19:10 The Lord said to Moses, “Go to the people and sanctify them 1 today and tomorrow, and make them wash 2 their clothes 19:11 and be ready for the third day, for on the third day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. 19:12 You must set boundaries 3 for the people all around, saying, ‘Take heed 4 to yourselves not to go up on the mountain nor touch its edge. Whoever touches the mountain will surely be put to death! 19:13 No hand will touch him 5 – but he will surely be stoned or shot through, whether a beast or a human being; 6 he must not live.’ When the ram’s horn sounds a long blast they may 7 go up on the mountain.”
19:14 Then Moses went down from the mountain to the people and sanctified the people, and they washed their clothes. 19:15 He said to the people, “Be ready for the third day. Do not go near your wives.” 8
19:16 On 9 the third day in the morning there was thunder and lightning and a dense 10 cloud on the mountain, and the sound of a very loud 11 horn; 12 all the people who were in the camp trembled. 19:17 Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they took their place at the foot of the mountain. 19:18 Now Mount Sinai was completely covered with smoke because the Lord had descended on it in fire, and its smoke went up like the smoke of a great furnace, 13 and the whole mountain shook 14 violently. 19:19 When the sound of the horn grew louder and louder, 15 Moses was speaking 16 and God was answering him with a voice. 17
19:20 The Lord came down on Mount Sinai, on the top of the mountain, and the Lord summoned Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up. 19:21 The Lord said to Moses, “Go down and solemnly warn 18 the people, lest they force their way through to the Lord to look, and many of them perish. 19 19:22 Let the priests also, who approach the Lord, sanctify themselves, lest the Lord break through 20 against them.”
19:23 Moses said to the Lord, “The people are not able to come up to Mount Sinai, because you solemnly warned us, 21 ‘Set boundaries for the mountain and set it apart.’” 22 19:24 The Lord said to him, “Go, get down, and come up, and Aaron with you, but do not let the priests and the people force their way through to come up to the Lord, lest he break through against them.” 19:25 So Moses went down to the people and spoke to them. 23
1 tn 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.
2 tn 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.”
3 tn The verb is a Hiphil perfect (“make borders”) with vav (ו) consecutive, following the sequence of instructions.
4 tn 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.
5 sn 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.
6 tn Heb “a man.”
7 tn 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.
8 tn Heb “do not go near a woman”; NIV “Abstain from sexual relations.”
sn 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 God. Sinai was like a bride, forbidden to anyone else. Abstinence was the spiritual preparation for coming into the presence of the Holy One.
9 tn Heb “and it was on.”
10 tn Heb “heavy” (כָּבֵד, kaved).
11 tn Literally “strong” (חָזָק, khazaq).
12 tn 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 1:34; 2 Sam 6:15). The previous word used in the context (v. 16) was יֹבֵל (yovel, “ram’s horn”).
15 tn 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.
16 tn 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).
17 tn The text simply has בְּקוֹל (bÿqol); 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 God – but how is that an answer? Deut 4:12 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.
18 tn The imperative הָעֵד (ha’ed) means “charge” them – put them under oath, or solemnly warn them. God wished to ensure that the people would not force their way past the barriers that had been set out.
19 tn Heb “and fall”; NAB “be struck down.”
20 tn 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 6:8; S. R. Driver, Exodus, 174).
21 tn The construction is emphatic: “because you – you solemnly warned us.” Moses’ response to God is to ask how they would break through when God had already charged them not to. God knew them better than Moses did.
22 tn Heb “sanctify it.”
23 sn 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: God 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 God will obey him, they will be privileged to serve in a unique way (1-8); II. If the people of God are to obey, they must be convinced of the divine source of their commands (9); and finally, III. If the people of God 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 God. What is the motivation for this? Their mediator is Jesus Christ; he has the approval of the Father and manifests the glory of God to his own; and he declares the purpose of their calling is to display his glory. God’s people are to abstain from sin so that pagans can see their good works and glorify God.