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Commentary on Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai
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Zephaniah 3:14, 15

14. Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel; be glad and rejoice with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem.

14. Exulta filia Sion (vel, jubila; exulta Israel; gaude et exulta toto corde filia Ierjusalem.

15. The Lord hath taken away thy judgments, he hath cast out thine enemy: the king of Israel, even the Lord, is in the midst of thee: thou shalt not see evil any more.

15. Abstulit Iehova judicia tua, purgando avertit inimicos tuos; rex Israel Iehova in medio tui; non videbis malum amplius.

 

The Prophet confirms what he has been teaching, and encourages the faithful to rejoice, as though he saw with his eyes what he had previously promised. For thus the Prophets, while encouraging the faithful to entertain hope, stimulate them to testify their gratitude, as though God’s favor was already enjoyed. It is certain, that this instruction was set before the Jews for this purpose,—that in their exile and extreme distress they might yet prepare themselves to give thanks to God, as though they were already, as they say, in possession of what they had prayed for. But we must remember the design of our Prophet, and the common mode of proceeding which all the Prophets followed; for the faithful are exhorted to praise God the same as if they had already enjoyed his blessings, which yet were remote, and seemed concealed from their view.

We now then perceive what the Prophet meant in encouraging the Jews to praise God: he indeed congratulates them as though they were already enjoying that happiness, which was yet far distant: but as it is a congratulation only, we must also bear in mind, that God deals so bountifully with his Church as to stimulate the faithful to gratitude; for we pollute all his benefits, except we return for them, as it has been stated elsewhere, the sacrifice of praise: and as a confirmation of this is the repetition found here, which would have otherwise appeared superfluous. "Exult, daughter of Sion, shout, be glad; rejoice with all thine heart, daughter of Jerusalem.” 119119     To give the words their specific meaning, they may be thus rendered,—
   Cry aloud thou daughter of Zion,
Shout ye Israel;
Rejoice and exult with all thine heart,
Thou daughter of Jerusalem.

   The first two lines encourage the fullest expression of feelings, loud crying, and shouting like a trumpet; and then is set forth the character of these feelings; they were to be those of job and exultation. Our version, Newcome and Henderson, render the second line correctly, but not the first; and “Be glad and rejoice” are too feeble to express what the third line contains: for the exhortation is to “rejoice” and to “exult.” It was to be the loud cry of joy, and the shouting of exultation or triumph.—Ed.

But the Prophet was not thus earnest without reason; for he saw how difficult it was to console the afflicted, especially when God manifested no evidence of hope according to the perception of the flesh; but his purpose was by this heap of words to fortify them, that they might with more alacrity struggle with so many hard and severe trials.

He then adds, that God had taken away the judgments of Zion. By judgments, he means those punishments which would have been inflicted if it had been the Lord’s purpose to deal according to strict justice with the Jews, as when any one says in our language, J’ai brule tous tes proces. He intimates then that God would no more make an enquiry as to the sins of his people. The word משפט, meshiphath, we know, has various meanings in Hebrew; but in this place, as I have said, it means what we call in French, Toutes procedures. In short, God declares that the sins of his people are buried, so that he in a manner cuts off his character as a judge, and remits his own right, so that he will no more contend with the Jews, or summon them, as they say, to trial. Jehovah then will take away thy judgments 120120     Turned aside hath Jehovah thy judgments.—Ed.

Then follows an explanation, By clearing he has turned aside all enemies; 121121     The words are, [פנה איבך], “he hath turned away thine enemy.” Many copies have [איביך], “thine enemies;” but it may be regarded as the poetical singular.—Ed. for we know that war is one of God’s judgments. As then God had punished the Jews by the Assyrians, by the Egyptians, by the Chaldeans, and by other heathen nations, he says now, that all enemies would be turned away. It hence follows, that neither the Assyrians nor the Chaldeans had assailed them merely through their own inclination, but that they were, according to what has been elsewhere stated, the swords, as it were, of God.

It afterwards follows, The king of Israel is Jehovah in the midst of thee. Here the Prophet briefly shows, that the sum of real and true happiness is then possessed, when God declares, that he undertakes the care of his people. God is said to be in the midst of us, when he testifies that we live under his guardianship and protection. Properly speaking, he never forsakes his own; but these forms of speech, we know, are to be referred to the perception of the flesh. When the Lord is said to be afar off, or to dwell in the midst of us, it is to be understood with reference to our ideas: for we think God to be then absent when he gives liberty to our enemies, and we seem to be exposed as a prey to them; but God is said to dwell in the midst of us when he protects us by his power, and turns aside all assaults. Thus, then, our Prophet now says, that God will be in the midst of his Church; for he would really and effectually prove that he is the guardian of his elect people. He had been indeed for a time absent, when his people were deprived of all help, according to what Moses expresses when he says, that the people had deluded themselves, because they had renounced God, by whose hand they had been safely protected, and were also to be protected to the end. Exodus 32:25

He lastly adds, Thou shalt not see evil. Some read, “Thou shalt not fear evil,” by inserting י, iod; but the meaning is the same: for the verb, to see, in Hebrew is, we know, often to be taken in the sense of finding or experiencing. Thou shalt then see no evil; that is, God will cause thee to live in quietness, free from every disturbance. If the other reading, Thou shalt not fear evil, be preferred, then the reference is to the blessing promised in the law; for nothing is more desirable than peace and tranquillity. Since then this is the chief of temporal blessings, the Prophet does not without reason say, that the Church would be exempt from all fear and anxiety, when God should dwell in the midst of it, according to what he says in Psalm 46:1. It now follows—


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