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2. The Great Day of the Lord
Gather yourselves together, yea, gather together, O nation not desired; 2Before the decree bring forth, before the day pass as the chaff, before the fierce anger of the Lord come upon you, before the day of the Lord’S anger come upon you. 3Seek ye the Lord, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the Lord’S anger.
4For Gaza shall be forsaken, and Ashkelon a desolation: they shall drive out Ashdod at the noonday, and Ekron shall be rooted up. 5Woe unto the inhabitants of the sea coast, the nation of the Cherethites! the word of the Lord is against you; O Canaan, the land of the Philistines, I will even destroy thee, that there shall be no inhabitant. 6And the sea coast shall be dwellings and cottages for shepherds, and folds for flocks. 7And the coast shall be for the remnant of the house of Judah; they shall feed thereupon: in the houses of Ashkelon shall they lie down in the evening: for the Lord their God shall visit them, and turn away their captivity.
8I have heard the reproach of Moab, and the revilings of the children of Ammon, whereby they have reproached my people, and magnified themselves against their border. 9Therefore as I live, saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, Surely Moab shall be as Sodom, and the children of Ammon as Gomorrah, even the breeding of nettles, and saltpits, and a perpetual desolation: the residue of my people shall spoil them, and the remnant of my people shall possess them. 10This shall they have for their pride, because they have reproached and magnified themselves against the people of the Lord of hosts. 11The Lord will be terrible unto them: for he will famish all the gods of the earth; and men shall worship him, every one from his place, even all the isles of the heathen.
12Ye Ethiopians also, ye shall be slain by my sword. 13And he will stretch out his hand against the north, and destroy Assyria; and will make Nineveh a desolation, and dry like a wilderness. 14And flocks shall lie down in the midst of her, all the beasts of the nations: both the cormorant and the bittern shall lodge in the upper lintels of it; their voice shall sing in the windows; desolation shall be in the thresholds: for he shall uncover the cedar work. 15This is the rejoicing city that dwelt carelessly, that said in her heart, I am, and there is none beside me: how is she become a desolation, a place for beasts to lie down in! every one that passeth by her shall hiss, and wag his hand.
The Prophet, after having spoken of God’s wrath, and shown how terrible it would be, and also how near, now exhorts the Jews to repentance, and thus mitigates the severity of his former doctrine, provided their minds were teachable. We hence learn that God fulminates in his word against men, that he may withhold his hand from them. The more severe, then, God is, when he chastises us and makes known our sins, and sets before us his wrath, the more clearly he testifies how precious and dear to him is our salvation; for when he sees us rushing headlong, as it were, into ruin, he calls us back by threatening and chastisements. Whenever, then, God condemns us by his word, let us know that he will be propitious to us, if, touched with true repentance, we flee to his mercy; for to effect this is the design of all his reproofs and threatening.
There follows then a seasonable exhortation, after the Prophet had spoken of the dreadfulness of God’s vengeance. Gather yourselves, he says, gather, ye nation not worthy of being loved. Others read—Search among yourselves, search; and interpreters differ as to the root of the verb; some derive it from קשש, koshesh, and others from קוש, kush; while some deduce the verb from the noun קש kosh, which signifies chaff or stubble. But however this may be, I consider the real meaning of the Prophet to be—Gather yourselves, gather; for this is what grammatical construction requires. I do not see why they who read search yourselves, depart from the commonly received meaning, except they think that the verb gather does not suit the context; but it suits it exceedingly well. Others with more refinement read thus—Gather the chaff, gather the chaff, as though the Prophet ridiculed the empty confidence of the people. But as I have already said, he no doubt shows here the remedy, by which they might have anticipated God’s judgment, with which he had threatened them. He indeed compares them to stubble, as we find in the next verse, but he shows that still time is given them to repent, so that they might gather themselves, and not be dissipated; as though he said—The day of your scattering is at hand; ye shall then vanish away like chaff, for ye shall not be able to stand at the breath of the Lord’s wrath. But now while God withholds himself, and does not put forth his hand to destroy you, gather yourselves, that ye may not be like the chaff. There are then two parts in this passage; the first is, that if the Jews abused, as usual, the forbearance of God, they would become like the chaff, for God’s wrath would in a moment scatter them; but the Prophet in the meantime reminds them that a seasonable time for repentance was still given them; for if they willingly gathered themselves, God would spare them. Before then the day of Jehovah’s wrath shall come; gather, he says, yourselves 9090 The verb, found only in five other places—Exodus 5:7,12; Numbers 15:32,33; and 1 Kings 17:10,12, means to collect, to gather, and not “to search,” as said by Kimchi, and adopted by Marckius; nor “to bind,” as rendered by Henderson. The import of the passage is considered by all to be an invitation to repentance, though the words are differently rendered. It is difficult to see the meaning when it is said—“Gather yourselves, yea, gather,” etc, except such an assembly is meant as is recommended by Joel 1:14; the kind of gathering being well understood, it is not mentioned. “Gather yourselves,” that is, to offer prayers, says Grotius. “Be ye assembled— συνάχθητε,” is the rendering of the Septuagint.—Ed.
But the way of gathering is, when men do not vanish away in their foolish confidences, or when they do not indulge their own lusts; for whenever men give loose reins to wicked licentiousness, and thus go astray in gratifying their corrupt lusts, or when they seek here and there vain confidences, they expose themselves to a scattering. Hence the Prophet exhorts them to examine themselves, to gather themselves, and as it were to draw themselves together, that they might not be like the chaff. Hence he says,—gather yourselves, yea, gather, ye nation not loved
Some take the participle נכסף, necasaph, in an active sense, as though the Prophet had said that the Jews were void of every feeling, and had become wholly hardened in their stupidity. But I know not whether this can be grammatically allowed. I therefore follow
what has been more approved. The nation is called not worthy of love, because it did not deserve mercy; and God thus amplifies and renders illustrious his own grace, because he was still solicitous about the salvation of those who had willfully destroyed themselves, and rejected his favor. Though then the Jews had by their depravity so alienated themselves from God, that there was no reason why he should save them, he yet still continued to call them back to himself. It is therefore a
remarkable proof of the unfailing grace of God, when he shows love to a nation wholly worthy of being hated, and is concerned for its safety.
[כסף] is found as a verb in four other places, Genesis 31:30; Job 14:15; Psalm 17:12; and Psalm 84:3. It means to be or to grow pale, either through love, as in Genesis and Job, or through hunger, as in the first Psalm referred to, or through longing for God’s house, as in the last, or through shame, as some—such as Grotius, Dathius, and Gesenius, suppose to be the case here; and they therefore give this rendering—“O nation without shame;” or, “not ashamed.” This idea is favored by the Septuagint—“unteachable—ἀπαίδευτον.” In no instance is it found in a passive sense as to the feeling through which the paleness is occasioned, and therefore “worthy
of love,” or “desired,” cannot be its proper rendering. Buxtorf give its meaning in Niphal—“desiderio affici—to be touched with or to feel a desire.” Hence the person spoken of is the subject, not the object, of the desire. According, then, to the use of the verb, the rendering here is to be—“Ye nation that feels no desire,” that
is, for God and his law, or, “that feels no shame,” that is, for its sins. The paraphrase of the Targum is—“not willing to be converted to the law,” which corresponds with the idea which has been stated.
