Psalm 106:23
Therefore he said that he would destroy them, had not Moses his chosen stood before him in the breach, to turn away his wrath, lest he should destroy them.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(23) Stood before him in the breach . . .—This is generally explained after Ezekiel 22:30, where undoubtedly it is an image taken from the defence of a besieged town. (Comp. Ezekiel 13:5.) But it is possible that we should render, “Had not Moses stood before him (i.e., submissively; see Genesis 41:46; Deuteronomy 1:38) in the breaking forth (of his anger),” since the verb from which the substantive here used comes is the one employed (Exodus 19:22), “lest the Lord break forth upon them.” So the LXX. seem to have understood the passage, since they render here by the same word, which in Psalm 106:30 does duty for “plague.” (Comp. Vulg., refractio.)

106:13-33 Those that will not wait for God's counsel, shall justly be given up to their own hearts' lusts, to walk in their own counsels. An undue desire, even for lawful things, becomes sinful. God showed his displeasure for this. He filled them with uneasiness of mind, terror of conscience, and self-reproach. Many that fare deliciously every day, and whose bodies are healthful, have leanness in their souls: no love to God, no thankfulness, no appetite for the Bread of life, and then the soul must be lean. Those wretchedly forget themselves, that feast their bodies and starve their souls. Even the true believer will see abundant cause to say, It is of the Lord's mercies that I am not consumed. Often have we set up idols in our hearts, cleaved to some forbidden object; so that if a greater than Moses had not stood to turn away the anger of the Lord, we should have been destroyed. If God dealt severely with Moses for unadvised words, what do those deserve who speak many proud and wicked words? It is just in God to remove those relations that are blessings to us, when we are peevish and provoking to them, and grieve their spirits.Therefore he said that he would destroy them - See Exodus 32:10-14. He threatened to destroy them, and he would have done it, if Moses had not interposed and pleaded for them. There was nothing strange or very unusual in this. Many a descending curse upon guilty people is turned away by prayer, and by human intervention. We are constantly endeavoring to turn aside evils which would come upon others - by our intervention - by labor or by prayer. Thus, when we toil to provide food for our children, or give it in charity to the poor, we are endeavoring to avert the evil of starvation which would otherwise come upon them; when we provide for them clothing, we turn away the evils of nakedness and cold; when we give them medicine we turn away the evil of long-continued disease or of death; when we rush through the flames if a house is on fire, or venture out in a rough sea in a boat, to save others from devouring flame or from a watery grave, we seek to turn aside evils which would otherwise come upon them. So when we pray for others we may turn away evils which would otherwise descend on the guilty. No one can estimate the number or the amount of evils which are thus turned away from the guilty and the suffering by intervention and intercession; no one can tell how many of the blessings of his own life he owes to the intercessions and the toils of others. "All the blessings that come upon sinners - "all" that is done to turn away deserved wrath from people - is owing to the fact that the one great Intercessor - greater than Moses - cast himself into the "breach," and himself met and rolled back the woes which were coming upon a guilty world. "Had not Moses his chosen." Chosen to lead and guide his people to the promised land.

Stood before him - Presented himself before him.

In the breach - literally, "in the breaking." The allusion is to a breach made in a wall 1 Kings 11:27; Isaiah 30:13; Amos 4:3; Job 30:14, and to the force with which an army rushes through a breach that is thus made. So God seemed to be about to come forth to destroy the nation.

23. he said—namely, to Moses (De 9:13). With God, saying is as certain as doing; but His purpose, while full of wrath against sin, takes into account the mediation of Him of whom Moses was the type (Ex 32:11-14; De 9:18, 19).

Moses his chosen—that is, to be His servant (compare Ps 105:26).

in the breach—as a warrior covers with his body the broken part of a wall or fortress besieged, a perilous place (Eze 13:5; 22:30).

to turn away—or, "prevent"

his wrath—(Nu 25:11; Ps 78:38).

