There was a little city, and few men within it; and there came a great king against it, and besieged it, and built great bulwarks against it:
There was a little city, and few men within it,.... Which some take to be a piece of history, a real matter of fact; that as the city of Abel, when besieged by Joab, was delivered by the counsel of a wise woman, 2 Samuel 20:15; so there was a city, which Solomon had knowledge of, which was delivered from the siege of a powerful king, by the wise counsel of a poor wise man: though others think it is only a fiction, fable, or parable; the moral of which is, that political wisdom, even in a poor mean person, is sometimes very useful and serviceable, though it does not meet with its proper merit. Many of the Jewish writers understand the whole allegorically and figuratively; so the Targum, by "the little city", understands the body of man; by "few men in it", the little righteousness there is in the heart of man; though, according to the Midrash, Jarchi, and Alshech, they are the members of the body; by "the great king", the evil imagination, or corruption of nature, which is great to oppress, and besieges the heart to cause it to err; and by "the poor wise man", the good imagination or affection, which prevails over the other, and subdues it, and delivers the body from hell, and yet not remembered; and so the Midrash, and the ancient Jews in Aben Ezra, though he himself understands it according to its literal sense. Some Christian interpreters explain it to better purpose, concerning the church attacked by Satan, and delivered by Christ, who, notwithstanding, is unkindly and ungratefully used: the church is often compared to a city, it is the city of God, and of which saints are fellow citizens; it is but a "little" one in comparison of the world, and, in some periods and ages of the world, lesser than in others; it is little and contemptible in the eyes of the world, and the inhabitants of it are mean and low in their own eyes; they are a little flock, Luke 12:32; and "few" in number that are "within it": some are only of it, but not in it, or are external members only, which sometimes are many; or outward, not inward, court worshippers; they are few, comparatively, that belong to the invisible church, that are chosen, redeemed, called, and saved, Matthew 20:16; there are but few able men, especially such as are capable of defending the church against its enemies.
and there came a great king against it; Satan, the prince of devils and of the posse of them in the air, the god and prince of the world of the ungodly, who works in their hearts, and leads them captive at his will who may be said to be "great" with respect to the numbers under him, legions of devils, and the whole world that lies in wickedness, or "in" or "under" the wicked one: and on account of the power he exercises, by divine permission, over the bodies and minds of men; and in comparison of the little city, and few men in it, being stronger than they,
Matthew 12:24; he comes from the region of the air, where his posse are; or from going to and fro in the earth; or from hell, into which he is cast down: he comes by divine permission; in the manner evil spirits do, by temptation; in a hostile way, against the church and people of God, to destroy and devour them, if possible;
and besieged it; surrounded it on all sides, as the Gog and Magog army trader him will encompass the camp of the saints, and the beloved city,
and built great bulwarks against it; such as are called strong holds,
2 Corinthians 10:4. Satan's first attack was upon the elect of God, in Adam; when he brought them, through sin, under a sentence of condemnation and death, though then they were preserved in Christ; and ever since he has been attacking the church by persecution, in order to take it by storm; and by spreading errors and heresies, such as tend to raze the foundation, and to pull down the superstructure of grace; and by promoting schisms, and laying such large principles of church communion, as tend to take away ordinances and discipline, the fence of the city; and by throwing in hand grenades of strife and contention, to raise a civil war among the citizens themselves; and, by various temptations to sin, to gain deserters: these are some of his bulwarks, batteries, and engines.