46. Et mansistis in Cades diebus multis, secundum numerum dierum quibus mansistis.
41.Then ye answered and said unto me. The repentance was too late, which impelled the Israelites to their unseasonable effort of activity; although, as I have above explained, they did not truly and seriously repent, since, when they ought patiently to have borne the chastening of God, they endeavored to shake it off, and to drive it far away from them by a new act of disobedience. In a word, they did nothing else but kick against the pricks. But such is the energy of men, when their own fancy leads them, that they will dare anything which God forbids. But herein did their far worse folly betray itself, in that, when they were again withheld, they still refuse to obey. Besides, He does not merely forbid them to fight, but denies them His assistance. What then could be more monstrous than that, in opposition to God’s will, and when the hope of His assistance was withdrawn, they should engage in what they had just before obstinately refused to attempt under His auspices, and by His command, and with the sure promise of success? And yet, so does hypocrisy blind men’s minds, that they imagined they were correcting and compensating for the evil which they doubled. Moses then relates how they received the reward which they deserved; as much as to say, that, although they might be slow to learn, still they were made acquainted, by the reverse which they experienced, how fatal a thing it is not to obey God: for fools never learn wisdom except beneath the rod.
45. And ye returned and wept before the Lord. He here appeals to the testimony of their own conscience; for they never would have been brought to weeping and prayers, except by the force of their own feelings. Since, then, they were abundantly convinced, that a just punishment was inflicted upon their obstinacy, necessity drove them to seek after God: consequently they had no cause to complain, though God manifested Himself to be implacable.
In the last verse there is an ambiguity in the meaning of these words, “many days, according to the number of the days.” Some, rendering the verb in the pluperfect tense, “in which we had remained there,” f80 suppose that they still abode there another forty days. But it is equally probable; that an indefinite time is referred to: as if he had said, that the people delayed there a long time, from whence it might be inferred, that they lay like persons stupified, from lack of knowing what to do.
It is Kadesh-barnea to which Moses refers, from whence the spies had been sent forth; and not the Kadesh where Miriam died, and where the people murmured for want of water.