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Having set forth the terrors of the Judgment Day, the prophet adds an earnest call to repentance; and then declares how judgments, forerunners of that Day, shall fall, one by one, on those nations around, who know not God, and shall rest upon Nineveh, the great beautiful ancient city of the world. Jerome: “See the mercy of God. It had been enough to have set before the wise the vehemence of the coming evil. But because He willeth not to punish, but to alarm only, Himself calleth to repentance, that He may not do what He threatened.” Cyril: “Having set forth clearly the savageness of the war and the greatness of the suffering to come, he suitably turns his discourse to the duty of calling to repentance, when it was easy to persuade them, being terrified. For sometimes when the mind has been numbed, and exceedingly bent to evil, we do not readily admit even the will to repent, but fear often drives us to it, even against our will. He calls us then to friendship with Himself. For as they revolted, became aliens, serving idols and giving up their mind to their passions, so they would, as it were, retrace their steps, and lay hold of the friendship of God, choosing to serve Him, nay and Him Alone, and obey His commandments. Wherefore, while we have time, while the Lord, in His forbearance as God, gives way, let us enact repentance, supplicate, say weeping, “remember not the sins and offences of my youth” Psalms 25:7; let us unite ourselves with Him by sanctification and sobriety. So shall we be sheltered in the day of wrath, and wash away the stain of our falls, before the Day of the Lord come upon us. For the Judge will come, He will come from heaven at the due season, and will reward each according to his work.”
Gather yourselves together, yea gather together - o, rather, “Sift yourselves, yea sift” . The exact image is from gathering stubble or dry sticks, which are picked up one by one, with search and care.
So must men deal with the dry and withered leaves of a past evil life. The English rendering however, comes to the same meaning. We use, “collect oneself” for bringing oneself, all one’s thoughts, together, and so, having full possession of oneself. Or “gathering ourselves” might stand in contrast with being “abroad,” as it were, out of ourselves amid the manifoldness of things seen. Jerome: “Thou who, taken up with the business of the world, hurriest to and fro amid divers things, return to the Church of the saints, and join thyself to their life and assembly, whom thou seest to please God, and bring together the dislocated members of thy soul, which now are not knit together, into one frame of wisdom, and cleave to its embrace.” “Gather yourselves” into one, wherein ye have been scattered; to the One God, from whom they had wandered, seeking pleasure from His many creatures; to His one fold and Church, from which they had severed themselves outwardly by joining the worship of Baal, inwardly, by serving him and his abominable rites; joining and joined to the assembly of the faithful, by oneness of faith and life.
In order to repent, a man must know himself thoroughly; and this can only be done by taking act by act, word by word, thought by thought, as far as he can, not in a confused heap or mass, as they lie in any man’s conscience, but one by one, each picked up apart, and examined, and added to the sear unfruitful heap, plucking them as it were, and gathering them out of himself, that so they may, by the Spirit of burning, the fire of God’s Spirit kindling repentance, be burned up, and not the sinner himself be fuel for fire with them. The word too is intensive, “Gather together all which is in you, thoroughly, piece by piece” (for the sinner’s whole self becomes chaff, dry and empty). To use another image, “Sift yourselves thoroughly, so that nothing escape, as far as your diligence can reach, and then - “And gather on,” that is, “glean on;” examine yourselves, “not lightly and after the manner of dissemblers before God,” but repeatedly, gleaning again and again, to see if by any means anything have escaped: continuing on the search and ceasing not.
The first earnest search into the soul must be the beginning, not the end. Our search must be continued, until there be no more to be discovered, that is, when sin is no more, and we see ourselves in the full light of the presence of our Judge. For a first search, however diligent, never thoroughly reaches the whole deep disease of the whole man; the most grievous sins hide other grievous sins, though lighter. Some sins flash on the conscience, at one time, some at another; so that few, even upon a diligent search, come at once to the knowledge of all their heaviest sins. When the mist is less thick, we see more clearly what was before one dark dull mass of imperfection and misery. : “Spiritual sins are also with difficulty sifted, (as they are,) by one who is carnal. Whence it happens, that things in themselves heavier he perceives less or very little, and conscience is not grieved so much by the memory of pride or envy, as of impurities and crimes.”
So having said, “Sift yourselves through and through,” he says, “sift on.” A diligent sifting and search into himself must be the beginning of all true repentance and pardon. : “What remains, but that we give ourselves wholly to this work, so holy, and needful? “Let us search and try our ways and our doings” , and let each think that he has made progress, not if he find not what to blame, but if he blame what he finds. Thou hast not sifted thyself in vain, if thou hast discovered that thou needest a fresh sitting; and so often has thy search not failed thee, as thou judgest that it must be renewed. But if thou ever dost this, when there is need, thou dost it ever. But ever remember that thou needest help from above and the mercy of Jesus Christ our Lord Who is over all, God blessed forever.” The whole course of self-examination then lies in two words of divine Scripture. And withal he warns them, instead of gathering together riches which shall “not be able to deliver them in the day of trouble,” to gather themselves into themselves, and so “judge” themselves “thoroughly , that they be not judged of the Lord” 1 Corinthians 11:31-32.
O nation not desired - o, that is, having nothing in itself to be desired or loved, but rather, for its sin, hateful to God. God yearneth with pity and compassion over His creatures; He “hath a desire to the work of His Hands” . Here Israel is spoken to, as what he had made himself, hateful to God by his sins, although still an object of His tender care, in what yet remained to him of nature or grace which was from Himself.
Before the decree bring forth - God’s word is full (as it were) of the event which it foretelleth; it contains its own fulfillment in itself, and “travaileth” until it come to pass, giving signs of its coming, yet delaying until the full time. Time is said to bring forth what is wrought in it. “Thou knowest not, what a day shall bring forth.”
Before the day pass as the chaff - Or, parenthetically, “like chaff the day passeth by.” God’s counsels lie wrapt up, as it were, in the womb of time, wherein He hides them, until the moment which He has appointed, and they break forth suddenly to those who look not for them. The mean season is given for repentance, that is, the day of grace, the span of repentance still allowed, which is continually whirling more swiftly by; and woe, if it be fruitless as chaff! Those who profit not by it shall also be as chaff, carried away pitilessly by the whirlwind to destruction. Time, on which eternity hangs, is a slight, uncertain thing, as little to be counted upon, as the light dry particles which are the sport of the wind, driven uncertainly here and there. But when it is “passed,” then “cometh,” not “to” them, but “upon” them, from heaven, overwhelming them, “abiding upon” John 3:36 them, not to pass away, “the heat of the anger of Almighty God.” This warning he twice repeats, to impress the certainty and speed of its conming Genesis 41:32. It is the warning of our Lord, “Take heed, lest that day come upon you unawares” Luke 21:34.
Seek ye the Lord - He had exhorted sinners to penitence; he now calls the righteous to persevere and increase more and more. He bids them “seek diligently” , and that with a three-fold call, to seek Him from whom they received daily the three-fold blessing Numbers 6:23-26, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as he had just before threatened God’s impending judgment with the same use of the mysterious number, three. They, whom he calls, were already, by the grace of God, “meek,” and “had wrought His judgment.” Rup.: “Submitting themselves to the word of God, they had done and were doing the judgment of God, ‘judging themselves that they benot judged;’ the beginning of which judgment is, as sinners and guilty of death, to give themselves to the Cross of the Lord, that is, to be ‘baptized’ in ‘His Death and be buried with Him by Baptism into death;’ but the perfection of that judgment or righteousness is, to ‘walk in newness of life, as He rose from the dead through the glory of the Father’ Romans 6:3-4.”
Dionysius: “Since the meek already have God through grace as the Possessor and Dweller in their heart, how shall they seek Him but that they may have Him more fully and more perfectly, knowing Him more clearly, loving Him more ardently, cleaving to Him more inseparably, that so they may be heard by Him, not for themselves only, but for others?” It is then the same Voice as at the close of the Revelation, “the righteous, let him be still more righteous; the holy, let him be still more holy” Revelation 22:11. They are the “meek,” who are exhorted “diligently” to “seek meekness,” and they who had “wrought His judgment,” who are “diligently” to “seek Righteousness.” And since our Lord saith, “Learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly of heart” Matthew 11:29, He bids (Jerome) “those who imitated His meekness and did His judgment, to seek the Lord in their meekness.” Meekness and Righteousness may be His Attributes, Who is All-gentleness and All-Righteousness, the Fountain of all, wheresoever it is, in gentleness receiving penitents, and, as “the Righteous Judge, giving the crown of righteousness” to those who “love Him and keep His commandments,” yea He joineth righteousness with meekness, since without His mercy no man living could be justified in His Sight. Cyril: “God is sought by us, when, of our choice, laying aside all listlessness, we thirst after doing what pleases Him; and we shall do judgment too, when we fulfill His divine law, working out what is good unshrinkingly; and we shall gain the prize of righteousness, when crowned with glory for well-doing and running the well-reported anti blameless way of true piety to God and of love to the brethren, for ‘love is the fulfilling of the law’ Romans 13:10.”
It may be ye shall be hid in the day of the Lord’s anger - Rup.: “Shall these too then scarcely be ‘hid in the day of the Lord’s anger?’ Doth not the Apostle Peter say the very same? ‘If it first begin at us, what shall be the end of them that obey not the Gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?’ 1 Peter 4:17-18. So then, although any be ‘meek,’ although he ‘have wrought the judgment’ of the Lord, let him ever suspect himself, nor think that he has ‘already attained,’ since neither can any righteous be saved, if he be judged ‘without mercy.’” Dionysius: “He saith, if ‘may’ be; not that there is any doubt that the meek and they who perseveringly seek God, shall then be saved, but, to convey how difficult it is to be saved, and how fearful and rigorous is the judgment of God.” To be hid is to be sheltered from wrath under the protection of God; as David says, “In the time of trouble He shall hide me” Psalms 27:5; and, “Thou shalt hide them (that trust in Thee) in the secret of Thy presence from the pride of man; Thou shalt keep them secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues” Psalms 31:20. And in Isaiah, “A Man shall be as an hiding-place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest” Isaiah 32:2; and, “There shall be a tabernacle for a shadow in the daytime from the heat, and for a place of refuge, and for a covert from storm and from rain” Isaiah 5:6.
For - As a ground for repentance and perseverance, he goes through Pagan nations, upon whom God’s wrath should come. Jerome: “As Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, after visions concerning Judah, turn to other nations round about, and according to the character of each, announce what shall come upon them, and dwell at length upon it, so doth this prophet, though more briefly” And thus under five nations, who lay west, east, south and north, he includes all mankind on all sides, and, again, according to their respective characters toward Israel, as they are alien from, or hostile to the Church; the Philistines Zephaniah 2:4-7, as a near, malicious, infesting enemy; Moab and Ammon Isaiah 2:8-10, people akin to her (as heretics) yet ever rejoicing at her troubles and sufferings; Etheopians Isaiah 5:12, distant nations at peace with her, and which are, for the most part, spoken of as to be brought unto her; Assyria Isa. 13-15, as the great oppressive power of the world, and so upon it the full desolation rests.
In the first fulfillment, because Moab and Ammon aiding Nebuchadnezzar, (and all, in various ways wronging God’s people Isaiah 16:4; Amos 1:13-15; Amos 2:1-3; Jeremiah 48:27-30, Jeremiah 48:42; Jeremiah 49:1; Ezekiel 20:3, Ezekiel 20:6, Ezekiel 20:8), trampled on His sanctuary, overthrew His temple and blasphemed the Lord, the prophecy is turned against them. So then, before the captivity came, while Josiah was yet king, and Jerusalem and the temple were, as yet, not overthrown, the prophecy is directed against those who mocked at them. “Gaza shall be forsaken.” Out of the five cities of the Philistines, the prophet pronounces woe upon the same four as Amos Amos 1:6-8 before, Jeremiah Jeremiah 25:20 soon after, and Zechariah Zechariah 9:5-6 later. Gath, then, the fifth had probably remained with Judah since Uzziah 2 Chronicles 26:6 and Hezekiah 2 Kings 18:8. In the sentence of the rest, regard is had (as is so frequent in the Old Testament) to the names of the places themselves, that, henceforth, the name of the place might suggest the thought of the doom pronounced upon it.
The names expressed boastfulness, and so, in the divine judgment, carried their own sentence with them, and this sentence is pronounced by a slight change in the word. Thus ‘Azzah’ (Gaza,) ‘strong’ shall be ‘Azoobah, desolated;’ “Ekron, deep-rooting” , shall “Teaker, be uprooted;” the “Cherethites” (cutters off) shall become (Cheroth) “diggings;” “Chebel, the band” of the sea coast, shall be in another sense “Chebel,” an “inheritance” Zephaniah 2:5, Zephaniah 2:7, divided by line to the remnant of Judah; and “Ashdod” (the waster shall be taken in their might, not by craft, nor in the way of robbers, but “driven forth” violently and openly in the “noon-day.”
