Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
The burden - o of the word of the Lord in (or, upon) the land of Hadrach The foreground of this prophecy is the course of the Victories of Alexander, which circled round the holy land without hurting it, and ended in the overthrow of the Persian empire. The surrender of Damascus followed first, immediately on his great victory at the Issus; then Sidon yielded itself and received its ruler from the conqueror, Tyre he utterly destroyed; Gaza, we know, perished; he passed harmless by Jerusalem. Samaria, on his return from Egypt, he chastised.
It is now certain that there was a city called Hadrach in the neighborhood of Damascus and Hamath, although its exact site is not known. "It was first found upon the geographical tablets among the Assyrian inscriptions." "In the catalogue of Syrian cities, tributary to Nineveh, (of which we have several copies in a more or less perfect state, and varying from each other, both in arrangement and extent) there are three names, which are uniformly grouped together and which we read Manatsuah, Magida (Megiddo) and Du'ar (Dor). As these names are associated with those of Samaria, Damascus, Arpad, Hamath, Carchemish, Hadrach, Zobah, there can be no doubt of the position of the cities" . In the Assyrian Canon, Hadrach is the object of three Assyrian expeditions , 9183 (b.c. 818), 9190 (811) and 9200 (801). The first of these follows upon one against Damascus, 9182 (817). In the wars of Tiglath-pileser II. (the Tiglath-pileser of Holy Scripture,) it has been twice deciphered;
(1) In the war b.c. 738, 737, after the mention of "the cities to Saua the mountain which is in Lebanon were divided, the land of Bahalzephon to Ammana" (Ammon), there follows Hadrach ; and subsequently there are mentioned as joined to the league, "19 districts of Hamath, and the cities which were round them, which are beside the sea of the setting sun."
(2) In his "War in Palestine and Arabia" , "the city of Hadrach to the land of Saua," and six other cities are enumerated, as "the cities beside the upper sea," which, he says, "I possessed, and six of my generals as governors over them I appointed." No other authority nearly approaches these times. The nearest authority is of the second century after our Lord, 116 a.d. : "R. Jose, born of a Damascene mother, said," answering R. Yehudah ben Elai, , "I call heaven and earth to witness upon me, that I am of Damascus, and that there is a place called Hadrach." Cyril of Alexandria says that "the land of Hadrach must be somewhere in the eastern parts, and near to Emath (now Epiphania of Antioch) a little further than Damascus, the metropolis of the Phoenicians and Palestine." A writer of the 10th century says that there was "a very beautiful mosque there, called the Mesjed-el-Khadra, and that the town was named from it." The conjecture that Hadrach might be the name of a king , or an idol , will now probably be abandoned, nor can the idea, (which before seemed the most probable and which was very old), that it was a symbolic name, hold any longer.
For the prophets do use symbolic names ; but then they are names which they themselves frame. Micah again selects several names of towns, now almost unknown and probably unimportant, in order to impress upon his people some meaning connected with them , but then he does himself so connect it. He does not name it (so to say), leaving it to explain itself. The name Hadrach would be a real name, used symbolically, without anything in the context to show that it is a symbol.
The cities, upon which the burden or heavy prophecy tell, possessed no interest for Israel. Damascus was no longer a hostile power; Hamath had ever been peaceable, and was far away; Tyre and Sidon did not now carry on a trade in Jewish captives. But the Jews knew from Daniel, that the empire, to which they were in subjection, would be overthrown by Greece Dan 8:20-21. When that rapid attack should come, it would be a great consolation to them to know, how they themselves would fare. It was a turning point in their history and the history of the then known world. The prophet describes (see below at Zac 9:8) the circuit, which the conqueror would take around the land which God defended; how the thunder-cloud circled round Judaea, broke irresistibly upon cities more powerful than Jerusalem, but was turned aside from the holy city "in going and returning," because God encamped around it.
"The selection of the places and of the whole line of country corresponds very exactly to the march of Alexander after the battle of Issus, when Damascus, which Darius had chosen as the strong depository of his wealth, of Persian women of rank, confidential officers and envoys, , was betrayed, but so opened its gates to his general, Parmenio. Zidon, a city renowned for its antiquity and its founders, surrendered freely; Tyre, here specially marked out, was taken after a 7 months' siege; Gaza too resisted for 5 months, was taken, and, as it was said, 'plucked up.'"
And Damascus shall be the rest thereof - God's judgment fell first upon Damascus. But the word "resting-place" is commonly used of quiet peaceful resting, especially as given by God to Israel; of the ark, the token of the Presence of God, after its manifold removals, and of the glorious dwelling-place of the Christ among people . The prophet seems then purposely to have chosen a word of large meaning, which should at once express (as he had before) Zac 6:8, that the word of God should fall heavily on Damascus and yet be its resting-place. Hence, about the time of our Lord, the Jews interpreted this of the coming of the Messiah, that "Jerusalem should reach to the gates of Damascus. Since Damascus shall be the place of His rest, but the place of His rest is only the house of the sanctuary, as it is said, "This is My rest for ever; here will I dwell." Another added, , "All the prophets and all prophesied but of the years of redemption and the days of the Messiah." Damascus, on the conversion of Paul, became the first resting-place of the word of God, the first-fruits of the Gentiles whom the Apostle of the Gentiles gathered from east to west throughout the world.
When (or For) the eyes of man - As (literally, and that is, especially beyond others) "of all the tribes of Israel, shall be toward the Lord." This also implies a conversion of Gentiles, as well as Jews. For man, as contrasted with Israel, must be the pagan world, mankind . "The eyes of all must needs look in adoration to God, expecting all good from Him, because the Creator of all provided for the well-being of all, as the Apostle says, "Is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also of the Gentiles? Yea, of the Gentiles also" Rom 3:29. God's time of delivering His people is, when they pray to Him. So Jehoshaphat prayed, "O our God, wilt Thou not judge them? For we have no strength against this great company, which is come against us, and we know not what we shall do; but our eyes are on Thee" Ch2 20:12; and the Psalmist says, "The eyes of all wait toward Thee; and, "toward them that fear Him." Psa 33:18, or in Ezra's Chaldee, "The eye of their God was upon the elders of the Jews" Ezr 5:5., or, "the eyes of the Lord thy God are upon it" (the land), Deu 11:12; but there is no construction like "the Lord hath an eye on (obj.) man" (as 70: Jonathan, Syr.) The passages, "whose eyes are opened upon all the ways of the sons of men, to give etc." Jer 32:19, "his eyes behold the nations," are altogether different. "The eye of" must be construed as "his own eye.") "as the eyes of servants are unto the hand of their masters, add as the eyes of a maiden are unto the hand of her mistress, so our eyes are unto the Lord our God, until He have mercy upon us."
"For in those days," says a Jew, who represents the traditional interpretation, (Rashi), man shall look to his Creator, and his eyes shall look to the Blessed One, as it was said above, we will go with you, and they shall join themselves, they and their cities, to the cities of Israel." And another; (Kimchi), "In those days the eyes of all mankind shall be to the Lord, not to idols or images; therefore the land of Hadrach and Damascus, and the other places near the land of Israel - shall be included among the cities of Judah, and shall be in the faith of Israel."
