Matthew Poole's 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.The people come to Sinai, Exodus 19:1,2. God’s proposal to them by Moses. Of the terms of the covenant, Exodus 19:3-6. Moses lays before them what God had commanded, Exodus 19:7. The people’s acceptance of the same, Exodus 19:8. God directeth Moses how to sanctify the people, Exodus 19:10,11; to set bounds to the people that they touch not the mount, Exodus 19:12. The punishment of those that did, Exodus 19:13. Moses sanctifying the people, Exodus 19:14; commands them to keep from their wives, Exodus 19:15. The manner of God’s appearing, Exodus 19:16,18,19. God talketh with Moses, Exodus 19:21-24.
Heb. Third new moon, called Sivan, including the latter part of May, and the former part of June.
The same day, Heb. in that day, to wit, when the month or new moon began, and when they departed from Rephidim, to note, that there was no station between these two. This is set down thus accurately, because it gives an account of the original of the feast of pentecost, because the giving of the law, which was three or four days after this time, was fifty days after the passover, whereof forty-six or forty-seven were past at their first coming to Sinai, reckoning from the fifteenth day of the first month, when they came out of Egypt, to this time.
For they were departed from Rephidim, and were come to the desert of Sinai, and had pitched in the wilderness; and there Israel camped before the mount.To the desert of Sinai, i.e. to that part of the desert which adjoined to Mount Sinai, as Rephidim, from whence they came, was in that part of the wilderness adjoining to Horeb, which was another part of the same mountain. See Exodus 17:6. So they seem to have fetched a large compass, and to have come from one side of the mountain to the other.
And Moses went up unto God, and the LORD called unto him out of the mountain, saying, Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel;Moses went up into the mount of God, to the place where God had now fixed his cloudy pillar, and where he was about to manifest himself in a glorious manner. So it is an anticipation.
Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself.i. e. Safely, out of the reach of danger; and strongly, against all opposition. Compare Deu 32:11 Isaiah 63:9 Revelation 12:14.
Unto myself, into my presence, and favour, and fellowship, to be my peculiar people, to serve and worship me as your only Lord and King.
Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine:If ye will obey my voice indeed; Heb. obeying ye will obey; i.e. if ye will obey me sincerely, diligently, and constantly.
A peculiar treasure, highly prized and loved, and carefully kept by me, as men’s treasures generally are. For all people upon earth are mine by creation and dominion, and I can dispose of them all as I please, and either choose or refuse any of them as I think fit; and therefore though I might refuse you, as well as any others, yet it is my pleasure to single you out of all the world, upon whom to confer my chiefest and peculiar blessings. Or, though all the earth be mine, by general right, yet you only are mine by special title and privilege.
And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.A kingdom of priests; so they are called in regard,
1. Of their exemption and separation from all the people of the world, as priests are taken out of the multitude of men.
2. Of their consecration to the worship and service of God, every subject of this kingdom being in some sort a priest to offer some kind of sacrifices to God,
3. Of their privileges, because God conferred upon them singular honour, safety, and immunity, and liberty of coming near to him, as priests among all nations have been esteemed privileged persons. An holy nation, purged from the idolatry and other abominations of the heathen world, and separated from them by a avail of partition; allied to me by a holy covenant, and consecrated to my use and service.
And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words which the LORD commanded him.No text from Poole on this verse.
And all the people answered together, and said, All that the LORD hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the LORD.Not for God’s information, but for the people’s greater obligation, and to learn what answer he should return from God to them.
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.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.
And the LORD said unto Moses, Go unto the people, and sanctify them to day and to morrow, and let them wash their clothes,i.e. Command them to sanctify and cleanse themselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, and to prepare their hearts for the right receiving of my laws, and solemn entering into covenant with me. Compare Leviticus 11:45 Joshua 3:5 7:13.
Let them wash their clothes; by which external washing, which was agreeable to that state of the church, they were taught to cleanse their inward man.
And be ready against the third day: for the third day the LORD will come down in the sight of all the people upon mount Sinai.For the third day from this time, and the fiftieth day from the passover, as was noted before,
the Lord will come down in a visible and glorious manifestation of his presence.
And thou shalt set bounds unto the people round about, saying, Take heed to yourselves, that ye go not up into the mount, or touch the border of it: whosoever toucheth the mount shall be surely put to death:By this symbolical injunction God designed,
1. To restrain men’s curious and bold inquiries into the things of God.
2. To possess the Israelites then present, and all succeeding generations, with the dread and reverence of the Divine Majesty, and of his holy law.
3. To prepare and inure the people to the obedience of God’s commands, even when they discern not the reasons of them.
4. To make them sensible of their own impurity and infirmity, and of their absolute need of a mediator, through whom they might have access to God. See Galatians 3:19.
There shall not an hand touch it, but he shall surely be stoned, or shot through; whether it be beast or man, it shall not live: when the trumpet soundeth long, they shall come up to the mount.There shall not an hand touch it, i.e. the mountain. But,
1. This seems to be a gross tautology, for it was twice forbidden in the words next foregoing.
2. So the word hand would seem to be ascribed both to man and beast. Others therefore render it
touch him, i.e. they shall look upon such an impudent transgressor of my express command as an abominable person, whom they cannot touch without defilement, and therefore he shall be put to death in such a manner as may be performed without touching him.
Whether it be beast; for though the beasts are not capable of a law, yet they might be threatened for man’s caution, and punished for the fault of their owners in not keeping them at a distance from the mount.