He said; he declared his intention in express words, as Exodus 32:10, and elsewhere.

In the breach: God had made a hedge or wall about them; but they had made a gap or breach in it by their sins, at which the Lord, who was now justly become their enemy, might enter to destroy them; which he had certainly done, if Moses by his prevailing intercession had not hindered him. See Deu 9:12 10:10. It is a metaphor from a besieged city, where the enemy endeavours to make a breach in the walls, and thereby to enter into the city; which he will do, unless some valiant champion stand in the gap to oppose him. Therefore he said that he would destroy them,.... He said in his word, the Targum adds; he thought within himself he would; he seemed determined in his own mind to destroy them, being provoked at their wretched forgetfulness of him, and their idolatry; he said to Moses,

let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them, Exodus 32:10. The decree indeed was not gone forth, but there was such an appearance of displeasure as if ruin was determined; and a great number was destroyed, and the whole body was threatened.

Had not Moses his chosen stood before him in the breach; made between God and the Israelites by their sin; the allusion is either to an hedge broken down, at which a spoiler enters, unless made up, Ezekiel 22:30, or to a breach made in the wall of a besieged city, at which the besieger enters, unless stopped by the besieged, Isaiah 30:13, or to the bank or dam of a river broken down, which lets in a flood of waters, 2 Samuel 5:20. So Moses made up the hedge, and stood in the gap; he presented himself to God, rushing in like a man of war, and pouring out his wrath like an inundation of waters: this is to be understood of his fervent and importunate prayer to God on the behalf of this people, and which succeeded.

To turn away his wrath, lest he should destroy them; Exodus 32:11 so the Targum,

"unless Moses his chosen had rose up and strengthened, or prevailed in his prayer before him to turn away his wrath from destroying.''

This shows the power and efficacy of prayer, and of what avail it is with God, especially the prayer of his elect; it was Moses, his chosen, that prayed, a choice servant of his; and whom he had chosen to everlasting life, as well as to be the deliverer, guide, and governor of Israel; see Luke 18:7. Herein he was an eminent type of Christ, as in other things; as Moses was a mediator between God and the people of Israel, so is Christ between God and his people. Sin is a transgression of God's law, a breaking of his statutes, which he has set as an hedge, fence, or wall, about man; and this has made a breach between God and man; which lets in the wrath of God as a flood, and justice as an armed man: and terrible it is to consider there is no standing before him, and making up the breach; but Christ has interposed as a surety, made satisfaction to law and justice, and procured peace and reconciliation; and so, by his atonement and intercession, has made up the breach, appeased the wrath of God, and turned it away, and prevented the ruin and destruction of his people.

Therefore he said that he would destroy them, had {l} not Moses his chosen stood before him in the breach, to turn away his wrath, lest he should destroy them.

(l) If Moses, by his intercession, had not obtained God's favour against their rebellion.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
23. Cp. Exodus 32:10 ff.; Numbers 14:11 ff. But the language is taken from Deuteronomy 9:25-26, where the same two words for ‘destroy’ are used as here.

