|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
14:40-45 Some of the Israelites were now earnest to go forward toward Canaan. But it came too late. If men would but be as earnest for heaven while their day of grace lasts, as they will be when it is over, how well would it be for them! That which has been duty in its season, when mistimed, may be turned into sin. Those who are out of the way of their duty, are not under God's protection, and go at their peril. God bade them go, and they would not; he forbade them, and they would go. Thus is the carnal mind enmity against God. They had distrusted God's strength; they now presume upon their own without his. And the expedition fails accordingly; now the sentence began to be executed, that their carcases should fall in the wilderness. That affair can never end well, which begins with sin. The way to obtain peace with our friends, and success against our enemies, is, to have God, as our Friend, and to keep in his love. Let us take warning from the fate of Israel, lest we perish after the same example of unbelief. Let us go forth, depending on God's mercy, power, promise, and truth; he will be with us, and bring our souls to everlasting rest.
Verse 44. - They presumed to go up. This gives the sense very well: they were deaf to all persuasion or command to stay. Septuagint, διαβιασάμενοι ἀνέβησαν. Thus they added to an evil distrust in the power of God an almost more evil trust in their own power. It does not seem correct to say that "unbelief" was the real cause of both errors - unbelief, firstly in God's promises, and secondly in his threats. It was rather one of those many cases in which men seek to atone for a fault on one side by rushing into as great a fault on the other side. They spoke brave words about the "place which the Lord hath promised," as though it were indeed obedience and trust which spurred them on, instead of presumption and selfishness. The ark of the covenant of the Lord, and Moses, departed not out of the camp. The plainest possible token that the Lord was not with them. With Moses remained no doubt all the Levites, and the silver trumpets, and Joshua, and perhaps the bulk of the people.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
But they presumed to go up unto the hill top,.... In a bold, audacious, and presumptuous manner; they attempted to go up to the top of the hill, notwithstanding the remonstrances of Moses against it, and the danger they would be exposed unto; but withdrawing themselves from God and his ministers, and lifted up in themselves, and confident of their own strength, ventured on this rash enterprise: the Vulgate Latin version is, "being darkened they went up": either having their understandings darkened, and being given up to a judicial blindness and hardness of heart; or else they went up in the morning while it was dark, before daylight; which latter sense is favoured by the Targum of Jonathan,"and they girded (or armed) themselves in the dark, before the morning light;''and the former by an ancient exposition, called Tanchuma, mentioned by Jarchi,"they went obscure (as it were in the dark) because without leave:"
nevertheless the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and Moses, departed not out of the camp; the cloud not being taken up, but abiding on the tabernacle, which was the signal for resting, both for the ark, and for the camp, the Kohathites did not move with the ark: the Jews (e) have a notion, that there were two arks which went with Israel in the wilderness, one in which the law was put, and another in which the broken pieces of the tables were left; that in which the law was, was placed in the tabernacle of the congregation, and of this it is written, "the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and Moses, departed not", &c. but that in which the broken pieces of the tables were, went in and out with them: but this does not clearly appear; and it is highly probable no ark went with them at this time; nor did Moses, the leader and commander of the people, stir from the camp of the Levites; wherefore it was a bold and hazardous undertaking the other camps engaged in without God going with them, and their general before them, or Joshua his minister; for if one did not go, the same may be concluded of the other.
(e) T. Hieros. Sotah, fol. 22. 2.
Numbers 14:44 Parallel Commentaries
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