Now put off thy ornaments from thee - "The Septuagint, in their translation, suppose that the children of Israel not only laid aside their ear-rings, and such like ornaments, in a time of professed deep humiliation before God, but their upper or more beautiful garments too. Moses says nothing of this last circumstance; but as it is a modern practice, so it appears by their version to have been as ancient as their time, and probably took place long before that. The Septuagint gives us this as the translation of the passage: 'The people, having heard this sad declaration, mourned with lamentations. And the Lord said unto the children of Israel, Now, therefore, put off your robes of glory, and your ornaments, and I will show you the things I will do unto you. And the children of Israel put off their ornaments and robes by the mount, by Horeb.'
"If it had not been the custom to put off their upper garments in times of deep mourning, in the days that the Septuagint translation was made, they would not have inserted this circumstance in the account Moses gives of their mourning, and concerning which he was silent. They must have supposed too that this practice might be in use in those elder times.
"That it is now practiced in the east, appears from the account Pitts gives of the ceremonies of the Mohammedan pilgrimage to Mecca. 'A few days after this we came to a place called Rabbock, about four days' sail on this side of Mecca, where all the hagges or pilgrims, (excepting those of the female sex) do enter into hirrawem or ihram, i.e., they take off all their clothes, covering themselves with two hirrawems, or large white cotton wrappers; one they put about their middle, which reaches down to their ankles; with the other they cover the upper part of their body, except the head; and they wear no other thing on their bodies but these wrappers, only a pair of grimgameca, that is thin-soled shoes like sandals, the over-leather of which covers only the toes, the insteps being all naked. In this manner, like humble penitents, they go from Rabbock until they come to Mecca, to approach the temple, many times enduring the scorching heat of the sun until the very skin is burnt off their backs and arms, and their heads swollen to a very great degree.' - pp. 115,116. Presently after he informs us 'that the time of their wearing this mortifying habit is about the space of seven days.' Again, (p. 138): 'It was a sight, indeed, able to pierce one's heart, to behold so many thousands in their garments of humility and mortification, with their naked heads, and cheeks watered with tears; and to hear their grievous sighs and sobs, begging earnestly for the remission of their sins, promising newness of life, using a form of penitential expressions, and thus continuing for the space of four or five hours.'
"The Septuagint suppose the Israelites made much the same appearance as these Mohammedan pilgrims, when Israel stood in anguish of soul at the foot of Mount Horeb, though Moses says nothing of putting off any of their vestments.
"Some passages of the Jewish prophets seem to confirm the notion of their stripping themselves of some of their clothes in times of deep humiliation, particularly Micah 1:8; : Therefore I will wail and howl; I will go stripped and naked; I will make a wailing like the dragons, and mourning as the owls.
"Saul's stripping himself, mentioned 1 Samuel 19:24, is perhaps to be understood of his assuming the appearance of those that were deeply engaged in devotional exercises, into which he was unintentionally brought by the prophetic influences that came upon him, and in which he saw others engaged." - Harmer's Observat., vol. iv., p. 172.
The ancient Jewish commentators were of opinion that the Israelites had the name יהוה Jehovah inscribed on them in such a way as to ensure them the Divine protection; and that this, inscribed probably on a plate of gold, was considered their choicest ornament; and that when they gave their ornaments to make the golden calf, this was given by many, in consequence of which they were considered as naked and defenceless. All the remaining parts of their ornaments, which it is likely were all emblematical of spiritual things, God commands them here to lay off; for they could not with propriety bear the symbols of the Divine protection, who had forfeited that protection for their transgression.
That I may know what to do unto thee - For it seems that while they had these emblematic ornaments on them, they were still considered as under the Divine protection. These were a shield to them, which God commands them to throw aside. Though many had parted with their choicest ornaments, yet not all, only a few comparatively, of the wives, daughters, and sons of 600,000 men, could have been thus stripped to make one golden calf. The major part still had these ornaments, and they are now commanded to lay them aside.