Therefore the LORD heard this, and was angry: so a fire was kindled against Jacob, and anger also came up against Israel;
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Augustine of Hippo
14. "Wherefore the Lord heard, and He delayed, and fire was lighted in Jacob, and wrath went up into Israel" (ver. 21). He hath explained what he hath called fire. He hath called anger fire: although in strict propriety fire did also burn up many men. What is therefore this that he saith, "The Lord heard, and He delayed"? Did He delay to conduct them into the land of promise, whither they were being led: which might have been done in the space of a few days, but on account of sins they must needs be wasted in the desert, where also they were wasted during forty years? Anti if this be so, He did then delay the people, not those very persons who tempted and slandered God: for they all perished in the desert, and their children journeyed into the land of promise. Or did He delay punishment, in order that He might first satisfy unbelieving concupiscence, lest He might be supposed to be angry, because they were asking of Him what He was not able to do? "He heard," then, "and He delayed to a...
Angry. This is the sense of the Hebrew. Distulit means, "he deferred "(Haydock) to put his threats, (Berthier) or promises, in execution. (Menochius)
The destroyer punished those who gave way to murmuring, 1 Corinthians x., and Numbers xi. 1. (Calmet)
Their incredulity was punished (Worthington) for nearly forty years, and all the guilty who were twenty years old at the first numbering, were cut off in the desert. (Haydock)