Marckius considers that the nation is here described as having “no desire,” that is for that which was good, and that its torpidity and indifference as to religion is what is set forth. And such is the view of Cocceius; it had no thirst for righteousness, no desire for the kingdom of God—the mark of an unregenerated mind.—Ed.
He then adds, Before the decree brings forth. Here the Prophet asserts his own authority, and that of God’s other servants: for the Jews thought that all threatening would come to nothing, as it is the case with most men at this day who deride every true doctrine, as though it were nothing but an empty sound. Hence the Prophet ascribes birth to his doctrine. It is indeed true, that the word decree has a wider meaning; but the Prophet does not speak here of the hidden counsel of God. He therefore calls that a decree, which God had already declared by his servants: and the meaning is, that it is not beating the air when God denounces his vengeance on sinners by his Prophets, but that it is a fixed and unchangeable decree, which shall at length be effected. But the similitude of birth is most apposite; for as the embryo lies hid in the womb, and then emerges in due time into light; so God’s vengeance, though hid for a time, will yet in due season be accomplished, when God sees that men’s wickedness is past a remedy. We now understand why the Prophet says, that the time was near when the decree should bring forth.
Then he says, Pass away shall the chaff in a day. Some read, Before the day comes, when the stubble (or chaff) shall pass away. But I take יום, ium, in another sense, as meaning that the Jews shall quickly pass away
as the chaff; the like expression we have also met in Hosea. He says then that the Jews would perish in a day, in a short time, and as it were in a moment; though they thought that they would not be for a long time conquered. Pass away, he says, shall they like chaff
It is difficult to make the words bear this sense. Hardly a sentence has been more variously rendered. The most satisfactory solution perhaps is to regard it parenthetic, and to consider “the day” as that allowed for repentance: it was to pass away quickly, like the chaff carried away by the wind—
As the chaff passing away will be the day:
Both Marckius and Henderson regard this as the meaning. Then the whole verse might be thus translated—
2. Before the bringing forth of the decree,
(As the chaff passing away will be the day,)
Before it shall come upon you,
The burning of Jehovah’s anger;
Before it shall come upon you,
The day of the anger of Jehovah.
Literally it is, “Before it shall not come,” etc., or, “During the time when it shall not come,” etc. [בטרם] may be rendered “while;” then the version would be—
While it shall not come upon you,
The burning of Jehovah’s anger;
While it shall not come upon you,
The day of the anger of Jehovah.
There are several MSS. which omit the two first lines; but evidently without reason. They are retained in the Septuagint.
Possibly the second line may refer to the speedy execution of “the decree,” that its day would pass quickly. Its birth, or its bringing forth was its commencement; and the second line may express its speedy execution: it would be carried into effect with the quickness by which the chaff is carried away by the wind—
As the chaff passing away will be its day.
The word [עבר] is, in either case, a participle, and the auxiliary verb is understood, as often is the case in Hebrew, and must partake of the tense of the context.—Ed.
Then he adds, Before it comes, the fury of Jehovah’s wrath; the day of Jehovah’s wrath, gather ye yourselves. He says first, before it comes upon you, the fury of wrath, and then, the day of wrath. He repeats the same thing; but some of the words are changed, for instead of the fury of wrath, he puts in the second clause, the day of wrath; as though he had said, that they were greatly deceived if they thought that they could escape, because the Lord deferred his vengeance. How so? For the day, which was nigh, though not yet arrived, would at length come. As when one trusting in the darkness of the night, and thinking himself safe from the danger of being taken, is mistaken, for suddenly the sun rises and discovers his hiding-place; so the Prophet intimates, that though God was now still, it would yet be no advantage to the Jews: for he knew the suitable time. Though then he restrained for a time his wrath, he yet poured it forth suddenly, when the day came and the iniquity of men had become ripe.
Here the Prophet turns his discourse to a small number, for he saw that he could produce no effect on the promiscuous multitude. For had his doctrine been addressed in common to the whole people, there were very few who would have attended. We would therefore have been discouraged had he not believed that some seed remained among the people, and that the office of teaching and exhorting had not been in vain committed to him by God. But he shows at the same time that the greater part were wholly given up to destruction. We now see why the Prophet especially addresses the meek of the land; for few undertook the yoke, though they had been already broken down by many calamities. And it hence appears that the fruit of correction was not found equal in all, for God had chastised the good and the bad, the whole people, from the least to the greatest; they had all been laid prostrate by many evils, yet the same ferocity remained, as God complains in Isaiah, that he labored in vain in punishing that refractory nation. Isaiah 1:5
But we are here taught that though ministers of the word may think that they spend their labor to no purpose, while they sing to the deaf, as the proverb is, they ought not yet to depart from the course of their vocation; for there will ever be some who will really show, after a long time, that they had been divinely and wonderfully saved, so as not to perish with others. But what the Prophet had especially in view was to show, that the faithful ought not to regard what the multitude may do, or how they live; but that when God invites them to repentance, and gives them a hope of pardon, they ought without delay to come to him, that they might not perish with the rest. And it deserves to be noticed, that when God raises his voice, some harden others, and thus men lead one another into ruin. Thus it happens that all teaching becomes unsuccessful. Hence the Prophet applies a remedy, by showing how preposterous it is when some follow others; for in this way they increase the ranks of the rebellious; but that if there be any who are meek, they ought to be teachable, when God stretches forth his hand and shows that he will be propitious, provided they return to the right way.
He calls them meek who had profited under the scourges of God; for the Hebrews consider ענוים, onuim, to be the afflicted, deriving the word from ענה, one, to afflict, or to be humble. But as men for the most part are not subdued except by scourges, they call, by a metaphor, ענוים, onuim, the meek, such as have been subdued: for men grow wanton in their pleasures, and abundance commonly produces insolence; but by adversity they learn to become meek. Hence our Prophet calls those the meek of the land who were submissive to God, after having been chastised by him. For we know, that though God may smite the wicked, they yet continue to have a stiff and iron neck and a brazen front: but the faithful are tamed, as Jeremiah confesses as to himself; for he says that he was like an untamed heifer before he was chastised by God’s scourges. So the Prophet directs his discourse to the few who had felt the afflicting hand of God, and had been thus humbled. 9393 Newcome renders the adjective "lowly,” and the noun “lowliness;” but Marckius and Henderson render the first “humble,” as the Septuagint do—ταπεινοι, and the second “humility.” They were those who had been made humble by affliction. The design of affliction is to make us humble, submissive to God’s will; and this is the effect of sanctified affliction. It is somewhat singular that the verb means to afflict and to be humble, as though affliction were needful to render us humble. The word [ענות], occurs in 2 Samuel 22:36, and Psalm 18:35, and is rendered “gentleness” in our common version, but more correctly in our Prayer-book version “loving correction.” Perhaps the best rendering would be “humbling affliction;” and the idea of humbling affliction making great is very striking. The word used by the Septuagint is παιδεια—discipline; and the Vulgate is the same.—Ed.
