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1. Worship ye afar off - Before they came near, they must worship. Thus we must enter into God's gates with humble and solemn adorations.
2. And Moses alone shall come near - Being therein a type of Christ, who as the high priest entered alone into the most holy place. In the following verses we have the solemn covenant made between God and Israel and the exchanging of the ratifications: typifying the covenant of grace between God and believers through Christ.
3. Moses told the people all the words of the Lord - He laid before them all the precepts, in the foregoing chapters, and put it to them, whether they were willing to submit to these laws or no? And all the people answered, All the words which the Lord hath said we will do - They had before consented in general to be under God's government; here they consent in particular to these laws now given.
4. And Moses wrote the words of the Lord - That there might be no mistake; as God dictated them on the mount, where, it is highly probable, God taught him the use of letters. These Moses taught the Israelites, from whom they afterwards travelled to Greece and other nations. As soon as God had separated to himself a peculiar people, he governed them by a written word, as he has done ever since, and will do while the world stands. Pillars according to the number of the tribes - These were to represent the people, the other party to the covenant; and we may suppose they were set up over against the altar, and that Moses as mediator passed to and fro between them. Probably each tribe set up and knew its own pillar, and their elders stood by it. He then appointed sacrifices to be offered upon the altar.
1. The blood of the sacrifice which the people offered was (part of it) sprinkled upon the altar, which signified the people's dedicating themselves to God, and his honour. In the blood of the sacrifices, all the Israelites were presented unto God as living sacrifices, Rom. xii, 1.
2. The blood of the sacrifice which God had owned and accepted was (the remainder of it) sprinkled, either upon the people themselves, or upon the pillars that represented them, which signified God's conferring his favour upon them, and all the fruits of that favour, and his giving them all the gifts they could desire from a God reconciled to them, and in covenant with them. This part of the ceremony was thus explained, Behold the blood of the covenant; see here how God sealed to you to be a God, and you seal to be to him a people; his promises to you, and yours to him, are yea and amen. Thus our Lord Jesus, the Mediator of the new covenant (of whom Moses was a type) having offered up himself a sacrifice upon the cross, that his blood might be indeed the blood of the covenant, sprinkled it upon the altar in his intercession (Heb. ix, 12,) and sprinkles it upon his church by his word and ordinances, and the influences and operations of the Spirit of promise by whom we are sealed.
10. They saw the God of Israel - That is, they had some glimpse of his glory, in light and fire, though they saw no manner of similitude. They saw the place where the God of Israel stood, so the seventy, something that came near a similitude, but was not; whatever they saw it was certainly something of which no image or picture could be made, and yet enough to satisfy them that God was with them of a truth. Nothing is described but that which was under his feet, for our conceptions of God are all below him. They saw not so much as God's feet, but at the bottom of the brightness they saw (such as they never saw before or after, and as the foot- stool or pedestal of it) a most rich and splendid pavement, as it had been of sapphires, azure, or sky-coloured. The heavens themselves are the pavement of God's palace, and his throne is above the firmament.
11. Upon the nobles or elders of Israel he laid not his hand - Though they were men, the splendour of his glory did not overwhelm them, but it was so moderated (Job xxxvi, 9,) and they were so strengthened (Dan. x, 19,) that they were able to bear it: nay, though they were sinful men, and obnoxious to God's justice, yet he did not lay his avenging hand upon them, as they feared he would. When we consider what a consuming fire God is, and what stubble we are before him, we shall have reason to say, in all our approaches to him, It is of the Lord's mercies we are not consumed. They saw God, and did eat and drink; They had not only their lives preserved, but their vigour, courage, and comfort; it cast no damp upon their joy, but rather increased it. They feasted upon the sacrifice before God, in token of their chearful consent to the covenant, their grateful acceptance of the benefits of it, and their communion with God in pursuance of that covenant.
12. Come up to the mount and be there - Expect to continue there for some time.
13. Joshua was his minister or servant, and it would be a satisfaction to him to have him with him as a companion during the six days that he tarried in the mount before God called to him. Joshua was to be his successor, and therefore thus he was honoured before the people, and thus he was prepared by being trained up in communion with God. Joshua was a type of Christ, and (as the learned Bishop Peirson well observes Moses takes him with him into the mount, because without Jesus, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, there is no looking into the secrets of heaven, nor approaching the presence of God.
16. A cloud covered the mount six days - A visible token of God's special presence there, for he so shews himself to us, as at the same time to conceal himself from us, he lets us know so much as to assure us of his power and grace, but intimates to us that we cannot find him out to perfection. During these six days Moses staid waiting upon the mountain, for a call into the presence- chamber. And on the seventh day - Probably the sabbath-day, he called unto Moses. Now the thick cloud opened in the sight of all Israel, and the glory of the Lord broke forth like devouring fire.
18. Moses went into the midst of the cloud - It was an extraordinary presence of mind, which the grace of God furnished him with, else he durst not have ventured into the cloud, especially when it broke out in devouring fire. And Moses was in the mount forty days and forty nights - It should seem the six days, were not part of the forty; for during those six days, Joshua was with Moses, who did eat of the manna, and drink of the brook mentioned, Deut. ix, 21, and while they were together, it is probable Moses did eat and drink with him; but when Moses was called into the midst of the cloud, he left Joshua without, who continued to eat and drink daily while he waited for Moses's return, but from thenceforward Moses fasted.
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