12. And the prince that is among them shall bear upon his shoulder in the twilight, and shall go forth: they shall dig through the wall to carry out thereby: he shall cover his face, that he see not the ground with his eyes.
12. Et princeps qui in medio ipsorum est super humerum portabit in tenebris, et ingredietur in pariete quem effoderint ad educendum in ipso: faciem suam occultabit, ne (ut non) aspiciat oculo terram.
We have said that two things were shown, both the people's exile and their clandestine flight: the Prophet now speaks again about this trembling. He says therefore, that not only the vulgar and the dregs of the people would be so anxious that they would endeavor to escape secretly and carry their own baggage; but the prince himself, that is, their king would be subject to such ignominy: the prince himself, says he, shall carry on his shoulder. Many followed him, as we have seen, and at length he was seized with a great company, as the Prophet will shortly subjoin, and being' caught in the desert of Jericho, he was dragged by the enemy before their king: but here mention is made of the king alone, because it was almost incredible that the enemy could not be reconciled. For surrender often appeases even the most hostile enemies; it often preserves kings, although an extended carnage may take place; and we know that kings are often preserved on account of their dignity, after they have been led in triumph. What therefore the Prophet pronounces concerning king Zedekiah does not imply any escape of the multitude from similar punishment: but because the king himself, together with his subjects in general, would be compelled to escape by stealth, and would be sure to fall into the hands of the enemy.
Next, the prince who is in the midst of them Here the words, the midst of them, are taken in a different sense from that in which the Israelites were lately said to be in the midst of the people who inhabited Jerusalem, because they had been mixed with the Jews from the time when they had dwelt within their territories. But he says their prince was in the midst in another sense, because in truth the eyes of all were turned towards him, as if when a standard is erected, it is beheld by all, and retains the whole multitude in their ranks, so also the king was in the midst, that the people might not disperse, for a miserable dispersion follows when the head is taken away. But the intention of the Holy Spirit must be observed. For the Jews, as we have formerly seen, were hardened in their wickedness by the false pretense that God would always maintain his dwelling among them. For it had been said of the throne of David, that it should stand as long as the sun and moon should shine in the heavens. (Psalm 89:36, 37.) And hence Jeremiah's lamentable complaint: the Christ, or anointed of God, in whose breath our life consisted. (Lamentations 4:20.) The Prophet does not speak there after the usual mode, and obtrusively remind God of his promise, as hypocrites do, but he has respect to God's counsel. For David, since he was a type of Christ, was truly the soul of the people, even among the Gentiles, as he is there reckoned to be. For they not only looked to their king for safety while included within the city walls, but although dispersed among the nations, they still hoped to be safe under their monarch's shadow. But their confidence was perverse, since they had impiously departed from the true worship of God. Hence the Prophet, to deprive them of that vain source of pride and boasting, says, now their king was in the midst of them: but it would not always be so, for God would drive him out, and even compel him to fly into secret hiding-places.
He afterwards adds, he shall hide his face, that he shall not see the ground with his eyes This also was accomplished, the sacred history narrates. For Zedekiah escaped through the gardens by subterraneous passages: he thought the enemy would be ignorant of his flight, but he was seized. (2 Kings 25:4, 5; and Jeremiah 39:4, 5.) We see, then, the meaning of this concealment of his face or countenance, namely, because Zedekiah distrusted any he might meet. But this was very bitter, and also base and disgraceful, for a king so to conceal himself, and not to dare to look upon the ground with his eyes. And now something far more disastrous follows.