Hebrews 12:18
For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest,
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(18-29) The exhortation to faithfulness is most impressively enforced by means of a comparison between the earlier revelation and that which is given in Christ.

The mount that might be touched.—It appears certain that the word “mount” has no place in the true Greek text. Had this word been in the sentence as originally written, its absence from all our more ancient authorities would be inexplicable; whilst, on the other hand, the contrast with Hebrews 12:22, and the recollection of Deuteronomy 4:11, from which the last words in this verse are taken, would very naturally lead a transcriber to supply this word, which he might suppose to have accidentally dropped out of the text. If, however, the writer did not make use of the word here, though the contrast of Hebrews 12:22 was already before his mind, it seems certain that the word was not in his thought; and hence we have no right to introduce it in the explanation of the verse. The true translation, in all probability, is as follows: For ye are not come unto a material (literally, a palpable) and kindled fire, and unto gloom and darkness and tempest. The object of the writer is to set forth the terrors which accompanied the giving of the Law,—that which the awe-stricken people saw and heard. Not the mount, but the terrible fire was that which met their gaze. Thus again and again in Deuteronomy we find reference to the voice and the fire alone (Deuteronomy 4:33; Deuteronomy 4:36; Deuteronomy 5:4; Deuteronomy 5:25-26; Deuteronomy 18:16). Shortly before “the day of the assembly” in Horeb Israel had been led by “a pillar of fire” (Exodus 13:21); in Hebrews 12:29 of this chapter the figure of “a consuming fire” is applied to God Himself. To avoid such associations as these, and vividly to represent what then was shown to the Israelites, he speaks of “a material and kindled fire.” The metaphor in “palpable” as applied to fire is hardly more remarkable than that involved in “a darkness which may be felt” (Exodus 10:21, where the word used in the LXX. is almost the same as that which we have here).

Hebrews 12:18-19. For, &c. — As if he had said, Take heed of apostatizing from Christianity to Judaism again, because of the great privileges you enjoy by the gospel above what your fathers enjoyed by the law: which privileges contain a strong reason why you should attend to these exhortations and cautions; ye — Who are proselyted to Christianity; are not come unto the mount that might — Or could; be touched — That is, of an earthly, material, or tangible nature; but which the people were prohibited to approach, and much more to touch. And that burned with fire — Unto the midst of heaven, (Deuteronomy 4:11,) to show that God is a consuming fire to the impenitent; and to blackness and darkness — An emblem of the obscurity of the Mosaic dispensation; and to tempest — Josephus tells us, (Antiq., lib. 3. c. 5,) that at the giving of the law strong winds came down, and manifested the presence of God. “Perhaps,” says Macknight, “this prefigured what happened when the new law, the gospel, was given. For, previous to the descent of the Holy Ghost, there came a sound from heaven as of a mighty rushing wind: and the sound of a trumpet — Formed, without doubt, by the ministry of angels, and which at length waxed exceeding loud, (Exodus 19:18-19,) preparatory to the voice of words — That is, the ten commandments, written afterward on the two tables of stone. For (all other noises, as of thunder, the trumpet, &c., ceasing) God caused a loud voice, speaking those ten commandments articulately in their own language, to be heard by the whole congregation, men, women, and children, in the station wherein they were placed at the foot of the mount; and this voice was so great and terrible that the people were not able to bear it: for although they were terrified with the dreadful appearances on the mount, yet was it this speaking of God that utterly overwhelmed them. See Deuteronomy 5:22. Which they that heard — Namely, the whole assembly or congregation, strongly impressed with the holiness and power of their Lawgiver and Judge, and being exceedingly terrified; entreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more — Or that the word or speaking of God to them should not be continued. The verb παρητησαντο, here rendered entreated, is twice translated to refuse, Hebrews 12:25. The meaning is, they deprecated the hearing of the word in that manner any more, which they did doubtless by their officers and elders, who both themselves being terrified, and observing the dread of the whole congregation, made request for themselves and the rest to Moses; and because they did it with a good intention, out of reverence for the majesty of God, without any design of declining obedience, it was accepted.

