Above all, taking the shield of faith, with which you shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Above all.—Properly, over all, or besides all else. The shield here is the large heavy shield covering the whole body, in which the “fiery darts”—that is, the arrows, with the points made red hot, or wrapped in with burning tow (comp. Psalm 7:14; Psalm 120:4)—may fix and burn themselves out without harm. St. Paul likens it to “faith.” This, however, is neither the “faith in which we stand” (2Corinthians 1:24), nor the energetic faith of Hebrews 11. It is the faith of patience and endurance, the almost passive faith, trusting in God’s protection and submissive to His will, on which the darts of temptation, whether from fear, or from lust, or from doubt, fall harmless. The best commentary after all, on the words is found in Christian’s conflict with Apollyon in the Pilgrim’s Progress.
THE SHIELD OF FAITH
Ephesians 6:16There were two kinds of shields in use in ancient warfare-one smaller, carried upon the arm, and which could be used, by a movement of the arm, for the defence of threatened parts of the body in detail; the other large, planted in front of the soldier, fixed in the ground, and all but covering his whole person. It is the latter which is referred to in the text, as the word which describes it clearly shows. That word is connected with the Greek word meaning ‘door,’ and gives a rough notion of the look of the instrument of defence-a great rectangular oblong, behind which a man could stand untouched and untouchable. And that is the kind of shield, says Paul, which we are to have-no little defence which may protect some part of the nature, but a great wall, behind which he who crouches is safe.
‘Above all’ does not mean here, as superficial readers take it to mean, most especially and primarily, as most important, but it simply means in addition to all these other things. Perhaps with some allusion to the fact that the shield protected the breastplate, as well as the breastplate protected the man, there may be a reference to the kind of double defence which comes to him who wears that breastplate and lies behind the shelter of a strong and resolute faith.
I. Now, looking at this metaphor from a practical point of view, the first thing to note is the missiles, ‘the fiery darts of the wicked.’
Archaeologists tell us that there were in use in ancient warfare javelins tipped with some kind of combustible, which were set on fire, and flung, so that they had not only the power of wounding but also of burning; and that there were others with a hollow head, which was in like manner filled, kindled, and thrown into the ranks of the enemy. I suppose that the Apostle’s reason for specifying these fiery darts was simply that they were the most formidable offensive weapons that he had ever heard of. Probably, if he had lived to-day, he would have spoken of rifle-bullets or explosive shells, instead of fiery darts. But, though probably the Apostle had no further meaning in the metaphor than to suggest that faith was mightier than the mightiest assaults that can be hurled against it, we may venture to draw attention to two particulars in which this figure is specially instructive and warning. The one is the action of certain temptations in setting the soul on fire; the other is the suddenness with which they assail us.
‘The fiery darts.’ Now, I do not wish to confine that metaphor too narrowly to any one department of human nature, for our whole being is capable of being set on fire, and ‘set on fire of hell,’ as James says. But there are things in us all to which the fiery darts do especially appeal: desires, appetites, passions; or-to use the word which refined people are so afraid of, although the Bible is not, ‘lusts-which war against the soul,’ and which need only a touch of fire to flare up like a tar-barrel, in thick foul smoke darkening the heavens. There are fiery darts that strike these animal natures of ours, and set them all aflame.
But, there are other fiery darts than these. There are plenty of other desires in us: wishes, cowardices, weaknesses of all sorts, that, once touched with the devil’s dart, will burn fiercely enough. We all know that.
Then there is the other characteristic of suddenness. The dart comes without any warning. The arrow is invisible until it is buried in the man’s breast. The pestilence walks in darkness, and the victim does not know until its poison fang is in him. Ah! yes! brethren, the most dangerous of our temptations are those that are sprung upon us unawares. We are going quietly along the course of our daily lives, occupied with quite other thoughts, and all at once, as if a door had opened, not out of heaven but out of hell, we are confronted with some evil thing that, unless we are instantaneously on our guard, will conquer us almost before we know. Evil tempts us because it comes to us, for the most part, without any beat of drum or blast of trumpet to say that it is coming, and to put us upon our guard. The batteries that do most harm to the advancing force are masked until the word of command is given, and then there is a flash from every cannon’s throat and a withering hail of shot that confounds by its unexpectedness as well as kills by its blow. The fiery darts that light up the infernal furnace in a man’s heart, and that smite him all unawares and unsuspecting, these are the weapons that we have to fear most.
