12. When they were but very few in number; and strangers in it. 13. And walked about from nation to nation, and from one kingdom to another people. 14. He did not suffer men to hurt them; and rebuked kings for their sake; 15. Saying, Touch not my anointed ones, and do my prophets no wrong. 1
12. When they were but very few in number. The prophet here recounts the benefits which God had conferred upon the holy fathers from the commencement, to manifest that even long before the deliverance from Egypt, the covenant was not ineffectual. The great object aimed at in this recital, is to show that ever since God took Abraham under his protection, he cherished him in a wonderful manner, and also that his fatherly love and care were displayed in maintaining and defending the other two patriarchs. When it is said, that they were but very few in number, the power of God by this circumstance is not only magnified, but the cause why he was so beneficent towards them is also pointed out. We must then, in the first place, attend to this, that the prophet, lest the Jews should arrogate anything to themselves, expressly declares, that their fathers had experienced the divine favor, even when they were feeble and despised, wandering from place to place, in every respect poor and miserable according to the flesh. Thus also Moses reproaches them,
"The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people; but because the Lord loved you." Deuteronomy 7:7, 8,
In short, in the choosing of this people, no regard was had either to number, or to any excellence whatever. There was only the house of Abraham, and yet it was barren. Isaac was compelled to banish to a distance from him one of his two sons, and he saw the other cut off from his family. The house of Jacob was indeed more fruitful, but it was nevertheless of a low condition. Besides, they were not only ignoble and despised when sojourning in a strange land, but famine, and the want of other things also, compelled them frequently to go from one place to another. All these things being taken into view, the consideration of human worth falls to the ground, and it is clearly seen, that all the blessings which God had bestowed upon them flowed from no other fountain than his own free love. And the cause of this love is not to be sought for out of himself. If the Holy Spirit is so careful in magnifying the grace of God in these earthly blessings, how much more must he observe this rule, when the subject of which he speaks is the heavenly inheritance! When it is said, that they walked about from nation to nation, this intimates the more plainly how wonderfully the divine protection was displayed in preserving them. Had they found any quiet nest in which to repose, such comfort would have been a notable sign of the divine goodness; but when they were as exiles in divers countries, and were driven from one place to another with bitter scorn, as chaff is driven about by the wind, the guardianship which God exercised over them shone forth much more conspicuously. Since their life everywhere hung only by a thread, and the changing of their place of sojourn exposed them from time to time to fresh injuries, it is evident that it was the divine power alone which preserved them in safety.
14. He did not suffer men to hurt them. Abraham and his children had not merely two or three enemies: they were harassed by whole nations. As then many rose up one after another in troops against them, the Psalmist says indefinitely, that men were withheld from hurting them; for Mda, adam, is the word here used, which is the one most generally employed to signify man. He next amplifies the love of God towards his servants, in setting himself in opposition to kings for their sake. When God did not spare even the kings of Egypt and Gerar, it is evident how precious the welfare of Abraham and his offspring was in his sight. We have said a little before that the holy fathers were of no estimation in the eyes of the world. God therefore displayed his goodness so much the more signally in preferring them to kings. Now we here see, that the Jews were humbled in the person of their fathers, that they might not imagine that they found favor in the sight of God by any merit of their own.
15. Saying, Touch not my anointed ones. The Psalmist proceeds farther, affirming, that when God made war against kings for the sake of his servants, they were defended by him, not only as he is accustomed to succor the miserable and the unjustly oppressed, but because he had taken them under his special guardianship. God protects his people, not only upon a general ground, but because he has declared on account of his free adoption, that he will maintain them. This is the reason why these holy patriarchs are here honored with two designations, his prophets and his anointed ones. In speaking of other men, God would have said, Touch not these men who have done wrong to nobody, hurt not these poor wretched creatures who have deserved no such treatment at your hands. But in the person of Abraham and his children, he shows that there was another reason for his defending them. He calls them anointed ones, because he had set them apart to be his peculiar people. In the same sense, he designates them prophets, (a title with which Abraham is also honored, Genesis 20:7) not only because God had manifested himself more intimately to them, but also because they faithfully spread around them divine truth, that the memory of it might survive them, and flourish after their death. Anointing, it is true, was not as yet in use, as it was afterwards under the law; but the prophet teaches, that what God at a subsequent period exhibited in the ceremonies of the law was really and in very deed in Abraham, even as God engraves the mark of sanctification on all his chosen ones. If God's inward anointing was of such powerful efficacy, even at the time when he had not yet appointed, or delivered the figures of the law, with how much greater care will he defend his servants now, after having exhibited to us the plenitude of anointing in his only begotten Son!