Then went up Moses and Aaron, &c.— Moses, having ratified the covenant with the people, now, agreeably to the command in Exodus 24:1, went up, with Aaron, and the elders, representative of the children of Israel, as mediator between GOD and the people, to announce their assent and ratification of the covenant: and accordingly GOD discovered to them some more immediate manifestation of his glory than usual; (Exodus 24:10.) they saw the GOD of Israel; i.e. as the Chaldee has it, the glory of God; some high and sensible demonstration of his peculiar Presence; for otherwise God is invisible to human sight: his immediate and essential glory no eye hath seen, or can see. One would, however, from some expressions, be led to believe, as this God of Israel was that MESSIAH, or Divine Person, who afterwards assumed a human form; that now, confirming the present covenant by blood, He appeared in glory in a human form: for it is said, that under his feet was, as it were, a paved work of a sapphire-stone, &c. and in Exodus 24:11 mention is made of his laying his hand; expressions, which must either be understood as above; or else as spoken more humano (after the manner of men). He laid not his hand upon them, to hide that degree of glory from them which he was then pleased to manifest, as was the case with Moses, ch. Exodus 33:22 where the Lord says, I will cover thee with my hand, while I pass by. As to the objection drawn from Deuteronomy 4:15 against the God of Israel's appearing in a human shape, let it be observed, that the words there immediately refer to God's first and awful appearance to all the people on Mount Horeb, ch. Exodus 19:14, &c. The verses may be thus read and interpreted: Exodus 24:10. And they saw the God of Israel, beneath whom there was, as it were, a paved-work of sapphire stones, [a bright aethereal blue,] and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness, [as the purest sky in its greatest brightness:] Exodus 24:11. And upon the nobles [or select ones, Hebrew] of the children of Israel, he did not lay his hand, [so as to conceal himself from them;] therefore they saw God, and did eat and drink; i.e. continued to exist: see Genesis 32:30 from whence, and other passages of Scripture, it will seem to have been a common opinion, that no mortal could sustain the appearance of the Divinity. Le Clerc thinks, that the eating and drinking refers to their feasting upon the remains of the sacrifice, Exodus 24:5 but that which we have given appears to us the more natural interpretation. Some think, that the phrase of laying the hand is a Hebraism, signifying to hurt or injure; and that it means here, that God did no hurt to the elders of Israel; they saw him and lived: see Genesis 37:22. 1 Samuel 11:15. Job 1:11-12.
A paved work of a sapphire-stone— The original signifies brick-work of a sapphire colour, but transparent at the body of heaven: from which the author of the Observations concludes, that pavements of polished marble were not yet in use; while the expression, he thinks, points to that sort of pavement which is formed of painted tiles (or bricks,) and is common to this day in the East, according to Dr. Shaw. They are the same, I suppose, says he, as those painted tiles, with which the Doctor tells us they were wont frequently to adorn part of their walls, by incrustating it with these tiles: the Doctor does not particularly describe them; but it appears, from other writers, that they are frequently blue. So Le Bruyn tells us, vol. 2: p. 238 that the mosque at Jerusalem, which the Turks call the Temple of Solomon, is almost covered over with green and blue bricks, which are glazed, so that, when the sun shines, the eye is perfectly dazzled. Some of these bricks or tiles, the reader will observe, are blue, the colour which Moses mentions; but bricks and tiles are not transparent: to describe then, the pavement under the feet of the God of Israel with due majesty, Moses represents it as like the floors of painted tile which he had seen, but transparent, however, as the body of heaven. Had Moses known any thing of marble pavements, it is natural to suppose, he would rather have compared what was seen in this august vision to them, than to a floor of painted tile, though such a one is not without its beauty; which ought to be remarked, to prevent our receiving impressions of too debasing a kind from Moses's mentioning brick-work under the feet of God: our imaginations might otherwise have been led to the poor pavements of brick in our cottages; whereas Moses seems, on the contrary, to have thought of the most splendid floors which Egypt then knew.