Numbers 14:17
And now, I beseech thee, let the power of my Lord be great, according as thou hast spoken, saying,
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(17, 18) And now, I beseech thee, let the power of my Lord be great.—The word Lord in Numbers 14:17 should not be printed in large capitals in this place, as in the Authorised Version of 1611, inasmuch as it is the rendering of Adonai, not of Jehovah, as in Numbers 14:18. Moses here employs a second argument, founded on the revelation of God’s name (i.e., His nature), as made to him on Mount Sinai (Exodus 34:6-7), the substance of which he here recites in the same terms.

14:11-19 Moses made humble intercession for Israel. Herein he was a type of Christ, who prayed for those that despitefully used him. The pardon of a nation's sin, is the turning away the nation's punishment; and for that Moses is here so earnest. Moses argued that, consistently with God's character, in his abundant mercies, he could forgive them.The syntax of these verses is singularly broken. As did Paul when deeply moved, so Moses presses his arguments one on the other without pausing to ascertain the grammatical finish of his expressions. He speaks here as if in momentary apprehension of an outbreak of God's wrath, unless he could perhaps arrest it by crowding in every topic of deprecation and intercession that he could mention on the instant. 17. let the power of my Lord be great—be magnified. Be great, i.e. appear to be great, discover its greatness; a real verb put for a declarative, or the thing for the manifestation of the thing. And this may be understood either,

1. Of God’s power in preserving the people, and carrying them on into Canaan, which sense may seem to be favoured by the foregoing verse, where the Egyptians deny that God had power to do so. And according to that sense he adds the following words, not as an explication of this power, but as an argument to move him to show forth his power for his people notwithstanding their sins, according as, or rather because, (as the Hebrew word is oft rendered,) he had spoken, saying, &c., and so he should maintain the honour and the truth of his own name, or of those titles which he had ascribed to himself. Or,

2. The power of his grace and mercy, or the greatness of his mercy, as he calls it, Numbers 14:19, in pardoning of this and their other sins; for to this the following words manifestly restrain it,

according as thou hast spoken, & c., where the pardon of their sins is the only instance of this power both described in God’s titles, Numbers 14:18, and prayed for by Moses, Numbers 14:19, pardon, I beseech thee, &c., and granted by God in answer to him, Numbers 14:20, I have pardoned, &c. Nor is it strange that the pardon of sin, especially of such great sins, be spoken of as an act of power in God, because undoubtedly it is an act of omnipotent and infinite goodness; whence despairing sinners sometimes cry out that their sins are greater than God can pardon, as some translate Cain’s words, Genesis 4:13. And since power is applied to God’s wrath in punishing sin, Romans 9:22, why may it not as well be attributed to God’s mercy in forgiving it? especially if it be considered that even in men revenge is an act of impotency, and consequently it must needs be an act of power to conquer their passions and inclinations to revenge, and to pardon those enemies whom they could destroy.

And now, I beseech thee, let the power of Lord be great,.... That is, appear to be great; the power of God is great, not only mighty, but almighty; it knows no bounds, nothing is impossible with him, he can do whatever he pleases, Psalm 147:5; his power, and the greatness of it, had been seen in bringing the children of Israel out of Egypt, and through the Red sea, and in providing for them, protecting and defending them in the wilderness; and the request of Moses is, that it might appear greater and greater in bringing them into the land of promise; or else he means an exceeding great display of the grace and mercy of God in the forgiveness of the sins of the people; for as the power of God is seen in his forbearance and longsuffering with the wicked, Romans 9:22; much more in the forgiveness of the sins of men, there being more power and virtue in grace to pardon, than there is in sin to damn; and as it is an indication of strength in men, and of their power over themselves, when they can rule their own spirits, keep under their passions, and restrain their wrath, and show a forgiving temper, Proverbs 16:32; so it is an instance of the power of God to overcome his wrath and anger stirred up by the sins of men; and, notwithstanding their provocations, freely to forgive: pardon of sin is an act of power, as well as of grace and mercy, see Matthew 9:6; and this sense agrees with what follows. The first letter in the word for "great" is larger than usual, that it might be taken notice of; and to signify the exceeding greatness of the power of God, Moses desired might be displayed in this case: and the letter numerically signifies ten, and has been thought to respect the ten times that Israel tempted the Lord, Numbers 14:22; and to suggest, that though they had so done, yet the grace and mercy of God should ten times exceed the ingratitude of the people (u):

according as thou hast spoken, saying; as in Exodus 34:6; and is as follows.

(u) Baal Hatturim in loc. & Buxtorf. Tiberias, c. 14. p. 38.