For Gaza shall be forsaken - Some vicissitudes of these towns have been noted already . The fulfillment of the prophecy is not tied down to time; the one marked contrast is, that the old pagan enemies of Judah should be destroyed, the house of Judah should be restored, and should re-enter upon the possession of the land, promised to them of old. The Philistine towns had, it seems, nothing to fear from Babylon or Persia, to whom they remained faithful subjects. The Ashdodites (who probably, as the most important, stand for the whole ) combined with Sanballat, “the Ammonites and the Arabians” Nehemiah 4:7, to hinder the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem. Even an army was gathered, headed by Samaria Nehemiah 2:0.
They gave themselves out as loyal, Jerusalem as rebellious Nehemiah 2:19; Nehemiah 6:6. The old sin remaining, Zechariah renewed the sentence by Zephaniah against the four cities Zechariah 9:0; a prophecy, which an unbeliever also has recognized as picturing the march of Alexander . : “All the other cities of Palestine having submitted,” Gaza alone resisted the conqueror for two or five months. It had come into the hands of the Persians in the expedition of Cambyses against Egypt . The Gazaeans having all perished fighting at their posts, Alexander sold the women and children, and re-populated the city from the neighborhood . Palestine lay between the two rival successors of Alexander, the Ptolemies and Seleucidae, and felt their wars .
Gaza fell through mischance into the hands of Ptolemy , 11 years after the death of Alexander , and soon after, was destroyed by Antiochus (198 b.c.), “preserving its faith to Ptolemy” as before to the Persians, in a way admired by a pagan historian. In the Maccabee wars, Judas Maccabaeus chiefly destroyed the idols of Ashdod, but also “spoiled their cities” (1 Macc. 5:68); Jonathan set it on fire, with its idol-temple, which was a sort of citadel to it (1 Macc. 10:84); Ascalon submitted to him (1 Macc. 10:86); Ekron with its borders were given to him by Alexander Balas (1 Macc. 10:89); he burned the suburbs of Gaza (1 Macc. 11:61); Simon took it, expelled its inhabitants, filled it with believing Jews and fortified it more strongly than before (1 Macc. 13:43-48); but, after a year’s siege, it was betrayed to Alexander Jannaeus, who killed its senate of 500 and razed the city to the ground .
Gabinius restored it and Ashdod . After Herod’s death, Ashdod was given to Salome ; Gaza, as being a Greek city , was detached from the realm of Archelaus and annexed to Syria. It was destroyed by the Jews in their revolt when Florus was “procurator,” 55 A.D . Ascalon and Gaza must still have been strong, and were probably a distinct population in the early times of Antipater, father of Herod, when Alexander and Alexandra set him over all Idumaea, since “he is said” then “to have made friendship with the Arabs, Gazites and Ascalonites, likeminded with himself, and to have attached them by many and large presents.”
Yet though the inhabitants were changed, the hereditary hatred remained. Philo in his Embassy to Caius, 40 a.d., used the strong language , “The Ascalonites have an implacable and irreconcilable enmity to the Jews, their neighbors, who inhabit the holy land.” This continued toward Christians. Some horrible atrocities, of almost inconceivable savagery, by these of Gaza and Ascalon 361 a.d., are related by Theodoret and Sozomen . : “Who is ignorant of the madness of the Gazaeans?” asks Gregory of Nazianzus, of the times of Julian. This was previous to the conversion of the great Gazite temple of Marna into a Christian Church by Eudoxia . On occasion of Constantine’s exemption of the Maiumas Gazae from their control, it is alleged, that they were “extreme heathen.” In the time of the Crusades the Ascalonites are described by Christians as their “most savage enemies.”
It may be, that a likeness of sin may have continued on a likeness of punishment. But the primary prediction was against the people, not against the walls. The sentence, “Gaza shall be forsaken,” would have been fulfilled by the removal or captivity of its inhabitants, even if they had not been replaced by others. A prediction against any ancient British town would have been fulfilled, if the Britons in it had been replaced or exterminated by Danes, and these by Saxons, and these subdued by the Normans, though their displacers became wealthy and powerful in their place. Even on the same site it would not be the same Gaza, when the Philistine Gaza became Edomite, and the Edomite Greek, and the Greek Arabian . Ashdod (as well as Gaza) is spoken of as a city of the Greeks ; New Gaza is spoken of as a mixture of Turks, Arabians, Fellahs, Bedouins out of Egypt, Syria, Petraea . Felix Faber says, “there is a wonderful com-mixture of divers nations in it, Ethiopians, Arabs, Egyptians, Syrians, Indians and eastern Christians; no Latins .” Its Jewish inhabitants fled from it in the time of Napoleon: now, with few exceptions it is inhabited by Arabs .
But these, Ghuzzeh, Eskalon, Akir, Sedud, are at most successors of the Philistine cities, of which there is no trace above the surface of the earth. It is common to speak of “remnants of antiquity,” as being or not being to be found in any of them; but this means, that, where these exist, there are remains of a Greek or Roman, not of a Philistine city.
Of the four cities, “Akkaron,” Ekron, (“the firm-rooting”) has not left a vestage. It is mentioned by name only, after the times of the Bible, by some who passed by it . There was “a large village of Jews” so called in the time of Eusebius and Jerome , “between Azotus and Jamnia.” Now a village of “about 50 mud houses without a single remnant of antiquity except 2 large finely built wells” bears the name of Akir. Jerome adds, “Some think that Accaron is the tower of Strato, afterward called Caesarea.” This was perhaps derived from misunderstanding his Jewish instructor . But it shows how entirely all knowledge of Ekron was then lost.
Ashdod - Or Azotus which, at the time when Zephaniah prophesied, held out a twenty-nine years’ siege against Psammetichus, is replaced by “a moderate sized village of mud houses, situated on the eastern declivity of a little flattish hill,” “entirely modern, not containing a vestige of antiquity.” “A beautiful sculptured sarcophagus with some fragments of small marble shafts,” “near the Khan on the southwest.” belong of course to later times. “The whole south side of the hill appears also, as if it had been once covered with buildings, the stones of which are now thrown together in the rude fences.” Its Bishops are mentioned from the Council of Nice to 536 a.d. , and so probably continued until the Muslim devastation. It is not mentioned in the Talmud . Benjamin of Tudela calls it Palmis, and says, “it is desolate, and there are no Jews in it .” : “Neither Ibn Haukal (Yacut), Edrisi, Abulfeda, nor William of Tyre mention it.”
Ascalon and Gaza had each a port, Maiuma Gazae, Maiuma Ascalon; literally, “a place on the sea” (an Egyptian name ) belonging to Ascalon or Gaza. The name involves that Ascalon and Gaza themselves, the old Philistine towns, were not on the sea. They were, like Athens, built inland, perhaps (as has been conjectured) from fear of the raids of pirates, or of inroads from those who (like the Philistines themselves probably, or some tribe of them) might come from the sea. The port probably of both was built in much later times; the Egyptian name implies that they were built by Egyptians, after the time when its kings Necos and Apries, (Pharaoh-Necho and Pharaoh-Hophra, who took Gaza Jeremiah 47:1) made Egypt a naval power . This became a characteristic of these Philistine cities. They themselves lay more or less inland, and had a city connected with them of the same name, on the shore. Thus there was an , “Azotus by the sea,” and an “Azotus Ispinus.” There were “two Iamniae, one inland.” But Ashdod lay further from the sea than Gaza; Yamnia, (the Yabneel of Joshua Joshua 15:11, in Uzziah’s time, Yabneh 2 Chronicles 26:6) further than Ashdod. The port of Yamnia was burned by Judas (2 Macc. 12:9).
The “name,” Maiumas, does not appear until Christian times, though “the port of Gaza” is mentioned by Strabo : to it, Alexander brought from Tyre the machines, with which he took Gaza itself . That port then must have been at some distance from Gaza. Each port became a town, large enough to have, in Christian times, a Bishop of its own. The Epistle of John of Jerusalem, inserted in the Acts of the Council of Constantinople, 536 a.d., written in the name of Palestine i., ii., and iii., is signed by a Bishop of Maiumen of Ascalon, as well as by a Bishop of Ascalon, as it is by a Bishop of Maiumas of Gaza as well as by a Bishop of Gaza. . Yabne, or Yamnia, was on a small eminence , 6 12 hours from the sea .
The Maiumas Gazae became the more known. To it, as being Christian, Constantine gave the right of citizenship, and called it Constantia from his son, making it a city independent of Gaza. Julian the Apostate gave to Gaza (which, though it had Bishops and Martyrs, had a pagan temple at the beginning of the 5th century) its former jurisdiction over it, and though about 20 furlongs off, it was called “the maritime portion of Gaza” . It had thenceforth the same municipal officers; but, “as regards the Church alone,” Sozomen adds, “they still appear to be two cities; each has its own Bishop and clergy, and festivals and martyrs, and commemorations of those who had been their Bishops, and ‘boundaries of the fields around,’ whereby the altars which belong to each Episcopate are parted.” The provincial Synod decided against the desire of a Bishop of Gaza, in Sozomen’s time, who wished to bring the Clergy of the Maiumites under himself ruling that “although deprived of their civil privileges by a pagan king, they should not be deprived of those of the Church.”
In 400 a.d., then, the two cities were distinct, not joined or running into one another.
Jerome mentions it as “Maiumas, the emporium of Gaza, 7 miles from the desert on the way to Egypt by the sea;” Sozomen speaks of “Gaza by the sea, which they also call Maiumas;” Evagrius , “that which they also call Maiumas, which is over against the city Gaza” , “a little city.” Mark the deacon, 421 a.d., says , “We sailed to the maritime portion of Gaza, which they call Maiumas,” and Antoninus Martyr, about the close of the 6th century , “we came from Ascalon to Mazomates, and came thence, after a mile, to Gaza - that magnificent and lovely city.” This perhaps explains how an anonymous Geographer, enumerating the places from Egypt to Tyre, says so distinctly , “after Rinocorura lies the new Gaza, being itself also a city; then the desert Gaza,” (writing, we must suppose, after some of the destructions of Gaza); and Jerome could say equally positively ; “The site of the ancient city scarce yields the traces of foundations; but the city now seen was built in another place in lieu of that which fell.”
Keith, who in 1844 explored the spot, found widespread traces of some extinct city.
: “At seven furlongs from the sea the manifold but minute remains of an ancient city are yet in many places to be found - Innumerable fragments of broken pottery, pieces of glass, (some beautifully stained) and of polished marble, lie thickly spread in every level and hollow, at a considerable elevation and various distances, on a space of several square miles. In fifty different places they profusely lie, in a level space far firmer than the surrounding sands,” “from small patches to more open spaces of twelve or twenty thousand square yards.” “The oblong sand-hill, greatly varied in its elevation and of an undulated surface, throughout which they recur, extends to the west and west-southwest. from the sea nearly to the environs of the modern Gaza.” “In attempts to cultivate the sand (in 1832) hewn stones were found, near the old port. Remains of an old wall reached to the sea. - Ten large fragments of wall were embedded in the sand. About 2 miles off are fragments of another wall. Four intermediate fountains still exist, nearly entire in a line along the coast, doubtless pertaining to the ancient port of Gaza. For a short distance inland, the debris is less frequent, as if marking the space between it and the ancient city, but it again becomes plentiful in every hollow. About half a mile from the sea we saw three pedestals of beautiful marble. Holes are still to be seen from which hewn stones had been taken.”
On the other hand, since the old Ashkelon had, like Gaza, Jamnia, Ashdod, a sea-port town, belonging to it but distinct from itself, (the city itself lying distinct and inland), and since there is no space for two towns distinct from one another, within the circuit of the Ashkelon of the crusades, which is limited by the nature of the ground, there seems to be no choice but that the city of the crusades, and the present skeleton, should have been the Maiumas Ascalon, the sea-port. The change might the more readily take place, since the title “port” was often omitted. The new town obliterated the memory of the old, as Neapelis, Naples, on the shore, has taken place of the inland city (whatever its name was), or Utrecht, it is said, has displaced the old Roman town, the remains of which are three miles off at Vechten , or Sichem is called Neapolis, Nablous, which yet was 3 miles off (Jerome).
