1. And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.
1. Videns antem populus quod moram faceret Moses ad descendendum e monte, tunc congregatus est contra Aharon, et dixerunt ei, Surge, fac nobis Deos qui praecedant nos: huic enim Mosi viro illi qui eduxit nos e terra Aegypti, nescimus quid acciderit.
2. And Aaron said unto them, Break off the golden ear-rings which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring them unto me.
2. Et dixit illis Aharon, Eripite, (vel, detrahite,) inaures aureas, quae sunt in auribus uxorum vestrarum, filiorum vestrorum et filiarum vestrarum, atque afferte.
3. And all the people brake off the golden ear-rings which were in their ears, and brought them unto Aaron.
3. Eripuerunt a se igitur totus populus inaures aureas, quae erant in auribus eorum, et attulerunt ad Aharon:
4. And he received them at their hand; and fashioned it with a graving-tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.
4. Quas accepit de manu eorum, formavitque illud style, et fecit ex illo vitulum fusilem: et dixerunt, Isti sunt dii tui o Israel, qui eduxerunt te e terra Aegypti.
5. And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, Tomorrow is a feast to the Lord.
5. Quod videns Aharon, tunc aedificavit altare coram eo: et elamavit Aharon, dixitque, Solennitas Jehovae erit cras.
6. And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt-offerings, and brought peace-offerings: and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.
6. Et summo mane surrexerunt sequenti die, atque obtulerunt holocausta, et adduxerunt hostias prosperitatum: seditque populus ut manducaret et biberet, postea surrexerunt ut luderent.
7. And the Lord said unto Moses, Go, get thee down; for thy people, which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves:
7. Loquutusque est Jehova ad Mosen: Vade, descende, corrupit se populus tuus quem eduxisti e terra Aegypti.
8. They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them: they have made them a molten calf, and have worshipped it, and have sacrificed thereunto, and said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which have brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.
8. Recesserunt cito de via quam praecepi eis: fecerunt sibi vitulum fusilem, adoraveruntque illum, et sacrificaverunt ei, dixeruntque, Isti dii tui, Israel, qui eduxerunt te e terra Aegypti.
9. And the Lord said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiff-necked people:
9. Dixit praeterea Jehova ad Mosen, Vidi populum hunc: et ecce populus durae cervicis est.
10. Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them; and I will make of thee a great nation.
10. Nunc igitur dimitte me, ut excandescat furor meus in eos, consumamque eos: te autem faciam in gentem magnam.
11. And Moses besought the Lord his God, and said, Lord, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people, which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand?
11. Et precatus est Moses faciem Jehovae Dei sui, et dixit, Utquid, O Jehova, exardescet furor tuus in populum tuum quem eduxisti e terra Aegypti in fortitudine magna et manu forti?
12. Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, and say, For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth? Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people.
12. Utquid dicent Aegyptii dicendo, In malum eduxit eos, ut occideret eos in montibus, utque consumeret eos e superficie terrae? convertere ab ira furoris tui, et poeniteat te super malo populi tui.
13. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou swarest by thine own self, and saidst unto them, I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven; and all this land that I have spoken of will I give unto your seed, and they shall inherit it for ever.
13. Recordare Abraham, Isaac et Israel servorum tuorum, quibus jurasti per teipsum, et dixisti eis, Multiplicabo semen vestrum sicut stellas coeli, et totam terram istam quam dixi dabo semini vestro, et haereditate accipient illam in seculum.
14. And the Lord repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people.
14. Et poenituit Jehovam super malo quod dixerat se facturum populo suo.
15. And Moses turned, and went down from the mount, and the two tables of the testimony were in his hand: the tables were written on both their sides; on the one side and on the other were they written.
15. Tunc vertit se Moses, et descendit e monte: erantque dutc tabulae testimonii in mann ejus, tabulae scriptae ab utraque super-ficie sua, hinc et inde erant scriptae.
16. And the tables were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven upon the tables.
16. Et tabulae erant opus Dei, scriptura Dei, scriptura erat sculpta in tabulis.
17. And when Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said unto Moses, There is a noise of war in the camp.
17. Audiens autem Jehosua vocem populi in vociferatione ejus, dixit ad Mosen, Vox praelii est in castris.
18. And he said, It is not the voice of them that shout for mastery, neither is it the voice of them that cry for being overcome; but the noise of them that sing do I hear.
