Deuteronomy 4:12
And the LORD spoke to you out of the middle of the fire: you heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude; only you heard a voice.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
4:1-23 The power and love of God to Israel are here made the ground and reason of a number of cautions and serious warnings; and although there is much reference to their national covenant, yet all may be applied to those who live under the gospel. What are laws made for but to be observed and obeyed? Our obedience as individuals cannot merit salvation; but it is the only evidence that we are partakers of the gift of God, which is eternal life through Jesus Christ, Considering how many temptations we are compassed with, and what corrupt desires we have in our bosoms, we have great need to keep our hearts with all diligence. Those cannot walk aright, who walk carelessly. Moses charges particularly to take heed of the sin of idolatry. He shows how weak the temptation would be to those who thought aright; for these pretended gods, the sun, moon, and stars, were only blessings which the Lord their God had imparted to all nations. It is absurd to worship them; shall we serve those that were made to serve us? Take heed lest ye forget the covenant of the Lord your God. We must take heed lest at any time we forget our religion. Care, caution, and watchfulness, are helps against a bad memory.Hero worship exhibited itself in the practice of setting up images of human form as household gods (Penates, compare Genesis 31:19; Genesis 35:2), or as local and civic divinities: a practice forbidden by Deuteronomy 4:16. Nature worship in its baser shapes is seen in the Egyptian idolatry of animals and animal figures, and is condemned in Deuteronomy 4:17-18 : while its less ignoble flight, the worship of the sun, moon, and stars, is forbidden in Deuteronomy 4:19. The great legislator may be regarded as taking in the passage before us a complete and comprehensive survey of the various forms of idolatrous and corrupt worship practiced by the surrounding Oriental nations, and as particularly and successively forbidding them every one. 12. ye heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude—Although articulate sounds were heard emanating from the mount, no form or representation of the Divine Being who spoke was seen to indicate His nature or properties according to the notions of the heathen. i.e. No resemblance or representation of God, whereby either his essence or properties or actions were represented, such as were usual among the heathens. And the Lord spake unto you out of the midst of the fire,.... For the Lord descended on Mount Sinai in a cloud, in fire, and was in the thick darkness, from whence he delivered out the ten commands:

ye heard the voice of the words; distinctly and plainly, not only the sound of them, but the words themselves, and so as to understand what was meant by them:

but saw no similitude; not any likeness of the person speaking, by which they could form any idea of him in their minds, which was purposely done to prevent idolatry:

only ye heard a voice; that was all.

And the LORD spake unto you out of the midst of the fire: ye heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude; only ye heard a voice.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
12. the Lord spake … out of the midst of the fire] So Deuteronomy 4:15; Deuteronomy 4:33; Deuteronomy 4:36; Deuteronomy 5:4; Deuteronomy 5:22; Deuteronomy 5:24; Deuteronomy 9:10; Deuteronomy 10:4. J, Exodus 19:18, descended in fire; P, Exodus 24:17, the glory of Jehovah like devouring fire.

the voice of words … only … a voice] E, Exodus 19:19, God answered by a voice; P, Exodus 24:16, called out of the cloud; E, Exodus 19:16; Exodus 19:19; Exodus 20:18, reiterates the sound of a trumpet, exceeding loud. The omission of this by D is noteworthy.

ye saw no form] Heb. temûnah, form or shape; E, Exodus 20:4. This feeling, that seeing is more sensuous than hearing, was shared by the prophets, who forbad the presentation of God in any physical shape, yet did not hesitate to use words describing Him in the likeness of a man: father, husband, warrior, even as a travailing woman, Deuteronomy 32:18, Isaiah 42:13 f.Verse 12. - On this occasion the people heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude; there was no form or shape apparent to the eye. No man can see God's face (Exodus 33:20, 23); "no man hath seen God at any time" (John 1:18); and though the nobles or elders of Israel who went up with Moses into the mount are said to have seen God, it is evident that what they saw was only some luminous manifestation of his glory, and not a form or shape of which a similitude could be made (Exodus 24:9-17). Even Moses, with whom God said that he would speak mouth to month, and who should behold the similitude of God (Numbers 12:8), was told that he could not see his face, his essential personality, but only his back, the reflection of his glory (Exodus 33:18-23). But the laws which Moses taught were commandments of the Lord. Keeping and doing them were to be the wisdom and understanding of Israel in the eyes of the nations, who, when they heard all these laws, would say, "Certainly (רק, only, no other than) a wise and understanding people is this great nation." History has confirmed this. Not only did the wisdom of a Solomon astonish the queen of Sheba (1 Kings 10:4.), but the divine truth which Israel possessed in the law of Moses attracted all the more earnest minds of the heathen world to seek the satisfaction of the inmost necessities of their heart and the salvation of their souls in Israel's knowledge of God, when, after a short period of bloom, the inward self-dissolution of the heathen religions had set in; and at last, in Christianity, it has brought one heathen nation after another to the knowledge of the true God, and to eternal salvation, notwithstanding the fact that the divine truth was and still is regarded as folly by the proud philosophers and self-righteous Epicureans and Stoics of ancient and modern times.
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