Hebrews 12:21

21 The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.”[a]

Hebrews 12:21 in Other Translations

21 And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:)
21 Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, "I tremble with fear."
21 Moses himself was so frightened at the sight that he said, “I am terrified and trembling.”
21 Even Moses was terrified.
21 And the appearance was so terrifying that Moses said, I am terrified and trembling. )

Hebrews 12:21 Meaning and Commentary

Hebrews 12:21

And so terrible was the sight
Of the smoke, fire, and lightnings; or of God himself, who descended on the mount; with which agrees the Arabic version, which renders the words, "and so terrible was he who vouchsafed himself to be seen"; not in the bush burning with fire; at which time Moses was afraid to look upon God, ( Exodus 3:6 ) but on Mount Sinai, when the law was given:

[that] Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:
perhaps he might say this, when he spake, and God answered him, ( Exodus 19:19 ) . These words are nowhere recorded in Scripture; wherefore the apostle had them either by divine revelation, or from tradition, confirmed by the former: for the Jews have a notion that Moses did quake and tremble, and when upon the mount; and that he expressed his fear and dread. They have such a tradition as this F5;

``when Moses ascended on high, the ministering angels said before the holy blessed God, Lord of the world, what has this man, born of a woman, to do among us? he said unto them, to receive the law he is come; they replied before him, that desirable treasure, which is treasured up with thee, nine hundred, and seventy, and four generations, before the world was created, dost thou seek to give to flesh and blood? "What is man, that thou art mindful of him, and the son of man, that thou visitest him? who hast set thy glory above the heavens!" The holy blessed God said to Moses, return them an answer; he said, before him, Lord of the world, (ane aryytm) , "I am afraid", lest they should burn, (or consume) me, with the breath of their mouth.''

Compare this last clause with ( 2 Thessalonians 2:8 ) and elsewhere F6 those words being cited, he called unto Moses, ( Exodus 25:16 ) it is observed:

``this Scripture comes not, but (wyle Myyal) "to terrify him"; that so the law might be given with fear, fervour, and trembling; as it is said, ( Psalms 2:11 ) ''

Once more F7,

``at the time that the holy blessed God said to Moses, "go, get thee down, for thy people have corrupted themselves", ( Exodus 32:7 ) (hvm ezedza) , "Moses trembled"; and he could not speak''

And again, it is said F8, that when Moses was on Mount Sinai, supplicating for the people of Israel, five destroying angels appeared, and immediately (hvm aryytn) , "Moses was afraid". Now this circumstance is mentioned by the apostle, to aggravate the terror of that dispensation; that Moses, a great and good man; and who had much familiarity with God; the general of the people of Israel; their leader and commander; a man of great courage and presence of mind; and was their mediator between God and them; and yet feared, and quaked: the best of men are not without sin; and the most holy man on earth cannot stand before a holy God, and his holy law, upon the foot of his own righteousness, without trembling: it is an awful thing to draw nigh to God; and there is no such thing as doing it without a Mediator; and that Mediator must be more than a creature: and it is our happiness that we have such a Mediator, who never feared, nor quaked; who failed not, nor was he discouraged.


F5 T. Bab. Sabbat, fol. 88. 2. Yalkut, 2. par. 2. fol. 92.
F6 T. Bab. Yoma, fol. 4. 2.
F7 Zohar in Exod. fol. 84. 4.
F8 Midrash Kohelet, fol. 69. 4.

Hebrews 12:21 In-Context

19 to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them,
20 because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.”
21 The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.”
22 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly,
23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect,

Cross References 1

  • 1. Deuteronomy 9:19

Footnotes 1

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