II. Consider next, the defence: ‘the shield of faith.’
Now, the Old Testament says things like this: ‘Fear not, Abraham; I am thy Shield.’ The psalmist invoked God, in a rapturous exuberance of adoring invocations, as his fortress, and his buckler, and the horn of his salvation, and his high tower. The same psalm says, ‘The Lord is a shield to all them that put their trust in Him’; and the Book of Proverbs, which is not given to quoting psalms, quotes that verse. Another psalm says, ‘The Lord God is a sun and shield.’
And then Paul comes speaking of ‘the shield of faith.’ What has become of the other one? The answer is plain enough. My faith is nothing except for what it puts in front of me, and it is God who is truly my shield; my faith is only called a shield, because it brings me behind the bosses of the Almighty’s buckler, against which no man can run a tilt, or into which no man can strike his lance, nor any devil either. God is a defence; and my trust, which is nothing in itself, is everything because of that with which it brings me into connection. Faith is the condition, and the only condition, of God’s power flowing into me, and working in me. And when that power flows into me, and works in me, then I can laugh at the fiery darts, because ‘greater is He that is with us than all they that are with them.’
So all the glorification which the New Testament pours out upon the act of faith properly belongs, not to the act itself, but to that with which the act brings us into connection. Wherefore, in the first Epistle of John, the Apostle, who recorded Christ’s saying, ‘Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world,’ translates it into, ‘This is the victory that overcometh the world’-not, our Christ, but-’even our faith.’ And it overcomes because it binds us in deep, vital union with Him who has overcome; and then all His conquering power comes into us.
That is the explanation and vindication of the turn which Paul gives to the Old Testament metaphor here, when he makes our shield to be faith. Suppose a man was exercising trust in one that was unworthy of it, would that trust defend him from anything? Suppose you were in peril of some great pecuniary loss, and were saying to yourself, ‘Oh! I do not care. So-and-so has guaranteed me against any loss, and I trust to him,’ and suppose he was a bankrupt, what would be the good of your trust? It would not bring the money back into your pocket. Suppose a man is leaning upon a rotten support; the harder he leans the sooner it will crumble. So there is no defence in the act of trust except what comes into it from the object of trust; and my faith is a shield only because it grasps the God who is the shield.
But, then, there is another side to that thought. My faith will quench, as nothing else will, these sudden impulses of fiery desires, because my faith brings me into the conscious presence of God, and of the unseen realities where He dwells. How can a man sin when God’s eye is felt to be upon him? Suppose conspirators plotting some dark deed in a corner, shrouded by the night, as they think; and suppose, all at once, the day were to blaze in upon them, they would scatter, and drop their designs. Faith draws back the curtain which screens off that unseen world from so many of us, and lets in the light that shines down from above and shows us that we are compassed about by a cloud of witnesses, and the Captain of our Salvation in the midst of them. Then the fiery darts fizzle out, and the points drop off them. No temptation continues to flame when we see God.
They have contrivances in mills that they call ‘automatic sprinklers.’ When the fire touches them it melts away a covering, and a gas is set free that puts the fire out. And if we let in the thought of God, it will extinguish any flame. ‘The sun puts out the fire in our grates,’ the old women say. Let God’s sun shine into your heart, and you will find that the infernal light has gone out. The shield of faith quenches the fiery darts of the ‘wicked.’
Yes! and it does it in another way. For, according to the Epistle to the Hebrews, faith realises ‘the things hoped for,’ as well as ‘unseen.’ And if a man is walking in the light of the great promises of Heaven, and the great threatenings of a hell, he will not be in much danger of being set on fire, even by ‘the fiery darts of the wicked.’ He that receives into his heart God’s strength; he that by faith is conscious of the divine presence in communion with him; he that by faith walks in the light of eternal retribution, will triumph over the most sudden, the sharpest, and the most fiery of the darts that can be launched against him.
III. The Grasp of the Shield.
‘Taking the shield,’ then, there is something to be done in order to get the benefit of that defence. Now, there are a great many very good people at present who tell Christian men that they ought to exercise faith for sanctifying, as they exercise it for justifying and acceptance. And some of them-I do not say all-forget that there is effort needed to exercise faith for sanctifying; and that our energy has to be put forth in order that a man may, in spite of all resistance, keep himself in the attitude of dependence. So my text, whilst it proclaims that we are to trust for defence against, and victory over, recurring temptations, just as we trusted for forgiveness and acceptance at the beginning, proclaims also that there must be effort to grasp the shield, and to realise the defence which the shield gives to us.
For to trust is an act of the heart and will far more than of the head, and there are a great many hindrances that rise in the way of it; and to keep behind the shield, and not depend at all upon our own wit, our wisdom, or our strength, but wholly upon the Christ who gives us wit and wisdom, and strengthens our fingers to fight-that will take work! To occupy heart and mind with the object of faith is not an easy thing.
So, brethren, effort to compel the will and the heart to trust; effort to keep the mind in touch with the verities and the Person who are the objects of our faith; and effort to keep ourselves utterly and wholly ensconced behind the Shield, and never to venture out into the open, where our own arm has to keep our own heads, but to hang wholly upon Him-these things go to ‘taking’ the shield of faith. And it is because we fail in these, and not because there are any holes or weak places in the shield, that so many of the fiery darts find their way through, and set on fire and wound us. The Shield is impregnable, beaten as we have often been. ‘This is the victory that overcometh the world’-and the devil and his darts-’even our faith.’Ephesians 6:16. Above all — Επι πασιν, upon, or over all, these and the other parts of your armour, as a sort of universal covering; taking the shield of faith — Continually exercise a strong and lively faith in the truths and promises of the gospel, and in the person and offices, the merits and grace of the Lord Jesus, in whom all these truths and promises are, yea and amen, 2 Corinthians 1:20. Wherewith — If you keep it in lively exercise; ye shall be able to quench — To repel and render without effect; all the fiery darts — The furious temptations, the violent and sudden injections; of the wicked — Του πονηρου, the wicked one, Satan, called so by way of eminence, because in him the most consummate skill and cunning are joined. Anciently they used small firebrands, in the form of darts and arrows, which they kindled and shot among their enemies. These were called βελη πεπυρωμενα, tela ignita, fiery darts. And in battle they were received by the soldiers on their shields, which were covered with brass or iron, in order to extinguish them, or prevent their effect. Or, as Dr. Goodwin and many others suppose, the apostle may refer to an ancient custom, still prevailing among some barbarous nations, to dip their arrows in the blood or gall of asps and vipers, or other poisonous preparations, which fire the blood of those who are wounded with them, occasion exquisite pain, and make the least wound mortal. And some Greek writers tell us, that it was usual for soldiers to have shields made of raw hides, which immediately quenched them. It is also certain that some arrows were discharged with so great a velocity, that they fired in their passage. See Doddridge.
The shield - note, Isaiah 21:9. The shield was usually made of light wood. or a rim of brass, and covered with several folds or thicknesses of stout hide, which was preserved by frequent anointing. It was held by the left arm, and was secured by straps, through which the arm passed, as may be seen in the annexed figures. The outer surface of the shield was made more or less rounding. Item the center to the edge, and was polished smooth, or anointed with oil, so that arrows or darts would glance off, or rebound.
Of faith - On the nature of faith, see the notes on Mark 16:16. Faith here is made to occupy a more important place than either of the other Christian graces. It bears, to the whole Christian character, the same relation which the shield does to the other parts of the armor of a soldier. It protects all, and is indispensable to the security of all, as is the case with the shield. The shield was an ingenious device by which blows and arrows might be parried off, and the whole body defended. It could be made to protect the head, or the heart, or thrown behind to meet all attack there. As long as the soldier had his shield, he felt secure; and as long as a Christian has faith, he is safe. It comes to his aid in every attack that is made on him, no matter from what quarter; it is the defense and guardian of every other Christian grace; and it secures the protection which the Christian needs in the whole of the spiritual war.
Wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked - Or, rather, "of the wicked one" - τοῦ πονηροῦ tou ponērou. The allusion is undoubtedly to the great enemy of the people of God, called, by way of eminence, the "wicked one;" compare 2 Thessalonians 3:3. Mr. Locke renders this, "Wherein you may receive, and so render ineffectual," etc. There seems a little incongruity in the idea of "quenching" darts by "a shield." But the word "quench," here, means only that they would be "put out" by being thrown "against" the shield, as a candle would by being thrown against anything. "The fiery darts" that were used in war were small, slender pieces of cane, which were filled with combustible materials, and set on fire; or darts around which some combustible material was wound, and which were set on fire, and then shot "slowly" against a foe. The object was to make the arrow fasten in the body, and increase the danger by the burning; or, more frequently, those darts were thrown against ships, forts, tents, etc., with an intention to set them on fire. They were in common use among the ancients. Arrian (Exped. Alexan. 11) mentions the πυρφορα βελη purphora belē, the fire-bearing weapons; Thucydides (ii. c. 75), the πυρφοροι ὀΐστοι purphoroi oistoi, the fire-bearing arrows; and Livy refers to similar weapons as in common use in war; lib. xxi. c. 8. By the "fiery darts of the wicked," Paul here refers, probably, to the temptations of the great adversary, which are like fiery darts; or those furious suggestions of evil, and excitements to sin, which he may throw into the mind like fiery darts. They are - blasphemous thoughts, unbelief, sudden temptation to do wrong, or thoughts that wound and torment the soul. In regard to them, we may observe:
(1) that they come suddenly, like arrows sped from a bow;
(2) they come from unexpected quarters, like arrows shot suddenly from an enemy in ambush;
(3) they pierce, and penetrate, and torment the soul, as arrows would that are on fire;
(4) they set the soul on fire, and enkindle the worst passions, as fiery darts do a ship or camp against which they are sent.
The only way to meet them is by the "shield of faith;" by confidence in God, and by relying on his gracious promises and aid. It is not by our own strength; and, if we have not faith in God, we are wholly defenseless. We should have a shield that we can turn in any direction, on which we may receive the arrow, and by which it may be put out.
shield—the large oblong oval door-like shield of the Romans, four feet long by two and a half feet broad; not the small round buckler.
ye shall be able—not merely, "ye may." The shield of faith will certainly intercept, and so "quench, all the fiery darts" (an image from the ancient fire-darts, formed of cane, with tow and combustibles ignited on the head of the shaft, so as to set fire to woodwork, tents, &c.).
of the wicked—rather "of the EVIL ONE." Faith conquers him (1Pe 5:9), and his darts of temptation to wrath, lust, revenge, despair, &c. It overcomes the world (1Jo 5:4), and so the prince of the world (1Jo 5:18).Above all; chiefly, Colossians 3:14: this he sets, as the principal part of the Christian armour, against the greatest temptations, fiery darts, 1 Peter 5:8,9 1Jo 5:4.
Taking the shield of faith: faith, as receiving Christ and the benefits of redemption, is compared to a shield, (under which soldiers were wont to shelter themselves against their enemies’ darts), as being a sort of universal defence covering the whole man, and guarding even the other parts of our spiritual armour.
Fiery darts; it seems to be an allusion to the poisoned darts some barbarous nations were wont to use, which inflamed the bodies they hit. By them he means all those violent temptations which inflame men’s lusts. These fiery darts of temptations faith is said to quench, when, by the help of grace obtained of Christ, it overcomes them.
Of the wicked; the devil, Matthew 13:19. Genesis 15:1; his divine perfections, as his power, faithfulness, truth, and immutability, which encompass the saints as a shield, and are opposed by faith to the temptations of Satan; also the love and favour of God, Psalm 5:12; and particularly God in his word, Proverbs 30:5, which is a shield against false doctrines, and the wiles of Satan. Moreover, Christ is a shield, Psalm 84:11; and faith makes rise of him as a shield, his person, blood, righteousness, and sacrifice; which it holds up and opposes to all the charges and objections of Satan; and who is the saints' protection, and security from the wrath of God, divine justice, and eternal death. The disciples of the wise men are said to be (o) "shielded men", who, as the gloss says fight in the war of the law; but they are not like Christ's disciples, who have on the shield, and fight the fight of faith: and this is "above all" to be taken, as being the most useful part of the Christian armour; or "with all", with the rest, this is to be taken, and by no means to be neglected; and it is to be used "in all"; in every temptation of Satan, in every conflict with that enemy, or any other.
Wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked; of the wicked one, Satan; who was the first wicked one, and the tempter of others to wickedness; and is emphatically the wicked one, being wickedness itself; and his temptations are "fiery darts": they may be compared to "darts", because they sometimes come suddenly and swiftly and thick and fast, are very numerous, and where they stick are very troublesome and grieving; see Genesis 49:23. And they may be said to be "fiery", because they serve to inflame the mind, and excite to sin, as lust, anger, revenge, and the like; and were they not repelled, would be the occasion of bringing into everlasting burnings. The allusion is to , "the fiery darts", cast by enemies into towns, and upon houses, in order to burn them (p). Mention is also made of , "fiery darts", with the Jews (q), and of Satan's casting a dart at David (r): from these customs, and ways of speaking, the apostle borrows his phrases; and suggests, that the shield of faith is of use to quench the fiery darts of Satan's temptations; so that they may not have the malignant influence they are designed for; which is chiefly done by faith's dealing with the blood of Christ. And there were ways of quenching the fiery darts alluded to; which was done by skins and hides of beasts made wet, or anointed with alum (s).
(n) Pirke Abot, c. 4. sect. 11. (o) T. Bab. Becorot, fol. 36. 1. & Gloss. in ib. (p) Apollodorus de Orig. Deorum, l. 2. p. 89. (q) Targum Jon. & Jerus. in Exodus 19.13. (r) T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 95. 1. & 107. 1.((s) Ammian. Marcellin. l. 20. c. 11.Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Ephesians 6:16. Ἐπὶ πᾶσιν] not: before all things (Luther, Castalio, Michaelis, and others), but: in addition to all. Comp. Luke 3:20; Polyb. vi. 23. 12: ἐπὶ δὲ πᾶσι τούτοις προσεπικοσμοῦνται πτερίνῳ στεφάνῳ. See Wetstein, ad Luc. xvi. 26; Matthiae, p. 1371. By the three pieces previously mentioned, Ephesians 6:14-15 (which were all made fast to the body), the body is clothed upon for warlike purposes; what is still wanting, and must be added to all that has preceded, is shield, helmet, sword, Ephesians 6:16-17.
τὸν θυρεόν] θυρεός, which Polybius mentions and more fully describes as the first part of the Roman πανοπλία (Ephesians 6:23; Ephesians 6:22 ff.), is, with Homer, that which is placed in front of the doorway and blocks the entrance (Od. ix. 240, 313); and only with later writers (Plutarch, Strabo, etc.) is the shield (see Lobeck, ad Phryn. p. 336, and Wetstein, ad loc), and that the scutum, the large shield, 4 feet in length and 2½ feet in width, as distinguished from the small round buckler, clypeus, ἀσπίς. See Lipsius, de milit. Rom. iii. 2, ed. Plant. 1614, p. 106 ff.; Alberti and Kypke in loc.; Ottii Spicileg. p. 409 f. Comp. the Homeric σάκος and the Hebrew צִנָּה. Paul does not say ἀσπίς, because he is representing the Christian warrior as heavy-armed.
τῆς πίστεως] Genitivus appositionis, as τῆς δικαιοσύνης, Ephesians 6:14. The faith, however, is not the faith of miracles (Chrysostom), but the fides salvifica (Ephesians 2:8), by which the Christian is assured of the forgiveness of his sins on account of the sacrificial death of Christ, and at the same time is assured of the Messianic blessedness (Ephesians 1:7, Ephesians 2:5 ff., Ephesians 3:12), has the Holy Spirit as the earnest of everlasting life (Ephesians 1:13-14), and consequently has Christ in the heart (Ephesians 2:17; Galatians 2:20), and as child of God (Ephesians 1:5; Romans 8:15 f.; Galatians 4:5 ff.) under the government of grace (Romans 8:14) belongs so wholly to God (Romans 6:11; comp. 1 John 3:7 ff.), that he cannot be separated by anything from the love of God towards him (Romans 8:38); and on his part is consecrated only to the service of God (Ephesians 1:4; Romans 7:4; Romans 7:6; Romans 6:22), and hence through God carries off the victory over the power of Satan opposed to God (Romans 16:20; 2 Thessalonians 3:3). Only wavering faith is accessible to the devil (2 Corinthians 11:3; comp. 1 Peter 5:8-9).
ἐν ᾧ] by means of which, i.e. by holding it in front.
δυνήσεσθε] for the conflict in question is future. See on Ephesians 6:12-13.
τοῦ πονηροῦ] of the morally evil one κατʼ ἐξοχήν, i.e. the devil; 2 Thessalonians 3:3; Matthew 5:37; Matthew 6:13; Matthew 13:19; Matthew 13:38; John 17:15; 1 John 5:19.
τὰ πεπυρωμένα] those set on fire, the burning ones. Comp. Apollod. Bibl. ii. 5. 2; Leo, Tact. xv. 27, ed. Heyn.; also πυρφόροι ὀϊστοί in Thucyd. ii. 75. 4; βέλη πυρφόρα, Diod. xx. 96; Zosim. Hist. p. 256, 2. The malleoli are meant, i.e. arrows tipped with inflammable material (tow, pitch) and shot off after being kindled, which, known also to the Hebrews (see expositors on Psalm 7:14), were in use among the Greeks and Romans, and are to be distinguished from the javelins of the same kind (falaricae, see Vegetius, iv. 8). For the description of the malleoli, see Ammian. Marcell. xxiii. 4; and see, in general, Lydius, Agonist. p. 45, de re mil. p. 119, 315; Spanheim, ad Julian. Orat. p. 193. Poisoned arrows (od. i. 260 f.; Virg. Aen. ix. 773; Psalm 38:3; Job 6:4; and see Lyd. de re mil. p. 118) are not meant (as supposed by Boyd, Hammond, Bochart), since these are not on fire (πεπυρωμένα), but excite a fire (inflammation). The aim of the predicate, we may add, is to present in strong colours the hostile and destructive character of the Satanic assaults; but more special explanations of its import, such as of the burning desires excited by Satan (Chrysostom, Theophylact; comp. Oecumenius), or of doubts and of the anguish of despair (Boyd), are inappropriate; and the more so, inasmuch as in the whole context the apostle is speaking of diabolic assaults in general, not of particular kinds thereof.
σβέσαι] The shields of the Greeks and Romans were as a rule of wood, with a thick coating of leather (Hom. Il. v. 452; Herod, vii. 91; Polyb. l.c.; Plin. viii. 39; and see, in general, Lipsius, de milit. Rom. iii. 2, p. 109 ff.). So Paul conceives of faith under the figure of such a shield, which not only prevents the missiles from injuring the warrior, but also by reason of its coating brings it about that these do not set on fire the wood of the shield, but must needs be themselves extinguished, so that thus the warrior, by holding the shield in front of him, can quench the fiery arrows.
 The article implies that Satan discharges other arrows besides burning ones. See Kühner, ad Xen. Anab. iv. 6. 1.Ephesians 6:16. ἐπὶ [ἐν] πᾶσιν ἀναλαβόντες τὸν θυρεὸν τῆς πίστεως: in addition to all (or, withal) taking up the shield of faith. The readings vary between ἐπί and ἐν. The former, that of the TR, is supported by     , most cursives, and such Versions as the Syr.-P, and the Arm.; the latter, by   , 17, Syr.-H., Boh., Vulg., etc. The latter is accepted by L (non-marg.) TTrWHRV; and with it the sense is “in or among all,” aptly rendered withal by the RV. With ἐπί the sense will be neither “above all” (AV) as if = most especially, nor “over all,” with reference to position; but, in accordance with the general idea of “accession,” “super-addition” expressed by ἐπί (cf. Ell.), in addition to all (cf. Luke 3:20). θυρεός, in Homer = a stone put against a door (θύρα) to block or shut it (Od., ix., 240, etc.), but later = a shield, is the large, oblong shield, Lat. scutum, as distinguished from the smaller, circular ἀσπίς, the Lat. clipeus. It is described by Polybius (vi., 23, 2) as the first portion of the πανοπλία, and is appropriate here where the Christian is presented under the figure of a heavy-armed soldier. τῆς πίστεως, the gen. of appos. or identity, = “the shield which is, or consists of, faith”; πίστις having here also its distinctive NT sense of saving faith—the faith by which come the Divine forgiveness and the power of a new life.—ἐν ᾡ δυνήσεσθε πάντα τὰ βέλη τοῦ πονηροῦ [τὰ] πεπυρωμένα σβέσαι: wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the evil one. ἐν ᾧ = “by means of which,” as the shield is placed before us to cover us from the stroke. There is no necessity for putting. on δυνήσεσθε the sense of the remote future, as if the last conflict preceding the Judgment (Mey.) alone were in view. It refers to the future generally—to any time in our Christian course when we shall need special power for special assault. The art. τά is omitted before πεπυρωμένα by  *, etc., but inserted by the mass of authorities. Lach. deletes it; Treg. and WH bracket it. The anarthrous participle might have the qualitative sense, = “fire-tipped as they are” (so Abb.). If the article is retained, it would be implied, as Meyer remarks, that the wicked one has also other arrows to discharge besides these fearsome and pre-eminently destructive ones, which are mentioned here in order to express in its utmost force the terror of the attack. The βέλη in view are not poisoned arrows (referred to, as is supposed, in Job 6:4; Psalm 38:2), which were not flaming missiles; but arrows tipped with tow, pitch or such like material, and set on fire before they were discharged, the πυρφόροι όϊστοι (Thucyd., ii., 75, 4), or βέλη πυρφόρα (Diod., xx. 96), the malleoli used by the Romans (Cic., Proverbs Mil., 24), the Greeks (Herod., viii., 52), and, as it would seem, the Hebrews (Psalm 7:13). The σβέσαι has its own appropriateness here, the θυρεός being constructed of material (wood and leather, Polyb., Hist., ii., 23, 3), which not only prevented the missile from penetrating, but was proof against its fire and let it burn itself out. τοῦ πονηρου, in harmony with the general idea of a personal stand against spiritual toes, must be masc., “the Evil One,” the Devil.
 Codex Alexandrinus (sæc. v.), at the British Museum, published in photographic facsimile by Sir E. M. Thompson (1879).
 Codex Claromontanus (sæc. vi.), a Græco-Latin MS. at Paris, edited by Tischendorf in 1852.
 Codex Boernerianus (sæc. ix.), a Græco-Latin MS., at Dresden, edited by Matthæi in 1791. Written by an Irish scribe, it once formed part of the same volume as Codex Sangallensis (δ) of the Gospels. The Latin text, g, is based on the O.L. translation.
 Codex Mosquensis (sæc. ix.), edited by Matthæi in 1782.
 Codex Angelicus (sæc. ix.), at Rome, collated by Tischendorf and others.
 Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.
 Codex Sinaiticus (sæc. iv.), now at St. Petersburg, published in facsimile type by its discoverer, Tischendorf, in 1862.
 Codex Porphyrianus (sæc. ix.), at St. Petersburg, collated by Tischendorf. Its text is deficient for chap. Ephesians 2:13-16.
 Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.
 Codex Claromontanus (sæc. vi.), a Græco-Latin MS. at Paris, edited by Tischendorf in 1852.
 Codex Boernerianus (sæc. ix.), a Græco-Latin MS., at Dresden, edited by Matthæi in 1791. Written by an Irish scribe, it once formed part of the same volume as Codex Sangallensis (δ) of the Gospels. The Latin text, g, is based on the O.L. translation.16. above all] The Gr. admits the renderings, “over all things”; “besides all things”; “on occasion of all things, (on all occasions)”; “against all things.” We incline to this last, as suitable to the imagery of the shield shifted to meet any and every stroke.—Another reading gives “in all things”; at every turn of the conflict. But the evidence is far from conclusive. “It has not sufficient external support, and may have been a correction for the ambiguous [preposition in the text]” (Ellicott).
taking] Lit., haying taken up. See note on Ephesians 6:13 above.
the shield] The Gr. is one of two familiar words for “shield,” and denotes a large oblong shield (such as that used by the heavy Roman infantry) about 2½x4 feet in size. (See Smith’s Dict. Class. Ant., under the word Scutum). The significance of the choice of word is obvious. In the parallel apocryphal passage (see note on Ephesians 6:11 above) the Gr. word for “shield” is the other alternative, denoting a circular and lighter shield. But this is no proof (as some expositors have thought) that the present word was not deliberately chosen, in a passage like this, where the idea of protection, and the need of it, is pressed to the utmost.
faith] “That faith whereby we resolutely rely on God and His word for deliverance from temptation” (Monod). The true safeguard in the evil day lies ever, not in introspection, but in that look wholly outward, Godward, which is the essence of faith (see Psalm 25:15).
wherewith] Lit., and perhaps better, in this vivid picture, in which.
ye shall be able] Observe the certainty of the promise, good for the whole future of the conflict.
to quench] before the soul’s living frame, so to speak, is reached and burned.—It may be, and very often is, impossible for the Christian to detect the point where temptation passes into sin; a fact which should secure humble caution in all language about personal spiritual victory. But this verse warrants the reverent expectation of very true victories in the real exercise of enlightened and simple faith. The word “all” is important.
the fiery darts] Lit., “the darts, the ignited darts.” The metaphor is taken from the fire-arrows of ancient warfare. Wetstein here gives abundant illustration, from Thucydides, Livy, Vegetius, Ammianus, and many other authors. Ammianus (about a.d. 380) describes the Roman malleoli as arrows carrying a perforated bulb, like a distaff, just below the point; the bulb filled with burning matter; the arrow discharged from a slack bow, lest speed should kill the flame. Another variety was simpler; the shaft near the point was wrapped in burning tow.
