The Terrors of Sinai
Exodus 20:18-22
And all the people saw the thunder, and the lightning, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking…

- their design and their effects.


1. Not to slay the people. The people dreaded that if God spoke to them again, they would die (ver. 19). But Moses said - No; this was not the design of the manifestation. "Fear not" (ver. 20). The voice of the law in Scripture, though it is felt in the conscience to be a voice of death (Romans 7:9-11), is not intended to be really so. It is meant to lead to Christ.

2. To prove the people (ver. 20). God gave this awful manifestation, that his fear might ever after be before their faces. They had heard with their own ears the proclamation of the law, and they had seen these terrors. If anything could awaken fear in them - a salutary fear - and keep them from apostasy, these things should. But, alas! terror is a very ineffective instrument of conversion. These Israelites soon forgot their terrors, and within forty days were dancing in mat[ glee round their golden calf (ch. 32.).


1. They inspired the keenest alarm. This is the invariable result in the sinful breast of any near approach of God. A fear akin to that of the Israelites has often been manifested -

(1) In presence of unusual appearances of nature (comets, eclipses, etc.).

(2) Under the powerful preaching of the realities of judgment.

(3) In prospect of death.

2. They awakened the cry for a mediator (ver. 19). However much, under ordinary circumstances, the unbeliever may scout the idea of being indebted to a mediator, it will be strange if there do not come times in his life when he feels that he needs one. Three principles in our nature give birth to this feeling -

(1) The sense of weakness and finitude.

(2) The sense of sin.

(3) The feeling of need.

The longing for fellowship with God gives rise to the desire for one to mediate that fellowship, to bring it about by making peace.

3. They impelled the self-convicted Israelites to flee from God's presence (vers. 18, 21). This is what will take place at the last judgment. How different with Moses, who had "boldness" to enter even into the thick darkness! The good man need not fear to be anywhere with God - J.O.

Parallel Verses
KJV: And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off.

WEB: All the people perceived the thunderings, the lightnings, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking. When the people saw it, they trembled, and stayed at a distance.

The Superficial and the Profound
Top of Page
Top of Page