And Hamath also shall border thereby - o. Near to it in place and character, it shall share its subdual. After the betrayal of Damascus, Parmenio was set over all Syria. "The Syrians, not as yet tamed by the losses of war, despised the new empire, but, swiftly subdued, they did obediently what they were commanded."
And Zidon - Zidon, although probably older than Tyre , is here spoken of parenthetically, as subordinate. Perhaps, owing to its situation, it was a wealthy , rather than a strong place. Its name is "Fishing-town;" in Joshua, it is called "the great" Jos 11:8; Jos 19:28, perhaps the metropolis; while Tyre is named from its strength Jos 19:29. It infected Israel with its idolatry Jdg 10:6, and is mentioned among the nations who oppressed them and from whom God delivered them on their prayers Jdg 10:12, probably under Jabin. In the time of the Judges, it, not Tyre, was looked to for protection Jdg 18:7, Jdg 18:28. In the times of Ezekiel it had become subordinate, furnishing "rowers" Eze 27:8 to Tyre; but Esarhaddon, about 80 years before, boasts that he had taken it, destroyed its inhabitants, and re-populated it with people from the East, building a new city which he called by his own name . Tyre too had been taken by Nebuchadnezzar . At the restoration from the captivity, Sidon had the first place, Ezr 3:7, which it retained in the time of Xerxes . But Artaxerxes Ochus gained possession of it by treachery, when all Phoenicia revolted from Persia, and, besides those crucified, 40,000 of its inhabitants perished by their own hands , twenty years before the invasion of Alexander, to whom it submitted willingly .
The prophet having named Tyre and Zidon together, yet continues as to Tyre alone, as being alone of account in the days of which he is speaking, those of Alexander.
Although - Rather, "because she is very wise." Man's own wisdom is his foolishness and destruction, "as the foolishness of God" is his wisdom and salvation. God "taketh the wise in their own craftiness" Job 5:13. "For after that, in the wisdom of God, the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe" Co1 1:21. Of the Hagarenes it is said, they "seek wisdom upon earth; none of these know the way of wisdom, or remember her paths" (Baruch 3:23). The wisdom of Tyre was the source of her pride, and so of her destruction also. "Because thy heart is lifted up, and thou hast said, I am a god, I sit in the seat of God, in the midst of the seas; yet thou art a man and not God, though thou hast set thine heart as the heart of God; behold thou art wiser them Daniel, there is no secret that they can hide from thee. Therefore I will bring strangers upon thee - they shall bring thee down to the pit" Eze 28:2, Eze 28:8. So of Edom Obadiah says, "The pride of thy heart hath deceived thee, thou that dwellest in the clefts of the rock. Shall I not destroy the wise men out of Edom, and understanding out of the mount of Esau?" Oba 1:3, Oba 1:8.
And Tyre did build herself a stronghold - She built it for herself, not for God, and trusted to it, not to God, and so its strength brought her the greater fall. The words in Hebrew express yet more. "Tyre" (Zor) literally, "the rock," "built herself mazor, tower," a rock-like fort, as it were, a rock upon exceeding strength, binding her together. . "The walls, 150 feet high and of breadth proportionate, compacted of large stones, embedded in gypsum," seemed to defy an enemy who could only approach her by sea. "In order to make the wall twice as strong they built a second wall ten cubits broad, leaving a space between of five cubits, which they filled with stones and earth." Yet high walls do not fence in only; they also hem in. Mazor is both "a stronghold" and "a siege." Wealth and strength, without God, do but invite and embitter the spoiler and the conqueror."
And she heaped up silver as the dust, and fine gold as the mire of the streets - "Though he heap up silver as the dust," Job says, "The King" Job 27:16, Solomon, "made silver in Jerusalem as stones" Ch2 9:27. Through her manifold commerce she gathered to herself wealth, as abundant as the mire and the dust, and as valueless. "Gold and silver," said a pagan, "are but red and white earth." Its strength was its destruction. Tyre determined to resist Alexander, , "trusting in the strength of the island, and the stores which they had laid up," the strength within and without, of which the prophet speaks.
Behold - Such were the preparations of Tyre. Over against them, as it were, the prophet sets before our eyes the counsels of God. Theodoret: "Since they had severed themselves from the providence of God, they were now to experience His power." "The Lord will cast her out" , literally, deprive her of her possessions, give her an heir of what she had amassed, namely: the enemy; "and he will smite her power or wealth" , of which Ezekiel says, "With thy wisdom and with thine understanding thou hast gotten thee riches, and hast gotten gold and silver into thy treasures: by the greediness of thy wisdom and by thy traffic thou hast increased thy riches, and thine heart is lifted up because of thy riches" Eze 28:4-5. All wherein she relied, and so too the stronghold itself, God would smite in the sea. The sea was her confidence and boast. She said "I am a God; I sit in the seat of God, in the midst of the seas" Eze 28:2.
The scene of her pride was to be that of her overthrow; the waves, which girt her round, should bury her ruins and wash over her site. Even in the sea the hand of God should find her, and smite her in it, and into it, and so that she should abide in it. "They mocked at the king, as though be thought to prevail against Neptune (the sea)." "Ye despise this land-army, through confidence in the place, that ye dwell in an island," was the message of Alexander, "but soon will I show you that ye dwell on a continent."
Every device had been put in force in its defense: the versatility by which the inhabitants of an island, some 2 12 miles in circumference, held at bay the conqueror of the battle of Issus with unlimited resources, , "engineers from Cyprus and all Phoenicia," and , "a fleet of 180 ships from Cyprus," attests the wisdom in which the prophet says, she would trust. "She had already a profusion of catapults and other machines useful in a siege, and easily prepared manifold others by the makers of war-engines and all sorts of artificers whom she had, and these invented new engines of all sorts; so that the whole circuit of the city was filled with engines." Divers who should loosen the mole; grappling hooks and nets to entangle near-assailants; melted metal or heated sand to penetrate between the joints of their armor; bags of sea-weed to deaden the blows of the battering machines; a fireship navigated so as to destroy the works of the enemy, while its sailors escaped; fiery arrows; wheels set in continual motion, to turn aside the missiles against them, , bear witness to an unwearied inventiveness of defense. The temporary failures might have shaken any mind but Alexander's (who is even said to have hesitated but that he dared not, by abandoning the enterprise, lose the prestige of victory. Yet all ended in the massacre of 6,000, 7,000, or 8,000 of her men, the crucifixion of 2,000, the sale of the rest, whether 13,000 or 30,000, into slavery . None escaped save those whom the Sidonians secreted in the vessels, , with which they had been compelled to serve against her.
And she herself - When her strength is overthrown, "shall be devoured with fire." : "Alexander, having slain all, save those who fled to the temples, ordered the houses to be set on fire."
