And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD: and the LORD delivered them into the hand of Midian seven years.…
With repeated defection a severer punishment is needed and inflicted. Midian is not only a neighbour, but one who encircles Israel on south, south-east, and east. It was a name given to the great Arab tribes living east of the Red Sea, and south and east of Canaan. Unlike a comparatively civilised nation, they are not satisfied with receiving tribute; they render husbandry and the arts of civilised life impossible by lawless raids, ceaseless devastation, and wanton destruction. It is a new terror. Israel may be overwhelmed and stamped out if this curse of the wilderness be not restrained.
I. ISRAEL'S ABANDONMENT OF JEHOVAH IS PUNISHED BY AN APPARENT ABANDONMENT OF ISRAEL BY JEHOVAH. It seems a light punishment; really there could scarcely be a harder one. Let the sinner and the backslider consider what their condition would be were God just to treat them as they treat him. Even the mildest phase of such discipline could not be long bearable. Simply to be left to oneself - let alone - what tragic possibilities does that suggest! But when enemies of the most ruthless description overrun our land, and have us at their mercy, how much does abandonment mean! It is in such times we learn how much we owe to Divine inter- position hour by hour. The moral consciousness of Israel was consequently lowered. So of all in like cases.
II. THE MANNER AND EXTENT OF THEIR DISCIPLINE ARE SUGGESTIVE OF THE HEINOUSNESS or THEIR OFFENCE. Things had come to such a pass that only a full experience of the worst of their heathenish and idolatrous neighbours would avail. There is little or no love of God left; let the consequences of their unbelief teach them a bitter hatred of evil; in time it will drive them back to the doctrine and practice of truth for very life. By and by they will learn to love it again. We have but to think of God's loving nature and infinite tenderness to see how desperate such a measure is. If forbearance failed, no other remedy would suffice but this. All unbelief is this potentially. It was a glimpse of the horror of a godless world.
III. IT WAS A SALUTARY DISCIPLINE, BECAUSE IT LED THEM TO REPENTANCE AND PRAYER. God had no pleasure in this long agony; but neither, on the other hand, would he shorten it until due cause appeared. The result justified the severity. Saints often regard their calamities amongst their greatest mercies. How roughly handled have been some of God's dearest ones I But the worst is not ours to bear, since Christ died. There is no calamity we cannot take to him. He will distil sweetness from wormwood itself, and give us help in time of sorest need. "Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth." He may be nearer to us in the affliction than in the prosperity. - M.
Parallel VersesKJV: And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD: and the LORD delivered them into the hand of Midian seven years.