He bids them to seek Jehovah, and yet he says that they had wrought his judgment. These two clauses seem inconsistent with each other; for if they had been previously alienated from God, justly might the Prophet bid them to return to the right way; but as they had devoted themselves to religion, and formed their life according to the rule of uprightness, the Prophet seems to have exhorted them without reason to seek God. But the passage is worthy of special notice; for we hence learn that even the best are roused by God’s scourges to seek true religion with greater ardor than they had before done. Though then it be our object to serve God and to follow his word, yet when calamities arise and God appears as a judge, we ought to be stimulated to greater care and diligence; for it never is the case that any one of us fully performs his duty. Let us then remember, that we are roused by God whenever adversity impends over us, and when God himself shows by manifest signs that he is displeased. This is the reason why the Prophet bids the pious doers of righteousness to seek God, however much they were before devoted to what was just and upright.
There was also another reason: we know how grievously faith is tried, when the good and wicked are indiscriminately and without any difference chastised by God’s hand; for the godly are then tempted to think that it avails them nothing that they have labored sincerely to serve God; they think that this has all been in vain and to no purpose, for they are brought into the same miseries with others. As then this temptation is enough to shake even the strongest, the Prophet here exhorts the faithful to persevere, as though he had said, that in the first confusion no difference would be found between the good and the wicked as to their circumstances, for God would afflict both alike, but that the end would be different; and that there was therefore no reason for them to despond or to think it of no advantage to seek God: for he would at length really show that he approved of their integrity; as though he had said, God will not remunerate you at the first moment; but your patience will at length find that he is a just judge, who has regard for his people, and delivers them in their extremity.
To do the judgment of God in this place is to form the life according to the righteousness of the law. The word משפט, meshepheth, has various meanings in Scripture. Sometimes, and indeed often, it designates the punishment which God allots to the wicked: but it frequently means equity or the rule of right living. Hence to do judgment is to observe what is righteous and just, to abstain from what is wrong and injurious. But the Prophet calls it the judgment of God, because it is what he prescribes in his word and what he approves. For we know that men blend various things, by which they would prove themselves to be just and righteous: but they deceive themselves, except they form their life especially according to what God requires. We now perceive what the Prophet means; and he afterwards defines what it is to seek God; for the latter part of the verse is added as an explanation, that the faithful might understand how God is to be sought.
For hypocrites, as soon as God invites them, accumulate many rites, and weary themselves much in things of no value. In short, they think that they have sufficiently sought God when they have performed a number of ceremonies. But by over-acting they trifle as it were with God, and thus deceive themselves. Thus we see repentance profaned. They under the Papacy prattle enough about repentance, but when they are asked to define it, they begin with contrition; and yet no displeasure at sin is mentioned by them, nor any real love of righteousness, but they talk about attrition and contrition, and then immediately they leap to confession; and this is the principal part of repentance: they afterwards come to satisfactions. Thus repentance among the Papists is nothing else but a some kind of mistaken solicitude, by which they labor to pacify God, as though they came nigh him: nay, the satisfactions of the Papacy are nothing else but obstructions between God and men.
This evil has been common in all ages. The Prophet, therefore, does not without reason define what the true and rightful way of seeking God is, and that is, when righteousness is sought, when humility is sought. By righteousness he understands the same thing as by judgment; as though he had said, Advance in a righteous and holy course of life, for God will not forget your obedience, provided your hearts grow not faint, and ye persevere to the end. We hence see that God complains, not only when we obtrude external pomps and devices I know not what, as though he might like a child be amused by us; but also when we do not sincerely devote our life to his service. And he adds humility to righteousness; for it is difficult even for the very best of men not to murmur against God when he severely chastises them. We indeed find how much their own delicacy embitters the minds of men when God appears somewhat severe with them. Hence the Prophet, in order to check all clamors, exhorts the faithful here to cultivate humility, so that they might patiently bear the rigor by which God would try them, and might suffer themselves to be ruled by his hand. Peter had the same thing in view when he said, Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God. (1 Peter 5:6.) We now then see why the Prophet requires from the faithful not only righteousness but also humility; it was, that they might with composed minds wait for the deliverance which God had promised. They were not in the interval to murmur, nor to give vent to their own perverse feelings, however severely God might treat them.
We may hence gather a profitable instruction: The Prophet does not address here men who were depraved and had wholly neglected what was just and right, but he directs his discourse to the best, the most upright, the most holy: and yet he shows that they had no other remedy, but humbly and patiently to bear the chastisement of God. It then follows that no perfection can be found among men, such as can meet the judgment of God. For were any to object and say, that they devoted themselves to righteousness, there is yet a just reason why they should humble themselves; for we are all guilty before God, and no one can clear himself, inasmuch as when any one examines his own conscience, he finds that he is not free from sin. However conscious then we may be of acting uprightly, and God himself may be a judge to us, and the Holy Spirit the witness of our true and real integrity; yet when the Lord summons us before his tribunal, let us all, from the least to the greatest, learn to confess ourselves guilty and exposed to judgment.
He afterwards adds, If it may be (or, it may be) ye shall be concealed 9494 The idea is not “protected,” as given by Newcome, but “secreted” or concealed as in a hiding-place. “Hid” is the version of Henderson, and also of Marckius.—Ed. in the day of Jehovah’s anger. The Prophet speaks not doubtingly, as though the faithful were uncertain as to God’s favor: but he had another thing in view,—that though no hope remained as to the perceptions of men, yet the faithful would not lose their labor, if they sought God; for in their worst circumstances they would find him propitious to them and their safety secured by his kindness. Hence we see, that the Prophet in these words points out the disastrous character of the event, but no deficiency in the love of God. Though the Lord is ready to pardon, nay, of his own self anticipates his people, and kindly invites them to himself; it is yet necessary for them to consider how wonderful is his power in preserving his elect, when all things seem desperate. It may then be, he says, when the Jews understood that all things were in a state of extreme despair: and the Prophet said this, partly that the reprobate and the perverse might know that they were to perish, and partly that the faithful might appreciate the more the favor of God, when they saw themselves delivered from death by a miracle, and found that it would be a kind of resurrection, when God became their deliverer. Hence the Prophet, in order to commend to God’s children his salvation, which he offers them, and to render more illustrious God’s favor, makes use of the particle אולי, auli, it may be. In the meantime he fulminates, as I have already said, against the reprobate, that they might understand that it was all over with them. It follows—
The Prophet begins here to console the elect; for when God’s vengeance had passed away, which would only be for a time against them, the heathens and foreigners would find God in their turn to be their judge to punish them for the wrongs done to his people; though some think that God’s judgment on the Jews is here described, while yet the Prophet expressly mentions their neighbors: but the former view seems to me more suitable,—that the Prophet reminds the faithful of a future change of things, for God would not perpetually afflict his chosen people, but would transfer his vengeance to other nations. The meaning then is—that God, who has hitherto threatened the Jews, would nevertheless be propitious to them, not indeed to all the people, for a great part was doomed to destruction, but to the remnant, whom the Lord had chosen as a seed to himself, that there might be some church remaining. For we know, that God had always so moderated the punishment he inflicted on his people, as not to render void his covenant, nor abolish the memory of Abraham’s race: for this reason he was to come forth as their Redeemer.
