And make men as the fishes of the sea, as the creeping things, that have no ruler over them?…
Illustrated in Nebuchadnezzar. Selfishness is the root and essence of sin. All unregenerate men are therefore more or less selfish, and rapacity is an instinct of selfishness. Selfishness hungers for the things of others.
I. IT PRACTICALLY IGNORES THE RIGHTS OF MAN AS MAN. "And makest man as the fishes of the sea, as the creeping things, that have no ruler over them." The Babylonian tyrant did not see in the population of Judea men possessing natural endowments, sustaining moral relationships, invested with rights and responsibilities similar to his own fellow-men; but merely "fishes"; — his object was, to catch them and turn them to his own use. It is ever so with selfishness: it blinds man to the claims of his brother. What does the selfish employer care for the man in those who work in his service and build up his fortune? He treats them rather as fishes to be used, than as brethren to be respected. What does the selfish despot care for the moral humanity of the people over whom he sways his sceptre? He values them only as they can fight his battles, enrich his exchequer, and contribute to his pageantry and pomp. What were men to Napoleon? etc.
II. IT ASSIDUOUSLY WORKS TO TURN MEN TO ITS OWN USE. "They take up all of them with the angle, they catch them in their net, and gather them in their drag; therefore they rejoice and are glad." Ah me! Human life is like a sea — deep, unresting, treacherous; and the teaming millions of men are but as fishes, the weaker devoured by the stronger. The mighty ones use the hook to oppress individuals one by one, the net and the drag to carry multitudes away. As the fisherman works by various expedients to catch the fish, the selfish man in power is ever active in devising the best expedients to turn human flesh to his own use.
III. IT ADORES SELF ON ACCOUNT OF ITS SUCCESS. "Therefore they sacrifice unto their net, and burn incense unto their drag; because by them their portion is fat, and their meat plenteous." Because men are everywhere selfish, they are everywhere "sacrificing unto their" net, and burning incense unto their drag. The selfish statesman says, There is no measure like mine; the selfish sectarian, There is no Church like mine; the selfish author, There is no book like mine; the selfish preacher, There is no sermon like mine.
IV. IT REMAINS UNSATIABLE NOTWITHSTANDING ITS PROSPERITY. "Shall they therefore empty their net?" etc. An old author thus paraphrases the language, "Shall they enrich themselves and fill their own vessels, with that which they have by violence and oppression taken away from their neighbours? Shall they empty their net of what they have caught, that they may cast it into the sea again to catch more? And wilt Thou suffer them to proceed in this wicked course? Shall they not spare continually to slay the nations? Must the numbers and wealth of nations be sacrificed to their net?" Conclusion — What an awful picture of the world we have here!
Parallel VersesKJV: And makest men as the fishes of the sea, as the creeping things, that have no ruler over them?