19:5 obey me fully and keep my covenant … you will be my treasured possession. By describing the covenant as “my covenant,” God indicates that he alone determines the conditions. This is not, as some scholars suggest, a reference to a previously existing covenant. After reminding the Israelites of what he has already done for them, God graciously invites them to become his “treasured possession.” The Hebrew term for “treasured possession” is used elsewhere in the Old Testament to describe treasure prized by a king (1 Chron. 29:3; Eccles. 2:8). Unlike Pharaoh, God does not impose his authority on the Israelites against their wishes. The people are at liberty to reject God’s invitation, for it requires exclusive loyalty; they must be prepared to obey God fully. While this is a demanding requirement, these former slaves are promised a wonderful prospect.
19:5 — “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine.”
What an amazing thing to be called the “special treasure” of God! Obedience always brings blessing, and far more than we can imagine.
19:5 a treasured possession The Hebrew term used here, segullah, refers to both inanimate objects and servants as personal property (Eccl 2:8; 1 Chr 29:3). In ancient Near Eastern covenant-legal literature, the term used here sometimes describes those in covenant with a deity—a context reflected here.
all the earth is mine Though all the earth and its nations belong to Yahweh, Gen 11:1–9 describes God disinheriting the nations of the world. After the Babel event, God turned the nations over to lesser gods (Deut 32:8–9; compare Deut 4:19–20). In the next divine act recorded in the ot, He called Abram and promised him a line of descendants that culminated in the sons of Jacob—the 12 tribes of Israel—who now stand before Him at Sinai.
19:5 obey my voice and keep my covenant. Terms summarizing the proper human response to God’s gracious covenant (Gen. 17:2 note). The latter phrase (Gen. 17:9, 10; 1 Kin. 11:11; Ps. 78:10; 103:18; 132:12; Ezek. 17:14) always refers to fidelity to a previously revealed covenant. Since 6:4 has referred to the Exodus as the fulfillment of the patriarchal covenant, the revelation at Sinai must also be seen as an extension of the Abrahamic covenant.
treasured possession. As the following clause shows, God means that Israel will be His personal treasure within what is more generally owned (1 Chr. 29:3). Israel is separated by God’s election from the world that belongs to Him.
19:5 The Lord wanted Israel to be known by what he had done as well as by what they would do. My own possession uses a word that is sometimes translated “treasure.” David used it to speak of his “personal treasures of gold and silver” that he had set aside for building the Lord’s temple (1Ch 29:3). In extrabiblical literature a king sometimes used a closely related word to speak positively of a vassal with whom he had a good relationship and where a king advertised himself on his royal seal as the treasured possession of a certain god.
5. Now, therefore. God declares that He will ever be the same, and will constantly persevere (in blessing them), provided the Israelites do not degenerate, but remain devoted to their Deliverer; at the same time, He reminds them also, wherefore He has been so bountiful to them, viz., that they may continually aspire unto the end of their calling; for He had not willed to perform toward them a single act of liberality, but to purchase them as His peculiar, people. This privilege he sets before them in the word סגלה, segullah, which means all things most precious, whatever, in fact, is deposited in a treasury; although the word “peculium,” a peculiar possession, by which the old interpreter has rendered it, is not unsuitable to the passage; because it is plain from the immediate context, that it denotes the separation of this people from all others; since these words directly follow: “for,” or, although “all the earth is mine;” the particle כי, ki, being often taken adversatively, and there is no doubt but that God would more exalt His grace, by comparing this one nation with the whole world, as it is said in the song of Moses, “When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel; for the Lord’s portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance.” (Deut. 32:8.) The sum then is, that whilst the whole earth is in God’s dominion, yet the race of Israel has been chosen by Him to excel all nations. Whence it is evident, that whereas the condition of all is alike, some are not distinguished from others by nature, but by gratuitous adoption; but, in order that they should abide in the possession of so great a blessing, fidelity towards God is required on their part. And, first, they are commanded to listen to his voice, (since no sacrifice is more pleasing to him than obedience, 1 Sam. 15:22;) and then a definition of obedience is added, viz., to keep His covenant.
Ver. 5.—Now therefore. Instead of asking the simple question—“Will ye promise to obey me and keep my covenant?”—God graciously entices the Israelites to their own advantage by a most loving promise. If they will agree to obey his voice, and accept and keep his covenant, then they shall be to him a peculiar treasure (segullah)—a precious possession to be esteemed highly and carefully guarded from all that might injure it. (Compare Ps. 135:4; and see also Is. 43:1–4.) And this preciousness they shall not share with others on equal terms, but enjoy exclusively—it shall be theirs above all people. No other nation on the earth shall hold the position which they shall hold, or be equally precious in God’s sight. All the earth is his; and so all nations are his in a certain sense. But this shall not interfere with the special Israelite prerogative—they alone shall be his “peculiar people” (Deut. 14:2).
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