23. And he said that he would destroy them, unless that Moses his chosen had stood in the breach before his face, to turn away his wrath, that he might not destroy them. 24. And they despised the pleasant land; they did not believe his word; 25. And they murmured in their tents, and did not listen to the voice of Jehovah. 26. And he lifted up his hand against them, to destroy them in the desert: 27. And to destroy their seed among the heathen, and to scatter them throughout the lands. 1
"Ye have not gone up into the gaps, neither made up the hedge for the house of Israel, to stand in the battle in the day of the Lord," Ezekiel 13:5.
Some expositors are of opinion that the prophet refers to the separation which the people had made among themselves in violating the covenant of God, and the sacred relation in which they stood to each other; but the meaning is the same. For in that breach which gave rise to this metaphor or similitude, God, in defending his people so faithfully, was to them in place of a wall or bulwark. Having provoked him to anger anew, he was about to rush upon them for their destruction, had not Moses interposed as their intercessor.
1 Some interpreters, as Mudge and Horsley, have felt great difficulty in interpreting this verse. "Nothing," says the latter critic, "was said about overthrowing the seed, at the time when the adults, which came out of Egypt, were sentenced to perish in the wilderness. On the contrary, it was promised that their little ones, i.e., those who were under the age of twenty years at the time of the general muster, should be settled in the land of Canaan. -- See Numbers 14." He farther adds, that "nothing was said at the time alluded to about scattering the seed, which should be settled in Canaan, in some future period, through the lands." And he concludes his note on the verse by observing, that, upon the whole, he could not explain it to his own satisfaction. But there seems in the passage to be a reference to those prophetical denunciations afterwards uttered, by which God threatened that he would punish the sins of the Israelites, not only in their own persons, but also in their posterity; -- denunciations which have been fulfilled in the various dispersions of that people, and which are fulfilling at the present day. -- Leviticus 26:33; Deuteronomy 28:64. "It is obvious," says Dr Morison, "that those interpreters are mistaken who refer the allusions of the 27th verse to the same history as those of the 26th. The people overthrown in the wilderness were to be destroyed by pestilence; but the overthrow threatened in the 27th verse was by banishment and captivity."
2 The sins of the people had opened a breach or gap, for God as an enemy to enter and destroy them. But, like soldiers who stand in the breach that has been made in the walls of a beleaguered city to oppose the irruption of the enemy, Moses, by his earnest prayer, stopped this breach, Exodus 32:11-14. "Moses is here mentioned in the character of a mediator, under the figure of one standing in the breach of the wall of a city made by besiegers, to oppose any farther hostile aggressions. The figure of a breach is frequently employed in Scripture to denote some destruction by God. Thus in Judges 21:15, God made a breach,
3 The passage refers to the oath which God swore against that people recorded in Numbers 14:21-23. To the same oath there is an allusion in Psalm 95:11. The Chaldee paraphrast has, "He lifted up his hand with an oath."
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