As soon then as he had said unto them I am he
Immediately upon his speaking these words, which were delivered with so much majesty and authority, and were attended with such a divine power:
they went backward, and fell to the ground;
they were confounded, surprised, and intimidated, and seemed as if they would have chose rather to have fled from him, than to have apprehended him; and as they retired and went backward, they fainted away, as it were, either at the majesty of his looks, or at the power of his words, or both, so that they became like ad men, falling to the ground. Sometimes the majesty of a man's person, or his fame for some remarkable things done by him, or the innocence and uprightness of his cause, have had such an influence upon his enemies, that they have not been able to execute upon him what they intended. It is reported of Caius Maxius that being reduced to the utmost misery, and shut up in a private house at Minturnae, (a town in Italy,) an executioner was sent to kill him; and though he was an old man, and unarmed, and in the most miserable condition, yet the executioner having drawn his sword, could not attempt to use it; but, as the historian F25 says, being struck with blindness at the glory of the man, ran away astonished and trembling. Now, besides the above things, in their highest perfection, there was in our Lord something more than human; he was God as well as man, and he displayed his divine majesty, glory, and power. This was done, not to make his escape from them; but to give proof of his deity, and a specimen of his power at the great day; and to let them know, that if he had not thought fit to have surrendered himself voluntarily to them, though he was an unarmed person, they, with all their men and arms, could never have laid hold on him; and to show them, that he could as easily have struck them dead, as to cause them to fall to the ground: and sometimes striking a person dead immediately, is expressed by this phrase of striking to the ground; and is ascribed to God, who does it by the ministry of angels: says R. Simeon ben Shetach F26, to some persons at variance,
``let the master of thoughts come, (i.e. the blessed God,) and take vengeance on you; immediately Gabriel came, (eqrqb) (Njbhw) , "and smote them to the ground"; and they died immediately.''The like is elsewhere said F1,
``if thou transgresseth thy father's command, immediately comes Gabriel, and "smites to the ground".''
F25 Valerius Maxim. l. 2. c. 5.
F26 F. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 19. 2.
F1 Shemot Rabba, sect. 1. fol. 91. 2.