I saw the tents of Cushan in affliction
The same with Cush or Ethiopia; hence the Septuagint and Vulgate Latin versions render it, "the tents of the Ethiopians"; and these are the same with "the curtains of Midian" in the next clause, tents being made of curtains, and the Ethiopians and Midianites the same people; so the daughter of the priest of Midian, whom Moses married, is called an Ethiopian woman, ( Exodus 2:21 ) ( Numbers 12:1 ) . This seems to have respect to that panic which seized the neighbouring nations by whom the Israelites passed, as well as the Canaanites, into whose land they were marching, when they heard what wonderful things were done for them in Egypt, at the Red sea, and in the wilderness, which was predicted by Moses in ( Exodus 15:14 Exodus 15:15 ) and not only fulfilled in the Canaanites, as appears from what Rahab says, ( Joshua 2:9-11 ) but particularly in the Moabites and Midianites, who sent to each other, and consulted together against Israel; and, by the advice of Balaam, found ways and means to draw them into fornication, and so to idolatry; for which the Israelites having suffered, were stirred up to avenge themselves on them, and slew five of their kings, and a great multitude of their people; and so the words may be rendered, "for iniquity" F12; and the word is often used for idolatry; that is, for the sin they drew the Israelites into, they were brought into trembling and great distress, which the prophet saw, perceived, and understood by reading the history of those times; see ( Numbers 22:3 Numbers 22:4 Numbers 22:7 ) ( Numbers 25:6 Numbers 25:17 Numbers 25:18 ) ( 31:2-8 ) though the Jewish commentators, and others, generally refer this to the case of Chushanrishathaim king of Mesopotamia, who carried Israel into captivity, from whence they were delivered by Othniel, who prevailed against Cushan, and into whose hands he fell; and so then he and his people were seen in affliction, ( Judges 3:7-10 ) but Cushan here is not the name of a man, but of a country: and whereas it follows, the curtains of the land of Midian did tremble;
this is thought to refer to the times of Gideon, when the Midianites were overcome by him with three hundred men, and in their fright fell upon and destroyed each other; signified by a barley cake tumbling into the host of Midian, and overturning a tent, as represented in a dream to one of Gideon's men, ( Judges 7:13 Judges 7:21 Judges 7:22 ) but the former reference seems best; and it should be observed, that Cush or Ethiopia, and Midian, were parts of Arabia; for not only the Arabians are said to be near the Ethiopians, or at the hand of the Cushites, ( 2 Chronicles 21:16 ) but Sinai, a part of Horeb, where Moses fed the flock of his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, is expressly said to be in Arabia; compare ( Exodus 3:1 ) ( Galatians 4:25 ) and with those Arabians called Scenitae, from their dwelling in tents, agree the characters in the text: now the people inhabiting those places, the prophet foresaw by a spirit of prophecy "under vanity" F13, as it may be rendered; that is, "subject" to it, as the whole Gentile world was, ( Romans 8:20 ) or under the power of idolatry; but it was foretold that these should be converted in Gospel times, ( Psalms 68:31 ) ( 87:4 ) which was brought about, partly by the Apostles Matthew and Matthias, said to be sent into Ethiopia; and partly by the Ethiopian eunuch, converted and baptized by Philip, who doubtless was the means of spreading the Gospel in his own country, when returned to it, ( Acts 8:27 ) and chiefly by the Apostle Paul, who went into Arabia, and preached there, quickly after his conversion; and here were churches in the first times of Christianity; (See Gill on Galatians 1:17) and at this time Cushan or Ethiopia was in affliction; and the Midianites trembled, such of them to whom the word came in power, and they were made sensible of their danger and misery, as the apostle did, the instrument of their conversion, ( Acts 9:6 ) once more, as an Ethiopian is an emblem of a man in a state of nature, and describes very aptly wicked and profligate persons, apostates from religion, and such as are persecutors of good men, ( Jeremiah 13:23 ) ( Amos 9:7 ) it may design such here; and be expressive of their distress and trouble, the fear and dread they would be seized with on seeing Christianity prevail, and Paganism falling in the Roman empire; which distress and trembling are in a very lively manner set forth in ( Revelation 6:15-17 ) .
F12 (Nwa txt) "propter iniquitatem", V. L. Calvin, Tigurine version.
F13 "Subjecta vanitati", Heb.; "sub vanitate", Piscator, Cocceius, Van Till.