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Commentary On Joel Amos Obadiah by Jean Calvin

Joel 1:6-7

6. For a nation is come up upon my land, strong, and without number, whose teeth are the teeth of a lion, and he hath the cheek teeth of a great lion.

6. Quia gens ascendit super terram meam, robusta et absque numero, dentes ejus dentes leonis, et maxillae (alii vertunt, molares) leonis illis (quanquam aliud est nomen: alii vertunt, leunculum.)

7. He hath laid my vine waste, and barked my fig tree: he hath made it clean bare, and cast it away; the branches thereof are made white.

7. Posuit vineam meam in vastitatem (vel, desolationem) et ficulneam meam in decorticationem: nudando nudavit eam et disjecit, albi facti sunt rami ejus.

Of what some think, that punishment, not yet inflicted, is denounced here on the people, I again repeat, I do not approve; but, on the contrary, the Prophet, according to my view, records another judgment of God, in order to show that God had not only in one way warned the Jews of their sins, that he might restore them to a right mind; but that he had tried all means to bring them to the right way, though they proved to have been irreclaimable. After having then spoke of the sterility of the fields and of other calamities, he now adds that the Jews had been visited with war. Surely famine ought to have touched them, especially when they saw that evils, succeeding evils, had happened for several years contrary to the usual course of things, so that they could not be imputed to chance. But when God brought war upon them, when they were already worn out with famine, must they not have been more than insane in mind, to have continued astonied at God's judgments and not to repent? Then the meaning of the Prophet is, that God had tried, by every means possible, to find out whether the Jews were healable, and had given them every opportunity to repent, but that they were wholly perverse and untamable.

Then he says, Verily a nation came up. The particle ky ki is not to be taken as a causative, but only as explanatory, Verily, or surely, he says, a nation came up; though an inference also is not amiss, if it be drawn from the beginning of the verse: Hear, ye old men, and tell your children;' what shall we tell? even this, that a nation, etc. But in this form also ky ki would be exegetical, and the sense would be the same. This much as to the meaning of the passage.

A nation, then, came up over my land. God here justly claims the land of Canaan as his own heritage, and does so designedly, that the Jews might more clearly know that he was angry with them; for their condition would not have been worse than that of other nations, had not God resolved to punish them for their sins. There is here then an implied comparison between Judea and other countries, as though the Prophet said, |How comes it, that your land is wasted by wars and many other calamities, while other countries are at rest? This land is no doubt sacred to God, for he has chosen it for himself, that he might rule in it; he has here his own habitation: it then must be that there is some cause for God's wrath, as your land is so miserably wasted, when other lands enjoy tranquillity.| We now perceive what the Prophet means. A nation, he says, came up upon my land, and what then? God could surely have prevented this; he could have defended his own land, of which he was the keeper, and which was under his protection: how then had it happened that enemies with impunity inundated this land, having marched into it and utterly laid it waste, except that it had been forsaken by the Lord himself?

A nation, he says, came up upon my land, strong and without number; and further, who had the teeth of a lion, the jaw-bones of a young lion. The nations had no strength which God could not in an instant have broken down, nor had he need of mighty auxiliaries, for he could by a nod only have reduced to nothing whatever men might have attempted: when, therefore, the Assyrians so impetuously assailed the Jews they were necessarily exposed to the wantonness of their enemies, for they were unworthy of being protected, as hitherto, by the hand of God.

He afterwards adds, that his vine had been exposed to desolation and waste, his fig-tree to the stripping of the bark. God speaks not here of his own vine, as in some other places, in which he designates his Church by this term; but he calls everything on earth his own, as he calls the whole race of Abraham his children: and he thus reproaches the Jews for having reduced themselves to such wretchedness through their own fault; for they would have never been spoiled by their enemies, had not God, who was wont to defend then, previously rejected them; for there was nothing in their land which he did not claim as his own; as he had chosen the people, so he had consecrated the land to himself. Whatsoever, then, enlisted in Judea, was, as it were, sacred to God. Now when both the vines and the fig-trees were exposed to the depredations of the unbelieving, it was certain that God no longer ruled there. How so? Even because the Jews had expelled him. He afterwards enlarges on the same subject; for what follows, By denuding he has denuded it and cast it away, is not a mere narrative; the Prophet here declares not simply what had taken place; but as we have already said, adduces more proof, and tries to awaken the drowsy senses of the people, yea, to arouse them from that lethargy by which the minds of all had been seized; hence it is that he uses in his teaching so many expressions. This is the reason why he says that the vine and the fig-tree had been denuded, and also that the leaves had been taken away, that the branches had been made bare and white; so that there remained neither produce nor growth.

Many interpreters join these three verses with the former, as if the Prophet now expressed what he had said before of the palmer worm, the chafer, and the locust; for they think that he spake allegorically when he said that all the fruits of the land had been consumed by the locusts and the chafers. They therefore add, that these locusts, or chafers, or the palmer worms, were the Assyrians, as well as the Persian and the Greeks, that is, Alexander of Macedon and the Romans: but this is wholly a strained views so that there is no need of a long argument; for any one may easily perceive that the Prophet mentions another kind of punishments that he might in every way render the Jews inexcusable who were not roused by judgments so multiplied, but remained still obstinate in their vices. Let us now proceed.

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