Exodus 19:6
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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(6) A kingdom of priests.—All of them both “kings and priests unto God”—kings as lords over themselves, equals one to another, owing allegiance to God only—priests, as entitled to draw near to God in prayer without an intermediary, to bring Him their offerings, pay Him their vows, and hold communion with Him in heart and soul. The same privileges are declared by St. Peter (1Peter 2:9) and St. John (Revelation 1:6) to belong to all Christians, who in this respect, as in so many others, are now the Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16).

An holy nation.—It is not the duty of personal, but the privilege of official, holiness that is here intended. Each Israelite was to be as near to God, as fully entitled to approach Him, as the priests of other nations either were or thought themselves. Personal holiness was the natural and fitting outcome from this official holiness; but it is not here spoken of. God has, however, previously required it of Israel by the words “If ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant” (Exodus 19:5).

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.

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 kingdom of priests - Israel collectively is a royal and priestly race: a dynasty of priests, each true member uniting in himself the attributes of a king and priest. Compare 1 Peter 2:5; Revelation 1:6.

An holy nation - The holiness of Israel consisted in its special consecration to God: it was a sacred nation, sacred by adoption, by covenant, and by participation in all means of grace. Compare Deuteronomy 7:6; Deuteronomy 26:19; Deuteronomy 28:9; 1 Corinthians 3:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:27.

6. ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests—As the priestly order was set apart from the common mass, so the Israelites, compared with other people, were to sustain the same near relation to God; a community of spiritual sovreigns.

an holy nation—set apart to preserve the knowledge and worship of God.

A kingdom of priests; so they are called in regard,

1. Of their exemption and separation from all the people of the world, as priests are taken out of the multitude of men.

2. Of their consecration to the worship and service of God, every subject of this kingdom being in some sort a priest to offer some kind of sacrifices to God,

3. Of their privileges, because God conferred upon them singular honour, safety, and immunity, and liberty of coming near to him, as priests among all nations have been esteemed privileged persons. An holy nation, purged from the idolatry and other abominations of the heathen world, and separated from them by a avail of partition; allied to me by a holy covenant, and consecrated to my use and service.

And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests,.... Instead of being in a state of servitude and bondage, as they had been in Egypt, they should be erected into a kingdom, become a body politic, a free state, a commonwealth governed by its own laws, and those laws of God's making; yea, they should be a kingdom to him, and he be more immediately the king of them, as he was not of others, the government of Israel being a Theocracy; and this kingdom should consist of men that were priests, who had access to God, served him, and offered sacrifice to him; or of men greatly esteemed and honoured, as priests were in those times. Jarchi interprets it, a kingdom of princes, as the word sometimes signifies: the subjects of this kingdom were princes, men of a princely spirit, and these princes, like those of the king of Babylon, who boasted they were altogether kings; and like the Roman senators, of whom the ambassador of Pyrrhus said, that he saw at Rome as many kings as he saw senators. And so here all the Targums render it, "kings and priests": to which reference seems to be had not only in 1 Peter 2:9 but in Revelation 1:6, they were kings when they got the victory, as in the times of Joshua, over the several kings of Canaan, and had their kingdoms divided among them; and before the priesthood was settled in the family of Aaron, every head of a family in Israel was a priest; and they were all priests at the passover, as Philo (i) observes: and so the spiritual Israel of God are kings and priests; they are kings, having the power and riches of kings; having got through Christ the victory over sin, Satan, and the world; and being possessed of the kingdom of grace, and heirs of the kingdom of glory; and priests, being allowed to draw nigh to God, to present themselves, souls and bodies, a holy and living sacrifice, to offer to him the sacrifices of prayer and praise through Christ, by whom they become acceptable to him: "and an holy nation"; being separated from all others, and devoted to the worship and service of God, having holy laws, and holy ordinances, and a holy service, and a holy place to perform it in, and holy persons to attend unto it, as they afterwards had. In allusion to this, the spiritual Israel, or people of God, are also called so, 1 Peter 2:9 being chosen unto holiness, redeemed from all iniquity, called with an holy calling, sanctified by the blood of Christ, and made holy by the Spirit of God, and under the influence of his grace live holy lives and conversations:

these are the words thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel: what he would have them do, and they were bound to do in a way of duty to him, and what he in a way of grace would do for them, and they should be unto him,

(i) De Vita Mosis, l. 3. p. 686.

