Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
MURMUR AT THE
1. all the congregation lifted up their voice and cried--Not literally
all, for there were some exceptions.
2-4. Would God that we had died in Egypt--Such insolence to their
generous leaders, and such base ingratitude to God, show the deep
degradation of the Israelites, and the absolute necessity of the decree
that debarred that generation from entering the promised land
They were punished by their wishes being granted to die in that
A leader to reconduct them to Egypt is spoken of
as actually nominated. The sinfulness and insane folly of their conduct
are almost incredible. Their conduct, however, is paralleled by too
many among us, who shrink from the smallest difficulties and rather
remain slaves to sin than resolutely try to surmount the obstacles that
lie in their way to the Canaan above.
5. Moses and Aaron fell on their faces--as humble and earnest
suppliants--either to the people, entreating them to desist from so
perverse a design; or rather, to God, as the usual and only refuge from
the violence of that tumultuous and stiff-necked rabble--a hopeful
means of softening and impressing their hearts.
6. Joshua . . . and Caleb, which were of them that searched the land,
rent their clothes--The two honest spies testified their grief and
horror, in the strongest manner, at the mutiny against Moses and the
blasphemy against God; while at the same time they endeavored, by a
truthful statement, to persuade the people of the ease with which they
might obtain possession of so desirable a country, provided they did
not, by their rebellion and ingratitude, provoke God to abandon them.
8. a land flowing with milk and honey--a general expression,
descriptive of a rich and fertile country. The two articles specified
were among the principal products of the Holy Land.
9. their defence is departed--Hebrew, "their shadow." The Sultan
of Turkey and the Shah of Persia are called "the shadow of God," "the
refuge of the world." So that the meaning of the clause, "their defence
is departed from them," is, that the favor of God was now lost to those
whose iniquities were full
and transferred to the Israelites.
10. the glory of the Lord appeared--It was seasonably manifested on
this great emergency to rescue His ambassadors from their perilous
12. the Lord said, . . . I will smite them with the pestilence--not a
final decree, but a threatening, suspended, as appeared from the issue,
on the intercession of Moses and the repentance of Israel.
17. let the power of my Lord be great--be magnified.
21. all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord--This
promise, in its full acceptation, remains to be verified by the
eventual and universal prevalence of Christianity in the world. But the
terms were used restrictively in respect to the occasion, to the report
which would spread over all the land of the "terrible things in
which God would do in the infliction of the doom described, to which
that rebellious race was now consigned.
22. ten times--very frequently.
24. my servant Caleb--Joshua was also excepted, but he is not named
because he was no longer in the ranks of the people, being a constant
attendant on Moses.
because he had another spirit with him, and hath followed me
fully--Under the influence of God's Spirit, Caleb was a man of
bold, generous, heroic courage, above worldly anxieties and fears.
25. (Now the Amalekites and the Canaanites dwelt in the valley)--that
is, on the other side of the Idumean mountain, at whose base they were
then encamped. Those nomad tribes had at that time occupied it with a
determination to oppose the further progress of the Hebrew people.
Hence God gave the command that they seek a safe and timely retreat
into the desert, to escape the pursuit of those resolute enemies, to
whom, with their wives and children, they would fall a helpless prey
because they had forfeited the presence and protection of God. This
verse forms an important part of the narrative and should be freed from
the parenthetical form which our English translators have given it.
30. save Caleb . . . and Joshua--These are specially mentioned, as
honorable exceptions to the rest of the scouts, and also as the future
leaders of the people. But it appears that some of the old generation
did not join in the mutinous murmuring, including in that number the
whole order of the priests
34. ye shall know my breach of promise--that is, in consequence of
your violation of the covenant betwixt you and Me, by breaking the
terms of it, it shall be null and void on My part, as I shall withhold
the blessings I promised in that covenant to confer on you on condition
of your obedience.
36-38. those men that did bring up the evil report upon the land, died
by the plague before the Lord--Ten of the spies struck dead on the
spot--either by the pestilence or some other judgment. This great and
appalling mortality clearly betokened the hand of the Lord.
40-45. they rose up early in the morning, and gat them up into the top
of the mountain--Notwithstanding the tidings that Moses communicated
and which diffused a general feeling of melancholy and grief throughout
the camp, the impression was of very brief continuance. They rushed
from one extreme of rashness and perversity to another, and the
obstinacy of their rebellious spirit was evinced by their active
preparations to ascend the hill, notwithstanding the divine warning
they had received not to undertake that enterprise.
for we have sinned--that is, realizing our sin, we now repent of it,
and are eager to do as Caleb and Joshua exhorted us--or, as some render
it, though we have sinned, we trust God will yet give us the land of
promise. The entreaties of their prudent and pious leader, who
represented to them that their enemies, scaling the other side of the
valley, would post themselves on the top of the hill before them, were
disregarded. How strangely perverse the conduct of the Israelites, who,
shortly before, were afraid that, though their Almighty King was with
them, they could not get possession of the land; and yet now they act
still more foolishly in supposing that, though God were not with them,
they could expel the inhabitants by their unaided efforts. The
consequences were such as might have been anticipated. The Amalekites
and Canaanites, who had been lying in ambuscade expecting their
movement, rushed down upon them from the heights and became the
instruments of punishing their guilty rebellion.
45. even unto Hormah--The name was afterwards given to that place in
memory of the immense slaughter of the Israelites on this occasion.