For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched,
&c.] The design of the apostle in the following words is, in general, to engage the Hebrews to adhere closely to the Gospel, from the consideration of the superior excellency of it to the law; and in particular, to enforce his former exhortations to cheerfulness under afflictions; to an upright walk in the ways of God; to follow peace with all men, even with the Gentiles, and holiness both of heart and life; and to value the doctrine of the Gospel; and to take heed that none fail of it, or act unbecoming it: and here the apostle observes, what the believing Hebrews were not come to, being delivered from it, namely, the legal dispensation, which was their privilege; the happiness of which as expressed by a detail of particular circumstances, which attended the giving of the law to the Jews: it was given on a "mount which might be touched"; that is, by God, who descended on it, and by, touching it caused it to smoke, quake, and move, ( Exodus 19:18 ) . Compare with, ( Psalms 68:8 ) ( 104:32 ) ( 144:5 ) for it was not to be touched by the Israelites, nor by their cattle, ( Exodus 19:12 Exodus 19:13 ) , that is, at the time that the law was given, and Jehovah was upon it, otherwise it might be touched; and the meaning is, that it was an earthly mountain, that might be approached to, and be seen and felt, and not of a spiritual nature, as Sion, or the church of God; and so may be expressive of the carnality of the law, and also of the movableness of it:
and that burned with fire;
as Mount Sinai did, ( Exodus 19:18 ) ( Deuteronomy 4:11 ) ( 5:23 ) which set forth the majesty of God, when upon it, at whose feet went forth burning coals; and also the wrath of God, as an avenging lawgiver and Judge; and the terror of that law, which strikes the minds of the transgressors of it with an expectation of fiery indignation; and so points out the end of such transgressors, which is, to be burnt:
nor unto blackness and darkness;
which covered the mount when God was upon it, ( Exodus 19:16 Exodus 19:18 ) ( Deuteronomy 4:11 ) and which also may express the majesty of God, round about whom are clouds and darkness; and also the horror of the legal dispensation, and the obscurity of it; little being known by the Jews of the spirituality of the law, of the strict justice of God, and of the righteousness which the law requires, and of the end and use of it; and especially of the way of salvation by Christ; and so dark were they at last, as to prefer their own traditions before this law: it is added,
there being thunderings and lightnings, which were very terrible, ( Exodus 19:16 ) ( 20:18 ) and though there is no express mention made of a tempest by Moses, yet Josephus F4 speaks not only of very terrible thunderings and lightnings, but of violent storms of wind, which produced exceeding great rains: and the Septuagint on ( Deuteronomy 4:11 ) ( 5:22 ) use the same words as the apostle does here, "blackness, darkness, and tempest". This also may denote the majesty of God, who was then present; the terror of that dispensation; the horrible curses of the law; and the great confusion and disquietude raised by it in the conscience of a sinner.
F4 Antiqu. l. 3. c. 5. sect. 2.