6; Deuteronomy 14:2; Deuteronomy 26:18; Psalm 135:4; Malachi 3:17; and comp. also Titus 2:14;1Pe 2:9.)

Above all people: for all the earth is mine.—While claiming a peculiar right in Israel, God does not mean to separate Himself from the other nations, to cease to care for them, or give them up to their own devices. He is always “the Most High over all the earth” (Psalm 83:18), “a light to lighten the Gentiles,” one who “judges the people righteously, and governs all the nations upon earth” (Psalm 67:4). Israel’s prerogative does not rob them of their birthright. He is the favoured son; but they, too, “are, all of them, children of the Most High” (Psalm 82:6).

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.19:1-8 Moses was called up the mountain, and was employed as the messenger of this covenant. The Maker and first Mover of the covenant, is God himself. This blessed charter was granted out of God's own free grace. The covenant here mentioned was the national covenant, by which the Israelites were a people under the government of Jehovah. It was a type of the new covenant made with true believers in Christ Jesus; but, like other types, it was only a shadow of good things to come. As a nation they broke this covenant; therefore the Lord declared that he would make a new covenant with Israel, writing his law, not upon tables of stone, but in their hearts, Jer 31:33; Heb 8:7-10. The covenant spoken of in these places as ready to vanish away, is the national covenant with Israel, which they forfeited by their sins. Unless we carefully attend to this, we shall fall into mistakes while reading the Old Testament. We must not suppose that the nation of the Jews were under the covenant of works, which knows nothing of repentance, faith in a Mediator, forgiveness of sins, or grace; nor yet that the whole nation of Israel bore the character, and possessed the privileges of true believers, as being actually sharers in the covenant of grace. They were all under a dispensation of mercy; they had outward privileges and advantages for salvation; but, like professing Christians, most rested therein, and went no further. Israel consented to the conditions. They answered as one man, All that the Lord hath spoken we will do. Oh that there had been such a heart in them! Moses, as a mediator, returned the words of the people to God. Thus Christ, the Mediator, as a Prophet, reveals God's will to us, his precepts and promises; and then, as a Priest, offers up to God our spiritual sacrifices, not only of prayer and praise, but of devout affections, and pious resolutions, the work of his own Spirit in us.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.

All the earth is mine - It was a point of great practical importance, to impress upon the Jews that their God was no mere national Deity. Compare Deuteronomy 10:14; Psalm 24:1.

3-6. Moses went up unto God—the Shekinah—within the cloud (Ex 33:20; Joh 1:18).

Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, &c.—The object for which Moses went up was to receive and convey to the people the message contained in these verses, and the purport of which was a general announcement of the terms on which God was to take the Israelites into a close and peculiar relation to Himself. In thus negotiating between God and His people, the highest post of duty which any mortal man was ever called to occupy, Moses was still but a servant. The only Mediator is Jesus Christ [1Ti 2:5; Heb 12:24].

If ye will obey my voice indeed; Heb. obeying ye will obey; i.e. if ye will obey me sincerely, diligently, and constantly.

A peculiar treasure, highly prized and loved, and carefully kept by me, as men’s treasures generally are. For all people upon earth are mine by creation and dominion, and I can dispose of them all as I please, and either choose or refuse any of them as I think fit; and therefore though I might refuse you, as well as any others, yet it is my pleasure to single you out of all the world, upon whom to confer my chiefest and peculiar blessings. Or, though all the earth be mine, by general right, yet you only are mine by special title and privilege. Now therefore,.... Since they had received such marks of his favour, and were laid under great obligations to him:

if ye will obey my voice indeed; truly, sincerely, and heartily; or "in hearkening hearken", or "in obeying obey" (g); that is, closely and attentively hearken to what he should say to them, and thoroughly and constantly yield a cheerful obedience to his commands:

and keep my covenant; now about to be made with them, which would consist of promises of good things to be done to them on his part, and of duties to be performed by them on their part, and so would constitute a formal covenant by stipulation and restipulation:

then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people; be as highly valued by him, and as carefully preserved as the richest treasure among men; even as the treasure of princes, consisting of gold and silver, precious stones, pearls and jewels, and everything that is valuable; and of this he would give such proof and demonstration, as would make it appear that they were esteemed by him above all people upon the face of the earth; being chosen for his peculiar treasure, and redeemed out of the house of bondage and slavery to be his peculiar people, and distinguished from all others by particular favours and blessings:

for all the earth is mine; as it is, and the inhabitants of it, by creation, sustentation, preservation, and dominion, all being made, upheld, preserved, and governed by him; and therefore, as he had a right to all, could choose what part he pleased for his special use and service; or "though all the earth is mine" (h), as Marinus in Aben Ezra, which yet the latter does not seem to approve of; and then the sense is, though the whole world was his, and all that is in it, yet such was his special affection, and peculiar regard to Israel, as to choose them, and esteem them as his portion and inheritance, his jewel, and peculiar treasure.

(g) "obediendo obedieritis", Pagninus, Montanus; "audiendo audiveritis", Drusius; "auscultando auscultabitis", Piscator; so Ainsworth. (h) "tametsi", Vatablus; "quamvis", Piscator, Drusius.

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:
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
5. obey] lit. hearken to. So always. Cf. Exodus 15:26; Deuteronomy 13:4; Deuteronomy 13:18; Deuteronomy 27:10, &c.; and especially Deuteronomy 11:13, Deuteronomy 15:5, Deuteronomy 28:1 (in these three passages hearken diligently unto is in the Heb. the same as obey indeed here), Exo Exodus 30:10.

my covenant] the covenant of Exodus 24:7-8, described there as concluded on the basis of the ‘Book of the Covenant’ (i.e. the injunctions in Exodus 20:23 to Exodus 23:19): if Israel observes the terms of this covenant, Jehovah promises that He will bring it into a relation of special nearness to Himself.

This is a point on which the representation of both J and E differs from that of P. Both J and E speak of a covenant concluded between Jehovah and Israel at Sinai: P says nothing of such a covenant; the only covenant mentioned by him in this connexion is the covenant with the patriarchs, to which Jehovah gives effect by delivering their descendants from Egypt, and settling them in Canaan (see Exodus 6:4-8).

a peculiar treasure] Heb. segullâh, i.e. a special possession; see 1 Chronicles 29:3, Ecclesiastes 2:8, where the word is used of a private treasure (of gold, silver, &c.) belonging to kings. The rend. ‘peculiar’ we owe to Jerome, who states that Symmachus had used peculiaris in one place: it means ‘specially one’s own,’ being used in its old etymological sense, derived from the Lat. peculium, the private property of a child or slave. With the addition of ‘people,’ ‘a people of special possession,’ the word occurs, borrowed from here, in Deuteronomy 7:6; Deuteronomy 14:2; Deuteronomy 26:18; and alone also in Psalm 135:4 : in Malachi 3:17 (RV.) it is transferred to the faithful Israelites of the future. The LXX. here, Exodus 23:22 (in an addition to the Heb.), Deuteronomy 7:6; Deuteronomy 14:2; Deuteronomy 26:18, render by λαὸς περιούσιος; and in Psalm 135:4, Ecclesiastes 2:8 by περιουσιασμός: hence λαὸς περιούσιος in Titus 2:14. Λαὸς εἰς περιποίησιν in 1 Peter 2:9 (cf. Ephesians 1:14) is also based upon the same expression: cf. εἰς περιποίησιν for segullâh in Malachi 3:17 LXX., and ὃ περιπεποίημαι in 1 Chronicles 29:3. (Περιούσιος means apparently being over and above, and so exceptional, special; see Lightfoot, On a Fresh Revision of the Engl. N. T., p. 234 ff.)

from among] lit. out of; but as what is taken specially out of a number is preferred to the rest (cf. ἐξαίρετος, eximius, egregius), the meaning above (marg.) is also implied. So Deuteronomy 7:6; Deuteronomy 14:2.

for all the earth is mine] and so I can choose which I will of the nations upon it. Cf. Exodus 9:29, Deuteronomy 10:14.