18. Qui respondit, Non est vex respendens fortitudini, neque vex respendens infirmitati, sed vocem cantionum ego audio.
19. And it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh unto the camp, that he saw the calf, and the dancing: and Moses' anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount.
19. Accidit quum appropinquasset ad castra, vidit vitulum et choros: et excanduit iracundia Mosis, abjecitque e manibus suis tabulas, et fregit eas sub monte.
20. And he took the calf which they had made and burnt it in the fire, and ground it to powder, and strawed it upon the water, and made the children of Israel drink of it.
20. Tulit quoque vitulum quem fecerant, et combussit igni, contrivitque donec redegit in pulverem: et sparsit in superficiem aquarum, et potavit filios Israel.
21. And Moses said unto Aaron, What did this people unto thee, that thou hast brought so great a sin upon them?
21. Et dixit Moses ad Aharon, Quid fecit tibi populus iste, quod induxisti super eum hoc peccatum grande?
22. And Aaron said, Let not the anger of my lord wax hot: thou knowest the people, that they are set on mischief.
22. Tunc dixit Aharon, Ne excandescat iracundia domini mei: tu nosti populum quod in malo sit.
23. For they said unto me, Make us gods which shall go before us: for asfor this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.
23. Dixerunt autem mihi, Fac nobis deos qui nos praecedant: quia isti Mosi viro qui eduxit nos e terra AEgypti, nescimus quid acciderit.
24. And I said unto them, Whosoever hath any gold, let them break it off. So they gave it me: then I cast it into the fire, and there came out this calf.
24. Quibus respondi, Cui est aurum, private vos. Et dederunt mihi: et projeci in ignem, egressusque est vitulus iste.
25. And when Moses saw that the people were naked, (for Aaron had made them naked unto their shame among their enemies,)
25. Vidit autem Moses quod populus discoopertus esset: (nam discooperuerat eum Aharon ad ignominiam inter hostes eorum,)
26. Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the Lord's side? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto Him.
26. Stetit ergo Moses in porta castrorum, et dixit, Quis est Jehovae? Ad me. Et eongregati sunt ad eum omnes filii Levi.
27. And he said unto them, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbor.
27. Quibus dixit, Sic dixit Jehova Deus Israel, Ponite quisque gladium suum super femur suum: transite et revertimini a porta ad portam in castris, et occidite quisque fratrem suum, et quisque amicum suum, et quisque propinquum suum.
28. And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses: and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men.
28. Fecerunt ergo filii Levi secundum sermonem Mosis: et ceciderunt e populo in die ilia circiter tria millia virorum.
29. For Moses had said, Consecrate yourselves to-day to the Lord, even every man upon his son, and upon his brother; that he may bestow upon you a blessing this day.
29. Dixerat autem Moses, Consecrate manum vestram hodie Jehovae, nempe quisque in filio suo, et in fratre suo: ut detur hodie vobis benedictio.
30. And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses said unto the people, Ye have sinned a great sin: and now I will go up unto the Lord; peradventure I shall make an atonement for your sin.
30. Fuit postridie ut diceret Moses populo, Vos peccastis peccato magno: nunc tamen ascendam ad Jehovam, si forte propitiem eum super peccato vestro.
31. And Moses returned unto the Lord, and said, Oh! this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold!
31. Reversus est itaque Moses ad Jehovam, et dixit: Obsecro: peccavit populus hic peccato magno: feterunt enim sibi deos aureos.
32. Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin --: and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written.
32.: Nunc si remiseris peccatum eorum: quod si non, dele me agedum e libro tuo, quem scripsisti.
33. And the Lord said unto Moses, Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book.
33. Et dixit Jehova ad Mosen, qui peccavit mihi, delebo eum e libro meo.
34. Therefore now go, lead the people unto the place of which I have spoken unto thee. Behold, mine Angel shall go before thee: nevertheless, in the day when I visit, I will visit their sin upon them.
34. Nunc ergo vade, duc populum ad locum de quo loquutus sum tibi. Ecce, Angelus meus ibit ante te: in die autem visitationis meae etiam visitabo in eos peccatum eorum.