Ashkelon shall see and fear - The words express that to see and fear shall be as one. The mightiest and wealthiest, Tyre, having fallen, the neighbor cities of Philistia who had hoped that her might should be their stay, shall stand in fear and shame. Tyre, being a merchant-city, the mother-city of the cities of the African coast and in Spain, its desolation caused the more terror Isa 23:5-11.
And the - (a) king shall perish from Gaza - that is it shall have no more kings. It had been the policy of the world-empires to have tributary kings in the petty kingdoms which they conquered, thus providing lot their continued tranquil submission to themselves . The internal government remained as before: the people felt no difference, except as to the payment of the tribute. The policy is expressed by the title "king of kings," which they successively bore. Sennacherib speaks of the kings of Ascalon, Ekron and Gaza .
A contemperary of Alexander mentions, that the king of Gaza was brought alive to Alexander on its capture. Alexander's policy was essentially different from that of the world-monarchs before him. They desired only to hold an empire as wide as possible, leaving the native kings, if they could; and only, if these were intractable, placing their own lieutenants. Alexander's policy was to blend East and West into one. . These petty sovereignties, so many insulated centers of mutual repulsion, were essentially at variance with this plan, and so this remnant of sovereignty of 1,500 years was taken away by him, when, after a siege in which he himself was twice wounded, he took it. Alexander wholly depopulated it, and repeopled the city with strangers.
And Ashkelon shall not be inhabited - Ashkelon yielded at once to Jonathan, when he "camped against it" (1 Macc. 10:86), after he had taken and "burned Ashdod and the cities round about it." In another expedition of Jonathan its inhabitants "met him honorably," while "they of Gaza shut him out" at first (1 Macc. 11:60, 61). "Simon - passed through the country unto Ascalon, and the holds there adjoining," without resistance, whereas "he turned aside to Joppe, and won it" (1 Macc. 12:33). He placed Jews in Gaza, but of Ascalon nothing is said. The ruins of a Christian city, built on its site, "khirbet-Ascalon," have been lately discovered in the hills near Tell Zakariyeh, , and so, a little south of Timnath, a Philistine city in the days of Samson, whence Samson went to it, to gain the 30 changes of raiment Jdg 14:19. Commentators have assigned reasons, why Samson might have gone so far as the maritime Ascalon, whereas, in fact, he went to a city close by.
That city, in 536 a.d., had its Bishop . : "The site shows the remains of an early Christian Church or convent:" as a great lintel of stone , resembling somewhat the Maltese Cross, lies on the ground." It was probably destroyed by the inundation of Muslim conquest. In 1163 a.d. it was a ruin. The distance of the ruins from the Ascalon Maiumas corresponds to that assigned by Benjamin of Tudela, being twice the distance of that city from Ashdod ; but since he was at Beth Jibrin, he must have been not far from the spot where it has been recently discovered . The Ashkelon, which was Herod's birth-place and which he beautified, must have been the well-known city by the sea; since the distance from Jerusalem assigned by Josephus is too great for the old Ashkelon, and he speaks of it as on the sea .
And a bastard shall dwell at Ashdod - o The "mamzer" was one born unlawfully, whether out of marriage, or in forbidden marriage, or in adultery . Here it is, probably, like our "spurious brood" ; whether it was so itself or in the eyes of the Ashdodites; whence he adds.
I will cut off the pride of the Philistines - Pride would survive the ruin of their country, the capture of their cities, the less of independence. It would not survive the loss of their nationality; for they themselves would not be the same people, who were proud of their long descent and their victories over Israel. The breaking down of nationalities, which was the policy of Alexander, was an instrument in God's hands in cutting off their pride.
And I will take away his blood out of his mouth - The "abominations" being idol-sacrifices , the "bloods" will also be, the blood mingled with the wine of sacrifices, of which David says, "Their drink-offerings of blood will I not offer" Psa 16:4; and Ezekiel unites the offences, "Ye eat With the blood, and lift up your eyes toward your idols, and shed blood" Eze 33:25.
But he that remaineth - Better, "And he too" shall remain over to our God." Of the Philistines too, as of Israel, "a remnant shall be saved." After this visitation their idolatry should cease; God speaks of the Philistine nation as one man; He would wring his idol-sacrifices and idol-enjoyments from him; he should exist as a nation, but as God's.
And he shall be as a governor in Judah - Literally, "a captain of a thousand," merged in Judah as in a larger whole, as each tribe was divided into its "thousands," yet intimately blended, in no inferior position, with the people of God, as each converted nation became an integral yet unseparated whole in the people of God.
And Ekron as a Jebusite - Ekron was apparently the least important of the few remaining Philistine cities (see at Joe 1:8, vol. 1); yet he shall he, as those of the Canaanite nations who were not destroyed, nor fled, but in the very capital and center of Israel's worship, "dwelt with the children of Benjamin and Judah" Jos 15:63; Jdg 1:21, and were, as a type of the future conversion and absorption of the pagan, incorporatcd into Judah.
And I will encamp about my house - (for my house's sake) because of the army "Because," it is added in explanation, "of him that passeth by and of him that returneth;" Alexander, who passed by with his army, on his way to Egypt, and "returned," having founded Alexandria.
It was a most eventful march; one of the most eventful in the history of mankind. The destruction of the Persian empire, for which it prepared, was in itself of little moment; Alexander's own empire was very brief. As Daniel had foretold, he came, cast down Persia "to the ground, waxed very great, and when he was strong, the great horn was broken" Dan 8:7-8. But with the marvelous perception which characterized him, he saw and impressed upon his successors the dependibleness of the Jewish people. When he came into Judaea, he sent to the high priest for aid against Tyre and for the like tribute as he used to pay to Darius, promising that he would not repent of choosing the friendship of the Macedonians . The high priest refused on the ground of the oath, by which his people were bound in fealty to the earthly king of kings, whom Alexander came to subdue.
Alexander threatened to teach all, through its fate, to whom fealty was due. This, after the conquest of Gaza, he prepared to fulfill. He came, he saw, he was conquered . Jaddua and his people prayed to God. Taught by God in a dream not to fear, he went to meet the conqueror. The gates of the city were thrown open. There marched out, not an army such as encountered the Romans, but as he had been taught, a multitude in white garments, and the priests going belove in their raiment of fine linen. The high priest, in his apparel of purple and gold, having on his head the mitre, and on it the golden plate , whereon was written the name of God, advanced alone, and the Conqueror, who was expected to give the city to be plundered, and the high priest to be insulted and slain, kissed the name of God, recognizing in the priest one whom lie had seen in the like dress in a dream, who had bidden him, when hesitating, cross to Asia; for that he would go before his army and deliver the Persian empire to him.
The result is related to have been, that Alexander promised to allow the Jews in Judea to live according to their own laws, remitted the tribute of every seventh year, acceded beforehand to the terms to be proposed by those in Babylonia and Media, and that many Jews joined his army, under condition that they might live under their own laws.
