Keeping mercy for thousands
In his own heart, in his purposes and decrees, in his counsels and covenant, in his Son, with whom he keeps it for ever, and for all in him, ( Psalms 89:28 ) and they are many who are ordained to eternal life, for whom Christ gave his life a ransom, and for whom his blood was shed for the remission of their sins; and whom he justifies by his knowledge, and at last brings to glory as the great Captain of their salvation; these are even a number which no man can number. All the Targums render it to a thousand generations; and Jarchi interprets of two thousand generations. The first letter in the word, rendered "keeping", is longer than is usual, in the Hebrew text; which, according to the Jews F8, denotes the largeness of the grace of God, its great extent and long continuance:
forgiving iniquity, and transgression, and sin;
the word used signifies a lifting it up, and taking it away: thus Jehovah has taken it from the sinner, and put it on his Son, who has borne it, and made satisfaction for it; and in so doing has taken it quite away, so as to be seen no more; and, through the application of his blood to the conscience of a sinner, it is taken away from thence, and removed as far as the east is from the west; from whence it appears, that it is in Christ, and for his sake, that God forgives sin, even through his blood, righteousness, sacrifice, and satisfaction; and this forgiveness is of all sin, of all sorts of sin, original or actual, greater or lesser, public or private, open or secret, of omission or commission, of heart, lip, and life. The Jews sometimes distinguish these three words; "iniquity", they say, signifies sins through pride and presumption; "transgression" intends rebellions against God; and "sin", what is committed through error and mistake F9; and much to this sense is Jarchi's interpretation of these words; they no doubt include all manner of sin, which God for Christ's sake forgives:
and will by no means clear [the guilty];
without a full and proper satisfaction to justice; which is provided in Christ, whom God has set forth to be the propitiation for sin, to declare his righteousness, that he might appear to be just, while he justifies and pardons those that believe in Jesus; otherwise all the world are guilty before God, and none would be cleared; but those for whom satisfaction is made, and a righteousness wrought out, they are cleared, acquitted, and discharged, and they only: or "though he will by no means let it go unpunished" F11; that is, sin, expressed by the several words preceding; and so to this purpose is this phrase translated in ( Jeremiah 30:11 ) and the meaning is, that though God pardons sin, all manner of sin, and so displays his grace and mercy, yet he takes care of the honour of his justice, and never suffers any sin to go unpunished, either on the sinner, or on the surety. Pardon of sin always proceeds upon the redemption that is through the blood of Christ, and is a branch of it, see ( Romans 3:24-26 ) ( Ephesians 1:7 ) . Some understand these words as relating not to the justice, but to the mercy and goodness of God; and render the words, either "in extirpating he will not extirpate", as Maimonides F12; and as Jonathan translates the same phrase in ( Jeremiah 30:11 ) "in destroying I will not destroy"; and so De Dieu here, "in emptying he will not empty", or destroy; and this sense is thought to be most agreeable to the prayer of Moses, and the promise of God, that his goodness and glory should pass before him, to which the other sense seems contrary; but the justice of God is as much his glory, and in it lies his goodness, as well as his grace and mercy; besides, the following words cannot be thought to be so expressive of the grace, and mercy, and goodness of God, but of his punitive justice, and so the objection would still remain:
visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon
the childrens' children, unto the third and to the fourth
[generation]; (See Gill on Exodus 20:5).
F8 Vid. Buxtorf. Tiberiad. c. 14. p. 38.
F9 Maimon. & Bartenora in Misn. Yoma, c. 4. sect. 2.
F11 (hqny al hqnw) "et impunita minime dimittens", Tigurine version; "et non exercens impunitatem", Coccei Lexic. in voce (hqn) .
F12 Moreh Nevochim, par. 1. c. 54.