12:18-29 Mount Sinai, on which the Jewish church state was formed, was a mount such as might be touched, though forbidden to be so, a place that could be felt; so the Mosaic dispensation was much in outward and earthly things. The gospel state is kind and condescending, suited to our weak frame. Under the gospel all may come with boldness to God's presence. But the most holy must despair, if judged by the holy law given from Sinai, without a Saviour. The gospel church is called Mount Zion; there believers have clearer views of heaven, and more heavenly tempers of soul. All the children of God are heirs, and every one has the privileges of the first-born. Let a soul be supposed to join that glorious assembly and church above, that is yet unacquainted with God, still carnally-minded, loving this present world and state of things, looking back to it with a lingering eye, full of pride and guile, filled with lusts; such a soul would seem to have mistaken its way, place, state, and company. It would be uneasy to itself and all about it. Christ is the Mediator of this new covenant, between God and man, to bring them together in this covenant; to keep them together; to plead with God for us, and to plead with us for God; and at length to bring God and his people together in heaven. This covenant is made firm by the blood of Christ sprinkled upon our consciences, as the blood of the sacrifice was sprinkled upon the altar and the victim. This blood of Christ speaks in behalf of sinners; it pleads not for vengeance, but for mercy. See then that you refuse not his gracious call and offered salvation. See that you do not refuse Him who speaketh from heaven, with infinite tenderness and love; for how can those escape, who turn from God in unbelief or apostacy, while he so graciously beseeches them to be reconciled, and to receive his everlasting favour! God's dealing with men under the gospel, in a way of grace, assures us, that he will deal with the despisers of the gospel, in a way of judgment. We cannot worship God acceptably, unless we worship him with reverence and godly fear. Only the grace of God enables us to worship God aright. God is the same just and righteous God under the gospel as under the law. The inheritance of believers is secured to them; and all things pertaining to salvation are freely given in answer to prayer. Let us seek for grace, that we may serve God with reverence and godly fear.For ye are not come - To enforce the considerations already urged, the apostle introduces this sublime comparison between the old and new dispensations; Hebrews 12:18-24. The object, in accordance with the principal scope of the Epistle, is, to guard them against apostasy. To do this, he shows that under the new dispensation there was much more to hind them to fidelity, and to make apostasy dangerous, than there was under the old. The main point of the comparison is, that under the Jewish dispensation, everything was adapted to awe the mind, and to restrain by the exhibition of grandeur and of power; but that under the Christian dispensation, while there was as much that was sublime, there was much more that was adapted to win and hold the affections. There were revelations of higher truths. There were more affecting motives to lead to obedience. There was that of which the former was but the type and emblem. There was the clear revelation of the glories of heaven, and of the blessed society there, all adapted to prompt to the earnest desire that they might be our own. The considerations presented in this passage constitute the climax of the argument so beautifully pursued through this Epistle, showing that the Christian system was far superior in every respect to the Jewish. In presenting this closing argument, the apostle first refers to some of the circumstances attending the former dispensation which were designed to keep the people of God from apostasy, and then the considerations of superior weight existing under the Christian economy.

The mount that might be touched - Mount Sinai. The meaning here is, that "that mountain was palpable, material, touchable" - in contradistinction from the Mount Zion to which the church had now come, which is above the reach of the external senses; Hebrews 12:22. The apostle does not mean that it was permitted to the Israelites to touch Mount Sinai - for this was strictly forbidden, Exodus 19:12; but he evidently alludes to that prohibition, and means to say that a command forbidding them to "touch" the mountain, implied that it was a material or palpable object. The sense of the passage is, that every circumstance that occurred there was suited to fill the soul with terror. Everything accompanying the giving of the Law, the setting of bounds around the mountain which they might not pass, and the darkness and tempest on the mountain itself, was adopted to overawe the soul. The phrase "the touchable mountain" - if such a phrase is proper - would express the meaning of the apostle here. The "Mount Zion" to which the church now has come, is of a different character. It is not thus visible and palpable. It is not enveloped in smoke and flame, and the thunders of the Almighty do not roll and re-echo among its lofty peaks as at Horeb; yet it presents "stronger" motives to perseverance in the service of God.