Rationalism, while it remains such, cannot admit of Daniel's prophecies which the high priest showed him, declaring that a Greek should destroy the Persian empire, which Alexander rightly interpreted of himself. But the facts remain; that the conqueror, who, above most, gave way to his anger, bestowed privileges almost incredible on a nation, which under the Medes and Persians had been "the most despised part of the enslaved;" made them equal in privileges to his own Macedonians , who could hardly brook the absorption of the Persians, although in inferior condition, among themselves .
The most despised of the enslaved became the most trusted of the trusted. They became a large portion of the second and third then known cities of the world. They became Alexandrians, Antiochenes, Ephesians , without ceasing to be Jews. The law commanded faithfulness to oaths, and they who despised their religion respected its fruits.
The immediate successors of Alexander, Ptolemy Lagi and Antiochus Nicator, followed his policy; Ptolemy especially on the ground of the fealty shown to Darius; Nicator, as having observed their faithfulness as soldiers, who had served with him ; but they were so enrolled on this visit to Jerusalem. The pagan kings multiplied, in their own purpose, faithful subjects to themselves; in God's design, they prepared in Asia and Egypt a seed-plot for the Gospel. The settlement of the Jews at Alexandria formed the language of the Gospel; that wonderful blending of the depth of the Hebrew with the clearness and precision of the Greek. Everywhere the seed of the preparatory dispensation was sown, to be fostered, grow and ripen with the harvest of the Gospel.
For now have I seen with Mine eyes - This is the counterpart of what the Psalmists and pious people so often pray, "Awake to help me and behold" Psa 59:4; "Look down from heaven, behold and visit this vine" Psa 80:14; Psa 9:13; "Look upon my trouble from them that hate me" "Look upon my affliction and my trouble; look upon my enemies, for they are many" Psa 25:18-19; "Look upon my adversity and deliver me" Psa 119:153; "O Lord, behold my affliction" (Lam 1:9, add 11; Lam 2:20); "Behold, O Lord, for I am in distress" Lam 1:20; "Look and behold my reproach" Lam 5:1; "Open Thine eyes, O Lord, and see" Isa 37:17; Dan 9:18; "Look clown from heaven, and behold from the habitation of Thy holiness and glory" Isa 63:15. With God, compassion is so intrinsic an attribute, that He is pictured as looking away, when He does not put it forth. With God, to behold is to help.
From the protection, which God promised to His people and to His House, the prophet passes on to Him who was ever in his thoughts, and for whose sake that people and temple were preserved. He had described the great conqueror of this world, sweeping along in his course of victory. In contrast with such as he, he now exhibits to his people the character and procession of their king. "Rejoice greatly." Not with this world's joy. God never exhorts man to "rejoice greatly" in this world's fleeting joys. He allows us to be glad, as children, before Him; He permits such buoyancy of heart, if innocent; but He does not command it. "Now" He commands His people to burst out into a jubilee of rejoicing: they were to dance and shout for gladness of spirit; "despising the poor exultation of this world and exulting with that exceeding" yet chaste joy, which befits the true bliss to be brought by their King and Saviour. Rup.: "This word, 'greatly,' means that there should be no measure whatever in their exultation; for the exultation of the children of the bridegroom is far unlike to the exultation of the children of this world." Cyril: "He biddeth the spiritual Zion rejoice, inasmuch as dejection was removed. For what cause of sorrow is there, when sin has been removed, death trampled under foot, and human nature called to the dignity of freedom, and crowned with the grace of adoption and illumined with the heavenly gift?"
Behold, thy king cometh unto thee - He does not say "a king," but "'thy' king;" thy king, thine own, the long-promised, the long-expected; He who, when they had kings of their own, given them by God, had been promised as "the" king ; "the righteous Ruler among men" Sa2 23:3, of the seed of David; He who, above all other kings, was "their" King and Savior; whose kingdom was to absorb in itself all kingdoms of the earth; "the King of kings, and Lord of lords." Her king was to come "to her." He was in a manner then "of her," and "not of her;" "of her," since He was to be "her king," "not of her," since He was to "come to her." As Man, He was born of her: as God, the Word made flesh, He "came to" her. "'To thee,' to be manifest unto thee; 'to be thine by communion of nature' Ti1 3:16; 'as He is thine, by the earnest of the Eternal Spirit and the gift of the Father, to procure thy good' Heb 2:14. 'Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given' Isa 9:6." Of this, His entry into Jerusalem was an image. But how should he come? "He shall come to thee," says an old Jewish writing, , "to atone thee; He shall come to thee, to upraise thee; He shall come to thee, to raise thee up to His temple, and to espouse thee with an everlasting espousal."
He is just and having salvation - Just or righteous, and the Fountain of justice or righteousness. For what He is, "that" He diffuseth. Righteousness which God "Is," and righteousness which God, made Man, imparts, are often blended in Holy Scripture. Isa 45:21; Isa 53:11; Jer 23:5-6; Jer 33:15-16; Mal 4:2. This is also the source of the exceeding joy. For the coming of their king in righteousness would be, to sinful man, a cause, not of joy but of fear. This was the source of the Angel's message of joy; "I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people; for unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Saviour" Luk 2:10-11.
He is just - Dionysius: "Because in the Divine Nature, He is the Fountain of all holiness and justice." "As Thou art righteous Thyself, Thou orderest all things righteously. For Thy power is the beginning of righteousness" . According to the nature which He took, He was also most just; for He ever sought the glory of the Father, and "He did no sin, neither was guile found in His Mouth" Pe1 2:22. In the way also of justice He satisfied for people, delivering Himself for their faults to the pain of the most bitter death, to satisfy the honor of the Divine Majesty, so that sin should not remain unpunished. Hence, He saith of Himself; "He that seeketh His glory that sent Him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him" Joh 7:18. Of whom also Stephen said to the Jews, "Your fathers slew them which showed before of the coming of the Just One, of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers" Act 7:52.
Righteousness is an awful attribute of God. It is a glory and perfection of His Being, for the perfect to gaze on and adore. Mercy, issuing in our salvation, is the attribute which draws us sinners. And this lies in the promise that He should "come to them," however the one word נושׁע nôsha‛ be rendered . The meaning of such a prophecy as this is secure, independent of single words. The whole context implies, that He should come as a ruler and deliverer, whether the word נושׁע nôsha‛ signify "endued with salvation" (whereas the old versions rendered it, "Saviour"), or whether it be, "saved." For as He came, not for Himself but for us, so, in as far as He could be said to be saved, He was "saved," not for Himself but for us. Of our Lord, as Man, it is, in like way, said, "Thou shalt not leave His soul in Hell" Psa 16:10, or, "whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be holden of it" Act 2:24.
