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The New Oxford Annotated Bible New Revised Standard Study Bible that provides essential scholarship and guidance for Bible readers.

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Commentary on Exodus

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Chs 19–31 : God establishes the covenant with Israel.

19.1–25 : God appears for the second time at Sinai/Horeb

(continued in 20.18–21 ). God has already appeared to Moses at the sacred mountain and promised that all the people would follow him here to worship ( 3.12 ). This chapter incorporates a wide diversity of traditions, reflecting different understandings of God and the divine relationship with Israel.

1–2 :

They have now reached the first goal of their journey, Sinai, also called Horeb ( 3.1n. ). In rabbinic Judaism, the festival of weeks (Pentecost, 23.16 ) celebrates this arrival and the gift of the covenant. Rephidim, 17.1,8 .

3–6 :

The liturgical style expresses the solemnity of the occasion.

4 :

Eagles' wings, Deut 32.11–12 .

5 :

If you obey my voice, the covenant is here conditional. The God to whom the whole earth belongs ( 9.29; Ps 24.1 ) has chosen Israel for a special role as my treasured possession, as “the people of God” ( 6.7; Deut 7.6; 14.2; 26.18 ).

6 :

Israel is to be a priestly kingdom, consecrated for service to God (Isa 61.6 ), a holy nation set apart as belonging to the holy God.

7–8 :

Cf. 24.7 .

9 :

This verse stresses Moses' role as the covenant mediator who represents God to the people and the people to God ( 20.19; 24.1–2; 34.27; Deut 5 ).

10–15 :

In this paragraph, on the other hand, all the people are to prepare to take part in the covenant ceremony ( 24.3–8 ).

12–13 :

These limits reflect the understanding of holiness as a mysterious, threatening power with which the mountain is charged ( 3.6n.; 2 Sam 6.6–9 ). No hand may touch the offender who has become affected with the contagion of holiness (Lev 6.27–28 ).

14–15 :

Washing or changing of clothing (Gen 35.2 ) and sexual abstinence (1 Sam 21.4–6 ) are forms of ceremonial purification. The people, “… a woman,” the address betrays the narrator's androcentric view: He equates the Israelite people with the men. Deut 31.12 offers a more inclusive view.

16–19 :

The theophany, or divine appearance, is portrayed this time as a violent thunderstorm and earthquake (Judg 5.4–5; Ps 18.7–15; 29.3–9 ).

16 :

The trumpet (v. 13 ) sounds on ritual occasions (2 Sam 6.15 ).

20–25 :

The three zones of increasing holiness must be carefully respected: All Israel must remain at the foot of the mountain (vv. 12,17 ), and the leaders may go up partway ( 24.1–2,9–11 ), but only Moses may ascend to the top where God is (v. 20; 20.21 ).

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