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Commentary On Joel Amos Obadiah by Jean Calvin

Joel 3:4-6

4. Yea, and what have ye to do with me, O Tyre, and Zidon, and all the coasts of Palestine? will ye render me a recompence? and if ye recompense me, swiftly and speedily will I return your recompence upon your own head;

4. Atque etiam, quid vobis mecum Tyre et Sidon, et cuncti termini Palestinae? An mercedem vobis rependitis mihi? Etsi confertis hoc in me, velox (subito) rependam mercedem vestram in caput vestrum;

5. Because ye have taken my silver and my gold, and have carried into your temples my goodly pleasant things:

5. Quia argentum meum et aurum meum abstulistis, et desiderabilia mea bona transtulistis in templa vestra (alii, palatia.)

6. The children also of Judah and the children of Jerusalem have ye sold unto the Grecians, that ye might remove them far from their border.

6. Et filios Jehudah et filios Jerusalem vendidistis filiis Graecorum, ut elongaretis eos a termino suo (hoc est, procul abduceretis eos a finibus suis.)

God expostulates here with Tyre and Sidon, and other neighboring nations, and shows that they vexed his people without cause Had they been provoked some excuse might have been made; but since they made war of their own accord, the wrong was doubled. This is what God means these words. What have ye to do with me, O Tyre and Sidon? He indeed continues the subject before explained: but he speaks of the concern here as hid own; he seems not now to undertake the protection of his own people, but detents his own cause. |What have ye to do with me?| he says. God then interposes himself; as though he said, that the Syrians and Sidonians were not only called by him to judgment because they had unjustly wronged his people, and brought many troubles on men deserving no such things; but he says also, that he stood up in his own defense. |What have I to do with you, O Syrians and Sidonians?| as we say in French, Qu'avons-nous a desmeller? (what have we to decide?) Now the Prophet had this in view, that the Syrians and Sidonians became voluntary enemies to the Jews, when they had no dispute with them; and this, as we have said, was less to be borne. |What then have ye to do with me, O Syrians and Sidonians? Do I owe anything to you? Am I under any obligation to you? Do ye repay me my recompense?| that is, |Can you boast of any reason or just pretense for making, war on my people?| He then means, that there had been no wrong done to the Syrians and Sidonians, which they could now retaliate, but that they made an attack through their own wickedness, and were only impelled by avarice or cruelty thus to harass the miserable Jews: |Ye repay not,| he says, |a recompense to me; for ye cannot pretend that any wrong has been done to you by me.|

But if ye repay this to me, he says, I will swiftly return the recompense on your head. gml gimel means not only to repay, as the Hebrew scholars ever render it, but also to confer, to bestow, (conferre, ut loquuntur Latine) as it has been stated in another place. What shall I repay to the Lord for all the things which he has recompensed to me?' This is the common version; but it is an improper and inconsistent mode of speaking. David no doubt refers to God's benefits; then it is, What shall I repay for all the benefits which the Lord has bestowed on me?' Then he who first does wrong, or bestows good, is said to recompense; and this is the sense in this place. If ye,' he says, thus deal with me, |swiftly|, mhrh mere suddenly (for the word is to be taken as an adverb,) will I return recompense on your head;' that is, |Ye shall not be unpunished, since ye have acted so unjustly with me and my people.| We now perceive the whole meaning of the Prophet: He enhances the crime of the Syrians and Sidonians, because they willfully distressed the Jews, and joined themselves to their foreign enemies, for the purpose of seizing on a part of the spoil. As, then, vicinity softened not their minds, their inhumanity was on this account more fully proved. But, as I have said, the Lord here places himself between the two parties, to intimate, that he performs his own proper office when he takes care of the safety of his Church.

He afterwards shows that this wickedness should not be unpunished -- If ye deal thus with me, he says, I shall swiftly (suddenly) return the recompense on your heads. This passage contains a singular consolation; for God declares that whatever evils the faithful endure belong to him, and also that he will not suffer those under his protection and defense to be distressed with impunity, but will quickly return recompense on the heads of those who unjustly injure his heritage. We now understand the Prophet's design: he doubtless intended to support the minds of the godly with this thought, -- that their afflictions are objects of concern with God and that he will shortly be the avenger of them, however necessary it may be that they should for a time be thus violently and reproachfully treated by wicked men.