35. And the Lord plagued the people, because they made the calf which Aaron made.
35. Et percussit Jehova populum, eo quod fecissent vitulum quem fecerat Aharon.
Yet, accounting as nothing all these true, and sure, and manifest tokens of God's presence, they desire to have a figure which may satisfy their vanity. And this was the original source of idolatry, that men supposed that they could not otherwise possess God, unless by subjecting Him to their own imagination. Nothing, however, can be more preposterous; for since the minds of men and all their senses sink far below the loftiness of God, when they try to bring Him down to the measure of their own weak capacity, they travesty Him. In a word, whatever man's reason conceives of Him is mere falsehood; and nevertheless, this depraved longing can hardly be repressed, so fiercely does it burst out. They are also influenced by pride and presumption, when they do not hesitate to drag down His glory as it were from heaven, and to subject it to earthly elements. We now understand what motive chiefly impelled the Israelites to this madness in demanding that a figure of God should be set before them, viz., because they measured Him by their own senses. Wonderful indeed was their stupidity, to desire that a God should be made by mortal men, as if he could be a god, or could deserve to be accounted such who obtains his divinity at the caprice of men. Still, it is not probable that they were so absurd as to desire a new god to be created for them; but they call "gods" by metonymy those outward images, by looking at which the superstitious imagine that God is near them. And this is evident from the fact, that not only the noun but the verb also is in the plural number; for although they were satisfied with one God, still they in a manner cut Him to pieces by their various representations of Him. Nevertheless, however they may deceive themselves under this or that pretext, they still desire to be creators of God.
Those who suppose that confusion is implied by the word "delayed," are, in my opinion, mistaken; for, although the word
Hence we may understand that hypocrites so fear God as that religion vanishes from their hearts, unless there be some task-master (exactor) standing by them to keep them in the path of duty. They duly obeyed Moses and reverenced his person; but, because they were only influenced by his presence, as soon as they were deprived of it they ceased to fear God. Thus, whilst Joshua was alive, and the other holy Judges, they seemed to be faithful in the exercise of piety, but when they were dead, they straightway relapsed into disobedience.
The Hebrew word6
It was a disgraceful thing to prostrate themselves before a calf, in which there was no connection or affinity with the glory of God; and with this the Prophet expressly reproaches them, that "they changed their glory (i.e., God, in whom alone they should have gloried) into the similitude of an ox that eateth grass." (Psalm 106:20.) For, if it be insulting to God to force Him into the likeness of men, with how much greater and more inexcusable ignominy is His majesty defiled, when He is compared to brute animals? Still it had no effect towards bringing them to repentance; and this is expressed with much force immediately afterwards, when they said to each other, "These be thy gods, O Israel." Surely the hideousness of the spectacle should have struck them with horror, so as to induce them voluntarily to condemn their own madness; but, on the contrary, they mutually exhort one another to obstinacy; for there is no doubt but that Moses indicates that they were like fans to each other, and thus that their frenzy was reciprocally excited. For, as Isaiah and Micah exhort believers, that each of them should stretch out his hand to his brother, and that they should say to each other,
"Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord;" (Isaiah 2:3; Micah 4:2;)
thus does perverse rivalry provoke unbelievers mutually to excite each other to progress in sin. Still they neither speak ironically nor in mockery of God, nor have any intention of falling away from Him; but they cover their sin against Him under a deceitful pretext, as if they denied that by their new and unwonted mode of worship, they desired to detract from the honor of their Redeemer; but rather that it was thus magnified because they worshipped Himself under a visible image. Thus now-a-days do the Papists boldly obtrude their fictitious rites upon God; and boast that they do more for Him by their additions and inventions than as if they merely continued within the bounds prescribed by Himself. But let us learn from this passage, that whatever colouring superstition may give to its idols, and by whatever titles it may dignify them, they remain idols still; for, however those who corrupt the pure worship of God by their inventions, may pride themselves on their good intentions, they still deny the true God, and substitute devils in His place.
Their conjecture is probable who suppose that, Aaron devised the calf in accordance with Egyptian superstition; for it is well known with what senseless worship that nation honored its god7 Anubis. It is true that they kept8 a live bull to be consulted as the supreme god; but, inasmuch as the people were accustomed to this fictitious deity, Aaron seems in obedience to their madness to have followed that old custom, from whence they had contracted the error, which was so deeply rooted in their hearts. Thus from bad examples does contagion easily creep into the hearts of those who were else untainted; nor is it without good reason that David protests that idols should be held in such abomination by him, that he would not even "take up their names into his lips," (Psalm 16:4;) for, unless we seriously abhor the ungodly, and withdraw ourselves as far as possible from their superstitions, they straightway infect us by their pestilential influence.
