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Commentary On Habakkuk Zephaniah Haggai by Jean Calvin

Zephaniah 2:9, 10

9. Therefore as I live, saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, Surely Moab shall be as Sodom, and the children of Ammon as Gomorrah, even the breeding of nettles, and saltpits, and a perpetual desolation: the residue of my people shall spoil them, and the remnant of my people shall possess them.

9. Propterea vivo ego, dicit Jehova exercituum, Deus Israel, quod Moab sicuti Sodoma erit, et filii Ammon sicuti Gomorrha, productio urticae et fodina salis, et vastitas in perpetuum: reliquiae populi mei diripient eos, et residuum gentis meae possidebit eos.

10. This shall they have for their pride, because they have reproached and magnified themselves against the people of the Lord of hosts.

10. Hoc illis pro superbis sua, quia exprobrarunt et insultarunt super populum Jehovae exercituum.

In order to cheer the miserable Jews by some consolation, God said, in what we considered yesterday, that the wantonness of Moab was known to him; he now adds, that he would visit with punishment the reproaches which had been mentioned. For it would have availed them but little that their wrongs had been observed by God, if no punishment had been prepared. Hence the Prophet reminds them that God is no idle spectator, who only observes what takes place in the world; but that there is a reward laid up for all the ungodly. And these verses are to be taken in connection, that the faithful may know that their wrongs are not unknown to God, and also that he will be their defender. But that the Jews might have a more sure confidence that God would be their deliverer, he interposes an oath. God at the same time shows that he is really touched when he sees his people so cruelly and immoderately harassed, when the ungodly seem to think that an unbridled license is permitted them. God therefore shows here, that not only the salvation of his people is an object of his care, but that he undertakes their cause as though his anger was kindled; not that passions belong to him but such a form of speaking is adopted in order to express what the faithful could never otherwise conceive an idea of, that is, to express the unspeakable love of God towards them, and his care for them.

He then says that he lives, as though he had sworn by his own life. As we have elsewhere seen that he swears by his life, so he speaks now. Live do I, that is, As I am God, so will I avenge these wrongs by which my people are now oppressed. And for the same reason he calls himself Jehovah of hosts, and the God of Israel. In the first clause he exalts his own power, that the Jews might know that he was endued with power; and then he mentions his goodness, because he had adopted them as his people. The meaning then is that God swears by his own life; and that the Jews might not think that this was done in vain, his power is brought before them, and then his favor is added.

Moab, he says, shall be like Sodom, and the sons of Ammon like Gomorrah, even for the production of the nettle and for a mire of salt; that is, their lands should be reduced to a waste, or should become wholly barren, so that nothing was to grow there but nettles, as the case is with desert places. As to the expression, the mine (fodina) or quarry of salt, it often occurs in scripture: a salt-pit denotes sterility in Hebrew. And the Prophet adds, that this would not be for a short time only; It shall be (he says) a perpetual desolation. He also adds, that this would be for the advantage of the Church; for the residue of my people shall plunder them, and the remainder of my nation shall possess them. He ever speaks of the residue; for as it was said yesterday, it was necessary for that people to be cleansed from their dregs, so that a small portion only would remain; and we know that not many of them returned from exile.

The import of the whole is, that though God determined to diminish his Church, so that a few only survived, yet these few would be the heirs of the whole land, and possess the kingdom, when God had taken vengeance on all their enemies.

It hence follows, according to the Prophet, that this shall be to them for their pride. We see that the Prophet's object is, to take away whatever bitterness the Jews might feel when insolently slandered by their enemies. As then there was danger of desponding, since nothing, as it was said yesterday, is more grievous to be borne than reproach, God does here expressly declare, that the proud triumph of their neighbors over the Jews would be their own ruin; for, as Solomon says, Pride goes before destruction.' Proverbs 16:18. And he again confirms what he had already referred to -- that the Jews would not be wronged with impunity, for God had taken them under his guardianship, and was their protector: Because they have reproached, he says, and triumphed over the people of Jehovah of hosts. He might have said, over my people, as in the last verse; but there is something implied in these words, as though the Prophet had said, that they carried on war not with mortals but with God himself, whose majesty was insulted, when the Jews were so unjustly oppressed. It follows --

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