Pristine Grace

Heb 12:18-21, (GILL)
18  For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched,.... The design of the apostle in the following words is, in general, to engage the Hebrews to adhere closely to the Gospel, from the consideration of the superior excellency of it to the law; and in particular, to enforce his former exhortations to cheerfulness under afflictions; to an upright walk in the ways of God; to follow peace with all men, even with the Gentiles, and holiness both of heart and life; and to value the doctrine of the Gospel; and to take heed that none fail of it, or act unbecoming it: and here the apostle observes, what the believing Hebrews were not come to, being delivered from it, namely, the legal dispensation, which was their privilege; the happiness of which as expressed by a detail of particular circumstances, which attended the giving of the law to the Jews: it was given on a "mount which might be touched"; that is, by God, who descended on it, and by, touching it caused it to smoke, quake, and move, Ex 19:18. Compare with, Ps 68:8 for it was not to be touched by the Israelites, nor by their cattle, Ex 19:12, that is, at the time that the law was given, and Jehovah was upon it, otherwise it might be touched; and the meaning is, that it was an earthly mountain, that might be approached to, and be seen and felt, and not of a spiritual nature, as Sion, or the church of God; and so may be expressive of the carnality of the law, and also of the movableness of it:

and that burned with fire; as Mount Sinai did, Ex 19:18 De 4:11 which set forth the majesty of God, when upon it, at whose feet went forth burning coals; and also the wrath of God, as an avenging lawgiver and Judge; and the terror of that law, which strikes the minds of the transgressors of it with an expectation of fiery indignation; and so points out the end of such transgressors, which is, to be burnt:

nor unto blackness and darkness; which covered the mount when God was upon it, Ex 19:16 and which also may express the majesty of God, round about whom are clouds and darkness; and also the horror of the legal dispensation, and the obscurity of it; little being known by the Jews of the spirituality of the law, of the strict justice of God, and of the righteousness which the law requires, and of the end and use of it; and especially of the way of salvation by Christ; and so dark were they at last, as to prefer their own traditions before this law: it is added,

and tempest; there being thunderings and lightnings, which were very terrible, Ex 19:16 and though there is no express mention made of a tempest by Moses, yet Josephus [d] speaks not only of very terrible thunderings and lightnings, but of violent storms of wind, which produced exceeding great rains: and the Septuagint on De 4:11 use the same words as the apostle does here, "blackness, darkness, and tempest". This also may denote the majesty of God, who was then present; the terror of that dispensation; the horrible curses of the law; and the great confusion and disquietude raised by it in the conscience of a sinner.

[d] Antiqu. l. 3. c. 5. sect. 2.

19  And the sound of a trumpet,.... Ex 19:16, which made it still more awful, as the sound of the trumpet will at the last day:

and the voice of words; of the ten words, or decalogue; which was as an articulate voice, formed by angels; and, therefore, the law is called the word spoken by angels, Heb 2:2 and is represented, as the voice of God himself, Ex 20:1 who made use of the ministry of angels to deliver the law to Moses; "which" voice is called Myrbd lwq, "the voice of words", in De 4:12, and this voice,

they that heard, entreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more: fearing that they should die; wherefore they desired Moses to be their mediator, and draw nigh to God, and hear his words, and speak them to them, from him, Ex 20:19.

20  For they could not endure that which was commanded,.... In the law; not that they disliked and despised the law, as unregenerate men do; but they could not endure it, or bear it, as a yoke, it being a yoke of bondage; nor as a covenant of works, it requiring perfect obedience, but giving no strength to perform; and as it showed them their sins, but did not direct them to a Saviour; as it was an accusing, cursing, and condemning law; and, as a fiery one, revealing wrath, and filling the conscience with it; unless this should have any respect to the following edict, more particularly:

and if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned or thrust through with a dart; and, if a beast, much more a man: and, how easily, through inadvertence, might this be done? and how terrible was the punishment? nothing less than death, by stoning, or being shot: and this they could not bear to hear, or think of: the last clause, "or thrust through with a dart", is wanting in the Alexandrian and Beza's Claromontane copies, in the Vulgate Latin, and all the Oriental versions; and yet is necessary to be retained, being in the original text, in Ex 19:12.

21  And so terrible was the sight,.... Of the smoke, fire, and lightnings; or of God himself, who descended on the mount; with which agrees the Arabic version, which renders the words, "and so terrible was he who vouchsafed himself to be seen"; not in the bush burning with fire; at which time Moses was afraid to look upon God, Ex 3:6 but on Mount Sinai, when the law was given:

[that] Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake: perhaps he might say this, when he spake, and God answered him, Ex 19:19. These words are nowhere recorded in Scripture; wherefore the apostle had them either by divine revelation, or from tradition, confirmed by the former: for the Jews have a notion that Moses did quake and tremble, and when upon the mount; and that he expressed his fear and dread. They have such a tradition as this [e];

"when Moses ascended on high, the ministering angels said before the holy blessed God, Lord of the world, what has this man, born of a woman, to do among us? he said unto them, to receive the law he is come; they replied before him, that desirable treasure, which is treasured up with thee, nine hundred, and seventy, and four generations, before the world was created, dost thou seek to give to flesh and blood? "What is man, that thou art mindful of him, and the son of man, that thou visitest him? who hast set thy glory above the heavens!" The holy blessed God said to Moses, return them an answer; he said, before him, Lord of the world, ane aryytm, "I am afraid", lest they should burn, (or consume) me, with the breath of their mouth.''

Compare this last clause with 2Th 2:8 and elsewhere [f] those words being cited, he called unto Moses, Ex 25:16 it is observed:

"this Scripture comes not, but wyle Myyal "to terrify him"; that so the law might be given with fear, fervour, and trembling; as it is said, Ps 2:11''

Once more [g],

"at the time that the holy blessed God said to Moses, "go, get thee down, for thy people have corrupted themselves", Ex 32:7 hvm ezedza, "Moses trembled"; and he could not speak, &c.''

And again, it is said [h], that when Moses was on Mount Sinai, supplicating for the people of Israel, five destroying angels appeared, and immediately hvm aryytn, "Moses was afraid". Now this circumstance is mentioned by the apostle, to aggravate the terror of that dispensation; that Moses, a great and good man; and who had much familiarity with God; the general of the people of Israel; their leader and commander; a man of great courage and presence of mind; and was their mediator between God and them; and yet feared, and quaked: the best of men are not without sin; and the most holy man on earth cannot stand before a holy God, and his holy law, upon the foot of his own righteousness, without trembling: it is an awful thing to draw nigh to God; and there is no such thing as doing it without a Mediator; and that Mediator must be more than a creature: and it is our happiness that we have such a Mediator, who never feared, nor quaked; who failed not, nor was he discouraged.

[e] T. Bab. Sabbat, fol. 88. 2. Yalkut, 2. par. 2. fol. 92. [f] T. Bab. Yoma, fol. 4. 2. [g] Zohar in Exod. fol. 84. 4. [h] Midrash Kohelet, fol. 69. 4.

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