"Thy10 people (shall come) with voluntary offerings in the day
(of the assembling) of thy army."
What follows as to the people sitting down "to eat and to drink," many11 ignorantly wrest to mean intemperance; as also they wrongly expound their "rising up to play," as meaning lasciviousness; whereas thus Moses rather designates the sacred banquet and sports engaged in, in honor of the idols; for, as we have seen elsewhere, the faithful feasted before God at their sacrifices, and so also heathen nations celebrated sacred feasts, whilst they worshipped their idols in games. Of this point Paul is the surest interpreter, who quotes this passage in condemnation of the idolatry of the ancient people, and ably accommodates it to the purpose he had in hand; for the Corinthians had not gone to such an excess as to bow their knees to idols, but were boon-companions of unbelievers in their polluted sacrifices. (1 Corinthians 10:20.)
He assigns as the reason why He should be implacable, that He well knew the desperate and incurable wickedness of the people; for by "stiff-necked," indomitable obstinacy is metaphorically expressed; and the similitude is taken from stubborn oxen who cannot be brought to submit to the yoke. Now, where such hardness and obstinacy exists, there is no room for pardon. It is indeed an expression which must not be taken literally, that God had learnt by experience that they were a stiff-necked people; but we know that God often assumes human feelings; for unless He should thus come down to us, our minds could never attain to His loftiness. The sum is, that the character of the people was desperate, inasmuch as they had already manifested their inflexible perverseness by many proofs. Still, lest Moses should grieve at the loss of his noble chieftainship, a compensation is promised him; by which trial it appeared that he did not regard his own private interests or advantages.
What follows, "repent of this evil," is spoken in accordance with common parlance, for the saints often stammer in their prayers, and, whilst unburdening their cares into the bosom of God, address him in their infirmity as by no means befits His nature; as, for instance, when they ask Him, How long wilt thou sleep? or be forgetful? or shut thine eyes? or hide thy face? But with God repentance is nothing but a change of dealing, wherein He seems to retrace His course, as if He had conceived some fresh design. When, therefore, it is said a little further on that "the Lord repented of the evil," it is tantamount to saying, that He was appeased; not because He retracts in Himself what He has once decreed, but because He does not execute the sentence He had pronounced. If my readers15 desire more on this point, let them consult my Comments on Genesis and the Prophets.
He also purposely refers to God's oath, whereby He had more solemnly bound Himself, so that His promise might be more sure and authoritative. The Apostle, in the Epistle to the Hebrews, 6:13, tells us why God swears by Himself; viz., "because he could swear by no greater;" though sometimes to the same effect He swears by His throne in heaven, or His sanctuary.
In fine, it is uncertain whether there is a
Why the Law was divided into two tables has been elsewhere seen, viz., because it first sets forth piety and the worship of God; and, secondly, prescribes the rule of righteous living between man and man, and instructs us in the mutual offices of charity. It was doubtless in testimony of the perfection of their doctrine that they were written on both sides. A fuller revelation was indeed afterwards added; but God would have it clearly understood that He had thus embraced all in ten commandments, so that it was not lawful to add anything; and,16 therefore, lest men should annex anything of their own inventions, God filled both sides, so that nothing remained unwritten upon. Moreover, the tables are called "the work of God," because he had prepared them for the purpose of being written on. Thus they are distinguished from those that came afterwards, on which, although God inscribed His Law, yet He willed that the stones should be chiselled and fashioned by the hand and workmanship of men. The sum is, that not only were the ten commandments written by God on the first tables, but there was nothing human in the fashioning of the stones; and if it be inquired how the stones were engraved and the letters formed upon them, Moses indeed replies by a similitude, that it was done by the finger of God, meaning thereby His secret power; for He who created the world out of nothing by his more volition (nutu,) can by the same word convert all creatures to His own use in whatever way He pleases.