Erriha is, probably, at least the second representative of the ancient Jericho; the Jericho of the New Testament, built by Herod, not being the Jericho of the prophets. The Corcyra of Greek history gave its name to the island; it is replaced by a Corfu in a different but near locality, which equally gives its name to the island now. The name of Venetia migrated with the inhabitants of the province, who fled from Attila, some 23 miles, to a few of the islands on the coast, to become again the name of a great republic . In our own country, “old Windsor” is said to have been the residence of the Saxon monarchs; the present Windsor, was originally “new Windsor: old Sarum was the Cathedral city, until the reign of Henry iii: but, as the old towns decayed, the new towns came to be called Windsor, Sarum, though not the towns which first had the name. What is now called Shoreham, not many years ago, was called “new Shoreham,” in distinction from the neighboring village .
William of Tyre describes Ashkelon as “situated on the sea-shore, in the form of a semi-circle, whose chord or diameter lies on the sea-shore; but its circumference or arc on the land, looking east. The whole city lies as in a trench, all declining toward the sea, surrounded on all sides by raised mounds, on which are walls with numerous towers of solid masonry, the cement being harder than the stone, with walls of due thickness and of height proportionate; it is surmounted also with outer walls of the same solidity.” He then describes its four gates, east-north-south toward Jerusalem, Gaza, Joppa, and the west, called the sea-gate, because “by it the inhabitants have an egress to the sea.”
A modern traveler, whose description of the ruins exactly agrees with this, says , “the walls are built on a ridge of rocks that winds round the town in a semicircular direction and terminates at each end in the sea; the ground falls within the walls in the same manner, that it does without, so that no part of it could be seen from the outside of the walls. There is no bay nor shelter for shipping, but a small harbor advancing a little way into the town toward its eastern extremity seems to have been formed for the accommodation of such small craft as were used in the better days of the city.” The harbor, moreover, was larger during the crusades, and enabled Ascalon to receive supplies of corn from Egypt and thereby to protract its siege. Sultan Bibars filled up the port and cast stones into the sea, 1270 a.d., and destroyed the remains of the fortifications, for fear that the Franks, after their treaty with the king of Tunis, should bring back their forces against Islamism and establish themselves there . Yet Abulfeda, who wrote a few years later, calls it “one of the Syrian ports of Islam” .
This city, so placed on the sea, and in which too the sea enters, cannot be the Ashkelon, which had a port, which was a town distinct from it. The Ascalon of the Philistines, which existed down into Christian times, must have been inland.
Benjamin of Tudela in the 12th century who had been on the spot, and who is an accurate eyewitness , says, “From Ashdod are two parasangs to Ashkelonah ; this is new Ashkelon which Ezra the priest built on the sea-shore, and they at first called it Benibra . Jerome has another Benamerium, north of Zoar, now N’mairah. Tristram land of Moab p. 57.
A well in Ascalon is mentioned by Eusebius. “There are many wells (named) in Scripture and are yet shewn in the country of Gerar, and at Ascalon.” v. φρέαρ phrear. William of Tyre says: “It has no fountains, either within the compass of the walls, or near it; but it abounds in wells, both within and without, which supply palatable water, fit for drinking. For greater caution the inhabitants had built some cisterns within, to receive rain-water. Benj. of T. also says, “There in the midst of the city is a well which they call Beer Ibrahim-al-khalil (the well of Abraham the friend (of God)) which he dug in the days of the Philistines.” Keith mentions “20 fountains of excellent water opened up anew by Ibrahim Pasha.” p. 274), and it is distant from the old Ashkelon, which is desolate, four parasangs. “When the old Ashkelon perished, is unknown. If, as seems probable from some of the antiquities dug up, the Ashkelon, at which Herod was born and which he beautified, was the seaport town, commerce probably attracted to it gradually the inhabitants of the neighboring town of Ascalon, as the population of the Piraeus now exceeds that of Athens.
The present Ashkelon is a ghastly skeleton; all the frame-work of a city, but none there. “The soil is good,” but the “peasants who cultivate it” prefer living outside in a small village of mud-huts, exposed to winds and sand-storms, because they think that God has abandoned it, and that evil spirits (the Jan and the Ghul) dwell there .
Even the remains of antiquity, where they exist, belong to later times. A hundred men excavated in Ashkelon for 14 days in hopes of finding treasure there. They dug 18 feet below the surface, and fouud marble shafts, a Corinthian capital, a colossal statue with a Medusa’s head on its chest, a marble pavement and white-marble pedestal . The excavation reached no Philistine Ashkelon.
“Broken pottery,” “pieces of glass,” “fragments of polished marble,” “of ancient columns, cornices etc.” were the relics of a Greek Gaza.
Though then it is a superfluity of fulfillment, and what can be found belongs to a later city, still what can be seen has an impressive correspondence with the words Gaza is “forsaken;” for there are miles of fragments of some city connected with Gaza. The present Gaza occupies the southern half of a hill built with stone for the Moslem conquerors of Palestine. : “Even the traces of its former existence, its vestiges of antiquity, are very rare; occasional columns of marble or gray granite, scattered in the streets and gardens, or used as thresholds at the gates and doors of houses, or laid upon the front of watering-troughs. One fine Corinthian capital of white marble lies inverted in the middle of the street.” These belong then to times later than Alexander, since whose days the very site of Gaza must have changed its aspect.
Ashkelon shall be a desolation - The site of the port of Ascalon was well chosen, strong, overhanging the sea, fenced from the land, stretching forth its arms toward the Mediterranean, as if to receive in its bosom the wealth of the sea, yet shunned by the poor hinds around it. It lies in such a living death, that it is “one of the most mournful scenes of utter desolation” which a traveler “even in this land of ruins ever beheld.” But this too cannot be the Philistine city. The sands which are pressing hard upon the solid walls of the city, held back by them for the time, yet threatening to overwhelm “the spouse of Syria,” and which accumulated in the plain below, must have buried the old Ashkelon, since in this land, where the old names so cling to the spot, there is no trace of it.
Ekron shall be uprooted - And at Akir and Esdud “celebrated at present, for its scorpions,” the few stones, which remain, even of a later town, are but as gravestones to mark the burial place of departed greatness.
Jerome: “In like way, all who glory in bodily strength and worldly power and say, “By the strength of my hand I have done it,” shall be left desolate and brought to nothing in the day of the Lord’s anger.” And “the waster,” they who by evil words and deeds injure or destroy others and are an offence unto them, these shall be east out shamefully, into outer darkness, Rup.: “when the saints shall receive the fullest brightness” in the ‘mid-day’ of the Sun of Righteousness. The judgment shall not be in darkness, save to them, but in mid-day, so that the justice of God shall be clearly seen, and darkness itself shall be turned into light, as was said to David, “Thou didst this thing secretly, but I will do it before all Israel and before the sun” 2 Samuel 12:12; and our Lord, “Whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the house-tops” Luke 12:3; and Paul, “the Lord shall come, Who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the heart” 1 Corinthians 4:5. And “they who by seducing words in life or in doctrine uprooted others, shall be themselves rooted up” Matthew 15:13.
The “woe” having been pronounced on the five cities apart, now falls upon the whole nation of the Cherethites or Philistines. The Cherethites are only named as equivalent to the Philistines, probably as originally a distinct immigration of the same people . The name is used by the Egyptian slave of the Amalekite 1 Samuel 30:14 for those whom the author of the first book of Samuel calls Philistines 1 Samuel 30:16. Ezekiel uses the name parallel with that of “Philistines,” with reference to the destruction which God would bring upon them .
The word of the Lord - Comes not to them, but “upon” them, overwhelming them. To them He speaketh not in good, but in evil; not in grace, but in anger; not in mercy, but in vengeance. Philistia was the first enemy of the Church. It showed its enmity to Abraham and Isaac and would fain that they should not sojourn among them Genesis 21:34; Genesis 26:14-15, Genesis 26:28. They were the hindrance that Israel should not go straight to the promised land Exodus 13:17. When Israel passed the Red Sea Exodus 15:14, “sorrow” took hold of them.” They were close to salvation in body, but far in mind. They are called “Canaan,” as being a chief nation of it Genesis 15:21, and in that name lay the original source of their destruction. They inherited the sins of Canaan and with them his curse, preferring the restless beating of the barren, bitter sea on which they dwelt, “the waves of this troublesome world,” to being a part of the true Canaan. They would absorb the Church into the world, and master it, subduing it to the pagan Canaan, not subdue themselves to it, and become part of the heavenly Canaan.
The seacoast shall be dwellings and cottages - o, literally, cuttings or diggings. This is the central meaning of the word; the place of the Cherethites (the cutters off) shall be “cheroth” of shepherds, places which they dug up that their flocks might be enclosed therein. The tracts once full of fighting men, the scourge of Judah, should be so desolate of its former people, as to become a sheep-walk. Men of peace should take the place of its warriors.
So the shepherds of the Gospel with their flocks have entered into possession of war-like nations, turning them to the Gospel. They are shepherds, the chief of whom is that Good Shepherd, who laid down His Life for the sheep. And these are the sheep of whom He speaks, “Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear My Voice; and there shall be one fold and One Shepherd” John 10:16.
And the coast shall be - Or probably, “It shall be a portion for the remnant of the house of Judah.” He uses the word, employed in the first assignment of the land to Israel ; and of the whole people as belonging to God, “Jacob is the ‘lot’ of His inheritance” Deuteronomy 32:9. “The tract of the sea,” which, with the rest, was assigned to Israel, which, for its unfaithfulness, was seldom, even in part, possessed, and at this time, was wholly forfeited, should be a portion for the mere “remnant” which should be brought back. David used the word in his psalm of thanksgiving, when he had brought the ark to the city of David, how God had “confirmed the covenant to Israel, saying, Unto thee will I give the land of Canaan, the lot of your inheritance” 1 Chronicles 16:18; Psalms 105:11; and Asaph, “He cast out the he athen before them and divided to them an inheritance by line” Psalms 78:55. It is the reversal of the doom threatened by Micah, “Thou shalt have none, that shall cast a cord by lot in the congregation of the Lord” Micah 2:5. The word is revived by Ezekiel in his ideal division of the land to the restored people Ezekiel 47:13. “The gifts and calling of God are without repentance” Romans 11:29. The promise, which had slumbered during Israel’s faithlesshess, should be renewed to its old extent. : “There is no prescription against the Church.” The boat threatens to sink; it is tossed, half-submerged, by the waves; but its Lord “rebukes the wind and the sea; wind and sea obey Him, and there is a great calm” Matthew 8:26-27.
For the remnant of the house of Juda - Yet, who save He in whose hand are human wills, could now foresee that Judah should, like the ten tribes, rebel, be carried captive, and yet, though like and worse than Israel in its sin Jeremiah 3:8-11; Ezekiel 16:48-52; Ezekiel 23:11, should, unlike Israel, be restored? The re-building of Jerusalem was, their enemies pleaded, contrary to sound policy Ezra 4:12-16 : the plea was for the time accepted, for the rebellions of Jerusalem were recorded in the chronicles of Babylon Ezra 4:19-22. Yet the falling short of the complete restoration depended on their own wills. God turned again their captivity; but they only, “whose spirit God stirred,” willed to return. The temporal restoration was the picture of the spiritual. They who returned had to give up lands and possessions in Babylonia, and a remnant only chose the land of promise at such cost. Babylonia was as attractive as Egypt formerly.
In the houses of Ashkelon shall they lie down in the evening - One city is named for all. “They shall lie down,” he says, continuing the image from their flocks, as Isaiah, in a like passage, “The first-born of the poor shall feed, and the needy shall lie down in safety” Isa 4:1-6 :30.
The true Judah shall overspread the world; but it too shall only be a remnant; these shall, in safety, “go in and out and find pasture” John 10:9. “In the evening” of the world they shall find their rest, for then also in the time of antichrist, the Church shall be but a remnant still. “For the Lord their God shall visit them,” for He is the Good Shepherd, who came to seek the one sheep which was lost and who says of Himself, “I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick” Ezekiel 34:16; and who in the end will more completely “turn away their captivity,” bring His banished to their everlasting home, the Paradise from which they have been exiled, and separate forever the sheep from the goats who now oppress and scatter them abroad Ezek. 17–19.
I - Dionysius: “God, Who know all things, “I heard” that is, have known within Me, in My mind, not anew but from eternity, and now I shew in effect that I know it; wherefore I say that I hear, because I act after the manner of one who perceiveth something anew.” I, the just Judge, heard (see Isaiah 16:6; Jeremiah 48:39; Ezekiel 35:12-13). He was present and “heard,” even when, because He avenged not, He seemed not to hear, but laid it up in store with Him to avenge in the due time Deuteronomy 32:34-35.
