|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
78:9-39. Sin dispirits men, and takes away the heart. Forgetfulness of God's works is the cause of disobedience to his laws. This narrative relates a struggle between God's goodness and man's badness. The Lord hears all our murmurings and distrusts, and is much displeased. Those that will not believe the power of God's mercy, shall feel the fire of his indignation. Those cannot be said to trust in God's salvation as their happiness at last, who can not trust his providence in the way to it. To all that by faith and prayer, ask, seek, and knock, these doors of heaven shall at any time be opened; and our distrust of God is a great aggravation of our sins. He expressed his resentment of their provocation; not in denying what they sinfully lusted after, but in granting it to them. Lust is contented with nothing. Those that indulge their lust, will never be estranged from it. Those hearts are hard indeed, that will neither be melted by the mercies of the Lord, nor broken by his judgments. Those that sin still, must expect to be in trouble still. And the reason why we live with so little comfort, and to so little purpose, is, because we do not live by faith. Under these rebukes they professed repentance, but they were not sincere, for they were not constant. In Israel's history we have a picture of our own hearts and lives. God's patience, and warnings, and mercies, imbolden them to harden their hearts against his word. And the history of kingdoms is much the same. Judgments and mercies have been little attended to, until the measure of their sins has been full. And higher advantages have not kept churches from declining from the commandments of God. Even true believers recollect, that for many a year they abused the kindness of Providence. When they come to heaven, how will they admire the Lord's patience and mercy in bringing them to his kingdom!
Verse 21. - Therefore the Lord heard this. Though these might be unspoken thoughts, yet God would "hear" them, i.e. be aware of them; for "he knoweth the very secrets of the heart." And was wroth (comp. vers. 59, 62; Deuteronomy 3:26). So a fire was kindled against Jacob. Not a material fire, as in Leviticus 10:2; Numbers 11:1-3; and Numbers 16:35; but the fire of God's displeasure. And anger also came up against Israel (comp. vers. 30, 31; Numbers 11:33).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Therefore the Lord heard this,.... What they said in their hearts, and what they expressed with their mouths, all their murmurings against him, their distrust of his power and providence, and disbelief of his promises; see Numbers 11:1, and was wroth; exceeding wroth; he was highly displeased; there was an overflow of his indignation, as the word (a) signifies; it was running upon him, upon the thick bosses of his buckler, to arraign his perfections, call in question any of his attributes, and disbelieve his word; this must greatly exasperate him, and provoke the eyes of his glory:
so a fire was kindled against Jacob; the posterity of Jacob; or in Jacob (b), in the camp of Israel; which was literally true, because of the murmurings of the people against the Lord fire came down from heaven, and burnt among them, and consumed the uttermost parts of the camp; wherefore the name of the place was called Taberah, which signifies a burning, Numbers 11:1, or it may be taken figuratively for the wrath of God, which is oftentimes compared to fire; see Nahum 1:6 hence it follows,
and anger also came up against Israel; the people of Israel, the same with Jacob before; the allusion is to men when angry, in whose breasts anger burns, and from thence it rises up, and shows itself in their countenance, in their eyes, and by the words of their mouth.
(a) "transiit in hithpael de transitu vel exundatione bilis solet usurpari", Gejerus. (b) "in Jahacob", Pagninus, Montanus, Musculus.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
21. fire—the effect of the "anger" (Nu 11:1).
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