In breaking the tables, however, he seems to have forgotten himself; for what sort of vengeance was this, to deface the work of God? Howsoever detestable the crime of the people was, still the holy covenant of God ought to have been spared. Therefore certain Rabbins,19 to excuse him, invent one of their customary fables, that, when the tables were brought into the polluted place, the writing became effaced. Others think that he was carried away by his wrath, and did not sufficiently consider what he was about, as he would have done had his mind been composed. I have no doubt, however, but that he broke the tables in reference to his office, as if to annul the covenant of God for a time; for we know that God commits both charges to the ministers of His word, to be the proclaimers of His vengeance, as well as the witnesses of His grace. Thus, whatever they bind on earth is bound also in heaven, and they retain sins unto condemnation, and are armed with vengeance against the unbelieving and rebellious. (Matthew 16:19; John 20:23; 2 Corinthians 13:10.20) Therefore God rejected the people by the hand of Moses, renouncing the covenant which He had recently established in a solemn ceremony; and this severity was more useful as an example than as if He had sent Moses back empty-handed; for else it would never have suggested itself to the Israelites of how incomparable a treasure they had been deprived. It was then necessary that the tables should be produced, as if God so presented Himself to their sight and shewed His paternal countenance; but when, on the other hand, the monstrous abomination of the calf was encountered, it behoved that these same tables should be broken, as if God turned His back upon them and retired. Meanwhile, it must be borne in mind, that the covenant of God was not altogether annulled, but only as it were interrupted, until the people had heartily repented. Still this temporary rupture, if I may so call it, did not prevent the covenant itself from remaining inviolable. In the same manner also afterwards God put away His people, as if He had utterly renounced. them, yet His grace and truth never failed; so that He at least had some hidden roots from whence the Church sprang up anew; as it is said in Psalm 102:18, "The people which shall be created shall praise the Lord."
Herein the astonishing power of God was manifested, that when Moses had summoned the Levites, and had commanded them openly in the gate to gird themselves with their swords, the other tribes did not all of them mutiny; for it was probable that they were thus to be armed, in order to execute punishment on the criminals. How, then, came it to pass that those, who were conscious of guilt, were quiet, except because the power of God's Spirit restrained their courage and fury?
The form of the command is also worthy of observation, "Whoso is the Lord's, let him betake himself to me:" from whence we learn, that if we love religion as it deserves, we must not halt between two sides; but that an ingenuous confession is required of us, so as to range ourselves every one under the banner of God; for, by calling all God's servants to him, he condemns the cowardice, nay, the treachery, of all who shall stand in indecision.
The question, however, arises, whether the Levites were not implicated in the crime, since they step forward at once to execute his command, like sincere upholders of God's glory. I answer, that though they were not free from guilt, yet, inasmuch as they yielded to the people under the influence of fear, their sin was lighter than as if they had approved by their consent of the detestable idolatry. But here we perceive the wonderful indulgence of God, who not only pardoned them, but deigned to assert His glory by their instrumentality, and appointed them his ministers for the punishment of a crime, in the toleration of which they had been guilty of base effeminacy and cowardice. Again, it may be asked, how it occurred that of the rest of the multitude not one stirred a foot at the command of Moses? My opinion is, that they were kept back not by contempt or obstinacy, but only by shame; and that they were all inspired with so much alarm, that they waited in astonishment to see what Moseswas about, and how far he would proceed. It is, however, probable that the Levites were called out by name, and this we gather from the result; because they all immediately came forwards, and not one of any other tribe.
"He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are an abomination to the Lord."
Let us also learn that nothing is less consistent than to punish heavily the crimes whereby mortals are injured, whilst we connive at the impious errors or sacrilegious28 modes of worship whereby the majesty of God is violated.
