|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
4:1-9 Israel is smitten before the Philistines. Sin, the accursed thing, was in the camp, and gave their enemies all the advantage they could wish for. They own the hand of God in their trouble; but, instead of submitting, they speak angrily, as not aware of any just provocation they had given him. The foolishness of man perverts his way, and then his heart frets against the Lord, Pr 19:3, and finds fault with him. They supposed that they could oblige God to appear for them, by bringing the ark into their camp. Those who have gone back in the life of religion, sometimes discover great fondness for the outward observances of it, as if those would save them; and as if the ark, God's throne, in the camp, would bring them to heaven, though the world and the flesh are on the throne in the heart.
Verse 8. - These mighty Gods. In Hebrew "Elohim, though plural, is used of the one true God, but in this sense has always the verb or adjective belonging to it in the singular. In ver. 7 the Philistines conform to this rule, and say, Elohim is come; but here the verb, pronoun, and adjective are all plural, i.e. they speak as heathen, to whom polytheism was natural (comp. 1 Kings 12:28). With all the plagues. Rather, "with every plague," i.e. with every kind of plague. In the wilderness. God did not really smite the Egyptians in the wilderness. The plagues, including the destruction of Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea, had all happened before the Israelites had entered it. But probably the Philistines confused together the plagues of Egypt and the miracles in the wilderness, and even the conquest of Canaan, in one grand but vague whole, and so were ready to give way to despair, as they called to mind the traditions they had heard of these mighty interpositions of God for his people.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Woe unto us, who shall deliver us out of the hand of these mighty gods?.... Of whom they spoke in an ironical and sneering manner; or if seriously and through fear, they use their own Heathenish language, as if the Israelites had many gods, as they had, though mightier than theirs; though the Syriac and Arabic versions read in the singular, out of the hand of God, or the most strong God; and so the Targum, out of the hand of the Word of the Lord:
these are the gods that smote the Egyptians with all the plagues in the wilderness: the ten plagues were inflicted on the Egyptians in the land of Egypt, and not in the wilderness; wherefore the Philistines may be supposed to be mistaken in this circumstance; which is not to be wondered at, since many historians who have written of the affairs of the Jews have been mistaken in them, as Justin, Tacitus, and others; nay, even Josephus himself in some things: but perhaps respect is had to the drowning of Pharaoh and his host in the Red sea, which had the wilderness of Etham on both sides of it; and this stroke was the finishing one of the plagues on the Egyptians. R. Joseph Kimchi supposes the word for wilderness has the signification of speech, as in Sol 4:3 and that the sense of the Philistines is, that God smote the Egyptians with all the plagues he did by his word, his orders, and commands; but now he was come in person, and would smite them by himself; this sense Abarbinel calls a beautiful one.
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