The reproach of Moab and the reviling of the children of Ammon, whereby they have reproached My people - Both words, “reproached, reviled,” mean, primarily, cutting speeches; both are intensive, and are used of blaspheming God as unable to help His people, or reviling His people as forsaken by Him. If directed against man, they are directed against God through man. So David interpreted the taunt of Goliah, “reviled the armies of the living God” (1 Samuel 17:26, 1Sa 17:36, 1 Samuel 17:45, coll. 10. 25), and the Philistine cursed David “by his gods” 1 Samuel 17:43. In a Psalm David complains, “the reproaches of them that reproached Thee are fallen upon me” (Psalms 69:10 (9)); and a Psalm which cannot be later than David, since it declares the national innocency from idolatry, connects with their defeats, the voice of him “that reproacheth and blasphemeth” (Psalms 44:16 (17), joining the two words used here). The sons of Corah say, “with a sword in my bones, mine enemies reproach me, while they say daily unto me, where is thy God?” Psalms 42:10. So Asaph, “The enemy hath reproached, the foolish people hath blasphemed Thy Name” Psalms 74:10, Psalms 74:18; and, “we are become a reproach to our neighbors. Wherefore should the pagan say, where is their God? render unto our neighbors - the reproach wherewith they have reproached Thee, O Lord” Psalms 79:4, Psalms 79:10, Psalms 79:12. And Ethan, “Remember, Lord, the reproach of Thy servants - wherewith Thine enemies have reproached, O Lord, wherewith they have reproached the footsteps of Thine Anointed” Psalms 89:50-51.
In history the repeated blasphemies of Sennacherib and his messengers are expressed by the same words. In earlier times the remarkable concession of Jephthah, “Wilt not thou possess what Chemosh thy god giveth thee to possess? so whomsoever the Lord our God shall drive out before us, them will we possess” Judges 11:24, implies that the Ammonites claimed their land as the gift of their god Chemosh, and that that war was, as that later by Sennacherib, waged in the name of the false god against the True.
The relations of Israel to Moab and Ammon have been so habitually misrepresented, that a review of those relations throughout their whole history may correct some wrong impressions. The first relations of Israel toward them were even tender. God reminded His people of their common relationship and forbade him even to take the straight road to his own future possessions, across their hand against their will. “Distress them not, nor contend with them,” it is said of each, “for I will not give thee of their land for a possession, for I have given it unto the children of Lot for a possession” Deuteronomy 2:9, Deuteronomy 2:19. Idolaters and hostile as they were, yet, for their father’s sake, their title to their land had the same sacred sanction, as Israel’s to his. “I,” God says, “have given it to them as a possession.” Israel, to their own manifest inconvenience, “went along through the wilderness, and compassed the land of Edom, and the land of Moab, but came not within the border of Moab” Judges 11:18. By destroying Sihon king of the Amorites and Og king of Bashan, Israel removed formidable enemies, who had driven Moab and Ammon out of a portion of the land which they had conquered from the Zamzummim and Anakim Deuteronomy 2:10, Deuteronomy 2:20-21, and who threatened the remainder, “Israel dwelt in all the cities of the Amorites” Numbers 21:25, Numbers 21:31.
Heshbon, Dibon, Jahaz, Medeba, Nophah “were cities in the land of the Amorites, in” which “Israel dwelt.” The exclusion of Moab and Ammon from the congregation of the Lord to the tenth generation Deuteronomy 23:3 was not, of course, from any national antipathy, but intended to prevent a debasing intercourse; a necessary precaution against the sensuousness of their idolatries. Moab was the first in adopting the satanic policy of Balaam, to seduce Israel by sensuality to their idolatries; but the punishment was appointed to the partners of their guilt, the Midianites Numbers 25:17; Numbers 31:0, not to Moab. Yet Moab was the second nation, whose ambition God overruled to chasten His people’s idolatries. Eglon, king of Moab, united with himself Ammon and Amalek against Israel. The object of the invasion was, not the recovery of the country which Moab had lost to the Amorites but, Palestine proper.
The strength of Moab was apparently not sufficient to occupy the territory of Reuben. They took possession only of “the city of palm trees” Judges 3:13; either the ruins of Jericho or a spot close by it; with the view apparently of receiving reinforcements or of securing their own retreat by the ford. This garrison enabled them to carry their forays over Israel, and to hold it enslaved for 18 years. The oppressiveness of this slavery is implied by the cry and conversion of Israel to the Lord, which was always in great distress. The memory of Eglon, as one of the oppressors of Israel, lived in the minds of the people in the days of Samuel 1 Samuel 12:9. In the end, this precaution of Moab turned to its own destruction, for, after Eglon was slain, Ephraim, under Ehud, took the fords, and the whole garrison, 10,000 of Moab’s warriors, “every strong man and every man of might” Judges 3:29, were intercepted in their retreat and perished. For a long time after this, we hear of no fresh invasion by Moab. The trans-Jordanic tribes remained in unquestioned possession of their land for 300 years Judg. 40:26, when Ammon, not Moab, raised the claim, “Israel took away my land” Judges 11:13, although claiming the land down to the Arnon, and already being in possession of the southernmost portion of that land, Aroer, since Israel smote him “from Aroer unto Minnith” Judges 11:33. The land then, according to a law recognized by nations, belonged by a twofold right to Israel;
(1) that it had been won, not from Moab, but from the conquerors of Moab, the right of Moab having passed to its conquerors ;
(2) that undisputed and unbroken possession “for time immemorial” as we say, 300 years, ought not to be disputed .
The defeat by Jephthah stilled them for near 50 years until the beginning of Saul’s reign, when they refused the offer of the “men of Jubesh-Gilead” to serve them, and, with a mixture of insolence and savagery, annexed as a condition of accepting that entire submission, “that I may thrust out all your right eyes, to lay it as a reproach to Israel” 1 Samuel 11:1-2. The signal victory of Saul 1 Samuel 11:11 still did not prevent Ammon, as well as Moab, from being among the enemies whom Saul “worsted” . The term “enemies” implies that “they” were the assailants. The history of Naomi shows their prosperous condition, that the famine, which desolated Judah Ruth 1:1, did not reach them, and that they were a prosperous land, at peace, at that time, with Israel. If all the links of the genealogy are preserved Ruth 4:21-22, Jesse, David’s father, was grandson of a Moabitess, Ruth, and perhaps on this ground David entrusted his parents to the care of the king of Moab 1 Samuel 22:3-4.
Sacred history gives no hint, what was the cause of his terrible execution upon Moab. But a Psalm of David speaks to God of some blow, under which Israel had reeled. “O God, Thou hast abhorred us, and broken us in pieces; Thou hast been wroth: Thou hast made the land to tremble and cloven it asunder; heal its breaches, for it shaketh; Thou hast showed Thy people a hard thing, Thou hast made it drink wine of reeling” Psalms 60:3-5; and thereon David expresses his confidence that God would humble Moab, Edom, Philistia. While David then was engaged in the war with the Syrians of Mesopotamia and Zobah (Psalms 60:1-12 title), Moab must have combined with Edom in an aggressive war against Israel. “The valley of salt” , where Joab returned and defeated them, was probably within Judah, since “the city of salt” Joshua 15:62 was one of the six cities of the wilderness. Since they had defeated Judah, they must have been overtaken there on their return .
Yet this too was a religious war. “‘Thou,’” David says “hast given a ‘banner to them that fear Thee,’ to be raised aloft because of the truth” Psalms 60:4.
There is no tradition, that the kindred Psalm of the sons of Corah, Psalms 44:0 belongs to the same time. Yet the protestations to God of the entire absence of idolatry could not have been made at any time later than the early years of Solomon. Even were there Maccabee Psalms, the Maccabees were but a handful among apostates. They could not have pleaded the national freedom from unfaithfulness to God, nor, except in two subordinate and self-willed expeditions (1 Macc. 5:56-60, 67), were they defeated. Under the Persian rule, there were no armies nor wars; no immunity from idolatry in the later history of Judah. Judah did not in Hezekiah’s time go out against Assyria; the one battle, in which Josiah was slain, ended the resistance to Egypt. Defeat was, at the date of this Psalm, new and surprising, in contrast with God’s deliverances of old Psalms 44:1-3; yet the inroad, by which they had suffered, was one of spoiling Psalms 44:10, Psalms 44:12, not of subdual. Yet this too was a religious war, from their neighbors. They were slain for the sake of God Psalms 44:22, they were covered with shame on account of the reproaches and blasphemies Psalms 44:13-14 of those who triumphed over God, as powerless to help; they were a scorn and derision to the petty nations around them. It is a Psalm of unshaken faith amid great prostration: it describes in detail what the lxth Psalm sums up in single heavy words of imagery; but both alike complain to God of what His people had to suffer for His sake.
The insolence of Ammon in answer to David’s message of kindness to their new king, like that to the men of Jabesh Gilead, seems like a deliberate purpose to create hostilities. The relations of the previous king of Ammon to David, had been kind 2 Samuel 10:2-3, perhaps, because David being a fugitive from Israel, they supposed him to be Saul’s enemy. The enmity originated, not with the new king, but with “the princes of the children of Ammon” 2 Samuel 10:3. David’s treatment of these nations 2 Samuel 8:2; 2 Samuel 12:31 is so unlike his treatment of any others whom he defeated, that it implies an internecine warfare, in which the safety of Israel could only be secured by the destruction of its assailants.
Mesha king of Moab records one war, and alludes to others, not mentioned in Holy Scripture. He says, that before his own time, “Omri, king of Israel, afflicted Moab many days;” that “his son (Ahab) succeeded him, and he too said, ‘I will afflict Moab.’” This affliction he explains to be that “Omri possessed himself of the land of Medeba” (expelling, it is implied, its former occupiers) “and that” (apparently, Israel) , “dwelt therein,” “(in his days and in) the days of his son forty years.” He was also in possession of Nebo, and “the king of Israel” (apparently Omri,) “buil(t) Jahaz and dwelt in it, when he made war with me” . Jahaz was near Dibon. In the time of Eusebius, it was still “pointed out between Dibon and Medeba” .
Mesha says, “And I took it to annex it to Dibon.” It could not, according to Mesha also, have been south of the Arnon, since Aroer lay between Dibon and the Arnon, and Mesha would not have annexed to Dibon a town beyond the deep and difficult ravine of the Arnon, with Aroer lying between them. It was certainly north of the Arnon, since Israel was not permitted to come within the border of Moab, but it was at Jahaz that Sihon met them and fought the battle in which Israel defeated him and gained possession of his land, “from the Arnon to the Jabbok” Numbers 21:23-25. It is said also that “Israel dwelt in the land of the Amorites from Aroer which is on the edge of the river Arnon” , and the city which is in the river unto Gilead Joshua 13:16, Joshua 13:18. Aroer on the edge of the river Arnon, and the city which is in the river” Arnon, again occur in describing the southern border of Reuben, among whose towns Jahaz is mentioned, with Beth-Baal-Meon and Kiriathaim, which have been identified.
The afflicting then of Moab by Omri, according to Mesha, consisted in this, that he recovered to Israel a portion of the allotment of Reuben, between 9 and 10 hours in length from north to south, of which, in the time of Israel’s weakness through the civil wars which followed on Jeroboam’s revolt, Moab must have dispossessed Reuben. Reuben had remained in undisturbed possession of it, from the first expulsion of the Amorites to the time at least of Rehoboam, about five hundred years. : “The men of Gad” still “dwelt in Ataroth,” Mesha says, “from time immemorial.”
The picture, which Mesha gives, is of a desolation of the southern portion of Reuben. For, “I rebuilt,” he says, “Baal-Meon, Kiriathaim, Aroer, Beth-bamoth, Bezer, Beth-Diblathaim, Beth-baal-Meon.” Of Beth-Bamoth, and probably of Bezer, Mesha says, that they had previously been destroyed . But Reuben would not, of course, destroy his own cities. They must then have been destroyed either by Mesha’s father, who reigned before him, when invading Reuben, or by Omri, when driving back Moab into his own land, and expelling him from these cities. “Possibly” they were dismantled only, since Mesha speaks only of Omri’s occupying Medeba, Ataroth, and Jahaz. He held these three cities only, leaving the rest dismantled, or dismantling them, unable to place defenders in them, and unwilling to leave them as places of aggression for Moab. But whether they ever were fortified towns at all, or how they were desolated, is mere conjecture. Only they were desolated in these wars.