His prayer commences with confession; for in such a case of wicked ingratitude nothing remained but freely to acknowledge their guilt, so as to look nowhere else for safety in their state of ruin and despair but to the mercy of God; for hypocrites only inflame His wrath the more by extenuating their offenses. The particle
What follows may in many respects appear to be absurd; for Moses both imperiously lays down the law to God, and in his eager impetuosity seeks to overthrow, as far as he can, His eternal counsel, and inconsiderately robs him of His justice. Surely all must condemn the pride of this address, Unless thou sparest the offenders, count me not as one of thy servants; nor can there seem to be less of folly in his attempt to bring to nought God's eternal predestination. Besides, when he desires that he himself should be involved in the same punishment, what is this but to destroy all distinction, that God should rashly condemn the innocent with the transgressors? Nor would I indeed deny that Moses was carried away by such vehemence, that he speaks like one possessed. Still it must be observed, that when believers unburden their cares into God's bosom, they do not always deal discreetly, nor with well-ordered language, but sometimes stammer, sometimes pour forth "groans which cannot be uttered," sometimes pass by everything else, and lay hold of and press some particular petition. Assuredly there was nothing less present to the mind of Moses than to dictate to God; nor, if he had been asked, would he have said that what God had decreed respecting His elect before the creation of the world could be overthrown. Again, he knew that nothing was more foreign to the Judge of all the world than to destroy the innocent together with the reprobate. But since his care for the people, whose welfare he knew to be consigned to him by God, had absorbed, as it were, all his senses, nothing else occupies his mind but that they may be saved, whilst he does not entertain a single thought which interferes with this his great solicitude. Hence it is, that arrogating far too much to himself, he throws himself forward as the people's surety, and forgets that he is predestined to salvation by God's immutable counsel; and, finally, does not sufficiently consider what would be becoming in God. Nor is Moses the only one who has been thus carried away; but Paul has gone even further, expressing himself thus in writing after full premeditation, "I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren." (Romans 9:3.) The fact is, that intent on the welfare of the elect people, they neither of them examine critically into particulars, and therefore devote themselves in behalf of the whole Church; inasmuch as this general principle was deeply rooted in their minds, that if the welfare of the whole body were secured, it would be well with the individual members. Hence34 the question arises whether it is a pious feeling to prefer the salvation of others to our own? Some being afraid lest the example of Moses and Paul should be prejudicial, have said that they were only influenced by their zeal for God's glory, when they devoted themselves to eternal destruction; and that they did not prefer the people's salvation to their own. Even, however, though this should be accepted, still their words would have been hyperbolical; for, although God's glory may well be preferred to a hundred worlds, yet He so far accommodates Himself to our ignorance, that He will not have the eternal salvation of believers brought into opposition with His glory; but has rather bound them inseparably together, as cause and effect. Moreover, it is abundantly clear that Moses and Paul did devote themselves to destruction out of regard to the general salvation. Let, therefore, that solution which I have advanced hold good, that their petition was so confused, that in the vehemence of their ardor they did not see the contradiction, like men beside themselves. Nor is it matter of surprise that they should have been in such perplexity, since they supposed that by the destruction of the elect people God's faithfulness was abandoned, and He Himself in a manner brought to nought, if the eternal adoption wherewith He had honored the children of Abraham should fail.
By "the book," in which God is said to have written His elect, must be understood, metaphorically, His decree. But the expression which Moses uses, asking to be blotted out of the number of the pious, is an incorrect one, since it cannot be that one who has been once elected should be ever reprobated; and those lunatics who, on this ground, overturn, as far as they can, that prime article of our faiith concerning God's eternal predestination, thereby demonstrate their malice no less than their ignorance. David uses two expressions in the same sense, "blotted out," and "not written:"
"Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous." (Psalm 69:28.)
We cannot hence infer any change in the counsel of God; but this phrase is merely equivalent to saying, that God will at length make it manifest that the reprobate, who for a season are counted amongst the number of the elect, in no respect belong to the body of the Church. Thus the secret catalogue, in which the elect are written, is contrasted by Ezekiel 13:9 with that external profession, which is often deceitful. Justly, therefore, does Christ bid His disciples rejoice, "because their names are written in heaven," (Luke 10:20; ) for, albeit the counsel of God, whereby we are predestinated to salvation, is incomprehensible to us,
"nevertheless (as Paul testifies) this seal standeth sure, The Lord knoweth them that are his." (2 Timothy 2:19.)
His postponement of their punishment is an indirect reproof of the people's wickedness, as though He had said that they were of so perverse a nature that they would hereafter give many fresh occasions for it. If any object that, whenever God afterwards punished other sins, He did not then take into account this act of idolatry, I reply that it is no new thing with God, when men contract again fresh guilt, to accumulate their punishments, and also to call to judgment many sins together under one general punishment. Besides, we know that God casts the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation. Lastly, there is nothing to prevent Him from visiting at another time with temporal punishments the iniquity which He has once pardoned; for wherefore did He then forgive them? Was it not lest the truth of His covenant, should perish? Those, then, whom He thus was unwilling to destroy, He might at His own time call up again for punishment, provided the chastisement were but moderate. Hence let us learn not to flatter ourselves, if ever God suspends His judgment,36 nor to abuse His long-suffering, as if we had escaped with impunity.
1 It will be seen that C. does not give the actual words, but the sense of Stephen.
2 "Mais qui pis est;" but what is worse. -- Fr.
3 "Why is his chariot so long in coming?" -- A.V.
