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Commentary On Joel Amos Obadiah by Jean Calvin

Amos 1:6-8

6. Thus saith the Lord; For three transgressions of Gaza, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they carried away captive the whole captivity, to deliver them up to Edom:

6. Sic dicit Jehova, Super tribus sceleribus Gazae et super quatuor, non ero propitius ei, quia transtulerunt captivitatem perfectam, ut concluderent in Edom:

7. But I will send a fire on the wall of Gaza, which shall devour the palaces thereof:

7. Et mittam ignem in murum Gazae, qui devorabit palatia ejus:

8. And I will cut off the inhabitant from Ashdod, and him that holdeth the sceptre from Ashkelon, and I will turn mine hand against Ekron: and the remnant of the Philistines shall perish, saith the Lord God.

8. Et excidam habitatorem de Azoto et tenentem sceptrum de Ascalon; et convertam (vel, reducam) manum meam super Ekron, et peribunt reliquiae Philistinorum, dicit Dominus Jehova.

Amos directs here his discourse against Gaza, which the Philistine occupied. It was situated in the tribe of Judah, towards the sea; but as the Anakims were its inhabitants, the Philistine kept possession of it. Then the Jews had these enemies as aktorekous, (guardians of the shore), who had a greater opportunity of doing harm from being so near: and we may learn from the Prophet's words, that the Philistines, who dwelt at Gaza, when they saw the Israelites oppressed by their enemies, joined their forces to foreign allies, and that the Jews did the same. God then now denounces punishment on them.

As to the word, Gaza, some think that it was given to the city, because Cambyses, when warring with the Egyptians, had deposited there his money and valuable furniture; and because the Persian call a treasure, gaza; but this is frivolous. We indeed know that the Greek translators ever put g (gamma) for an , (oin); as of Omorrha they make Gomorrha, so of Oza they make Gaza. Besides, the city had this name before the time of Cambyses. It was then more probably thus called from its strength: and that the Greeks rendered it Gaza was according to their usual practice, as I have said as to other words. But there were two Gazas; when the first was demolished, the inhabitants built another near the sea. Hence Luke, in the 8^th chapter of the Acts says, that Gaza was a desert; and he thus makes a difference between Gaza on the sea-side and the old one, which had been previously demolished. But Amos speaks of the first Gaza; for he threatens to it that destruction, through which it happened that the city was removed to the shores of the Mediterranean.

I come now to the Prophet's words: |God, he says, will not be propitious to Gaza for three and four transgressions, as the Philistine had so provoked God, that they were now wholly unworthy of pardon and mercy. I reminded you in yesterday's Lecture, that there is presented to us here a sad spectacle, but yet useful; for we here see so many people in such a corrupted state, that their wickedness was become to God intolerable: but at this day the state of things in the world is more corrupt, for iniquity overflows like a deluge. Whatever then men may think of their evils, the Lord from heaven sees how great and how irreclaimable is their obstinacy. It is nothing that some throw blame on others, or look for some alleviation, since all are ungodly and wicked: for we see that God here declares that he would, at the same time, take vengeance on many nations. The Idumeans might then have objected, and said, that their neighbors were nothing better; others might have made the same excuse; every one might have had his defense ready, if such a pretext availed, that all were alike implicated in the same guilt and wickedness. But we see that God appears here as a judge against all nations. Let us not then be deceived by vain delusions, when we see that others are like us; let every one know that he must bear his own burden before God: I will not then be propitious for three and for four transgressions

Because they carried away, he says, a complete captivity The Prophet records here a special crime, -- that the Gazites took away Jews and Israelites, and removed them as captives into Idumea, and confined them there. I have already said that it was not the Prophet's design to enumerate all their sins, but that he was content to mention one crime, that the Israelites might understand that they were involved in a heavier guilt, because they had grievously offended both God and men. If then so severe a vengeance was to be taken on Gaza, they ought to have known, that a heavier vengeance awaited them, because they were guilty of more and greater sins. But he says that they had effected a complete captivity, inasmuch as they had spared neither women, nor children, nor old men; for captivity is called perfect or complete, when no distinction is made, but when all are taken away indiscriminately, without any selection. They then carried away a complete captivity, so that no pity either for sex or for age touched them: that they might shut them up, he says, in Edom.

Now follows a denunciation of punishment, -- that God would send a fire on the wall of Gaza, to devour its palaces. And it hence appears that Gaza was a splendid town, and sumptuously built; and for this reason the Prophet speaks of its palaces. He shows, at the same time, that neither strength nor wealth would prevent God from executing the punishment which the Gazites deserved. He names also other cities of Palestine, even Ascalon and Azdod, or Azotus, and Ecron. These cities the Philistine then possessed. The Prophet then intimates, that wheresoever they might flee, there would be no safe place for them; for the Lord would expose as a prey to enemies, not only Gaza, but also all the other cities. We may conclude that Ascalon was the first city; for there was the royal residence, though Gaza was the capital of the whole nation; it might yet be that the pleasantness of its situation, and other attractions, might have induced the king to reside there, though it was not the metropolis; Him then who holds the scepter I will cut off from Ascalon. He at last concludes, that all the remnants of Palestine would be destroyed. Now, whenever God denounces destruction on the Jews, he ever gives some hope, and says that the remnant would be saved: but here the Prophet declares that whatever remained of that nation would be destroyed; for God purposed to destroy them altogether, and also their very name.

He therefore adds, that Jehovah Lord had spoken, saith the Lord Jehovah This was added for confirmation; for the Philistine were then in possession of many and strong defenses, so that they boldly laughed to scorn the threatening of the Prophet. He therefore brings forward here the name of God. Now follows the prediction respecting Tyrus: --

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