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demonstrations of that awe, with which the miraculously manifested presence of God should inspire them; and such is the obvious design of some other directions.*
* xix. 10-15, 21 - 24. Another object of the arrangement in verse 12, might be to give its full effect to the exhibition of the phenomena presented, which were of such a nature that they might best be seen at a distance. A cloud, for instance, is not visible to him whom it envelopes. — “ There shall not (verse 13) a hand touch it," ia yan; rather, touch him. The offender is not to be pursued within the barrier to be slain, else the pursuer would himself repeat the offence; “He shall surely be stoned, or shot through," that is, with a javelin, from a distance.--"Let all the priests also, which come near unto the Lord, sanctify themselves” (verse 22). Who were these priests? Those contemplated by the Law were not yet consecrated. There might have been some temporary priesthood. Compare ii. 18; xxiv. 5. But I prefer to understand the word 'n 12, to mean chief men, as the Chaldee paraphrasts often render it. Compare 2 Sam. viii. 18; 1 Chron. xviii. 17.—“Behold I send an angel before thee” &c. (xxiii. 20); 787, a messenger, a deputy, a representative, as the word in its etymology, and usus loquendi, imports; apparently, in this instance, Moses ; and agreeably to this, verse 21 should, I think, not be rendered “Provoke him not, for he will not pardon your transgressions,” &c. but according to the strict meaning of the verb xw?, “ It is not he who will have to bear with your transgressions,” but I, whose commission he bears; “ my name is in him.” Compare xix. 9. Possibly, however, we should rather understand by the angel, according to another use of the word, that manifestation of the divine presence and power to the Israelites, which from time to time was to take different forms, as different occasions should dictate. —"I will send hornets before thee” (28). Our translators have given this version without any good authority. The word ryny occurs nowhere else, except in Deut. vii. 20, and Josh. xxiv. 12. The etymology would make it mean a plague, or torment, of any kind. — “ From the desert to the river," (31,) that is, the Euphrates, the river by eminence. So the Euphrates is constantly denoted.
The passage here last commented on (xxiii. 20-32,) assures the Israelites of the favors of Providence which their nation would secure by obedience to the rule now promulgated, and the ruin they would incur by its violation. Making needful allowance for a figurative style in one or two verses, (25, 26,) such prosperity is promised as would naturally follow on a nation's observance of a law perfectly adapted to its wants.
EXODUS XXIV. 1. - XXVII. 21.
ENGAGEMENT OF THE PEOPLE TO ACCEPT THE LAW.- MANIFESTA
OF THE DIVINE MAJESTY TO THE JEWISH ELDERS. - ReTURN OF MOSES TO MOUNT SIxal. — NATURE OF THE REQUIRED OBSERVANCE OF A WEEKLY Sabbati. — Its DESIGN, A COMMEMORATION OF THE EMANCIPATION FROM EGYPT. – Period OF THE INSTITUTION. - EXAMINATION OF PASSAGES UNDERSTOOD TO REFER IT TO THE TIME OF THE CREATION. — NATURE AND USE OF THE THREE ANNUAL FESTIVALS. – RITE OF CIRCUMCISION.- ARRANGEMENTS FOR A PLACE OF NATIONAL WORSHIP.
The outline of the Law, as it has been described, having been delivered to Moses, he is directed to go and communicate it to the people, and obtain their express engagement to take it for their national code. This having been pledged, he proceeds to cause the Covenant, as it is thenceforward called, to be ratified by them in a solemn manner, by sacrificing victims, and sprinkling their blood over the people, when the “book of the covenant” (that is, of the covenanted law just received) had first been deliberately read in their hearing. *
This done, the next step was to select some of those, who, from the station which they already held, or that to which they were to be raised, were capable of exerting a peculiar influence over the people, and to distinguish them from the mass, in a manner both to impress their own minds with a sense of responsibility, and give
* xxiv. 3 - 8. The “ book of the covenant (7) was not the two stone tablets (compare 12), but the record which Moses had written (4) of the communications that had been made to him in the mountain.
