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EXODUS 19

Exodus 19:1-8

1. 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.

1. In mense tertio postquam egressi erant filii Israel e terra Aegypti, ipso die venerunt in desertum Sinai.

2. 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.

2. Profecti ergo e Raphidim venerunt in desertum Sinai, et castrametati sunt in deserto: mansitque illic Israel e regione montis.

3. 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;

3. Moses autem ascendit ad Deum, et vocavit eum Jehova e monte, dicendo, Sic dices domui Jacob, et annuntiabis filiis Israel.

4. Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself.

4. Vos vidistis quae feci Aegyptiis, et ut portaverim vos quasi super alas aquilarum, et adduxerim vos ad me.

5. 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.

5. Nunc ergo si obediendo obedieritis voci meae, et custodieritis pactum meum, eritis mihi in peculium (vel, thesaurum) prae omnibus populis, quia mea est (vel, quamvis mea sit) universa terra.

6. 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.

6. Et vos eritis mihi regnum sacerdotale, et gens sancta. Haec sunt verba quae loqueris ad filios Israel.

7. And Moses came, and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words which the Lord commanded him.

7. Venit itaque Moses, et vocavit seniores populi, et protulit coram ipsis omnes hos sermones quos praeceperat ei Jehova.

8. 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.

8. Responderunt autem omnis populus pariter, et dixerunt, Quicquid dixit Jehova faciemus. Et retulit Moses verba populi ad Jehovam.

1. In the third month. This chapter informs us by what means God rendered the people attentive and teachable when He would promulgate His laws. He had, indeed, previously delivered the rule of a just and pious life, but by writing the Law on tables, and by then adding its exposition, He not only embraced the perfect doctrine of piety and righteousness, but ratified it by a solemn rite, so that the recognition of it might remain and flourish in future times. And this is the main and principal thing which the prophets celebrate in the redemption of the people; and in this, as in a mirror, propose for consideration the image of the renewed Church, that God made known His testimonies to His redeemed, and bound the people, whom He had purchased, to Himself by a new covenant. He had indeed made with Abraham an eternal, and inviolable covenant; but because it had grown into disregard from the lapse of time, and the carelessness of mankind, it became needful that it should be again renewed. To this end, then, it was engraved upon the tables of stone, and written in a book, that the marvelous grace, which God had conferred on the race of Abraham, should never sink into oblivion. But in the first place we must observe that, although the Law is a testimony of God’s gratuitous adoption, and teaches that salvation is based upon His mercy, and invites men to call upon God with sure confidence, yet it has this peculiar property, that it; covenants conditionally. Therefore it is worth while to distinguish between the general doctrine, which was delivered by Moses, and the special command which he received. Moses everywhere exhorts men, by holding forth the hope of pardon, to reconcile themselves to God; and, whenever he prescribes expiatory rites, he doubtless encourages miserable sinners to have a good hope, and bears witness that God will be merciful to them. Meanwhile this office was separately imposed upon him, to demand perfect; righteousness of the people, and to promise them a reward, as if by compact, upon no other condition than that they should fulfill whatever was enjoined them, but to threaten and to denounce vengeance against them if ever they wandered from the way. It is certain indeed that the same covenant, of which Abraham had been the minister and keeper, was repeated to his descendants by the instrumentality of Moses; and yet Paul declares, that the Law “was added because of transgressions,” (Galatians 3:19,) and opposes it to the promise given to Abraham; because, as he is treating of the peculiar office, power, and end of the Law, he separates it from the promises of grace. With the same import, he elsewhere calls it “the ministration of death,” and “the letter that killeth.” (2 Corinthians 3:6, 7.) Again, in another place, he states that it “worketh wrath,” (Romans 4:15;) as if by its arraignment it inflicted a deadly wound on the human race, and left them no hope of salvation. In this preparation, then, wherein God instructed the people to reverence and fear, a twofold object may be perceived; for, since men’s minds are partly swollen with pride and haughtiness, and partly stupified by indifference, they must needs be either humbled or awakened, in order to their reception of divine teaching with the attention it deserves; nor can any be prepared to obey God, except he be bowed down and subdued by fear. Moreover, they then begin to be afraid when God’s majesty is displayed to inspire them with terror. Thus, therefore, let the fact that the authority of the Law was ratified by many signs and wonders, teach us that this is the beginning of piety and faith in God’s children. To this end also did God shake the earth, to arouse men’s hearts from their slumber, or to correct them by taming their pride. This object is common to the Law, the Prophets, and the Gospel, and to the whole sum of divine teaching, to which due honor is never paid, unless God’s majesty first shines forth, whereby He casts down all the haughtiness of the world. But we must not pass over what I lately asserted to be peculiar to the Law, viz, to fill men’s minds with fear, and by setting forth its terrible curse, to cut off the hope of salvation; for, whilst it consists of three parts, each of them tends to the same end, that all should acknowledge themselves deserving of the judgment of eternal death, because in it God sustains no other character than that of a Judge, who, after having rigidly exacted what is due to Him, promises only a just reward, and threatens the transgressors with vengeance. But who will be found to be a perfect keeper of the Law? Nay, it is certain that all, from the least to the greatest, are guilty of transgression, wherefore God’s wrath overhangs them all This is what Paul means, when he writes that believers