4 Auferte. -- Lat.
5 "The ear-rings now worn in the East are various in form and size. They are generally thick, sometimes fitting close to the ear, and in other instances very large, perhaps three or four inches in diameter, and so heavy as greatly to distend the lobe of the ear, at the same time enlarging in a very disagreeable manner the orifice made for the inserting of the ring." -- Illustrated Commentary in loco.
For the ear-rings worn by the Egyptian Ladies, see Sir G. Wilkinson, "Popular Account of the Ancient Egyptians," vol. 1. p. 145, where he figures a group of them from Thebes evidently talking about their ear-rings; and vol. 2. p. 335, etc.
6 Professor Robinson says a graving tool; but more properly to be rendered a bag here. C. alludes to what S.M. tells us, that the Rabbins, wishing to excuse their forefathers, said that there came forth a calf, not wrought by any workmen, but produced by the magical arts, which some of the Egyptians, mixed with the people, now employed to introduce idolatry. -- W. Lightfoot has a characteristic note on this: "Expositors cannot tell what to say of their intent, for they cannot think they were such calves, (as to turn the glory of God into a calf,) and yet what else can we say? Jonathan saith, 'The devil got into the metal, and fashioned it into a calf.' The devil, indeed, was too much there; but it was in their fancies more than in the metal." Explan. of divers difficult passages of Scripture. Decad, 1. 4. He elsewhere also refers to the probability, stated below by C., that the idol was made after an Egyptian pattern: "Israel cannot be so long without Moses, as Moses can be without meat. The fire still burneth on the top of Mount Sinai, out of which they had so lately received the Law; and yet so suddenly do they break the greatest commandment of that Law to extremity; -- of Egyptian jewels they make an Egyptian idol, because, thinking Moses had been lost, they intended to return for Egypt." -- A handful of gleanings out of Exod., sect. 32.
7 This appears to have been either a slip of the pen, or of the memory. It was not Anubis, but Osiris, "who was worshipped under the form of Apis, the Sacred Bull of Memphis, or as a human figure with a bull's head, accompanied by the name Apis. Osiris." -- See Sir Gardner Wilkinson's "Ancient Egyptians," vol. 4. p. 347; 3d edition.
8 It is a strange notion of R. Salomon Jarchi, that the molten calf was alive; because it is said in Psalm 106:20, that it was the "similitude of an ox that eateth grass." See also Breithaupt's note in loco.
9 Addition in Fr., "Et nage entre deux eaux;" and swam between two waters.
11 Willet, in loco, attributes the opinion rejected by C. as to their intemperance to Ambrose, and, after him, to Simler. The latter notion, with respect to the word play, seems to be a very common one with the Commentators. Bushe says it implies "not only such sports as singing, dancing, and merry-making in general, but in some cases also a species of conduct which the epithet wanton as correctly defines as any term which we deem it proper to employ. Compare the use of the same original word rendered mock, Genesis 39:14. Compare also Numbers 25:1, 2." Corn. A Lapide quotes a striking parallel as to the abuse of sacrifices among the heathen, from Epicharmus, ap. Athenoeum, lib. 2, -- "Ex sacrificio epulum, ex epulo facta est potatio, ex potatione comus, ex como ludus, ex ludo judicium, ex judicio condemnatio, ex condemnatione compedes, sphacelus, et mulctatio;" and adds, that "drunken-bouts were called
12 This seems to be a very general opinion of the Commentators, from Jerome downwards. "Though Calvin mislikes this sense, yet it is warranted by that place, Deuteronomy 32:5. They have corrupted themselves, not being his children." -- Junius in Willet.
13 "For mischief." -- A.V.By the old interpreter (C. means the V. which renders the word "callide," craftily. The version of LXX. is
14 Addition in Fr., "et profane."
15 See on Genesis 6:6, (Calvin Soc. Edit., vol. 1, pp. 248, 249,) the latter part of which passage is quoted by Hengstenberg on the Pentat., vol. 2, p. 373, "On the repentance of God," with the following remark: "These last words show how very deeply Calvin had gained the right point of view in reference to Anthropomorphisms. In his esteem they formed a glorious ornament of holy writ. How totally different the apologists since the times of Deism! One remarks, on all occasions, how gladly they would dispense with Anthropomorphisms. They try to be satisfied only with that which they cannot alter." See also C. on Minor Prophets, vol. 1, p. 402; 2, p. 61; 3, pp. 115, 126, 408; and Institutes, Book 1, ch. 17. Section 13, vol. 1, p. 263. (Calvin Soc. editions.)
