Numbers 14:13
And Moses said to the LORD, Then the Egyptians shall hear it, (for you brought up this people in your might from among them;)
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(13, 14) And Moses said unto the Lord . . . —There is considerable difficulty as to the correct rendering of these verses. They may be rendered in accordance with the Authorised Version, or they may be rendered as follows:—And Moses said unto the LORD, The Egyptians have both heard that thou hast brought up this people from among them by thy might, and they have also told (it) to the inhabitants of this land (i.e., the land of Canaan, as in Numbers 14:3); they (i.e., the Egyptians and the Canaanites) have heard that thou LORD art in the midst of this people, for thou LORD art seen face to face, and thy cloud standeth over them, and thou goest before them, &c. &c. Reference may be made to the following passages in illustration of the argument by which Moses enforced his intercessory prayer on behalf of Israel:—Deuteronomy 32:26-27; Joshua 7:9; Isaiah 48:9; Isaiah 48:11; Ezekiel 36:22-23.

14:11-19 Moses made humble intercession for Israel. Herein he was a type of Christ, who prayed for those that despitefully used him. The pardon of a nation's sin, is the turning away the nation's punishment; and for that Moses is here so earnest. Moses argued that, consistently with God's character, in his abundant mercies, he could forgive them.The syntax of these verses is singularly broken. As did Paul when deeply moved, so Moses presses his arguments one on the other without pausing to ascertain the grammatical finish of his expressions. He speaks here as if in momentary apprehension of an outbreak of God's wrath, unless he could perhaps arrest it by crowding in every topic of deprecation and intercession that he could mention on the instant. 12. the Lord said, … I will smite them with the pestilence—not a final decree, but a threatening, suspended, as appeared from the issue, on the intercession of Moses and the repentance of Israel. Then, i.e. in case thou dost utterly destroy them.

Thou broughtest up this people, whereby thou didst get great honour to thyself, which now thou wilt certainly lose. And Moses said unto the Lord,.... In an abrupt manner, as the following words show, his mind being greatly disturbed and distressed by the above threatening:

then the Egyptians shall hear it; that the Lord had smitten the Israelites with the pestilence; the Targum of Jonathan interprets it of the children of the Egyptians who were suffocated in the sea:

for thou broughtest up this people in thy might from among them; they were once sojourners among them, and slaves unto them, and they were delivered from them by the mighty hand of the Lord upon the Egyptians, destroying their firstborn; and therefore when they shall hear that the Israelites were all destroyed at once by a pestilence in the wilderness, it will be a pleasure to them, as follows.

And Moses said unto the LORD, Then the Egyptians shall hear it, (for thou broughtest up this people in thy might from among them;)
13–16. The thought of Jehovah destroying His own people raised a great problem. Jehovah must maintain justice, and yet He must also maintain His own honour among the surrounding nations. The same problem was felt by Ezekiel in regard to the punishment of the exile, but he solved it by the certainty of a glorious return of a purified people in the future (Ezekiel 36:18-28; Ezekiel 39:21-29).Verse 13. - And Moses said unto the Lord. The words which follow are so confused, and the construction so dislocated, that they afford the strongest evidence that we have here the ipsissima verba of the mediator, disordered as they were in the moment of utterance by passionate earnestness and an agonizing fear. Had Moses been ever so eloquent, a facility of speech at such a moment would have been alike unnatural and unlovely. What we can see in the words is this: that Moses had no thought for himself, and that it never occurred to him to entertain the tempting offer made to him by God; that he knew God too well, and (if we may say so) cared for God too much, to let him so compromise his honour among the nations, and so thwart his own purposes, without making one effort (however audacious) to turn his wrath aside. We can see that it is (as in Exodus 32:11, 12, only much more boldly and abruptly) the thought of what the heathen would say which he wishes to thrust upon the Almighty; but we cannot be sure of the right translation of the words. The most literal rendering would seem to be, "Both the Egyptians have heard (וְשָׁמְעוּ) that thou broughtest out this people from among them with thy might, and they have told it (וְאָמְרוּ) to the inhabitants of this land; they have heard (שָׁמְעוּ, repeated) that thou, Lord, art amongst this people," &c. The Septuagint, however, translates the first verb by a future (καὶ ἀκούσεται Αἴγυπτος), and, as this gives a much clearer sense, it is followed by the Targum Palestine and most of the versions. At this murmuring, which was growing into open rebellion, Moses and Aaron fell upon their faces before the whole of the assembled congregation, namely, to pour out their distress before the Lord, and move Him to interpose; that is to say, after they had made an unsuccessful attempt, as we may supply from Deuteronomy 1:29-31, to cheer up the people, by pointing them to the help they had thus far received from God. "In such distress, nothing remained but to pour out their desires before God; offering their prayer in public, however, and in the sight of all the people, in the hope of turning their minds" (Calvin). Joshua and Caleb, who had gone with the others to explore the land, also rent their clothes, as a sign of their deep distress at the rebellious attitude of the people (see at Leviticus 10:6), and tried to convince them of the goodness and glory of the land they had travelled through, and to incite them to trust in the Lord. "If Jehovah take pleasure in us,"; they said, "He will bring us into this land. Only rebel not ye against Jehovah, neither fear ye that people of the land; for they are our food;" i.e., we can and shall swallow them up, or easily destroy them (cf. Numbers 22:4; Numbers 24:8; Deuteronomy 7:16; Psalm 14:4). "Their shadow is departed from them, and Jehovah is with us: fear them not!" "Their shadow" is the shelter and protection of God (cf. Psalm 91; Psalm 121:5). The shadow, which defends from the burning heat of the sun, was a very natural figure in the sultry East, to describe defence from injury, a refuge from danger and destruction (Isaiah 30:2). The protection of God had departed from the Canaanites, because God had determined to destroy them when the measure of their iniquity was full (Genesis 15:16; cf. Exodus 34:24; Leviticus 18:25; Leviticus 20:23). But the excited people resolved to stone them, when Jehovah interposed with His judgment, and His glory appeared in the tabernacle to all the Israelites; that is to say, the majesty of God flashed out before the eyes of the people in a light which suddenly burst forth from the tabernacle (see at Exodus 16:10).
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