And that burned with fire - Exodus 19:18; compare Deuteronomy 4:11; Deuteronomy 33:2.

Nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest - see Exodus 19:16.

18. For—The fact that we are not under the law, but under a higher, and that the last dispensation, the Gospel, with its glorious privileges, is the reason why especially the Hebrew Christians should "look diligently," &c. (Heb 12:15, 16).

are not come—Greek, "have not come near to." Alluding to De 4:11, "Ye came near and stood under the mountain; and the mountain burned with fire … with darkness, clouds, and thick darkness." "In your coming near unto God, it has not been to," &c.

the mount—The oldest manuscripts and Vulgate omit "the mount." But still, "the mount" must be supplied from Heb 12:22.

that might be touched—palpable and material. Not that any save Moses was allowed to touch it (Ex 19:12, 13). The Hebrews drew near to the material Mount Sinai with material bodies; we, to the spiritual mount in the spirit. The "darkness" was that formed by the clouds hanging round the mount; the "tempest" accompanied the thunder.

For showeth, Hebrews 12:18-24, the apostle enforcing on these Hebrews, and with them on all Christians, the pursuit of holiness and peace, by subjoining the great helps they have for it, beyond what the Old Testament church had, they being freed from the legal dispensation, which was less helpful to it, and admitted to that of the gospel, most promoting it. The first he layeth down, Hebrews 12:18-21; and the other, Hebrews 12:22-24. They are freed from the covenant dispensation at Mount Sinai.

Ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched; you have not been called, as to your body, to journey it to Sinai, or as to your faith to close with that covenant administration, to depend on, or have any expectation from it, as delivered by Moses at Mount Sinai in Arabia; a mountain visible, tactible, sensible, on earth, signifying the covenant dispensation from this mount to be low and earthy, occasioning earthy thoughts of God and carriage to him, sticking in an earthy altar sacrifice, and carnal and sensual religion; to the law written in stones, without minding the spirituality of it, or having it in their hearts; walking wisely in this wilderness state, yet, by the charge of God, not touchable by Israel at that time, though they came near to it in the third month after their coming out of Egypt, Exodus 19:1,12,13,23.

And that burned with fire; to the fire, in the which the Lord descended on the mount, Exodus 19:18; which burnt unto the midst of heaven, Deu 4:11 5:23,24, and would consume them that broke that law which he spake to them out of it, Deu 33:2.

Nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest; to the black, thick smoke that ascended as the smoke of a furnace, Exodus 19:18; to darkness, occasioned by the thick clouds enveloping the mount, Deu 4:11 5:23; to tempest, the storm of thundering, and lightnings, and earthquake, the terrible attendants of this solemnity, Exodus 19:16,18 20:18. All these shadowing forth the fiery and terrible storms of wrath and indignation, which should pursue the breakers of this covenant to the lowest hell; giving them, in this delivery of the law, a visible type of what should be the issue of their breaking it, Exodus 19:22,24. These terrors of the Almighty did so fright them, that they ran from God, and set not themselves to the serious pursuit of holiness, Isaiah 33:14.

For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched,.... The design of the apostle in the following words is, in general, to engage the Hebrews to adhere closely to the Gospel, from the consideration of the superior excellency of it to the law; and in particular, to enforce his former exhortations to cheerfulness under afflictions; to an upright walk in the ways of God; to follow peace with all men, even with the Gentiles, and holiness both of heart and life; and to value the doctrine of the Gospel; and to take heed that none fail of it, or act unbecoming it: and here the apostle observes, what the believing Hebrews were not come to, being delivered from it, namely, the legal dispensation, which was their privilege; the happiness of which as expressed by a detail of particular circumstances, which attended the giving of the law to the Jews: it was given on a "mount which might be touched"; that is, by God, who descended on it, and by, touching it caused it to smoke, quake, and move, Exodus 19:18. Compare with, Psalm 68:8 for it was not to be touched by the Israelites, nor by their cattle, Exodus 19:12, that is, at the time that the law was given, and Jehovah was upon it, otherwise it might be touched; and the meaning is, that it was an earthly mountain, that might be approached to, and be seen and felt, and not of a spiritual nature, as Sion, or the church of God; and so may be expressive of the carnality of the law, and also of the movableness of it:

and that burned with fire; as Mount Sinai did, Exodus 19:18 Deuteronomy 4:11 which set forth the majesty of God, when upon it, at whose feet went forth burning coals; and also the wrath of God, as an avenging lawgiver and Judge; and the terror of that law, which strikes the minds of the transgressors of it with an expectation of fiery indignation; and so points out the end of such transgressors, which is, to be burnt:

nor unto blackness and darkness; which covered the mount when God was upon it, Exodus 19:16 and which also may express the majesty of God, round about whom are clouds and darkness; and also the horror of the legal dispensation, and the obscurity of it; little being known by the Jews of the spirituality of the law, of the strict justice of God, and of the righteousness which the law requires, and of the end and use of it; and especially of the way of salvation by Christ; and so dark were they at last, as to prefer their own traditions before this law: it is added,

and tempest; there being thunderings and lightnings, which were very terrible, Exodus 19:16 and though there is no express mention made of a tempest by Moses, yet Josephus (d) speaks not only of very terrible thunderings and lightnings, but of violent storms of wind, which produced exceeding great rains: and the Septuagint on Deuteronomy 4:11 use the same words as the apostle does here, "blackness, darkness, and tempest". This also may denote the majesty of God, who was then present; the terror of that dispensation; the horrible curses of the law; and the great confusion and disquietude raised by it in the conscience of a sinner.

(d) Antiqu. l. 3. c. 5. sect. 2.

{12} For ye are not come unto the mount that might be {h} touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest,

(12) Now he applies the same exhortation to the prophetic and kingly office of Christ compared with Moses, after this sort. If the majesty of the law was so great, how great do you think the glory of Christ and the gospel is? This comparison he declares also particularly.

(h) Which might be touched with hands, which was of a gross and earthly matter.

Hebrews 12:18. Γάρ] enforces, by a reason adduced, the exhortation to sanctification at Hebrews 12:14 ff., inasmuch as there is an underlying reference to the fact that, according to Exodus 19:10 f., 14 f., the people of Israel in their day, before they were permitted to approach Mount Sinai in order to receive the law, had to sanctify themselves (Exodus 19:10 : ἅγνισον αὐτούς; Hebrews 12:14 : καὶ ἡγίασεν αὐτούς), to wash their clothes, and to preserve themselves free from all defilement.

οὐ γὰρ προσεληλύθατε] for ye did not, sc. when ye became Christians, draw near. Comp. Deuteronomy 4:11 : καὶ προσήλθετε καὶ ἔστητε ὑτὸ τὸ ὄρος.

ψηλαφωμένῳ ὀρει] to a mountain which is touched, i.e. felt, or laid hold of with hands. That which is intended is Mount Sinai, the place of revelation of the Mosaic law, mentioned also Galatians 4:24-25 as the representative of Judaism. As a mountain, however, which is touched or felt with hands this mountain is spoken of, in order thereby to express its character of externally perceptible, earthly, in opposition to the supra-sensuous, heavenly (ἐπουράνιον, Hebrews 12:22). The form ψηλαφώμενον is not to be taken as synonymous with ψηλαφητόν, that could be touched, as is still done by Knapp, Böhme, Stuart, Bleek, de Wette, Tholuck, Bloomfield, Ebrard, Bisping, Kurtz, Ewald, and the majority of modern expositors. For the participle is indeed employed for the verbal adjective in the Hebrew, but never in the Greek. Neither can ψηλαφώμενον signify: “touched of God by lightning, and therefore smoking” (Schöttgen, Kypke, Bengel, Chr. Fr. Schmid, Storr, Heinrichs, and others; comp. Exodus 19:18 : τὸ ὄρος τὸ Σινὰ ἐκαπνίζετο ὅλον διὰ τὸ καταβεβηκέναι ἐπʼ αὐτὸ τὸν θεὸν ἐν πυρί; Psalm 104:32 : ὁ ἁπτόμενος τῶν ὀρέων καὶ καπνίζονται), since ψηλαφᾶν signifies not the contact made with the view to the producing of an effect, but only the touching or feeling (handling), which has as its design the testing of the quality or the presence of an object. Comp. Luke 24:39; 1 John 1:1; Acts 17:27. Moreover, the participle present is unsuitable to this explanation, instead of which a participle of the past must have been chosen.

