But he, being full of compassion
Or merciful; having bowels of mercy, as a tender mother to the son of her womb; a word from the same root as this signifies the womb: the mercies of God are tender and abundant; there is a multitude of them; he is rich and plenteous in mercy, and so ready to forgive; hence it follows,
forgave their iniquity;
forgiveness of sin flows from the tender mercy of God; it is according to the multitude of his mercies, and the riches of his grace; yet is through the blood and attoning sacrifice of his Son; and the word F3 that is here used signifies to expiate or atone; God never intended to pardon sinners, but through the propitiation of his Son, whom he set forth in his purpose, and sent forth in the fulness of time to be the propitiatory sacrifice for sin; he forgave the sins of Old Testament saints with a view to that; and it is for Christ's sake he forgives any; for without shedding of blood there is no remission; though perhaps, since these persons were impenitent, unbelievers and hypocrites, no more may be meant here by the forgiveness of their sins than averting a threatened judgment, or a removing of one, and putting a stop to the further execution of it, which is sometimes meant by forgiving sin; see ( Numbers 14:19 Numbers 14:20 ) ( 1 Kings 8:30 1 Kings 8:34 1 Kings 8:36 1 Kings 8:39 1 Kings 8:50 ) which sense the following words incline to:
and destroyed [them] not;
though they deserved it, and he was able to do it, he did not destroy them immediately and at once, nor all of them, at least not their seed and posterity, who were preserved and brought into the land of Canaan:
yea, many a time turned he his anger away;
he does not retain it for ever, or always carry on a resentment, or the appearance of it; though he causes grief, he has and shows compassion; he is said to turn away his anger from his own people when he forgives their sins, and comforts their souls, ( Psalms 85:2 Psalms 85:3 ) ( Isaiah 12:1 ) , so when he causes the effects of his displeasure to cease, or stays a plague, or stops a judgment, by means of any of his servants; see ( Numbers 25:8 Numbers 25:10 ) ,
and did not stir up all his wrath;
which their sins deserved, and was laid up among his treasures: the wrath of a temporal king is as the roaring of a lion, ( Proverbs 19:12 ) much more that of the King of kings; and the allusion here seems to be to the arousing of some fierce creature; the wrath of God is intolerable, and, even when it is kindled but a little, it cannot be endured; and much less should it be all stirred up; but here in wrath he remembered mercy.
F3 (rpky) "propitiabitur", Montanus; "propitiatus est", Pagninus, Museulus; "propitius fuit", Tigurine version; "expiabat", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Cocceius, Gejerus, Michaelis.