17. For, behold, I will send serpents, cockatrices, among you, which will not be charmed, and they shall bite you, saith the Lord.
17. Quia ecce ego mitto in vos serpentes, regulos (quidam tamen subaudiunt copulam, serpentes et regulos) quibus nulla erit incantatio, et mordebunt vos, dicit Jehova.
He increases their terror by another comparison, -- that not only enemies would violently attack them, but that their bitings would be venomous. He had spoken of horses, and mentioned their violent onsets; but he now expresses another thing, -- that the Jews would have to carry on war with vipers and basilisks. The Prophet no doubt only meant to shew that they could not possibly escape; for as from serpents men can hardly escape, especially when they are numerous, and assail them on every side, so he intimates, that the war would be fatal to the Jews, when attacked by serpents and vipers.
They shall bite you, he says, and for them there will be no incantation; that is, by no means can they be driven away from you. If one asks, Can serpents be driven away by incantations? the answer is, -- that the Prophet here does not refer to what is true, but speaks according to the common opinions of men. It has been thought in all ages, that serpents can be driven away by incantations, or be killed, or be deprived of the power of hurting. "The deadly snake, "says Virgil, in Eclo. viii., "is dissolved in the meadows by singing." What that heathen poet has said has been believed also by other nations; and as I have already said, it has been a commonly received opinion that serpents may be charmed. As then it was a common belief, the Prophet says, "If ye think that these serpents can be turned away, and the hurt that proceeds from them, ye are greatly deceived; for there will be for them no incantation." There is also a mention made of incantation in Psalm 58:6: but as I have already said, the prophets accommodate their words to the comprehension of men. The Prophet does here also indirectly reprove the Jews, by comparing their false resources to incantations, as though he had said, -- " Ye think that ye can soothe your enemies by flatteries and bribery, so that they may not hurt you; and ye also think that ye have ready at hand various means by which you may avert the evils which impend over you: in vain, he says, ye deceive yourselves with such hopes; for all your incantations as to these serpents shall be to no purpose, and wholly useless."
We now then perceive the Prophet's intention, and see that by this figure he ironically derides the crafty measures of the people, and all the remedies which they thought they had in readiness when assailed by their enemies. It follows --