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Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 3: Harmony of the Law, Part I, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at


Exodus 20:18-21

18. And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightning’s, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and, when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off.

18. Omnis populus videbant tonitrua et lampades, et clamorem buccinae, et montem fumantem, vidit inquam populus, et commoti sunt, steteruntque procul.

19. And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.

19. Atque dixerunt Mosi, Loquere tu nobiscum, et obsequemur: et ne loquatur nobiscum Deus, ne forte moriamur.

20. And Moses said unto the people, Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not.

20. Respondit autem Moses populo, Ne timeatis: quia ut tentaret vos venit Deus, et ut sit timor ejus ante conspectum vestrum, ut non peccetis.

21. And the people stood afar off: and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was.

21. Stetit igitur populus procul, Moses autem appropinquavit ad caliginem, in qua erat Deus.

18. And all the people saw the thunderings. Because in the parallel passage  218 Moses more largely pursues what he here only touches upon briefly, I shall also defer my full exposition of it. If he had been the only spectator of God’s glory, the credit of his testimony would be lighter; after having, then, reported the ten commandments, which God Himself spoke with His own sacred lips in the hearing of the people, he adds, at the same time, that the lightning’s shone openly, the mountain smoked, the trumpets sounded, and the thunder rolled. It follows, therefore, that by these conspicuous and illustrious signs, the law was ratified before all the people, from the greatest even to the least. The confession of the whole people is added; when, overwhelmed with alarm, they supplicate God to go on speaking no more. For no longer could they now despise the voice of the man, whom they had of their own accord desired to be given them as their mediator, lest they should be consumed by the awful voice of God. He lays before them the object, for which those signs had appeared to terrify them, viz., that God might subdue them to obedience. They were terrified, then, not that they might be stupified with astonishment, but only that they might be humbled and submit themselves to God. And this is a peculiar privilege, that the majesty of God, before whom heaven and earth tremble, does not  219 destroy but only proves and searches His children.



Au passage de Deuteronome, que nous verrons tantost. — Fr.


There is a play on the words in the Latin here: “Non exanimet, sed tantum examinet.”

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