As Man, He was raised from the dead; as God, He raised Himself from the dead, for our sakes, for whom He died. For us, He was born a Saviour; for us, He was endued with salvation; for us, He was saved from being held of death; in like way as, of His Human Nature, the Apostle says, "He was heard, in that He feared" Heb 5:7. To us, as sinners, it is happiest to hear of the Saviour; but the most literal meaning "saved" has its own proper comfort: for it implies the Sufferings, by which that salvation was procured, and so it contains a hint of the teaching by Isaiah, "He was taken from oppression and from judgment;" upon which that same wide reign follows, of which David, in his picture of the Passion Psa 22:27-28, and Isaiah Isa 53:10-12 prophesy. Osorius: "This 'saved' does not imply, that He obtained salvation for His own otherwise than from Himself. "Mine own arm," He saith in Isaiah, "brought salvation unto Me" Isa 63:5. But its Man, He obtained salvation from the indwelling Godhead. For when He destroyed the might of death, when, rising from the dead, He ascended into heaven, when He took on Him the everlasting kingdom of heaven and earth, He obtained salvation from the glory of the Father, that is, from His own Divinity, to impart it to all His. The Hebrew word then in no way diminishes the amplitude of His dignity. For we confess, that the Human Nature of Christ had that everlasting glory added to It from His Divine Nature, so that He should not only be Himself adorned with those everlasting gifts, but should became the cause of everlasting salvation to all who obey Him."
Lowly - Outward lowliness of condition, is, through the grace of God, the best fosterer of the inward. The word "lowly" wonderfully expresses the union of both; lowness of outward state with lowliness of soul. The Hebrew word expresses the condition of one, who is bowed down, brought low through oppression, affliction, desolation, poverty, persecution, bereavement; but only if at the same time, he had in him the fruit of all these, in lowliness of mind, submission to God, piety. Thus, our Lord pronounces the blessedness of "the poor" and "the poor in spirit," that is, poor in estate, who are poor in soul also. But in no case does it express lowliness of mind without lowness of condition. One lowly, who was not afflicted, would never be so called. The prophet then declares that their king should come to them in a poor condition, "stricken, smitten, and afflicted" Isa 53:4, and with the special grace of that condition, meekness, gentleness and lowliness of soul; and our Lord bids us, "Learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly of heart" Mat 11:29. Dionysius: "He saith of Himself in the Gospel, 'The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His Head' Mat 8:20. 'For though He was rich, He for our sakes became poor, that we through His poverty might be rich' Co2 8:9."
Lowly and riding upon an ass - Kings of the earth ride in state. The days were long since by, when the sons of the judges rode on asses Jdg 10:4; Jdg 12:14. Even then the more distinguished rode on "white" (that is, roan) Jdg 5:10 asses. The mule, as a taller animal, was used by David Kg1 1:33, Kg1 1:38, Kg1 1:44 and his sons Sa2 13:29; Sa2 18:9, while asses were used for his household Sa2 16:2, and by Ziba, Shimei, Mephibosheth, Ahitophel, Sa2 16:1; Sa2 17:23; Sa2 19:26; Kg1 2:40, and, later, by the old prophet of Bethel Kg1 13:13, Kg1 13:23, Kg1 13:27. David had reserved horses for 100 chariots, Sa2 8:4, after the defeat of the Syrians, but he himself did not use them. Absalom employed "chariots and horses" Sa2 15:1 as part of his pomp, when preparing to displace his father; and Solomon multiplied them Kg1 4:26; Kg1 10:26; Ch2 1:14; Ch2 9:25. He speaks of it as an indignity or reverse; "I have seen servants upon horses, and princes walking, as servants, upon the earth" Ecc 10:7.
The burial of an ass became a proverb for a disgraced end Jer 22:19. There is no instance in which a king rode on an ass, save He whose kingdom was not of this world. The prophecy, then, was framed to prepare the Jews to expect a prophet-king, not a king of this world. Their eyes were fixed on this passage. In the Talmud, in their traditional interpretations, and in their mystical books, they dwelt on these words. The mention of the ass, elsewhere, seemed to them typical of this ass, on which their Messiah should ride. "If a man in a dream seeth an ass," says the Talmud, "he shall see salvation." It is an instance of prophecy which, humanly speaking, a false Messiah could have fulfilled, but which, from its nature, none would fulfill, save the True. For "their" minds were set on earthly glory and worldly greatness: it would have been inconsistent with the claims of one, whose kingdom was of this world.
It belonged to the character of Him, who was buffeted, mocked, scourged, spit upon, crucified, died for us, and rose again. It was divine humiliation, which in the purpose of God, was to be compensated by divine power. In itself it would, if insulated, have been unmeaning. The Holy Spirit prophesied it, Jesus fulfilled it, to show the Jews, of what nature His kingdom was. Hence, the challenge; , "Let us look at the prophecy, that in words, and that in act. What is the prophecy? "Lo, thy king cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and upon a colt;" not driving chariots as other kings, not in pomp nor attended by guards, but showing herein also all gentleness. Ask the Jew then, What king, riding on an ass, came to Jerusalem? He could name none, save this One alone." An ancient writer says, , "The Greeks too" (not the Jews only) "will laugh at us, saying, that 'The God of the Christians, who is called Christ, sat upon an ass.'" The same mockery was probably intended by Sapor king of Persia, which the Jews met with equal pride.
The taunt continues until now. : "It is not hid from you, O congregation of Christians, that 'rider upon an ass' indicates Christ." The Mohammedans appropriate the title "rider upon a camel" to Mohammad, as the grander animal . The taunt of worshiping "Him who sat upon an ass" was of the same class as those of the worship of the Crucified; , "one dead and crucified, who could not save himself;" "a crucified Man," "that great Man," or (if it suited them so to speak) "that great sophist who was crucified," but who now, for above 1800 years, reigns, "to all, the King; to all, the Judge; to all, Lord and God." "Christ did not only fulfill prophecies or plant the doctrines of truth, but did thereby also order our life for us, everywhere laying down for us rules of necessary use and, by all, correcting our life." Even Jews, having rejected our Lord, saw this. "Not from poverty," says one, (Kimchi), "for behold the whole world shall be in his power - but from humility he will ride upon an ass; and further to show that Israel (namely, the establishment of His kingdom or Church) shall not lack horse nor chariot: therefore it is added, "And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the horse from Jerusalem." And another; , "He, that is, thy true king David, shall come to thee; and he mentions of his qualities that he shall be "righteous and נושׁע nôsha‛ , in his wars; but his salvation shall not be from strength of his wars, for he shall come "lowly" and "riding upon an ass." "And riding on an ass," this is not on account of his want, but to show that peace and truth shall be in his days; and therefore he says immediately, "And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the horse from Jerusalem;" namely, that such shall be the peace and stillness in the world, that in Ephraim (that is, the tribes) and in Jerusalem (that is, the kingdom of Judah) they shall "trust" no more in horse and in rider, but "in the name of God." And because it is the way of princes and chiefs to take example from the life of their kings, and to do as they, therefore he saith, that when the king Messiah rideth upon an ass, and "has no pleasure in the strength of a horse," there will be no other in Jerusalem or the lands of the tribes, who will have pleasure in riding on a horse. And therefore he says, "And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the horse from Jerusalem;" and he assigns the reason for this, when he says, "And the battlebow shall be cut off and he shall speak peace among the nations," that is, there shall be no more war in the world, because he shall "speak peace unto the nations, and by the word of his lips he shall dispose peace unto them." Isa 26:12.
