Thou hast multiplied thy merchants above the stars of
A hyperbolical expression, setting forth the great number of merchants that were in Nineveh, and in the land of Assyria; who either were the natives of the place, or came thither for the sake of merchandise, which serve to enrich a nation, and therefore are encouraged to settle; and from whom, in a time of war, much benefit might be expected; being able to furnish with money, which is the sinews of war, as well as to give intelligence of the designs of foreign princes, they trading abroad: the cankerworm spoileth, and flieth away;
or "puts off" F3 its clothes, disrobes and changes its form; or breaks out with force, as the Septuagint, out of its former worm state, and appears a beautiful butterfly, and then flies away. The word is rendered a caterpillar, ( Psalms 105:34 ) ( Jeremiah 51:14 Jeremiah 51:27 ) and what we translate "spoileth" is used of stripping, or putting off of clothes, ( 1 Samuel 19:24 ) ( Song of Solomon 5:3 ) and the sense may be, that though their merchants were multiplied above the stars of heaven, in which there may be an allusion to the increase of caterpillars, ( Nahum 3:15 ) yet, as the caterpillar drops its clothes, and flies away, so their merchants, through fear of the enemy, would depart in haste, or be suddenly stripped of their riches, which make themselves wings, and fly away, ( Proverbs 23:5 ) . These merchants, at their beginning, might be low and mean, but, increasing, adorning, and enriching themselves in a time of peace, fled away in a time of war: or, "spreads itself" F4, and "flies away"; so these creatures spread themselves on the earth, and devour all they can, and then spread their wings, and are gone; suggesting that in like manner the merchants of Nineveh would serve them; get all they could by merchandise among them, and then betake themselves elsewhere and especially in a time of war, which is prejudicial to merchandise; and hence nothing was to be expected from them, or any dependence had upon them.
F3 (jvp) "exspoliavit", De Dieu; "proprie est, exuere, vestem detrahere et exspoliare", De Dieu.
F4 "Diffundit se", Munster, so the Targum; "effunditur", Cocceius.