“have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but the spirit of adoption, whereby they cry, Abba, Father,”
(Romans 8:15;)

showing how much better is our condition than that of the old fathers, because the Law kept them enslaved in its bondage, whilst the Gospel delivers us from anxiety, and frees us from the stings of conscience; for all must necessarily tremble, and finally be overwhelmed by despair, who seek for salvation by works; but peace and rest only exist in the mercy of God. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews pursues this idea at greater length, where he says,

“Ye are not come unto the mount that must be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words: which voice they that heard entreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more, etc., (whence Moses said I exceedingly fear and quake:) but ye are come unto Mount Sion,” etc.
(Hebrews 12:18-22.)

The antithesis here proves, that what was entrusted to Moses is separate and distinct from the Gospel; because God, who appeared in the Law as an avenger, now with fatherly kindness gently invites us unto salvation, and soothes our troubled minds by offering us the forgiveness of our sins. Now, Paul shows us that there is no contradiction in this diversity, because the people were taught by the Law not to seek for salvation anywhere but in the grace of Christ, and being convinced of the horrible condemnation under which they lay, were driven by fear to implore God’s mercy; for, as men are apt to207207     Se pardonnent et dispensent aisement. — Fr. allow themselves in sin, “sin (as Paul says, Romans 5:13) is not imputed, where there is no law;” but those, who delight themselves in darkness, are by the teaching of the Law brought before God’s tribunal, that they may fully perceive their filthiness and be ashamed. Thus is Paul’s saying fulfilled, that the life of the Law is man’s death. (Romans 7:9.) Now we understand why the promulgation of the Law was ratified by so many miracles; viz., because, in general, the authority of the divine teaching was to be established among the dull and careless, or the proud and rebellious; and, secondly, because the Law was propounded to men, who sought the means of flattering themselves, as the mirror of the curse, so that, in themselves lost, they might fly to the refuge of pardon. I have thought it advisable to say thus much by way of preface, for the purpose of directing my readers to the proper object of the history, which is here related. But Moses first recounts that the people came, at a single march, from Rephidim into the region of Sinai; for so I interpret it, that there was no intervening station; for their interpretation is forced and unnatural, who take “the same day” for the beginning of the month.

3. And Moses went up. It is probable that Moses sought, as he was wont, retirement., in order to take counsel of God; for he speaks not as of some new or unusual circumstance, but of a custom previously observed; because he dared not stop anywhere, nor make any further advances, except as far as was prescribed him by the mouth of God. His going up to God signifies no more than that he went; out of the camp, that afar from the multitude, and from all distractions he might in secrecy and quiet inquire of God, what was His pleasure; for he did not, like the superstitious, choose a lofty position, that he might be nearer to God; but he withdrew himself from every disturbance, that he might engage all his senses in the occupation of learning. Afterwards, however, he adds, that he had obtained more than he had hoped for, because God, beyond what was customary with Him, addressed him respecting the renewal of His covenant. And to this the opening words have reference — “Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel;” wherein the repetition and diversity of expression is emphatic, as though He would speak of a very serious matter, and would thus awaken greater attention.

4. Ye have seen. With the view of gently inviting the people to obedience, He first recalls to their recollection the blessing of their deliverance, and then promises that the blessings of the future would be not inferior, if they on their part honored their deliverer with the piety and gratitude which belong to Him. He recounts the two parts of His loving-kindness, first that He had exerted His tremendous power against the Egyptians, and secondly, that He had marvelously brought His redeemed people through the sea, and the mighty wilderness, as through the clouds and the air; for this was an instance of His inestimable grace, that He had made war against a most powerful king, had afflicted a most flourishing nation, and had devastated a land remarkable for its extreme fertility, in order to succor a body of despised slaves. For there was no dignity in them, who first of all were strangers, and moreover abject herdsmen, and devoted to base and shameful slavery, whereby God might be incited for their sakes to destroy the Egyptians, who were illustrious in glory, in wealth, in the richness of their land, and in the splendor of their empire. Wherefore it would have been detestable ingratitude not to acknowledge their great obligations to God. What He adds in the second place, that He bare them as eagles are wont to carry their young, has reference to the constant course of His paternal care. Moses will hereafter use the same comparison in his song, and it often occurs in the prophets. But He mentions the eagle rather than other birds, in my opinion, that He may magnify their difficulties, and thus commend His grace; for eagles lift up their young ones upon high places, and accustom them to look at the sun; thus the people, as if carried above the clouds on the wings of God, had surmounted every obstacle, however great. For the notion which some have, that eagles are mentioned instead of other birds, because they alone bear up their young ones on their wings, is a foolish and truly Rabbinical gloss.208208     This Rabbinical comment is thus briefly stated in S. M., — I bare you as it were on my shoulders, as an eagle carries her young ones upon her wings, and not after the manner of other birds, who bear up their young ones with their feet wherever they wish to carry them. — W See Illustrated Commentary on Deuteronomy 32:11.

