Haydock Catholic Bible Commentary
This day. The same on which they departed from the Raphidim, or on the third day of the third month; though St. Augustine understands the first of the month; (Calmet) on which last supposition, allowing 16 days of the month Nisan, 30 of Jiar, and 4 of Sivan, the law was given 50 days after the liberation of the Jews, as the new law was promulgated on Whit-Sunday, on the day of Pentecost. (St. Augustine, ep. 119. 16.) (Worthington)
And Moses went up to God. Moses went up to Mount Sinai, where God spoke to him.
Eagles. Out of the reach of danger. As eagles carry their young upon their wings, so I have protected you from all your enemies, Deuternomy xxxii. 11. (Calmet)
Possession, (peculium). Hebrew segula, "a chosen portion or treasure." (Menochius) --- Mine. I could have made choice of others. We cannot but admire the goodness of God, who asks for the free consent of the people. Hence they can have no pretence for breaking this solemn covenant. (Calmet) (Theodoret, 9. 35.)
Priestly kingdom. "Priests and kings," Chaldean. You shall rule over the Chanaanites, &c., and you shall offer sacrifice to me, at least, by slaying the paschal lamb. This kingdom shall not be merely of a civil nature; it shall be also sacred. The whole nation shall be holy, separated from the pagans, and consecrated to me. (Menochius)
Related, as a mediator acting between two parties, (Haydock) though God knew all before. Thus his servants cease not to lay before him their own and our wants. (Worthington)
Cloud, to veil his majesty, while he spoke to Moses in the hearing of all. (Haydock) --- Then they began to place an entire confidence in their leader. (Maimonides)
Garments, with their bodies, as the Jews understand by this expression. They were also to abstain from their wives, &c. By which exterior practices, they were admonished of the interior purity which God required. All nations seem to have adopted similar observances of continence, washing themselves, and putting on their best attire, when they appeared before God. See Herod., &c. (Calmet)
Him. In detestation of his impiety, which has made him unclean. (Haydock) --- Go up into the precincts of the mountain, to which Moses conducted them; (ver. 17. 21,) or they might ascend after the trumpet ceased, and the law was given. For some understand shall begin, in a contrary sense with the Roman Septuagint, "when the voices of thunder, and the trumpets, and the cloud shall be no more;" (apelthe) so also the Chaldean, Syriac. (Vatable) The sound which was heard, resembled that of a horn. (Jobel.) See Leviticus xxv. 10. (Calmet)
Wives. St. Paul recommends continence when people have to pray, 1 Corinthians vii. On the pagan temple of Epidaurus, this inscription was placed, "Let those be chaste who enter here." (Clement of Alexandria, strom. 5.)
Terrible, by the display of so many instruments of God's power; lightning, fire, a thick cloud, and various peals of thunder, and the sound of a trumpet; besides rain, and the company of millions of angels, Psalm lxvii. 9, 18. How different was the appearance of Sion, when Jesus proclaimed his gospel! (Hebrews xii. 18.)
Answered him, "in a speech," articulated and heard by all the people, as the Hebrew, Septuagint, Syriac, &c., intimate. Many legislators have pretended that their laws came from heaven. But they had no witnesses. Moses does all openly. His laws are preceded, accompanied, and followed by prodigies.
Sanctified, in an extraordinary manner, above the rest. These priests, according to St. Augustine, are the children of Aaron, and the whole race of Levi, who would shortly be selected by God. But others think, they are those who, by the law of nature, were accustomed to officiate. Or, as God had declared that they were all a priestly kingdom, some of the most comely and irreproachable youths of each family, had been chosen to present victims, when the covenant with God was to be ratified, chap. xxiv. 15. (Calmet)
The people. Glassius understands this with an interrogation, "Can no one?" God exempts Aaron from the common law, ver. 24. (Haydock)
Pass. Septuagint, "contend violently to pass." The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, Matthew xi. 12. (Menochius) --- Moses was the mediator of this covenant, and Aaron his interpreter, to explain to the people the orders of Moses. (Calmet) --- Thus we have seen the dreadful apparatus of the law of fear, with the preface to it, and the approbation of the people.