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Commentary On Joel Amos Obadiah by Jean Calvin

Joel 1:13-15

13. Gird yourselves, and lament, ye priests: howl, ye ministers of the altar: come, lie all night in sackcloth, ye ministers of my God: for the meat offering and the drink offering is withholden from the house of your God.

13. Accingimini et plangete sacerdotes; ululate, ministri altaris; venite, pernoctate cum saccis, ministri Dei mei: quia prohibita est a domo Dei vestri oblatio et libamen.

14. Sanctify ye a fast, call a solemn assembly, gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land into the house of the Lord your God, and cry unto the Lord,

14. Sactificate jejunium, vocate coetum, congregate senes, omnes incoles terrae, in domum Jehovae Dei vestri, et clamate ad Jehovam,

15. Alas for the day! for the day of the Lord is at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come.

15. Heus Diem! Quia propinquus est dies Jehovae, et tanquam vastitas ab Omnipotente veniet.

Now the Prophet begins to exhort the people to repentance. Having represented them as grievously afflicted by the hand of God, he now adds that a remedy was at hand, provided they solicited the favor of God; and at the same tine he denounces a more grievous punishment in future; for it would not have been enough that they had been reminded of their calamities and evils, except they also feared in time to come. Hence the Prophet, that he might the more move them, says, that the hand of God was still stretched out, and that there was something worse nigh at hand, except they of themselves anticipated it. This is the purport of the whole. I now come to the words.

Be girded, lament and howl, he says, ye priests, the ministers of the altar The verb chgrv chegeru may be explained in two ways. Some understand it thus |Gird yourselves with sackcloth;| for shortly after he says with sackcloth, or in sackcloth. But we may take it as simply meaning, gird yourselves, that is, Hasten; for this metaphorical expression often occurs. As to the drift of the passage, there is but little difference, whether we read, |Gird yourselves with sackcloth,| or, |Hasten.| And he addresses the priests, though a common and general exhortation to the whole people afterwards follows. But as God made them the leaders of his people, it behaved them to afford others an example. It is the common duty of all the godly to pray for and to further the salvation of their brethren; but it is a duty especially enjoined on the ministers of the word and on pastors. So also, when God calls those to repentance who preside over others, they ought to lead the way, and for two reasons; -- first, because they have not been in vain chosen by the Lord for this end, that they might outshine others, and be as luminaries; -- secondly, because they who bear any public office ought to feel a double guilty when the Lord visits public sins with judgment. Private men indeed sin; but in pastors there is the blame of negligence, and still more, when they deviate even the least from the right way, a greater offense is given. Rightly then does the Prophet begin with the priests, when he bids the whole people to repent. And he not only bids them to put on sackcloth, but commands them also, as we shall see, to proclaim a fast, and then to call an assembly: ye priests, he says, be girded, and put on sackcloth, wail, howl, and pass the night in sackcloth; and then he calls them the ministers of the altar and the ministers of God, but in a different sense; for the Prophet does not substitute the altar for God, as he would thus have formed an idol; but they are called the ministers of the altar, because they offered there sacrifices to God. They are indeed with strict propriety the ministers of God; but as the priests, when they sacrificed, stood in the presence of God, and as the altar was to them as it were the way of access to him, they are called the ministers of the altar. He calls them, at the same time, the ministers of God, and, as it has been stated, they are properly so called.

But he says here 'lhy alei (my God.) The iod, my, is by some omitted, as if it were a servile letter, but redundant. I, however, doubt not but that the Prophet here mentions Him as his God; for he thus intended to claim more authority for his doctrine. His concern or his contest was with the whole people; and they, no doubt, in their usual ways proudly opposed against him the name of God as their shield. |What! are we not the very people of God?| Hence the Prophet, in order to prove this presumption false, sets forth God as being on his side. He therefore says, The ministers of my God.' Had any one objected and said, that he was in common the God of the whole people, the Prophet had a ready answer, -- |I am specially sent by Him, and sustain his person, and plead the cause which he has committed to me: He is then my God and not yours.| We now then see the Prophet's meaning in this expression. He now adds, for cut off is offering and libation from the house of our God. He confesses Him at the same time to be their God with reference to the priesthood; for nothing, we know, was presumptuously invented by the Jews, as the temple was built by Godly command, and sacrifices were offered according to the rule of the law. He then ascribes to the priesthood this honor, that God ruled in the temple; for God, as we have already said, approved of that worship as having proceeded from his word: and to this purpose is that saying of Christ, We know what we worship.' But yet the priests did not rightly worship God; for though their external rites were according to the command of God, yet as their hearts were polluted, it is certain that whatever they did was repudiated by God, until, being touched with the fear of his judgment, they fled to his mercy, as the Prophet now exhorts them to do.

