Exodus 19:6
And you shall be to me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which you shall speak to 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. 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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