Let us now proceed: He says that their silver and their gold had been taken away by the Syrians and the Sidonians. All who were the neighbors of that people, no doubt, derived gain from their calamity, as is usually the case. They were at first ill disposed towards them; there was then a new temptation; they gaped after booty: and they showed themselves openly their enemies, when they saw that there was hope of gain. Such was the case with the Syrians and Sidonians. There is no doubt, but that they sedulously courted the favor of the Assyrians, that they helped them with provisions and other things, that they might partake of the spoil. It was, therefore, no wonder that gold and silver was taken away by them, for the carriage of them to Assyria would have been tedious: and, as I have just hinted, it is usually the case, that conquerors gratify those by whom they have been assisted. Many extend this plunder generally to the whole wealth of the people; that is, that the enemies plundered what gold and silver there was in Judea, and that the Sidonians got a portion of it for themselves. But there seems to have been a special complaint, that the sacred vessels of the temple were taken away by the Syrians and Sidonians: I therefore prefer to render the word, temples, rather than palaces. Some say, Ye have carried away my silver and my gold to your palaces.' Though the word is capable of two meanings, yet the Prophet, I have no doubt, refers here to the temples. The Syrians, then, and the Sidonians profaned the silver and the gold of the temple by dedicating them to their idols; they adorned their idols with spoils taken from the only true God. This was the reason why God was so exceedingly displeased. There was, indeed, a cause why God, as we have said, contended for the whole nation of Israel: but it was a far more heinous wrong to spoil the temple, and to strip it of its ornaments, and then to adorn idols with its sacred vessels; for God was thus treated with scorn; and in contempt of him, the Syrians and Sidonians built, as it were, a trophy of victory in their own dens, where they performed sacrilegious acts in worshipping fictitious gods.

Ye have taken away, he says, my gold and silver, and my desirable good things. God speaks here after the manner of men; for it is certain that even under the law he stood in no need of gold or silver, or of other precious things; he wished the temple to be adorned with vessels and other valuable furniture for the sake of the ignorant (rudis -- rude) people; for the Jews could not have been preserved in pure and right worship, had not God assisted their weak faith by these helps. (adminiculis -- props, aids) But yet, as obedience is acceptable to him, he says that whatever was an ornament in the temple was a desirable thing to him; while, at the same time, by speaking thus, he put on, as I have said, a character not his own, as he has no need of such things, nor is he delighted with them. We ought not, indeed, to imagine God to be like a child, who takes delight in gold and silver and such things; but what is said here was intended for the benefit of the people, that they might know that God approved of that worship, for it was according to his command. He therefore calls every thing that was in the temple desirable, Ye have, he says, carried away into your temples my desirable good things.

It follows, And the children of Judah, and the children of Jerusalem, have ye sold to the children of the Grecians . There is here another complaint subjoined, -- that the Syrians and Sidonians had been sacrilegious towards God, that they had cruelly treated God's afflicted people. In the last verse, God inveighed against the Syrians, and Sidonians for having prostituted to their idols gold and silver stolen from him; he now again returns to the Jews themselves, who, he says, had been sold to the children of the Grecians; that is, to people beyond the sea: for as Javan passed into Europe, he includes under that name the nations beyond the sea. And he says, that they sold the Jews to the Greeks that they might drive them far from their own borders, so that there might be no hope of return. Here the cruelty of the Syrians and Sidonians becomes more evident; for they took care to drive those wretched men far away, that no return to their country might be open to them, but that they might be wholly expatriated.

We now perceive what the Prophet had in view: He intended that the faithful though trodden under foot by the nations, should yet have allayed their grief by some consolation, and know that they were not neglected by God; and that though he connived at their evils for a time, he would yet be their defender, and would contend for them as for his own heritage, because they had been so unjustly treated. He afterwards adds --

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