|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 38. - But he, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity. (On God's compassion, see Exodus 34:6, 7; Numbers 14:18; Psalm 103:8; Psalm 145:8.) And destroyed them not. The allusion is to such occasions as are noted in Exodus 32:10-14; Numbers 14:12-20; Numbers 16:21, 45-50, when God was on the point of destroying the whole people, but relented at the intercession of Moses. Yea, many a time turned he his anger away, and did not stir up all his wrath (comp. Judges 2:11-16; Judges 3:8, 9; Judges 4:2, 15; Judges 6:1-8, etc.).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
But he, being full of compassion,.... Or merciful; having bowels of mercy, as a tender mother to the son of her womb; a word from the same root as this signifies the womb: the mercies of God are tender and abundant; there is a multitude of them; he is rich and plenteous in mercy, and so ready to forgive; hence it follows,
forgave their iniquity; forgiveness of sin flows from the tender mercy of God; it is according to the multitude of his mercies, and the riches of his grace; yet is through the blood and attoning sacrifice of his Son; and the word (c) that is here used signifies to expiate or atone; God never intended to pardon sinners, but through the propitiation of his Son, whom he set forth in his purpose, and sent forth in the fulness of time to be the propitiatory sacrifice for sin; he forgave the sins of Old Testament saints with a view to that; and it is for Christ's sake he forgives any; for without shedding of blood there is no remission; though perhaps, since these persons were impenitent, unbelievers and hypocrites, no more may be meant here by the forgiveness of their sins than averting a threatened judgment, or a removing of one, and putting a stop to the further execution of it, which is sometimes meant by forgiving sin; see Numbers 14:19, 1 Kings 8:30 which sense the following words incline to:
and destroyed them not; though they deserved it, and he was able to do it, he did not destroy them immediately and at once, nor all of them, at least not their seed and posterity, who were preserved and brought into the land of Canaan:
yea, many a time turned he his anger away; he does not retain it for ever, or always carry on a resentment, or the appearance of it; though he causes grief, he has and shows compassion; he is said to turn away his anger from his own people when he forgives their sins, and comforts their souls, Psalm 85:2, so when he causes the effects of his displeasure to cease, or stays a plague, or stops a judgment, by means of any of his servants; see Numbers 25:8,
and did not stir up all his wrath; which their sins deserved, and was laid up among his treasures: the wrath of a temporal king is as the roaring of a lion, Proverbs 19:12 much more that of the King of kings; and the allusion here seems to be to the arousing of some fierce creature; the wrath of God is intolerable, and, even when it is kindled but a little, it cannot be endured; and much less should it be all stirred up; but here in wrath he remembered mercy.
(c) "propitiabitur", Montanus; "propitiatus est", Pagninus, Museulus; "propitius fuit", Tigurine version; "expiabat", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Cocceius, Gejerus, Michaelis.
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