And Moses said unto the people
By representatives and messengers, the heads of the tribes and elders:
be not afraid of God with a slavish fear; be not afraid of the thunders and lightnings, as if they were like one of the plagues of Egypt, which terrified Pharaoh and his people; be not afraid of being consumed by them, they will do you no hurt; be not afraid of dying by the hand of God, at his presence, and through the voice of his words spoken to you; be of good courage, for the design of God is not to destroy you, but to instruct you, and do you good:
for God is come to prove you;
whether, being now freed by him from Egyptian bondage, they would take and own him for their King, and be subject to his laws and government; whether they would abide by what they had said, all that the Lord hath spoken will we do, ( Exodus 19:8 ) , whether they thought they had purity and righteousness enough to answer to the divine law, and whether they imagined they had strength enough to fulfil it, and whether they needed a mediator between God and them or not: some Jewish writers F17 give a different sense of this clause, as if the coming of God to them in this grand and majestic manner was to exalt them, and make them great and honourable among the nations of the world; taking the word used to be derived from a root, which signifies to lift up, as a banner or ensign is lifted up on high: but the former sense is best;
and that his fear may be before your faces;
not a slavish fear of death, of wrath, and damnation, before dehorted from; but a reverence of the divine Majesty, an awe of his greatness and glory, a serious regard to his commands, delivered in so grand a manner, and a carefulness to offend him by disobeying them:
that ye sin not:
by breaking the law, and transgressing the precepts of it, which they might be deterred from, as it might be reasonably thought, when they reflected with what solemnity, and in what an awful manner it was delivered to them.
F17 Jarchi in loc. Medrash apud Kimchi in Sepher Shorash. rad. (hog) & Ben Melech in loc.