Exodus 24:11
And on the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand: also they saw God, and did eat and drink.
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(11) The nobles.—The word used is an unusual one, but seems to designate the “elders” of Exodus 24:1; Exodus 24:9. It implies nobility of birth.

He laid not his hand—i.e., He in nowise hurt or injured them. The belief was general that a man could not see God and live (Genesis 32:30; Exodus 32:20; Judges 6:22-23, &c.). In one sense it was true—“No man hath seen the Father.” But the Son could reveal Himself under the Old Dispensation, as under the New, and not even cause terror by His presence. (See the last clause of the verse.)

Also they saw God.—Rather, they both saw God, and also did eat and drink. It is intended to express in the clearest way that the two facts were concurrent. As they feasted on the sacrificial meal, the vision of God was made manifest to them. It is impossible to doubt that we have here a precious forecast of the Christian’s highest privilege—the realisation of the presence of God in the sacred feast of the Holy Communion.

Exodus 24:11. Upon the nobles — Or elders; of Israel he laid not his hand — Though they were men, the splendour of his glory did not overwhelm them, but it was so moderated, (Job 36:9,) and they were so strengthened, (Daniel 10:19,) that they were able to bear it: nay, though they were sinful men, and obnoxious to God’s justice, yet he did not lay his avenging hand upon them, as they feared he would. When we consider what a consuming fire God is, and what stubble we are before him, we shall have reason to say, in all our approaches to him, “It is of the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed.” They saw God, and did eat and drink — They had not only their lives preserved, but their vigour, courage, and comfort; it cast no damp upon their joy, but rather increased it. They feasted upon the sacrifice before God, in token of their cheerful consent to the covenant, their grateful acceptance of the benefits of it, and their communion with God in pursuance of that covenant.24:9-11 The elders saw the God of Israel; they had some glimpse of his glory, though whatever they saw, it was something of which no image or picture could be made, yet enough to satisfy them that God was with them of a truth. Nothing is described but what was under his feet. The sapphires are the pavement under his feet; let us put all the wealth of this world under our feet, and not in our hearts. Thus the believer sees in the face of Jesus Christ, far clearer discoveries of the glorious justice and holiness of God, than ever he saw under terrifying convictions; and through the Saviour, holds communion with a holy God.He laid not his hand - i. e. He did not strike them. It was believed that a mortal could not survive the sight of God Exodus 33:20; Genesis 32:30; Judges 6:22; Judges 13:22 : but these rulers of Israel were permitted to eat and drink, while they were enjoying in an extraordinary degree the sense of the divine presence, and received no harm. 11. upon the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand—The "nobles," that is, the elders, after the sprinkling of the blood, were not inspired with terror in presence of the calm, benign, radiant symbol of the divine majesty; so different from the terrific exhibitions at the giving of the law. The report of so many competent witnesses would tend to confirm the people's faith in the divine mission of Moses.

eat and drink—feasted on the peace offering—on the remnants of the late sacrifices and libations. This feast had a prophetic bearing, intimating God's dwelling with men.

The nobles; or, separated or select ones, i.e. the persons who were singled out to go up with Moses, Exodus 24:1,9, the same of whom it is said here, and Exodus 24:10, that they saw God.

He laid not his hand, i.e. did not hurt or destroy them, as they might expect according to the vulgar opinion, Genesis 16:13 32:20, &c., and the conscience of their own guilt, as being now before their Lord and Judge. And so the phrase of putting or stretching forth the hand is most frequently used, as Genesis 37:22 1 Samuel 26:11,23 Es 2:21 Job 1:11,12 Psa 138:7, &c.

Did eat and drink; so far they were from being destroyed, that they were not affrighted at this glorious appearance of God, but were refreshed and comforted by it, and did joyfully eat and drink together in God’s presence, celebrating the sacred feast made of the remnant of the peace-offerings, according to the manner. Thus God gave them a taste of his grace and mercy in this covenant, and an assurance that he would not deal with them according to the rigours of the law, but for the sake of the blood of Christ typically represented there, would graciously pardon and accept all those that sincerely, though imperfectly, obey him. And upon the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand,.... Which some interpret of his hand of prophecy, and of the measure of the Spirit, such an one as Moses had, and by virtue of which he lived forty days and nights without eating and drinking; but these not having such a measure of the Spirit, were obliged to eat and drink to support nature, as in the next clause: but it is rather to be understood of the hand of God; he did not inflict any disease or death upon them on their sight of him, it being a notion that no man could see God and live; but these men did live, not only Moses, and Aaron and his two sons, but the seventy elders, who were the principal choicest persons among the children of Israel; wherefore the Targum of Jonathan wrongly restrains this to Nadab and Abihu:

also they saw God, and did eat and drink: though they saw God, they continued alive and well, and in good health, of which their eating and drinking were a sign and evidence; or they ate, as Abendana, the sacrifices of the peace offerings, which were usually eaten by the priests and the people; and as a feast was common at covenant making, here was a feast kept by the elders, the representatives of the people, when they covenanted with God. Onkelos favours this sense,"and they rejoiced in their sacrifices, which were accepted with good will, as if they had ate and drank.''

And upon the nobles of the children of Israel he {f} laid not his hand: also they saw God, and {g} did eat and drink.

(f) He did not make them afraid, nor punish them.

(g) That is, rejoiced.

11. It was the general belief (see on Exodus 33:20) that God could not be ‘seen,’—except in a purely spiritual sense,—with impunity; but upon this occasion Jehovah put not forth his hand (Exodus 9:15, Exodus 22:8) upon Moses or his companions, to harm them.

nobles] Heb. ‘ăẓîlîm, only here in this sense. The etym. is uncertain. In Isaiah 41:9 ’âẓîl means angle, corner: so perhaps, like pinnâh (see Jdg 20:2 RVm.), the word denotes men of position and responsibility, as the corners, or supports, of the community.

beheld] Heb. ḥâzâh, in prose only Exodus 18:21 besides, but often used of a prophet seeing a vision (e.g. Numbers 24:4), and the verb of which one of the words rendered ‘seer’ (Amos 7:12 al.) is the partic. LXX. (cf. on v. 10) paraphrase by ‘appeared in the place of God.’

did eat and drink] viz. at a sacrificial meal: see on Exodus 18:12Verse 11. - The nobles - i.e., the notables - the seventy elders, and other persons, already mentioned (vers. 1, 9). He laid not his hand. God did not smite them with death, or pestilence, or even blindness. It was thought to be impossible to see God and live. (See above, Genesis 32:30; Exodus 32:20; Judges 6:22, 23, etc.) Man was unworthy to draw near to God in any way; and to look on him was viewed as a kind of profanity. Yet some times he chose to show himself, in vision or otherwise, to his people, and then, as there could be no guilt on their part, there was no punishment on his. It is generally supposed that, in all such cases, it was the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity who condescended to show himself. Also they saw God. Rather, "they both saw God, and did eat and drink." The two were simultaneous. As they were engaged in the sacrificial meal, God revealed himself to them.

CHAPTER 24:12-18 After the foundation and soil had been thus prepared in the place of sacrifice, for the fellowship which Jehovah was about to establish with His people; Moses sent young men of the children of Israel to prepare the sacrifices, and directed them to offer burnt-offering and sacrifice slain-offerings, viz., שׁלמים, "peace-offerings (see at Leviticus 3:1) for Jehovah," for which purpose פּרים, bullocks, or young oxen, were used. The young men were not first-born sons, who had officiated as priests previous to the institution of the Levitical priesthood, according to the natural right of primogeniture, as Onkelos supposes; nor were they the sons of Aaron, as Augustine maintains: they simply acted as servants of Moses; and the priestly duty of sprinkling the blood was performed by him as the mediator of the covenant. It is merely as young men, therefore, i.e., as strong and active, that they are introduced in this place, and not as representatives of the nation, "by whom the sacrifice was presented, and whose attitude resembled that of a youth just ready to enter upon his course" (Kurtz, O. C. iii. 143). For, as Oehler says, "this was not a sacrifice presented by the nation on its own account. The primary object was to establish that fellowship, by virtue of which it could draw near to Jehovah in sacrifice. Moreover, according to Exodus 24:1 and Exodus 24:9, the nation possessed its proper representatives in the seventy elders" (Herzog's Cyclopaedia). But even though these sacrifices were not offered by the representatives of the nation, and for this very reason Moses selected young men from among the people to act as servants at this ceremony, they had so far a substitutionary position, that in their persons the nation was received into fellowship with God by means of the sprinkling of the blood, which was performed in a peculiar manner, to suit the unique design of this sacrificial ceremony.
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