V 1-2 Israel arrives now at Mt. Sinai on the third new moon, which is about 7 weeks after Passover. The Law will be given in the next chapter on Shavout or weeks also known as Pentecost. God has delivered His people from Egyptian bondage and has fulfilled His word to Moses when he stood there in Exodus 3:12 He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.” The events of Ex 19:1-40:38, Lev. 1:1-27:34, and Num. 1:1-10:10 happens here on this holy ground, which is in the wilderness.
V 3-4 This is the first of three trips Moses makes up the mountain and back this would demonstrate his role and authority. Israel needed to recognize him as God’s representative and the importance of his words. The Lord’s past provision is the basis for trust and obedience. Just as eagles carry their young on their backs (Dt 32:10-11) so the Lord carried Israel out of Egypt.
V 5-6 Three titles “My treasured possession,” “a kingdom of priests,” and “a holy nation,” were given by the Lord, contingent on their obedience and keeping the covenant. In 1 Pet. 2:9, these blessings are given to those who abide in Israel’s Messiah. Israel will once again fulfill this role when they come to Messiah Zech. 12:10ff & Rom. 11:25-27.
V 7-8 Moses lays before the elders what the Lord said to him, the elders relayed it to the people. But all the people responded together, ‘We will do everything the LORD has said’ ” suggesting that Moses required a response from everyone, and then brought their response back to Moses, who then brought it back up the mountain to God. The formality of this process reminded all Israel that they were not dealing only their elders or Moses but with the God of and over all creation, who was not approachable by just anyone. God would hear their words of agreement only from Moses.
V 9 Because the people will overhear God and Moses conversing they will be convinced once and for all that Moses really is God’s prophet. This is essential for their acceptance of the Torah, which God communicates through Moses after the people decline to hear Him directly (20.16). This dialogue is the definitive evidence in Jewish theology that the Torah is from God. God’s presence on the mountain turns it into a holy place and it like the tabernacle later will have strict boundaries.
V 10-15 They were about to enter into the presence of God as a nation and to be appointed as God’s priests as such they were to be pure which involved abstaining from sexual relations (v. 15), and likely Mikvah. When the tabernacle was in operation and priests were sanctified they had to undergo similar cleansing and call to purity. God is setting bounds, temporarily because of His presence on the mountain. Later in the tabernacle unauthorized persons who entered the sanctuary would be put to death (Num. 3.10, 38). Execution at Sinai would be done in a way that would not involve touching the offender. When the ram’s horn sounds a long blast, they may go up on the mountain:’ It is never reported that this happened. Women are also included in this call upon all Israel (Deut. 29.10; 31.12).
V 16-20 God’s presence on the mountain was accompanied by thick clouds and trumpet blasts were visible manifestations of God’s majesty and power. The people and Moses trembled in His presence. This was an extraordinary event not volcanic activity, as some skeptics suggest. The entire nation stood at the base of Mt. Sinai and beheld what appeared to be volcanic activity yet no lava just tremendous fire and smoke and what felt like an earthquake, with the sound of a trumpet blasting. Moses spoke and God responded in the sound of the thunder. We know it was not a volcano as Moses is called up to the mountain by God and he ascends. Mount Sinai became a temporary meeting place, a “sanctuary,” where God and man connected represented by Moses.
V 21-22 Once again God instructs Moses to warn the people not to enter the holy area of the mountain. They may have been drawn by the chance to see God and to know what “the gods know” this was the appeal of Satan’s temptation to Adam and Eve. They had no understanding of the holiness of God as they were ignorant of His Word which gives us insight into His nature and His laws. The fire, cloud, and thunder did much to dissuade any from such ideas. Death would be the penalty for trying to enter God’s presence without His calling and according to His Word.
V 23-25 The presence of God sanctified the mountain. When the trumpet sounded, Moses ascended the mountain to meet God, but then, God sent him back to warn the people again not to get too close to Mount Sinai. God was teaching Israel the separation that exists between a holy God and sinful men, as well as the danger of presumptuously rushing into the presence of the Lord. Later, Nadab and Abihu the sons of Aaron would be an example of this truth in Lev. 10 and later another priest suffered the consequences of not following God’s Word in 2 Sam 6:5-8. The Torah that was about to be given taught Israel about man’s sinfulness and God’s “holiness”. The fence around the tabernacle; the separation between the Holy Place and the holy of holies by veil; that only the priests could serve in the tabernacle and that only the high priest could enter the holy of holies, only on Yom Kippur. But God promised that there would come a New Covenant not like the Older one Jer. 31:31-33 which would allow men to draw near to God through the Messiah whose name would be “Immanuel—God with us” (Isaiah 7:14). Through His death and resurrection, Yeshua the Messiah opened a new and living way into the presence of God (Heb. 10; 12:18-29).