But it appears from Mesha’s own statement, that neither Omri nor Ahab invaded Moab proper. For in speaking of his successful war and its results, he mentions no town south of the Arnon. He must have been a tributary king, but not a foot of his land was taken. The subsequent war was not a mere revolt, nor was it a mere refusal to pay tribute, of which Mesha makes no complaint. Nor could the tribute have been oppressive to him, since the spoils, left in the encampment of Moab and his allies shortly after his revolt, is evidence of such great wealth. The refusal to pay tribute would have involved nothing further, unless Ahaziah had attempted to enforce it, as Hezekiah refused the tribute to Assyria, but remained in his own borders. But Ahaziah, unlike his brother Jehoram who succeeded him, seems to have undertaken nothing, except the building of some ships for trade 2 Chronicles 20:35-36. Mesha’s war was a renewal of the aggression on Reuben.
Heshbon is not mentioned, and therefore must, even after the war, have remained with Reuben.
Mesha’s own war was an exterminating war, as far as he records it. “I fought against the city,” (Ataroth), he says, “and took it, and killed all the mighty of the city for the well-pleasing of Chemosh and of Moab;” “I fought against it (Nebo) from break of day until norm and took it, and slew all of it, 7,000 men; the ladies and maidens I devoted to Ashtar Chemosh;” to be desecrated to the degradations of that sensual idolatry. The words too “Israel perished with an everlasting destruction” stand clear, whether they express Mesha’s conviction of the past or his hope of the future.
The war also, on the part of Moab, was a war of his idol Chemosh against God. Chemosh, from first to last, is the agent. “Chemosh was angry with his land;” “Chemosh (was pleased) with it in my days;” “I killed the mighty for the well-pleasing of Chemosh;” “I took captive thence all ( ...)and dragged it along before Chemosh at Kiriath;” “Chemosh said to me, Go and take Nebo against Israel;” “I devoted the ladies and maidens to Ashtar-Chemosh;” “I took thence the vessels of ihvh and dragged them before Chemosh;” “Chemosh drove him (the king of Israel) out before (my face);” “Chemosh said to me, Go down against Horonaim.” “Chemosh ( ...)it in my days.”
Contemporary with this aggressive war against Israel must have been the invasion by “the children of Moab and the children of Ammon, the great multitude from beyond the sea, from Syria” 2 Chronicles 20:1-2, in the reign of Jehoshaphat, which brought such terror upon Judah. It preceded the invasion of Moab by Jehoshaphat in union with Jehoram and the king of Edom. For the invasion of Judah by Moab and Ammon took place, while Ahab’s son, Ahaziah, was still living. For it was after this, that Jehoshaphat joined with Ahaziah in making ships to go to Tarshish . But the expedition against Moab was in union with Jehoram who succeeded Ahaziah. The abundance of wealth which the invaders of Judah brought with them, and the precious jewels with which they had adorned themselves, show that this was no mere marauding expedition, to spoil; but that its object was, to take possession of the land or at least of some portion of it.
They came by entire surprise on Jehoshaphat, who heard of them first when they were at Hazazon-Tamar or Engedi, some 36 12 miles from Jerusalem . He felt himself entirely unequal to meet them, and cast himself upon God. There was a day of public humiliation of Judah at Jerusalem. “Out of all the cities of Judah they came to seek the Lord” 2 Chronicles 20:4. Jehoshaphat, in his public prayer, owned, “we have no might against this great company which cometh against us; neither know we what to do; but our eyes are upon Thee” 2 Chronicles 20:13. He appeals to God, that He had forbidden Israel to invade Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, so that they turned away from them and destroyed them not; and now these rewarded them by “coming to cast us out of Thy possession which Thou hast given us to inherit” 2 Chronicles 20:10. One of the sons of Asaph foretold to the congregation, that they might go out fearlessly, for they should not have occasion to fight.
A Psalm, ascribed to Asaph, records a great invasion, the object of which was the extermination of Israel. “They have said; Come and let us cut them off from” being “a nation, that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance” Psalms 83:4. It had been a secret confederacy. “They have taken crafty counsel against Thy people” Psalms 83:3. It was directed against God Himself, that is, His worship and worshipers. “For they have taken counsel in heart together; against Thee do they make a covenant” Psalms 83:5. It was a combination of the surrounding petty nations; Tyre on the north, the Philistines on the west; on the south the Amalekites, Ishmaelites, Hagarenes; eastward, Edom, Gebal, Moab, Ammon. But its most characteristic feature was, that Assur (this corresponds with no period after Jehoshaphat) occupies a subordinate place to Edom and Moab, putting them forward and helping “them.” “Assur also,” Asaph says, “is joined with them; they have become an arm to the children of Lot” Psalms 83:8. This agrees with the description, “there is come against thee a great multitude from beyond the sea, from Syria.”
Scripture does not record, on what ground the invasion of Moab by Jehoram and Jehoshaphat, with the tributary king of Edom, was directed against Moab proper; but it was the result doubtless of the double war of Moab against Reuben and against Judah. It was a war, in which the strength of Israel and Moab was put forth to the utmost. Jehoram had mustered all Israel 2 Kings 3:6; Moab had gathered all who had reached the age of manhood and upward, “everyone who girded on a girdle and upward” 2 Kings 3:21. The three armies, which had made a seven days’ circuit in the wilderness, were on the point of perishing by thirst and falling into the hands of Moab, when Elisha in God’s name promised them the supply of their want, and complete victory over Moab. The eager cupidity of Moab, as of many other armies, became the occasion of his complete overthrow. The counsel with which Elisha accompanied his prediction, “ye shall smite every fenced city and every choice city, and every good tree ye shall fell, and all springs of water ye shall stop up, and every good piece of land ye shall waste with stones” 2 Kings 3:19, was directed, apparently, to dislodge an enemy so inveterate. For water was essential to the fertility of their land and their dwelling there. We hear of no special infliction of death, like what Mesha records of himself. The war was ended by the king of Moab’s sacrificing the heir-apparent of the king of Edom , which naturally created great displeasure against Israel, in whose cause Edom thus suffered, so that they departed to their own land and finally revolted.
Their departure apparently broke up the siege of Ar and the expedition. Israel apparently was not strong enough to carry on the war without Edom, or feared to remain with their armies away from their own land, as in the time of David, of which Edom might take the advantage. We know only the result.
Moab probably even extended her border to the south by the conquest of Horonaim .
After this, Moab is mentioned only on occasion of the miracle of the dead man, to whom God gave life, when cast into Elisha’s sepulchre, as he came in contact with his bones. Like the Bedouin now, or the Amalekites of old, “the bands of Moab came into the land, as the year came” 2 Kings 13:20. Plunder, year by year, was the lot of Israel at the hands of Moab.
On the east of Jordan, Israel must have remained in part (as Mesha says of the Gadites of Arocr) in their old border. For after this, Hazael, in Jehu’s reign, smote Israel “from Aroer which is by the river Arnon” 2 Kings 10:33; and at that time probably Amman joined with him in the exterminating war in Gilead, destroying life before it had come into the world, “that they might enlarge their border” . Jeroboam ii, 825 b.c.; restored Israel “to the sea of the plain” 2 Kings 16:25, that is, the dead sea, and, (as seems probable from the limitation of that term in Deuteronomy, ‘under Ashdoth-Pisgah eastward,’ Deuteronomy 3:17) to its northern extremity, lower in latitude than Heshbon, yet above Nebo and Medeba, lcaving accordingly to Moab all which it had gained by Mesha. Uzziah, a few years later, made the Ammonites tributaries 2 Chronicles 26:8 810 b.c. But 40 years later 771 b.c., Pul, and, after yet another 30 years, 740, Tiglath-pileser having carried away the trans-Jordanic tribes 1 Chronicles 5:26, Moab again possessed itself of the whole territory of Reuben. Probably before.
For 726 b.c., when Isaiah foretold that “the glory of Moab should be contemned with all that great multitude” Isaiah 16:14, he hears the wailing of Moab throughout all his towns, and names all those which had once been Reuben’s and of whose conquest or possession Moab had boasted Isaiah 15:1-2, Isaiah 15:4, Nebo, Medeba, Dibon, Jahaz, Baiith; as also those not conquered then Isaiah 15:4-5, Isaiah 15:1, Heshbon, Elealeh; and those of Moab proper, Luhith, Horonaim, and its capitals, Ar-Moab and Kir-Moab. He hears their sorrow, sees their desolation and bewails with their weeping Isaiah 16:9. He had prophesied this before , and now, three years Isaiah 16:13-14 before its fulfillment by Tiglath-Pileser, he renews it. This tender sorrow for Moab has more the character of an elegy than of a denunciation; so that he could scarcely lament more tenderly the ruin of his own people.
He mentions also distinctly no sin there except pride. The pride of Moab seems something of common notoriety and speech. “We have heard” Isaiah 16:6. Isaiah accumulates words, to express the haughtiness of Moab; “the pride of Moab; exceeding proud; his pride and his haughtiness and his wrath,” pride overpassing bounds, upon others. His words seem to be formed so as to keep this one bared thought before us, as if we were to say “pride, prideful, proudness, pridefulness;” and withal the unsubstantialness of it all, “the unsubstantiality of his lies.” Pride is the source of all ambition; so Moab is pictured as retiring within her old bounds, “the fords of Arnon,” and thence asking for aid; her petition is met by the counter-petition, that, if she would be protected in the day of trouble, the out-casts of Israel might lodge with her now: “be thou a covert to her from the face of the spoiler” Isaiah 16:4-5. The prophecy seems to mark itself out as belonging to a time, after the two and a half tribes had been desolated, as stragglers sought refuge in Moab, and when a severe infliction was to come on Moab: “the Isaiah 16:14 remnant” shall be “small, small not great.”
Yet Moab recovered this too. It was a weakening of the nation, not its destruction. Some 126 years after the prophecy of Isaiah, 30 years after the prophecy of Zephaniah, Moab, in the time of Jeremiah, was in entire prosperity, as if no visitation had ever come upon her. What Zephaniah says of the luxuriousness of his people, Jeremiah says of Moab; “Moab is one at ease from his youth; he is resting on his lees; and he hath not been emptied from vessel to vessel, neither hath he gone into captivity” Jeremiah 48:11. They “say, We are mighty and strong men for the war” Jeremiah 48:14. Moab was a “strong staff, a beautiful rod” Jeremiah 48:17; “he magnified himself against the Lord” Jeremiah 48:26; “Israel was a derision to him” Jeremiah 48:27; “he skipped for joy” at his distress. Jeremiah repeats and even strengthens Isaiah’s description of his pride; “his pride, proud” Jeremiah 48:29, he repeats, “exceedingly; his loftiness,” again “his pride, his arrogancy, and the haughtiness of his heart.”
Its “strongholds” Jeremiah 48:18 were unharmed; all its cities, “far and near,” are counted one by one, in their prosperity Jeremiah 48:1, Jeremiah 48:3, Jeremiah 48:5, Jeremiah 48:21-24; its summer-fruits and vintage were plenteous; its vines, luxuriant; all was joy and shouting. Whence should this evil come? Yet so it was with Sodom and Gomorrah just before its overthrow. It was, for beauty, “a paradise of God; well-watered everywhere; as the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt” Genesis 13:10. In the morning “the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of the furnace” Genesis 19:28. The destruction foretold by Jeremiah is far other than the affliction spoken of by Isaiah. Isaiah prophesies only a visitation, which should reduce her people: Jeremiah foretells, as did Zephaniah, captivity and the utter destruction of her cities. The destruction foretold is complete. Not of individual cities only, but of the whole he saith, “Moab is destroyed” Jeremiah 48:4. “The spoiler shall come upon every city, and no city shall escape, and the valley shall perish and the high places shall be destroyed, as the Lord hath spoken” Jeremiah 48:8.
Moab himself was to leave his land. “Flee, save your lives, and ye shall be like the heath in the wilderness. Chemosh shall go forth into captivity; his priests and his princes together. Give pinions unto Moab, that it may flee and get away, and her cities shall be a desolation, for there is none to dwell therein” Jeremiah 17:6. It was not only to go into captivity, but its home was to be destroyed. “I will send to her those who shall upheave her, and they shall upheave her, and her vessels they shall empty, all her flagons” (all that aforetime contained her) “they shall break in pieces” Jeremiah 48:12. Moab is destroyed and her cities” Jeremiah 48:15; “the spoiler of Moab is come upon her; he hath destroyed the strongholds” Jeremiah 48:18. The subsequent history of the Moabites is in the words, “Leave the cities and dwell in the rock, dwellers of Moab, and be like a dove which nesteth in the sides of the mouth of the pit” Jeremiah 48:28. The purpose of Moab and Ammon against Israel which Asaph complains of, and which Mesha probably speaks of, is retorted upon her. “In Heshbon they have devised evil against it; come and let us cut it off from being a nation. Moab shall be destroyed from being a people, because he hath magnified himself against the Lord” Jeremiah 48:2, Jeremiah 48:42.
