An exhortation to repentance. The judgment of the Philistines, of Moab and Ammon, of Ethiopia and Assyria.
Before Christ 612.
Which have wrought his judgment— Keep his judgments. Houbigant.
For Gaza shall be forsaken— For, lo, Gaza is forsaken; and so throughout, in the present tense: as much as to say, "Behold, the cities of the Philistines are taken and plundered by this victorious people; therefore your destruction draweth nigh." After Psammiticus king of Egypt, who took the cities of the Philistines, his son Necho came, who carried away king Jehoahaz in bonds. See Houbigant.
Even the breeding of nettles— A forsaken place of nettles. Houbigant. Instead of my people, in the last clause, Houbigant reads my nation.
For he will famish, &c.— He will dissipate. Houbigant. But Bishop Warburton observes, that the expression, as it stands in our version, is noble, and alludes to the popular superstitions of Paganism, which conceived that the gods were nourished by the steam of sacrifices. But when were the heathen gods thus famished, but in the first ages of Christianity? Every one from his place, or in his place; that is to say, they were not to go up to Jerusalem to worship;—even all the isles of the heathens. But when did they worship the God of Israel, every one from his place, before the preaching of the apostles? Then indeed their speedy and general conversion distinguished them from the rest of the nation. Houbigant observes, that the calling of the Gentiles is mentioned here very appositely, and in its proper place, as in order of time it followed soon after the kingdom of the Maccabees.
Will make Nineveh a desolation— Dr. Prideaux observes, that, Chyniladanus being king of the Assyrian and Babylonian empire, Nabopolassar his general took the latter from him, in the sixteenth year of Josiah; fourteen years after which, Sarracus the king was slain, and Nineveh destroyed, which completed the fall of Assyria. Rauwolff observes in his Travels, that on this side the river Tigris in Mesopotamia, it is so sandy and dry, that you would think you were in the middle of the deserts of Arabia. See Prideaux's Connection, An. 612 and 626.
And flocks shall lie down, &c.— And flocks of every kind of animals shall lie down in the midst of her: both the pelican and the porcupine shall lodge in the upper chapiters or carved work of it: the voice of birds shall be heard through the window; the crow shall sit in the thresholds; for her roofs of cedar shall be made bare; or, he shall uncover her cedar-work. Houbigant.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, God warns before he strikes, that sinners may have time to repent, and prevent the threatened judgments.
1. A summons is sent to this people. Gather yourselves together, yea, gather together, to fast and pray, and humble your souls; or search yourselves; examine your ways, that you may discover your sins, and turn unto the Lord, O nation not desired, or not desirous after God and his favour; negligent and careless, and ignorant of divine things, or not pleasing to him, but odious through the multitude of their provocations.
2. They are urged instantly to lay their case to heart, before the decree bring forth, and be put in execution; before the day pass as the chaff, when they should be driven into captivity, unable to withstand their fate, as chaff before the whirlwind; before the fierce anger of the Lord, the day of the Lord's anger, come upon you; terrible beyond expression. Delays are dangerous, where eternity is at stake and the wrath of God is threatened: we need be quickened to seize the present moment; and to-day, whilst it is called to-day, not to harden our hearts.
3. The few gracious souls among them are addressed, whatever others do, to make their calling and election sure. Seek ye the Lord, all ye meek of the earth: this is the character of God's people; they are meek and lowly of heart, patient under the provocations of men, and submissive under the afflictive providences of God: which have wrought his judgment; obedient to his laws, observant of his worship. Such as these, who will receive the word of exhortation, are enjoined to seek the Lord by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving. Seek righteousness, seek meekness; a greater increase of grace, that they may be more holy and exemplary; for none who know themselves can rest in any present attainments, conscious how short they come at the best; and therefore, forgetting those things which are behind, they reach forth unto those things which are before, pressing toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
4. There is hope that such faithful souls may escape the general desolations, and, by a peculiar, interposition of Divine Providence, be hid in the day of the Lord's anger, and not perish with their ungodly countrymen: but, whether involved in temporal calamities or not with others, it not only may be, but it certainly shall be, that such shall be hid in the great day of his wrath.
2nd, The neighbouring nations are here called to the bar, and their doom read. Though judgment begins at the house of God, it will not end there. The Philistines were the ancient enemies of Israel, and would rejoice at their fall; but they are destined to the same destruction.
1. They shall be extirpated. God pronounces a woe against them, with their neighbours the Cherethites, unless this be another name for the Philistines. Their capital cities are devoted to ruin: they must fall since God's word is against them, whose determined purposes are irresistible. Their destruction will be universal; not an inhabitant shall be left; and their sea-coast, where their cities once stood full of inhabitants, shall only now afford a few miserable cottages, where shepherds watch and fold their flocks.
2. Judah shall possess the land, repair and inhabit their cities in peace, when the Lord shall visit them, and turn away their captivity, which was fulfilled after their return from Babylon, in the days of the Maccabees.
3rdly, Moab and Ammon, the children of Lot, are joined together, alike in sin and in suffering.
1. Their sins are, [l.] Reproach and reviling of God's people, insulting them in the day of their calamity, and probably helping forward their ruin; and they magnified themselves against their border, seizing what lay contiguous to their country: but God heard, and noted their words and works, and will recompense them. [2.] Their pride. Puffed up with self-conceit, they looked on the people of the Lord of Hosts as contemptible, and arrogantly despised their religion and their God. Note; Pride is the first-born of hell, and in God's sight most odious.
2. Their judgment is the same; condemned to an overthrow terrible as that of Sodom and Gomorrah, their country shall become barren and uncultivated as a wilderness; and Israel, whom they have insulted, shall, after their return from Babylon, spoil them, and possess the country, after it had begun to revive from the desolations of Nebuchadnezzar: and this is confirmed by the oath of the Lord of Hosts, none of whose words shall fail. Note; They who have trampled on others, are brought in just judgment under the feet of those whom they thus insulted.
3. A gracious promise, which respects the times of the gospel, closes the burthen of Moab and Ammon. God will not only be terrible to them, but he will famish or bring leanness upon all the gods of the earth, when idolatry before the power of the gospel of Jesus should be destroyed; and men shall worship him, every one from his place, or in his place, without going up to Jerusalem, the spiritual sacrifices of prayer and praise being acceptable now in every place; even all the isles of the heathen: and, blessed be God, we see the promise fulfilled graciously to us in this land.
4thly, The inhabitants of Arabia, or Ethiopia, and the Assyrians, with Nineveh their capital, are devoted to destruction, which was brought upon them by Nebuchadnezzar. And we have,
1. The state of prosperity and security in which Nineveh had been. This is the rejoicing city that dwelt carelessly; mirth and jollity once rang through her palaces; and, fearless of danger, no melancholy thought interrupted the jocund hours: that said in her heart, I am, and there is none besides me; none to be compared to me for wealth, strength, and beauty. But when self-complacence swells the bosom of the proud, and security lulls the sinner to his deceitful rest, ruin hangs over him, wrath is at his heels.
2. The miserable situation to which Nineveh shall be reduced. Turned to a heap of ruins, these proud palaces shall become the den of wild bears, and the abode of every rueful ominous bird. The description is inimitably beautiful, and which a comment cannot but debase. It expresses the utter desolation which would ensue; and every passenger who shall behold the scene, while they wonder at the fearful change, will hiss and wag the hand, insulting over her fall, who so often insulted over others.