On the ‘covenants’ mentioned in the Pentateuch

A ‘covenant’ is a compact or agreement, concluded—at least on important occasions—under solemn religious sanctions, and implying mutual undertakings and obligations. For instances of covenants between men, see Genesis 26:26-31; Genesis 31:44-54, 1 Kings 15:19 (‘league’), 1 Kings 20:34. In a religious sense, a ‘covenant’ is the most formal, and, so to say, official expression of the gracious relation subsisting between God and men: God promises that, if man observes the conditions laid down by Him, He will bestow upon him certain specified blessings. In references to a covenant of this kind, the stress may rest, according to the context and purpose of the writer, either on the Divine promise (e.g. Deuteronomy 4:31), or on the human obligation (e.g. Deuteronomy 4:23). The following are the ‘covenants’ referred to in the Pentateuch:—

In J:—1. The covenant with Abraham, Genesis 15:18.

5, 6. The promise. The high privileges in store for Israel, if it but listens to Jehovah’s voice, and observes His covenant. The verses, in style and thought, approximate to Dt. (cf. on Deuteronomy 12:25-27 a), and may have been expanded by the compiler of JE.Verse 5. - Now therefore. Instead of asking the simple question - "Will ye promise to obey me and keep my covenant. - God graciously entices the Israelites to their own advantage by a most loving promise. If they will agree to obey his voice, and accept and keep his covenant, then they shall be to him a peculiar treasure (segullah) - a precious possession to be esteemed highly and carefully guarded from all that might injure it. (Compare Psalm 135:4; and see also Isaiah 43:1-4.) and this preciousness they shall not share with others on equal terms, but enjoy exclusively - it shall be theirs above all people. No other nation on the earth shall hold the position which they shall hold, or be equally precious in God's sight. All the earth is his: and so all nations are his in a certain sense. But this shall not interfere with the special Israelite prerogative they alone shall be his "peculiar people" (Deuteronomy 14:2). The judges chosen were arranged as chiefs (שׂרים) over thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens, after the analogy of the military organization of the people on their march (Numbers 31:14), in such a manner, however, that this arrangement was linked on to the natural division of the people into tribes, families, etc. (see my Archologie, 140). For it is evident that the decimal division was not made in an arbitrary manner according to the number of heads, from the fact that, on the one hand, the judges were chosen from the heads of their tribes and according to their tribes (Deuteronomy 1:13); and on the other hand, the larger divisions of the tribes, viz., the families (mishpachoth), were also called thousands (Numbers 1:15; Numbers 10:4; Joshua 22:14, etc.), just because the number of their heads of families would generally average about a thousand; so that in all probability the hundreds, fifties, and tens denote smaller divisions of the nation, in which there were about this number of fathers. Thus in Arabic, for example, "the ten" is a term used to signify a family (cf. Hengstenberg, Dissertations v. ii. 343, and my Arch. 149). The difference between the harder or greater matters and the smaller matters consisted in this: questions which there was not definite law to decide were great or hard; whereas, on the other hand, those which could easily be decided from existing laws or general principles of equity were simple or small. (Vide Joh. Selden de Synedriis i. c. 16, in my Arch. 149, Not. 3, where the different views are discussed respecting the relative positions and competency of the various judges, about which there is no precise information given in the law.) So far as the total number of judges is concerned, all that can be affirmed with certainty is, that the estimated number of 600 judges over thousands, 6000 over hundreds, 12,000 over fifties, and 60,000 over tens, in all 78,600 judges, which is given by Grotius and in the Talmud, and according to which there must have been a judge for every seven adults, is altogether erroneous (cf. J. Selden l.c. pp. 339ff.). For if the thousands answered to the families (Mishpachoth), there cannot have been a thousand males in every one; and in the same way the hundreds, etc., are not to be understood as consisting of precisely that number of persons, but as larger or smaller family groups, the numerical strength of which we do not know. And even if we did know it, or were able to estimate it, this would furnish no criterion by which to calculate the number of the judges, for the text does not affirm that every one of these larger or smaller family groups had a judge of its own; in fact, the contrary may rather be inferred, from the fact that, according to Deuteronomy 1:15, the judges were chosen out of the heads of the tribes, so that the number of judges must have been smaller than that of the heads, and can hardly therefore have amounted to many hundreds, to say nothing of many thousands.
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