He afterwards adds, sanctify a fast, call an assembly, gather the old, all the inhabitants of the land. qds kodash means to sanctify and to prepare; but I have retained its proper meaning, sanctify a fast; for the command had regard to the end, that is, sanctification. Then a fast proclaim -- for what purpose? That the people might purge themselves from all their pollutions, and present themselves pure and clean before God. Call an assembly. It appears that there was a solemn convocation whenever a fast was proclaimed among the people: for it was not enough for each one privately at home to abstain from food, except all confessed openly, with one mouth and one consent, that they were guilty before God. Hence with a fast was connected a solemn profession of repentance. The uses and ends of a fast, we know, are various: but when the Prophet here speaks of a solemn fast, he doubtless bids the people to come to it suppliantly, as the guilty are wont to do, who would deprecate punishment before a judge, that they may obtain mercy from him. In the second chapter there will be much to say on fasting: I only wish now briefly to touch on the subject.

He afterwards bids the old to be gathered, and then adds, All the inhabitants of the land. But he begins with the old, and justly so, for the guilt of the old is always the heaviest. But this word relates not to age as in a former instance. When he said yesterday, Hear ye, the aged,' he addressed those who by long experience had learnt in the world many things unknown to the young or to men of middle age. But now the Prophet means by the old those to whom was intrusted the public government; and as through their slothfulness they had suffered the worship of God and all integrity to fall into decay, rightly does the Prophet wish them to be leaders and precursors to the people in their confession of repentance; and further, it behaved them, on account of their office, as we have said of the priests, to lead the way. Joel at the same time shows that the whole people were implicated in guilt, so that none could be excepted, for he bids them all to come with the elders.

Call them, he says, to the house of Jehovah your God, and cry ye to Jehovah. We hence learn why he had spoken of fasting and of sackcloth, even that they might humbly deprecate God's wrath; for fasting of itself would have been useless, and to put on sackcloth, we know, is in itself but an empty sign: but prayer is what the Prophet sets here in the highest rank, and fasting is only an appendage, and so is sackcloth. Whosoever then puts on sackcloth and withholds prayer, is guilty of mockery; and no one can derive any good from mere fasting; but when fasting and sackcloth are added to prayer, and are as it were handmaids, then they are not uselessly practiced. We may then observe, that the end of fasting and sackcloth was no other, than that the priests together with the whole people, might present themselves suppliantly before God, and confess themselves worthy of destruction, and that they had no hope except from his gratuitous mercy. This is the meaning.

It now follows, Alas the day! for nigh is the day of Jehovah. Here the Prophet, as it was at first stated, threatens something worse in future than what they had experienced. He has hitherto been showing their torpidity; now he declares that they had not yet suffered all their punishments, but that there was something worse to be feared, except they turned seasonably to God. And he now exclaims, as though the day of Jehovah was before his eyes, and he calls it the day of Jehovah, because in that day God would stretch-forth his hand to execute judgment; for while he tolerates men or bears with their sins, he seems not to rule in the world. And though this mode of speaking is common enough in Scripture, it ought yet to be carefully noticed; for all seem not to understand that God calls that his own day, when he will openly shine forth and appear as the judge of the world: but as long as he spares us, his face seems to be hidden from us; yea, he seems not to govern the world. The Prophet therefore declares here that the day of the Lord was at hand; for it cannot be, but that the Lord must at length rise up and ascend his throne to punish men, though for a time he may connive at them. But the interjection, expressive of grief, intimates that the judgment, of which the Prophet speaks, was not to be despised, for it would be dreadful; and he wished to strike terror into the Jews, for they were too secure. And he says, The day is nigh, that they might not procrastinate, as they were wont to do, from day to day: for though men be touched by God's judgments they yet even desire time to be prolonged to them, and they come very tardily to God. Hence the Prophet, that he might correct this their great slothfulness, says that the day was nigh.

He adds, ksd msdy yvv' kashed meshadi ibu as a desolation from the Almighty will it come.' The word sdy shadi signifies a conqueror; but it proceeds from the verb sdd shadad; and this in Hebrew means |to desolate,| or |to destroy.| The powerful and the conqueror is called sdy shadi; and hence they call God sdy shadi, on account of his power. Some derive it from udder: then they call God sdy shadi as though Scripture gave him this name, because from him flows all abundance of good things as from a fountain. But I rather refer this name to his strength and power, for the Jews, we know, gloried in the name of God as one armed to defend their safety. Whenever then the Prophets said that God was sdy shadi, the people laid hold on this as a ground for false confidence, |God is almighty, we are then secure from all evils.| But yet this confidence was not founded on the promises: and it was, we know, an absurd and profane presumption to have thus abused the name of God. Since then the Jews foolishly pricked themselves on this, that God had adopted them for his people, the prophet says here, |There will come a desolation from the Almighty;| that is, |God is Almighty, but ye are greatly deceived in thinking that your safety is secured by his power; for he will, on the contrary, be opposed to you, inasmuch as ye have provoked his wrath.| It follows --

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