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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
6. And ye (emph.)] in contrast to the other nations.

a kingdom of priests] i.e. a kingdom whose citizens are all priests, living wholly in God’s service, and ever enjoying the right of access to Him. Comp., of the ideal future, Isaiah 61:6; and in the NT., of Christians, 1 Peter 2:5; 1 Peter 2:9, Revelation 1:6; Revelation 5:10; Revelation 20:6.

an holy nation] separated from other nations, and holy to Jehovah. The expression implies not a promised privilege only, but also a duty: Israel, enjoying this privilege, is also (as is developed more fully in Dt.) under the obligation to make it a reality, to keep itself free from everything heathen, and fulfil the ideal of a holy nation upon earth. The expression is taken up in Dt. in the form ‘a holy people,’ Deuteronomy 7:6; Deuteronomy 14:2; Deuteronomy 14:21; Deuteronomy 26:19; cf. Isaiah 62:12 (the ideal of the future), 1 Peter 2:9.

Verse 6. - Ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests. Or "a royalty of priests" - at once a royal and a priestly race - all of you at once both priests and kings. (So the LXX. render, βασίλειον ἱεράτευμα; the Targums of Onkelos and Jerusalem, "kings and priests;" that of Jonathan, "crowned kings and ministering priests.") They would be "kings," not only as "lords over death, the devil, hell, and all evil" (Luther), but also partly as having no earthly king set over them, but designed to live under a theocracy (1 Samuel 12:12), and partly as intended to exercise lordship over the heathen. Their unfaithfulness and disobedience soon forfeited both privileges. They would be "priests," as entitled - each one of them - to draw near to God directly in prayer and praise, though not in sacrifice, and also as intermediaries between God and the heathen world, to whom they were to be examples, instructors, prophets. And an holy nation. A nation unlike other nations - a nation consecrated to God's service, outwardly marked as his by the symbol of circumcision, his (if they chose) inwardly by the purity and holiness whereto they could attain. These are the words. Much speaking was not needed. The question was a very simple one. Would they accept the covenant or no, upon the conditions offered? It was not likely that they would reject such gracious proposals. Exodus 19:6This manifestation of the love of God to Israel formed only the prelude, however, to that gracious union which Jehovah was now about to establish between the Israelites and Himself. If they would hear His voice, and keep the covenant which as about to be established with them, they should be a costly possession to Him out of all nations (cf. Deuteronomy 7:6; Deuteronomy 14:2; Deuteronomy 26:18). סגלּה does not signify property in general, but valuable property, that which is laid by, or put aside (סגל), hence a treasure of silver and gold (1 Chronicles 29:3; Ecclesiastes 2:8). In the Sept. the expression is rendered λαὸς περιούσιος, which the Scholiast in Octat. interprets ἐξαίρετος, and in Malachi 3:17 εἰς περιποίησιν: hence the two phrases in the New Testament, λαὸς περιούσιος in Titus 2:14, and λαὸς εἰς περιποίησιν in 1 Peter 2:9. Jehovah had chosen Israel as His costly possession out of all the nations of the earth, because the whole earth was His possession, and all nations belonged to Him as Creator and Preserver. The reason thus assigned for the selection of Israel precludes at the very outset the exclusiveness which would regard Jehovah as merely a national deity. The idea of the segullah is explained in Exodus 19:6 : "Ye shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests." ממלכה signifies both kingship, as the embodiment of royal supremacy, exaltation, and dignity, and the kingdom, or the union of both king and subjects, i.e., the land and nation, together with its king. In the passage before us, the word has been understood by most of the early commentators, both Jewish and Christian, and also in the ancient versions,

(Note: lxx: βασίλειον ἱεράτευμα, a royal priesthood, i.e., a priestly nation of royal power and glory. כּהנין מלכין: Kings-priests (Onkelos). - "Eritis coram me reges coronati (כלילא קטירי vincti coronis) et sacerdotes ministrantes" (Jonathan). - "Eritis meo nomini reges et sacerdotes" (Jer. Targ.).)

