James Gray - Concise Bible Commentary
In the third month, when the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, the same day came they into the wilderness of Sinai.Exodus 19:1-25
PREPARATION FOR RECEIVING THE LAW
The Exodus includes two concurring elements in the moral history of the people their redemption and their renovation. It is worthy of notice that God did not give Israel the law first and then say, “I will redeem you if you obey it,” but that He redeemed them first and gave them the law afterwards.
THE ARRIVAL AT SINAI (Exodus 19:1-2)
“In the third month the same day.” These words lead to the belief that the first day of the third (lunar) month is meant, just 45 days (as we can easily recall) from their departure out of Egypt. To these, quoting Bush, let us add the day on which Moses went up to God (Exodus 19:3), the day after when he returned the answer of the people to God (Exodus 19:7-8), and the three days more named (v. 10-11), and we have just fifty days from the Passover to the giving of the law. Hence the feast kept in later times to celebrate this event was called Pentecost, which means fiftieth day. And it is interesting that it was at this very feast the Holy Spirit was given to the disciples of Christ (Acts 2:1-4) to enable them to communicate to all men to the new covenant of the Gospel.
The text of Exodus 19:2 in the King James version distinguishes between the “desert” and the “wilderness” of Sinai, but there seems to be no good reason for this. “Sinai” denotes a particular mountain of that name, while “Horeb” denotes the range of which Sinai is a part. The wilderness of Sinai would seem to be the plains and wadys in its immediate neighborhood, including the mountain itself, and perhaps coextensive with the term Horeb.
THE DIVINE PRELUDE (Exodus 19:3-9)
When it is said “Moses went up unto God,” remember the pillar of cloud in which in a sense the divine Presence abode, and which now rested doubtless on the summit of the mountain. Evidently Moses did not ascend the mountain at this time, but simply approached it.
By what two names are the people designated in Exodus 19:3? Which points to their natural and which their spiritual derivation (Genesis 32:23-32)?
With what three words in Exodus 19:4 does God call them as witnesses to the fidelity of His promises? What beautiful figure of speech does He use expressive of His care for them? (Compare Exodus 19:4 with Deuteronomy 32:11-12.) Also examine Revelation 12:14, where His care for them in their coming tribulation at the end of this age is spoken of in similar terms. The parent eagle in teaching its nestlings to fly sweeps gently past them perched on the ledge of a rock, and when one, venturing to follow, begins to sink with dropping wing, she glides underneath it and bears it aloft again.
But what is expected of them as the result of this grace? And what promise is bestowed upon them in this contingency (Exodus 19:5)? And how will their preciousness to God find expression in their service (Exodus 19:6)?
1. that while all the inhabitants of the earth belong to God by right of creation and general benefaction, Israel belonged to Him by special grace and covenant; that while they themselves were to be objects of priestly intercession and kingly protection they were also to be elevated into the dignity and authority of performing priestly functions and dispensing royal favors to others; and
2. that as a qualification for all this they were to be a holy nation.
THE PEOPLE’S PLEDGE (Exodus 19:7-9)
THE PEOPLE’S PLEDGE (19:7-9) “The elders of the people” (Exodus 19:7) means the leaders and principal men of the different tribes. How is the Lord’s command received by them (Exodus 19:8)? While this is commendable, yet in the sequel how much better if they had asked God’s help to enable them to obey and to appreciate His goodness! How little they knew themselves, and how well they represent us in the earlier stages of our new experiences in Christ!
What does God now promise to Moses personally (Exodus 19:9)? To what end? And why was it necessary? Had not God given evidence of His divine commission in the sign of the rod and the serpent? Yes, but this was only before the elders of the people. And had He not given evidence in the miracles of judgment upon Egypt? Yes, but many of these were not before all the people. So now they are to have a general and personal attestation which should last forever. Observe our Savior’s recognition of this authority of Moses in Luke 16:31, and compare a similar recognition of His own authority in 2 Peter 1:16-18.
THE PEOPLE’S PURIFICATION (Exodus 19:10-14)
We can see the propriety of this command, but should remember that there is no virtue in external washings and other abstinences, except as they symbolize and impress us with the obligation of inner holiness and separation on the part of those who are to hold intercourse with God.
What was the Lord now about to do (Exodus 19:11)? And with reference thereto what warning is promulgated (Exodus 19:12)? What should happen to the man or beast overstepping these bounds (Exodus 19:13)? The word “it” in the first clause of the verse refers to the man or beast. That is, no one should cross the bounds, even to go after it (the man or beast) to drag it back or punish it, but from a distance it should be stoned or shot. What a commentary on presumptuous sin!
“Trumpet” means a supernatural one to be heard from the mountain. The people were to “come up to the mount” in that they were to draw night to it, but no nearer than the bounds already prescribed.
THE PHENOMENA ON THE MOUNT (Exodus 19:16-25)
Describe the impressive phenomena of verses 16 and 18, and their effects on the people. Never until the close of this age and the coming of our Lord will anything like this be seen or heard again. Compare 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10 and the language of the Apocalypse, e.g., chapters 4 and 5.
How did God speak to Moses (Exodus 19:19)? Doubtless this means by “an audible and articulate form of word.” What seems to have been impending on the part of the people, judging by Exodus 19:21? How is God’s attention to details (if one may so say), and how is His mercy manifested here?
Who can be meant by “priests” in Exodus 19:22 since the Aaronic priesthood was not yet instituted? The common answer is the firstborn or eldest son in every household. This seems to be suggested by the patriarchal history as one of the privileges connected with the birthright. Compare also Exodus 24:5.
Who was to come up into the mountain with Moses when the latter returned (Exodus 19:24)? We shall see the reason for this later when Aaron is invested with the priesthood, for it was fitting that there should be put upon him that distinction which would inspire respect for him on the part of the people.
(1) What have we learned about the day, or feast, of Pentecost?
(2) What have we learned of the priestly character of Israel?
(3) Can you quote Luke 16:31?
1. Name one or two illustrations here of God’s grace to us in Christ.
2. Have you examined the Scripture references in this lesson?