And upon a colt, the foal of an ass - The word rendered "colt," as with us, signifies the young, as yet unbroken animal. In the fulfillment, our Lord directed His disciples to find "an ass tied, and a colt with her, whereon never man sat" Mat 21:2; Mar 11:2; Luk 19:30. The prophet foretold that He would ride on both animals; our Lord, by commanding both to be brought, showed that the prophet had a special meaning in naming both. Matthew relates that both were employed. "They brought the ass and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set Him thereon." The untrained colt, an appendage to its mother, was a yet humbler animal. But as the whole action was a picture of our Lord's humility and of the unearthliness of His kingdom, so, doubtless, His riding upon the two animals was a part of that picture. There was no need of two animals to bear our Lord for that short distance. John notices especially, "These things understood not His disciples at the first" Joh 12:16. The ass, an unclean stupid debased ignoble drudge, was in itself a picture of unregenerate man, a slave to his passions and to devils, toiling under the load of ever-increasing sin. But, of man, the Jew had been under the yoke and was broken; the Gentiles were the wild unbroken colt. Both were to be brought under obedience to Christ.
And I will cut off the chariot - The horse is the symbol of worldly power, as the ass is of meekness. "Some," says the Psalmist, "put their trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the Lord our God" Psa 20:7. "A horse is but a vain thing to save a man" Psa 33:17. "He delighteth not in the strength of a horse" Psa 147:10). In scarcely any place in Holy Scripture is the horse spoken of in relation to man, except as the instrument of war. It represents human might, which is either to be consecrated to the Lord, or destroyed by Him (see Mic 5:10). As the "stone, cut out without hands" Dan 2:34, broke in pieces and absorbed into itself all the kingdoms of the world, so here He, whose Kingdom should not be of this world, should supersede human might. His kingdom was to begin by doing away, among His followers, all, whereby human kingdoms are established. He first cuts off the chariot and the horse, not from His enemies, but from His own people; His people, not as a civil polity, but as the people of God. For the prophet speaks of them as Ephraim and Judah, but Ephraim had no longer a distinct existence.
And He shall speak peace unto the pagan - As the Apostle says, "He came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh" Eph 2:17. He shall speak it to them, as He who hath power to give it to them, peace with God, peace in themselves, the reconciliation of God and man, and the remission of their sins.
Osorius: "At His birth the heavenly host announced peace to men; all His doctrine has peace for its end; when His death was at hand, He especially commended peace to His disciples, that peace which the world knoweth not, which is contained in tranquility of mind, burning zeal for charity. Divine grace. This same peace He brought to all who gathered themselves to His empire and guidance, that, emerging from intestine wars and foul darkness, they might behold the light of liberty, and, in all wisdom keep the grace of God."
And His dominion shall be from sea to sea - The bounds of the promised land, in its utmost range, on the west, were the Mediterranean sea; on the east, "the great river," the Euphrates. The prophet pictures its extension, so as to embrace the whole world, taking away, first the one bound, then the other. "From sea to sea" is from the Mediterranean to the most extreme east, Where the Ocean encircles the continent of Asia; "from the river to the ends of the earth," is from the Euphrates to the most extreme west, embracing the whole of Europe; and whatever may lie beyond, to the ends of the earth, where earth ceaseth to be . It is this same lowly and afflicted king, whose entry into Jerusalem is on a despised animal, who shall, by His mere will, make war to cease, who shall, by His mere word, give peace to the pagan.
As for thee also - The prophet turns from the deliverance of the whole world to the former people, the sorrows which they should have in the way, and the protection which God would bestow upon them for the sake of Him, who, according to the flesh, was to be born of them. "Thou too;" he had spoken of the glories of the Church, such as her king, when He should come, should extend it, embracing earth's remotest bounds: he turns to her, Israel after the flesh, and assures her of the continued protection of God, even in her lowest estate. The deliverance under the Maccabees was, as those under the judges had been, an image of the salvation of Christ and a preparation for it. They were martyrs for the One God and for the faith in the Resurrection, and, whether by doing or by suffering, preserved the sacred line, until Christ should come.
By the blood of thy covenant - Osorius: "Not by the blood of those victims of old, but by the blood of thy covenant, wilt thou be united to the empire of Christ, and so obtain salvation. As the Lord Himself says, This is the blood of covenant, which is shed for you." "The gifts and calling of God are without repentance" Rom 11:29. That symbolic blood, by which, fore-signifying the New Covenant, He made them His own people, "Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord hath made with you concerning all these words," Exo 24:8, endured still, amid all their unfaithfulness and breaches of it. By virtue of it God would send forth her imprisoned ones "out of the" deep, dry "pit," "the dungeon" wherein they could be kept securely, because life was not threatened (as in Gen 37:24). Out of any depth of hopeless misery, in which they seemed to be shut up, God would deliver them; as David says, "He brought me up also out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock and established my goings" Psa 40:2; and Jeremiah, "They have cut off my life in the dungeon, and cast a stone upon me. I called upon Thy Name, O Lord; out of the low dungeon Thou hast heard my voice" Lam 3:53, Lam 3:55-56. Augustine, de Civ. Dei. xviii. 35. 3): "The dry and barren depth of human misery, where are no streams of righteousness, but the mire of iniquity."
Turn ye to the stronghold - that is, Almighty God; as the Psalmists so often say, "The Lord is the defense of my life" (Psa 27:1, add Psa 31:5; Psa 37:39; Psa 43:2; Psa 52:9); and Joel, "The Lord shall be a stronghold of the children, of Israel" ; and Nahum, "The Lord is a stronghold in the day of trouble" Nah 1:7; And, David said, "Thou hast been a shelter for me, a strong tower against the enemy" Psa 61:3; "the Name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous runneth into it and is safe" Pro 18:10; and again, "Be Thou to me a rock of strength, a house of defense to save me - Bring me forth out of the net that they have laid privily for me; for Thou art my stronghold" . The "stronghold," "cut off" from all approach from an enemy, stands in contrast with the deep dungeon of calamity. The "return" must be a willing return, one in their own power; "return to the stronghold," which is Almighty God, must be by conversion of heart and will. Even a Jewish commentator Kimchi paraphrases, "Turn ye to God; for He is a stronghold and tower of strength."