in the first or active sense, so that the expression contains the idea, "Ye shall be all priests and kings" (Luther); praeditos fore tam sacerdotali quam regio honore (Calvin); quod reges et sacerdotes sunt in republica, id vos eritis mihi (Drusius). This explanation is required by both the passage itself and the context. For apart from the fact that kingship is the primary and most general meaning of the word ממלכה (cf. דּוד ממלכת, the kingship, or government of David), the other (passive) meaning would not be at all suitable here; for a kingdom of priests could never denote the fellowship existing in a kingdom between the king and the priests, but only a kingdom or commonwealth consisting of priests, i.e., a kingdom the members and citizens of which were priests, and as priests constituted the ממלכה, in other words, were possessed of royal dignity and power; for ממלכה, βασιλεία, always includes the idea of מלך or ruling (βασιλεύειν). The lxx have quite hit the meaning in their rendering: βασίλειον ἱεράτευμα. Israel was to be a regal body of priests to Jehovah, and not merely a nation of priests governed by Jehovah. The idea of the theocracy, or government of God, as founded by the establishment of the Sinaitic covenant institution in Israel, is not at all involved in the term "kingdom of priests." The theocracy established by the conclusion of the covenant (Exodus 24) was only the means adopted by Jehovah for making His chosen people a royal body of priests; and the maintenance of this covenant was the indispensable subjective condition, upon which their attainment of this divinely appointed destiny and glory depended. This promise of Jehovah expressed the design of the call of Israel, to which it was to be fully conducted by the covenant institution of the theocracy, if it maintained the covenant with Jehovah. The object of Israel's kingship and priesthood was to be found in the nations of the earth, out of which Jehovah had chosen Israel as a costly possession. This great and glorious promise, the fulfilment of which could not be attained till the completion of the kingdom of God, when the Israel of God, the Church of the Lord, which Jesus Christ, the first-begotten from the dead, and prince (ἄρχων, ruler) of the kings of the earth, has made a "kingdom," "priests unto God and His Father" (Revelation 1:6 and Revelation 5:10, where the reading should be βασιλεῖς καὶ ἱερεῖς), is exalted to glory with Christ as the first-born among many brethren, and sits upon His throne and reigns, has not been introduced abruptly here. On the contrary, the way was already prepared by the promises made to the patriarchs, of the blessing which Abraham would become to all the nations of the earth, and of the kings who were to spring from him and come out of the loins of Israel (Genesis 12:3; Genesis 17:6; Genesis 35:11), and still more distinctly by Jacob's prophecy of the sceptre of Judah, to whom, through Shiloh, the willing submission of the nations should be made (Genesis 49:10). But these promises and prophecies are outshone by the clearness, with which kingship and priesthood over and for the nations are foretold of Israel here.

This kingship, however, is not merely of a spiritual kind, consisting, as Luther supposes, in the fact, that believers "are lords over death, the devil, hell, and all evil," but culminates in the universal sway foretold by Balaam in Numbers 24:8 and Numbers 24:17., by Moses in his last words (Deuteronomy 33:29), and still more distinctly in Daniel 7:27, to the people of the saints of the Most High, as the ultimate end of their calling from God. The spiritual attitude of Israel towards the nations was the result of its priestly character. As the priest is a mediator between God and man, so Israel was called to be the vehicle of the knowledge and salvation of God to the nations of the earth. By this it unquestionably acquired an intellectual and spiritual character; but this includes, rather than excludes, the government of the world. For spiritual and intellectual supremacy and rule must eventually ensure the government of the world, as certainly as spirit is the power that overcomes the world. And if the priesthood of Israel was the power which laid the foundation for its kingship, - in other words, if Israel obtained the ממלכה or government over the nations solely as a priestly nation, - the Apostle Peter, when taking up this promise (1 Peter 2:9), might without hesitation follow the Septuagint rendering (βασίλειον ἱεράτευμα), and substitute in the place of the "priestly kingdom," a "royal priesthood;" for there is no essential difference between the two, the kingship being founded upon the priesthood, and the priesthood completed by the kingship.

