The children of Ephraim being armed, and carrying bows
Or "casting" arrows out of the "bow" F1; they went out well armed to meet the enemy, and they trusted in their armour, and not in the Lord; and being skilful in throwing darts, or shooting arrows, promised themselves victory:
but turned back in the day of battle;
fled from the enemy, could not stand their ground when the onset was made: what this refers to is not easy to determine; some think this with what follows respects the defection of the ten tribes in Rehoboam's time, which frequently go under the name of Ephraim; but we have no account of any battle then fought, and lost by them; and besides the history of this psalm reaches no further than the times of David; others are of opinion that it regards the time of Eli, when the Israelites were beaten by the Philistines, the ark of God was taken, Eli's two sons slain, and thirty thousand more, ( 1 Samuel 4:1-11 ) . Ephraim being put for the rest of the tribes, the ark being in that tribe; others suppose that the affair between the Gileadites and Ephraimites, in the times of Jephthah, is referred to, when there fell of the Ephraimites forty and two thousand, ( Judges 12:1-6 ) , many of the Jewish F2 writers take it to be the history of a fact that was done in Egypt before the children of Israel came out from thence; see ( 1 Chronicles 7:20-22 ) , so the Targum,
``when they dwelt in Egypt, the children of Ephraim grew proud, they appointed the end (or term of going out of Egypt), and they erred, and went out thirty years before the end, with warlike arms, and mighty men carrying bows, turned back, and were slain in the day of battle;''though it seems most likely to have respect to what was done in the wilderness, as Kimchi observes, after they were come out of Egypt, and had seen the wonders of God there, and at the Red sea, and in the wilderness; and perhaps reference is had to the discomfiture of the Israelites by the Amalekites, when they went up the hill they were forbid to do, and in which, it may be, the Ephraimites were most forward, and suffered most; see ( Numbers 14:40-45 ) .
F1 (tvq ymwr) "jacientes arcu", Pagninus, Montanus; "jaculantes arcu", Tigurine version, Musculus, Junius & Tremellius, Gejerus, Michaelis.
F2 See Pirke Eliezer, c. 48. Shalshalet Hakabala, fol. 7. 2.