Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 5: Harmony of the Law, Part III, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
Deuteronomy 9:7-21, 25-29
7. Remember, and forget not, how thou provokedst the Lord thy God to wrath in the wilderness: from the day that thou didst depart out of the land of Egypt, until ye came unto this place, ye have been rebellious against the Lord.
7. Memento, ne obliviscaris quod ad iram provocasti Jehovam Deum tuum in deserto, a die qua egressus es e terra AEgypti, donec ingressi estis ad hunc locum, rebelles fuistis Jehovae.
8. Also in Horeb ye provoked the Lord to wrath, so that the Lord was angry with you, to have destroyed you.
8. Nam in Horeb provocastis Jehovam: et excanduit Jehova in vos ad perdendum vos.
9. When I was gone up into the mount, to receive the tables of stone, even the tables of the covenant which the Lord made with you, then I abode in the mount forty days and forty nights; I neither did eat bread nor drink water:
9. Quum ascendissem in montem ut acciperem tabulas lapideas, tabulas faederis quod pepigerat Jehova vobiscum, tunc mansi in monte quadraginta noctes, ubi panem non comedi, et aquam non bibi.
10. And the Lord delivered unto me two tables of stone, written with the finger of God: and on them was written according to all the words which the Lord spake with you in the mount, out of the midst of the fire, in the day of the assembly.
10. Et dedit mihi Jehova duas tabulas lapideas scriptas digito Dei, et in ipsis erat juxta omnia verba qum loquutus fuerat Jehova in monte e medio ignis, in die conventus.
11. And it came to pass, at the end of forty days and forty nights, that the Lord gave me the two tables of stone, even the tables of the covenant.
11. Et factum est a fine quadraginta dierum et quadraginta noc tium, ut daret Jehova mihi duas tabulas lapideas, tabulas foederis.
12. And the Lord said unto me, Arise, get thee down quickly from hence; for thy people which thou hast brought forth out of Egypt have corrupted themselves; they are quickly turned aside out of the way which I commanded them; they have made them a molten image.
12. Dixit autem mihi Jehova, Surge, descende hinc celeriter: quia corrupit se populus tuus quem eduxisti ex AEgypto: recesserunt cito e via quam praeceperam illis: feterunt sibi conflatile.
13. Furthermore the Lord spake unto me, saying, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiff-necked people.
13. Tunc dixit mihi Jehova, Vidi populum hunc, et ecce, populus est durae cervicis.
14. Let me alone, that I may destroy them, and blot out their name from under heaven: and I will make of thee a nation mightier and greater than they.
14. Sine me ut perdam eos, deleamque nomen eorum sub coelo, et faciam to in gentem potentiorem, et majorem illa.
15. So I turned, and came down from the mount, and the mount burned with fire; and the two tables of the covenant were in my two hands.
15. Tunc verti me, et descendi e monte (mons autem ipse ardebat igni) et duae tabulae foederis in manibus meis erant.
16. And I looked, and, behold, ye had sinned against the Lord your God, and had made you a molten calf: ye had turned aside quickly out of the way which the Lord had commanded you.
16. Et vidi, et ecce, peccaveratis in Jehovam Deum vestrum, foceratis vobis vitulum conflatilem, recesseratis cito de via quam paeceperat Jehova vobis.
17. And I took the two tables, and cast them out of my two hands, and brake them before your eyes.
17. Tunc apprehendi duas tabulas, et projeci eas e manibus meis, confregique in oculis vestris.
18. And I fell down before the Lord, as at the first, forty days and forty nights: I did neither eat bread nor drink water, because of all your sins, which ye sinned, in doing wickedly in the sight of the Lord, to provoke him to anger.
18. Et procidi coram Jehova sicut prius, quadraginta dies et quadraginta noctes: panem non comedi, et aquam non bibi, propter omne peccatum vestrum quod peccaveratis, impie agendo in oculis Jehovae ad ipsum provocandum.
19. (For I was afraid of the anger and hot displeasure wherewith the Lord was wroth against you to destroy you.) But the Lord hearkened unto me at that time also.
