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Commentary On Habakkuk Zephaniah Haggai by Jean Calvin

Zephaniah 2:1, 2

1. Gather yourselves together, yea, gather together, O nation not desired;

1. Colligite vos, et colligite gens non amabilis;

2. Before the decree bring forth, before the day pass as the chaff, before the fierce anger of the Lord come upon you, before the day of the Lord's anger come upon you.

2. Antequam pariat decretum, sicut stipula transibit die, antequam veniat super eos furor irae Iehovae, antequam veniat super eos dies irae Iehovae.

The Prophet, after having spoken of God's wrath, and shown how terrible it would be, and also how near, now exhorts the Jews to repentance, and thus mitigates the severity of his former doctrine, provided their minds were teachable. We hence learn that God fulminates in his word against men, that he may withhold his hand from them. The more severe, then, God is, when he chastises us and makes known our sins, and sets before us his wrath, the more clearly he testifies how precious and dear to him is our salvation; for when he sees us rushing headlong, as it were, into ruin, he calls us back by threatening and chastisements. Whenever, then, God condemns us by his word, let us know that he will be propitious to us, if, touched with true repentance, we flee to his mercy; for to effect this is the design of all his reproofs and threatening.

There follows then a seasonable exhortation, after the Prophet had spoken of the dreadfulness of God's vengeance. Gather yourselves, he says, gather, ye nation not worthy of being loved. Others read -- Search among yourselves, search; and interpreters differ as to the root of the verb; some derive it from qss, koshesh, and others from qvs, kush; while some deduce the verb from the noun qs kosh, which signifies chaff or stubble. But however this may be, I consider the real meaning of the Prophet to be -- Gather yourselves, gather; for this is what grammatical construction requires. I do not see why they who read search yourselves, depart from the commonly received meaning, except they think that the verb gather does not suit the context; but it suits it exceedingly well. Others with more refinement read thus -- Gather the chaff, gather the chaff, as though the Prophet ridiculed the empty confidence of the people. But as I have already said, he no doubt shows here the remedy, by which they might have anticipated God's judgment, with which he had threatened them. He indeed compares them to stubble, as we find in the next verse, but he shows that still time is given them to repent, so that they might gather themselves, and not be dissipated; as though he said -- The day of your scattering is at hand; ye shall then vanish away like chaff, for ye shall not be able to stand at the breath of the Lord's wrath. But now while God withholds himself, and does not put forth his hand to destroy you, gather yourselves, that ye may not be like the chaff. There are then two parts in this passage; the first is, that if the Jews abused, as usual, the forbearance of God, they would become like the chaff, for God's wrath would in a moment scatter them; but the Prophet in the meantime reminds them that a seasonable time for repentance was still given them; for if they willingly gathered themselves, God would spare them. Before then the day of Jehovah's wrath shall come; gather, he says, yourselves

But the way of gathering is, when men do not vanish away in their foolish confidences, or when they do not indulge their own lusts; for whenever men give loose reins to wicked licentiousness, and thus go astray in gratifying their corrupt lusts, or when they seek here and there vain confidences, they expose themselves to a scattering. Hence the Prophet exhorts them to examine themselves, to gather themselves, and as it were to draw themselves together, that they might not be like the chaff. Hence he says, -- gather yourselves, yea, gather, ye nation not loved

Some take the participle nksph, necasaph, in an active sense, as though the Prophet had said that the Jews were void of every feeling, and had become wholly hardened in their stupidity. But I know not whether this can be grammatically allowed. I therefore follow what has been more approved. The nation is called not worthy of love, because it did not deserve mercy; and God thus amplifies and renders illustrious his own grace, because he was still solicitous about the salvation of those who had willfully destroyed themselves, and rejected his favor. Though then the Jews had by their depravity so alienated themselves from God, that there was no reason why he should save them, he yet still continued to call them back to himself. It is therefore a remarkable proof of the unfailing grace of God, when he shows love to a nation wholly worthy of being hated, and is concerned for its safety.

He then adds, Before the decree brings forth. Here the Prophet asserts his own authority, and that of God's other servants: for the Jews thought that all threatening would come to nothing, as it is the case with most men at this day who deride every true doctrine, as though it were nothing but an empty sound. Hence the Prophet ascribes birth to his doctrine. It is indeed true, that the word decree has a wider meaning; but the Prophet does not speak here of the hidden counsel of God. He therefore calls that a decree, which God had already declared by his servants: and the meaning is, that it is not beating the air when God denounces his vengeance on sinners by his Prophets, but that it is a fixed and unchangeable decree, which shall at length be effected. But the similitude of birth is most apposite; for as the embryo lies hid in the womb, and then emerges in due time into light; so God's vengeance, though hid for a time, will yet in due season be accomplished, when God sees that men's wickedness is past a remedy. We now understand why the Prophet says, that the time was near when the decree should bring forth.

Then he says, Pass away shall the chaff in a day. Some read, Before the day comes, when the stubble (or chaff) shall pass away. But I take yvm, ium, in another sense, as meaning that the Jews shall quickly pass away as the chaff; the like expression we have also met in Hosea. He says then that the Jews would perish in a day, in a short time, and as it were in a moment; though they thought that they would not be for a long time conquered. Pass away, he says, shall they like chaff

Then he adds, Before it comes, the fury of Jehovah's wrath; the day of Jehovah's wrath, gather ye yourselves. He says first, before it comes upon you, the fury of wrath, and then, the day of wrath. He repeats the same thing; but some of the words are changed, for instead of the fury of wrath, he puts in the second clause, the day of wrath; as though he had said, that they were greatly deceived if they thought that they could escape, because the Lord deferred his vengeance. How so? For the day, which was nigh, though not yet arrived, would at length come. As when one trusting in the darkness of the night, and thinking himself safe from the danger of being taken, is mistaken, for suddenly the sun rises and discovers his hiding-place; so the Prophet intimates, that though God was now still, it would yet be no advantage to the Jews: for he knew the suitable time. Though then he restrained for a time his wrath, he yet poured it forth suddenly, when the day came and the iniquity of men had become ripe.

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