Since then the Prophet speaks here against Gaza, and Ashkelon, and Ashdod, and Akron, and the Philistine, and the Cretians and others, he intended no doubt to add courage to the faithful, that they might not despair of God’s mercy, though they might find themselves very grievously oppressed; for he could at length put an end to his wrath, after having purged his Church of its dregs. And this admonition the faithful also need, that they may not envy the wicked and the despisers of God, as though their condition were better or more desirable. For when the Lord spares the wicked and chastens us, we are tempted to think that nothing is better than to shake off every yoke. Lest then this temptation should have assailed the faithful, the Prophet reminded them in time, that there was no reason why the heathens should flatter or congratulate themselves, when God did not immediately punish them; for their portion was prepared for them.
He mentions Gaza first, a name which often occurs in scripture. The Hebrews called it Aza; but as ע, oin, is the first letter, the Greeks have rendered it Gaza, and heathen authors have thought it to be a Persia word, and it means in that language a treasure. But
this is a vain notion, for it is no doubt a Hebrew word. He then adds Ashkelon, a city nigh to Gaza. In the third place he mentions Ashdod, which the Greeks have translated Azotus, and the Latins have followed the Greeks. He names Ekron in the last place. All these cities were near to the Jews, and were not far from one another towards the Moabites and the Idumeans.
This verse, literally rendered, retains more of its poetic character,—
4. For Gaza, forsaken shall she be,
And Ashkelon shall be a desolation;
Ashdod, at mid-day shall they drive it out,
And Ekron shall be rooted up.
In the first and the last line there is a correspondence in the sound of the words.
The following presents another instance of the nominative case absolute,—
5. Woe to the dwellers of the line of the sea,
The nation of the Kerethites!
The word of Jehovah is against you:
Canaan, the land of the Philistines,
I will even destroy thee, that there shall be no inhabitant.
The line of the sea, meaning the coast along the shore, is so called, says Henderson, “from the custom of using a cord or line in measuring off or dividing a territory.”
Some derive “Kerethites” from [כרת], to cut off, to destroy; and so they were cutters off or destroyers. They were celebrated men of war in the time of David, 2 Samuel 8:18. “Philistines” mean emigrants, says Henderson; the word being derived from a verb, which signifies, in the Ethiopic language, to rove, to migrate.—Ed.
He then adds, Ho! (or, woe to, הו) the inhabitants of the line of the sea. The region of the sea he calls Galilee; and he joins the Kerethites and the Philistine. Some think that he alludes to the troops, who carried on war under David; for he had chosen his garrison soldiers from that nation, that is, from the people of Galilee, and had called them Kerethites and Philistine. But I know not whether the Prophet spoke so refinedly. I rather think, that he refers here to those heathen nations, which had been hostile to the Jews, though vicinity ought to have been a bond of kindness. Hence he includes them all in the name of Canaan: for I do not take it here, as some do, as signifying merchants; for the Prophet evidently means, that however called, they were all Canaanites, who had been long ago doomed to destruction. Since then those regions had been enemies to the Jews, the Prophet intimates that God would become the defender of his chosen people.
The word of Jehovah is against you. God, who has hitherto threatened his own people, summons you to judgment. Think not that you will escape unpunished for having vexed his Church. For though God designed to prove the patience of his people, yet neither the Moabites, nor the rest, were excusable when they cruelly oppressed the Jews; yea, when they purposed through them to fight with God himself, the creator of heaven and earth. He afterwards adds, There shall be no inhabitant, for God would destroy them all. We now see that the Prophet had no other design but to alleviate the bitter grief of the faithful by this consolation,—that their miseries would be only for a time, and that God would ere long punish their enemies. It follows—
The Prophet confirms what he has before said respecting the future vengeance of God, which was now nigh at hand to the Moabites and other neighboring nations, who had been continually harassing the miserable Jews. Hence, he says, that that whole region would become the habitation of sheep. It is a well known event, that when any country is without inhabitants shepherds occupy it; for there is no sowing nor reaping there, but grass alone
grows. Where, therefore, there is no cultivation, where no number of men are found, there shepherds find a place for their flocks, there they build sheep cots. It is, therefore, the same as though the Prophet had said, that the country would be desolate, as we find it expressed in the next verse.
The words, [נות כרת רעים], are rendered by Calvin, “habitaculum caulis pastorum—an habitation (or a dwelling) for the sheepcots of shepherds.” The
Targum takes the two first words in the singular number; the second is evidently so, and the first may be so also: and [כרת] certainly does not mean sheepcots, but digging, from [כרה], to dig. The reference is either to the pits
dug for watering the flock, as Piscator thinks, or to the subterraneous huts, or caves, dug for the purpose of shelter, as Drusius and Bochart suppose. Junius and Tremelius render the words, “sheepcots, the delvings of shepherds;” and Drusius, “dwellings of the digging out of shepherds,” i.e., dwellings dug out by shepherds. The most literal and the easiest construction is, “dwellings, the digging of shepherds.” Then the verse might be thus rendered,—
And the line of the sea shall be dwellings,
Dug out by shepherds, and folds for sheep.
Parkhurst quotes Harmer, who says, “the Eastern shepherds make use of caves very frequently, sleeping in them and driving their flocks into them at night. The mountains bordering on the Syrian coast are remarkable for the number of caves, and are found particularly in the neighborhood of Ashkelon.” How fully then was this prophecy fulfilled.—Ed.