Ye prisoners of - (the) hope Not, accordingly, any hope, or generally, "hope," but the special hope of Israel, "the hope" which sustained them in all those years of patient expectations, as Paul speaks of "the hope of Israel," for which he says, "I am bound with this chain" Act 28:20. "I stand to be judged for the hope of the promise made by God unto our fathers, unto which promise our twelve tribes, serving God instantly day and night, hope to come; for which hope's sake, King Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews" Act 26:6-7. And in his Epistles, "the hope laid up for you in heaven" Col 1:5; "the hope of the Gospel" Col 1:23; and, "looking for the blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ" Tit 2:13. He writes also of "keeping the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end" Heb 3:6; of "the full assurance of the hope unto the end" Heb 6:11; of "fleeing to lay hold on the hope set before us; which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast" Heb 6:18-19. He does not speak of hope as a grace or theological virtue, but, objectively, as the thing hoped for. So Zechariah calls to them as bound, held fast by "the hope," bound, as it were, to it and by it, so as not to let it go, amid the persecution of the world, or weariness of expectation; as Paul also says, "before faith came, we were guarded, kept in ward, under the law, shut up unto the faith which was about to be revealed" Gal 3:23.
Even to-day - Amid all contrary appearances, "do I declare, that I will render double unto thee;" as He had said by Isaiah, "For your shame ye shall have double" Isa 61:7.
When - or For I have bent Judah for me As a mighty bow which is only drawn at full human strength, the foot being placed to steady it. It becomes a strong instrument, but only at God's Will. God Himself bends it. It cannot bend itself. "And filled the bow with Ephraim." The bow is filled, when the arrow is laid upon it. God would employ both in their different offices, as one. "And raised up thy sons, O Zion, against thy sons, O Greece." Let people place this prophecy where they will, nothing in the history of the world was more contradictory to what was in human sight possible. "Greece was, until Alexander, a colonizing, not a conquering, nation. The Hebrews had no human knowledge of the site or circumstances of Greece. There was not a little cloud, like a man's hand, when Zechariah thus absolutely foretold the conflict and its issue. Yet here we have a definite prophecy later than Daniel, fitting in with his temporal prophecy, expanding part of it, reaching on beyond the time of Antiochus, and fore-announcing the help of God in two definite ways of protection;
(1) "without war," against the army of Alexander Zac 9:1-8;
(2) "in the war" of the Maccabees; and these, two of the most critical periods in their history after the captivity Zech. 9-16.
Yet, being expansions of part of the prophecy of Daniel, the period, to which they belong, becomes clearer in the event by aid of the more comprehensive prophecies. They were two points in Daniel's larger prediction of the 3rd empire."
And I will make thee as the sword of a mighty man - The strength is still not their own. In the whole history of Israel, they had only once met in battle an army, of one of the world-empires and defeated it, at a time, when Asa's whole population which could bear arms were 580,000 (Ch2 14:8-10 ff), and he met Zerah the Ethiopian with his million of combatants, besides his 500 chariots, and defeated him. And this, in reliance on the "Lord his God, to whom he cried, Lord, it is nothing to Thee to help, whether with many, or with them that have no power; help us, O Lord our God; for we rest on Thee, and in Thy Name we go against this multitude" Ch2 14:11. Asa's words found an echo in Judas Maccabaeus (1 Macc. 3:16-19), when the "small company with him asked him, How shall we be able, being so few, to fight against so great a multitude and so strong?" "It is no hard matter," Judas answered, "for many to be shut up in the hands of a few, and with Heaven it is all one to deliver with a great multitude or a small company. For the victory of battle standeth not in the multitude of an host; but strength cometh from Heaven." But his armies were but a handful; 3,000, on three occasions (1 Macc. 4:6; 7:40; 9:5), on one of which they are reduced by fear to 800 (1 Macc. 9:6); 10,000 on two occasions (1 Macc. 4:29; 10:74); on another, two armies of 8,000 and 3,000, with a garrison, not trusted to fight in the open field (1 Macc. 5:17-20); on one, 20,000 (1 Macc. 16:4); once only 40,000, which Tryphon treacherously persuaded Jonathan to disperse ; these were the numbers with which, always against "great hosts," God gave the victory to the lion-hearted Judas and his brothers. But who except He, in whose hands are the hearts of people, could foresee that He, at that critical moment, would raise up that devoted family, or inspire that faith, through which they "out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens?" Heb 11:34.
And the Lord shall be seen over them - o "He will reveal himself," protecting them. Cyril: "He says plainly, that the Lord God will be with them and will fight in serried array with them and will with them subdue those who resist them." It is as if he would say, "When they go forth and preach everywhere, the Lord shall work with them and confirm the word with signs following" Mar 16:20. "And His arrow shall go forth as the lightning." Habakkuk directly calls the lightnings the arrows of God: "at the light of Thine arrows they went" . Here it is probably of an invisible agency, and so compared to that awful symbol of His presence, the lightning.
And the Lord God shall blow with the trumpet - As their Commander, ordering their goings. The blowing of the trumpet by the priests in war was commanded, as a reminiscence of themselves before God, "If ye go to war in your land against the enemy that oppresseth you, then ye shall blow an alarm with the trumpets, and ye shall be remembered before the Lord your God, and ye shall be saved from your enemies" Num 10:9. Abijah said, "God Himself is with us for our captain, and His priests with sounding trumpets to cry alarm against you" Ch2 13:12.
And shall go with whirlwinds of the south - As being the most vehement and destructive. So Isaiah, "As whirlwinds in the south sweep by, He cometh from a desert, from a terrible land" Isa 21:1. Such smote the four corners of the house where Job's children were , and they perished.
The Lord of hosts, shall defend them - As God says, "I will defend this city to save it, for Mine own sake and for My servant David's sake" . The word is used by Isaiah only before Zechariah, and of the protection of Almighty God. The image of the complete protection on all sides stands first in God's words to Abraham, "I am thy shield" Gen 15:1; David thence says to God, "Thou, O Lord, art a shield around me" (Psa 3:4, (Psa 3:3 in English)).
And they shall devour, and subdue - Or more probably (as in the margin), "shall tread on, the stones of the sling," as in the image of leviathan in Job, "The son of the bow will not make him flee; sling-stones are to him turned into stubble; clubs are counted as stubble; he laugheth at the shaking of a spear" (Job 41:20-21 (28, 29 English)). Their enemies shall fall under them, as harmless and as of little account as the slingstones which have missed their aim, and lie as the road to be passed over. It is not expressed what they shall devour, and so the image is not carried out, but left indefinite, as destruction or absorption only; as in that, "thou shalt consume (literally, eat) all the people which the Lord thy God shall deliver thee" Deu 7:16; and, "they are our bread" Num 14:9; and in that, "they shall devour (literally, eat) all the people round about" Zac 12:6, where the image is of fire, not of eating. The one thought seems to be, that their enemies should cease to be, so as to molest them any more, whether by ceasing to be their enemies or by ceasing to be. There is no comparison here, (as in Balaam) with the lion; or of eating flesh or drinking blood, which, apart from the image of the wild beast, would be intolerable to Israel, to whom the use of blood, even of animals, was so strictly forbidden. They should disappear, as completely as fuel before the fire, or food before the hungry. The fire was invigorated, not extinguished, by the multitude of the fuel: the multitude of the enemies but nerved and braced those, whom they sought to destroy.
And they shall be filled like bowls, like the corners of the altar - They shall be consecrated instruments of God; they shall not prevail for themselves, but for Him; they shall be hallowed like the bowls of the temple, from which the sacrificial blood is sprinkled on His altar, or "as the corners of the altar" which receive it.
