1. The burden of the word of the Lord in the land of Hadrach, and Damascus shall be the rest thereof: when the eyes of man, as of all the tribes of Israel, shall be toward the Lord
1. Onus sermonis Iehovae in terra Chadrak, et Damascus quies ejus; quia ad Iehovam oculus hominis et omnium tribuum Israel.
One thing had escaped my notice in the words of the Prophet -- that great people and strong nations would come. We have said that |great| rather than |many| ought to be adopted. The latter meaning may indeed be allowed that the worshipers of God would come from various cities; but as the word tsvmym, otsumim properly signifies strong, and as it is certain that the Prophet means the same thing by the two words, it is more probable that he speaks of strong and valiant people, as they are not so easily subdued; for the more any one excels in prowess, the more stiff is his neck to undertake the yoke. As then the strong and the brave, and such as are eminent in the world, are not so easily brought to submit to God, the Prophet expressly says, that they shall become teachable, and be made willing, so that pride, as it is usually the case, shall not be a hindrance to them.
I come now to the passage in which the Prophet announces a heavy burden, or a severe and fearful prophecy respecting Syria and other neighboring nations. I prefer to retain the word |burden,| rather than to render it prophecy, as many expositors have done; for though ms', mesha, is sometimes taken simply for prophecy, yet there is here, as it appears to me, something particular intended; for the Prophet denounces God's judgment both on Syria and on the surrounding countries, and the word prophecy is not suitable; for to say |the prophecy of the word,| would be strange and without meaning. But when he says, The burden of the word of God, the sentence is full, and flows well; for he reminds us that his word would not be ineffectual, but full of effect, as it would lie as a burden on Syria and on other countries, which they should not be able to shake off. The burden then of the word of Jehovah; that is, |I have now a prediction which will be grievous and severe to those heathens who now disturb the Jews, the chosen people.|
But this doctrine contains consolation to the godly; for they may hence know that they are safe under God's protection, as he carries on war with their enemies; nay, his vengeance was now prepared against all those who harassed the Jews. As then he had before promised that incredible favor of God which we have noticed, so now he declares that the Church would be safe under the protection of God, inasmuch as vengeance was in readiness for all the ungodly.
But the Prophet mentions here only the cities known to the Jews, for it was enough to refer to them as an example, that the Jews might hence conclude that God would be always the protector of his Church, so that no enemies shall escape unpunished. The Prophet then no doubt mentioned these few cities to the Jews, that they might feel assured that nothing is so strong and impetuous in the world which God cannot easily subdue and lay prostrate. Now as we apprehend the Prophet's object, we shall come to the words.
Some think that the word chdrk, chedrak, includes the whole of Syria, which seems to me probable. Others suppose that some notable city is meant, as Damascus is immediately subjoined. But as the matter is uncertain, and as there is no doubt but that the Prophet speaks of the kingdom of Syria, I will not contest the point. Be it then the name of a city or of a country, it is all the same, for the Prophet means that the vengeance of God was impending over the Syrians, and impending in such a manner, that it would not depart from them until they were wholly destroyed. For when he adds that its rest would be Damascus, he intimates that God's judgment would not be like a storm, which soon passes away, but that it would be a heavy and burdensome mass, which could not be dissipated, according to what Isaiah says --
|The word came on Jacob and fell on Israel;| (Isaiah 8:9;)
that is, what God pronounced against Jacob fell on Israel. He indeed changes the name, but it is the same as though he had said -- |When God shall punish Jacob, can the Israelites escape?| for they were the same. The sentence then shall fall, that is, it shall find its own place: in vain will they run here and there to escape. The Jews then will gain nothing by their flight; for the vengeance now denounced by the Lord shall lay hold on them. So also in this place he says, the burden of the word of Jehovah on the land of Chadrak and Damascus, the royal city, the metropolis, shall be its rest, its dwelling; for the Lord's vengeance will fix its station there, and it cannot be thence removed. In vain then will the Syrians try in various ways to escape, for they must be pressed down by God's hand, until they be laid prostrate. We now then understand in what sense the Prophet says that Damascus would be the rest, the habitation, or the abode of God's vengeance.
He afterwards adds, For to Jehovah the eye of man. The particle ky, ki is to be taken here, I think, as an adverb of time, |When|. There is indeed in reality but little difference, except that the common rendering of it greatly obscures the meaning of the Prophet. But if it be taken as an adverb of time, the passage will read better, When the eye of man shall be to Jehovah, and of all the tribes of Israel; that is, when the Jews shall begin to turn to God without any dissimulation, but with real sincerity; then he says, God will in every way bless them, and raise up his hand against their enemies. The Prophet had before exhorted the Jews to repentance; for they had been too much given to sacrifices and fastings, while no integrity existed among them. So also he shows again that their hypocrisy was an hindrance, which prevented God to manifest his favor to them; and thus he reminds them, that the gate would be opened, and the way made plain and even for God's favor and blessings, whenever they raised their eyes to him, that is, whenever they derived their hopes from him, and fixed on him their dependence. For to direct the eyes to God is nothing else than to look to him so as to fix on him all our thoughts. Some understand by |man| all mortals, but of this I approve not; nor do I doubt but that the Prophet refers to the Jews alone; and doubtless it is not consistent with the context to regard any but the Jews. It is indeed true, that the Prophet speaks here of the calling of the Gentiles, but so as to begin with the Jews; for as they were the first-born, so it was necessary for them to have the precedence. The Prophet then here declares that God would be glorious in his chosen people, and would lay prostrate all the bordering enemies. Then the eye of man signifies the same as the eye of the whole people; as though he had said, that after the Jews had begun to lay aside all dissimulation and devoted themselves to God, and cast all their hopes on him, they would then find God sufficiently powerful to lay in the dust all their enemies.
But he afterwards adds, by way of explanation, and of all the tribes of Israel. Some give this rendering, |How much more,| as though the Prophet reasoned here from the less to the greater. But, as I have already said, this cannot be maintained. First, this explanation is strained, |The eye of man, and especially of all the tribes of Israel;| for the Jews ought to have had the first place: and secondly, the particle waw has no amplifying sense. In short, he intended by a small particle to show that precedence belonged to the Jews. I do not then understand what they mean, who would include all nations in the word |man,| and then regard the Prophet as proceeding to mention the tribes of Israel. Now what I have stated, that the true servants of God were then few, is probable enough; hence the Prophet here exhorts the whole people to a union in religion. Whenever then the whole tribes of Israel directed their eyes to God, the burden of his word would then come upon Damascus and all the Syrians.