Whence should this evil come? They had, with the Ammonites, been faithful servants of Nebuchadnezzar against Judah 2 Kings 24:2. Their concerted conspiracy with Edom, Tyre, Zidon, to which they invited Zedekiah (Jeremiah 27:2 following), was dissolved. Nebuchadnezzars march against Judaea did not touch them, for they “skipped with joy” Jeremiah 48:27 at Israel’s distresses. The connection of Baalis, king of the Ammonites, with Ishmael Jeremiah 40:14; Jeremiah 41:10 the assassin of Gedaliah, whom the king of Babylon made governor over the land 2 Kings 25:22-26; Jeremiah 40:6; Jeremiah 41:1 out of their own people, probably brought down the vengeance of Nebuchadnezzar. For Chaldaeans too were included in the slaughter Jeremiah 41:3. The blow seems to have been aimed at the existence of the people, for the murder of Gedaliah followed upon the rallying of the Jews “out of all the places whither they had been driven” Jeremiah 40:12. It returned on Ammon itself; and on Moab who probably on this, as on former occasions, was associated with it. The two nations, who had escaped at the destruction of Jerusalem, were warred upon and subdued by Nebuchadnezzar in the 23d year of his reign , the 5th after the destruction of Jerusalem.
And then probably followed that complete destruction and disgraced end, in which Isaiah, in a distinct prophecy, sees Moab trodden down by God as “the heap of straw is trodden down in the waters (the kethib) of the dunghill, and he (Moab) stretcheth forth his hands in the midst thereof, as the swimmer stretcheth forth his hands to swim, and He, God, shall bring down his pride with the treacheries of his hands” Isaiah 25:10-12. It speaks much of the continued hostility of Moab, that, in prophesying the complete deliverance for which Israel waited, the one enemy whose destruction is foretold, is Moab and those pictured by Moab. “We have waited for Him and He will save us - For in this mountain (Zion) shall the hand of the Lord rest, and Moab shall be trodden down under Him” Isaiah 25:9-10.
After this, Moab, as a nation, disappears from history. Israel, on its return from the captivity, was again enticed into idolatry by Moabite and Anmonite wives, as well as by those of Ashdod and others Nehemiah 13:23-26, Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Egyptians, Amorites Ezra 9:1. Sanballat also, who headed the opposition to the rebuilding of Jerusalem, was a Moabite Nehemiah 2:10; Nehemiah 4:1-8; Tobiah, an Ammonite Nehemiah 4:2, Nehemiah 4:9. Yet it went no further than intrigue and the threat of war. They were but individuals, who cherished the old hostility. In the time of the Maccabees, the Ammonites, not Moab, “with a mighty power and much people” were in possession of the Reubenite cities to Jazar (1 Macc. 5:6, 8). It was again an exterminating war, in which the Jews were to be destroyed (1 Macc. 5:9, 10, 27). After repeated defeats by Judas Maccabaeus, the Ammonites “hired the Arabians” (1 Macc. 5:39) (not the Moabites) to help them, and Judas, although victorious, was obliged to remove the whole Israelite population, “all that were in the land of Gilead, from the least unto the greatest, even their wives, and their children, and their stuff, a very great host, to the end they might come into the land of Judaea” (1 Macc. 5:45). The whole population was removed, obviously lest, on the withdrawal of Judas’ army, they should be again imperiled. As it was a defensive war against Ammon, there is no mention of any city, south of the Arnon, in Moab’s own territory. It was probably with the view to magnify descendants of Lot, that Josephus speaks of the Moabites as being “even yet a very great nation” . Justin’s account, that there is “even now a great multitude of Ammonites,” does not seem to me to imply a national existence. A later writer says , “not only the Edomites but the Ammonites and Moabites too are included in the one name of Arabians.”
Some chief towns of Moab became Roman towns, connected by the Roman road from Damascus to Elath. Ar and Kir-Moab in Moab proper became Areopolis and Charac-Moab, and, as well as Medeba and Heshbon in the country which had been Reuben’s, preserve traces of Roman occupancy. As such, they became Christian Sees. The towns, which were not thus revived as Roman, probably perished at once, since they bear no traces of any later building.
The present condition of Moab and Ammon is remarkable in two ways;
(1) for the testimony which it gives of its former extensive population;
(2) for the extent of its present desolation.
“How fearfully,” says an accurate and minute observer , “is this residence of old kings and their land wasted!” It gives a vivid idea of the desolation, that distances are marked, not by villages which he passes but by ruins . : “From these ruined places, which lay on our way, one sees how thickly inhabited the district formerly was.” Yet the ground remained fruitful.
It was partly abandoned to wild plants, the wormwood and other shrubs ; partly, the artificial irrigation, essential to cultivation in this land, was destroyed ; here and there a patch was cultivated; the rest remained barren, because the crops might become the prey of the spoiler , or the thin population had had no heart to cultivate it.
A list of 33 destroyed places which still retained their names, was given to Seetzen , “of which many were cities in times of old, and beside these, a great number of other wasted villages. One sees from this, that, in the days of old, this land was extremely populated and flourishing, and that destructive wars alone could produce the present desolation.” And thereon he adds the names of 40 more ruined places. Others say : “The whole of the fine plains in this quarter” (the south of Moab) “are covered with sites of towns, on every eminence or spot convenient for the construction of one; and as all the land is capable of rich cultivation, there can be no doubt that this country, now so deserted, once presented a continued picture of plenty and fertility.” : “Every knoll” (in the highlands of Moab) “is covered with shapeless ruins. - The ruins consist merely of heaps of squared and well-fitting stones, which apparently were erected without mortar.” : “One description might serve for all these Moabite ruins. The town seems to have been a system of concentric circles, built round a central fort, and outside the buildings the rings continue as terrace-walks, the gardens of the old city. The terraces are continuous between the twin hillocks and intersect each other at the foot” . Ruined villages and towns, broken walls that once enclosed gardens and vineyards, remains of ancient roads; everything in Moab tells of the immense wealth and population, which that country must have once enjoyed.”
The like is observed of Ammon . His was direct hatred of the true religion. It was not mere exultation at the desolation of an envied people. It was hatred of the worship of God. “Thus saith the Lord God; “Because thou saidst, Aha, against My sanctuary, because it was profaned” Ezekiel 25:3; and against the land of Israel, because it was desolated; and against the house of Judah, because they went into captivity.” The like temper is shown in the boast, “Because that Moab and Seir do say; Behold the house of Judah is like unto the pagan” Ezekiel 25:8, that is, on a level with them.
Forbearing and long-suffering as Almighty God is, in His infinite mercy, He does not, for that mercy’s sake, bear the direct defiance of Himself. He allows His creatures to forget Him, not to despise or defy Him. And on this ground, perhaps, He gives to His prophecies a fulfillment beyond what the letter requires, that they may be a continued witness to Him. The Ammonites, some 1600 years ago, ceased to “be remembered among the nations.” But as Nineveh and Babylon, and the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, by being what they are, are witnesses to His dealings, so the way in which Moab and Ammon are still kept desolate is a continued picture of that first desolation. Both remain rich, fertile; but the very abundance of their fertility is the cause of their desolation. God said to Ammon, as the retribution on his contumely: “therefore, behold, I give thee to the children of the East for a possession, and they shall set their encampments in thee, and place their dwellings in thee; “they” shall eat thy fruit and “they” shall drink thy milk; and I will make Rabbah a dwelling-place of camels, and the children of Ammon a couchingplace for flocks” Ezekiel 25:4-5.
Of Moab He says also, “I will open the side of Moab from the cities, which are on his frontiers, the glory of the country, unto the men of the East with the Ammonites” Ezekiel 25:8, Ezekiel 25:10. And this is an exact description of the condition of the land at this day. All travelers describe the richness of the soil. We have seen this as to Moab. But the history is one and the same. One of the most fertile regions of the world, full of ruined towns, destitute of villages or fixed habitations, or security of property, its inhabitants ground down by those, who have succeeded the Midianites and the Amalekites, “the children of the East.” “Thou canst not find a country like the Belka,” says the Arabic proverb , but “the inhabitants cultivate patches only of the best soil in that territory when they have a prospect of being able to secure the harvest against the invasion of enemies.” “We passed many ruined cities,” said Lord Lindsay , “and the country has once been very populous, but, in 35 miles at least, we did not see a single village; the whole country is one vast pasturage, overspread by the flocks and herds of the Anezee and Beni Hassan Bedouins.”
The site of Rabbath Amman was well chosen for strength. Lying “in a long valley” through which a stream passed, “the city of waters” could not easily be taken, flor its inhabitants compelled to surrender from hunger or thirst. Its site, as the eastern bound of Peraea , “the last place where water could be obtained and a frontier fortress against the wild tribes beyond” , marked it for preservation. In Greek times, the disputes for its possession attest the sense of its importance. In Roman, it was one of the chief cities of the Decapolis, though its population was said to be a mixture of Egyptians, Arabians, Phoenicians . The coins of Roman Emperors to the end of the second century contain symbols of plenty, where now reigns utter desolation .
In the 4th century, it and two other now ruined places, Bostra and Gerasa, are named as “most carefully and strongly walled.” It was on a line of rich commerce filled with strong places, in sites well selected for repelling the invasions of the neighboring nations . Centuries advanced. It was greatly beautified by its Roman masters. The extent and wealth of the Roman city are attested both by the remains of noble edifices on both sides of the stream, and by pieces of pottery, which are the traces of ancient civilized dwelling, strewed on the earth two miles from the city. : “At this place, Amman, as well as Gerasa and Gamala, three colonial settlements within the compass of a day’s journey from one another, there were five magnificent theaters and one ampitheater, besides temples, baths, aqueducts, naumachia, triumphal arches.” : “Its theater was the largest in Syria; its colonnade had at least 50 columns.” The difference of the architecture shows that its aggrandizement must have been the work of different centuries: its “castle walls are thick, and denote a remote antiquity; large blocks of stone are piled up without cement and still hold together as well as if recently placed.” It is very probably the same which Joab called David to take, after the city of waters had been taken; within it are traces of a temple with Corinthian columns, the largest seen there, yet “not of the best Roman times.”
Yet Amman, the growth of centuries, at the end of our 6th century was destroyed. For “it was desolate before Islam, a great ruin.” : “No where else had we seen the vestiges of public magnificence and wealth in such marked contrast with the relapse into savage desolation.” But the site of the old city, so well adapted either for a secure refuge for its inhabitants or for a secure depository for their plunder, was, on that very ground, when desolated of its inhabitants, suited for what God, by Ezekiel, said it would become, a place, where the men of the East should stable their flocks and herds, secure from straying. What a change, that its temples, the center of the worship of its successive idols, or its theaters, its places of luxury or of pomp, should be stables for that drudge of man, the camel, and the stream which gave it the proud title of “city of waters” their drinking trough! And yet of the cities whose destruction is prophesied, this is foretold of Rabbah alone, as in it alone is it fulfilled! “Ammon,” says Lord Lindsay , “was situated on both sides of the stream; the dreariness of its present aspect is quite indescribable. It looks like the abode of death; the valley stinks with dead camels; one of them was rotting in the stream; and though we saw none among the ruins, they were absolutely “covered” in every direction with their dung.” “Bones and skulls of camels were mouldering there (in the area of the ruined theater) and in the vaulted galleries of this immense structure.” “It is now quite deserted, except by the Bedouins, who water their flocks at its little river, descending to it by a “wady,” nearly opposite to a theater (in which Dr. Mac Lennan saw great herds and flocks) and by the “akiba.”
Re-ascending it, we met sheep and goats by thousands, and camels by hundreds.” Another says , “The space intervening between the river and the western hills is entirely covered with the remains of buildings, now only used for shelter for camels and sheep.” Buckingham mentions incidentally, that he was prevented from sleeping at night “by the bleating of flocks and the neighing of horses, barking of dogs etc.” Another speaks of “a small stone building in the Acropolis now used as a shelter for flocks.” While he was “traversing the ruins of the city, the number of goats and sheep, which were driven in among them, was exceedingly annoying, however remarkable, as fulfilling the prophecies” . “Before six tents fed sheep and camels” . “Ezekiel points just to these Ezekiel 20:5, which passage Seetzen cites. And in fact the ruins are still used for such stalls.”
The prophecy is the very opposite to that upon Babylon, though both alike are prophecies of desolation. Of Babylon Isaiah prophesies, “It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it bedwelt in from generation to generation; neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there, neither shall the shepherds make fold there, but wild beasts of the desert shall lie there, and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures; and the ostriches shall dwell there, and the jackals shall cry in their desolate houses, and howling creatures in their pleasant palaces” Isaiah 13:20. And the ruins are full of wild beasts . Of Rabbah, Ezekiel prophesied that it should be “a possession for the men of the East, and I” Ezekiel 25:4-5, God says, “will make Rabbah a stable for camels, and the Ammonites a couching-place for flocks;” and man’s lawlessness fulfills the will and word of God.