5. Now, therefore. God declares that He will ever be the same, and will constantly persevere209209     Added from Fr. (in blessing them), provided the Israelites do not degenerate, but remain devoted to their Deliverer; at the same time, He reminds them also, wherefore he has been so bountiful to them, viz., that they may continually aspire unto the end of their calling; for He had not willed to perform toward them a single act of liberality, but to purchase them as His peculiar, people. This privilege he sets before them in the word סגלה,210210     סגלה, S. M. says this is equivalent to אוצר חביב, a beloved treasure, The root סגל does not occur in Hebrew, but in Arabic it signifies to mark with the owner’s seal; so that the noun should mean, a possession on which the owner has stamped his mark. Comp. 2 Timothy 2:19, and Ezekiel 9:4-6. — W segullah, which means all things most precious, whatever, in fact, is deposited in a treasury; although the word “peculium,” a peculiar possession, by which the old interpreter211211     i.e., The Vulgate. Our A.V. combines both ideas. has rendered it, is not unsuitable to the passage; because it is plain from the immediate context, that it denotes the separation of this people from all others; since these words directly follow: “for,” or, although “all the earth is mine;” the particle כי, ki, being often taken adversatively, and there is no doubt but that God would more exalt His grace, by comparing this one nation with the whole world, as it is said in the song of Moses,

“When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel; for the Lord’s portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance.” (Deuteronomy 32:8.)

The sum then is, that whilst the whole earth is in God’s dominion, yet the race of Israel has been chosen by Him to excel all nations. Whence it is evident, that whereas the condition of all is alike, some are not distinguished from others by nature, but by gratuitous adoption; but, in order that they should abide in the possession of so great a blessing, fidelity towards God is required on their part. And, first, they are commanded to listen to his voice, (since no sacrifice is more pleasing to him than obedience, 1 Samuel 15:22;) and then a definition of obedience is added, viz., to keep His covenant.

6. And ye shall be unto me. He points out more clearly, and more at length, how the Israelites will be precious unto God; viz., because they will be for “a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation.” By these words, he implies that they will be endowed with sacerdotal as well as royal honors; as much as to say, that they would not only be free, but also like kings, if they persevered in faith and obedience, since no kingdom is more desirable, or more happy, than to be the subjects of God. Moreover, he calls this “an holy kingdom,” because all the kingdoms of the world were then in heathenism; for the genitive, according to the usual idiom of the language, is put for an adjective, as if he had said, that they would enjoy not merely an earthly and transitory dominion, but also a sacred and heavenly one. Others understand it passively, that God would be their king; whilst mortals, and for the most part cruel tyrants, would rule over other nations. Though I do not altogether reject this sense, yet I rather prefer the other, to which also St. Peter leads us: for when the Jews, who by their refusal of Christ had departed from the covenant, still improperly gloried in this title, he claims this honor for the members of Christ only, saying, “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood,” etc. (1 Peter 2:9.) But the passive sense would not accord with these words, viz., that believers are subject to the priesthood of God, for the Apostle gracefully applies the words to take away the unacceptableness of novelty; as if he had said, God formerly promised to our fathers that they should be to Him for a royal priesthood. This privilege all, who separate themselves from Christ the Head, falsely lay claim to, since He alone makes us a royal priesthood. Meanwhile he teaches, by this apparent adaptation of the words, that what had been spoken by Moses is actually fulfilled. And, in fact, Christ appeared invested with the kingdom and the priesthood, that He might confer both of these privileges upon His members; whence it follows, that whosoever divorce themselves from Him, are unworthy of either honor, and are justly deprived of them. The nation is here called holy, not with reference to their piety or personal holiness, but as set apart from others by God by special privilege. Yet on this kind of sanctification the other depends, viz., that they who are exalted by God’s favor should cultivate holiness, and thus on their part sanctify God.

8. And all the people answered. We shall see in its proper place why God employed Moses as a messenger to carry backwards and forwards the commands and replies; now he merely relates what all the people answered, viz., that they would be obedient in all things. It was not a part, but the whole of the people who promised this, and the reply was unreserved, declaring that they would do whatsoever God required. Yet soon after they relapsed into their natural mind, and kept not their promise even in the smallest degree. Still we may believe that they spoke without dissembling; but that, although without any intention of deceiving God, they were carried away by a kind of headlong zeal, and deceived themselves. Nor was it the object of Moses to tell them in reproach that they had lied to God, or deceitfully boasted with their lips what they did not feel in their hearts; but, by stating how ready they were to obey, he deprives them hereafter of all pretense of ignorance. Nor is there any doubt that God inclined their minds to this docility, in order to establish the doctrine of His law. Meanwhile, let us learn from their example, that we must not merely obey God’s word by some earnest impulse; and that a hasty feeling is of no use, unless it be followed by constant perseverance; and, therefore, let us learn to sift; ourselves well, lest: we rashly promise, without serious self-examination, more, than we are able to perform. Yet we must not forget what. I have already said, that they were all made willing by the secret inspiration of God, in order that they might be witnesses both to themselves and others of the many signs, by which the truth and faithfulness of the212212     La Loy. — Fr. heavenly doctrine was then confirmed.


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