on Exodus 32 :32
Forgive their sin - ; and if not, blot me - out of thy book - It is probable that one part of Moses' work during the forty days of his residence on the mount with God, was his regulating the muster-roll of all the tribes and families of Israel, in reference to the parts they were respectively to act in the different transactions in the wilderness, promised land, etc.; and this, being done under the immediate direction of God, is termed God's book which he had written, (such muster-rolls, or registers, called also genealogies, the Jews have had from the remotest period of their history); and it is probable that God had told him, that those who should break the covenant which he had then made with them should be blotted out of that list, and never enter into the promised land. All this Moses appears to have particularly in view, and, without entering into any detail, immediately comes to the point which he knew was fixed when this list or muster-roll was made, namely, that those who should break the covenant should be blotted out, and never have any inheritance in the promised land: therefore he says, This people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold; thus they had broken the covenant, (see the first and second commandments), and by this had forfeited their right to Canaan. Yet now, he adds, if thou wilt forgive their sin, that they may yet attain the promised inheritance - ; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written - if thou wilt blot out their names from this register, and never suffer them to enter Canaan, blot me out also; for I cannot bear the thought of enjoying that blessedness, while my people and their posterity shall be for ever excluded. And God, in kindness to Moses, spared him the mortification of going into Canaan without taking the people with him. They had forfeited their lives, and were sentenced to die in the wilderness; and Moses' prayer was answered in mercy to him, while the people suffered under the hand of justice. But the promise of God did not fail; for, although those who sinned were blotted out of the book, yet their posterity enjoyed the inheritance.
This seems to be the simple and pure light in which this place should be viewed; and in this sense St. Paul is to be understood, Romans 9:3, where he says: For I could wish that myself were Accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh; who are Israelites, to whom pertaineth the Adoption, and the Glory, and the Covenants. Moses could not survive the destruction of his people by the neighboring nations, nor their exclusion from the promised land; and St. Paul, seeing the Jews about to be cut off by the Roman sword for their rejection of the Gospel, was willing to be deprived of every earthly blessing, and even to become a sacrifice for them, if this might contribute to the preservation and salvation of the Jewish state. Both those eminent men, engaged in the same work, influenced by a spirit of unparalleled patriotism, were willing to forfeit every blessing of a secular kind, even die for the welfare of the people. But certainly, neither of them could wish to go to eternal perdition, to save their countrymen from being cut off, the one by the sword of the Philistines, the other by that of the Romans. Even the supposition is monstrous.
On this mode of interpretation we may at once see what is implied in the book of life, and being written in or blotted out of such a book. In the public registers, all that were born of a particular tribe were entered in the list of their respective families under that tribe. This was the book of life; but when any of those died, his name might be considered as blotted out from this list. Our baptismal registers, which record the births of all the inhabitants of a particular parish or district, and which are properly our books of life; and our bills of mortality, which are properly our books of death, or the lists of those who are thus blotted out from our baptismal registers or books of life; are very significant and illustrative remains of the ancient registers, or books of life and death among the Jews, the Greeks, the Romans, and most ancient nations. It is worthy of remark, that in China the names of the persons who have been tried on criminal processes are written in two distinct books, which are called the book of life and the book of death: those who have been acquitted, or who have not been capitally convicted, are written in the former; those who have been found guilty, in the latter. These two books are presented to the emperor by his ministers, who, as sovereign, has a right to erase any name from either: to place the living among the dead, that he may die; or the dead, that is, the person condemned to death, among the living, that he may be preserved. Thus he blots out of the book of life or the book of death according to his sovereign pleasure, on the representation of his ministers, or the intercession of friends, etc. An ancient and extremely rich picture, in my own possession, representing this circumstance, painted in China, was thus interpreted to me by a native Chinese.
on Exodus 32 :32
For a similar form of expression, in which the conclusion is left to be supplied by the mind of the reader, see Daniel 3:15; Luke 13:9; Luke 19:42; John 6:62; Romans 9:22. For the same thought, see Romans 9:3. It is for such as Moses and Paul to realize, and to dare to utter, their readiness to be wholly sacrificed for the sake of those whom God has entrusted to their love. This expresses the perfected idea of the whole burnt-offering.
Thy book - The figure is taken from the enrolment of the names of citizens. This is its first occurrence in the Scriptures. See the marginal references. and Isaiah 4:3; Daniel 12:1; Luke 10:20; Philippians 4:3; Revelation 3:5, etc.
on Exodus 32 :32