And now, I beseech thee, let the power of my Lord be great, according as thou hast spoken, saying,
17. let the power of my Lord be great] The title Adonai is employed, not (as in Numbers 14:16; Numbers 14:18) the personal name Jehovah.

according as thou hast spoken] i.e. in Exodus 34:6-7, which is here slightly abbreviated. Moses means that the divine power can shew itself in Jehovah’s ability to pardon and punish according to His supreme will.

Verse 17. - And now, I beseech thee, let the power of my Lord be great. Here the argument of Moses rises to a higher level; he ventures to put God in mind of what he had himself declared to Moses in the fullest revelation which he had ever made of his own unchangeable character, viz., that of all Divine prerogatives, the most Divine was that of forgiving sins and showing mercy. According as thou hast spoken. See on Exodus 34:6, 7. The words are not quoted exactly as there given, but are substantially the same. Numbers 14:17Intercession of Moses. - Numbers 14:11, Numbers 14:12. Jehovah resented the conduct of the people as base contempt of His deity, and as utter mistrust of Him, notwithstanding all the signs which He had wrought in the midst of the nation; and declared that He would smite the rebellious people with pestilence, and destroy them, and make of Moses a greater and still mightier people. This was just what He had done before, when the rebellion took place at Sinai (Exodus 32:10). But Moses, as a servant who was faithful over the whole house of God, and therefore sought not his own honour, but the honour of his God alone, stood in the breach on this occasion also (Psalm 106:23), with a similar intercessory prayer to that which he had presented at Horeb, except that on this occasion he pleaded the honour of God among the heathen, and the glorious revelation of the divine nature with which he had been favoured at Sinai, as a motive for sparing the rebellious nation (Numbers 14:13-19; cf. Exodus 32:11-13, and Exodus 34:6-7). The first he expressed in these words (Numbers 14:13.): "Not only have the Egyptians heard that Thou hast brought out this people from among them with Thy might; they have also told it to the inhabitants of this land. They (the Egyptians and the other nations) have heard that Thou, Jehovah, art in the midst of this people; that Thou, Jehovah, appearest eye to eye, and Thy cloud stands over them, and Thou goest before them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Now, if Thou shouldst slay this people as one man, the nations which have heard the tidings of Thee would say, Because Jehovah was not able to bring this people into the land which He sware to them, He has slain them in the desert." In that case God would be regarded by the heathen as powerless, and His honour would be impaired (cf. Deuteronomy 32:27; Joshua 7:9). It was for the sake of His own honour that God, at a later time, did not allow the Israelites to perish in exile (cf. Isaiah 48:9, Isaiah 48:11; Isaiah 52:5; Ezekiel 36:22-23). - ואמרוּ...ושׁמעוּ (Numbers 14:13, Numbers 14:14), et audierunt et dixerunt; ו - ו equals et - et, both - and. The inhabitants of this land (Numbers 14:13) were not merely the Arabians, but, according to Exodus 15:14., the tribes dwelling in and round Arabia, the Philistines, Edomites, Moabites, and Canaanites, to whom the tidings had been brought of the miracles of God in Egypt and at the Dead Sea. שׁמעוּ, in Numbers 14:14, can neither stand for שׁמעוּ כּי (dixerunt) se audivisse, nor for שׁמעוּ אשׁר, qui audierunt. They are neither of them grammatically admissible, as the relative pronoun cannot be readily omitted in prose; and neither of them would give a really suitable meaning. It is rather a rhetorical resumption of the שׁמעוּ in Numbers 14:13, and the subject of the verb is not only "the Egyptians," but also "the inhabitants of this land" who held communication with the Egyptians, or "the nations" who had heard the report of Jehovah (Numbers 14:15), i.e., all that God had hitherto done for and among the Israelites in Egypt, and on the journey through the desert. "Eye to eye:" i.e., Thou hast appeared to them in the closest proximity. On the pillar of cloud and fire, see at Exodus 13:21-22. "As one man," equivalent to "with a stroke" (Judges 6:16). - In Numbers 14:17, Numbers 14:18, Moses adduces a second argument, viz., the word in which God Himself had revealed His inmost being to him at Sinai (Exodus 34:6-7). The words, "Let the power be great," equivalent to "show Thyself great in power," are not to be connected with what precedes, but with what follows; viz., "show Thyself mighty by verifying Thy word, 'Jehovah, long-suffering and great in mercy,' etc.; forgive, I beseech Thee, this people according to the greatness of Thy mercy, and as Thou hast forgiven this people from Egypt even until now." נשׁא (Numbers 14:19) equals עון נשׁא (Numbers 14:18).
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