He immediately adds, but for a different reason, that the coast of the sea would be a habitation to the house of Judah. And there is here a striking divergence from the flocks of shepherds to the tribe of Judah, which was as it were, the chosen flock of God. The Prophet then, after having said that the region would be waste and desolate, immediately adds, that it would be for the benefit of the chosen people; for the Lord would grant there to the Jews a safe and secure rest. But the Prophet confines this to the remnant; for the greater part, as we have already seen, were become so irreclaimable, that the gate of mercy was completely closed against them. The Prophet, at the same time, by mentioning a remnant, shows that there would always be some seed from which God would raise up a new Church; and he also encourages the faithful to entertain hope, so that their own small number might not terrify them; for when they considered themselves and found themselves surpassed by a vast multitude, they might have thought that they were of no account. Lest then they should be disheartened the Prophet says that this remnant would be the object of God’s care; for when he would visit the whole coast of the sea and other regions, he would provide there for the Jews a safe habitation and refuge.
That line then, he says, shall be for the residue of the house of Judah; feed shall they in Ashkelon, and there shall they lie down in the evening; that is, they shall find in their exile some resting-place; for we know that the Jews were not all removed to distant lands; and they who may have been hid in neighboring places were afterwards more easily gathered, when a liberty to return was permitted them. This is what the Prophet means now, when he says, that there would be a refuge in the night to the Jews among the Moabites and other neighboring nations.
A reason follows, which confirms what I have stated, for Jehovah their God, he says, will visit them. We hence see that the Prophet mitigates here the sorrow of exile and of that most grievous calamity which was nigh the Jews, by promising to them a new visitation of God; as though he had said, Though the Lord seems now to rage against you, and seems to forget his own covenant, yet he will again remember his mercy, when the suitable time shall come. And he adds, he will restore their captivity; and he added this, that he might show that his favor would prove victorious against all hindrances. The Jews might indeed have raised this objection, Why does not the Lord help us immediately; but he, on the contrary, allows our enemies to remove us into exile? The Prophet here calls upon them to exercise patience; and yet he promises, that after having been driven into exile, they should again return to their country; for the Lord would not suffer that exile to be perpetual. It now follows—
The Prophet confirms what I have just said of God’s vengeance against foreign enemies. Though all the neighboring nations had been eager in their hostility to the Jews, yet we know that more hatred, yea and more fury, had been exhibited by these two nations than by any other, that is, by the Moabites and the Ammonites, notwithstanding their connection with them by blood, for they derived their origin from Lot, who was Abraham’s nephew. Though, then, that connection ought to have turned the Moabites and the Ammonites to mercy, we yet know they always infested the Jews with greater fury than others, and as it were with savage cruelty. This is the reason why the Prophet speaks now especially of them. Some indeed take this sentence as spoken by the faithful; but the context requires it to be ascribed to God, and no doubt he reminds them that he looked down from on high on the proud vauntings of Moab which he scattered in the air, as though he had declared that it was not hidden or unknown to him how cruelly the Moabites and Ammonites raged against the Jews, how proud and inhuman they had been. And this was a very seasonable consolation. For the Jews might have been swallowed up with despair, had not this promise been made to them. They saw the Moabites and the Ammonites burning with fury, when yet they had not been injured or provoked. They also saw that they made gain and derived advantage from the calamities of a miserable people. What could the faithful think? These wicked men not only harassed them with impunity, but their cruelty and perfidy towards them was gainful. Where was God now? If he regarded his own Church, would he not have interposed? Lest then a temptation of this kind should upset the faithful, the Prophet introduces God here as the speaker,—
I have heard, he says, the reproach of Moab; I have heard the revilings of Amman: “Nothing escapes me; though I do not immediately show that these things are regarded by me, yet I know and observe how shamefully the Moabites and the Ammonites have persecuted you: they at length shall find that I am the guardian of your safety, and that you are under my protection.” We now apprehend the Prophet’s design. Nearly the same words are used by Isaiah, Isaiah 16:1, and also by Jeremiah Jeremiah 48:1, they both pursue the subject much farther, while our Prophet only touches on it briefly, for we see that what he says is comprised in very few words. But by saying that the reproach of Moab and the revilings of the children of Amman had come into remembrance before God, what he had in view was—that the Jews might be assured and fully persuaded that they were not rejected and forsaken, though for a time they were reproachfully treated by the wicked. The Prophet indeed takes the words reproach and revilings, in an active sense. 9797 That is, the reproach cast by Moab, and the revilings uttered by Ammon.—Ed.
He then adds, By which they have upbraided many people. God intimates here that he does not depart from his elect when the wicked spit, as it were, in their faces. There is indeed nothing which so much wounds the feelings of ingenuous minds as reproach; there is not so much bitterness in a hundred deaths as in one reproach, especially when the wicked licentiously triumph, and do this with the applauding consent of the whole world; for then all difference between good and evil is confounded, and good conscience is as it were buried. But the Prophet shows here, that the people of God suffer no loss when they are thus unworthily harassed by the wicked and exposed to their reproach.
He at last subjoins that they had enlarged over their border. Some consider mouth to be understood—they have enlarged the mouth against their border; and the word, it is true, without any addition, is often taken in this sense; but in this place the construction is fuller, for the words על-גבולם, ol-gebulam, over their border, follow the verb. The Prophet means that God’s wrath had been provoked by the petulance of both nations, for they wished to break up, as it were, the borders, which had been fixed by God. The land of Canaan, we know, had been given to the Jews by an hereditary right;—When the Most High, says Moses, divided the nations, he set a line for Jacob.
Deuteronomy 32:8. It is indeed true that the possessions of the nations were allotted to them by the hidden counsel of God; but there was a special reason as to his chosen people; for the Lord had made Abraham the true possessor of that land, even for ever. Genesis 17:8. Now the Moabites were confined, as it were, to a certain place; the Lord had assigned to them their own inheritance. When, therefore, they sought to go beyond and to invade the land of the Jews, God’s wrath must have been kindled against them; for they thus fought, not against mortals, but against God himself; for by removing the borders fixed by him, they attempted to subvert his eternal decree. We now then understand why the Prophet says that the children of Moab and of Ammon
had enlarged over the border of those who had been placed in the land of Canaan by God’s hand; for they not only sought to eject their neighbors, but wished and tried to take away from God’s hand that inheritance which the Lord had given to Abraham, and given, as I have said, in perpetuity.
There is a difference as to the meaning of the last line. Newcome adopts our common version,—
And magnified themselves against their border
Henderson’s rendering is essentially the same—
And carried themselves haughtily against their border.
The verb [נדל] is transitive and intransitive in Kal—to make great and to be great; it seems to partake of a similar character in Hiphil, as it is found here, to magnify, and to grow great or proud, and hence to exult or to triumph; and when followed by [על], as here, to exult over a person or a country,—see Job 19:5; Psalm 35:26; 38:17; Ezekiel 35:13. In these verses “to exult over” would be the best rendering; as also in the 10th verse of this chapter. The idea of enlarging or extending over, as adopted by Jerome and Dathius, as well as by Calvin, is not countenanced by any other passage. The best rendering here is—
And exulted over their border.
