Hebrews 3:17
But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness?
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(17) But.—Better, And with whom was He angry forty years?

Whose carcases.—Literally, limbs. The word is taken from the Greek version of Numbers 14:29; and seems intended to convey the thought of bodies falling limb from limb in the wilderness.

Hebrews 3:17-18. But with whom was he grieved — Or, displeased, as Macknight renders προσωχθισε; forty years? — The apostle’s answer to this inquiry consists of a double description of them. First, By their sin; was it not with them that had sinned? Secondly, By their punishment; whose carcasses fell in the wilderness? — As some only, and not all provoked, so it was with some only, and not all, that God was displeased. The sins here principally intended are the general sins of the whole congregation, which consisted in their frequent murmurings and rebellions, which came to a head, as it were, in that great provocation upon the return of the spies,(Numbers 14.) when they not only provoked God by their own unbelief, but encouraged one another to destroy Joshua and Caleb, who would not concur in their disobedience; for all the congregation bade stone them with stones. And to whom sware he, &c. — The apostle refers to Numbers 14:21-23; Numbers 14:30; but to them that believed not? — Or were disobedient, as the word απειθησασι may be properly rendered; or who would not be persuaded, namely, to trust God, and believe that he would give them the possession of Canaan, and would not obey him when he commanded them to go up against their enemies, and take possession of it.

3:14-19 The saints' privilege is, they are made partakers of Christ, that is, of the Spirit, the nature, graces, righteousness, and life of Christ; they are interested in all Christ is, in all he has done, or will do. The same spirit with which Christians set out in the ways of God, they should maintain unto the end. Perseverance in faith is the best evidence of the sincerity of our faith. Hearing the word often is a means of salvation, yet, if not hearkened to, it will expose more to the Divine wrath. The happiness of being partakers of Christ and his complete salvation, and the fear of God's wrath and eternal misery, should stir us up to persevere in the life of obedient faith. Let us beware of trusting to outward privileges or professions, and pray to be numbered with the true believers who enter heaven, when all others fail because of unbelief. As our obedience follows according to the power of our faith, so our sins and want of care are according to the prevailing of unbelief in us.But with whom was he grieved forty years? - With whom was he angry; see the notes at Hebrews 3:10.

Was it not with them that had sinned - That had sinned in various ways - by rebellion, murmuring, unbelief. As God was angry with them for their sins, we have the same reason to apprehend that he will be angry with us if we sin; and we should, therefore, be on our guard against that unbelief which would lead us to depart from him; Hebrews 3:12.

Whose carcasses fell ... - Numbers 14:29. That is, they all died, and were left on the sands of the desert. The whole generation was strewed along in the way to Canaan. All of those who had seen the wonders that God had done "in the land of Ham;" who had been rescued in so remarkable a manner from oppression, were thus cut down, and died in the deserts through which they were passing; Numbers 26:64-65. Such an example of the effects of revolt against God, and of unbelief, was well suited to admonish Christians in the time of the apostle, and is suited to admonish us now, of the danger of the sin of unbelief. We are not to suppose that all of those who thus died were excluded from heaven. Moses and Aaron were among the number of those who were not permitted to enter the promised land, but of their piety there can be no doubt; Beyond all question, also, there were many others of that generation who were truly pious. But at different times they seem all to have partaken of the prevalent feelings of discontent, and were all involved in the sweeping condemnation that they should die in the wilderness.

17. But—Translate, "Moreover," as it is not in contrast to Heb 3:16, but carrying out the same thought.

corpses—literally, "limbs," implying that their bodies fell limb from limb.

By these questions the Spirit makes a more lively representation of these unbelieving provokers of God, that his reason may have the more force with them. Do ye observe with whom God was grieved? The form puts them on more exact notice for their caution: God suffers not by passion, but these redeemed out of Egypt carried it contrary to him, and crossed his will, that which usually grieveth us. Concerning the word, see Hebrews 3:10. It is used by the Septuagint, Deu 7:26, to express that detestation and abhorrence which Israel was to show against idols, that they should be a grief to their soul not to be endured: idols are called grievances. He was displeased and grieved with their covenant breaking with him forty years together. These sinners, by their unbelief, murmuring, idolatry, rebellion against his officers and ordinances, and their other lusts, so imbittered his Spirit, that he by various judgments destroyed them, and turned them into the grave and hell together, 1 Corinthians 10:5-11. Moses and others of God’s own cannot be numbered among these sinners, for their sins were pardoned and persons accepted; and though they came short of the literal, had a much more abundant entrance administered to them into the heavenly Canaan.

But with whom was he grieved forty years?.... As is said in Psalm 95:10; see Gill on Hebrews 3:10,

was it not with them that had sinned; not merely by committing personal iniquities, and particular provocations, which all men are guilty of, but by committing public sins; they sinned as a body of men; they joined together in the commission of sin; every sin is grieving to God, because it is contrary to his nature, is an act of enmity to him, is a transgression of his righteous law, and a contempt of his authority; but especially public sins, or the sins of a multitude, and when they are persisted in, which was the case of the Israelites; they sinned against him during the forty years they were in the wilderness; and so long was he grieved with them: the Alexandrian copy reads, "with them that believed not"; which points out the particular sin these men were guilty of, and which was so grieving to God, and suits well with the apostle's design:

whose carcasses fell in the wilderness? and so never entered into the land of Canaan. They died in the wilderness; and they did not die common and natural deaths, at least not all of them; their deaths were by way of punishment; in a way of wrath; in a judicial way: the Syriac version renders it, "their bones fell in the wilderness"; they lay scattered and unburied, and exposed to view, as an example of divine vengeance, see Numbers 14:29.

But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness?
Hebrews 3:17-18. Further development of the truth, Hebrews 3:16, by means of recapitulation of the other main points of the Scripture citation. It was just this perverse totality of the Israelites with whom God was wroth on account of their sin forty years long, and against whom, on account of their disobedience, He closed by an oath the entrance into His κατάπαυσις.

Bengel, Griesbach, Lachmann, Tischendorf, Delitzsch, Moll, Hofmann, and others, place the second note of interrogation, Hebrews 3:17, immediately after ἁμαρτήσασιν, and then take ὧνἐρήμῳ as an assertory statement. But on account of the environment of purely interrogatory clauses, and because the author indicates the result at which he aims only in Hebrews 3:19, it seems more correct, with Luther, Calvin, Beza, Mill, Wetstein, Bleek, de Wette, Tholuck, Alford, Maier, and others, to take the whole clause: οὐχὶἐρήμῳ, together as a single question, in such wise that ὧν κ.τ.λ. forms a prolonged characterization of τοῖς ἁμαρτήσασιν.

τοῖς ἁμαρτήσασιν] those that had sinned, namely, by unbelief and apostasy from God.

ὧν τὰ κῶλα κ.τ.λ.] pictorial description of seizure by a violent death, taken from Numbers 14:29; Numbers 14:32.

κῶλα] limbs (specially hands and feet), with the LXX., translation of the Hebrew פְּגָרִים, thus in general bodies or corpses.

ἔπεσεν] fell down, were stretched out dead, comp. 1 Corinthians 10:8.

Hebrews 3:17. τίσι δὲ προσώχθισε.… “And with whom was He angry forty years?” taking up the next clause of the Psalm 5:10. Again the question is answered by another “Was it not with them that sinned?” [ἁμαρτήσασιν: “This is the only form of the aorist participle in N.T. In the moods the form of ἥμαρτον is always used except Matthew 18:15, Luke 17:4, ἁμαρτήσῃ: Romans 6:15.” Westcott, cf. Blass, p. 43.] It was not caprice on God’s part, nor inability to carry them to the promised land. It was because they sinned [see esp. Numbers 32:23] that their “carcases fell in the wilderness”. ὦν τὰ κῶλα ἔπεσεν ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ. These words are taken from Numbers 14:29; Numbers 14:32, where God utters the doom of the wilderness generation. f1κῶλον, a limb or member of the body [Æsch., Prom., 81; Soph., O.C., 19, etc.]; hence a clause of a sentence (and in English, the point which marks it). Used by the LXX to translate פֶּגֶר, cadaver. Setting out from Egypt with the utmost confidence, they left their bones in the desert in unnamed and forgotten graves; not because of their weakness nor because God had failed them but because of their sin.

17. grieved] Rather “indignant.” See Hebrews 3:10.

whose carcases] To us the words read as though there were a deep and awful irony in this term (κῶλα), as though, “dying as it were gradually during their bodily life, they became walking corpses” (Delitzsch). It is doubtful, however, whether any such thought was in the mind of the writer. The word properly means “limbs” but is used by the LXX. for the Hebrew pegarim, “corpses” Numbers 14:29.

fell] Compare the use of the word in 1 Corinthians 10:8.

Hebrews 3:17. Ὧν, whose) The event proves the fact. So also Hebrews 3:19.—ὧν τὰ κῶλα ἔπεσεν ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ) Numbers 14:29, LXX., ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ ταύτῃ πεσεῖται τὰ κῶλα ὑμῶν. This appellation, פגרים, κῶλα, carcases, mere bodies, subject to decay, always indicates indignation. Κῶλα, limbs, properly feet, according to Eustathius. If the forty years be resolved into days, and the average number of those that died daily be computed, every day had forty deaths of men. A great cause for writing the 90th Psalm!

Hebrews 3:17The interrogation still continued. "With whom was he displeased forty years? Was it not with them?" etc.

Carcasses (τὰ κῶλα)

N.T.o. lxx for פֶּֽגֶר, a corpse. Κῶλον properly a limb. The idea of dismemberment underlies the use of the word. Comp. Numbers 14:29 (lxx), and 1 Corinthians 10:5, of the rebellious Israelites, who κατεστρώθησαν ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ were strewn down along in the wilderness.

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