καὶ κεκαυμένῳ πυρί] is understood by Erasmus, Calvin, Beza, Grotius, Bengel, Knapp, Paulus, Stuart, Stengel, Bisping, Delitzsch, Riehm (Lehrbegr. des Hebräerbr. p. 114), Maier, Moll, Kurtz, Ewald, al., as a new particular, co-ordinate with the ψηλαφωμένῳ ὄρει: “and enkindled fire.” On account of the like nature of the additions, καὶ γνόφῳ κ.τ.λ., immediately following, this acceptation seems in itself the more natural; but since, in the passages of the Pentateuch which were before the mind of the writer in connection with this expression, there are found the words: καὶ τὸ ὄρος ἐκαίετο πυρί (comp. Deuteronomy 4:11; Deuteronomy 5:23; Deuteronomy 9:15), it is more probable that the author referred κεκαυμένῳ still to ὄρει, and would have πυρί taken as dativus instrum. to κεκαυμένῳ: and which (mountain) was enkindled, or set on flame, with fire.

καὶ γνόφῳ καὶ ζόφῳ καὶ θυέλλῃ] and to gloom and darkness and tempest. Comp. Deuteronomy 4:11; Deuteronomy 5:22 : σκότος, γνόφος, θύελλα.

Hebrews 12:18-29. To the endeavour after sanctification the readers are bound, by the constitution of that New Covenant to which they have come. While the Old Covenant bore the character of the sensuous, earthly, and that which awakens merely fear, the New Covenant has the character of the spiritual, heavenly, brings into communion with God and all saints, and confers reconciliation (Hebrews 12:18-24). Against apostasy, therefore, from the New Covenant (by an immoral walk), are the readers to be on their guard; for their guilt and culpability would be thereby incomparably enhanced. Rather are they to be filled with thankfulness towards God for the participation in the immovable kingdom of the New Covenant, and with awe and reverence to serve Him (Hebrews 12:25-29).

On Hebrews 12:18-24, comp. G. Chr. Knapp in his Scripta varii argum., ed. 2, Hal. Saxon. 1823, tom. I. pp. 231–270.

Hebrews 12:18-29. In this paragraph we have the climax of the Epistle. Its doctrine and its exhortation alike culminate here. The great aim of the writer has been to persuade the Hebrews to hearken to the word spoken by God in Christ (Hebrews 1:1, Hebrews 2:1-4). This aim he still seeks to attain by bringing before his readers in one closing picture the contrast between the old dispensation and the new. The old was characterised by material, sensible transitory manifestations; the new by what is supersensible and eternally stable. The old also rather emphasised the inaccessible nature of God, His unapproachable holiness, His awful majesty, and taught men that they could not come near; the new brings men into the very presence of God, and though He be “Judge of all” yet is He surrounded with the spirits of perfected men. But as the writer seeks to quicken his readers to a more zealous faith He shows also the awful consequences of refusing Him that speaketh from heaven. Not the fire and smoke of Sinai threaten now to consume the disobedient, but “our God is a consuming fire”; not a symbolic and material element threatened, but the very Eternal and All-pervading Himself. And, returning to the idea with which he commenced the Epistle and so making its unity obvious, the writer contrasts the voice that shook the earth with the infinitely more terrible voice that shakes the heavens also, that terminates time and brings in eternal things.