This line corresponds with the revilings of Ammon, as the preceding does with the reproach of Moab. That it was the triumphant and exulting language of Ammon is evident, because it was what was heard—“I have heard,” etc. The particle [אשר], rendered here “quibus—by which,” and “wherewith” by Newcome, is rendered “who” by Marckius and Henderson—“who have reproached on my people;” and this is the most natural construction. Some have rendered it “because.”—Ed.
In order to cheer the miserable Jews by some consolation, God said, in what we considered yesterday, that the wantonness of Moab was known to him; he now adds, that he would visit with punishment the reproaches which had been mentioned. For it would have availed them but little that their wrongs had been observed by God, if no punishment had been prepared. Hence the Prophet reminds them that God is no idle spectator, who only observes what takes place in the world; but that there is a reward laid up for all the ungodly. And these verses are to be taken in connection, that the faithful may know that their wrongs are not unknown to God, and also that he will be their defender. But that the Jews might have a more sure confidence that God would be their deliverer, he interposes an oath. God at the same time shows that he is really touched when he sees his people so cruelly and immoderately harassed, when the ungodly seem to think that an unbridled license is permitted them. God therefore shows here, that not only the salvation of his people is an object of his care, but that he undertakes their cause as though his anger was kindled; not that passions belong to him but such a form of speaking is adopted in order to express what the faithful could never otherwise conceive an idea of, that is, to express the unspeakable love of God towards them, and his care for them.
He then says that he lives, as though he had sworn by his own life. As we have elsewhere seen that he swears by his life, so he speaks now. Live do I, that is, As I am God, so will I avenge these wrongs by which my people are now oppressed. And for the same reason he calls himself Jehovah of hosts, and the God of Israel. In the first clause he exalts his own power, that the Jews might know that he was endued with power; and then he mentions his goodness, because he had adopted them as his people. The meaning then is that God swears by his own life; and that the Jews might not think that this was done in vain, his power is brought before them, and then his favor is added.
Moab, he says, shall be like Sodom, and the sons of Ammon like Gomorrah, even for the production of the nettle and for a mire of salt;
This clause is rendered differently by some. The word [ממשק] occurs only here. It is rendered by the Targum by a word which means a "deserted place,” and so Newcome renders it, “A deserted place for the thorn:” so also
do Drusius, Grotius, Piscator, and Marckius. The Septuagint have mistaken the word for “Damascus,” and give a version of the whole clause wholly foreign to the context. Henderson thinks that the word has the same meaning with [משך], to draw out, to extend, and gives this version, “A region of overrunning brambles.” This is far-fetched. The word, [חרול], rendered “nettle” by Calvin, Grotius, and others, cannot be so
taken, according to Drusius and Bochart, for in Job 30:7, men are said to gather under it. It is found besides only in Proverbs 24:31. It may be rendered either a thorn or a
bramble. The other part of the sentence is literally “a digging place for salt.”
Moab was to be like Sodom, and Ammon like Gommorah, not as to the manner of their ruin, but as to the extent of it. It was to be an entire overthrow. Their habitation was not to become a pool of water like Sodom and Gommorah, but a place where the bramble was to grow, and salt might be dug. And it was to be “a desolation,” [עד-עולם], “for ages;” for the word means an indefinite time. So Drusius regards it here as meaning a long time. But some consider the “desolation,” as having reference to the people and not to the place. If so, the rendering were wholly obliterated. Moab and Ammon, as a separate people, are altogether extinct. The whole verse is as follows—
9. Therefore, as I live,
Saith Jehovah of hosts, the God of Israel,
Surely Moab like Sodom shall be,
And the children of Ammon like Gomorrah,
The desert of the thorn and the excavation of salt,
Yea, a desolation for ages;
The remnant of my people shall plunder them,
And the residue of my nation shall possess them.
The two last lines refer to the children of Ammon, as the two preceding especially to Moab. The country of Moab was on the eastern side of the Dead Sea, and that of Ammon was north-east, of Moab. Both were subdued and led captive by Nebuchadnezzar about four or six years after the captivity of Judah. They were afterwards partially restored, especially the children of Ammon, as Tobiah was their chief in the time of Nehemiah. Nehemiah 4:3. They were “plundered,” as recorded in 1 Maccabees 5:35,51, by Judas Maccabeus. Of Moab we read nothing at that time: but it appears, that for ages it has been desolate. “Not one,” says Burckhart, the traveler, “of the ancient cities of Moab exists as tenanted by man,” and he speaks of “their entire desolation.” Another modern traveler, Seetzen, a Russian, speaking of Ammon, says, “All this country, formerly so populous, is now changed into a vast desert.”—Ed. that is, their lands should be reduced to a waste, or should become wholly barren, so that nothing was to grow there but nettles, as the case is with desert places. As to the expression, the mine (fodina) or quarry of salt, it often occurs in scripture: a salt-pit denotes sterility in Hebrew. And the Prophet adds, that this would not be for a short time only; It shall be (he says) a perpetual desolation. He also adds, that this would be for the advantage of the Church; for the residue of my people shall plunder them, and the remainder of my nation shall possess them. He ever speaks of the residue; for as it was said yesterday, it was necessary for that people to be cleansed from their dregs, so that a small portion only would remain; and we know that not many of them returned from exile.
The import of the whole is, that though God determined to diminish his Church, so that a few only survived, yet these few would be the heirs of the whole land, and possess the kingdom, when God had taken vengeance on all their enemies.
It hence follows, according to the Prophet, that this shall be to them for their pride. We see that the Prophet’s object is, to take away whatever bitterness the Jews might feel when insolently slandered by their enemies. As then there was danger of desponding, since nothing, as it was said yesterday, is more grievous to be borne than reproach, God does here expressly declare, that the proud triumph of their neighbors over the Jews would be their own ruin; for, as Solomon says, ‘Pride goes before destruction.’ Proverbs 16:18. And he again confirms what he had already referred to—that the Jews would not be wronged with impunity, for God had taken them under his guardianship, and was their protector: Because they have reproached, he says, and triumphed over the people of Jehovah of hosts. He might have said, over my people, as in the last verse; but there is something implied in these words, as though the Prophet had said, that they carried on war not with mortals but with God himself, whose majesty was insulted, when the Jews were so unjustly oppressed. It follows—
He proceeds with the same subject,—that God would show his power in aiding his people. But he calls him a terrible God, who had for a time patiently endured the wantonness of his enemies, and thus became despised by them: for the ungodly, we know, never submit to God unless they are constrained by his hand; and then they are not bent so as willingly to submit to his authority; but when forced they are silent. 100100 The word, [נורא], is rendered “to be feared,” by Cocceius and Henderson, and [עליהם], “above them,” that is, “the gods of the earth,” mentioned in the next line; it being considered an instance of a pronoun preceding its noun. But this is forced; and it is not necessary. Moab and Ammon are evidently referred to; and what is said is, that God would be terrible to them, as well as to others, for he would famish or destroy all the gods of the earth. And then in the next verse he mentions other nations. Some extend what is here said to gospel-times; but there seems no reason for this, inasmuch as God’s judgment is the subject of the Prophet.—Ed. This is what the Prophet means in these words; as though he had said, that the wicked now mock God, as they disregard his power, but that they shall find how terrible an avenger of his people he is, so that they would have to dread him. And then he compares the superstitions of the nations with true religion; as though he had said, that this would be to the Jews as a reward for their piety, inasmuch as they worshipped the only true God, and that all idols would be of no avail against the help of God. And this was a necessary admonition; for the ungodly seemed to triumph for a time, not only over a conquered people, but over God himself, and thus gloried in their superstitious and vain inventions. The Prophet, therefore, confirms their desponding minds; for God, he says, will at length consume all the gods of the nations
The verb רזה, reze, means strictly to make lean or to famish, but is to be taken here metaphorically, as signifying to consume. God then will famish all the inventions of the nations: and he alludes to that famine which idols had occasioned through the whole world; as though he had said, that God’s glory would shortly appear, which would exterminate whatever glory the false gods had obtained among them, so that it would melt away like fatness.
