8. For thus saith the LORD of hosts; After the glory hath he sent me unto the nations which spoiled you: for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye.
8. Quia sic dicit Iehova excercituum, Post gloriam misit me ad gentes quae spoliant vos; quia qui tangit vos tangit pupillam oculi sui (vel, ejus.)
The Prophet pursues the same subject; for he shows that the way was not opened to the Jews that they might soon after repent of their return, but that the Lord might be with them, as their deliverance was a signal proof of his kindness, and an evidence that he would commence what he had begun. He then says, that by God's order the Gentiles would be restrained from effecting any thing in opposition to the Jews; as though he had said, |Your liberty has been granted by Cyrus and by Darius; many rise up to hinder your return, but whatever they may attempt they shall effect nothing; for God shall check all their efforts, and frustrate all their attempts.| But God's herald does here publicly testify, that he was commissioned to prevent the nations from doing any injury, and to declare that the people brought back to Judea were holy to the Lord, and that it was not permitted that they should be injured by any. This is the import of the whole.
But a difficulty occurs here, for the context seems not consistent: Thus saith Jehovah, Jehovah sent me; for it is not the Prophet who receives here the office of a herald; but it seems to be ascribed to God, which appears inconsistent; for whose herald can God be? and by whose order or command could he promulgate what the Prophet here relates? It seems not then suitable to ascribe this to God, though the words seem to do so -- Thus saith Jehovah, After the glory he sent me to the nations: Who is the sender? or who is he who orders or commands God? We hence conclude that Christ is here introduced, who is Jehovah, and yet the Angel or the messenger of the Father. Though then the being of God is one, expressed by the word Jehovah, it is not improper to apply it both to the Father and to the Son. Hence God is one eternal being; but God in the person of the Father commands the Son, who also is Jehovah, to restrain the nations from injuring the Jews by any unjust violence. The rabbis give this explanation -- that the Prophet says that he himself was God's herald, and thus recites his words; but this is forced and unnatural. I indeed wish not on this point to contend with them; for being inclined to be contentious, they are disposed to think that we insist on proofs which are not conclusive. But there are other passages of Scripture which more clearly prove the divinity and the eternal existence of Christ, and also the distinction of persons. If however any one closely examines the words of the Prophet, he will find that this passage must be forcibly wrested, except it be understood of Christ. We then consider that Christ is here set forth as the Father's herald; and he says that he was sent to the nations.
What he adds -- After the glory, is understood by some to mean, that after the glory had ceased, in which the Jews had hitherto boasted, the message of Christ would then be directed to the Gentiles. The meaning, then, according to them is this -- that shortly after the glory of the chosen people should depart, Christ, by the Father's command, would pass over to the nations to gather a Church among them. But this passage may be also applied to the nations, who had cruelly distressed the Church of God; as though he had said -- |Though your enemies have had for a time their triumphs, yet their glory being brought to an end, God will send his messenger, so that they who have spoiled you may become your prey.| It still seems probable to me that the Prophet speaks of the glory which he had shortly before mentioned. We may then view him as saying, that as God had begun to exercise his power, and had in a wonderful manner restored his people, there would be no intermission until he had fully established his Church, so as to make the priesthood and the kingdom to flourish again. Then after the glory, imports as much as this -- |Ye see the beginning of God's favor, by which his power shines forth.| For doubtless it was no common instance of the Lord's glory, which he had manifested in restoring his people; and thus the Prophet encourages their confidence, inasmuch as God had already in part dealt in a glorious manner with them. He then takes an argument from what had been commenced, that the Jews might hope to the end, and fully expect the completion of their deliverance. |The Lord,| as it is said elsewhere, |will not forsake the work of his own hands.| (Psalm 138:8.) So the Prophet says now, After the glory, that is, |since God has once shone upon you in no common manner, ought you not to entertain hope; for he intended not to disappoint you of a full return to your country, but to fulfill what he had promised by his Prophets?|
As God had spoken of the restoration of his Church, and also of its perpetual condition, the Prophet here indirectly reproves the ingratitude of those who were not convinced that God would be faithful to the end, by seeing performed the commencement of his work. For as God had included both the return of his people and their continued preservation, so also his people ought to have included both favors: |The Lord, who has already begun to restore his people, will defend to the end those whom he has gathered, until their full and perfect redemption will be secured.| As then the Jews did not look for the end, though God led them as it were by the hand to the land of hope, the Prophet says to them, After the glory
We may farther observe, that the glory mentioned here was not as yet fully conspicuous; it had begun, so to speak, to glimmer, but it did not shine forth in full splendor until Christ came. It is then the same as though the Prophet had said, |God has already emitted some sparks of his glory, it will increase until it attains a perfect brightness. The Lord in the meantime will cause, not only that the nations may restrain themselves from doing and wrong, but also that they may become a prey to you|.
The reason for the order follows, Whosoever touches you, touches the apple of his own eye, or, of his eye; for the pronoun may be applied to any one of the heathen nations as well as to God himself; and the greater part of interpreters prefer taking it as referring to any one of the nations. Whosoever touches you touches the apple of his own eye; we say in French, Ils se donnent en l'oeil; that is, |Whosoever will assail my people will strike out his own eyes; for whatever your enemies may devise against you, shall fall on their own heads|. It will be the same as though one by his own sword should pierce his own heart. When therefore the nations shall consider you to be in their poser, the Lord shall cause that they shall pierce their own eyes, or wound their own breasts, for the import is the same. Whosoever then touches you, touches the apple of his own eye; there is no reason why you should fear, for however powerful your enemies may be, yet their fury shall not be allowed to rage against you; for God shall cause them to kill themselves by their own swords, or to pull out their eyes by their own fingers. This is the meaning, if we understand the passage of the enemies of the Church.
But it may also be suitably applied to God: Whosoever touches you, touches the apple of his eye; and to this view I certainly am more inclined; for this idea once occurs in Scripture,
|He will protect us as the apple of his eye.| (Psalm 17:8.)
As then the Holy Spirit has elsewhere used this similitude, so I am disposed to regard this passage as intimating, that the love of God towards the faithful is so tender that when they are hurt he burns with so much displeasure, as though one attempted to pierce his eyes. For God cannot otherwise set forth how much and how ardently he loves us, and how careful he is of our salvation, than by comparing us to the apple of his eye. There is nothing, as we know, more delicate, or more tender, then this is in the body of man; for were one to bite my finger, or prick my arm or my legs, or even severely to would me, I should feel no such pain as by having my eye or the pupil of my eye injured. God then by this solemn message declares, that the Church is to him like the apple of his eye, so that he can by no means bear it to be hurt or touched. It afterwards follows: --