As a kingdom of priests, it was also necessary that Israel should be a "holy nation." Gens sancta hic dicitur non respectu pietatis vel sanctimoniae, sed quam Deus singulari privilegio ab aliis separavit. Verum ab hac sanctificatione pendet altera, nempe ut sanctitatem colant, qui Dei gratia eximii sunt, atque ita vicissim Deum sanctificent (Calvin). This explanation is in general a correct one; for these words indicate the dignity to which Israel was to be elevated by Jehovah, the Holy One, through its separation from the nations of the earth. But it cannot be shown that קדושׁ ever means "separated." Whether we suppose it to be related to חדשׁ, and חדשׁ the newly shining moonlight, or compare it with the Sanskrit dhûsch, to be splendid, or beautiful, in either case the primary meaning of the word is, "to be splendid, pure, untarnished." Diestel has correctly observed, that the holiness of God and Israel is most closely connected with the covenant relationship; but he is wrong in the conclusion which lie draws from this, namely, that "holy" was originally only a "relative term," and that a thing was holy "so far as it was the property of God." For the whole earth is Jehovah's property (Exodus 19:5), but it is not holy on that account. Jehovah is not holy only "so far as within the covenant He is both possession and possessor, absolute life and the source of life, and above all, both the chief good and the chief model for His people" (Diestel), or "as the truly separate One, enclosed within Himself, who is self-existent, in contrast with the world to which He does not belong" (Hoffmann); but holiness pertains to God alone, and to those who participate in the divine holiness-not, however, to God as the Creator and Preserver of the world, but to God as the Redeemer of man. Light is the earthly reflection of His holy nature: the Holy One of Israel is the light of Israel (Isaiah 10:17, cf. 1 Timothy 6:16). The light, with its purity and splendour, is the most suitable earthly element to represent the brilliant and spotless purity of the Holy One, in whom there is no interchange of light and darkness (James 1:17). God is called the Holy One, because He is altogether pure, the clear and spotless light; so that in the idea of the holiness of God there are embodied the absolute moral purity and perfection of the divine nature, and His unclouded glory. Holiness and glory are inseparable attributes in God; but in His relation to the world they are so far distinguished, that the whole earth is full of His glory, whilst it is to and in Israel that His holiness is displayed (Isaiah 6:3); in other words, the glory of God is manifested in the creation and preservation of the world, and His holy name in the election and guidance of Israel (compare Psalm 104 with Psalm 103). God has displayed the glory of His name in the creation of the heavens and the earth (Psalm 8:1-9); but His way in Israel (Psalm 77:14), i.e., the work of God in His kingdom of grace, is holy; so that it might be said, that the glory of God which streams forth in the material creation is manifested as holiness in His saving work for a sinful world, to rescue it from the φθορά of sin and death and restore it to the glory of eternal life, and that it was manifested here in the fact, that by the counsels of His own spontaneous love (Deuteronomy 4:37) He chose Israel as His possession, to make of it a holy nation, if it hearkened to His voice and kept His covenant. It was not made this, however, by being separated from the other nations, for that was merely the means of attaining the divine end, but by the fact, that God placed the chosen people in the relation of covenant fellowship with Himself, founded His kingdom in Israel, established in the covenant relationship an institution of salvation, which furnished the covenant people with the means of obtaining the expiation of their sins, and securing righteousness before God and holiness of life with God, in order that by the discipline of His holy commandments, under the guidance of His holy arm, He might train and guide them to the holiness and glory of the divine life. But as sin opposes holiness, and the sinner resists sanctification, the work of the holiness of God reveals itself in His kingdom of grace, not only positively in the sanctification of those who suffer themselves to be sanctified and raised to newness of life, but negatively also, in the destruction of all those who obstinately refuse the guidance of His grace; so that the glory of the thrice Holy One (Isaiah 6:3) will be fully manifested both in the glorification of His chosen people and the deliverance of the whole creation from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God (Romans 8:21), and also in the destruction of hardened sinners, the annihilation of everything that is ungodly in this world, the final overthrow of Satan and his kingdom, and the founding of the new heaven and new earth. Hence not only is every person, whom God receives into the sphere of His sin-destroying grace, קדושׁ, or holy; but everything which is applied to the realization of the divine work of salvation, or consecrated by God to this object. The opposite of קדושׁ, holy, is הל, κοινός, profanus (from חלל, to be loose, lit., the unbound), not devoted to holy purposes and uses (cf. Leviticus 10:10); and this term was applied, not only to what was sinful and unclean (טמא), but to everything earthly in its natural condition, because the whole earth, with all that is upon it, has been involved in the consequences of sin.

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