Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
THEM FROM THE
1. this day--means this time. The Israelites had reached the
confines of the promised land, but were obliged, to their great
mortification, to return. But now they certainly were to enter it. No
obstacle could prevent their possession; neither the fortified defenses
of the towns, nor the resistance of the gigantic inhabitants of whom
they had received from the spies so formidable a description.
cities great and fenced up to heaven--Oriental cities generally cover
a much greater space than those in Europe; for the houses often stand
apart with gardens and fields intervening. They are almost all
surrounded with walls built of burnt or sun-dried bricks, about forty
feet in height. All classes in the East, but especially the nomad
tribes, in their ignorance of engineering and artillery, would have
abandoned in despair the idea of an assault on a walled town, which
to-day would be demolished in a few hours.
4-6. Speak not thou in thine heart, . . . saying, For my righteousness
the Lord hath brought me in to possess this land--Moses takes special
care to guard his countrymen against the vanity of supposing that their
own merits had procured them the distinguished privilege. The
Canaanites were a hopelessly corrupt race, and deserved extermination;
but history relates many remarkable instances in which God punished
corrupt and guilty nations by the instrumentality of other people as
bad as themselves. It was not for the sake of the Israelites, but for
His own sake, for the promise made to their pious ancestors, and in
furtherance of high and comprehensive purposes of good to the world,
that God was about to give them a grant of Canaan.
7. Remember, and forget not, how thou provokedst the Lord--To dislodge
from their minds any presumptuous idea of their own righteousness,
Moses rehearses their acts of disobedience and rebellion committed so
frequently, and in circumstances of the most awful and impressive
solemnity, that they had forfeited all claims to the favor of God. The
candor and boldness with which he gave, and the patient submission with
which the people bore, his recital of charges so discreditable to their
national character, has often been appealed to as among the many
evidences of the truth of this history.
8. Also in Horeb--rather, "even in Horeb," where it might have been
expected they would have acted otherwise.
12-29. Arise, get thee down quickly from hence; for thy people . . .
have corrupted themselves--With a view to humble them effectually,
Moses proceeds to particularize some of the most atrocious instances of
their infidelity. He begins with the impiety of the golden calf--an
impiety which, while their miraculous emancipation from Egypt, the most
stupendous displays of the Divine Majesty that were exhibited on the
adjoining mount, and the recent ratification of the covenant by which
they engaged to act as the people of God, were fresh in memory,
indicated a degree of inconstancy or debasement almost incredible.
17. I took the two tables, . . . and broke them before your eyes--not
in the heat of intemperate passion, but in righteous indignation, from
zeal to vindicate the unsullied honor of God, and by the suggestion of
His Spirit to intimate that the covenant had been broken, and the
people excluded from the divine favor.
18. I fell down before the Lord--The sudden and painful reaction which
this scene of pagan revelry produced on the mind of the pious and
patriotic leader can be more easily imagined than described. Great and
public sins call for seasons of extraordinary humiliation, and in his
deep affliction for the awful apostasy, he seems to have held a
miraculous fast as long as before.
20. The Lord was very angry with Aaron to have destroyed him--By
allowing himself to be overborne by the tide of popular clamor, Aaron
became a partaker in the guilt of idolatry and would have suffered the
penalty of his sinful compliance, had not the earnest intercession of
Moses on his behalf prevailed.
21. I cast the dust thereof into the brook that descended out of the
mount--that is, "the smitten rock" (El Leja) which was probably
contiguous to, or a part of, Sinai. It is too seldom borne in mind that
though the Israelites were supplied with water from this rock when they
were stationed at Rephidim (Wady Feiran), there is nothing in the
Scripture narrative which should lead us to suppose that the rock was
in the immediate neighborhood of that place
The water on this smitten rock was probably the brook that descended
from the mount. The water may have flowed at the distance of many miles
from the rock, as the winter torrents do now through the wadies of
(Ps 78:15, 16).
And the rock may have been smitten at such a height, and at a spot
bearing such a relation to the Sinaitic valleys, as to furnish in this
way supplies of water to the Israelites during the journey from Horeb
by the way of mount Seir and Kadesh-barnea
(De 1:1, 2).
On this supposition new light is, perhaps, cast on the figurative
language of the apostle, when he speaks of "the rock following" the
[WILSON, Land of the Bible].
25. Thus I fell down before the Lord forty days and forty nights, as I
fell down at the first--After the enumeration of various acts of
rebellion, he had mentioned the outbreak at Kadesh-barnea, which, on a
superficial reading of this verse, would seem to have led Moses to a
third and protracted season of humiliation. But on a comparison of this
the subject and language of this prayer show that only the second act
is now described in fuller detail.