The children of Ephraim, being armed, and carrying bows, turned back in the day of battle.…
We do not know what battle this was. Some point to 1 Chronicles 7:21; others to Joshua 13:1, 13 and Joshua 18:3; others to 1 Samuel 4. But we do not certainly know. Ephraim's character was such as is here described (see ver. 57). Also Hosea, passim; he terms them "a cake not turned;" "a silly dove." He says, they "compass me about with lies." As to their armour, see 2 Chronicles 17:17. Also see David's teaching "the children of Judah the use of the bow." Their opportunities for service were very great. As a tribe they were rich; the sanctuary of Israel was at Shiloh, in their midst; the metropolis of the land also; theirs, too, the largest population, the most famous names - Joseph, Joshua, Gideon. They were an especially military tribe. As to their fate, they utterly perished (see Romans 11:1-8). Their history is very instructive; for there is a battle to be waged today. As we watch we see many come to it "armed," and capable of rendering the good service we look for from them. But lo! many of them turn back, and render no help at all, to their own shame and to the hurt of many more. Note -
I. THE BATTLE. "All the world's a stage," said our great poet. Had he said, "All the world's a battlefield," he would have been yet more true to fact. The battle is between God and Satan, as to who shall reign over us - God or his adversary. And God has equipped many soldiers for the fight. See -
II. THE ARMOUR he has given them - given to many of us. Christian education; holy example; means of grace; power and capacity for service, imparted by the teaching of his Word; the sanctions and urgings of conscience, the drawings of his Spirit, and much more. Such things constitute the armour which would make us good soldiers if we would avail ourselves of them. But there is -
III. THE TURNING BACK on the part of many, even as Ephraim turned back. Ridicule has, perhaps, to be met; or loss to be borne; or self to be denied; or ease to be foregone; the cross in one or other of its forms has to be taken up; and many go away - go back, sorrowful, perhaps, but, nevertheless, they turn back. Oh, what shame to them! a people nobly born, well armed, and pledged to the service, and yet, etc.! What dishonour to Christ! what discouragement to the faithful Church! what loss to God's kingdom! what triumph for the foe! what ruin for themselves! - S.C.
Parallel VersesKJV: The children of Ephraim, being armed, and carrying bows, turned back in the day of battle.