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keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation,
forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin,
yet by no means clearing the guilty,
but visiting the iniquity of the parents
upon the children
and the children’s children,
to the third and the fourth generation.”
5. And the Lord descended in the cloud It is by no means to be doubted but that the cloud received Moses into it in the sight of the people, so that, after having been separated from the common life of men for forty days, he should again come forth like a new man. Thus did this visible demonstration of God’s glory avail to awaken faith in the commandments.
The descent of God, which is here recorded, indicates no change of place, as if God, who fills heaven and earth, and whose immensity is universally diffused, altered His position, but it has reference to the perceptions of men, because under the appearance of the cloud God testified that He met Moses. Therefore, according to the usual phrase of Scripture, the sacred name of God is applied to the visible symbol; not that the empty cloud was a figure of the absent Deity, but because it testified His presence according to the comprehension of men.
At the end of the verse, “to call in the name of the Lord,” is equivalent to proclaiming His name, or promulgating what God would make known to His servant. This expression, indeed, frequently occurs with reference to prayers. Some,
So the V. “Stetit Moyses eum eo, invocans nomen Domini.”
therefore, understand it of Moses, that he called on the name of the Lord. In this opinion there is no absurdity; let us be at liberty, then, to take it as applying either to Moses or to God Himself, i.e., either that God Himself proclaimed in a loud voice His power, and righteousness, and goodness, or that Moses himself professed his piety before God. But what immediately follows must necessarily be referred to God,
when He passed by, to cry out and to dignify Himself with His true titles. First of all, the name of Jehovah is uttered twice by way of emphasis, in order that Moses might be rendered more attentive. The name אל el, is added, which, originally derived from strength, is often used for God, and
is one of His names. By these words, therefore, His eternity and boundless power are expressed. Next, He proclaims His clemency and mercy; nor is He contented with a single word, but, after having called Himself “merciful,” He claims the praise of clemency, inasmuch as He has no more peculiar attribute than His goodness and gratuitous beneficence. The nature also of His goodness and clemency is specified, viz., that He is not only placable,
and ready, and disposed, to pardon, but that He patiently waits for those who have sinned, and invites them to repentance by His long-suffering. For this reason He is called “slow
A.V. “Long-suffering;” as also in Numbers 14:18, and Psalm 86:15. In Nehemiah
9:17, and elsewhere, “slow to anger.” Heb., אר5 אפים long of nostrils, or anger.
to anger,” as if He would abstain from severity did not man’s wickedness compel Him to execute punishment on his sins. Afterwards He proclaims the greatness of His mercy and truth, and on these two supports the confidence of the pious is based, whilst they embrace the mercy offered to them, and securely repose on the faithfulness and certainty of the promises. Everywhere, therefore, in the Psalms, where mention is made of God’s goodness, His truth is connected with
it as its inseparable companion. Another reason also is because God’s mercy cannot be comprehended, except upon the testimony of His word, the certainty of which must needs be well assured lest our salvation should be wavering and insecure. What follows, that God keeps mercy to a thousand generations, we have expounded in chapter 20; whilst, on the other hand, the punishments which He requires for men’s sins are only extended to the third and fourth generation, because His clemency surpasses
His judgment, as is said in Psalm 30:5,
See C.’s own translation. Calvin Soc. edit., vol. 5, p. 346.
“There is only a moment in his anger, but life in his favor;” and although this only relates properly to believers, yet it flows from a general principle. To the same effect is the next clause, “forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin;” for thus the greatness of His clemency is set forth, inasmuch as He not only pardons light offenses, but the very grossest sins; and again, remits not only sin in one case, but is propitious to sinners by
whom He has been a hundred times offended. Hence, therefore, appears the extent of His goodness, since He blots out an infinite mass of iniquities. Lest, however, this indulgence should be perverted into a license for sin, it is afterwards added, by way of correction, “with
נקה לא ינקה A.V., “Will by no means clear;” S. M. and C., “Not making (the guilty) innocent;” or, in
C.’s own comment, “He will not with cleansing cleanse;” but C. presently acknowledges that it might be taken to mean, “He will not utterly cut off,” inasmuch as the verb נקה is sometimes used for to blot out, to destroy, to exterminate; to which class of meanings more than one lexicographer has assigned its use in this text. — W.
Bush gives a very careful note on this clause, which he says is “of exceedingly difficult interpretation,” and declares himself satisfied that the sense which C. condemns is the true one, viz., “‘who will not wholly, entirely, altogether clear,’ i.e., who, although merciful and gracious in his dispositions, strongly inclined to forgive, and actually forgiving in countless cases and abundant measure, is yet not unmindful of the claims of justice. He will not always suffer even the pardoned sinner to escape with entire impunity. He will mingle so much of the penal in his dealings as to evince that his clemency is not to be presumed upon.” cleansing He will not cleanse,” which, with the Chaldee interpreter and others, I understand as applying to His severe judgment against the reprobate and obstinate; for I do not like their opinion who say that, although God indeed pardons sins, yet He still moderately chastises those who have sinned; since this is a poor conjecture, that punishment is required though the guilt is remitted; and besides, it is altogether untrue, inasmuch as it is manifest, from experience that God passes over many sins without punishment. But what I have stated is very suitable, that, lest impunity should beget audaciousness, after God has spoken of His mercy, He adds an exception, viz., that the iniquity is by no means pardoned, which is accompanied by obstinacy. And hence the Prophets seem to have quoted from this passage, 381381 “Should ye be utterly unpunished?” “Art thou he, that shall altogether go unpunished?” — A. V. “Clearing should ye be cleared?” (Jeremiah 25:29; 49:12,) when they address the reprobate, to whom pardon is denied. The words, therefore, may be properly paraphrased thus: Although God is pitiful and even ready to pardon, yet He does not therefore spare the despisers, but is a severe avenger of their impiety. Nevertheless, the opposite meaning would not be inappropriate here, “With cutting off He will not cut off;” for this is sometimes the sense of the verb נקה, nakah; and it would thus be read conneetedly, that God pardons iniquities because He does not wish entirely to cut off the human race; for who shall escape if God should choose to call to judgment the sins even of believers? And perhaps Jeremiah alluded to this passage, where 382382 Poole on Jeremiah 49:12, after quoting C.’s translation, “impune feres?” adds, “Since, however, this phrase is explained very differently by others, both Exodus 34:7, and Jeremiah 25:29, as well as these words, may be thus rendered: Thou therefore thyself shalt be utterly cut off.” he mitigates the severity of the vengeance of which he had been speaking by this same expression, for there it can only be translated, “With cutting off I will not cut thee off.” If this be preferred, it will be the assignment of the reason why God pardons sins, viz., because He is unwilling to cut off men, which would be the case if He insisted on the utmost rigor of the Law. Some 383383 “The translation of V. is, “Nullusque apud to per se innocens est.” thus explain it, That God pardons sins, because no one is innocent in His sight; as if it were said, that all are destitute of the glory of righteousness, and thence their only refuge is in the mercy of God. This is true indeed, but not so nmch an exposition as a plausible conceit.