Fear and Quake

And he said, The LORD came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them; he shined forth from mount Paran, and he came with ten thousands of saints: from his right hand went a fiery law for them.
~ Deuteronomy 33:2

Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
~ Romans 3:19-20

For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.
~ Galatians 2:19

For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.
~ Galatians 3:10

There shall not an hand touch it, but he shall surely be stoned, or shot through; whether it be beast or man, it shall not live: when the trumpet soundeth long, they shall come up to the mount.
~ Exodus 19:13

And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled.
~ Exodus 19:16

And when the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder, Moses spake, and God answered him by a voice.
~ Exodus 19:19

My flesh trembleth for fear of thee; and I am afraid of thy judgments.
~ Psalm 119:120

A Commentary on Hebrews 12:20-21, by John Owen. The following contains an excerpt from his work.

(For they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart: And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:)
~ Hebrews 12:20-21

Hebrews 12:20-21. “And so terrible was the sight, Moses said, I exceedingly fear.” We supply that; “that Moses said.” Beza joins Moses immediately unto “and” in the beginning, putting a distinction between it and οὕτω , “so:” “Et Moses, adeo horrendum erat visum, dixit;” “And Moses, so terrible was the sight, said:” which is the true construction of the words.

῎Εχφοζος , “exterritus,” “expavefactus;” “I exceedingly fear,” or “I am (5) exceedingly afraid.”

Hebrews 12:21. The second evidence which he gives of the dreadful promulgation of the law, and consequently of the miserable estate of them that are under its power, is in what befell Moses on this occasion. And we may consider,

1. The person in whom he giveth the instance.

2. The cause of the consternation ascribed unto him.

3. How he expressed it.

1. The person is Moses. The effect of this terror extended itself unto the meanest of beasts, and unto the best of men. Moses was,

(1.) A person holy, and abounding in grace above all others of his time; the meekest man on the earth.

(2.) He was accustomed unto divine revelations, and had once before beheld a representation of the divine presence Exodus 3:0.

(3.) He was the internuncius, the messenger, the mediator between God and the people, at that time. Yet could none of these privileges exempt him from an amazing sense of the terror of the Lord in giving the law. And if with all these advantages he could not bear it, much less can any other man so do. The mediator himself of the old covenant was not able to sustain the dread and terror of the law: how desperate then are their hopes who would yet be saved by Moses!

2. The cause of his consternation was the sight, it was “so terrible:” “Visum quod apparebat;” that which appeared, and was represented unto him. And this takes in not only what was the object of the sight of his eyes, but that of his ears also, in voices, and thundering, and the sound of the trumpet. The whole of it was “terrible,” or “dreadful.” It was “so dreadful,” unto such an incomprehensible degree.

3. His expression of the consternation that befell him hereon is in these words, “I exceedingly fear and tremble.” He said so; we are assured of it by the Holy Ghost in this place. But the words themselves are not recorded in the story. They were undoubtedly spoken then and there, where, upon this dreadful representation of God, it is said that he spake; but not one word is added of what he spake: Exodus 19:19, “And when the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder, Moses spake, and God answered him by a voice;” yet nothing is added, either of what Moses spake, or of what God answered. Then, no doubt, did he speak these words: for it was immediately upon his sight of the dreadful appearance; unto which season the apostle assigns them.

The expositors of the Roman church raise hence a great plea for unwritten traditions; than which nothing can be more weak and vain. For,

(1.) How do they know that the apostle had the knowledge hereof by tradition? Certain it is, that in the traditions that yet remain among the Jews there is no mention of any such thing. All other things he had by immediate inspiration, as Moses wrote the story of things past.

(2.) Had not these words been now recorded by the apostle, what had become of the tradition concerning them? would any man living have believed it? Let them give us a tradition of any thing spoken by Moses or the prophets, or by Christ himself, which is not recorded, with any probability of truth, and somewhat will be allowed to their traditions. Wherefore,

(3.) The occasional divine record of such passages, ascertaining their verity, without which they would have been utterly lost, is sufficient to discover the vanity of their pretended traditions.

Moses spake these words in his own person, and not, as some have judged, in the person of the people. He was really so affected as he expressed it. And it was the will of God that so he should be. He would have him also to be sensible of his terror in the giving of the law.

It is said that “God answered him with a voice;” but what he said unto him is not recorded. No doubt but God spake that which gave him relief, which delivered him out of his distress, and reduced him unto a frame of mind meet for the ministration committed unto him; which in his surprisal and consternation he was not. And therefore immediately afterwards, when the people fell into their great horror and distress, he was able to relieve and comfort them; no doubt with that kind of relief which he himself had received from God, Exodus 20:20. It appears, then, that,

Obs. All persons concerned were brought unto an utter loss and distress, by the renovation and giving of the law; from whence no relief is to be obtained, but by Him alone who is “the end of the law for righteousness unto every one that believeth.”