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8. Harden not your heart, as in Meribah, as in the day of Massah in the wilderness.
That is, in the wilderness of Midian, into which the people entered after passing through the Red Sea. In their way towards
Horeb, their fourth station was at Rephidim, where they were chargeable with the sinful conduct here referred to.
9. When your fathers tempted me, they proved me, though yet they had seen my work. 10. Forty years, I strove with this generation,
Paul, in quoting this passage in Hebrews 3:9, joins the words forty years to the concluding part of the preceding verse: “When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years;” whereas,
in the Hebrew text, and as Calvin connects them, they form the commencement of the 10th verse. But this depends on the punctuation
system of the Masorites,
which the Apostle has not followed. It is of little consequence whether the words forty years are connected with the close of the 9th verse or the beginning of the 10th; the sense in either case being substantially the
same. If the Israelites tempted God forty years, he strove with them during that period; and if he strove with them for so
long a time, it was because they tempted him. The Apostle shows that either of these readings may be indifferently adopted,
when, in the 17th verse of
that chapter, instead of speaking of the forty years as the space of time during which the Israelites tempted God, he
speaks of them as the period during which God was grieved by that rebellious people. “But with whom was he grieved forty years?
was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcasses fell in the wilderness?”
and said, They are a people that err in heart,
עם תעי לבב, am toe lebab, “a nation wandering of heart.” תעי, toe, is from תעה, taah, he wandered, deviated The LXX., whom Paul follows in Hebrews 3:10, have ἀεὶ πλανωνται; from which Reeves conjectures, that instead of עם תעי, populus erratium, “a people that do err;” they might have read,עלם תעי “always erring.” The phrase, erring in heart, is emphatic, indicating the great stress which God lays on the state of the heart. Moses Stuart, in his commentary on this
passage, as quoted in
Hebrews 3:10, understands the heart as pleonastic; so that the phrase imports simply, They always err, i e., they are continually departing
from the right way. But the phrase, we think, is intended to convey another idea, — that God, in judging of the character
and conduct of men, has a special regard to the state of the heart. It is the heart which he principally requires in our obedience;
and this he chiefly looks to in men’s disobedience. When it is upright as to its general frame, design, and principle, he
will bear with many failings and shortcomings. When it is insincere, he will set no value whatever on any outward
professions or actions, however good in themselves. We ourselves act upon the same principle, and are justified in doing
so. If a man discovers that he has just ground to suspect that the hearts of those with whom he has intimate intercourse,
are false and deceitful towards him, he ceases to respect and love them, whatever may be their professions of friendship.
The lines of the Greek poet, though inconsistent with the subdued feeling and tone of Christian benevolence, which, in this
instead of hatred to the person, produces regret and grief; yet show that men universally, from their very nature, take
into account the state of the heart in estimating the professions and conduct of others towards them: —
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