3. Asshur shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses: neither will we say any more to the work of our hands, Ye are our gods: for in thee the fatherless findeth mercy.
3. Assur (Assyrius) non servabit nos: super equum non ascendemus, et non dicemus posthac, Dii nostri, operi manuum nostrorum; quia in te misericordiam consequetur pupillus.
This verse ought to be joined with the last, as the Israelites show here more clearly and fully in what they had sinned, and, at the same time, give proof of their repentance; for when they say, The Assyrian shall not save us, we shall not mount on horses, we shall not say to the work of hands, Our gods, it is to be understood as a confession, that they had in these various ways roused against themselves the vengeance of God; for they had hoped for safety from the Assyrians, ran here and there, and had thus alienated themselves from God; they had also fled to statues and idols, and had transferred to dumb images the honour due to the only true God. We hence see, that though the faithful speak of future time, they yet indirectly confess that they had grievously sinned, had forsaken the only true God, and transferred their hopes to others, either to the Assyrians or to fictitious gods. But at the same time, they promise to be different in future; as though he said, that they would not only be grateful to God in celebrating his praises, but that their way of living would be also new, so as not to abuse the goodness of God. This is the substance of what is here said.
By saying, The Assyrian shall not save us, they doubtless condemned, as I have already stated, the false confidence with which they were before deluded, when they sought deliverance by means of the Assyrians. There is, indeed, no doubt, but that the Israelites were ever wont to pretend to trust in the name of God; but in thinking themselves lost without the succour of the Assyrians, they most certainly defrauded God of his just honour, and adorned men with spoils taken from him. For except we be convinced that God alone is sufficient for us, even when all earthly aids fail us, we do not place in him our hope of salvation; but, on the contrary, transfer to mortals what belongs alone to him. For this sacrilege the Israelites therefore condemn themselves, and, at the same time, show that the fruit of their repentance would be, to set their minds on God, so as not to be drawn here and there as before, or to think that they could be preserved through the help of men. Let us hence learn, that men turn not to God, except when they bid adieu to all creatures, and no longer fix their hopes on them. This is one thing.
What follows, On a horse we shall not mount, may be explained in two ways; -- as though they said, that they would no longer be so mad as to be proud of their own power, or consider themselves safe because they were well furnished with horses and chariots; -- but the clause may be more simply explained, as meaning, that they would not as before wander here and there to procure for themselves auxiliaries; We shall not then mount a horse, but continue quiet in our country; and this sense seems more appropriate. I do not then think that the Prophet brings forward any new idea, but I read the two sentences conjointly, The Assyrian shall not save us, we shall not then mount on a horse, that is, that we may ride in haste; for they had wearied themselves before with long journeys: as soon as any danger was at hand, they went away afar off into Assyria to seek help, when God commanded them to remain quiet.
The meaning of this will be better understood by referring to other passages, which correspond with what is here said. God says by Isaiah, 'On horses mount not; but ye said, We will mount: then mount,' says he, (Isaiah 30:16.) Here is a striking intimation, that the Jews against God's will rode and hastened to seek aids. "I see you," he says, "to be very prompt and swift: then mount, but it shall be for the purpose of fleeing." We see what was the design of this reproof of the Prophet; it was to show that the Jews, who ought to have remained still and quiet, fled here and there for the sake of seeking assistance. So also in this place, when they would show the fruit of their repentance, they say, "We will not hereafter mount a horse, for the Lord, who promises to be our aid, is not to be sought as one far off: we will not then any more fatigue ourselves in vain." It seems to me that this is what is meant by the Prophet.
Then he adds, And we shall not say, Our gods, to the work of our hands. As they had spoken of the false trust they placed in men, so now they condemn their own superstition. And these are the two pests which are wont to bring destruction on men; for nothing is more ruinous than to transfer our hope from God; and this is done in two ways, either when men trust in their own strength, or pride themselves on human aids and despise God, as if they can be safe without him, -- or when they give up themselves to false superstitions. Both these diseases ever prevail in the world, when men entangle themselves in their own superstitions, and form for themselves new gods, from whom they expect safety; as we see to be the case with those under the Papacy. God is almost of no account with them, Christ is not sufficient. For how comes it that they contrive so many patrons for themselves, that they devise so many guardianships, except that they despise the help of God, or so extenuate it, that they dare not to hope for salvation from him? We hence see that superstition draws men away from God, and becomes thus the cause of the worst destruction. But there are some, who are not thus given up to superstitions, but who derive a hope from their own velour or wisdom; for the children of this world are inflated with their own strength; and when princes have their armies prepared, when they have fortified cities, when they possess abundance of money, when they are strengthened by many compacts, they are blinded with false confidence. So then this verse teaches us, that these are two destructive pests, which commonly draw men away from real safety; and if then we would repent sincerely from the heart, we must purge our minds from these two evils, so that we may not ascribe any thing to our own strength or to earthly helps, nor form any idols to be in the place of God, but feel assured that God alone is a sufficient help to us.
But it follows, For in thee will the fatherless find "mercy". Here the Israelites show that it is necessary for us to be depressed that we may remain dependent on God alone; for those are compared to the fatherless who are so humbled, that they cast away all vain hopes, and, conscious of their nakedness and want, recumb on God alone. Hence, that God's mercy may find a way open to come to us, we must become fatherless. Now what this metaphor means is well known to us. The fatherless, we know, are, first, destitute of aid, and, secondly, of wisdom; and they are also without strength. They are then dependent on the aid of another, and stand in need of direction; in short, their safety depends on the assistance of others. Thus, also, we are really fatherless, when we rely not on our own prudence, nor recumb on our own strength, nor think that we can be safe through the aids which come from the earth, but cast all our hopes and cares on God alone. This is one thing. The fatherless then shall find mercy in thee; that is, "When thou, Lord, dost so afflict us, that we become wholly cast down, then we shall find mercy in thee; and this mercy will be sufficient for us, so that we shall no more wander and be drawn aside by false devices, as it has hitherto been the case with us." When, therefore, they say, in God will the fatherless find mercy, they mean that the grace offered by the Lord will be sufficient, so that there will be no need any more of seeking aid from any other. We now understand what the Prophet means in this verse. It follows --