Numbers 14:18
The LORD is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.
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Numbers 14:18. By no means clearing the guilty — These words may seem to be improperly mentioned, as being a powerful argument to move God to destroy this wicked people, and not to pardon them. But Moses uses these and the preceding words together, because he would not sever what God had put together; and to show that at the same time that he desired pardon for the penitent, he did not expect God to reverse his own laws, and clear them who, notwithstanding all they had heard and known, would not come unto God for mercy, put their trust in him, and obey his commands. It is true the word guilty is not in the original, but, as is observed in the note on Exodus 34:7, it is necessarily supplied to make the sense complete. And the interpretation of the words there given is perfectly consistent with the context, and with Moses’s intention here, which was not to beg that the people might be so pardoned as not to be chastised; for Moses certainly judged it proper that they should be chastised, and that severely; but that they might not be quite destroyed, or extirpated, as the Lord had threatened, Numbers 14:12, and as Moses feared would be accomplished.

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. These words may seem to be very improperly mentioned, as being a powerful argument to move God to destroy this wicked people, and not to pardon them. It may be answered, that Moses useth these words together with the rest, partly because he would not sever what God had put. together, and partly to show that he did not desire a fulfil and absolute pardon, (but was willing that God should execute his vengeance upon the principal authors of this rebellion, and leave some character of his displeasure upon all the people, as God did,) but only that God would not disinherit them, Numbers 14:12, nor kill all the people as one man, Numbers 14:15, nor destroy them both root and branch, because he, had promised not to extend his wrath against them in punishing their sins beyond the third and fourth generation. But the truer answer seems to be, that these words are to be translated otherwise, and in destroying he will not utterly destroy, though he visit the iniquity of the fathers upon the children,

unto the third and fourth generation. Of which See Poole "Exodus 34:7", where all this verse is explained.

The Lord is longsuffering,.... Towards all men, and especially towards his own people:

and of great mercy, being abundant in goodness, and keeping mercy for thousands:

forgiving iniquity and transgression, all sorts of sin:

and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation; which may seem to make against the plea of Moses for mercy and forgiveness; but the reason of these words being expressed seems to be, because they go along with the others in the passage referred to, and are no contradiction to the forgiving mercy of God in a way of justice; nor did Moses request to have the guilty cleared from punishment altogether, but that God would show mercy, at least to such a degree as not to cut off the whole nation, and leave no posterity to inherit the land; which is supposed in visiting the sin of the fathers to the third or fourth generation.

The LORD is long-suffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.
Numbers 14:18Intercession 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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