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a Bible passage
From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia
my suppliants, my scattered ones,
shall bring my offering.
Interpreters agree not as to the meaning of this verse; for some of the Hebrews connect this with the former, as though the Prophet was still speaking of the calling of the Gentiles. But others, with whom I agree, apply this to the dispersed Jews, so that the Prophet here gives hope of that restoration, of which he had before spoken. They who understand this of the Gentiles, think that Atharai and Phorisai are proper names. But in the first place, we cannot find that any nations were so called; and then, if we receive what they say, these were not separate nations, but portions of the Ethiopians; for the Prophet does not state the fact by itself, that Atharai and Phorisai would be the worshipers of God; but after having spoken of Ethiopia, he adds these words: hence we conclude, that the Prophet means this,—that they would return into Judea from the farthest region of the Ethiopians to offer sacrifices to God. And as he mentions the daughter of the dispersion, we must understand this of the Jews, for it cannot be applied to the Ethiopians. And this promise fits in well with the former verse: for the Prophet spoke, according to what we observed yesterday, of the future calling of the Gentiles; and now he adds, the Jews would come with the Gentiles, that they might unite together, agreeing in the same faith, in the true and pure worship of the only true God. He had said, that the kingdom would be enlarged, for the Church was to be gathered from all nations: he now adds, that the elect people would be restored, after having been driven away into exile.
Hence he says, Beyond the rivers of Ethiopia shall be my suppliants: for עתר, otar, means to supplicate; but it means also sometimes to be pacified, or to be propitious; and therefore some take עתרים, otarim, in a passive sense, they who shall be reconciled to God; as though he had said, God will at length be propitious to the miserable exiles, though they have been cast away beyond the rivers of Ethiopia: they shall yet again be God’s people, for he will be reconciled to them. As David calls Him the God of his mercy, because he had found him merciful and gracious, (Psalm 59:17,) so also in this place they think that the Jews are said to be the עתרי, the reconciled of Jehovah, because he would be reconciled to them. But this exposition is too forced: I therefore retain that which I have stated,—that some suppliants would come to God from the utmost parts of Ethiopia, not the Ethiopians themselves, but the Jews who had been driven there.
To the same purpose is what is added, The daughter of my dispersed; for פוף, puts, means to scatter or to disperse.
It is more consonant with the style of the Prophets to render the clauses apart, as Calvin does, than as it is done in our version, and by Newcome and Henderson. The auxiliary verb, as is often the case, is to be understood in the first clause,—
From beyond the rivers of Cush shall be my suppliants;
The daughter of my dispersed shall bring my offering. Hence by the daughter of the dispersed he means the gathered assembly of the miserable exiles, who for a time were considered as having lost their name, so as not to be counted as the people of Israel. These then shall again offer to me a gift, that is, they are to be restored to their country, that they may there worship me after their usual manner. Now though this prophecy extends to the time of the Gospel, it is yet no wonder, that the Prophet describes the worship of God such as it had been, accompanied with the ceremonies of the Law. We now then perceive what Zephaniah means in this verse,—that not only the Gentiles would come into the Church of God, but that the Jews also would return to their country, that they might together make one body. It follows,—