When the trumpet soundeth long, i.e. with one continued, equal, and gentle sound, as is usual in the end of the music song, which is opposed to a rough, and loud, and unequal sound. There was no real trumpet here, but an angel made a sound like that of a trumpet.
They shall come up to the mount.
Object. This was forbidden to them, Exodus 19:12.
Answ. 1. They were forbidden to come up to the mount whilst God was delivering his laws, but allowed it afterwards when that action ceased, which was signified by the long sound of the trumpet.
2. They might not come into the mount or towards the top of it, but they might come to the bottom or lower parts of it, where the bounds were set, or at least towards or near it, as the Hebrew preposition beth is sometimes used. So the mount may be understood, more strictly, Exodus 19:12, for an eminent part or top of it, where the thick cloud appeared, and where Moses was, and here more largely for the whole mountain.
And Moses went down from the mount unto the people, and sanctified the people; and they washed their clothes.Moses sanctified the people, by commanding them to sanctify themselves, and directing them how to do it.
And he said unto the people, Be ready against the third day: come not at your wives.Abstain from the use of the marriage-bed, partly because your wives may haply have their uncleanness upon them, though unknown to themselves, at least to you, whereby you may be legally defiled; see Leviticus 15:18; and partly that your minds may be abstracted from all sensual delights, and wholly employed about this great and holy work and service. There is a like command 1 Corinthians 7:5; but both this and that do indifferently concern both ministers and people, and are limited to a certain time, and therefore are very impertinently alleged for the perpetual celibacy of ministers. See also 1 Samuel 21:5.
And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled.The
thunders and lightnings were sent partly as evidences and tokens both of God’s glorious presence, and of the anger of God, and the dreadful punishments due to the transgressors of the law now to be delivered; and partly as means to humble, and awaken, and convince, and terrify proud and secure sinners, that they might more reverently attend to the words and commands of God, more willingly yield obedience to them, and be more afraid of the violation of them.
A thick cloud was both a fit mean for the production and reception of the thunders and lightnings, and a signification as well of the invisible and unconceivable nature of God, as of the obscurity of the legal dispensation in regard of its types and shadows, & c., 2 Corinthians 3:13,18 4:6.
The trumpet was a fit instrument, both for the promulgation of God’s law, and for the signification of that war that is between God and sinners.
All the people, Moses himself not excepted, as appears from Hebrews 12:21.
And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with God; and they stood at the nether part of the mount.Therefore one part of the mount they might come to, though not to another, to wit, the higher; which may clear the difficulty and seeming contradiction betwixt Exodus 19:12,13.
And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly.The Lord descended in fire for further terror to obstinate sinners. Hence this law is called a
fiery law, Deu 33:2.
The whole mount quaked greatly, by an earthquake, as appears from Psalm 60:2 104:32.
And when the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder, Moses spake, and God answered him by a voice.Waxed louder and louder; Heb. went on, or increased and grew very strong, or vehement, or loud. This is opposed to the sounding long, Exodus 19:13.
God answered him by a voice, i.e. by plain, distinct, and audible words, as Psalm 81:7 John 12:29, so as the people also might hear, as appears from Exodus 19:9. See Deu 5:24 1 Kings 19:12,13 Heb 12:19.
And the LORD came down upon mount Sinai, on the top of the mount: and the LORD called Moses up to the top of the mount; and Moses went up.So here are three parts of the mount manifestly distinguished; the top, where the cloud was; the middle part, where Moses now stood, and about which the bounds seem to have been put; and the nether or lower part, where the people were.
And the LORD said unto Moses, Go down, charge the people, lest they break through unto the LORD to gaze, and many of them perish.Through curiosity to know in what form or manner I appear to thee.
And let the priests also, which come near to the LORD, sanctify themselves, lest the LORD break forth upon them.For though the Aaronical priesthood was not yet appointed, it is certain, that as there were sacrifices before, so there were priests to offer them, which were either the first-born, who were consecrated to God, and did execute the office of priests, as may be gathered from Exodus 13:2 24:5 Numbers 3:12 8:26, or some other persons appointed by God for doing that work till the office was settled in Aaron’s family.
Which come near to the Lord; not at this time, for both priests and people are now kept at equal distance, Exodus 19:24; but usually: q.d. Whose duty and privilege it is to approach unto God, and to present the people’s prayers and sacrifices to him, and therefore are here particularly admonished, because they above all others are obliged to this care, and because they might seem to claim this privilege by their function.
And Moses said unto the LORD, The people cannot come up to mount Sinai: for thou chargedst us, saying, Set bounds about the mount, and sanctify it.The people are sufficiently admonished in that particular, because as thou didst command this same thing before, Exodus 19:12, so I have informed and warned them of it; so that it may seem superfluous for me to go down again to acquaint them herewith. But God, who better knew the dulness and the hardness of their hearts than Moses did, saw it necessary to repeat the same command again and again. Some read the words interrogatively, lo for halo, as it is 2 Samuel 13:26 2 Kings 5:26 Job 2:10 Malachi 2:15; May not the people (i.e. some of the people, the priests at least, which, as thou hast now said, may come near to the Lord) go up? Is this a universal prohibition? To this answer is given by a distinction in the next verse, that he and Aaron might come up, but no other.
And the LORD said unto him, Away, get thee down, and thou shalt come up, thou, and Aaron with thee: but let not the priests and the people break through to come up unto the LORD, lest he break forth upon them.No text from Poole on this verse.
So Moses went down unto the people, and spake unto them.No text from Poole on this verse.