Notes for 19:1

This chapter is essentially about mediation. The people are getting ready to meet with Yahweh, receive the Law from him, and enter into a covenant with him. All of this required mediation and preparation. Through it all, Israel will become Yahweh’s unique possession, a kingdom of priests on earth – if they comply with his Law. The chapter can be divided as follows: vv. 1–8 tell how Yahweh, Israel’s great deliverer promised to make them a kingdom of priests; this is followed by Yahweh’s declaration that Moses would be the mediator (v. 9); vv. 10–22 record instructions for Israel to prepare themselves to worship Yahweh and an account of the manifestation of Yahweh with all the phenomena; and the chapter closes with the mediation of Moses on behalf of the people (vv. 23–25). Having been redeemed from Egypt, the people will now be granted a covenant with Yahweh. See also R. E. Bee, "A Statistical Study of the Sinai Pericope," Journal of the Royal Statistical Society 135 (1972): 406-21.


The construction uses the infinitive construct followed by the subjective genitive to form a temporal clause.


"on this day."


Notes for Exodus 19:2LEB

The form is a preterite with vav (ו) consecutive, "and they journeyed." It is here subordinated to the next clause as a temporal clause. But since the action of this temporal clause preceded the actions recorded in v. 1, a translation of "after" will keep the sequence in order. Verse 2 adds details to the summary in v. 1.


The mountain is Mount Sinai, the mountain of Yahweh, the place where Yahweh had met and called Moses and had promised that they would be here to worship him. If this mountain is Jebel Musa, the traditional site of Sinai, then the plain in front of it would be Er-Rahah, about a mile and a half long by half a mile wide, fronting the mountain on the NW side (S. R. Driver, Exodus, 169). The plain itself is about 5000 feet above sea level. A mountain on the west side of the Arabian Peninsula has also been suggested as a possible site.


Notes for Exodus 19:3LEB

"and Moses went up."


This expression is normally translated as "Israelites" in this translation, but because in this place it is parallel to "the house of Jacob" it seemed better to offer a fuller rendering.


Notes for Exodus 19:4LEB

The figure compares the way a bird would teach its young to fly and leave the nest with the way Yahweh brought Israel out of Egypt. The bird referred to could be one of several species of eagles, but more likely is the griffin-vulture. The image is that of power and love.


The language here is the language of a bridegroom bringing the bride to the chamber. This may be a deliberate allusion to another metaphor for the covenant relationship.


Notes for Exodus 19:5LEB

"listen to my voice." The construction uses the imperfect tense in the conditional clause, preceded by the infinitive absolute from the same verb. The idiom "listen to the voice of" implies obedience, not just mental awareness of sound.


The verb is a perfect tense with vav (ו) consecutive; it continues the idea in the protasis of the sentence: "and [if you will] keep."


The lamed preposition expresses possession here: "to me" means "my."


The noun is סְגֻלָּה (ségullah), which means a special possession. Israel was to be Yahweh’s special possession, but the prophets will later narrow it to the faithful remnant. All the nations belong to Yahweh, but Israel was to stand in a place of special privilege and enormous responsibility. See Deut 7:6LEB; Deut 14:2LEB; Deut 26:18LEB; Ps 135:4LEB; and Mal 3:17LEB. See M. Greenburg, "Hebrew ségulla: Akkadian sikiltu," JAOS 71 (1951): 172ff.


Notes for Exodus 19:6LEB

Or "for me" (NIV, NRSV), or, if the lamed (ל) preposition has a possessive use, "my kingdom" (so NCV).


The construction "a kingdom of priests" means that the kingdom is made up of priests. W. C. Kaiser ("Exodus," EBC 2:417) offers four possible renderings of the expression: 1) apposition, viz., "kings, that is, priests; 2) as a construct with a genitive of specification, "royal priesthood"; 3) as a construct with the genitive being the attribute, "priestly kingdom"; and 4) reading with an unexpressed "and" – "kings and priests." He takes the latter view that they were to be kings and priests. (Other references are R. B. Y. Scott, "A Kingdom of Priests (Exodus xix. 6)," OTS 8 [1950]: 213-19; William L. Moran, "A Kingdom of Priests," The Bible in Current Catholic Thought, 7–20). However, due to the parallelism of the next description which uses an adjective, this is probably a construct relationship. This kingdom of Yahweh will be composed of a priestly people. All the Israelites would be living wholly in Yahweh’s service and enjoying the right of access to him. And, as priests, they would have the duty of representing Yahweh to the nations, following what they perceived to be the duties of priests – proclaiming Yahweh’s word, interceding for people, and making provision for people to find Yahweh through atonement (see Deut 33:9-10LEB).


They are also to be "a holy nation." They are to be a nation separate and distinct from the rest of the nations. Here is another aspect of their duty. It was one thing to be Yahweh’s special possession, but to be that they had to be priestly and holy. The duties of the covenant will specify what it would mean to be a holy nation. In short, they had to keep themselves free from everything that characterized pagan people (S. R. Driver, Exodus, 171). So it is a bilateral covenant: they received special privileges but they must provide special services by the special discipline. See also H. Kruse, "Exodus 19:5LEB and the Mission of Israel," North East Asian Journal of Theology 24/25 (1980): 239-42.


Notes for Exodus 19:8LEB

The verb is an imperfect. The people are not being presumptuous in stating their compliance – there are several options open for the interpretation of this tense. It may be classified as having a desiderative nuance: "we are willing to do" or, "we will do."