16 This sentence is omitted in Fr.
17 Ver. 18,
18 "Mises en nous en l'integrite, qui estoit en notre pere Adam;" implanted in us in the integrity which was in our father Adam. -- Fr.
19 C. found in S. M.'s notes the Rabbinical fancies about the vanishing of the letters, etc. -- W.
20 The reference here in the original, and in the French translation, (which always copies such errors, and, alas! they are multitudinous,) is to 2 Corinthians 11:15. I have substituted one, which appears to me more probable, and which the reader may compare with its parallel passages; but I am not so certain of my correction here, as I generally am.
21 "Tous juges, et chefs du people;" all judges and rulers of the people. -- Fr.
22 The glossa ordinaria gives the three usual opinions as to this statement, viz., either that they were stripped of the ornaments, whereof the idol was made; or that they had manifested their corrupt will, which was previously concealed; or that they had lost the help and protection of God. De Lyra adopts the first. Dathe calls it a very difficult passage; but inclines to the rendering of the LXX.,
23 "Quelques Rabins des Juifs;" some Jewish Rabbins. -- Fr. So Aben-Ezra, and R. Salomon.
24 "Qui avoyent mene la danse pour desbaucher les autres, et ausquels le mal devoit estre impute;" who had led the dance to corrupt the others, and to whom the evil must be imputed. -- Fr.
25 "Les juges sont en grand souci, par quel bout its commencerout, et qu'ils tremblent jusques a defaillir en le fin de leur office;" the judges are in great anxiety as to what end they shall begin at, and that they are so much alarmed as at length to fail in their duty. -- Fr.
26 Amongst others, of the Vulgate. Boothroyd thus defends it: "This verb may either be the second person plural of the imperative, or the third of the preterite, of both the active and passive voices. The Masorets have pointed it in the former, and are followed by our version. By this rendering, the order of the narrative is perverted; for after that command given to the Levites is stated to have been executed, and the number of the slain specified, then we have another command. Render in the preterite, and all is clear and consistent, Ye have consecrated, etc."
27 A.V., "Even," which, though different from the ordinary meanings of this particle, is sanctioned by several other texts cited in Noldii Conc. Part., whilst C.'s rendering has no such sanction, nor is it supported by S. M. -- W. "Le mot, que j'ay translate voire, signifie en Hebrieu car: mais il est ici entralasse pour plus grande vehemence;" the word, which I have translated namely, signifies in Hebrew for, but is here introduced for the sake of greater vehemence. -- Fr.
28 "Superstitions." -- Fr.
29 So A.V. It will be seen that C. renders the nouns in the ablative case, Ye have sinued by a great sin.
31 "R. Menacheus on this place saith, "This angel is not the Angel of the Covenant, of whom He spake in the time of favorable acceptance, My presence shall go; for now the holy blessed God had taken away His divine presence from amongst them, and would have led them by the hand of another angel. And Moses' speech in Exodus 33:12, seemeth to imply so much." -- Ainsworth in loco.
32 "Formula (says Facciolati) obsecrantis, vel obtestantis: di grazia, deh, per cortesia." Elsewhere, it would appear, our translators have always rendered
33 A. V., "If." Noldius, obsecro; equivalent to the rendering towards which C. inclines. -- W. "Vray est que le sens est tel, O que tu leur pardonnes: mais cependant il ne parle qu'a demie bouche, comme un homme angoisse, et s'escrie que si Dieu leur pardonne, il a tout gagne;" it is true that this is the sense, O that thou wouldest pardon them! but still he speaks but half his meaning, like a man in anguish, and cries out, that if God would pardon them, he has gained all he wants. -- Fr.
34 See this difficult subject somewhat more fully discussed by C.himself on Romans 9:3, (Calvin Soc. edit., pp. 335-337,) together with Mr. Owen's note. If, however, the opinion of many, as stated by Prof. Bush, as to this passage be adopted, and it surely has much show of reason, it is far more easily comprehended than the expression of St. Paul: "There is no intimation in these words of any secret book of the Divine decrees, or of anything involving the question of Moses' final salvation or perdition. He simply expressed the wish rather to die than to witness the destruction of his people. The phraseology is in allusion, probably, to the custom of having the names of a community enrolled in a register, and, whenever one died, of erasing his name from the number."
35 It will be seen that C. here, as is often the case, quotes from memory.
36 "L'execution de son jugement;" the execution of His judgment. -- Fr.
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