18–29. The mercy and sublimity of the New Covenant as contrasted with the Old (18–24) enhance the guilt and peril of the backslider (25–29)

18. For ye are not come] At the close of his arguments and exhortations the writer condenses the results of his Epistle into a climax of magnificent eloquence and force, in which he shews the transcendent beauty and supremacy of the New Covenant as compared with the terrors and imperfections of the Old.

unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire] Unless we allow the textual evidence to be overruled by the other considerations, which are technically called “paradiplomatic evidence,” the verse should be rendered “For ye have not come near to a palpable and enkindled fire.” In any case the allusion is to Exodus 19:16-19; Deuteronomy 4:11, and generally to “the fiery law.”

blackness, and darkness, and tempest] Deuteronomy 4:11; Deuteronomy 5:22.

Hebrews 12:18. Οὐ γὰρ) The reason why they ought to obey this whole exhortation, which has been derived from the priesthood of Christ, because the salvation is more immediately at hand and the vengeance is more nearly at hand. Comp. ch. Hebrews 2:1, etc.—προσεληλύθατε) Deuteronomy 4:11, LXX., καὶ προσήλθετε καὶ ἔστητε ὑπὸ τὸ ὄρος, καὶ τὸ ὄρος ἐκαίετο πυρὶ ἕως τοῦ οὐρανοῦ· σκύτος, γνόφος, θύελλα.—ψηλαφωμένῳ) which was touched, by God, so that the whole was put in commotion (was shaken by an earthquake), Hebrews 12:26; Psalm 104:32; Psalm 144:5, and was to be touched meanwhile by no man or brute, Hebrews 12:20. So ψηλαφᾷν, to touch, is used in Jdg 16:26. The mountain was touched at that one time; but GOD’S eternal habitation is described in Hebrews 12:22.—ὄρει, to the mount) The name of Sinai is elegantly passed over in silence, whereas Sion is mentioned.—κεκαυμένῳ πυρὶ, to the fire which burned) [But Engl. Vers., that burned with fire].—καὶ γνόφῳ καὶ σκότῳ, and to mist [blackness] and darkness) Ephraim Syrus, f. 85, ed. Oxon., says, “There is no light without fire, nor darkness (σκότος) without blackness or mist (γνόφος).” Whence the strict meaning of the words is evident.[78] We have already seen that the LXX. use the same expressions: ζόφος is a synonym of ΓΝΌΦΟς.

[78] Γνόφος is the Germ. dunkelheit, gloom, or mist. It is related to σκότος, darkness, Germ. finsterniss, as fire is to the light. Γνόφος or ζόφος, mist, is the cause or embodiment of the σκότος. So ζόφος τοῦ σκότους, mist of darkness, 2 Peter 2:17.—ED.