Notes for Exodus 19:9LEB

The construction uses the deictic particle and the participle to express the imminent future, what Yahweh was about to do. Here is the first announcement of the theophany.


"the thickness of the cloud"; KJV, ASV, NASB, NCV, TEV, CEV, NLT "in a thick cloud."


Since "and also in you" begins the clause, the emphasis must be that the people would also trust Moses. See Exodus 4:1–9LEB, Exodus 4:31LEB; Exodus 14:31LEB.


Notes for Exodus 19:10LEB

This verb is a Piel perfect with vav (ו) consecutive; it continues the force of the imperative preceding it. This sanctification would be accomplished by abstaining from things that would make them defiled or unclean, and then by ritual washings and ablutions.


The form is a perfect 3cpl with a vav (ו) consecutive. It is instructional as well, but now in the third person it is like a jussive, "let them wash, make them wash."


Notes for Exodus 19:12LEB

The verb is a Hiphil perfect ("make borders") with vav (ו) consecutive, following the sequence of instructions.


The Niphal imperative ("guard yourselves, take heed to yourselves") is followed by two infinitives construct that provide the description of what is to be avoided – going up or touching the mountain.


Notes for Exodus 19:13LEB

There is some ambiguity here. The clause either means that no man will touch the mountain, so that if there is someone who is to be put to death he must be stoned or shot since they could not go into the mountain region to get him, or, it may mean no one is to touch the culprit who went in to the region of the mountain.


"a man."


The nuance here is permissive imperfect, "they may go up." The ram’s horn would sound the blast to announce that the revelation period was over and it was permitted then to ascend the mountain.


Notes for Exodus 19:15LEB

"do not go near a woman"; NIV "Abstain from sexual relations."


B. Jacob (Exodus, 537) notes that as the people were to approach him they were not to lose themselves in earthly love. Such separations prepared the people for meeting Yahweh. Sinai was like a bride, forbidden to anyone else. Abstinence was the spiritual preparation for coming into the presence of the Holy One.


Notes for Exodus 19:16LEB

"and it was on."


"heavy" (כָּבֵד, kaved).


Literally "strong" (חָזָק, khazaq).


The word here is שֹׁפָר (shofar), the normal word for "horn." This word is used especially to announce something important in a public event (see 1 Kgs 1:34LEB; 2 Sam 6:15LEB). The previous word used in the context (v. 16) was יֹבֵל (yovel, "ram’s horn").


Notes for Exodus 19:18LEB

The image is that of a large kiln, as in Gen 19:28.


This is the same word translated "trembled" above (v. 16).


Notes for Exodus 19:19LEB

The active participle הוֹלֵךְ (holekh) is used to add the idea of "continually" to the action of the sentence; here the trumpet became very loud – continually. See GKC 344 §113.u.


The two verbs here ("spoke" and "answered") are imperfect tenses; they emphasize repeated action but in past time. The customary imperfect usually is translated "would" or "used to" do the action, but here continuous action in past time is meant. S. R. Driver translates it "kept speaking" and "kept answering" (Exodus, 172).


The text simply has בְּקוֹל (béqol); it could mean "with a voice" or it could mean "in thunder" since "voice" was used in v. 16 for thunder. In this context it would be natural to say that the repeated thunderings were the voice of Yahweh – but how is that an answer? Deut 4:12LEB says that the people heard the sound of words. U. Cassuto (Exodus, 232–33) rightly comments, "He was answering him with a loud voice so that it was possible for Moses to hear His words clearly in the midst of the storm." He then draws a parallel from Ugaritic where it tells that one of the gods was speaking in a loud voice.


Notes for Exodus 19:21LEB

The imperative הָעֵד (ha’ed) means "charge" them – put them under oath, or solemnly warn them. Yahweh wished to ensure that the people would not force their way past the barriers that had been set out.


"and fall"; NAB "be struck down."


Notes for Exodus 19:22LEB

The verb יִפְרֹץ (yifrots) is the imperfect tense from פָּרַץ (parats, "to make a breach, to break through"). The image of Yahweh breaking forth on them means "work destruction" (see 2 Sam 6:8LEB; S. R. Driver, Exodus, 174).


Notes for Exodus 19:23LEB

The construction is emphatic: "because you – you solemnly warned us." Moses’ response to Yahweh is to ask how they would break through when Yahweh had already charged them not to. Yahweh knew them better than Moses did.


"sanctify it."


Notes for Exodus 19:25LEB

The passage has many themes and emphases that could be developed in exposition. It could serve for meditation: the theology drawn from the three parts could be subordinated to the theme of holiness: Yahweh is holy, therefore adhere to his word for service, approach him through a mediator, and adore him in purity and fearful reverence. A developed outline for the exposition could be: I. If the people of Yahweh will obey him, they will be privileged to serve in a unique way (1–8); II. If the people of Yahweh are to obey, they must be convinced of the divine source of their commands (9); and finally, III. If the people of Yahweh are convinced of the divine approval of their mediator, and the divine source of their instructions, they must sanctify themselves before him (vv. 10–25). In sum, the manifestation of the holiness of Yahweh is the reason for sanctification and worship. The correlation is to be made through 1 Peter 2 to the church. The Church is a kingdom of priests; it is to obey the Word of Yahweh. What is the motivation for this? Their mediator is Yahsuha; he has the approval of the Father and manifests the glory of Yahweh to his own; and he declares the purpose of their calling is to display his glory. Yahweh’s people are to abstain from sin so that pagans can see their good works and glorify Yahweh.