Verse 55. "Shall be pricks in your eyes" - Under these metaphors, the continual mischief that should be done to them, both in soul and body, by these idolaters, is set forth in a very expressive manner. What can be more vexatious than a continual goading of each side, so that the attempt to avoid the one throws the body more forcibly on the other? And what can be more distressing than a continual pricking in the eye, harassing the mind, tormenting the body, and extinguishing the sight? 1. IT has been usual among pious men to consider these Canaanites remaining in the land, as emblems of indwelling sin; and it must be granted that what those remaining Canaanites were to the people of Israel, who were disobedient to God, such is indwelling sin to all those who will not have the blood of the covenant to cleanse them from all unrighteousness. For a time, while conscience is tender, such persons feel themselves straitened in all their goings, hindered in all their religious services, and distressed beyond measure because of the law-the authority and power of sin, which they find warring in their members: by and by the eye of their mind becomes obscured by the constant piercings of sin, till at last, fatally persuaded that sin must dwell in them as long as they live, they accommodate their minds to their situation, their consciences cease to be tender, and they content themselves with expecting redemption where and when it has never been promised, viz., beyond the grave! On the subject of the journeyings of the Israelites, the following observations from old Mr. Ainsworth cannot fail to interest the reader. 2. "The TRAVELS of Israel through that great and terrible wilderness, wherein were fiery serpents, and scorpions, and drought, where there was no water, Deut. viii. 15, which was a land of deserts, and of pits, a land of drought, and of the shadow of death, a land that no man passed through, and where no man dwelt, Jer. ii. 6, signified the many troubles and afflictions through which we must enter into the kingdom of God, Acts xiv. 22. The helps, comforts, and deliverances which God gave unto his people in their distresses, are examples of his love and mercy towards his followers; for he comforts them in all their tribulation, that as the sufferings of Christ abound in them, so their consolation also abounds in Christ, 2 Cor. i. 5. The punishments which God inflicted upon the disobedient, who perished in the wilderness for their sins, happened unto them for ensamples, and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come, 1 Cor. x. 1, 11; Heb. iii. 17, 18, 19; Heb. iv. 1, 2. By the names of their encamping places, and histories adjoined, it appears how Israel came sometimes into straits and troublesome ways, as at Pihahiroth, Exod. xiv. 2, 3, 10, &c.; and at Zalmonah, chap. ii. 1, 4, &c.; sometimes into large and ample room, as at the plains of Moab; sometimes to places of hunger and thirst, as at Rephidim and Kadesh, Exodus 16., 17.; Numbers 20.; sometimes to places of refreshing, as at Elim and Beer, Exod. xv. 27; chap. xxi. 16; sometimes where they had wars, as at Rephidim, Kadesh, Edrei, Exod. xvii. 8; chap. xxi. 1, 33; sometimes where they had rest, as at Mount Sinai: sometimes they went right forward, as from Sinai to Kadesh-barnea; sometimes they turned backward, as from Kadesh-barnea to the Red Sea: sometimes they came to mountains, as Sinai, Shapher, Hor-Gidgad; sometimes to valleys, as Tahath, &c.; sometimes to places of bitterness, as Marah; sometimes, of sweetness, as Mithcah. 3. "The SINS which they committed in the wilderness were many and great; as open IDOLATRY by the calf, at Horeb, Exodus 32., and with Baal-peor, Numbers 25. UNBELIEF, at Kadesh, Numbers 14.; and afterwards PRESUMPTUOUS BOLDNESS in the same place; MURMURING against God sundry times, with tempting of Christ, (as the apostle speaks, 1 Corinthians 15.) CONTENTION and REBELLION against their governors often; lusting for flesh to fill their appetites, and loathing manna, the heavenly food; WHOREDOM with the daughters of Moab, and many other provocations; so that this complaint is after made of them, How oft did they provoke him in the wilderness, and grieve him in the desert! Psa. lxxviii. 40. All sorts of persons sinned against God; the multitude of people very often; the mixed multitude of strangers among them, chap. xi. The princes, as the ten spies, Dathan, Abiram, &c. The Levites, as Korah and his company; Miriam the prophetess, Numbers 12.; Aaron the priest with her, besides his sin at Horeb, Exodus 32.; and at the water of Meribah, Numbers 20. Moses also himself at the same place, for which he was excluded from the land of Canaan. 4. "The PUNISHMENTS laid on them by the Lord for their disobedience were many. They died by the sword of the enemy, as of the Amalekites, Exodus 17., and of the Canaanites, chap. xiv. 45; and some by the sword of their brethren, Exodus 32. Some were burned with fire, Numbers 11., 16.; some died with surfeit, Numbers 11.; some were swallowed up alive in the earth, Numbers 16.; some were killed with serpents, Numbers 21.; many died of the pestilence, Numbers xvi. 46, and chap. v. 25; and generally all that generation which were first mustered, after their coming out of Egypt, perished, chap. xxvi. 64, 65. God consumed their days in vanity, and their years in terror, Psa. lxxviii. 33.
5. "Nevertheless, for his name's sake, he magnified his MERCIES unto them and their posterity. He had divided the sea, and led them through on dry land, drowning their enemies, Exodus 14. He led them with a cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night, continually. He gave them manna from heaven daily. He clave the rock, and gave them water for their thirst. He fed them with quails, when they longed for flesh. He sweetened the bitter waters.
He saved them from the sword of their enemies. He delivered them from the fiery serpents and scorpions. Their raiment waxed not old upon them, neither did their foot swell for forty years, Deut. viii. 4. He delivered them from the intended curse of Balaam, and turned it into a blessing, because he loved them, Numbers 22.; Deut. xxiii. 5. He came down from Mount Sinai, and spake with them from heaven, and gave them right judgments and true laws, good statutes and commandments, and gave also his good Spirit to instruct them, Neh. ix. 13, 20. In the times of his wrath he remembered mercy; his eye spared them from destroying them, neither did he make an end of them in the wilderness, Ezek. xx. 17, 22. He gave them kingdoms and nations, and they possessed the lands of their enemies; and he multiplied their children as the stars of heaven, and brought them into the land promised unto their forefathers. Neh. ix. 22, 23. Now whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, might have hope, Rom. xv. 4." Let him that readeth understand."