King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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Exodus 19

The people come to Sinai, God’s message to them, and their answer. (1-8) The people directed to prepare to hear the law. (9-15) The presence of God on Sinai. (16-25)

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The people come to Sinai, God’s message to them, and their answer

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.

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.

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;

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

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:

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.

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.

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.

The people directed to prepare to hear the law

9 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.

10 And the LORD said unto Moses, Go unto the people, and sanctify them to day and to morrow, and let them wash their clothes,

11 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.

12 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:

13 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.

14 And Moses went down from the mount unto the people, and sanctified the people; and they washed their clothes.

15 And he said unto the people, Be ready against the third day: come not at your wives.

The presence of God on Sinai

16 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.

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.

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.

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

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.

21 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.

22 And let the priests also, which come near to the LORD, sanctify themselves, lest the LORD break forth upon them.

23 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.

24 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.

25 So Moses went down unto the people, and spake unto them.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. This day. The same on which they departed from the Raphidim, or on the third day of the third month; though S. Aug. understands the first of the month; (C.) on which last supposition, allowing 16 days of the month Nisan, 30 of Jiar, and 4 of Sivan, the law was given 50 days after the liberation of the Jews, as the new law was promulgated on Whit-Sunday, on the day of Pentecost. S. Aug. ep. 119. 16. W.

Ver. 3. And Moses went up to God. Moses went up to Mount Sinai, where God spoke to him.

Ver. 4. Eagles. Out of the reach of danger. As eagles carry their young upon their wings, so I have protected you from all your enemies. Deut. xxxii. 11. C.

Ver. 5. Possession, (peculium.) Heb. segula, “a chosen portion or treasure.” M. — Mine. I could have made choice of others. We cannot but admire the goodness of God, who asks for the free consent of the people. Hence they can have no pretence for breaking this solemn covenant. C. Theod. 9. 35.

Ver. 6. Priestly kingdom. “Priests and kings.” Chal. You shall rule over the Chanaanites, &c. and you shall offer sacrifice to me, at least, by slaying the paschal lamb. This kingdom shall not be merely of a civil nature; it shall be also sacred. The whole nation shall be holy, separated from the pagans, and consecrated to me. M.

Ver. 8. Related, as a mediator acting between two parties, (H.) though God knew all before. Thus his servants cease not to lay before him their own and our wants. W.

Ver. 9. Cloud, to veil his majesty, while he spoke to Moses in the hearing of all. H. — Then they began to place an entire confidence in their leader. Maimonides.

Ver. 10. Garments, with their bodies, as the Jews understand by this expression. They were also to abstain from their wives, &c. By which exterior practices, they were admonished of the interior purity which God required. All nations seem to have adopted similar observances of continence, washing themselves, and putting on their best attire, when they appeared before God. See Herod. &c. C.

Ver. 13. Him. In detestation of his impiety, which has made him unclean. H. — Go up into the precincts of the mountain, to which Moses conducted them; (v. 17. 21,) or they might ascend after the trumpet ceased, and the law was given. For some understand shall begin, in a contrary sense with the Roman Sept. “when the voices of thunder, and the trumpets, and the cloud shall be no more;” (apelthe) so also the Chal. Syr. Vatable. The sound which was heard, resembled that of a horn. (Jobel.) See Levit. xxv. 10. C.

Ver. 15. Wives. S. Paul recommends continence when people have to pray. 1 Cor. vii. On the pagan temple of Epidaurus, this inscription was placed, “Let those be chaste who enter here.” Clem. strom. 5.

Ver. 18. Terrible, by the display of so many instruments of God’s power; lightning, fire, a thick cloud, and various peals of thunder, and the sound of a trumpet; besides rain, and the company of millions of angels. Ps. lxvii. 9, 18. How different was the appearance of Sion, when Jesus proclaimed his gospel! Heb. xii. 18.

Ver. 19. Answered him, “in a speech,” articulated and heard by all the people, as the Heb. Sept. Syr. &c. intimate. Many legislators have pretended that their laws came from heaven. But they had no witnesses. Moses does all openly. His laws are preceded, accompanied, and followed by prodigies.

Ver. 22. Sanctified, in an extraordinary manner, above the rest. These priests, according to S. Aug. are the children of Aaron, and the whole race of Levi, who would shortly be selected by God. But others think, they are those who, by the law of nature, were accustomed to officiate. Or, as God had declared that they were all a priestly kingdom, some of the most comely and irreproachable youths of each family, had been chosen to present victims, when the covenant with God was to be ratified. C. xxiv. 15. C.

Ver. 23. The people. Glassius understands this with an interrogation, “Can no one?” God exempts Aaron from the common law, v. 24. H.

Ver. 24. Pass. Sept. “contend violently to pass.” The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, Matt. xi. 12. M. — Moses was the mediator of this covenant, and Aaron his interpreter, to explain to the people the orders of Moses. C. — Thus we have seen the dreadful apparatus of the law of fear, with the preface to it, and the approbation of the people.