“Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant,
then out of all the nations you will be my treasured possession.
Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”
Exodus 19:5-6a (NIV)
Moses has let the Israelite people out of Egypt. He goes to meet God on Mount Sinai. The Lord gives Moses a promise. My study Bible has a footnote about the section that goes from chapter 19-24.
“This section follows the form of ancient Hittite suzerainty treaties. These treaties identify the author and gives his titles (20:1); recount what the ruler has done for his people (19:4-5; 20:2) state the principles on which the relationship is to be based (20:3-17; 21:1-23:19); announce blessings and curses associated with keeping or breaking the covenant conditions (23:20-33); and conclude with an oath of acceptance by the ruler’s subjects (24:1-8). This form makes it clear that the Mosaic Law was considered the national constitution of the people whose ruler was the Lord.” 1
A suzerainty treaty is between a larger land that invades a smaller land but allows the captured nation some internal autonomy. 2
God told Moses he was to say the words in our focus verses to the house of Jacob and to the people of Israel. The Lord gives a promise with a condition here. The Israelites were to obey God fully and keep his contract with them. In return, He would look warmly on then and treasure them as His chosen children.
We know the Israelites were unable to live up to their end of the contract. Even their leaders failed to keep God’s laws. A lot of their kings ‘did what was right in their own eyes.’ During the reigns where the kings lived out this phrase, Israel experienced a spiraling downward until they ‘hit bottom.’
In reading Nehemiah 8 and 9 recently, I noticed the Hebrew people, who had returned to Jerusalem and had worked to rebuild the city, grieved the misconduct of their forebears as Ezra read from the Book of the Law.
- The Discovery Bible, Zondervan, Grand Rapids,©2004 p.95 (footnote)
- My rewording from definition found on Wikipedia. Accessed 2/9/2015 and 2/11/2015.