Therefore as I live, saith the Lord of hosts - Life especially belongs to God, since He Alone is Underived Life. “He hath life in Himself” John 5:26. He is entitled “the living God,” as here, in tacit contrast with the dead idols of the Philistines 1 Samuel 17:26, 1 Samuel 17:36, with idols generally Jeremiah 10:10; or against the blasphemies of Sennacherib 2 Kings 19:4, 2 Kings 19:16, the mockeries of scoffers Jeremiah 23:36, of the awe of His presence (Deuteronomy 5:25 (Deuteronomy 5:26 in Hebrew)), His might for His people Joshua 3:10; as the object of the soul’s longings , the nearness in the Gospel, “children of the living God” (Hosea 1:10 (Hosea 2:1 in Hebrew)). “Since He can swear by no greater, He sware by Himself” Hebrews 6:13. Since mankind are ready mostly to believe that God means well with them, but are slow to think that He is in earnest in His threats, God employs this sanction of what He says, twice only in regard to His promises or His mercy Isaiah 49:18; Ezekiel 33:10; everywhere else to give solemnity to His threats Numbers 14:28; Deuteronomy 32:40, (adding לעולס) Jeremiah 22:24; Ezekiel 5:11; Ezekiel 14:16, Ezekiel 14:18, Ezekiel 14:20; Ezekiel 16:48; (as Judge) Ezekiel 17:16, Ezekiel 17:19; Ezekiel 18:3; (in rebuke) Ezekiel 20:3, Ezekiel 20:31, Ezekiel 20:33; Ezekiel 33:27; Ezekiel 34:8; Ezekiel 35:11. In the same sense, I swear by Myself, Jeremiah 22:5; Jeremiah 49:13; hath sworn by Himself, Amos 6:8; by the excellency of Jacob, Amos 8:7). The appeal to the truth of His own being in support of the truth of His words is part of the grandeur el the prophet Ezekiel in whom it chiefly occurs. God says in the same meaning, by Myself have I sworn, of promises which required strong faith .
Saith the Lord of Hosts - Their blasphemies had denied the very being of God, as God, to whom they preferred or likened their idols; they had denied His power or that He could avenge, so He names His Name of power, “the Lord of the hosts” of heaven against their array against His border, I, “the Lord of hosts” who can fulfill what I threaten, and “the God of Israel” who Myself am wronged in My people, will make “Moab as Sodom, and the children of Ammon as Gomorrah.” Sodom and Gomorrah had once been flourishing cities, on the borders of that land, which Israel had won from the Amorite, and of which Moab and Ammon at different times possessed themselves, and to secure which Ammon carried on that exterminating war. For they were to the east of the plain “between Bethel and Ai,” where Lot made his choice, “in the plain or circle of Jordan” Genesis 13:1, Genesis 13:3, Genesis 13:11, the well known title of the tract, through which the Jordan flowed into the Dead Sea. Near this, lay Zoar, (Ziara) beneath the caves whither Lot, at whose prayer it had been spared, escaped from its wickedness.
Moab and Ammon had settled and in time spread from the spot, wherein their forefathers had received their birth. Sodom, at least, must have been in that part of the plain, which is to the east of the Jordan, since Lot was bidden to flee to the mountains, with his wife and daughters, and there is no mention of the river, which would have been a hindrance Genesis 19:17-23. Then it lay probably in that “broad belt of desolation” in the plain of Shittim, as Gomorrah and others of the Pentapolis may have lain in “the sulphur-sprinkled expanse” between El Riha (on the site of Jericho) and the dead sea, “covered with layers of salt and gypsum which overlie the loamy subsoil, literally, fulfilling the descriptions of Holy Writ (says an eye-witness), “Brimstone and salt and burning, that it is not sown nor beareth, nor any grass groweth therein” Deuteronomy 29:23 : “a fruitful land turned into salthess” Psalms 107:34. “No man shall abide there, neither shall a son of man dwell in it” Jeremiah 49:18. An elaborate system of artificial irrigation was carried through that cis-Jordanic tract, which decayed when it was desolated of man, and that desolation prevents its restoration.
The doom of Moab and Ammon is rather of entire destruction beyond all recovery, than of universal barrenness. For the imagery, that it should be the “breeding” (literally, ‘possession’) “of nettles” would not be literally compatible, except in different localities, with that of “saltpits,” which exclude all vegetation. Yet both are united in Moab. The soil continues, as of old, of exuberant fertility; yet in part, from the utter neglect and insecurity of agriculture it is abandoned to a rank and encumbering vegetation; elsewhere, from the neglect of the former artiticial system of irrigation, it is wholly barren. The plant named is one of rank growth, since outcasts could lie concealed under it Job 30:7. The preponderating authority seems to be for “mollach,” the Bedouin name of the “mallow,” Prof. E. H. Palmer says , “which,” he adds, “I have seen growing in rank luxuriance in Moab, especially in the sides of deserted Arab camps.”
The residue of My people shall spoil them, and the remnant of My people shall possess them - Again, a remnant only, but even these shall prevail against them, as was first fulfilled in Judas Maccabaeus (1 Macc. 5:6-8).
This shall they have for their pride - Literally, “This to them instead of their pride.” Contempt and shame shall be the residue of the proud man; the exaltation shall be gone, and all which they shall gain to themselves shall be shame. Moab and Ammon are the types of heretics . As they were akin to the people of God, but hating it; akin to Abraham through a lawless birth, but ever molesting the children of Abraham, so heretics profess to believe in Christ, to be children of Christ, and yet ever seek to overthrow the faith of Christians. As the Church says, “My mothers children are” “angry with me” Song of Solomon 1:5. They seem to have escaped the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah (pagan sins), and to have found a place of refuge (Zoar); and yet they are in darkness and cannot see the light of faith; and in an unlawful manner they mingle, against all right, the falsehood of Satan with the truth of God; so that their doctrines become, in part, “doctrines of devils,” in part have some stamp of the original truth.
To them, as to the Jews, our Lord says, “Ye are of your father the devil.” While they profess to be children of God, they claim by their names to have God for their Father (Moab) and to be of His people (Ammon), while in hatred to His true children they forfeit both. As Moab seduced Israel, so they the children of the Church. They too enlarge themselves against the borders of the Church, rending off its children and making themselves the Church. They too utter reproaches and revilings against it. “Take away their revilings,” says an early father , “against the law of Moses, and the prophets, and God the Creator, and they have not a word to utter.” They too “remove the old landmarks which the fathers” (the prophets and Apostles) “have set.” And so, barrenness is their portion; as, after a time, heretics ever divide, and do not multiply; they are a desert, being out of the Church of God: and at last the remnant of Judah, the Church, possesses them, and absorbs them into herself.
The Lord will be terrible unto - (upon) them that is, upon Moab and Ammon, and yet not in themselves only, but as instances of His just judgment. Whence it follows, “For He will famish all the gods of the earth” (Rup.). Miserable indeed, to whom the Lord is terrible! Whence is this? Is not God by Nature sweet and pleasurable and serene, and an Object of longing? For the Angels ever desire to look into Him, and, in a wonderful and unspeakable way, ever look and ever long to look. For miserable they, whose conscience makes them shrink from the face of Love. Even in this life they feel this shrinking, and, as if it were some lessening of their grief, they deny it, as though this could destroy the truth, which they ‘hold down in unrighteousness.’” Romans 1:18.
For He will famish all the gods of the earth - Taking away “the fat of their sacrifices, and the wine of their drink-offerings” Deuteronomy 32:38. Within 80 years from the death of our Lord , the governor of Pontus and Bithynia wrote officially to the Roman Emperor, that “the temples had been almost left desolate, the sacred rites had been for a long time intermitted, and that the victims had very seldom found a purchaser,” before the persecution of the Christians, and consulted him as to the amount of its continuance. Toward the close of the century, it was one of the Pagan complaints, which the Christian Apologist had to answer “they are daily melting away the revenues of our temples.” The prophet began to speak of the subdual of Moab and Ammon; he is borne on to the triumphs of Christ over all the gods of the Pagan, when the worship of God should not be at Jerusalem only, but “they shall worship Him, every one from his place.”
Even all the isles of the pagan - For this is the very note of the Gospel, that, Cyril: “each who through faith in Christ was brought to the knowledge of the truth, by Him, and with Him, “worshipeth from his place” God the Father; and God is no longer known in Judaea only, but the countries and cities of the Pagan, though they be separated by the intervening sea from Judaea, no less draw near to Christ, pray, glorify, thank Him unceasingly. For formerly “His name” was “great in Israel” Psalms 76:1, but now He is well known to all everywhere; earth and sea are full of His glory, and so every one ‘worshipeth Him from his place;’ and this is what is said, ‘As I live, saith the Lord, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord’ Numbers 14:21.” “The isles” are any distant lands on the seashore (Jeremiah 25:22, following; Ezekiel 26:15, following; Psalms 72:10), especially the very distant Isaiah 66:19; but also Asia Minor Daniel 11:1, Daniel 11:8 and the whole coast of Europe, and even the Indian Archipelago , since the ivory and ebony came from its “many isles.”
Zephaniah revives the term, by which Moses had spoken of the dispersion of the sons of Japhet: “By these were the ‘isles of the Gentiles’ divided in their lands, every one after his tongue” Genesis 10:5. He adds the word, “all;” all, wherever they had been dispersed, every one from his place, shall worship God. One universal worship shall ascend to God from all everywhere. So Malachi prophesied afterward; “From the rising up of the sun even to the going down of the same My Name shall be great among the Gentiles, and “in every place” incense shall be offered unto God and a pure offering, for My Name shall be great among the pagan, saith the Lord of hosts” Malachi 1:11. Even a Jew says here: “This, without doubt, refers to the time to come, when all the inhabitants of the world shall know that the Lord is God, and that His is the greatness and power and glory, and He shall be called the God of the whole earth.” The “isles” or “coasts of the sea” are the more the emblem of the Church, in that, Cyril: “lying, as it were, in the sea of this world and encompassed by the evil events in it, as with bitter waters, and lashed by the most vehement waves of persecutions, the Churches are yet founded, so that they cannot fall, and rear themselves aloft, and are not overwhelmed by afflictions. For, for Christ’s sake, the Churches cannot be shaken, and ‘the gates of hell shall not prevail against them’ Matthew 16:18.”
Ye Ethiopians also, ye shall be slain by My sword - Literally, “Ye Ethiopians also, the slain of My sword are they.” Having summoned them to His throne, God speaks of them, not to them anymore; perhaps in compassion, as elsewhere in indignation . The Ethiopians were not in any direct antagonism to God and His people, but allied only to their old oppressor, Egypt. They may have been in Pharaoh Necho’s army, in resisting which, as a subject of Assyria, Josiah was slain: they are mentioned Jeremiah 46:9 in that army which Nebuchadnezzar smote at Carchemish in the 4th year of Jehoiakim. The prophecy of Ezekiel implies rather, that Ethiopia should be involved in the calamities of Egypt, than that it should be itself invaded. “Great terror shall be in Ethiopia, ‘when the slain shall fall in Egypt’ Ezekiel 30:4.” “Ethiopia and Lybia and Lydia etc. and all the men of the land that is in league, shall fall ‘with these,’ by the sword” Ezekiel 30:5. “They also that ‘uphold Egypt’ shall fall” Ezekiel 30:6.
Syene, the frontier-fortress over against Ethiopia, is especially mentioned as the boundary also of the destruction. “Messengers” God says, “shall go forth from Me to make the careless Ethiopians afraid” Ezekiel 30:9, while the storm was bursting in its full desolating force upon Egypt. All the other cities, whose destruction is foretold, are cities of lower or upper Egypt .
But such a blow as that foretold by Jeremiah and Ezekiel must have fallen heavily upon the allies of Egypt. We have no details, for the Egyptians would not, and did not tell of the calamities and disgraces of their country. No one does. Josephus, however, briefly but distinctly says , that after Nebuchadnezzar had in the 23rd year of his reign, the 5th after the destruction of Jerusalem, “reduced into subjection Moab and Ammon, he invaded Egypt, with a view to subdue it,” “killed its then king, and having set up another, captured for the second time the Jews in it and carried them to Babylon.” The memory of the devastation by Nebuchadnezzar lived on apparently in Egypt, and is a recognized fact among the Muslim historians, who had no interest in the fulfillment of Jewish prophecy, of which it does not appear that they even knew.
