|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
7:8-16 Israel was as a cake not turned, half burnt and half dough, none of it fit for use; a mixture of idolatry and of the worship of Jehovah. There were tokens of approaching ruin, as grey hairs are of old age, but they noticed them not. The pride which leads to break the law of God leads to self-flattery. The mercy and grace of God are the only refuge to which obstinate sinners never think of fleeing. Though they may howl forth their terrors in the form of prayers, they seldom cry to God with their hearts. Even their prayers for earthly mercies only seek fuel for their lusts. Their turning from one sect, sentiment, form, or vice, to another, still leaves them far short of Christ and holiness. Such are we by nature. And such shall we prove if left to ourselves. Create in us a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within us.
Verse 16. - They return, but not to the Most High. This verse is closely connected in sense with the preceding. Their God-defying attitude, as described in ver. 15, is represented in ver. 16 allegorically as a deceitful bow, which fails to scud the arrow to the mark; also their unsuccess is represented as exposing them to the derision of Egypt; while the princes who spake so exceeding proudly, and who instigated their ungodliness and consequent wretchedness, would be slain with the sword. This is the drift of the whole verse; its details, however, demand more particular consideration.
1. The word עַל is by some identified in meaning with
(1) the adjective עֶלְיון, equivalent to "the Most High;" by others
(2) it is taken adverbially, and translated "upwards."
(3) The Septuagint does not express it. translating ἀπεστράφησαν εἰς οὐθέν, "They turned aside to that which is not [literally, 'nothing']."
(4) Jerome translates it as is עֹל, were equivalent to "yoke: They returned that they might be without a yoke." Their return, according to Jerome, would be to their pristine condition before the can of Abram, like the other nations, without yoke or knowledge of law.
2. The return spoken of implies that there were junctures at which they seemed disposed to return to religiousness, but ere long they again relapsed into idolatry. They disappointed the high hopes raised, and missed their own high destiny, and thus they resembled a bow, of which the string, losing its elasticity, could not propel the arrow to the object aimed at. Appearing to return to the worship of Jehovah, they turned aside to an idol. Thus in Psalm 78:57, they "turned back and dealt unfaithfully like their fathers: they were turned aside like a deceitful bow."
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
They return, but not to the most High,.... To Egypt, and not to Jerusalem, and the temple there, and the worship of it; to their idols, and not to him whose name alone is Jehovah, and is the most High all the earth, the God of gods, and Lord of lords, and King of kings; though they made some feint as if they would return, and did begin, and take some steps towards repentance and reformation; but then they presently fell back again, as in Jehu's time, and did not go on to make a thorough reformation; nor returned to God alone, and to his pure worship they pretended to, and ought to have done: or, "not on high, upwards, above" (w); their affections and desires are not after things above; they do not look upwards to God in heaven for help and assistance, but to men and things on earth, on which all their affection and dependence are placed:
they are like a deceitful bow; which misses the mark it is directed to; which being designed to send its arrow one way, causes it to go the reverse; or its arrow returns upon the archer, or drops at his feet; so these people deviated from the law of God, acted contrary to their profession and promises, and relapsed into their former idolatries and impieties, and sunk into earth and earthly things; see Psalm 78:57;
their princes shall fall by the sword: either of their conspirators, as Zachariah, Shallum, Pekahiah, and Pekah; or by the sword of the Assyrians, as Hoshea, and the princes with him, by Shalmaneser;
for the rage of their tongue; their blasphemy against God, his being and providences; his worship, and the place of it; his priests and people that served him, and particularly the prophets he sent unto them to reprove them;
this shall be their derision in the land of Egypt; whither they sent, and called for help; but now, when their princes are slain, and they carried captive into a foreign land, even those friends and allies of theirs shall laugh and mock at them. The Targum is,
"these were their works while they were in the land of Egypt;''
or rather the words may be rendered, "this is their derision, as of old in the land of Egypt" (x); that is, the calves they now worshipped, and to which they ascribed all their good things, were made in imitation of the gods of Egypt, their Apis and Serapis, which were in the form of an ox, and which their fathers derided there; and these were justly to be derided now, and they to be derided for their worship of them, and ascribing all their good things to them; and which would be done when their destruction came upon them.
(w) "non supra", Montanus; "non sursum", De Dieu, Gussetius; "non erecte", Cocceius. (x) "haec, seu quae est subsannatio, sicut olim in terra Aegypti", Schmidt.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
16. return, but not to the Most High—or, "to one who is not the Most High," one very different from Him, a stock or a stone. So the Septuagint.
deceitful bow—(Ps 78:57). A bow which, from its faulty construction, shoots wide of the mark. So Israel pretends to seek God, but turns aside to idols.
for the rage of their tongue—their boast of safety from Egyptian aid, and their "lies" (Ho 7:13), whereby they pretended to serve God, while worshipping idols; also their perverse defense for their idolatries and blasphemies against God and His prophets (Ps 73:9; 120:2, 3).
their derision in … Egypt—Their "fall" shall be the subject of "derision" to Egypt, to whom they had applied for help (Ho 9:3, 6; 2Ki 17:4).
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