Exodus 19:21 MEANING

Exodus 19:21

(21-25) Warning was given, as soon as God announced His intention of descending upon Sinai, that the people must not approach too near. "Bounds" were set, and the people required to keep within them. Actual contact with the mountain was forbidden under penalty of death (Exodus 19:12). It is evident from Exodus 19:23 that the command to "set bounds" had been obeyed, and a fence erected which it would have required some force to "break through;" nor can there be any doubt that Moses had promulgated the directions, which he had received from God, forbidding any approach to the mount, and threatening death to those who should "touch" it. Yet still it is evident from this concluding paragraph of the chapter (Exodus 19:21-25) that the first warning was insufficient. An intention to "break through, to gaze," must have been entertained by many. To this intention the existing priesthood, whatever it was, were parties (Exodus 19:22). It always grates upon men's feelings to be told that they are less holy than others; and we can easily understand that those who had hitherto acted as priests to the nation would resent their exclusion from "holy ground" to which the sons of Amram were about to be admitted. Even of the people there may have been many who participated in the feeling, and thought that Moses and Aaron were "taking too much upon them, seeing that the whole congregation" was holy. Hence, a further very stringent command was requisite, and Moses, having reached the summit, was sent down again from the top to the bottom in order to enjoin upon priests and people alike, in the most solemn possible way, the necessity of their observing the bounds set.

(21) Lest they break through--i.e., force their way through the barrier which Moses had erected.

To gaze, and many of them perish.--Some might have perished by the execution of the orders given in Exodus 19:13. But the allusion is perhaps rather to such a heaven-sent plague as destroyed the men of Beth-shemesh to the number of 50,070 (1 Samuel 6:19).

Verses 21-25. - The further warning to the people and the priests. It is very remarkable that, after all the directions given (vers. 10-13), and all the pains taken by Moses and the Israelites themselves (vers. 14, 15, 23), God should still have thought it necessary to interpose with a fresh warning, and to send Moses back from the top of the mount to the bottom, in order to communicate the renewed warning to the people. We can only suppose that, in spite of the instructions previously given and the precautions taken, there were those among the people who were prepared to "break through" the fence, and invade the mount, and who would have done so, to their own destruction (ver. 21), but for this second warning. The special mention of the "priests" (vers. 22, 24) raises the suspicion, that this proud and rebellious spirit was particularly developed among them. Accustomed to the exercise of sacred functions, they may have been inclined to regard their own purity as equal to that of Moses and Aaron; and they may even have resented their exclusion from a sacred spot to which the two sons of Amram were admitted. Apparently, they had conceived that the injunction to go through the recognised ceremonies of purification (ver. 10) did not apply to them, and had neglected to do so, on which account a special command had to be issued, addressed to them only (ver. 22). Verse 21. - Charge the people lest they break through - i.e., "lest they force a passage through the barrier made by Moses" in accordance with the command given in ver. 12. And many of them perish. Irreverent gazing on holy things was forbidden by the law (Numbers 4:20), and on one occasion (1 Samuel 6:19) was actually punished with death. It did not, however, require a law to make it an offence, natural reason being quite sufficient to teach the duty of reverence.

19:16-25 Never was there such a sermon preached, before or since, as this which was preached to the church in the wilderness. It might be supposed that the terrors would have checked presumption and curiosity in the people; but the hard heart of an unawakened sinner can trifle with the most terrible threatenings and judgments. In drawing near to God, we must never forget his holiness and greatness, nor our own meanness and pollution. We cannot stand in judgment before him according to his righteous law. The convinced transgressor asks, What must I do to be saved? and he hears the voice, Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved. The Holy Ghost, who made the law to convince of sin, now takes of the things of Christ, and shows them to us. In the gospel we read, Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us. We have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins. Through him we are justified from all things, from which we could not be justified by the law of Moses. But the Divine law is binding as a rule of life. The Son of God came down from heaven, and suffered poverty, shame, agony, and death, not only to redeem us from its curse, but to bind us more closely to keep its commands.And the Lord said unto Moses, go down,.... As soon as he was got to the top of the mount he was bid to go down again to the bottom, with a message to the people:

charge the people, lest they break through unto the Lord to gaze; to see if they could observe any similitude or likeness of God, that they might have an idea of it in their minds, or make an image like unto it; to prevent which, the Lord, knowing the vanity and curiosity of their minds, ordered Moses to give them a strict charge not to transgress the bounds set them, or to break down or break through the fence of stones and sand, or hedge of bushes, brambles, and branches of trees, or whatever was placed for bounds:

and many of them perish; or "fall" (z); by the hand of God; either fall by death, or into some grievous calamity, as the men of Bethshemesh perished through looking into the ark, 1 Samuel 6:19.

(z) Sept. "et corruant", Pagninus, Tigurine version; "et cadat", Montanus; "cadant", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Drusius; so Ainsworth.

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