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Exodus 19:16-20

16. And it came to pass on the third day, in the morning, that there were thunders and lightning’s, 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.

16. Et fuit die tertia, quum factum esset mane, facta sunt tonitrua, et fulgura, et nubes densissima super montem, et clangor tubae intentissimus, expavitque universus populus qui erat in castris.

17. And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with God; and they stood at the nether part of the mount.

17. Et eduxit Moses populum in occursum Dei e castris: qui steterunt in inferiore parte montis.

18. 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.

18. Mons autem Sinai fumabat totus, eo quod descendisset super eum Jehova in igne: ascendebatque fumus ejus: sicut fumus fornacis, et commotus est universus mons vehementer.

19. And when the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him by a voice.

19. Erat praeterea clangor buccinae procedens, et invalescebat valde: Moses loquebatur, et Deus respondebat ei in voce.

20. 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.

20. Descenderat autem Jehova supra montem Sinai, super verticem montis: et vocavit Jehova Mosen ad verticem montis, ascenditque Moses.

16. And it came to pass on the third day. We must bear in mind what I have already adverted to, that this terrible spectacle was partly to set the presence of God before their eyes, that His majesty might urge the beholders to obedience, and vindicate His doctrine from contempt, and partly to express the nature of the Law, which in itself produces nothing but mere terror. The air was disturbed by thunder and lightning’s, and the sound of the trumpet; the mountain was wrapped in smoke and darkness, that the people might humbly prostrate themselves before God, and solemnly embrace the covenant proposed to them; since religion never penetrates the mind so that it seriously receives God’s word until its vices are cleansed and corrected, and it is really subdued. And this fear is common also to the Gospel; for as in the promulgation of the Law God shook the earth, so when He speaks by the Prophet of the coming of Christ, and the restoration of His Church, He says, “Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens and the earth,” etc. (Haggai 2:6.) Thus, too, David, when he would point to God as the avenger of His Church, describes Him under this image; for no doubt when, in Psalm 18:7-9, he says, “Then the earth shook and trembled, the foundations also of the hills moved and were shaken, — there went up a smoke out of his nostrils, and fire out of his mouth devoured; he bowed the heavens also, and came down; and darkness was under his feet,” he alludes to the history which Moses here relates. Habakkuk 3:3 yet more plainly does so, — “God came from Teman, and the Holy One from Mount Paran.” Meanwhile the other point remains, that the awful prodigies, at which the people needs must tremble, were added as seals to the promulgation of the Law, because the Law was given to cite slumbering consciences to the judgment-seat, that, through fear of eternal death, they might flee for refuge to God’s mercy.

17. And Moses brought forth the people. We learn from these words that the prodigies were not intended to drive the people from God’s sight, and that they were not smitten with fear to exasperate and disgust them with the doctrine, but that God’s covenant was no less lovely than alarming; for they are commanded to go and “meet God,” presenting themselves with minds ready unto obedience. But this could not be unless they heard in the Law something besides precepts and threatenings. Yet in the smoke and fire, and other signs, some fear was added, in accordance with the office of the Law, because the sinner will never be capable of pardon until he learns to tremble from consciousness of his guilt, nay, until confounded with dread he lies like one dead before the tribunal of God. In the two following verses, Moses explains what he had briefly touched upon respecting the meeting with God; for he shows that God was near, since His majesty appeared upon the top of Sinai. He adds that he stood within the bounds, because he went up by himself alone, and that by invitation; for he clears himself from the accusation of temerity, by expressly stating that he passed over the limits assigned to the people, not voluntarily, but at the command and call of God.217217     This sentence is omitted in the Fr. I presume the allusion here is to verse 20, which the V. translates “descendit, and not as C., “descenderat.” Corn. a Lapide defends the V., with which our A.V. agrees, conceiving that a still closer descent “in a thicker cloud, and with greater glory,” upon the very top of the mountain, over which the fire had only hovered before, is here described. It may be so; but his reasoning, founded on the word “super,” which is used in both cases, does not prove it. It appears from the context itself that the order of the narration is inverted, which the old translator does not perceive, and perverts the sense. God’s answering him “by a voice,” means that He spoke aloud and clearly, viz., so that the people might hear, as we shall see hereafter in Deuteronomy 4.


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