But, behold, I will raise up against you a nation, O house of Israel, said the LORD the God of hosts…
But, behold, I will raise up against you a nation, O house of Israel, saith the Lord the God of hosts; and they shall afflict you from the entering in of Hamath unto the river of the wilderness. What "nation" is here referred to as about to be raised up by God against Israel? Undoubtedly, Assyria. This Assyrian nation is here represented as overspreading the country "from the entering in of Hamath unto the river of the wilderness." Hamath was a point of entrance for an invading army into Israel from the north, which had just been subjugated by Jeroboam II. The boundaries are virtually the same as those mentioned (2 Kings 14:25) as restored to Israel by Jeroboam II., "from the entering of Hamath unto the sea of the plain," i.e. the Dead Sea, into which the river of the wilderness here mentioned flows. Do not glory in your recently acquired city, for it shall be the starting point for the foe to afflict you. How sad the contrast to the feast of Solomon, attended by a congregation from the same Hamath, the most northern boundary of Israel, to the Nile, the river of Egypt, the most southern boundary! "Unto the river of the wilderness," i.e. to Kedron, or that part of it which empties itself into the northern bay of the Dead Sea below Jericho (2 Chronicles 28:15), which city was at the southern boundary of the ten tribes (Maurer). To the river Nile, which skirts the Arabian wilderness and separates Egypt from Canaan (Grotius). If this verse includes Judah as well as Israel, Grotius's view is correct, and it agrees with 1 Kings 8:65, "Solomon held a feast, and all Israel... from the entering in of Hamath unto the river of Egypt" (Fausset). The subject suggested by the words is this - God chastising nations by nations. He now threatens to chastise the kingdoms of Judah and Israel by the Assyrian people. This is how the Almighty has acted from the beginning. He has chastised nations by nations. The history of the world is little else than a history of civil wars. Let us for a moment notice the how and the why of this.
I. THE HOW. How does the Almighty bring about wars?
1. Not by his inspiration. The God of peace does not breathe into any people greed, ambition, revenge. These principles, from which all war emanates, are repugnant to his nature. He denounces them. His grand aim in the world is to annihilate them, and in their place propagate disinterestedness, humility, and magnanimous love.
2. Not by his authority. All war is directly against his command; whilst everywhere he prohibits covetousness, pride, and revenge, he inculcates, in almost every page of inspiration and every form of utterance, love to our neighbours. The God of peace works everywhere in the world through peace, works by the peaceful influences of nature and the love of the gospel to produce "peace on earth, and good will towards men." How, then, can he be said to raise a nation to war? Simply by permission. He allows human nature freedom to work out the evil principles that are operating in it. The power of free action with which he endowed men at first he does not crush, he does not restrict; he treats it with respect, and leaves men free to do evil as well as good. He who permits the river at times to overflow its boundaries, and the subterranean fires to break forth, permits the passions of men to issue in war and bloodshed. Permission is not authorship.
II. THE WHY. Why does the Almighty chastise nations by nations? Why not employ the elements of nature or angelic intelligences? or why not do it by his own direct volition, without any instrumentality whatever? He may, for aught we know, chastise men in all these ways; but we can see reasons for his employing nations to chastise nations by wars. In acting thus:
1. Man has revealed to him in the most impressive way the wickedness of the human heart. It has been well said that war is the effect, the embodiment, and manifestation of every conceivable sin. In every war hell is revealed; its fires flash, its thunders roll, its fiends revel and shriek. For man to get rid of sin, he must be impressed with its enormity; and does not war make that impression? Does not every crimson chapter in its history reveal to the human heart the stupendous enormity of sin?
2. Man has revealed to him the utter folly of putting confidence his fellow man. War reveals falsehood, treachery, cunning, fraud, cruelty; and who can trust these? Does not war say to every man, "Cursed is the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm"? To day a man may fondle you as a friend, tomorrow foam at you as a fiend. "Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no hope."
3. Man has revealed to him the supreme importance of cultivating the true friendship of his fellow men. What thoughtful men have not groaned and wept over the utter failure of all means to produce the results for which they were ostensibly commenced - to vindicate national honour, to establish peace? Such ends are never realized. What, then, is the lesson? Cultivate friendship with your fellow men, the friendship of man with man, family with family, tribe with tribe, nation with nation. Wars are God's moral lessons to man in tragedy. - D.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: But, behold, I will raise up against you a nation, O house of Israel, saith the LORD the God of hosts; and they shall afflict you from the entering in of Hemath unto the river of the wilderness.