8.Thus did your fathers. He amplifies their crime by reference to their continued perverseness: for so far is the imitation of ungodly parents from being an excuse for their children, that it rather doubles their guilt. Thus also does Stephen allege against the Jews of his days, their persevering in the sins of their fathers; as if he had cried out against them, that they were “the bad eggs of bad birds.”
“Ye stiff-necked (he says) and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.” (Acts 7:51.)
So also the Prophet, when he is exhorting their posterity to obedience, recalls these same circumstances to their memory:
“Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness, when your fathers tempted me. Forty years long was I grieved with this generation,” etc.
It is not without cause that Moses now complains that there was no end or limit to their impiety, whilst the sons inherited their fathers’ iniquity, and ceased not to resist God: and, in order that the similarity and affinity of their crime may be more apparent, he reviews their history at some length. He does not, however compare the Reubenites and Gadites to the whole people, but to the ten spies, from whom the sedition arose, because, as far as in them lay, they turned aside the people from the right way. Secondly, he connects with this the punishment which ensued, that, at least, he might inspire them with terror, since it was hardly to be expected that they would amend of their own accord. He reminds them, therefore, that, when God so severely dealt with their fathers, He had given them a signal proof that their descendants would not be unpunished, unless they were teachable and submissive. The expression is remarkable, “Because they fulfilled not after me;” (215) whereby he signifies that there is nothing praiseworthy in the most vigorous course, unless men persevere even to the goal. And, although this had happened forty years ago, still, inasmuch as the vengeance which God had threatened had been before their eyes even to that day, it behoved them to be just as much affected by it, as if they saw the hand of God still stretched forth. For, whenever any died in the desert, so often did God set His seal to His vengeance,lest it should be at any time buried in oblivion. (216) If, then, God had been so wroth with the multitude in general, how much less should the instigators themselves escape?