Thou didst strike through with his staves the head of his villages: they came out as a whirlwind to scatter me: their rejoicing was as to devour the poor secretly.
Thou didst strike through with his staves the head of his villages,.... Of his warriors, mighty men, princes; so the Vulgate Latin, Septuagint, Syriac, and Arabic versions; or of his armies, as Jarchi and Kimchi; which some interpret of Pharaoh and his host, who were destroyed by the steps and methods which they themselves took, going into the sea of themselves, and so were struck through with their own staves: others of the princes and armies of the Canaanites, who destroyed one another with their own weapons of war, as the Midianites did; though we have no instance of it on record: others of Goliath, as Burkius, called before "the head out of the house of the wicked", with respect to his rise from Gath; here, "the head of his Pagans", as he renders it, or Gentiles, with respect to his preeminence over the common soldiers, and all the Philistines: others of Sennacherib and his army, as Jarchi; but Kimchi's sense is much better, who interprets it of Gog and his army; and which, if understood of the Turk, the eastern antichrist, is not amiss; and so, as the western antichrist and his destruction are pointed at in the preceding verse Habakkuk 3:13, the ruin of the other is intimated here; whose armies are expressed by a word which sometimes has the signification of villages; because he said, "I will go up to the land of unwalled villages", Ezekiel 38:11 in the land of Judea about Jerusalem, where he will distribute and quarter his soldiers; and where he and they at the head of them in these villages will be cut to pieces with their own weapons; as it is said, "every man's sword shall be against his brother", Ezekiel 38:21, Cocceius and Van Till render the words, "thou hast designed", marked out, or expressed by name, "in his tribes, the head of his villages"; and understand them, not of the enemy, but of Christ the anointed One, and his people; the Protestants, or reformed churches, who, being separated from antichrist, are represented as divided into tribes, and as dwelling in villages alone, and in separate states and kingdoms; and suppose that God has designed in his purposes and decrees some particular place, called the head or beginning of these villages, where his great and glorious work in the latter day will first appear; but what and where that place is is not said:
they came out as a whirlwind to scatter me; the prophet representing the true Israel, or the whole church of Christ: it is not unusual for mighty armies to be compared to a whirlwind coming forth with great force, suddenly and swiftly; see Jeremiah 4:13 and particularly it is said of the army of Gog or the Turk, which shall invade Judea, in order to dispossess the Jews of their land, when converted and returned to it; "thou shall ascend and come like a storm, thou shall be like a cloud, to cover the land, thou and all thy bands, and many people with thee", Ezekiel 38:9 who will think to scatter the people of the Jews again among the nations, as they have been:
their rejoicing was as to devour the poor secretly; the poor people of the Jews, to strip them of their substance, to carry off their gold and silver, their cattle and their goods; and which they thought they should as easily accomplish as a rich man gets the mastery over a poor man, and ruins him, that has none to help him; and that they should do this in a still, private, secret manner, so as that the Christian princes should have no knowledge of it, and come in to their assistance; and this they rejoiced at in themselves, and pleased themselves with it; see Ezekiel 38:10. The above interpreters render this clause as a prayer, "let them tremble for fear": or be filled with horror, who come "to scatter me, whose rejoicing is as to devour the poor in secret"; which is interpreted of the Papists being terrified by some Christian princes, since the Reformation, from carrying some of their designs into execution; and of the clandestine arts and secret methods the Jesuits particularly use to do injury to the interest of Christ and true religion.