He at last adds, that the remotest nations would become suppliants to God; for by saying, adore him shall each from his place,
And bow down to him, every one from his place,
Shall all the islands of the nations. he doubtless means, that however far off the countries might be, the distance would be no hindrance to God’s name being celebrated, when his power became known to remote lands. And, for the same reason, he mentions the islands of the nations, that is, countries beyond the sea: for the Hebrews, as it has been elsewhere observed, call those countries islands which are far distant, and divided by the sea. 102102 By the earth the Jews understood the great continent of all Asia and Africa, to which they had acces by land; and by the isles of the sea they understood the places to which they sailed by sea, particularly all Europe. Sir I. Newton on Daniel, p. 276.”—Newcome. In short, the Prophet shows, that the redemption of the people would be so wonderful, that the fame of it would reach the farthest bounds of the earth, and constrain foreign nations to give glory to the true God, and that it would dissipate all the mists of superstition, so that idols would be exposed to scorn and contempt. It follows—
The Prophet extends farther the threatened vengeance, and says, that God would also render to the Ethiopians the reward which they deserved; for they had also harassed the chosen people. But if God punished that nation, how could Ammon and Moab hope to escape? For how could God spare so great a cruelty, since he would visit with punishment the remotest nations? For the hatred of the Moabites and of the Ammonites, as we have said, was less excusable, because they were related to the children of Abraham. They ought, on this account, to have mitigated their fierceness: besides, vicinity ought to have rendered them more humane. But as they exceeded other nations in cruelty, a heavier punishment awaited them. Now this comparison was intended for this end—that the Jews might know that God would be inexorable towards the Moabites, by whom they had been so unjustly harassed, since even the Ethiopians would be punished, who yet were more excusable on account of their distance.
As to the words, some regard the demonstrative pronoun המה, eme, they, as referring to the Babylonians, and others, to the Moabites. I prefer to understand it of the Moabites, if we read, like them, or with them, as these interpreters consider it: for they regard
the particle את, at, with, or כ, caph, like, to be understood, Ye Ethiopians shall be slain by my sword like them, or with them. It would in this case doubtless apply to the
Moabites. But it seems to me that the sentence is irregular, even ye Ethiopians, and then, they shall be slain by any sword. The Prophet begins the verse in the second person, summoning the Ethiopians to appear before God’s tribunal; he afterwards adds in the third person, they shall be slain by my sword.
Newcome cuts the knot, here by an emendation, by [אתם], ye, for [המה], they; and Houbigant, by
[תהיו], ye shall be,—“the wounded of my sword shall ye be.” This is according to the Septuagint; but the former is more in accordance with the Hebrew idiom; for the pronoun is often used without the auxiliary verb. Some take [המה] as ipsi in Latin, connected with vos, ye yourselves. Then the rendering would be—
Also ye Cushites,
The slain of my sword shall ye yourselves be.
But what Calvin says is not uncommon in the Prophet, the abrupt change of persons.—Ed.
God calls whatever evils were impending over the Ethiopians his sword; for though they were destroyed by the Chaldeans yet it was done under the guidance of God himself. The Chaldeans made war under his authority, as the Assyrians did, who had been previously employed by him to execute his vengeance. It follows—
The Prophet proceeds here to the Assyrians, whom we know to have been special enemies to the Church of God. For the Moabites and the Ammonites were fans only, as we have elsewhere seen, as they could not do much harm by their own strength. Hence they stirred up the Assyrians, they stirred up the Ethiopians and remote nations. The meaning, then, is, that no one of all the enemies of the Church would be left unpunished by God, as every one would receive a reward for his cruelty. He speaks now of God in the third person; but in the last verse God himself said, that the Ethiopians would be slain by his sword. The Prophet adds here, He will extend his hand to the north; that is, God will not complete his judgments on the Ethiopians; but he will go farther, even to Nineveh and to all the Assyrians.
Nineveh, we know, was the metropolis of the empire, before the Assyrians were conquered by the Babylonians. Thus Babylon then recovered the sovereignty which it had lost; and Nineveh, though not wholly demolished, was yet deprived of its ruling power, and gradually lost its name and its wealth, until it was reduced into a waste; for the building of Ctesiphon, as we have elsewhere seen, proved its ruin. But the Prophet, no doubt, proceeds here to administer comfort to the Jews, lest they should despair, while the Lord did not interfere. And the extension of the hand means as though he said, that his own time is known to the Lord, and that he would put forth his power when needful. Assyria was north as to Judea: hence he says, to the north will the Lord extend his hand, and will destroy Assyria; he will make Nineveh a desolation, that it may be like the desert. It follows—
The Prophet describes here the state of the city and the desolation of the country. He says, that the habitations of flocks would be in the midst of the city Nineveh. The city, we know, was populous; but while men were so many, there was no place for flocks, especially in the middle of a city so celebrated. Hence no common change is here described by the Prophet, when he says, that flocks would
lie down in the middle of Nineveh; and he adds, all wild beasts. For beasts, which seek seclusion and shun the sight of men, are wont to come forth, when they find a country desolate and deserted; and they range then at large, as it is the case after a slaughter in war; and when any region is emptied of its inhabitants, the wolves, the lions, and other wild beasts, roam here and there at full liberty. So the Prophet
says, that wild beasts would come from other parts and remote places, and find a place where Nineveh once stood.
It is literally, “every wild beast of the nation,”—[נוי],—“of the land,” in the Septuagint. What is meant is, every wild beast that belonged to that country.—Ed.
He adds that the bitterns, or the storks or the cuckoos, and similar wild birds would be there.
