Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 6: Harmony of the Law, Part IV, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
41. Then ye answered and said unto me, We have sinned against the Lord, we will go up and fight, according to all that the Lord our God commanded us. And when ye had girded on every man his weapons of war, ye were ready to go up into the hill.
41. Et respondistis et dixistis ad me, Peccavimus Jehovae: nos ascendemus et pugnabimus omnino sicut prancepit nobis Jehova Deus noster. Et accinxistis vos singuli armis suis bellicis, et parastis ascendere in montem.
42. And the Lord said unto me, Say unto them, Go not up, neither right; for I am not among you; lest ye be smitten before your enemies.
42. Dixit autem mihi Jehova, Dic eis, Ne ascendatis, neque pugnetis: quia non sum in medio vestri, et ne percutiamini coram inimicis vestris.
43. So I spoke unto you; and ye would not hear, but rebelled against the commandment of the Lord, and went presumptuously up into the hill.
43. Loquutus sum haec apud vos sed non audistis, ac rebelles fuistis ori Jehovae, et temere egistis ut ascenderetis in montem.
44. And the Amorites, which dwelt in that mountain, came out against you, and chased you, as bees do, and destroyed you in Seir, even unto Hormah.
44. Itaque egressus est Amorrhaeus qui habitabat in monte in occursum vestri, et vos persequuti sunt, quemadmodum facere solent apes, et contriverunt vos in Seir usque Horma.
45. And ye returned, and wept before the Lord; but the Lord would not hearken to your voice, nor give ear unto you.
45. Et reversi flevistis coram Jehova: sed non exaudivit Jehova vocem vestram, nec auscultavit vobis.
46. So ye abode in Kadesh many days, according unto the days that ye abode there,
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,” 80 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.
“Quibus antea manseratis.” — Pagninus in Poole. The V. has only “Sedistis ergo in Cades-barne multo tempore.” On this Corn. a Lapide has the following note: “In Hebrew it is added, according to the days that ye abode, which Vatablus thus explains, Ye remained in Kadesh-barnea as many days after the return of the spies, as ye had remained there before their return. Again, the Hebrews themselves, in Sealer Olam, thus explain it, Ye remained in Kadesh-barnea as many days as ye afterwards remained in all your other stations together, viz., 19 years: for twice 19 make 38, to which if you add the two years that had elapsed before they came to Kadesh-barnea, you will have the forty years of their journeyings in the desert. Nothing like this, however, can be gathered from our version, nor from the Hebrew either; for the expression, ‘according to the days that ye abode,’ is merely a Hebrew form of repetition, explanatory of what had preceded, and meaning ‘for a long time.’ — Hence our interpreter has omitted this Hebrew repetition as redundant, and strange to Latin ears.”