And the LORD said to Moses, See, I come to you in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and believe you for ever. And Moses told the words of the people to the LORD.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)And the Lord said . . . . —The first step in the great event of the formation of a covenant between God and Israel was completed by the people’s acceptance of God’s offer. The second step was now to be taken. The terms of the covenant must be declared, and it pleased God to declare them, or, at any rate, the most important and fundamental of them, in the hearing of the people. He therefore makes the announcement of His approaching manifestation of Himself, and proceeds to give directions connected with it to Moses.
Lo, I come unto thee in a thick cloud.—Heb., in the denseness of a cloud. Though God is light—nay, because He is light, clouds and darkness are round about Him (Psalm 97:2). Even when He reveals Himself. He still “dwells in the thick darkness” (2Chronicles 6:1). It is absolutely necessary that He should be closely veiled when He draws near to men, for otherwise they could not endure for a moment “the brightness of His presence.” (See Exodus 40:35 :2Chronicles 5:14; 2Chronicles 7:2.) If even the light that remained on Moses’ face after converse with God required him thenceforth ordinarily to wear a veil before the people (Exodus 34:33-35), how much more needful must it be that God should cover His face when He condescends to converse with men! In the present case, it would seem to have been “the pillar of the cloud” that had guided Israel, which served Him for a covering, and out of which He spake to Moses and the people.
That the people may hear . . . and believe thee for ever.—God’s purpose in manifesting Himself to the people was twofold :—(1) To impress them with the awful sense of His presence, and through them, their descendants; (2) to make them more ready to submit to Moses, and “believe him for ever.” On the whole, it must be said that the purpose was accomplished. God has remained to the Israelites, for more than three millennia, an awful power, real, personal, tremendous. The Law of Moses, under whatever false interpretations, has remained the guide of their life. Though the living Moses was often resisted and contemned, the dead Moses has been reverenced and obeyed from his death to the present time. His laws are still accepted and professedly obeyed by the entire Jewish community.I come unto thee, as to the mediator between me and them, and the interpreter of my mind to them.
In a thick cloud: Exodus 19:16, and compare 1 Kings 8:12 2 Chronicles 6:1.
The words of the people; those mentioned Exodus 19:8. This is here repeated, because God’s answer to them now follows.
lo, I come unto thee in a thick cloud; which was different from the pillar of cloud in which he went before the people, and now stood in it on the top of the mount; for he speaks not now of his present appearance to Moses, but of his appearance on the mount three days after; wherefore the Septuagint version wrongly renders it, "in a pillar of cloud": there were appearances of the divine Majesty in a cloud frequently afterwards, both in the Old and New Testament, see Exodus 40:34 and so Christ, the mighty Angel, is said to be clothed with a cloud, Revelation 10:1. And from such appearances as these, the Heathens have represented their deities, as Apollo (k), Venus (l), Juno (m), and others, coming in a cloud, or clothed with one:
that the people may hear when I speak with thee, and believe thee for ever; they had believed Moses already, particularly at the Red sea, when they saw what was done there, but afterwards, as it seems, returned to their unbelief again; but now, as they would be eyewitnesses of the cloud in which the Lord would appear to Moses, so they would be ear witnesses of what he said to him; for though the cloud was a thick one in which he came, so that they could not see any similitude, any likeness at all, not so much as a brightness, a shining glory, as they had seen in the pillar of cloud, see Exodus 16:7, yet, the voice of God out of it was so loud, when he spoke with Moses, that this vast body of people being placed around, at the lower part of the mount, heard plainly and distinctly all that was said; so that they were sure they were not imposed upon by Moses, but that the law he delivered to them was from God, since they heard it with their own ears; and therefore they and their posterity believed it for ever, and never entertained the least distrust of the divinity and authority of it. This case was widely different from that of Numa or Mahomet, the one pretending to receive instructions from the goddess Egeria, and the other from the angel Gabriel; but all depended upon their own word, none were, nor did they pretend that any were eye or ear witnesses of what they declared; but such was the case here:
and Moses told the words of the people unto the Lord; the same which he is said to return to him in the preceding verse, and here repeated for the confirmation of it, and to lead on to what the Lord had to say further concerning them.
(k) "Nnbe et candentes humeros amictus Augur Apollo. -----" Horat. Carmin. l. 1. ode 2.((l) "Et Venus aethereos inter dea candida nimbos Dona ferens aderat ----". Virgil. Aeneid, l. 8. "prope finem". "Hoc Venus obscuro faciem circumdata nimbo Detulit. ----" Virgil. Aeneid, l. 12. (m) "Agens hyemem nimbo succincta, per auras ----". Ib. Aeneid. 10.And the LORD said unto Moses, Lo, I come unto thee in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with thee, and believe thee for ever. And Moses told the words of the people unto the LORD.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)9. Jehovah declares that He will so speak to Moses as to satisfy the people that he is His accredited messenger.
I come] more clearly, I am coming, i.e. am about to come. The first announcement of the coming theophany.
a thick cloud] Heb. the thickness of a cloud (or, of the clouds).
and may believe thee also] the pron. is emphatic. Stress is laid also on the people’s believing Moses in Exodus 4:1-9; Exodus 4:31, Exodus 14:31 (all J).
And Moses told, &c.] The words of the people have been already reported to Jehovah in v. 8, and no other words have followed since. The clause is probably a misplaced variant of v. 8b.Verse 9. - I came unto thee in a thick cloud. Literally, "in the thickness of a cloud." God must always veil himself when he speaks with man, for man could not bear "the brightness of his presence." If he takes a human form that form is a veil; if he appears in a burning bush, the very. fire is a shroud. On the present occasion it was the more needful that he should cover himself up, as he was about to draw near to the whole congregation, among whom were many-who were impure and impenitent. It was necessary, in order that all might be convinced of the Divine mission of Moses, for all to be so near as to hear him speak out of the cloud; but sinners cannot abide the near presence of God, unless he is carefully hidden away from them. Probably, the cloud out of which he now spoke was that which had accompanied the Israelites out of Egypt, and directed their march (Exodus 13:21, 22), though this is not distinctly stated. That the people may believe thee for ever. In "the people" are included their descendants; and they are to "believe Moses for ever, because the law is in some sense of eternal obligation on all men" (Matthew 5:18). And Moses told the words of the people unto the Lord. It is not easy to assign a reason for the repetition of this clause from vers. 8, in almost identical terms. There were no fresh "words of the people" to report. We can only say that such seemingly needless repetitions are in the manner of archaic writers, who seem to intend in this way to emphasise a fact. The acceptance of the covenant by the people beforehand, completed by Moses reporting it to God, is the necessary basis of all that follows - the required preliminary to the giving of any covenant at all.
CHAPTER 19:10-15 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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