Verse 30. Rebuke the company of spearmen; or, the beasts of the reeds, as the margin more correctly renders it. Speak to Egypt, let its growing power and jealousy be kept in order, by a word from thee. Israel remembers her old enemy, already plotting the mischief, which would break out under Jeroboam, and begs for a rebuking word from her Omnipotent Friend. Antichrist also, that great red dragon, needs the effectual word of the Lord to rebuke its insolence.
The multitude of the bulls, the stronger foes; the proud, headstrong, rampant, fat, and roaring bulls, which sought to gore the chosen nation, -- these also need the Lord's rebuke, and they shall have it too. All Egypt's sacred bulls could not avail against a "thus saith Jehovah." Popish bulls, and imperial edicts have dashed against the Lord's church, but they have not prevailed against her, and they never shall.
With the calves of the people. The poorer and baser sort are equally set on mischief, but the divine voice can control them; multitudes are as nothing to the Lord when he goes forth in power; whether bulls or calves, they are but cattle for the shambles when Omnipotence displays itself. The gospel, like the ark, has nothing to fear from great or small; it is a stone upon which every one that stumbleth shall be broken.
Till every one submit himself with pieces of silver. The Lord is asked to subdue the enemies of Israel, till they rendered tribute in silver ingots. Blessed is that rebuke, which does not break but bend; for subjection to the Lord of hosts is liberty, and tribute to him enriches him that pays it. The taxation of sin is infinitely more exacting than the tribute of religion. The little finger of lust is heavier than the loins of the law. Pieces of silver given to God are replaced with pieces of gold.
Scatter thou the people that delight in war. So that, notwithstanding the strong expression of Psalms 68:23 , God's people were peace men, and only desired the crushing of oppressive nations, that war might not occur again. Let the battles of peace be as fierce as they will; heap coals of fire on the heads of enemies, and slay their enmity thereby. That "they who take the sword should perish by the sword," is a just regulation for the establishment of quiet in the earth. What peace can there be, while blood thirsty tyrants and their myrmidons are so many? Devoutly may we offer this prayer, and with equal devotion, we may bless God that it is sure to be answered, for "he breaketh the bow and cutteth the spear in sunder, he burneth the chariot in the fire."
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 30. Rebuke the wild beasts of the reeds. This is our marginal version, which is the proper one. Most modern critics consider that the lion is here intended, which frequently makes its den among reeds or brush wood. Innumerable lions wander about among the reeds and copses, on the borders of the rivers of Mesopotamia. The river Jordan was infested with them ( Jeremiah 4:7 49:19). Hence, the wild beasts of the reed may signify the Syrian kings, who often contended with David. Benjamin Boothroyd.
Verse 30. The idolatrous king of Egypt is here enigmatically represented as dwelling, like the crocodile, among the reeds of the Nile; and with him are introduced the bulls and calves, who were the gods of the people of Egypt, before whom they were ever dancing in their superstitious revels. "Quell these insults upon thy majesty, nor put down only the superstition of Egypt, but all their pomp of war also, that the Gentiles may be converted unto thee, and the idols be utterly abolished." Edward Garrard Marsh.
Verse 30. When the enemies of God rise up against his church, it is time for the church to fall down to God, to implore his aid against those enemies. Holy prayers are more powerful than profane swords. Thomas Wall, in "A Comment on the Times." 1657.
Verse 30. These words contain, first, a declaration of God's enemies; secondly, an imprecation against those enemies. The enemies are marshalled into four ranks.
- A company of spearmen, or (as some translations read it) the beast of the reeds.
- The multitude of the bulls.
- The calves of the people.
- The men that delight in war.
The imprecation is also twofold; the first more gentle; it is but rebuke the spearmen; and that with limitation too -- till they submit themselves with pieces of silver. For they that will not, but delight in war, more severely deal with such: Scatter them; Scatter the men that delight in war.... The church of God never wanted enemies, never will. "There is no peace to the wicked," saith God: there shall be no peace to the godly, say the wicked. The wicked shall have no peace which God can give; the godly shall have no peace which the wicked can take away. Thomas Wall.
- Ambition or pride.
Upon which these four beasts in the text do act their enmity against the church; scrupulosity sets forth unto us the beast of the reeds; envy, the bulls; ignorance, the calves; and pride, the men that delight in war. Thomas Wall.
This instance of spiritualising may act rather as a beacon than as an example. The author was an able divine, but in this sermon gives more play to his imagination than his common sense.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
- Hindrances to the progress of divine truth.
- Idolatry. Worship of the crocodile -- beasts of the reeds, (LXX) -- of bulls and calves, as in Egypt.
- The means for their removal. Prayer and the divine
rebuke. Scatter thou, etc.
- The consequences of this removal; Ps 68: