O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which kill the prophets, and stone them that are sent to you…
The maternal love and courage of birds have been celebrated in the literature of all nations. Even the Mussulman admires it; witness the Moslem story of the white dove. One came before Mohammed with two fledglings tied up in a cloth, which he had taken from the wood. The mother dove had bravely followed. Mohammed commanded that the cloth should be opened; on which the dove flew down, and covered her trembling offspring with her wings. Then the prophet directed that the mother and her young should be restored unhurt to the nest in the wood, and took the opportunity to teach a good lesson —
"From Allah's self cometh this wondrous love;
Yea, and I swear by Him who sent me here,
He is more tender than a nursing dove,
More pitiful to men than she to these."
To appreciate the feeling of Jesus Christ for Jerusalem, we must remember how complete was His knowledge of its sin. Let it not be thought strange that the will of the people of Jerusalem should be allowed to resist and defeat the mercy of the Son of God. The whole history of the nation was one of often-repeated resistance to the will of Jehovah, and rejection of His grace. The Lord desired to save, but never would force salvation on any nation or any creature. Indeed, a forced salvation would be futile, and mercy received against one's will could do no good. The illustration used by our Lord implied that danger was at hand. Observe a hen in the open field, happy with her chickens running about her, picking and chirping in the sunshine. Suddenly a hawk appears in the air, or some mischievous animal comes slyly over the ground. On the instant the hen calls her brood to her, covers them with her wings, and is ready for their defence. Timid enough at other times, she is brave for her chickens, and will die rather than let one of them be lost. So the Lord Jesus, perceiving the danger which hovered over Jerusalem long before the Jews were aware of it, was willing to cover and save them. So also is it in every age and every nation. He who is the Saviour of the world sees the approaching perdition of ungodly men, and is willing to deliver them. Those who come to Him He will in no wise cast out. What a simple way of salvation! And how sure and perfect the defence! When lambs are startled, they run to the ewes; the kids to the she-goats. Among the fiercest animals, the young run to their mothers for protection, and these will guard their offspring at whatever peril to themselves. But no quadruped, wild or tame, can cover her young so completely as a bird can do with her folding wings. Therefore is this last the apt illustration of the -sufficiency of Christ to save. Those who trust in Him are completely covered by His righteousness and strength. On this wise has Divine salvation always been revealed. The Psalms frequently refer to the favour and protection of Jehovah as the shadow of outstretched wings (Psalm 17:8; Psalm 36:7; Psalm 57:1; Psalm 61:4; Psalm 63:7; Psalm 91:4). Our Redeemer's lament over Jerusalem shows what His heart is toward all mankind. It is a grief to Him to have His offer of salvation slighted, a joy to have it embraced. Bow unhappy the mother-bird while any of her brood continue astray and heedless of her call! What manner of persons Christians ought to be! What joy of faith, what restfulness of love should be under the covert of His wings! What nearness, too, to one another, and what obligation to brotherly kindness! The brood are packed very closely under the hen.
(D. Fraser, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!
WEB: "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that kills the prophets, and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, like a hen gathers her own brood under her wings, and you refused!