Both Newcome and Henderson render the two words, “the pelican and the porcupine.” The former says that [קאת], “pelican,” comes from [קאה], to vomit, because it casts up fish or water from its membranaceous bag; and [קפד], “porcupine,” according to Bochart, is from the verb, which means to cut off as by a bite, or rather, he says, from its Syriac meaning, to dread, for it is a solitary animal. See Newcome. But Parkhurst contends that it is the hedgehog, and both the Septuagint and Vulgate render it so.
What Calvin translates “in postibus ejus,” [בכפתויה], is rendered by Newcome, “in the carved lintels thereof,” by Henderson, “in her capitals,” and by Parkhurst, “in her door-porches,” i.e. when thrown down.—Ed. As to their various kinds, I make no laborious research; for it is enough to know the Prophet’s design: besides, the Jews themselves, who boldly affirm that either the bittern or the stork is meant, yet adduce nothing that is certain. What, in short, this description means, is—that the place, which before a vast multitude of men inhabited, would become so forsaken, that wild beasts and nocturnal birds would be its only inhabitants.
But we must bear in mind what I have stated, that all these things were set before the Jews, that they might patiently bear their miseries, understanding that God would become their defender. For this is the only support that remains for us under very grievous evils, as Paul reminds us in the first chapter of the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians; for he says, that the time will come when the Lord shall give to us relief and refreshment, and that he will visit our adversaries with punishment 2 Thessalonians 1:6.
The Prophet mentions especially Nineveh, that the Jews might know that there is nothing so great and splendid in the world which God does not esteem of less consequence than the salvation of his Church, as it is said in Isaiah, I will give Egypt as thy ransom. So God threatens the wealthiest city, that he might show how much he loved his chosen people. And the Jews could not have attributed this to their own worthiness; but the cause of so great a love depended on their gratuitous adoption. It afterwards follows—
He seems to have added this by way of anticipation, lest the magnificent splendor of the city Nineveh should frighten the Jews, as though it were exempt from all danger. The Prophet therefore reminds them here, that though Nineveh was thus proud of its wealth, it could not yet escape the hand of God; nay, he shows that the greatness, on account of which Nineveh extolled itself, would be the cause of its ruin; for it would cast itself down by its own pride: as a wall, when it swells, will not long stand; so also men, when they inwardly swell, and vent their own boastings, burst; and though no one pushes them down, they fall of themselves. Such a destruction the Prophet denounces on the Ninevites and the Assyrians.
This, he says, is the exulting city, which sat in confidence. Isaiah reprobates in nearly the same words the pride of Babylon: but what Isaiah said of Babylon our Prophet justly transfers here to Nineveh. But he no doubt had respect to the Jews, and exhibits Nineveh in its state of ruin, lest the power of that city should dazzle their eyes; for we are seized with wonder, when anything grand and splendid presents itself to us. Here then Zephaniah makes a representation of Nineveh and sets it before the Jews: Behold, he says, ye see this city full of exultation; ye also see that it rests as in a state of safety; for it is conscious of no fear; it regards itself exempt from the common lot of men, as though it was built in the clouds. This city, he says, is above all others celebrated; but let not frail and evanescent splendor terrify you; for God will doubtless in his own time overthrow it and reduce it to nothing.
Let us also in the meantime observe what I have lately referred to,—that the cause of the ruin of Nineveh is described, which was, that it had promised to itself a perpetuity in the world. But let us remember, that in this city is presented to us an example, which belongs in common to all nations,—that God cannot endure the presumption of men, when inflated by their own greatness and power, they do not think themselves to be men, nor humble themselves in a way suitable to the condition of men, but forget themselves, as though they could exalt themselves above the heavens.
But it is necessary to examine the words: Nineveh said in her heart, I, and besides me no other. By these words the Prophet means, that Nineveh was so blinded by its splendor that it now defied every change of fortune. Had Babylon spoken thus, it would have been no wonder, for it had taken from Nineveh its sovereignty. But we see that the same pride infatuates people as well as superior kings; for each thinks himself to be great alone, and when he compares himself with others, he looks on them as far below him, as though they were placed beneath his feet. Thus then the Prophet shows in few words what was the cause of the ruin of Nineveh: it thought that its condition on the earth was fixed and perpetual. If then we desire to be protected by God’s hand, let us bear in mind what our condition is, and daily, yea, hourly prepare ourselves for a change, except God be pleased to sustain us. Our stability is to depend only on the aid of God, and from consciousness of our infirmity, to tremble in ourselves, lest a forgetfulness of our state should creep in.
He afterwards adds, How has it become a desolation? The Prophet accommodates his words to the capacities of men: for the ruin of Nineveh might have appeared incredible. Hence the Prophet by a question rouses the minds of the faithful, that they might not doubt the truth of what God declared, for he would work in an extraordinary manner. This how then intimates, that the Jews ought not to be incredulous, while thinking that Nineveh was on all sides fortified, so as to prevent the occurrence of anything disastrous: for God would, in a wonderful manner and beyond what is usual, overthrow it. How, then, has it become a desolation, a resting-place for beasts?
He then subjoins, Every one who passes by will hiss and shake his hand. The Prophet seems to point out the future reproach of Nineveh, and to confirm also by a different mode of speaking what he had before said, that its ruin would be wonderful; for the shaking of the hand and hissing are marks of reproach: Behold Nineveh, which so much flattered itself! we now see only its sad ruins. The Prophet, I have no doubt, means here by hissing and the shaking of the hind, that Nineveh would become an ignominious spectacle to all people: and the same mode of speaking often occurs in the Prophets. All shall hiss at thee; that is, I will make thee a reproach and a disgrace. Then the Prophet, as I have already said, still declares the same truths that the ruin of Nineveh would be like a miracle; for all those who pass by would be amazed; as though he had said, Behold, they will hiss—What is this? and then they will shake the hand—What can be firm in this world? We see the principal seat of empire demolished, and differing nothing from a desert. We now perceive the meaning of the Prophet.
As this doctrine is also necessary for us at this day, we must notice the circumstances to which we have referred. If, then, our enemies triumph now, and their haughtiness is intolerable, let us know, that the sooner the vengeance of God will overtake them; if they are become insensible in their prosperity, and secure, and despise all dangers, they thus provoke God’s wrath, and especially if to their pride and hardness they add cruelty, so as basely to persecute the Church of God, to spoil, to plunder, and to slay his people, as we see them doing. Since then our enemies are so wanton, we may see as in a mirror their near destruction, such as is foretold by the Prophet: for he spoke not only of his own age, but designed to teach us, by the prophetic spirit, how dear to God is the safety of his Church; and the future lot of the ungodly till the end of the world will no doubt be such as Nineveh is described here to have been that though they swell with pride for a time, and promise themselves every success against the innocent, God will yet put a stop to their insolence and check their cruelty, when the proper time shall come. I shall not today begin the third chapter, for it contains a new subject.