them consideration and authority in the people's view. To this end, Aaron, who was to be high priest, Nadab and Abihu, his two eldest sons, and seventy Israelitish elders, were called up to an acclivity of the mountain, to witness a glorious manifestation of Jehovah's majesty. They themselves were not to “come near,” that is, to that top of Sinai where a cloud had rested, and fire had blazed, and a voice had been uttered; for a difference was still to be observed between Moses and them. But they were to ascend to the precincts of that spot, which the people at large might not approach; and there a vision was presented to them, of a nature to give them impulse for the work assigned to them, and confidence in Moses, under whose guidance they had come thither, and under whose supervision they were to act.*
Such preliminary arrangements having been made for the people's government, Moses, devolving his authority for a time on Aaron and Hur, retired into the solitude of the mountain to pursue further his meditations, and receive further instructions, respecting the economy of the state which had become his charge. Here we are told that he remained “forty days and forty nights.” Independently of such use as this pro
* xxiv. 9-11. As to the glorious appearance in the sky (10), in which, as before to Moses in the flaming bush, God betokened his presence, the Septuagint has a different and more satisfactory reading. • They saw the place where the God of Israel stood, and under his feet,” &c. That is, they saw a splendor in the sky, above all earthly things, and were made to know, that there, in heaven, Jehovah, the God of their nation, had his place and government. “ Upon the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand; also they saw God, and did eat and drink” (11). That is, so far from being distressed and panic-stricken by the vision of God, as might have been supposed, they kept a festival for the honor and happiness they were enjoying. Or, perhaps better; on them “ he laid not his hand,” — he made no direct communication to them, as to Moses ; so that they “did eat and drink,” differently from Moses, who received, fasting, the communications made to him.
tracted seclusion might have for himself, in enabling him, free from interruption, to mature his own knowledge and his own plans, it is evident, that the arrangement was suited to make the people feel the importance of the ritual then instituted, and regard it with the more veneration. It would have been manifestly unfit, that they should look upon the establishment of their national worship in the light of a sudden and perfunctory arrangement. For a time, it would appear, he was left, at this interesting crisis, to pursue his own meditations. While a bright cloud covered the mountain-top whither he had gone, indicating to the people below, that he was in the presence and audience of Jehovah, six days of silence were given him to collect his thoughts, and on the seventh the instruction, which he had been summoned to receive, began to be communicated.*
The step which we should expect to find first taken, in this posture of things, would be the provision of a suitable place for the national worship. Till this was done, the religious ritual could not go into operation, nor would there be any central point of interest, to which the religious and patriotic feelings of the people might turn. We accordingly find this provision next directed to be made, with such costliness and show as the means of the people permitted, and their susceptibility of impressions from such a source made fit; and in the form that was dictated by the wandering life, which they were for some time to lead. : “Let them make me a sanctuary,” it is said to Moses, “ that I may dwell among them ;” and very minute directions are given, through three chapters, respecting its construction and furniture.
To these I am presently to give particular considera
* xxiv. 12-18.
f xxv. 8.
tion. But first, having arrived at the period at which the religious polity is reduced to form, it will be convenient for us to retrace our steps, in order to take some more distinct notice of those preceding fundamental religious institutions, the weekly Sabbath, and the three annual high festivals, which are brought together in one view, in a portion of that original publication of the Law, to which we were lately attending. The rite of Circumcision connects itself with the same subject.
Under the head of the Sabbath, the three great questions for consideration, are those of the manner of the celebration, the design, and the period of the institution.
The manner of celebration was simply by cessation from labor. It is an erroneous idea, which ascribes to the Jewish Sabbath the use of the Christian Lord's Day, as being a season for religious improvement, through public and private devotion.* A Jew who should sit perfectly unemployed, or even who should sleep, through the day, would have kept the Sabbath with a punctilious observance. “In it thou shalt do no work,” says the command in the Decalogue; and this is the length and breadth of all which it enjoins. So in the sequel of the law published on Mount Sinai; “On the seventh day thou shalt rest.” † So again in the repetitions of the command, in connexion with the building of the Tabernacle; “On the seventh day there shall be to you a holy day, a Sabbath of rest to the Lord; whosoever doth work therein shall be put to death.” | And so in every text where the subject is treated. Accordingly,
* It has been common to draw an inference, inconsistent with this statement, from 2 Kings iv. 23. But nothing is said or implied there, of worship, or other religious services. The Sabbaths and the new moons were both holidays, and therefore suitable for the offering of presents and the visiting of friends; and accordingly the question is asked, why a day should be chosen for visiting Elisha, which was not the customary day. † Ex. xxiii. 12.
| Ex. xxxi. 14, 15; xxxv. 2, 3.