Woe to the rebellious children, said the LORD, that take counsel, but not of me; and that cover with a covering, but not of my spirit…
The embassy to Egypt has been sent, and the prophet's object is to show that the policy of it is false, as all policy must be false which does not rest upon religion.
I. The POLICY CHARACTERIZED. It is that of "unruly sons," and they "carry out a purpose which is not from Jehovah." So in Hosea we read, "They have set up kings, but not by me; they have made princes, and I knew it not" (Hosea 8:4). They "weave a net" or "plait alliances" without his Spirit, and add sin to sin. They go down into Egypt without having inquired of Jehovah's mouth, and flee to the fortress of Pharaoh, to take refuge in the shadow of Egypt.
1. The Divine leading and inspiration make men humble, while self-will and self-reliance are stubborn, obstinate.
2. Where the first step has been wrong, every subsequent step aggravates the error.
3. The root of a mistaken policy is a false reliance, dependence on an "arm of flesh." There is a true and a false self-reliance: that which forgets God is ignorant and impious that which recognizes him as the Source of all true intelligence is genuine. To the external observer the difference between acting from the self-center and the God-center, between "going in one's own strength" and "going in the strength of the Lord of hosts," may not be perceptible. It must be known in the feeling of the actor, and in the results of his action.
II. THE RESULTS OF THE POLICY. The fortress of Pharaoh will become a shame to them, and the refuge in Egypt's shadow confusion. "Shame and confusion of face;" great Scripture words, most expressive of the results of false principles, false policy, obstinate error.
1. It is the very bitterness of ill success to feel that it is the harvest of our own faults; while misfortune is sweetened at its bitterest by the consciousness of having followed the light to the best of one's ability. The prophet follows in imagination this mistaken embassy into the heart of Egypt. They will come to Zoan (or Tanis), and to Hanes (or Heracleopolis), but will be abashed to find that in the expected saviors and helpers no salvation is to be found.
2. That bitterness is aggravated by the sense of the great toil and suffering which has only led to failure. How different the journey from Egypt and that to Egypt! Then men were led through "that great and terrible wilderness," full of the fiery serpents and scorpions and lions, the land of drought, and there were fed with manna (Deuteronomy 8:15; Jeremiah 2:6). And now, after encountering all these dangers, they are to find, after all, that there is no help in Egypt, though they have carried thither rich presents on asses and on camels. Emphatic is the prophet, "Yea, the Egyptians; in vain, and empty is their help, therefore I proclaim concerning it, Rahab, they are utter indolence." There is a play on the name here, which cannot well be rendered in English. But Egypt may stand as a type of the "world," the absence of true principle, or the principle of policy as opposed to reliance on God. And then the lesson will be the inherent weakness of all worldly policy, as compared with simple trust in God and obedience to his dictates. - J.
Parallel VersesKJV: Woe to the rebellious children, saith the LORD, that take counsel, but not of me; and that cover with a covering, but not of my spirit, that they may add sin to sin: