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4

Restore our fortunes, O Lord,

like the watercourses in the Negeb.


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4. O Jehovah! bring back our captivity. The second part of the Psalm, as I have said, contains a prayer that God would gather together the residue of the captives. The Holy Spirit endited this form of prayer for the Jews who were already come home to their own country, that they might not forget their poor brethren who were still in exile. All the Jews, no doubt, had a door opened to them, and perfect liberty granted them, to come out of the land of their captivity, but the number of those who partook of this benefit was small when compared with the vast multitude of the people. Some were kept from returning by fear, and others by sloth and want of courage, on seeing such perils at hand as they apprehended they had not power to overcome, choosing rather to lie torpid in their own filthiness, than to undertake the hardship of the journey. It is probable also that many of them preferred their present ease and comfort to eternal salvation. What the Prophet Isaiah had foretold was no doubt fulfilled, (Isaiah 10:22,). That although the people were in number as the sand of the sea, yet only a remnant of them should be saved. Since, then, many openly refused the benefit when it was offered them, and as there were not; wanting many difficulties and impediments to be encountered by those who availed themselves of this liberty granted them by the good pleasure of the king, 9292     “Precaria libertas.” — Lat. Ceste liberte obtenue d’eux par le bon plaisir du Roy.” — Fr. so that it was only a few of sounder judgment and of a more intrepid heart, who dared to move a foot — and even they with reluctance, — it is no wonder that the Prophet requires the Church still to make supplication to God for the bringing back of the captivity. Along with this, the state of those who had already returned is also to be noted; for their land being in the possession of strangers, who were all their inveterate and sworn enemies, they were no less captives in their own country than among the Babylonians. It was therefore necessary, on a twofold account, that the Church should earnestly beseech God to gather together such as were dispersed; first, that he would give courage to the timid, awaken the torpid, cause the besotted to forget their pleasures, and stretch forth his hand to be a guide to all; and, secondly, that he would settle the body of the people who had returned in liberty and ease.

As to the similitude which follows, many think the sense to be, that the bringing back of their captivity prayed for would be as grateful to them as if water should flow through a desert. 9393     Walford reads, “like the streams of the south.” — “In the southern districts of Palestine and Arabia,” says he, “the heat is so vehement during some seasons as to dry up the rivers completely, and parch the soil. When rains come, the torrents again flow, and the soil is refreshed and verdant; — a delightful image of the joy experienced by captives on returning to their native land.” We know how grievous and painful a thing it is to travel in a hot country through and sands. The south, is taken for the wilderness, because the region on the south of Judea was waste and almost uninhabitable. Yet it seems to me more just to say, that the grace of God is here magnified, and still more enlarged by the Prophet’s comparing it to a miracle. “Although it is a difficult matter,” he substantially says, “for the dispersed remnant to be again united into one body, yet God, if he please, can do this, just as he can cause rivers of water to flow through a parched desert.” He, at the same time, alludes to the road intervening between Judea and Babylon, as appears from the situation of the two countries. Thus the words will not require any supplement, the meaning being simply this, that the bringing back of their captivity would be as if a river should run through a barren and and country. And, certainly, to open up a way for the people who, so to speak, were swallowed up in a deep gulf, was as if a course had been opened up for irrigating waters to flow through a desert.




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