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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 20–21
Verses 20–21

These two verses are supposed not to belong to the song which takes up the rest of the chapter, but to begin a new matter, and to be rather an introduction to the following chapter than the conclusion of this. Of whereas, in the foregoing song, the people of God had spoken to him, complaining of their grievances, here he returns an answer to their complaints, in which,

I. He invites them into their chambers (Isa. 26:20): “Come, my people, come to me, come with me” (he calls them nowhere but where he himself will accompany them); “let the storm that disperses others bring you nearer together. Come, and enter into thy chambers; stay not abroad, lest you be caught in the storm, as the Egyptians in the hail,” Exod. 9:21. 1. “Come into chambers of distinction; come into your own apartments, and continue not any longer mixed with the children of Babylon. Come out from among them, and be you separate,” 2 Cor. 6:17; Rev. 18:4. If God has set apart those that are godly for himself, they ought to set themselves apart. 2. “Into chambers of defence, in which by the secresy or the strength of them you may be safe in the worst of times.” The attributes of God are the secret of his tabernacle, Ps. 27:5. His name is a strong tower, into which we may run for shelter, Prov. 18:10. We must be faith find a way into these chambers, and there hide ourselves; that is, with a holy security and serenity of mind, we must put ourselves under the divine protection. Come, as Noah into the ark, for he shut the doors about him. When dangers are threatening it is good to retire, and lie hid, as Elijah did by the brook Cherith. 3. Into chambers of devotion. “Enter into thy closet, and shut thy door, Matt. 6:6. Be private with God: Enter into thy chamber, to examine thyself, and commune with thy own heart, to pray, and humble thyself before God.” This work is to be done in times of distress and danger; and thus we hide ourselves, that is, we recommend ourselves to God to hide us, and he will hide us either under heaven or in heaven. Israel must keep within doors when the destroying angel is slaying the first-born of Egypt, else the blood on the door-posts will not secure them. So must Rahab and her family when Jericho is being destroyed. Those are most safe that are least seen. Qui bene latuit, benevixit—He has lived well who has sought a proper degree of concealment.

II. He assures them that the trouble would be over in a very short time, that they should not long be in any fright or peril: “Hide thyself for a moment, the smallest part of time we can conceive, like an atom of matter; may, if you can imagine one moment shorter than another, it is but for a little moment, and that with a quasi too, as it were for a little moment, less than you think of. When it is over it will seem as nothing to you; you will wonder how soon it is gone. You shall not need to lie long in confinement, long in concealment. The indignation will presently be over-past; that is, the indignation of the enemies against you, their persecuting power and rage, which force you to abscond. When the wicked rise, a man is hid. This will soon be over; God will cut them off, will break their power, defeat their purposes, and find a way for your enlargement.” When Athanasius was banished from Alexandria by an edict of Julian, and his friends greatly lamented it, he bade them be of good cheer. Nubecula est quae cito pertransibit—It is a little cloud, that will soon blow over. You shall have tribulation ten days; that is all, Rev. 2:10. This enables God’s suffering people to call their afflictions light, that they are but for a moment.

III. He assures them that their enemies should be reckoned with for all the mischief they had done them by the sword, either of war or persecution, Isa. 26:21. The Lord will punish them for the blood they have shed. Here is, 1. The judgment set, and process issued out: The Lord comes out of his place, to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity, in giving such disturbance to all about them. There is a great deal of iniquity among the inhabitants of the earth; but though they all combine in it, though hand join in hand to carry it on, yet it shall not go unpunished. Besides the everlasting punishment into which the wicked shall go hereafter, there are often remarkable punishments of cruelty, oppression, and persecution, in this world. When men’s indignation is over-past, and they have done their worst, let them then expect God’s indignation, for he sees that his day is coming, Ps. 37:13. God comes out of his place to punish. He shows himself in an extraordinary manner from heaven, the firmament of his power, from the sanctuary, the residence of his grace. He is raised up out of his holy habitation, where he seemed before to conceal himself; and now he will do something great, the product of his wise, just, and secret counsels, as a prince that goes to take the chair or take the field, Zech. 2:13. Some observe that God’s place is the mercy-seat; there he delights to be; when he punishes he comes out of his place, for he has no pleasure in the death of sinners. 2. The criminals convicted by the notorious evidence of the face: The earth shall disclose her blood; the innocent blood, the blood of the saints and martyrs, which has been shed upon the earth like water, and has soaked into it, and been concealed and covered by it, shall not be brought to light, and brought to account; for God will make inquisition for it, and will give those that shed it blood to drink, for they are worthy. Secret murders, and other secret wickednesses, shall be discovered, sooner or later. And the slain which the earth has long covered she shall no longer cover, but they shall be produced as evidence against the murderers. The voice of Abel’s blood cries from the earth, Gen. 9:10, 11; Job 20:27. Those sins which seemed to be buried in oblivion will be called to mind, and called over again, when the day of reckoning comes. Let God’s people therefore wait awhile with patience, for behold the Judge stands before the door.