Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 6: Harmony of the Law, Part IV, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
Deuteronomy 1:34-36, 39, 40
34. And the Lord heard the voice of your words, and was wroth, and aware, saying,
34. Audivit autem Jehova vocem verborum vestrorum, iratusque est, ac juravit, dicendo:
35. Surely there shall not one of these men of this evil generation see that good land, which I aware to give unto your fathers,
35. Non videbit quisquam ex hominibus illis de generatione mala hac terram bonam quam juravi me daturum patribus vestris;
36. Save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, he shall see it; and to him will I give the land that he hath trodden upon, and to his children, because he hath wholly followed the Lord.
36. Praeter Caleb filium Jephuneh: ipse enim videbit eam, eique dabo terram quam calcavit, et filiis ejus, eo quod adimplevit ire post Jehovam.
39. Moreover, your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, and your children, which in that day had no knowledge between good and evil, they shall go in thither, and unto them will I give it, and they shall possess it.
39. Etiam parvuli vestri, de quibus dixistis, In praedam erunt, ac filii vestri, qui non norunt hodie bonum nec malum, ipsi intrabunt illuc, illisque dabo eam, et ipsi possidebunt eam.
40. But as for you, turn you, and take your journey into the wilderness, by the way of the Red sea.
40. Vos autem conversi proficiscimini in desertum per viam maris Suph.
34. And the Lord heard the voice of your words. I have shown elsewhere what is meant by God’s hearing, i.e., that nothing can be concealed from Him, but that tie will take account of and judge all our words and deeds And this is worthy of our observation; for men would never dare to murmur against Him, unless they promised themselves impunity 75 from His not being present. Secondly, we learn from hence, that God, who is a just Judge, does not proceed hastily and without cause to inflict punishment on men, and that He does not manifest severity without a full examination of the case. He, therefore, means that they deprived themselves of their assured inheritance, when they were close upon receiving it, through their own rebellion and depravity.
39. Moreover, your little ones. I have already shown that God so tempered His judgment that, whilst none of the guilty should escape with impunity, still His faithfulness should remain sure and inviolable, and that the wickedness of men should not make void the covenant which He had made with Abraham. He, therefore, pronounces sentence upon them, that they should never enjoy the inheritance which they had despised: yet declares that He will nevertheless be true in the fulfillment of what He had promised, and will display His mercy towards their children, whom in their despair they had condemned to be a prey to their enemies.
When He limits this grace to their little ones, whose age did not yet allow them to discern between good and evil, He signifies that all who had already arrived at the years of reason, were, from the least to the greatest, accomplices in the crime, since the contagion had spread through the whole body. Surely it was an incredible prodigy, that so great a multitude should be so carried away by diabolical fury, as that nothing should remain unaffected by it, unless perhaps a timely death removed some of the old men rather on account of the vice of others than their own. But, if even a hundredth part of them had been guiltless of the crime, God would have left some survivors.
“To have no knowledge of good and evil,” is equivalent to being unable “to discern between their right hand and their left hand;” by which expression in Jonah, (Jon 4:11,) God exempts from condemnation those little ones, who have as yet no power of forming a judgment. From hence, however, some have foolishly attempted to prove that infant-children are not defiled by original sin; and that men are involved in no guilt, except such as they have severally contracted by their own voluntary act (arbitrio.) For the question here is not as to the nature of the human race; a distinction is simply made between children and those who have consciously and willfully provoked God’s wrath; whereas the corruption, which is the root (of all evils, 76 ) although it may not immediately produce its fruit in actual sins, is not 77 therefore non-existent.
Sous ombre qu’il ne prend point garde a ce qui ce fait ici bas;” under the pretext that He pays no attention to what is done here below. — Fr.
Added from Fr.
“Ne laisse pas d’estre cachee en nous;” Does not cease to lie hid within us. — Fr.