Ver. 1. Robber. Some understand this of Babylon, which robbed and pillaged the temple of God; others understand it of Jerusalem, by reason of the many rapines and oppressions committed there. Ch.
--- Heb. "now assemble, O daughter of troops;" Babylon, famous H. for soldiers, who will seize Sedecias; (Jer. xxxix. 6. C.) or Jerusalem, noted for rapine. C. iii. Thou shalt be spoiled, yet restored till Bethlehem bring forth Christ, the ruler of the world. W.
Ver. 2. Ephrata. This was the ancient name (H.) of Bethlehem, (Gen. xxxv. 16.) though some think that it was so called after Caleb's wife. 1 Par. ii. 19.
--- Art, or "art thou?" &c. which makes it agree with Mat. ii. 4.
--- Little. Heb. tsahir, (H.) is often rendered "considerable." Chal.
--- Thousands: capital cities. Zac. ix. 7. Bethlehem seemed too mean to send forth a ruler over the rest. The ancient Jews clearly understood this of the Messias. The moderns explain it of Zorobabel: but the expressions are too grand for him. C.
--- S. Jerom accuses the Jews of having designedly omitted some cities, (Jos. xv. 60.) because Bethlehem Ephrata is one. It is nowhere else thus described. Kennicott.
--- The priests substituted land of Juda instead of Ephrata. Mat. ii. H.
--- The evangelist recites their words, to shew their negligence in quoting Scripture. "Yet some assert, that in almost all quotations from the Old Test. the order or words are changed, and sometimes the sense,...as the apostles did not write out of a book, but trusted to memory, which is sometimes fallacious." S. Jer.
--- This principle would he very dangerous, (Simon. Crit. i. 17.) and we should attribute the variation to other causes, as the sacred penman could not mistake. H.
--- Bethlehem, though a little town, was rendered more illustrious than many others by the birth of Christ. W.
--- Forth. That is, he who as man shall be born in thee, as God was born of his Father from all eternity. Ch.
--- His coming was also long before announced. Orig. c. Cels. i.
--- But the former sense is preferable. C.
--- Eternity. These expressions singly imply a long time; (Ex. xxi. 6. Ps. xiii. 7.) but when doubled, sæculum sæculi, &c. they must be understood of an absolute eternity, which Christ enjoyed with the Father and the Holy Ghost; though, in his human nature, he was born in time. W.
Ver. 3. Forth, till Babylon let them go; (Sanct.) or the Jews shall enjoy the land till Christ come; (S. Jer. exp. ii.) or he will leave them in their blindness till the nations shall have received the gospel, when there shall be one fold. Jo. x. 16. Rom. ix. 25.
Ver. 4. Earth, Christ shall be glorified, governing his Church. The Jews shall be respected as a people singularly favoured.
Ver. 5. Peace. This regards Christ and not Zorobabel. C.
--- Assyrian. That is, the persecutors of the Church; who are here called Assyrians by the prophet, because the Assyrians were at that time the chief enemies and persecutors of the people of God. Ch.
--- The Persians held the empire which had belonged to Babylon and to Assyria, and was founded by Nemrod. Gen. x. 8. C.
--- Seven, &c. The pastors of God's Church, and the defenders of the faith. The number seven, in Scripture; is taken to signify many; and when eight is joined with it, we are to understand that the number will be very great. Ch.
--- See Eccle. xi. 2. Ruth iv. 16. C.
--- Christ always preserves a great number, not withstanding the attacks of persecutors enabling bishops to feed them with a power which the people must revere. Heb. xiii. W.
--- Eight. Eschylus places Artaphanes between Smerdis and Hystaspes, the former of whom was one of the seven magi, and the latter one of the seven conspirators, (C.) or rather chief princes, who attacked the usurper. H.
--- They always retained great privileges, so that they seemed all to govern. V. Max. ix. 2. Herod. iii. 65. See 1 Esd. iv. 7. Est. i. 14. where we find that the kings did nothing of importance without their seven counsellors. C.
--- Principal. Sept. "bites (Sym. Christ's) of men," or people of the old as well as of the new law. S. Jer.
Ver. 6. They. Hystaspes first laid a tax of money on the Persians, who hence styled him a merchant. Herod. iii. 89.
--- He was severe, and often at war. C.
--- Feed. They shall make spiritual conquests in the lands of their persecutors, with the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God. Eph. vi. 17. Ch.
--- With, &c. Sept. "in the ditch." Th. &c. "gates," where sentence was given.
--- Borders. Seven or eight princes have taken the place of Cambyses, who had invaded Judea. v. 5. C.
AssyriaAssyria. The successors of Cyrus now ruled over those countries, (C.) which had belonged to the most potent Assyrian and Chaldean monarchs; and therefore the titles are given to them indiscriminately. T.
Ver. 7. Jacob; viz. the apostles, and the first preachers of the Jewish nation, whose doctrine, like dew, shall make the plants of the converted Gentiles grow up, without waiting for any man to cultivate them by human learning. Ch.
--- Under Hystaspes, the husband of Esther, the Jews enjoyed rest, and Providence protected them. C.
Ver. 8. Lion. This denotes the fortitude of these first preachers, and their success in their spiritual enterprises. Ch.
--- The Jews, by leave of Assuerus, defended themselves; and the Machabees became terrible. Est. ix. and 1 Mac. iii. 4. The power of the latter was established, while the efforts of Eupator and of other Syrian persecutors for sixty years, down to Zebina, proved fruitless or destructive to themselves. C.
Ver. 10. Horses. Some understand this, and all that follows to the end of the chapter, as addressed to the enemies of the Church. But it may as well be understood of the converts to the Church, who should no longer put their trust in any of these things. Ch.
--- God will protect his people, so that horses and fortifications will be unnecessary.
Ver. 11. Sorceries. The Jews after their return abstained more from such things; but not like the Church of Christ, in which idols and dealings with the devil have never been tolerated.
Ver. 14. Ear, to the admonitions of the prophets. Hence Egypt, &c. were justly punished.