17. I will scatter them as with an east wind before the enemy; I will shew them the back, and not the face, in the day of their calamity.
17. In vento orientali, (vel, per ventum orientalem; quidam legunt k loco b, et dicunt, tanquam ventus orientalis; sed quod ad mentem Prophetoe spectat nulla est ambiguitas, per ventum ergo orientalem,) dispergam eos coram facie inimici; cervicem, non faciem ostendam ipsis (videre ipsos faciam) in die calamitatis ipsorum, (vel, interitus, ut alii vertunt.)
Though no word of comparison is expressed, if we read b, beth, and not k, caph, yet the Prophet employs a comparison, for God did not drive away the Jews by an eastern wind, but as the force of that wind is violent in Judea, the eastern wind often means a storm or a whirlwind, as though he had said, "As by a whirlwind or a storm will I cast them out."1 I will disperse or dissipate them, he says, before the face of the enemy. He means that enemies would come to exterminate the Jews from the land; and he adds another thing, that these enemies would be full of terror, for God would give them the force of a whirlwind or a storm to disperse and scatter the Jews, for being terrified by God they would not dare to withstand.
Then follows a commination, that God would turn to them the neck, or the back, and not the face in the day of calamity. It sometimes happens that we are severely chastised by God, he thus often tries his faithful people when he subjects them to the will of the ungodly; but yet all remedy is not taken away from them, as they find consolation in God's mercy, for as he casts down so he raises up, as he puts to death so he gives life, according to what is said in 1 Samuel 2:6. But God here denounces a punishment without any prospect of pardon or alleviation, I will scatter them, he says, as by an east wind before their enemies. Then he adds, "In vain shall they flee to me and seek my mercy, though otherwise it is offered to all, yet then they shall implore it in vain, for it is decreed not to pardon them. I will shew to them my back, (or neck, for Pre, oreph, is the hinder part of the head, but here it means the back,) they shall then find that I am turned away from them, so that they shall not be set before my eyes." For it is an invaluable consolation when God is pleased to look on our miseries, but he deprives the Jews of this hope, for he would turn to them his back in the day of slaughter. I cannot proceed farther now.
Grant, Almighty God, that we may in due time anticipate thy wrath, and never so kindle it by our perverseness as to preclude every remedy; and then also when thou for a time chastisest us, do not wholly cast us away, but let this resort ever remain to us, to seek thee in the day of calamity and to find thee accessible, so that being reunited to thee we may find that thou rememberest mercy even in wrath, until we shall enjoy a full and real participation of thy favor and paternal love in thy celestial kingdom, which has been procured for us by the blood of thine only-begotten Son. -- Amen.