Verse 20. Behold, he smote the rock, that the waters gushed out, and the streams overflowed. They admit what he had done, and yet, with superabundant folly and insolence, demand further proofs of his omnipotence.
Can he give bread also? can he provide flesh for his people? As if the manna were nothing, as if animal food alone was true nourishment for men. If they had argued, "can he not give flesh?" the argument would have been reasonable, but they ran into insanity; when, having seen many marvels of omnipotence, they dared to insinuate that other things were beyond the divine power. Yet, in this also, we have imitated their senseless conduct. Each new difficulty has excited fresh incredulity. We are still fools and slow of heart to believe our God, and this is a fault to be bemoaned with deepest penitence. For this cause the Lord is often wroth with us and chastens us sorely; for unbelief has in it a degree of provocation of the highest kind.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 19-20. See Psalms on "Psalms 78:19" for further information.
Verse 20. Can he give bread also? They should have said, "Will he serve our lusts?" but that they were ashamed to say. John Trapp.
Verse 20. Who will say that a man is thankful to his friend for a past kindness, if he nourishes an ill opinion of him for the future? This was all that ungrateful Israel returned to God, for his miraculous broaching of the rock to quench their thirst: Behold, he smote the rock, -- Can he give bread also? This, indeed, was their trade all the time they were in the wilderness. Wherefore, God gives them their character, not by what they seemed to be while his mercies were before them; then they could say, "God was their rock, and the High God their Redeemer;" but by their temper and carriage in straits; when the cloth was drawn, and the feast taken out of their sight, what opinion then had they of God? Could they satisfy his name so far as to trust him for their dinner tomorrow who had feasted them yesterday? Truly no, as soon as they feel their hunger return, like froward children, they are crying, as if God meant to starve them. Wherefore God rejects their praises, and owns not their hypocritical acknowledgments, but sets their ingratitude upon record; they forgot his works, and waited not for his counsel. O how sad is this, that after God had entertained a soul at his table with choice mercies and deliverances, these should be so ill husbanded, that not a bit of them should be left to give faith a meal, to keep the heart from fainting, when God comes not so fast to deliver as desired. He is the most thankful man that treasures up the mercies of God in his memory, and can feed his faith with what God hath done for him, so as to walk in the strength thereof in present straits. William Gurnall.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 18-21. The progress of evil.