Verse 17. The chariots of God are twenty thousand. Other countries, which in the former verse were symbolically referred to as "high hills," gloried in their chariots of war; but Zion, though far more lowly, was stronger than they, for the omnipotence of God was to her as two myriads of chariots. The Lord of Hosts could summon more forces into the field than all the petty lords who boasted in their armies; his horses of fire and chariots of fire would be more than a match for their fiery steeds and flashing cars. The original is grandly expressive: "the war chariots of Elohim are myriads, a thousand thousands." The marginal reading of our Bibles, even many thousands, is far more correct than the rendering, even thousands of angels. It is not easy to see where our venerable translators found these "angels," for they are not in the text; however, as it is a blessing to entertain them unawares, we are glad to meet with them in English, even though the Hebrew knows them not; and the more so because it cannot be doubted that they constitute a right noble squadron of the myriad hosts of God. We read in Deuteronomy 33:2 , of the Lord's coming "with ten thousands of saints," or holy ones, and in Hebrews 12:22 , we find upon mount Zion "an innumerable company of angels," so that our worthy translators putting the texts together, inferred the angels, and the clause is so truthfully explanatory, that we have no fault to find with it. The Lord is among them, as in Sinai, in the holy place, or, "it is a Sinai in holiness." God is in Zion as the Commander in chief of his countless hosts, and where he is, there is holiness. The throne of grace on Zion is as holy as the throne of justice on Sinai. The displays of his glory may not be so terrible under the new covenant as under the old; but they are even more marvellous if seen by the spiritual eye. Sinai has no excellency of glory beyond Zion; but the rather it pales its light of law before the noontide splendours of Zion's grace and truth. How joyful was it to a pious Hebrew to know that God was as truly with his people in the tabernacle and temple as amid the terrors of the Mount of Horeb; but it is even more heart cheering to us to be assured that the Lord abides in his church, and has chosen it to be his rest for ever. May we be zealous for the maintenance of holiness in the spiritual house which God condescends to occupy; let a sense of his presence consume, as with flames of fire, every false way. The presence of God is the strength of the church; all power is ours when God is ours. Twenty thousand chariots shall bear the gospel to the ends of the earth; and myriads of agencies shall work for its success. Providence is on our side, and it "has servants everywhere." There is no room for a shade of doubt or discouragement, but every reason for exultation and confidence.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 17. The chariots of God. What are these "chariots of God?" Come, we will not stand to mince the matter, look but round about thee, and thou shalt see those innumerable chariots and angels here spoken of; for so many creatures as thou seest, so many angels and chariots of God thou seest; they are all his host, they are all his chariots wherein he rides; and, whether you see it or no, The Lord is among them, as in Sinai, in the holy place. The glory of the Lord fills them all (had we but our eyes open to see it so), and they are all at his command, and there is not one creature but doth his pleasure. Oh, brethren! how glorious and blessed a thing it is, that looking round about us to behold and see, that look how many creatures visible and invisible you see or conceive in thy mind to be, for thy soul now to look on them as so many fiery chariots and horsemen for its defence, protection, and preservation! And, on the other hand, "How fearful a thing it is to fall into the hands of the living God," who hath all these chariots and horsemen at his command to execute his will and vengeance on those that neglect, hate, and oppose him. John Everard, in "Militia Caelestis, or the Heavenly Host." 1653.
Verse 17. --
"About his chariot numberless were poured
Cherubs, and seraph, potentates, and thrones,
And Virtues, winged Spirits, and chariots win
From the armoury of God, where stand of old
Myriads." John Milton, in "Paradise Lost."
Verse 17. Twenty-thousand; rather, two myriads, ~ytbr singular wkr; for twbr only here in the dual, the infinite number doubled. "Thousands of angels," literally, thousands of iteration; i.e., with margin, many thousands (Bythner, Gesenius, &c.). !agf only here, from hgf, to repeat. The rendering of angels was probably suggested by the reference to Sinai, next clause (see Deuteronomy 33:2 , where for saints read holy ones;) chariots bkr being used collectively for those who rode in them, as often elsewhere. William de Burgh.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
- The comparison between Zion and Sinai.
- The same Lord is there: "The Lord is among," etc.
- The same attendants: "The chariots," etc.
- The contrast.
- God descended at Sinai, ascended from near Zion.
- Put a yoke upon them at Sinai, leads captivity captive at Zion.
- At Sinai demanded obedience, in Zion bestows gifts.
- In Sinai spoke terror, in Zion receives gifts for the rebellious.
- In Sinai appeared for a short season, in Zion dwells for ever. G. R.