Verses 18-29. - There follows now, both for encouragement and for warning, a grand contrast between the Mosaic and Christian dispensations, founded on the phenomena that accompanied the giving of the Law. To Mount Sinai, with its repelling terrors, is opposed an ideal picture of Mount Zion and the heavenly Jerusalem, expressive of the communion of saints in Christ. And then at ver. 25 (as previously in Hebrews 10.) the tone of encouragement changes again to one of warning, the very excess of privilege being made the measure of the guilt of slighting it. Verse 18. - For ye are not come unto a mount that might be touched, and that burned, with fire, and unto blackness and darkness and tempest. The allusion is to the Israelites approaching Mount Sinai when the Law was given (see Deuteronomy 4:11, whence still more than from Exodus 19. the whole description is taken, "And ye came near [προσήλθετε, the same word as is used supra, Hebrews 4:16; Hebrews 7:25], and stood under the mountain"). Though the word "mount" in the Received Text has the support of no ancient authority, it must be understood, whether or not originally written. For it comes after προσήλθετε in the passage of Deuteronomy which is evidently referred to, the following words, "blackness, darkness, tempest" (σκότος γνόφος θύελλα), being also found there. And otherwise we should have to translate, "a touched [i.e. palpable] and kindled fire;" but "touched" (φηλαφωμένῳ) is not suitable to fire; and we should also lose the evidently intended contrast between the two mountains of Sinai and Zion, which appears in ver. 22. Neither may we trans- late, as some would do, "a mountain that might be touched, and kindled fire;" for the original passage in Deuteronomy has "and the mountain burned with fire (καὶ τὸ ὄρος ἐκαίετο πυρὶ)." The participle φηλαφωμένῳ (literally, that was touched), rather than ψηφαλητῷ, may be used here, although on the occasion referred to all were forbidden to touch the mountain, by way of bringing more distinctly into view the actual Sinai, which was touched at other times, and which Moses both touched and ascended. If so, the main purpose of the word is to contrast the local and palpable mountain of the Law with the ideal Mount Zion which is afterwards spoken cf. Or, the verb ψηλαλάω may here carry with it its common sense of groping after, as in the dark (cf. Deuteronomy 28:29, Καὶ ἔση ψηλαφῶν μεσημβρίας ὡσεὶ ψηλαφήσαι ὁ τυφλὸς ἐν τῷ σκότει), with reference to the cloudy darkness about Sinai, and in contrast with the clear unclouded vision of Zion. Hebrews 12:18Following this allusion to Esau, and perhaps suggested by it, is a passage setting forth the privileges of the Christian birthright and of Christian citizenship in contrast with those under the old covenant.

The mount that might be touched and that burned with fire (ψηλαφωμένῳ καὶ κεκαυμένῳ πυρὶ)

Ὄρει mount is omitted by the best texts, but should be understood. Ψηλαφᾶν is rare in N.T. and lxx; fairly frequent in Class. Radically, it is akin to ψᾶν, to rub, wipe; hence feeling on the surface, as Genesis 27:12, Genesis 27:21, Genesis 27:22, lxx: a touch which communicates only a superficial effect. It need not imply contact with an object at all, but simply the movement of the hands feeling after something. Hence often of the groping of the blind, as Deuteronomy 28:29; Isaiah 59:10; Job 5:14. Appropriate here as indicating mere superficial contact. The present participle that is being touched, means simply that the mountain was something material and tangible. The A.V. which might be touched, although not literally correct, conveys the true sense.

That burned with fire (κεκαυμένῳ πυρὶ)

See Exodus 19:18; Deuteronomy 4:11; Deuteronomy 5:4; Deuteronomy 9:15. The participle is passive, set on fire; kindled with fire: not attributive of πυρὶ, enkindled fire.

Blackness, darkness, tempest (γνόφῳ, ζόφῳ, θυέλλῃ)

Γνόφος (N.T.o) and ζόφος (elsewhere only 2 Peter nd Jude) belong to the same family. As distinguished from σκότος darkness that conceals, as opposed to light, these words signify half-darkness, gloom, nebulousness; as the darkness of evening or the gathering gloom of death. It is a darkness which does not entirely conceal color. Thus δνόφος, the earlier and poetic form of γνόφος, is used by Homer of water which appears dark against the underlying rock, or is tinged by mire. Γνόφος and σκότος appear together, Exodus 10:22; Exodus 14:20; Deuteronomy 4:11; Deuteronomy 5:22. Γνόφος alone, Exodus 20:21. Ζόφος only in the later version of Symmachus. See on John 1:5. Θύελλα N.T.o , from θύειν to boil or foam. It is a brief, violent, sudden, destructive blast, sometimes working upward and carrying objects into the upper air; hence found with ἀείρειν to lift and ἀναρπάζειν to snatch up (see Hom. Od. xx. 63). It may also come from above and dash down to the ground (Hom. Il. xii. 253). Sometimes it indicates the mere force of the wind, as ἀνέμοιο θύελλα (Hom. Od. xii. 409; Il. vi. 346).

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Hebrews 12:17
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