He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling
In ( Deuteronomy 32:10-12 ) instances are given of the goodness of God to the people of Israel, when in the wilderness; by which is meant, either "the wilderness of the land of Egypt", as it is called, ( Ezekiel 20:36 ) ; where they were in a most miserable and forlorn condition, in which the Lord found them, and out of which he brought them; or rather the desert of Arabia, a waste place, where no provisions could be had; a howling wilderness, through the blowing of the winds, the cries of wild creatures, as dragons, owls, ostriches, and the like, as the Targum of Jonathan, Jarchi, and Aben Ezra, and the howling of passengers lost, or for want of provisions; here the Lord found them, and they were as acceptable to him as grapes to a traveller in a wilderness, (See Gill on Hosea 9:10): this is an emblem of the world, in which the spiritual Israel are, when called by grace out of it; or of an unregenerate state, in which they are found, and out of which they are brought: the phrase sometimes signifies sufficing, or finding with everything sufficient; see ( Numbers 11:22 ) ; so Onkelos renders it here; which is true of the Lord's dealing with this people; he supplied them with manna, the corn of heaven, angels' food, and with water out of the rock, and flesh to eat in fulness, yea, with raiment as well as food; with everything convenient for them: so the Lord does for his spiritual Israel, feeding them with his word and ordinances, clothing them with the righteousness of his Son, giving them fresh supplies of grace, and withholding no good thing from them; so that they have enough, having all things richly to enjoy:
he led him about;
when he brought the people of Israel out of Egypt, he did not lead them the nearest way to the land of Canaan, through the the land of the Philistines, but he led them about the way of the wilderness of the Red sea; and when they were come to the borders of the land, because of their murmurings, and disobedience, they were ordered back into the wilderness again; nor were they suffered to go through the land of Edom when on the confines of it, which would have been a shorter way; but they were obliged to go round that land, which was very discouraging to them, see ( Exodus 13:17 Exodus 13:18 ) ( Numbers 14:25 ) ( 21:4 ) ; and thus the Lord, though he could if he would, bring his people at once to heaven; he could sanctify them at once, as well as justify them; he could take them the moment he regenerates them into his kingdom, as the thief on the cross; yet this is not his usual way: though he calls them out from among the men of the world, he continues them in it, having something for them to do or suffer for his name's sake; he indeed leads them soon into the right and plain way of salvation, and not in a roundabout way of duties; yet he leads them in many roundabout ways in Providence, which are all right, though sometimes rough; they seem at times to be near to heaven, and then they are turned into the world again; nay, the Apostle Paul was in heaven, and yet sent into the wilderness of the Gentiles again, for the good of souls and the interest of a Redeemer; however, they all at last come safe to heaven and happiness: the words may be rendered, "he surrounded" or "compassed him about" F16, and the rather, since leading them about seems to be by way of resentment or punishment, whereas Moses is enumerating instances of goodness and kindness, as this was one; he covered them with the clouds of glory, so the Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem, Jarchi and Aben Ezra: he protected them with his power and providence, and preserved them from serpents and scorpions, and the wild beasts of the wilderness, as well as from all their enemies: and the Lord surrounds his spiritual Israel with angels, who encamp about them; with himself, who is a wall of fire round about them; with his power, in which they are kept as in a garrison; and with his love, which encompasses them as a shield:
he instructed him;
he taught him the law, as the Targum of Jonathan; so Jarchi and Aben Ezra; or the decalogue, as the Jerusalem Targum; he instructed him in the knowledge of the true God and his worship; in the knowledge of the Messiah, and of his righteousness, and salvation by him; for he instructed him by his good Spirit, ( Nehemiah 9:20 ) ; so the Lord instructs his spiritual Israel, by his Spirit, his ministers, his word and ordinances, in the knowledge of themselves, and of himself in Christ, and of Christ and the way of life by him; and this being joined with the Lord's leading about his people, may suggest that he instructs them by adverse dispensations of Providence: the word F17 signifies causing to understand; and God only can teach and instruct in such sense as to give men an understanding of the things they are taught and instructed in:
he kept him as the apple of his eye;
in the most careful and tender manner: the apple of the eye is an aperture in it, which lets in rays of light into the "retina" or chamber where the images of things are formed; this is wonderfully guarded in nature, for, besides the orbit of the eye, which is strong and bony, and the eyelids, which in sleep are closed, to prevent anything falling into the eye to disturb it; and the eyebrows, which are fringed with hair to break off the rays of light, which sometimes would be too strong for it; besides all these, there are no less than six tunics or coats to keep and preserve it: and in like manner did the Lord keep and guard Israel, while passing through the wilderness, from fiery serpents, scorpions, and the nations, that none might hurt, as Jarchi; and especially thus he keeps his spiritual Israel, who are parts of himself, one with him, near and dear to him; and about whom he sets guard upon guard, employs all his perfections to secure them, and constantly watches over them night and day, and keeps them from all evil and every enemy, and preserves them safe to his kingdom and glory.
F16 (whnbboy) "circumdedit eum", Piscator; so Cocceius, Van Till, Vitringa.
F17 (whnnwby) "intelligere fecit eum", Pagninus, Cocceius.