The imagery is sternly true to the experience of injections into the soul of polluting ideas, or of doubts of God, or of unchastened anger.
the wicked] I.e., as R.V., the Evil One; the great General of the besieging host.Ephesians 6:16. Ἐπὶ πᾶσιν) above [over] all [the pieces of armour], whatever you have put on.—τὰ πεπυρωμένα) properly set on fire, fiery. To quench is in consonance with this.Verse 16. - Withal taking up the shield of faith. The θυξεός was a large oblong shield covering a great part of the body, not the ἀσπίς, smaller and more round. Faith, in its widest sense, constitutes this shield - faith in God as our Father, in Christ as our Redeemer, in the Spirit as our Sanctifier and Strengthener - faith in all the promises, and especially such promises as we find in Revelations 2. and 3. "to him that overcometh" (comp. promise to Ephesus, Revelation 2:7) Wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the evil one. "Fiery darts" were weapons tipped with inflammable materials, firebrands, curiously constructed, adapted to set on fire. Metaphorically, considerations darted into the mind inflaming lust, pride, revenge, or ether evil feelings, emanations from the great tempter, the evil one. That such considerations sometimes start up suddenly in the mind, against the deliberate desire, sometimes even in the middle of holy exercises, is the painful experience of every Christian, and must make him thankful for the shield on which they are quenched. An act of faith on Christ, placing the soul consciously in his presence, recalling his atoning love and grace, and the promises of the Spirit, will extinguish these fiery temptations.
Ambiguous. It may mean over all, or in addition to all. The latter is correct. Rev., withal.
The shield of faith (τὸν θυρεὸν τῆς πίστεως)
Θυρεόν shield, is from θύρα door, because shaped like a door. Homer uses the word for that which is placed in front of the doorway. Thus of the stone placed by Polyphemus in front of his cave ("Odyssey," ix., 240). The shield here described is that of the heavy infantry; a large, oblong shield, four by two and a half feet, and sometimes curved on the inner side. Sculptured representations may be seen on Trajan's column. Compare "Compass him as with a shield," Psalm 5:12. It was made of wood or of wicker-work, and held on the left arm by means of a handle. Xenophon describes troops, supposed to be Egyptians, with wooden shields reaching to their feet ("Anabasis," i., 8, 9). Saving faith is meant.
Fiery darts (τὰ βέλη τὰ πεπυρωμένα)
Lit., the darts, those which have been set on fire. Herodotas says that the Persians attacked the citadel of Athens "with arrows whereto pieces of lighted tow were attached, which they shot at the barricade" (viii., 52). Thucydides: "the Plataeans constructed a wooden frame, which they set up on the top of their own wall opposite the mound.... They also hung curtains of skills and hides in front: these were designed to protect the woodwork and the workers, and shield them against blazing arrows" (ii. 75). Livy tells of a huge dart used at the siege of Saguntum, which was impelled by twisted ropes. "There was used by the Saguntines a missile weapon called falarica, with the shaft of fir, and round in other parts, except toward the point, whence the iron projected. This part, which was square, they bound around with tow and besmeared with pitch. It had an iron head three feet in length, so that it could pierce through the body with the armor. But what caused the greatest fear was that this weapon, even though it stuck in the shield and did not penetrate into the body, when it was discharged with the middle part on fire, and bore along a much greater flame produced by the mere motion, obliged the armor to be thrown down, and exposed the soldier to succeeding blows" (xxi. 8). Again, of the siege of Ambracia by the Romans: "Some advanced with burning torches, others carrying tow and pitch and fire-darts, their entire line being illuminated by the blaze" (xxxviii. 6). Compare Psalm 7:13, where the correct rendering is, "His arrows He maketh fiery arrows." Temptation is thus represented as impelled from a distance. Satan attacks by indirection - through good things from which no evil is suspected. There is a hint of its propagating power: one sin draws another in its track: the flame of the fire-tipped dart spreads. Temptation acts on susceptible material. Self-confidence is combustible. Faith, in doing away with dependence on self, takes away fuel for the dart. It creates sensitiveness to holy influences by which the power of temptation is neutralized. It enlists the direct aid of God. See 1 Corinthians 10:13; Luke 22:32; James 1:2; 1 Peter 4:12; 2 Peter 2:9.
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