stood before him in the breach] A military metaphor. Moses confronted God with intercession like the warrior who stands in the breach of the city wall to repel the enemy at the risk of his life. Cp. Ezekiel 22:30; Jeremiah 18:20.Verse 23. - Therefore he said that he would destroy them; literally, and he said. On the apostasy at Sinai, God expressed to Moses an intention to destroy the entire people of Israel, save only himself, and to "make of him a great nation" (Exodus 32:10; comp. Deuteronomy 9:14, 25). Had not Moses his chosen steed before him in the breach. Moses was "chosen" by God to lead the Israelites out of Egypt (Exodus 3:10), and forced to accept the office (Exodus 4:1-17). When Israel angered God at Sinai, he "stood in the gap," like a brave soldier guarding his city when the enemy has breached the wall (Exodus 32:11-13, 31-34). To turn away his wrath, lest he should destroy them. God was ready to have destroyed all Israel, and to have raised up a new Israel out of the descendants of Moses, had not Moses pleaded with extreme earnestness on the people's behalf (Exodus 32:32). The first of the principal sins on the other side of the Red Sea was the unthankful, impatient, unbelieving murmuring about their meat and drink, Psalm 106:13-15. For what Psalm 106:13 places foremost was the root of the whole evil, that, falling away from faith in God's promise, they forgot the works of God which had been wrought in confirmation of it, and did not wait for the carrying out of His counsel. The poet has before his eye the murmuring for water on the third day after the miraculous deliverance (Exodus 15:22-24) and in Rephidim (Exodus 17:2). Then the murmuring for flesh in the first and second years of the exodus which was followed by the sending of the quails (Exodus 16 and Numbers 11), together with the wrathful judgment by which the murmuring for the second time was punished (Kibrôth ha-Ta'avah, Numbers 11:33-35). This dispensation of wrath the poet calls רזון (lxx, Vulgate, and Syriac erroneously πλησμονήν, perhaps מזון, nourishment), inasmuch as he interprets Numbers 11:33-35 of a wasting disease, which swept away the people in consequence of eating inordinately of the flesh, and in the expression (cf. Psalm 78:31) he closely follows Isaiah 10:16. The "counsel" of God for which they would not wait, is His plan with respect to the time and manner of the help. חכּה, root Arab. ḥk, a weaker power of Arab. ḥq, whence also Arab. ḥkl, p. 111, ḥkm, p. 49 note 1, signifies prop. to make firm, e.g., a knot (cf. on Psalm 33:20), and starting from this (without the intervention of the metaphor moras nectere, as Schultens thinks) is transferred to a firm bent of mind, and the tension of long expectation. The epigrammatic expression ויּתאוּוּ תאוה (plural of ויתאו, Isaiah 45:12, for which codices, as also in Proverbs 23:3, Proverbs 23:6; Proverbs 24:1, the Complutensian, Venetian 1521, Elias Levita, and Baer have ויתאו without the tonic lengthening) is taken from Numbers 11:4.

The second principal sin was the insurrection against their superiors, Psalm 106:16-18. The poet has Numbers 16:1 in his eye. The rebellious ones were swallowed up by the earth, and their two hundred and fifty noble, non-Levite partisans consumed by fire. The fact that the poet does not mention Korah among those who were swallowed up is in perfect harmony with Numbers 16:25., Deuteronomy 11:6; cf. however Numbers 26:10. The elliptical תפתּה in Psalm 106:17 is explained from Numbers 16:32; Numbers 26:10.

The third principal sin was the worship of the calf, Psalm 106:19-23. The poet here glances back at Exodus 32, but not without at the same time having Deuteronomy 9:8-12 in his mind; for the expression "in Horeb" is Deuteronomic, e.g., Deuteronomy 4:15; Deuteronomy 5:2, and frequently. Psalm 106:20 is also based upon the Book of Deuteronomy: they exchanged their glory, i.e., the God who was their distinction before all peoples according to Deuteronomy 4:6-8; Deuteronomy 10:21 (cf. also Jeremiah 2:11), for the likeness (תּבנית) of a plough-ox (for this is pre-eminently called שׁוּר, in the dialects תּור), contrary to the prohibition in Deuteronomy 4:17. On Psalm 106:21 cf. the warning in Deuteronomy 6:12. "Land of Cham" equals Egypt, as in Psalm 78:51; Psalm 105:23, Psalm 105:27. With ויאמר in Psalm 106:23 the expression becomes again Deuteronomic: Deuteronomy 9:25, cf. Exodus 32:10. God made and also expressed the resolve to destroy Israel. Then Moses stepped into the gap (before the gap), i.e., as it were covered the breach, inasmuch as he placed himself in it and exposed his own life; cf. on the fact, besides Exodus 32, also Deuteronomy 9:18., Psalm 10:10, and on the expression, Ezekiel 22:30 and also Jeremiah 18:20.

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