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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 12–18
Verses 12–18

The public ceremony of sealing the covenant being over, Moses is called up to receive further instructions, which we have in the following chapters.

I. He is called up into the mount, and there he remains six days at some distance. Orders are given him (Exod. 24:12): Come up to the mount, and be there, that is, “Expect to continue there for some considerable time.” Those that would have communion with God must not only come to ordinances, but they must abide by them. Blessed are those that dwell in his house, not that merely call there. “Come up, and I will give thee a law, that thou mayest teach them.” Moses taught them nothing but what he had received from the Lord, and he received nothing from the Lord but what he taught them; for he was faithful both to God and Israel, and did neither add nor diminish, but kept close to his instructions. Having received these orders, 1. He appointed Aaron and Hur to be as lords-justices in his absence, to keep the peace and good order in the congregation, Exod. 24:14. The care of his government he would leave behind him when he went up into the mount, that he might not have that to distract his mind; and yet he would not leave the people as sheep having no shepherd, no, not for a few days. Good princes find their government a constant care, and their people find it a constant blessing. 2. He took Joshua up with him into the mount, Exod. 24:13. Joshua was his minister, and it would be a satisfaction to him to have him with him as a companion, during the six days that he tarried in the mount, before God called to him. Joshua was to be his successor, and therefore thus he was honoured before the people, above the rest of the elders, that they might afterwards the more readily take him for their governor; and thus he was prepared for service, by being trained up in communion with God. Joshua was a type of Christ, and (as the learned bishop Pearson well observes) Moses takes him with him into the mount, because without Jesus, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, there is no looking into the secrets of heaven, nor approaching the glorious presence of God. 3. A cloud covered the mount six days, a visible token of God’s special presence there, for he so shows himself to us as at the same time to conceal himself from us. He lets us know so much as to assure us of his presence, power, and grace, but intimates to us that we cannot find him out to perfection. During these six days Moses staid waiting upon the mountain for a call into the presence-chamber, Exod. 24:15, 16. God thus tried the patience of Moses, and his obedience to that command (Exod. 24:12), Be there. If Moses had been tired before the seventh day (as Saul, 1 Sam. 13:8, 9), and had said, What should I wait for the Lord any longer? he would have lost the honour of entering into the cloud; but communion with God is worth waiting for. And it is fit we should address ourselves to solemn ordinances with a solemn pause, taking time to compose ourselves, Ps. 108:1.

II. He is called up into a cloud on the seventh day, probably on the sabbath day, Exod. 24:16. Now, 1. The thick cloud opened in the sight of all Israel, and the glory of the Lord broke forth like devouring fire, Exod. 24:17. God, even our God, is a consuming fire, and so he was pleased to manifest himself in the giving of the law, that, knowing the terrors of the Lord, we may be persuaded to obey, and may by them be prepared for the comforts of the gospel, and that the grace and truth which come by Jesus Christ may be the more acceptable. 2. The entrance of Moses into the cloud was very wonderful: Moses went into the midst of the cloud, Exod. 24:18. It was an extraordinary presence of mind which the grace of God furnished him with by his six days’ preparation, else he durst not have ventured into the cloud, especially when it broke out in devouring fire. Moses was sure that he who called him would protect him; and even those glorious attributes of God which are most terrible to the wicked the saints with a humble reverence rejoice in. He that walks righteously, and speaks uprightly, is able to dwell even with this devouring fire, as we are told, Isa. 33:14, 15. There are persons and works that will abide the fire, 1 Cor. 3:12; and some that will have confidence before God. 3. His continuance in the cloud was no less wonderful; he was there forty days and forty nights. It should seem, the six days (Exod. 24:16) were not part of the forty; for, during those six days, Moses was with Joshua, who did eat of the manna, and drink of the brook, mentioned, Deut. 9:21; and while they were together it is probable that Moses did eat and drink with him; but when Moses was called into the midst of the cloud he left Joshua without, who continued to eat and drink daily while he waited for Moses’s return, but thenceforward Moses fasted. Doubtless God could have said what he had now to say to Moses in one day, but, for the greater solemnity of the thing, he kept him with him in the mount forty days and forty nights. We are hereby taught to spend much time in communion with God, and to think that time best spent which is so spent. Those that would get the knowledge of God’s will must meditate thereon day and night.