Bokht-nasar (Nebuchadnezzar), they say , “made war on the son of Nechas (Necho), slew him and ruined the city of Memphis” and many other cities of Egypt: he carried the inhabitants captive, without leaving one, so that Egypt remained waste forty years without one inhabitant.” Another says , The refuge which the king of Egypt granted to the Jews who fled from Nebuchadnezzar brought this war upon it: for he took them under his protection and would not give them up to their enemy. Nebuchadnezzar, in revenge, marched against the king of Egypt and destroyed the country.” “One may be certain,” says a good authority , “that the conquest of Egypt by Nebuchadnezzar was a tradition generally spread in Egypt and questioned by no one.”
Ethiopia was then involved, as an ally, and as far as its contingent was concerned, in the war, in which Nebuchadnezzar desolated Egypt for those 40 years. But, although this fulfilled the prophecy of Ezekiel, Isaiah, some sixty years before Zephaniah, prophesied a direct conquest of Ethiopia. I “have given,” God says, “Egypt as thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee” Isaiah 43:3. It lay in God’s purpose, that Cyrus should restore His own people, and that his ambition should find its vent and compensation in the lands beyond. It may be that, contrary to all known human policy, Cyrus restored the Jews to their own land, willing to bind them to himself, and to make them a frontier territory toward Egypt, not subject only but loyal to himself. This is quite consistent with the reason which he assigns; “The Lord God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and He hath charged me to build Him an house at Jerusalem which is in Judah” Ezra 1:2-3; and with the statement of Josephus, that he was moved thereto by “reading the prophecy which Isaiah left, 210 years before.”
It is, alas! nothing new to Christians to have mixed motives for their actions: the exception is to have a single motive, “for the glory of God.” The advantage to himself would doubtless flash at once on the founder of a great empire, though it did not suggest the restoration of the Jews. Egypt and Assyria had always, on either side, wished to possess themselves of Palestine, which lay between them. Anyhow, one Persian monarch did restore the Jews; his successor possessed himself of “Egypt, and part, at least, of Ethiopia.” Cyrus wished, it is related , “to war in person against Babylon, the Bactrians, the Sacae, and Egypt.” He perished, as is known, before he had completed the third of his purposed conquests. Cambyses, although after the conquest of Egypt he planned ill his two more distant expeditions, reduced “the Ethiopians bordering upon Egypt” ( “lower Ethiopia and Nubia”), and these “brought gifts” permanently to the Persian Sovereign. Even in the time of Xerxes, the Ethiopians had to furnish their contingent of troops against the Greeks. Herodotus describes their dress and weapons, as they were reviewed at Doriscus . Cambyses, then, did not lose his hold over Ethiopia and Egypt, when forced by the rebellion of Pseudo-Smerdis to quit Egypt.
Zephaniah began by singling out Judah amid the general destruction, “I will also stretch out My Hand upon Judah” Zephaniah 1:4; he sums up the judgment of the world in the same way; “He will stretch out, or, Stretch He forth, “His Hand against the north and destroy Asshur, and make Nineveh a desolation.” Judah had, in Zephaniah’s time, nothing to fear from Assyria. Isaiah Isaiah 39:6 and Micah Micah 4:10 had already foretold, that the captivity would be to Babylon. Yet of Assyria alone the prophet, in his own person, expresses his own conformity with the mind of God. Of others he had said, “the word of the Lord is against you, O Canaan, and I will destroy thee; As I live, saith the Lord, Moab shall be as Sodom. Ye also, O Ethiopians, the, slain of My sword are they.” Of Assyria alone, by a slight inflection of the word, he expresses that he goes along with this, which he announces.
He does not say as an imprecation, “May He stretch forth His hand;” but gently, as continuing his prophecies, “and,” joining on Asshur with the rest; only instead of saying “He will stretch forth,” by a form almost insulated in Hebrew, he says, “And stretch He forth His Hand.” In a way not unlike, David having declared God’s judgments, “The Lord trieth the righteous; and the wicked and the lover of violence doth His soul abhor, subjoineth, On the wicked rain He snares,” signifying that he (as all must be in the Day of judgment), is at one with the judgment of God. This is the last sentence upon Nineveh, enforcing that of Jonah and Nahum, yet without place of repentance now. He accumulates words expressive of desolateness. It should not only be a “desolation” Zephaniah 2:4, Zephaniah 2:9, as he had said of Ashkelon, Moab and Amman, but a dry, parched , unfruitful Isaiah 53:2 land. As Isaiah, under the same words, prophesies that the dry and desolate land should, by the Gospel, be glad, so the gladness of the world should become dryness and desolation. Asshur is named, as though one individual , implying the entireness of the destruction; all shall perish as one man; or as gathered into one and dependent upon one, its evil King. “The north” is not only Assyria, in that its armies came upon Judah from the north, but it stands for the whole power of evil (see Isaiah 14:13), as Nineveh for the whole beautiful, evil, world. The world with “the princes of this world” shall perish together.
And flocks shall lie down in the midst of her - No desolation is like that of decayed luxury. It preaches the nothingness of man, the fruitlessness of his toils, the fleetingness of his hopes and enjoyments, and their baffling when at their height. Grass in a court or on a once beaten road, much more, in a town, speaks of the passing away of what has been, that man was accustomed to be there, and is not, or is there less than he was. It leaves the feeling of void and forsakenness. But in Nineveh not a few tufts of grass here and there shall betoken desolation, it shall be one wild rank pasture, where “flocks” shall not feed only, but “lie down” as in their fold and continual resting place, not in the outskirts only or suburbs, but in the very center of her life and throng and busy activity, “in the midst of her,” and none shall fray them away. So Isaiah had said of the cities of Aroer, “they shall be for flocks, which shall lie down and none shall make them afraid” Isaiah 17:2, and of Judah until its restoration by Christ, that it should be “a joy of wild asses, a pasture of flocks” (Isaiah 32:14, compare Jeremiah 6:2). And not only those which are wont to be found in some connection with man, but “all the beasts of a nation” , the troops of wild and savage and unclean beasts which shun the dwellings of man or are his enemies, these in troops have their lair there.
Both the cormorant and the bittern - They may be the same. The pelican retires inland to consume its food. Tristram, Houghton, in Smith’s Bible Dictionary, “Pelican” note. It could be a hedgehog.
Shall lodge in the upper lintels of it. - The “chapiters” (English margin) or capitals of the pillars of the temples and palaces shall lie broken and strewn upon the ground, and among those desolate fragments of her pride shall unclean animals haunt. The pelican has its Hebrew name from vomiting. It vomits up the shells which it had swallowed whole, after they had been opened by the heat of the stomach, and so picks out the animal contained in them , the very image of greediness and uncleanness. It dwells also not in deserts only but near marshes, so that Nineveh is doubly waste.
A voice shall sing in the windows - In the midst of the desolation, the muteness of the hedgehog and the pensive loneliness of the solitary pelican, the musing spectator is even startled by the gladness of a bird, joyous in the existence which God has given it. Instead of the harmony of music and men-singers and women-singers in their palaces shall be the sweet music of some lonely bird, unconscious that it is sitting “in the windows” of those, at whose name the world grew pale, portions of the outer walls being all which remain of her palaces. “Desolation” shall be “in the thresholds,” sitting, as it were, in them; everywhere to be seen in them; the more, because unseen. Desolation is something oppressive; we “feel” its presence. There, as the warder watch and ward at the empty portals, where once was the fullest throng, shall “desolation sit,” that no one enter. “For He shall uncover (hath uncovered, English margin) the cedar-work:” in the roofless palaces, the carved “cedar-work” shall be laid open to wind and rain. Any one must have noticed, how piteous and dreary the decay of any house in a town looks, with the torn paper hanging uselessly on its walls. A poet of our own said niche beautiful ruins of a wasted monastery:
“For the gay beams of lightsome day
Gild, but to flout the ruins gray.”
But at Nineveh it is one of the mightiest cities of the world which thus lies waste, and the bared “cedar-work” had, in the days of its greatness, been carried off from the despoiled Lebanon or Hermon .
This utter desolation is “the rejoicing city” (so unlike is it, that there is need to point out that it is the same); this is she, who was full of joy, exulting exceedingly, but in herself, not in God; “that dwelt carelessly,” literally, “securely,” and so carelessly; saying “Peace and safety” 1 Thessalonians 5:3, as though no evil would come upon her, and so perishing more certainly and miserably (see Judges 18:27) “That said in her heart,” this was her inmost feeling, the moving cause of all her deeds; “I am and there is none beside me;” literally , “and there is no I beside,” claiming the very attribute of God (as the world does) of self-existence, as if it alone were “I,” and others, in respect of her, were as nothing. Pantheism, which denies the being of God, as Author of the world, and claims the life in the material world to be God, and each living being to be a part of God, is only this self-idolatry, reflected upon and carried out in words. All the pride of the world, all self-indulgence which says, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die,” all covetousness which ends in this world, speaks this by its acts, “I and no I beside.”
How is she become a desolation - Has passed wholly into it, exists only as a desolation, “a place for beasts to lie down in,” a mere den for “the wild beasts. Every one that passeth by her shall hiss” in derision, “and wag” (or wave) “his hand” in detestation, as though putting the hand between them and it, so as not to look at it, or, as it were, motioning it away. The action is different from that of “clapping the hands in exultation” Nahum 3:19.
“It is not difficult,” Jerome says, “to explain this of the world, that when the Lord hath stretched forth His Hand over the north and destroyed the Assyrian, the Prince of this world, the world also perishes together with its Princes, and is brought to utter desolation, and is pitied by none, but all hiss and shake their hands at its ruin. But of the Church it seems, at first sight, blasphemous to say that it shall be a pathless desert, and wild beasts shall dwell in her, and that afterward it shall be said insultingly over her; ‘This is the city given up to ill, which “dwelt carelessly and said in her heart, I and none beside.”’ But whoso should consider that of the Apostle, wherein he says, “in the last days perilous times shall come” 2 Timothy 3:1-5, and what is written in the Gospel, that “because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold” Matthew 24:12, so that then shall that be fulfilled, “When the Son of Man cometh, shall He find the faith on the earth?” he will not marvel at the extreme desolation of the Church, that, in the reign of antichrist, it shall be reduced to a desolation and given over to beasts, and shall suffer whatever the prophet now describes.
For if for unbelief “God spared not the natural branches,” but “brake them off,” and “turned rivers into a wilderness and the water-springs into a dry ground,” and “a fruitful land into barrenness, for the iniquity of them that dwell therein,” why not as to those of whom He had said, “He turneth the wilderness into a standing water, and dry ground into water-springs, and there He maketh the hungry to dwell” Psalms 107:33-36; and as to those whom “out of the wild olive He hath grafted into the good olive tree,” why, if forgetful of this benefit, they depart from their Maker and worship the Assyrian, should He not undo them and bring them to the same thirst wherein they were before? Which, whereas it may be understood generally of the coming of antichrist or of the end of the world, yet it may, day by day, be understood of those who feign to be of the Church of God, and “in works deny it, are hearers of the word not doers,” who in vain boast in an outward show, whereas herds that is, troops of vices dwell in them, and brute animals serving the body, and all the beasts of the field which devour their hearts (and pelicans, that is, gluttons , whose ‘god is their belly’) and hedgehogs, a prickly animal full of spikes which pricketh whatever it toucheth.
After which it is subjoined, that the Church shall therefore suffer this, or hath suffered it, because it lifted itself up proudly and raised its head like a cedar, given up to evil works, and yet promising itself future blessedness, and despising others in its heart, nor thinking that there is any other beside itself, and saying, “I am, and there is no other beside me,” how is it become a solitude, a lair of beasts! For where before, dwelt the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and Angels presided over its ministries, there shall beasts dwell. And if we understand that, every one that passeth by shall hiss, we shall explain it thus; when Angels shall pass through her, and not remain in her, as was their wont, they shall be amazed and marvel, and shall not support and bear her up with their hand, when falling, but shall lift up the hands and shall pass by. Or they shall make a sound as those who mourn. But if we understand this of the devil and his angels, who destroyed the vine also that was brought out of Egypt, we shall say, that through the soul, which before was the temple of God and hath ceased so to be, the serpent passeth, and hisseth and spitteth forth the venom of his malice in her, and not this only, but setteth in motion his works which figuratively are called hands.”
Rup.: “The earlier and partial fulfillment of prophecy does not destroy, it rather confirms, the entire fulfillment to come. For whoso heareth of the destruction of mighty cities, is constrained to believe the truth of the Gospel, that the fashion of this world passeth away, and that, after the likeness of Nineveh and Babylon, the Lord will in the end judge the whole world also.”
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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Zephaniah 2". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany