Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible, by John Wesley, [1754-65], at sacred-texts.com
exo 19:1In the third month after they came out of Egypt. It is computed that the law was given just fifty days after their coming out of Egypt, in remembrance of which the feast of Pentecost was observed the fiftieth day after the passover, and in compliance with which the spirit was poured out upon the apostles, at the feast of Pentecost, fifty days after the death of Christ. Mount Sinai was a place which nature, not art, had made conspicuous, for it was the highest in all that range of mountains. Thus God put contempt upon cities and palaces, setting up his pavilion on the top of a mountain, in a barren desert. It is called Sinai, from the multitude of thorny bushes that over - spread it.
exo 19:3Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and the children of Israel - The people are called by the names both of Jacob and Israel, to mind them that they who had lately been as low as Jacob when he went to Padan - aram, were now grown as great as God made him when he came from thence, and was called Israel.
exo 19:4Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on Eagle's wings - An high expression of the wonderful tenderness God shewed for them. It notes great speed; God not only came upon the wing for their deliverance, but he hastened them out, as it were upon the wing. Also that he did it with great ease, with the strength as well as with the swiftness of an eagle. They that faint not, nor are weary, are said to mount up with wings as eagles, Isa 40:31. Especially it notes God's particular care of them, and affection to them. Even Egypt was the nest in which these young ones were first formed as the embryo of a nation: when by the increase of their numbers they grew to some maturity, they were carried out of that nest. I brought you unto myself - They were brought not only into a state of liberty, but into covenant and communion with God. This, God aims at in all the gracious methods of his providence and grace, to bring us back to himself, from whom we have revolted, and to bring us home to himself, in whom alone we can be happy.
exo 19:5Then ye shall be a peculiar treasure to me - He doth not instance in any one particular favour, but expresseth it in that which was inclusive of all happiness, that he would be to them a God in covenant, and they should be to him a people. Nay you shall be a peculiar treasure: not that God was enriched by them, as a man is by his treasure, but he was pleased to value and esteem them as a man doth his treasure; they were precious in his sight. He took them under his special care and protection, as a treasure that is kept under lock and key. He distinguished them from, and dignified them above all people, as a people devoted to him, and to his service.
exo 19:6A kingdom of priests, a holy nation - All the Israelites, if compared with other people, were priests unto God, so near were they to him, so much employed in his immediate service, and such intimate communion they had with him. The tendency of the laws given them was to distinguish them from others, and engage them for God as a holy nation. Thus all believers are, through Christ, made to our God kings and priests, Rev 1:6, a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, Pe1 2:9.
exo 19:7And Moses laid before their faces all these words - He not only explained to them what God had given him in charge, but put it to their choice, whether they would accept these promises upon these terms or no. His laying it to their faces speaks his laying it to their consciences.
exo 19:8And they answered together; all that the Lord hath spoken we will do - Thus accepting the Lord to be to them a God, and giving up themselves to be to him a people.
exo 19:10Sanctify the people - As Job before sent and sanctified his sons, Job 1:5. Sanctify them, that is, call them off from their worldly business, and call them to religious exercises, meditation and prayer, that they may receive the law from God's mouth with reverence and devotion. Two things particularly were prescribed as instances of their preparation. 1st, In token of cleansing of themselves from all sinful pollutions, they must wash their clothes. Not that God regards our clothes, but while they were washing their clothes, he would have them think of washing their souls by repentance. It becomes us to appear in clean clothes when we wait upon great men; so clean hearts are required in our attendance on the great God. 2dly, In token of their devoting themselves entirely to religious exercises upon this occasion they must abstain even from lawful enjoyments during these three days, and not come at their wives.
exo 19:11In the sight of all the people - Though they should see no manner of similitude, yet they should see so much as would convince them, that God was among them of a truth. And so high was the top of Mount Sinai, that it is supposed not only the camp of Israel, but even the countries about might discern some extraordinary appearance of glory upon it.
exo 19:12Set bounds - Probably he drew a ditch round at the foot of the hill, which none were to pass upon pain of death. This was to intimate, 1st, That awful reverence which ought to possess the minds of all that worship God. 2dly, The distance which worshippers were kept at under that dispensation, which we ought to take notice of, that we may the more value our privilege under the gospel, having boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, Heb 10:19.
exo 19:13When the trumpet soundeth long - Then let them take their places at the foot of the mount. Never was so great a congregation called together and preached to at once as this was here. No one man's voice could have reached so many, but the voice of God did.
exo 19:16Now at length is come that memorable day, in which Israel heard the voice of the Lord God speaking to them out of the midst of the fire and lived, Deu 4:33. Never was there such a sermon preached before or since, as this, which was here preached to the church in the wilderness. For, the preacher was God himself, Exo 19:17, The Lord descended in fire; and Exo 19:18. The Lord came down upon mount Sinai. The Shechinah, or glory of the Lord, appeared in the sight of all the people; he shined forth from mount Paran with ten thousand of his saints, attended with a multitude of the holy angels. Hence the law is said to be given by the disposition of angels, Act 7:53. He spake from mount Sinai, hung with a thick cloud, Exo 19:16, covered with smoke, Exo 19:18, and made to quake greatly. Now it was that the earth trembled at the presence of the Lord, and the mountains skipped like rams, Psa 114:4, Psa 114:7, that Sinai itself, though rough and rocky, melted from before the Lord God of Israel, Jdg 5:5. The congregation was called together by the sound of a trumpet exceeding loud, Exo 19:16, and waxing louder and louder, Exo 19:19. This was done by the ministry of the angels, and made all the people tremble. The introductions to the service were thunders and lightnings, Exo 19:16. These have natural causes; but the scripture directs us in a particular manner to take notice of the power of God, and his terror in them. Thunder is the voice of God, and lightning the fire of God, proper to engage both the learning senses of seeing and hearing.