Verse 8. And might not be as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation. There was room for improvement. Fathers stubborn in their own way, and rebellious against God's way, are sorry examples for their children; and it is earnestly desired that better instruction may bring forth a better race. It is common in some regions for men to count their family custom as the very best rule; but disobedience is not to be excused because it is hereditary. The leprosy was none the less loathsome because it had been long in the family. If our fathers were rebellious we must be better than they were, or else we shall perish as they did.
A generation that set not their heart aright. They had no decision for righteousness and truth. In them there was no preparedness, or willingness of heart, to entertain the Saviour; neither judgments, nor mercies could bind their affections to their God; they were fickle as the winds, and changeful as the waves.
And whose spirit was not steadfast with God. The tribes in the wilderness were constant only in their inconstancy; there was no depending upon them. It was, indeed, needful that their descendants should be warned, so that they might not blindly imitate them. How blessed it would be if each age improved upon its predecessor; but, alas! it is to be feared that decline is more general than progress, and too often the heirs of true saints are far more rebellious than even their fathers were in their unregeneracy. May the reading of this patriotic and divine song move many to labour after the elevation of themselves and their posterity.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 8. And might not be as their fathers. The warning is taken from an example at home. He does not say, That they might not be as the nations, which know not God: but, That they might not be as their fathers. Domestic examples of vice are much more pernicious than foreign ones. Hence one says: Sic natura jubet, velocius et citius nos corrumpunt vitiorum exempla domestica. Let us learn from this place, that it is not safe in all things to cleave to the footsteps of our fathers. He speaks of those fathers who perished in the wilderness: of whom, see Numbers 14; Deuteronomy 1, and Psalms 68:6 . Musculus.
Verse 8. As their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation. Forasmuch as this bad emulation of their ancestors is with difficulty plucked from the minds of men, because of our innate reverence for our fathers, the prophet heaps up words in the description of the crimes of their fathers. He says they were hrm rwd, that is, a generation detracting from the authority of God, and continually breaking the bonds of the law, and in their petulance shaking off the yoke, as a violent and refractory horse, or an untamed bullock, enduring not the rein, or refusing to yield its neck to the yoke, but constantly drawing back and rejecting the bridle. Mollerus.
Verse 8-9. Look carefully to the ground of thy active obedience, that it be sound and sincere. The same right principles whereby the sincere soul acts for Christ, will carry him to suffer for Christ, when a call from God comes with such an errand. "The children of Ephraim, being armed, and carrying bows, turned back in the day of battle." Why? what is the matter? so well armed, and yet so cowardly? This seems strange: read the preceding verse and you will cease wondering; they are called there, A generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not steadfast with God. Let the armour be what it will, yea, if soldiers were in a castle, whose foundations were rock, and walls brass; yet if their hearts be not right to their prince, an easy storm will drive them from the walls, and a little scare open their gate, which hath not this bolt of sincerity on it to hold it fast. In our late wars we have seen that the honest hearts within thin and weak works have held the town, when no walls could defend treachery from betraying trust. William Gurnall.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 5-8. Family religion.
Verse 7-8. On the deceitfulness of the heart, in disregarding providential dispensations in general. John Jamieson's "Sermons on the Heart,"
Verse 8. Stubbornness not steadfastness, or the difference between a natural vice and a gracious quality.
Verse 8. The false heart (middle clause), with its left hand, "Stubbornness in the wrong" (first clause), and its right hand, "Fickleness in the right" (last clause). C. D.