on Hebrews 12 :18
For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched - I believe the words ψηλαφωμενῳ ορει should be translated to a palpable or material mountain; for that it was not a mountain that on this occasion might be touched, the history, Exodus 19:12, Exodus 19:13, shows; and the apostle himself, in Hebrews 12:20, confirms. It is called here a palpable or material mount, to distinguish it from that spiritual mount Sion, of which the apostle is speaking. Some contend that it should be translated tacto de caelo, thunder-struck; this sense would agree well enough with the scope of the place. The apostle's design is to show that the dispensation of the law engendered terror; that it was most awful and exclusive; that it belonged only to the Jewish people; and that, even to them, it was so terrible that they could not endure that which was commanded, and entreated that God would not communicate with them in his own person, but by the ministry of Moses: and even to Moses, who held the highest intimacy with Jehovah, the revealed glories, the burning fire, the blackness, the darkness, the tempest, the loud-sounding trumpet, and the voice of words, were so terrible that he said, I exceedingly fear and tremble.
These were the things which were exhibited on that material mountain; but the Gospel dispensation is one grand, copious, and interesting display of the infinite love of God. It is all encouragement; breathes nothing but mercy; is not an exclusive system; embraces the whole human race; has Jesus, the sinner's friend, for its mediator; is ratified by his blood; and is suited, most gloriously suited, to all the wants and wishes of every soul of man.
on Hebrews 12 :18
For ye are not come - To enforce the considerations already urged, the apostle introduces this sublime comparison between the old and new dispensations; Hebrews 12:18-24. The object, in accordance with the principal scope of the Epistle, is, to guard them against apostasy. To do this, he shows that under the new dispensation there was much more to hind them to fidelity, and to make apostasy dangerous, than there was under the old. The main point of the comparison is, that under the Jewish dispensation, everything was adapted to awe the mind, and to restrain by the exhibition of grandeur and of power; but that under the Christian dispensation, while there was as much that was sublime, there was much more that was adapted to win and hold the affections. There were revelations of higher truths. There were more affecting motives to lead to obedience. There was that of which the former was but the type and emblem. There was the clear revelation of the glories of heaven, and of the blessed society there, all adapted to prompt to the earnest desire that they might be our own. The considerations presented in this passage constitute the climax of the argument so beautifully pursued through this Epistle, showing that the Christian system was far superior in every respect to the Jewish. In presenting this closing argument, the apostle first refers to some of the circumstances attending the former dispensation which were designed to keep the people of God from apostasy, and then the considerations of superior weight existing under the Christian economy.
The mount that might be touched - Mount Sinai. The meaning here is, that "that mountain was palpable, material, touchable" - in contradistinction from the Mount Zion to which the church had now come, which is above the reach of the external senses; Hebrews 12:22. The apostle does not mean that it was permitted to the Israelites to touch Mount Sinai - for this was strictly forbidden, Exodus 19:12; but he evidently alludes to that prohibition, and means to say that a command forbidding them to "touch" the mountain, implied that it was a material or palpable object. The sense of the passage is, that every circumstance that occurred there was suited to fill the soul with terror. Everything accompanying the giving of the Law, the setting of bounds around the mountain which they might not pass, and the darkness and tempest on the mountain itself, was adopted to overawe the soul. The phrase "the touchable mountain" - if such a phrase is proper - would express the meaning of the apostle here. The "Mount Zion" to which the church now has come, is of a different character. It is not thus visible and palpable. It is not enveloped in smoke and flame, and the thunders of the Almighty do not roll and re-echo among its lofty peaks as at Horeb; yet it presents "stronger" motives to perseverance in the service of God.
And that burned with fire - Exodus 19:18; compare Deuteronomy 4:11; Deuteronomy 33:2.
Nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest - see Exodus 19:16.
on Hebrews 12 :18
12:18 For - A strong reason this why they ought the more to regard the whole exhortation drawn from the priesthood of Christ: because both salvation and vengeance are now nearer at hand. Ye are not come to the mountain that could be touched - That was of an earthy, material nature.