19. Timui enim propter excandescentiam et tram qua excanduerat Jehova contra vos ad perdendum vos: et exaudivit me Jehova etiam hac vice.
20. And the Lord was very angry with Aaron to have destroyed him: and I prayed for Aaron also the same time.
20. Contra Aharon quoque excanduit Jehova vehementer ad perdendum eum, et oravi etiam pro Aharon tempore illo.
21. And I took your sin, the calf which ye had made, and burnt it with fire, and stamped it, and ground it very small, even until it was as small as dust: and I cast the dust thereof into the brook that descended out of the mount.
21. Porro peccatum vestrum quod feceratis, nempe vitulum, accepi, et combussi ilium igni, et contrivi bene molendo, donec comminutus esset in pulverem: ae projeci pulverem ejus in torrentem qui descendebat e monte illo.
25. Thus I fell down before the Lord forty days and forty nights, as I fell down at the first; because the Lord had said he would destroy you.
25. Et procidi coram Jehova quadraginta diebus et quadraginta noctibus, quibus procidi: quia dixerat Jehova se perditurum vos.
26. I prayed therefore unto the Lord, and said, O Lord God, destroy not thy people, and thine inheritance, which thou hast redeemed through thy greatness, which thou hast brought forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand.
26. Oravi igitur Jehovam, et dixi, Dominator Jehova, ne perdas populum tuum, et haereditatem tuam quam redemisti magnitudine tua, quem eduxisti ex AEgypto manu valida.
27. Remember thy servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; look not unto the stubbornness of this people, nor to their wickedness, nor to their sin;
27. Memento servorum tuorum, Abrahae, Isaac et Jacob, ne respicias ad duritiem populi hujus, et ad impietatem ejus et peccatum.
28. Lest the land whence thou broughtest us out say, Because the Lord was not able to bring them into the land which he promised them, and because he hated them, he hath brought them out to slay them in the wilderness.
28. Ne forte dicant in terra, unde eduxisti nos, Propterea quod non potuit Jehova introducere eos in terram quam dixerat illis, vel quia oderat filius, eduxit eos ut interficeret in deserto.
29. Yet they are thy people, and thine inheritance, which thou broughtest out by thy mighty power, and by thy stretched-out arm.
29. Ipsi autem sunt populus tuus, et haereditas tua, quam eduxisti fortitudine tua magna, et brachio tuo extento.
7. Remember, and forget not, how thou provokedst In order to reprove the ingratitude of the people, Moses here briefly refers to some of their offenses; but he principally insists on the history of their revolt, in which their extreme and most detestable impiety betrayed itself. He therefore narrates this crime in almost the identical words which he had previously used in Exodus. He begins by urging them often to reflect upon their sins, lest they should ever be forgotten; and this constant recollection of them not only tended to humiliate them, but also to teach them at length to lay aside their depraved nature, and to accustom themselves to become obedient to God. Afterwards he proceeds to the history itself, shewing that God had been provoked by their idolatry to destroy them. If a question be here put, how it was that God was prevailed upon by Moses to change His intention, our curiosity must be repressed, lest we should dispute more deeply than is fitting respecting the secret and incomprehensible decree of God. Sure it is that God did not act otherwise than He had determined; but Moses goes no deeper than the sentence that was revealed to him; just as we must assuredly conclude that destruction is prepared for us when we transgress; and that God’s anger is appeased when we fly to His mercy in true faith, and with sincere affections. The rest has been already expounded.
17. And I took the two tables, and cast them out Moses here accuses himself of no transgression; he does not, therefore, give us to understand that he was urged to break the tables by the impetuosity of excessive anger; but rather he again repeats what they had deserved, and consequently that he discharged the office of a herald, 391 so as to denounce, not by word of mouth only, but by a solemn rite also, that God’s Covenant was broken and made void by their perfidiousness. For which reason also he cast down and broke the tables before their eyes, in order that being alarmed by so awful a punishment, they might more earnestly betake themselves to the expiation of their sins.