And the Lord their God shall save them in that day - Still all should be God's doing; they themselves were but as a flock, as sheep among wolves, ready for the slaughter; but they were "the flock, His people," as He says, "I will increase them like the flock, men, as the flock of holy things, as the flock of Jerusalem in her solemn feasts; so shall the waste cities be filled with flocks, men" Eze 36:37-38. "As a man saves his flock with all his strength, so He will save His people; for they are His flock." As in, "Thou leddest Thy people like sheep by the hand of Moses and Aaron" Psa 77:20.
They shall be as the stones of a crown - While God's enemies shall be trampled under foot, as a common thing which has failed its end, these shall be precious stones; a consecrated diadem of king or priest, "raised aloft," so that all can see. "On His land." It was laid down, as the title-deed to its whole tenure, "the land is Mine" Lev 25:23, and much more our Christian land, bought and purified by the blood of Christ.
For how great is His goodness - For it is unutterable! As the Psalmist said, "O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Thy Name in all the earth!" Psa 8:1, and Jacob, "How awful is this place!" Gen 28:17, and the Psalmist, "How awful are Thy doings!" The goodness and the beauty are the goodness and beauty of God, whose great doings had been his theme throughout before. Of the goodness the sacred writers often speak , since of this we have extremest need. And this He showed to Moses, "I will cause all My goodness to pass before thy face" Exo 33:19. Of this we know somewhat personally in this life; for beside the surpassing. amazingness of it in the work of our redemption, we are surrounded by it, immersed in it, as in a fathomless, shoreless ocean of infinite love, which finds entrance into our souls, whenever we bar it not out.
Goodness is that attribute of God, whereby He loveth to communicate to all, who can or will receive it, all good; yea, Himself , "who is the fullness and universality of good, Creator of all good, not in one way, not in one kind of goodness only, but absolutely, without beginning, without limit, without measure, save that whereby without measurement He possesseth and embraceth all excellence, all perfection, all blessedness, all good." This Good His Goodness bestoweth on all and each, according to the capacity of each to receive it, nor is there any limit to His giving, save His creature's capacity of receiving, which also is a good gift from Him. "From Him all things sweet derive their sweetness; all things fair, their beauty; all things bright, their splendor; all things that live, their life; all things sentient, their sense; all that move, their vigor; all intelligences, their knowledge; all things perfect, their perfection; all things in any wise good, their goodness."
The beauty of God - Belongs rather to the beatific vision. Yet David speaks of the Beauty of Christ, "Thou art exceeding fairer then the children of men" Psa 45:2; and Isaiah says, "Thine eyes shall behold the King in His beauty" Isa 33:17. But the Beauty of God "eye hath not seen nor ear heard nor can heart of man conceive." Here, on earth, created beauty can, at least when suddenly seen, hold the frame motionless, pierce the soul, glue the heart to it, entrance the affections. Light from heaven kindles into beauty our dullest material substances; the soul in grace diffuses beauty over the dullest human countenance; the soul, ere it has passed from the body, has been known to catch, through the half-opened portals, such brilliancy of light, that the eye even for some time after death has retained a brightness, beyond anything of earth . "The earth's form of beauty is a sort of voice of the dumb earth. Doth not, on considering the beauty of this universe, its very form answer thee with one voice, 'Not I made myself, but God?'" Poets have said:
"Old friends ... shall lovelier be,
As more of heaven in each we see,"
(Christian Year. Morning Hymn.)
"When he saw,
" - God within him light his face."
(Tennyson, In memoriam. T. has "The God.")
And Holy Scripture tells us that when Stephen, "full of faith and of the Holy Spirit," was about to speak of Jesus to the council which arraigned him, "all that sat in the council, looking steadfastly at him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel" Act 6:5, Act 6:15. It has been said, that if we could see a soul in grace, its beauty would so pierce us, that we should die. But the natural beauty of the soul transcends all corporeal beauty which so attracts us; the natural beauty of the last angel surpasseth all natural beauty of soul. If we could ascend from the most beautiful form, which the soul could here imagine, to the least glorious body of the beatified, on and on through the countless thousands of glorious bodies, compared wherewith heaven would be dark and the sun lose its shining; and yet more from the most beautiful deified soul, as visible here, to the beauty of the disembodied soul, whose image would scarce be recognized, because , "the bodily eyes gleamed with angelic radiancy;" yea, let the God-enlightened soul go on and on, through all those choirs of the heavenly hierarchies, clad with the raiment of Divinity, from choir to choir, from hierarchy to hierarchy, admiring the order and beauty and harmony of the house of God; yea, let it, aided by divine grace and light, ascend even higher, and reach the bound and term of all created beauty, yet it must know that the divine power and wisdom could create other creatures, far more perfect and beautiful than all which He hath hitherto created.
Nay, let the highest of all the Seraphs sum in one all the beauty by nature and grace and glory of all creatures, yet could it not be satisfied with that beauty, but must, because it was not satisfied with it, conceive some higher beauty. Were God immediately, at every moment to create that higher beauty at its wish, it could still conceive something beyond; for, not being God, its beauty could not satisfy its conception. So let him still, and in hundred thousand, hundred thousand, thousand years with swiftest flight of understanding multiply continually those degrees of beauty, so that each fresh degree should ever double that preceding, and the divine power should, with like swiftness, concur in creating that beauty, as in the beginning He said, "let there be light and there was light;" after all those millions of years, he would be again. at the beginning, and there would be no comparison between it and the divine beauty of Jesus Christ, God and Man. For it is the bliss of the finite not to reach the Infinite . That city of the blest which is lightened by the glory of God, and the Lamb is the light thereof, sees It, enabled by God, as created eye can see It, and is held fast to God in one jubilant exstacy of everlasting love.
"The prophet, borne out of himself by consideration of the divine goodness, stands amazed, while he contemplates the beauty and Deity of Christ: he bursts out with unaccustomed admiration! How great is His goodness, who, to guard His flock, shall come down on earth to lay down His life for the salvation of His sheep! How great His beauty, who is the ""brightnesss of the glory and the Image of the Father," and comprises in His Godhead the measure of all order and beauty! With what firm might does He strengthen, with what joy does He overwhelm the souls which gaze most frequently on His beauty, and gives largely and bountifully that corn, by whose strength the youths are made strong. He supplieth abundantly the wine, whereby the virgins, on fire with His love, are exhilarated and beautified. But both are necessary, that the strength of the strong should be upheld by the "bread from heaven," and that sound and uncorrupt minds, melted with the sweetness of love, should be recreated with wine, that is, the sweetness of the Holy Spirit, and be borne aloft with great joy, in the midst of extreme toils. For all who keep holily the faith of Christ, may be called "youths," for their unconquered strength, and virgins for their purity and integrity of soul. For all these that heavenly bread is prepared, that their strength be not weakened, and the wine is inpoured, that they be not only refreshed, but may live in utmost sweetness."