1. Hearken, O Shepherd of Israel! who leadest Joseph like a flock: thou who sittest between the cherubim, shine forth. 2. In the sight of Ephraim, and Benjamin, and Manasseh, stir up1 thy strength, and come to our deliverance. 3. Turn us again, O God! cause thy face to shine, and we shall be saved.
1. Hearken, O Shepherd of Israel! The prophet, previous to his naming Manasseh and Ephraim, makes mention of Joseph; and why does he speak of Joseph rather than of Judah, but because it was his design to treat separately of the kingdom of Israel, the government of which was in the family and posterity of Joseph? Nor, since God sent special prophets among them, after he had stricken them with his rods, is there any inconsistency when, at the same time, the prayer is added, That God would gather together the remnant to himself. Moreover, that they might not delude themselves by trusting in their spurious worship, the prophet, by applying to God the appellation of Him who sitteth between the Cherubim, calls them back to the pure doctrine of the law. The mercy-seat was a pledge of the presence of God, where he had promised to be near his people to hear their prayers. This divinely instituted form, it was unlawful for men to change at their own pleasure. The Israelites, then, are admonished to return to their original state, if they would expect to find God gracious towards them. Besides, by the title which is here attributed to God, there is expressed his wonderful love towards men in humbling, and, so to speak, lowering himself in order to come down to them, and choose for himself a seat and habitation on the earth, that he might dwell in the midst of them. Properly speaking, God cannot be said to sit; nor is it to be supposed that it is possible for him, whom the heaven of heavens cannot contain, to be shut up in a certain place, (1 Kings 8:27.) But, in accommodation to the infirmity of men, he is represented as placed between the two Cherubim, that the faithful might not imagine him to be far from them; and, consequently, be perplexed with doubt and apprehension in approaching him. At the same time, the remark which I have previously made must be borne in mind, that the Israelites are here furnished with a rule for enabling them to pray in a right manner, that they might be withdrawn from the worship of the god fabricated and set up by themselves at Dan and Bethel, and that, rejecting all superstitions, they might yield themselves to be guided by the true light of faith, and follow the Word of God.
3. Turn us again, O God! The meaning of this prayer is, Restore us to our former state. They had petitioned, in the preceding verse, that God would stir up his strength in the sight of Ephraim and Manasseh; and now they complain that they are but castaways until God succor them, and remedy their miserable dispersion. Some understand the words, turn us again, in a different way; namely, as a prayer that God would bestow upon them the spirit of regeneration. But this interpretation being too refined, it will be better, adhering to the former sense, to view the expression as meaning that the faithful, under the adversity with which they were afflicted, betake themselves to God, whose peculiar work it is to restore life to the dead. They acknowledge, on the one hand, that all their miseries were to be traced to this as their cause, that God, being angry on account of their sins, hid his face from them; and, on the other hand, they expect to obtain complete salvation solely through the Divine favor. It will be to us, they say, a resurrection indeed, if once thy countenance shine upon us. Their language implies, that provided God extended his mercy and favor to them, they would be happy, and all their affairs would prosper.
1 The original word for "stir up" is ,
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