18. And I fell down before the Lord The order of the narrative is confused; for this fact of which he speaks did not precede his second ascent into the mount, when he was commanded to prepare the second tables. If so, he would have fasted three times, which we gather from other passages not to have been the case; but we must not be surprised that the same thing should be often repeated, as we shall see at the beginning of chapter 10, as well as shortly afterwards. The mention of it here, however, is seasonable, because the Covenant was to be renewed, and therefore, as if nothing had been done, he again abstained from meat and drink for forty days. Yet we have elsewhere seen that there were other prayers which had intervened before He ascended the mount a second time; but He does not here distinctly record the details, nay, he mixes up the prayers, whereby he interceded with God, with the second fast, because this was the point most worthy of observation, that the first promulgation of the Law had failed of its effect, and the Covenant which they had violated was to be repeated, as it were, from its very commencement.
Although he says that “because of their sins” he had not eaten bread nor drunk water, he does not signify that this fast was a sign of grief and mourning, like as Joel invites the people to sackcloth and ashes, and urges them to weeping and fasting for the purpose of testifying their repentance. (Joe 2:12.) For abstinence, as I have already shewn, was no more difficult or grievous to Moses than to the angels. But he simply reminds them that so great a sin could not be expiated, unless he had again renounced the life of men and had been taken up to God. Meanwhile, it must be borne in mind that previously to this, he had already made entreaty for the people, and had also been accepted; inasmuch as it was a token that God was reconciled and appeased, when He called up Moses to receive the Law, and to bring it down to them a second time. To this refers what he adds in the next verse, “For I was afraid of the anger,” etc., for he was still in anxiety as to the welfare of the people, since God did not cease to menace them. We see, therefore, that this fear and anxious earnestness in prayer are separated from the fast, as different things; and assuredly he had already propitiated God, when, by His command he hewed out the new tables whereon the Covenant was to be renewed. Still, I do not deny that he labored also in the mount in the cause of obtaining pardon, just as believers, by continuing the requests which have already been granted, confirm their faith more and more. I only warn my readers to observe the distinction of time which I have noticed.
20. And the Lord was very angry with Aaron It hence appears how vain are the pretexts whereby men endeavor to conceal their faults, until they are subdued by genuine fear of God to acknowledge their guilt. Although Aaron did not boast that he was altogether innocent, still he endeavored to blot out, or at any rate to extenuate the enormity of his crime by alleging that he was under compulsion. But Moses declares that God was very angry with him. Whence it follows that he was guilty of a very gross sin, which is also more certainly declared by the greatness of its punishment; for God would never have been thus moved even to destroy him, unless because he was worthy of this condemnation.
In the next verse, the word sin is not applied to the act; itself, 392 but is transferred by metonymy to the calf, as its apposition shews. Again, by saying that he had thoroughly broken the calf to pieces by grinding it till it was reduced to powder, he signifies once more how abominable this idol was, especially when he adds, that the powder was cast into the stream, lest any memorial of it should continue in existence.
25. Thus I fell down before the Lord forty days Again the narrative is blended together; for it is certain that this prayer was offered before he remained fasting in the mount during the second forty days. But inasmuch as then also, being still in anxiety, he continued the same prayers, it is not to be wondered at that he should include in the forty days’ fast whatever had been done before. For there is no absurdity in supposing that after having obtained the safety of the people, for which he had petitioned, he should still be in trepidation. Moreover, that this fast was posterior to the prayer which he mentions at the same time, may be inferred from the beginning of the next chapter, where he records that the second tables were given to him, but says not a word of the fast. I have stated why he so often repeats his allusion to the forty days, viz., because it would not have been sufficient merely to intercede, unless this reconciliation had followed, which he obtained when he received the new covenant. The rest I have already expounded.
Lat. “Fecialis munere;” alluding doubtless to the custom of the Roman Feciales, in throwing a bloody spear into the territories of others as a declaration of war. See Liv. 1:32.
“Il appelle le veau Peche du peuple, pource qu’il avoit este la matiere et object de leur idolatrie;” he calls the calf the Sin of the people, because it had been the matter and object of their idolatry. — Fr.