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THIS chapter contains the latter part of the prophecy concerning Babylon, which represents the important consequences that were to arise from the chine judgments to be inflicted upon that great city. The happy deliverance of the people of God from their captivity, is set forth as the immediate consequence of this great revolution, ver. i, 2, 3. This subject introduces a description of the fall of Babylon, that for a long time had disturbed surrounding nations, which is composed in the form of a triumphant song, ver. 4.—28. In treating this subject, the great God is introduced, declaring the fate of Babylon, the utter extirpation of the royal family, and the total desolation of the city—the deliverance of Judah, and the destruction of their enemies—and confirming these irreversible decrees by the sanction of his oath. Dr. Lowth fays, that the former part of this prophecy is one of the most beautiful examples that can be given, of elegance, of composition, variety of imagery, and sublimity of sentiment and diction, in the prophetic style; and the latter part consists of an ode, of supreme and singular excellence.
FOR the Lord will have mercy on Jacob, and will yet choose Israel, and set them in their own land: and the strangers shall be joined with them, and they shall cleave to the house of Jacob.
The joyful consequence of the fall of Babylon, was to be the deliverance of the people of Judah from the
captivity in which they were detained. The word
/or, for, with which this prediction is introduced, seems intended to shew, that the judgment executed upon Babylon, was not only to be a display of the righteousness of God, but a proof of his favour, and tender compassion, toward his peculiar people* Viewing the matter in this light, the concluding words of the foregoing verse may be considered as at once giving assurance of the speedy accomplishment df the preceding prophecy, and the desirable approach bf the deliverance of Israel from the hands of their enemies, which is here predicted. The overthrow of Babylon. was to be hastened, to make way for the deliverance
of the church. For the Lord will have mercy on
Jacob. In these words, the prophet directs to the source from whence the blessings he proceeds to mention were to take their rife, viz. the mercy of Jehovah. Indeed this is the uniform doctrine laid down in the scriptures, both of the Old and New Testaments, by the prophets and apostles of the Lord. The following passages are specimens of what is often repeated on this subject: Jer. xxxiii. 26. Hosea i. 7. Rom. ix. 18. The expression, the Lord will have mercy, intimates, that, according to his sovereign will and good pleasure, he would extend his tender compassion, accompanied with seasonable relief, to those who were in a miserable condition, though utterly unworthy of his favour. The divine benignity respects all the creatures of God, on whom it bestows innumerable benefits. Grace respects men as unworthy of his kindnesses, and unable to make adequate returns for the blessings they receive; whereas mercy is conferred upon those who are in danger and misery, from which it rescues them, that they may enjoy happy deliverance. It consists in a strong propensity to afford assistance to those who are in need: and, in this sense, mercy is always to be found with God, who communicates it in abundance, according to the circumstances of those to whom it is extended Sensible of our infinite need of this important
Vol. II. F blessing, blessing, let us often earnestly implore that God may grant us his mercy; and, having obtained our request, let us beware of injuring or abusing the divine mercy, by persisting in our sins, and transgressing his commandments.
And will yet choose Israel. This is the distinguishing, gracious privilege whereby God, according to the counsel of his will, sets apart for himself a peculiar people from among the nations of the earth, who are suffered to walk in their own ways. Expressions similar to this are often used by the inspired writers, when speaking of the precious benefits which God bestows upon his people. Thus faith the Lord of hosts, by the prophet Zechariah, 'The Lord shall yet comfort * Zion, and shall yet choose Jerusalem *.' That which is here affirmed of the people of Israel, must hold equally true of the individuals whereof that people consist. You who justly claim the privilege of choosing your friends, and of conferring your favours on whomsoever you please, whilst you injure not those whom you overlook, cannot consistently refuse to acknowledge, that this prerogative eminently belongs to Jehovah, who repeatedly claims it in his holy oracles. To me, therefore, it hath been matter of surprise, that any who have read their Bibles with attention, should be averse to own this simple truth, which is frequently repeated in scripture, though we are unable sufficiently to resolve all the difficulties that may be started respecting this article of divine revelation. The most high God was graciously pleased
to choose the posterity of the patriarch Jacob from among all other nations under heaven, as Moses reminded them f. In after-ages, however, he seemed, at certain periods, to have rejected them, when they provoked him to deliver them into the power of the Babylonians, and other nations. At the time therefore in which he would have mercy upon them, and
* Zech. i. < 7. f Deut. vii. 6.
rescue rescue them from the power of their enemies, he is said to choose Israel, that in this manner he might demonstrate his adherence to his choice, and grant his people happy experience of its comfortable effects in their deliverance. -Let us, brethren, give all diligence to make sure our calling and election, to be the peculiar people of God, by being holy in all manner of conversation, and zealous of good works, convinced that this is the only way whereby we can enjoy comfortable evidence, that God hath chosen us to salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ *.
And set them in tbeir own land. This privilege was likewise expressly promised to Israel by the prophets Jeremiah f and Ezekiel \. The multiplied and aggravated iniquities of Israel provoked the Almighty to scatter them among the nations, and to disperse them among the countries, particularly of Assyria and Babylon. From this dispersion God promises to collect them, that he might set them in their own land, the land of Canaan, which was the glory and ornament of all lands, an exceeding pleasant and very fruitful country. It was remarkable for the excellence of its climate, and the fertility of its foil; and, on these and other accounts, it was called in scripture, an exceeding good land, a glorious land, and a land of desire. It was supposed to be situated in the midst of the earth; and though it is said to have been only about two hundred miles in length, and fifty in breadth, in the days of David the king, there were in it thirteen hundred thousand men, beside aged men,
women, and children.- This land is called their
own land, in as much as God promised it to their fathers, and gave it to their children, for a possession, and an inheritance, A very noble and rich donation it was, according to the description given of it by Moses, the servant of the Lord: 'It is a land (faith 'he) of hills and valleys, that drinketh water of the
* 1 Thefl'. v. 9. f Jer. xxiii. 8. J Ezek. xxxiv. 13.
* rain of heaven: a land which the Lord thy God
* careth for: the eyes of the Lord thy God are always
* upon it, from the beginning of the year until the
* end thereof*.' These and other advantages which it possessed, rendered it a faint type of the rest which
remaineth for the true Israel of God in heaven.
In this land God promises to set them, and to establish them in the possession of it, that they may dwell safely, and none make them afraid; th.n he may feed them as his flock, and dwell among them. Their return from captivity, and restoration to their own land, is one of the most remarkable events mentioned in the Old Testament, and is often spoken of as a rich display of the divine mercy and favour. In this light let us contemplate it, as the necessary means of preserving the Jewish church in existence, until the fulness of time arrived wherein that ceconomy was abolished.
And tbestrangers Jhall be joined with them, and they Jhall cleave to the house of Jacob, The persons who. are here intended, were the people from among the Gentilesa which were not of the posterity of Israel, and had no right to the important privileges enjoyed by the house of Jacob. They were those whom the apostle Paul thus emphatically describes, as being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, both with respect to civil and sacred advantages; and strangers from the covenants of promise, which God entered into with the Father of the faithful, and delivered to his posterity at mount Sinai. Numbers of such strangers, at the period to which this prophecy looked forward, should join themselves to Israel, that they might participate with them in the inestimable prerogatives which they enjoyed. From religious motives, and a sincere regard to the instituted worship of the true God, they were voluntarily to become proselytes to the Jewish religion, and to be initiated into their
* D^t. si. 10, n> i\.