7. The Lord also shall save the tents of Judah first, that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem do not magnify themselves against Judah.
7. Et servabit Iehovah tabernacula Iehudah sicut initio (subaudiendum enim est nota similitudinis;) itaque non gloriabitur decor (vel, magnificentia) domus Davidis, et decore civis Ierusalem contra Iehudam.
The Prophet teaches us again, -- that there is no need of helps when God stretches forth his hand to preserve his people; for he is alone abundantly sufficient. And the design of the verse is to show, that the Jews were to learn to acquiesce in God alone, though they might find themselves destitute of every earthly assistance; for when God purposes to save, he needs no help, as we have said; nor does he borrow any, as he by himself is fully sufficient.
But by the word, Tabernacles, the Prophet means, as I think, sheds, such as afforded but partial protection. It is indeed true that tents are called schvt, sachut, in Hebrew; but the same is often meant by the 'lym, aelim, tents, which afforded a temporary accommodation; for they were not strongly built, as it is evident from many passages. I allow that all houses without any difference are sometimes called tabernacles, 'hlym, aelim; but the word properly signifies a tent, built as a temporary convenience; for it is said that the fathers dwelt in tents, when they had no fixed habitation.
Let us now see why the Prophet speaks of tents. He may have alluded to their dwelling in the wilderness; but as this may seem too remote, I consider that he simply refers to the tents in which the Jews dwelt when they had entered the land, after their deliverance from Egypt; for they must have been wonderfully protected by the hand of God, inasmuch as they had provoked all their neighbors and kindled the hatred of all against themselves. There were indeed some fortified cities; but for the most part they lived in villages, and the greatest part of the people were no doubt satisfied with their tents or sheds. Hence as the Israelites then had no defense, the Prophet now reminds them, that they were then protected by God alone, in order that they might believe that they should in future be safe and secure, as God would defend them to the end. There is then here an implied comparison between tents and fortified cities; and the Prophet bids them to consider what their fathers had formerly experienced, for God faithfully defended them, even when they were unprotected and exposed to the attacks of their enemies.
He says first, Jehovah will save the tents, etc.; as though he had said, |Know that your fathers were formerly defended by the hand of God, when they did not, as to the greater part of them, dwell in cities, but lived scattered in villages: since God then had been the preserver of his people many ages before a king was made, believe that he will be the same to you hereafter.| But we must yet remember what we said yesterday, -- that the Jews who had returned to their country had a promise of God's help, in order that the Israelites, who were retained by their own sloth in Babylon, might know that they were justly suffering punishment for their ingratitude, because they had not given glory to God, as they ought to have done, by committing themselves to his protection, and thus relying on his defense, so as not to seek other helps from the world: he will then save them, he says, as at the beginning; for as, the particle of similitude, is to be understood here.
He then adds, And hence boast shall not the honor of the house of David and the honor of the citizen of Jerusalem over Judah. This latter clause is added, I think, by way of explanation; and this is evident from the subject itself for God declares, that he would be the protector of the helpless, so that they would be no less victorious than if they possessed many armed soldiers, and were furnished with money and other necessaries to carry on war. For by comparing here the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem with Judah, he has no doubt a regard to this, -- that though there was no kingdom and no fortified cities, there would yet be sufficient protection in him alone, so that he could by himself defend the people, though unarmed, and having no swords, nor power, nor any other requisite means. Boast then shall not the house of David: and this seems to have been mentioned designedly, for while they trusted in their own wealth and power, they did not rest on God as they ought to have done.
As then the Jews had been elated with vain pride, while the dignity of the kingdom remained, and while they possessed wealth and warlike instruments, God here reproves this false confidence; for the Jews had thus obscured his gratuitous favor. For however great might have been the treasures collected by David and Solomon, and however formidable they might have been to their enemies and the neighboring nations, they ought yet to have relied on the protection of God alone. Since then earthly helps had inflated their minds, God now reproves their vain conceit, and shows that the condition of the people would be no less happy, when no king sat on the throne, and no aids enlisted for the protection of the people; and therefore he declares, that though exposed to all evils, they should yet be safe and secure, for God would defend them. This is the reason why the Prophet says, that the royal posterity would not glory against Judah, though dwelling in tents, nor the citizens of Jerusalem, who were then as it were the courtiers: for as the royal seat was at Jerusalem, a sort of vain boasting was made by all the citizens. As then all of them despised the inhabitants of the country, when the condition of the city was illustrious, the Prophet says, the posterity of David and Jerusalem shall not hereafter glory against the people of Judah, scattered in the open fields. It then follows --