|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
3:3-15 God's people, when in distress, and ready to despair, seek help by considering the days of old, and the years of ancient times, and by pleading them with God in prayer. The resemblance between the Babylonish and Egyptian captivities, naturally presents itself to the mind, as well as the possibility of a like deliverance through the power of Jehovah. God appeared in his glory. All the powers of nature are shaken, and the course of nature changed, but all is for the salvation of God's own people. Even what seems least likely, shall be made to work for their salvation. Hereby is given a type and figure of the redemption of the world by Jesus Christ. It is for salvation with thine anointed. Joshua who led the armies of Israel, was a figure of Him whose name he bare, even Jesus, our Joshua. In all the salvations wrought for them, God looked upon Christ the Anointed, and brought deliverances to pass by him. All the wonders done for Israel of old, were nothing to that which was done when the Son of God suffered on the cross for the sins of his people. How glorious his resurrection and ascension! And how much more glorious will be his second coming, to put an end to all that opposes him, and all that causes suffering to his people!
Verse 7. - As God moves in his majesty the various nations are struck with fear, as of old were the peoples that heard of the Exodus (see Exodus 15:14-16). I saw. In prophetic vision (1 Kings 22:17). The tents of Cushan; LXX.. σκηνώματα Αἰθίοτων "the tents of the Ethiopians;" Vulgate, tentoria AEthiopiae. "Cushan" is not Chushan-Rishathaim, the Mesopotamian king mentioned in Judges 3, but is a lengthened form of Cush (as Lotan for Lot, Genesis 36:20), the biblical name for Ethiopia. Here the African country is meant, lying along the west coast of the Red Sea. In affliction. Panic-stricken. The prophet particularizes what he had said above generally of the nations hostile to the people of God. The curtains; the tent curtains; Vulgate, pelles. Both "tents" and "curtains" are used by metonymy for their inhabitants. Midian. The country on the Gulf of Akaba, the eastern arm of the Red Sea. Ethiopia and Midian are named, as God is supposed to advance from the south.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
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. 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 and not only fulfilled in the Canaanites, as appears from what Rahab says, Joshua 2:9 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" (l); 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 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 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 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 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" (m), 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, Psalm 68:31 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 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.
(l) "propter iniquitatem", V. L. Calvin, Tigurine version. (m) "Subjecta vanitati", Heb.; "sub vanitate", Piscator, Cocceius, Van Till.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
7. the tents—that is, the dwellers.
Cushan—the same as Cush; made "Cush-an" to harmonize with "Midi-an" in the parallel clause. So Lotan is found in the Hebrew of Genesis for Lot. Bochart therefore considers it equivalent to Midian, or a part of Arabia. So in Nu 12:1, Moses' Midianite wife is called an Ethiopian (Hebrew, Cushite). Maurer thinks the dwellers on both sides of the Arabian Gulf, or Red Sea, are meant; for in Hab 3:6 God's everlasting or ancient ways of delivering His people are mentioned; and in Hab 3:8, the dividing of the Red Sea for them. Compare Miriam's song as to the fear of Israel's foes far and near caused thereby (Ex 15:14-16). Hebrew expositors refer it to Chushan-rishathaim, king of Mesopotamia, or Syria, the first oppressor of Israel (Jud 3:8, 10), from whom Othniel delivered them. Thus the second hemistich of the verse will refer to the deliverance of Israel from Midian by Gideon (Jud 6:1-7:25) to which Hab 3:11 plainly refers. Whichever of these views be correct, the general reference is to God's interpositions against Israel's foes of old.
in affliction—rather, "under affliction" (regarded) as a heavy burden. Literally, "vanity" or "iniquity," hence the punishment of it (compare Nu 25:17, 18).
curtains—the coverings of their tents; the shifting habitations of the nomad tribes, which resembled the modern Bedouins.
tremble—namely, at Jehovah's terrible interposition for Israel against them.
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