5. He shall not return into the land of Egypt, but the Assyrian shall be his king, because they refused to return.
5. Non revertetur in terram AEgypti; Assur dominabitur ipsis, quia noluerunt converti (renuerunt ad convertendum.)
Here the Prophet denounces a new punishment, that the people in vain hoped that Egypt would be a place of refuge or an asylum to them; for the Lord would draw them away to another quarter. For the Israelites had cherished this hope, that if by any chance the Assyrians should be too powerful for them, there would yet be a suitable refuge for them in Egypt among their friends, with whom they had made a treaty. Since, then, they promised themselves a hospitable exile in Egypt, the Prophet here exposes their vain confidence: |This their expectation,| he says, |that they shall find a way open to Egypt, shall disappoint the people: it is shut up,| he says, They shall not return to the land of Egypt, but the Assyrian shall be their king. By saying, that the Assyrian shall rule over them, he means that the people would become exiles under the Assyrians, which indeed happened. He then anticipates here all the vain hopes by which the people deceived themselves, and by which they hardened themselves against all the threatening of God. |There is no reason for them,| he says, |to look towards Egypt; for the Lord will not allow them to go there; for he will draw them to Assyria.|
He afterwards gives the reason, Because they have been unwilling, he says, to return This |return| is to be taken in another sense: but there is here a striking similarity in the words. They thought that there would be to them a free passage into Egypt; and yet they had been unwilling to pass over unto God, when he had so often called them. The Prophet therefore says that a return into Egypt was now denied them, inasmuch as they had been unwilling to return to God. The import of what is said is, that when men perversely resist God, they in vain hope for any free movements either to this or that quarter; for the Lord will hold them tied and bound. As it is wont to be done to wild beasts, who, when they show too much ferocity, are shut up in cages or bound with chains, or as it is usually done to frantic men, who are bound with strong bands; so also the Lord does with obstinate men; he binds them fast, so that they cannot move a finger. This, then, is the meaning of the Prophet.
There is, at the same time, to be understood, an implied comparison between the former bondage they endured in Egypt, and the new bondage which awaited them. They had known of what sort was the hospitality of Egypt, and yet so great a blindness possessed their minds, that they wished to return there. Their fathers had been kindly enough received; but their posterity were grievously burdened; nay, they were not far from being entirely destroyed. What madness was this, to wish of themselves to return to Egypt, when they knew how great was the ferociousness and cruelty of the Egyptians? But as I have said, something more grievous awaited them; they were not worthy to return to Egypt. To return there would have been indeed a dreadful calamity; but the Lord would not, however open a way for them to go there; for he would force them to pass to another country; yea, they were to be by force dragged away by their conquerors into Assyria. The drift of the whole is, that though the people had been cruelly treated in Egypt, there was now drawing nigh a more grievous tyranny; for the Assyrians would double the injuries, and the violence, and all kinds of wrongs and reproaches, which had been exercised against this people.
Some think that it was added for consolation, that God, though greatly provoked by the people, was yet unwilling to lead them again into Egypt, lest the former redemption should be made void; but that a middle course was prepared by which he would chastise the ungrateful and yet retain them as his peculiar possession. But I have already shown what I mostly approve. At the same time, whichever view is taken, we see how grievous and severe was the denunciation of the Prophet.