Were it not that I feared the wrath of the enemy
Satan, the enemy of mankind in general, of the people of God in particular, and especially of the Messiah, the seed of the woman, and of God himself, whom he would dethrone, or at least place himself on an equality with him; this enemy is full of wrath, enmity, and blasphemy, against God, and stirs up all of this kind in the hearts of men, and instigates them to persecute the people of God; and does all he can to obscure the glory of God, and lessens his own "grief", as the word signifies, occasioned by it: and now though God has nothing to fear, either from the power and policy of the devil, being infinitely mightier and wiser than he; yet as Moses expressed his concern, if God should cut off the people of Israel as one man, that the Egyptians would say he brought them out of Egypt for mischief, or that he was not able to bring them into the land of Canaan, ( Exodus 32:12 ) ( Numbers 14:15 Numbers 14:16 ) ; so the Lord, speaking after the manner of men, as Aben Ezra observes, expresses his fears of the wrath of the enemy; not properly, but it denotes his precaution, provision, and preparation he made to put a check upon it, and a stop to it, that he might not have the opportunity of instilling it into the minds of men, that God was cruel to his people, or had not ability to save them from their enemies, or was unfaithful to his promises; and therefore he did not entirely cut them off, as he could and might have done, but made a reserve of them, as a standing proof to the contrary:
lest their adversaries;
the Romans, who fought against them, took them, and carried them captive:
should behave themselves strangely;
alienate the glory of God from him, and give it to their strange gods; which the Romans were wont to do, when they obtained victories, and did do something of this kind to Jupiter Capitolinus, when they carried the Jews captive, and their trophies in triumph to Rome: yet there was such an apparent hand of God in this affair, that the Heathens were obliged to own it. Titus the conqueror himself confessed that it was God that favoured him, and that it was he that brought the Jews out of the fortresses and fastnesses in which they were; and that no hands of men, or machines, were anything against such towers as they had F7: and when some neighbouring nations would have crowned him because of his victories over the Jews, he refused it, saying, he was unworthy of it, he had not done this of himself, but had only lent an hand to God that was angry with them F8. Cicero also observes F9 the hand of God in the conquest, captivity, and servitude of the Jewish nation; moreover, a remnant was preserved to be to the Romans, as the Canaanites were to the Israelites, thorns in their sides, and pricks in their eyes; to be a burden to them, a dead weight upon them, and to check their ovations and triumphs over them; for, that people conquered gave them great trouble, raised commotions and insurrections in many places, which obliged the emperors in succeeding reigns to come from distant parts, and quell them, and were the occasion of vast quantities of blood being shed; insomuch that one of their poets F11 wishes Judea had never been subdued by them: likewise a number of them was preserved to prevent the growth and spread of idolatry, and that they might be a standing example and caution to Christians among the Gentiles not to give into it, when they should observe what they suffered on the account of it, as their prophecies, extant in their sacred books preserved, abundantly testified and declared:
[and] lest they should say, our hand [is] high, and the Lord hath not
done all this;
lest anyone should say among the Gentiles, as particularly deists, lest they should lift up their horn on high, and speak with a stiff neck, and deny that ever any such things were done for this people the Scriptures speak of, as the miracles in the land of Egypt, at the Red sea, and in the wilderness; and confidently affirm there never was any such people, and defy Christians to show them a Jew if they could: now here was a reserve made of them, to be a standing proof of the truth of divine revelation against such infidels; as also that they might be a check unto all false teachers, and leave them inexcusable who embrace the same errors that have been condemned in them, and God has shown his displeasure at, and which they still retain; such as the doctrines of freewill, of justification by a man's own righteousness, of salvation not being wholly by the Messiah, and of his being non-Jehovah, or only a mere creature; for the words may be rendered, "non-Jehovah hath done all this" F12; or he that is not Jehovah hath done all that is done for the people of the Jews; and say, all that the Messiah hath done, with respect to salvation, is done by him that is not Jehovah, or God, but a creature. These were the doctrines of the Jews in Christ's time; the Pharisees, the prevailing sect among them, were freewillers, as Josephus relates F13; and the whole nation were self-justiciaries, as the Apostle Paul assures us, and sought for righteousness not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law, ( Romans 9:31 Romans 9:32 ) ( 10:3 ) ; and such they are to this day, as well as Unitarians to a man; now Arians, Socinians, Pelagians, and Arminians, may look upon these people, who are continued, as having imbibed the same errors; and may read theirs in them, and God's displeasure at them.
F7 Joseph. de Bello Jud. l. 6. c. 9. sect. 1.
F8 Philostrat. Vit. Apolion. l. 6. c. 14.
F9 Orat. 24. pro Flacco.
F11 "Atque utinam nunquam Judaea subacta fuisset", Rutilius.
F12 (hwhy alw) "et non Jehovah operatus est omne hoc", Cocceius; so Van Till, Vitringa.
F13 Antiqu. l. 18. c. 1. sect. 3.