Now after the death of Joshua it came to pass, that the children of Israel asked the LORD, saying…
God often forbears and defers His punishments. "As I did long ago," saith Adoni-bezek, "yea again and again, seventy times one after another — so long and so often that I thought God had either not seen or quite forgotten me; yet now I see He requiteth me." How true this observation is, is sufficiently witnessed by their experience who have little less than stumbled hereat. This made Care, a heathen man, to cry out: "The disposals of Divine providence are not a little cloudy and dark." This made David, a man after God's own heart, to confess and say: "My feet were almost gone, my steps had well-nigh slipped." This made Jeremiah cry out from the bottom of an amazed soul: "Righteous art Thou, O Lord, when I plead with Thee; yet let me talk with Thee of Thy judgments. Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? Why are they happy that deal very treacherously?" Yea, those martyred saints (Revelation 6:10) are heard to cry from under the altar, "How long?" etc. Now as these forenamed have stumbled at God's delaying His judgments, so others there are who have been quite deceived, verily believing that with God what was forborne was also forgotten. Such an one was Adoni-bezek here, who, having escaped so long, thought to have escaped ever. And such were those whereof David spake (Psalm 10:6). Such an one is the great whore of Babylon, that sings: "I sit like a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow." Such an one was Pherecydes Syrins, master of Pythagoras, and a famous philosopher, and one that is said to have been the first philosopher that taught among the Greeks the soul to be immortal; and yet among all his knowledge had not learned this one principle: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." For, as AElian reports, he used among his scholars to vaunt of his irreligion after this manner, saying that he had never offered sacrifice to any god in all his life, and yet had lived as long and as merrily as those who had offered several hecatombs. But he that thus impiously abused the long-suffering of God came at length to an end as strange as his impiety was unusual; for so they report of him that he was stricken, like Herod by the angel of the Lord, with such a disease that serpents bred of the corrupt humours of his body, which ate and consumed him being yet alive. But that we may neither distrust the righteous ways of God, nor prevent His unsearchable counsels with our over-hasty expectation, let us a little consider of the ends why God oftentimes defers and prolongs His judgments.
1. For the sake of godly ones, for whom God useth to forbear even multitudes of sinners. So had there been but ten righteous persons in Sodom, Sodom had never been destroyed: "I will not destroy it for ten's sake." So for good Josiah's sake God deferred the plagues He had decreed to bring upon that people (2 Kings 22:20).
2. To give time of repentance and amendment (2 Peter 3:9). This is shown by the parable of the fig-tree (Luke 13:7). A hundred and twenty years the old world had given them before the flood came.
3. The opportunity of example by them unto others and of manifesting His own glory. God is Lord of times; and as He created them, so He alone knows a fit time for all things under the sun. He, therefore, who knows all occasions, when He seeth a fit time for His judgments to profit other men by example, and most of all to set forth His own glory, then He sends them forth and till then He will defer them.
4. When God, intending some extraordinary judgment, suffers men's sins to grow unto a full ripeness that their sin may be as conspicuous unto the world as His purpose in their punishment shall be. Thus God punished not the Canaanites in Abraham's time, but deferred it till Israel's coming out of Egypt; and that, as Himself witnesseth (Genesis 15:16): "Because the iniquity of the Amorites was not yet full." And therefore is not this last end to be looked for in all God's delays; but it seemeth proper to His extraordinary punishments — when God meaneth, as it were, to get Himself a name amongst men, then God stays to have the sin full, upon which He will pour a full vial of wrath and indignation.
(Joseph Mede, B. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Now after the death of Joshua it came to pass, that the children of Israel asked the LORD, saying, Who shall go up for us against the Canaanites first, to fight against them?