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Commentary On Joel Amos Obadiah by Jean Calvin

Amos 3:11-12

11. Therefore thus saith the Lord God; An adversary there shall be even round about the land; and he shall bring down thy strength from thee, and thy palaces shall be spoiled.

11. Propterea sic dicit Dominus Jehova, Adversarius et quidem in circuitu terrae, et tollet abs te robur tuum et diripientur palatia tua.

12. Thus saith the Lord; As the shepherd taketh out of the mouth of the lion two legs, or a piece of an ear; so shall the children of Israel be taken out that dwell in Samaria in the corner of a bed, and in Damascus in a couch.

12. Sic dicit Jehova, Quemadmodum eripit pastor ex ore leonis duo crura vel externam partem auris, sic eripientur filii Israel qui habitant in Samaria in angulo lecti, et in Damasco tanquam in grabato.

The Prophet here announces the punishment God would inflict on the Israelites. An enemy, he says, and indeed one around you, etc. Some think tsr, tsar, to be a verb in the imperative mood; but this cannot be maintained. But Amos, here declares that an enemy was near the Israelites, who would besiege them on every side. The ungodly are ever wont to seek escapes, and if they see the smallest hole, they think that they can escape. Strange is the presumption of men with regard to God: when they see themselves hemmed in, they are really frightened, yea, they become wholly disheartened; but yet they seek subterfuges on the right hand and on the left, and never submit to God except when constrained. This is the reason why the Prophet now says, that an enemy was near, and indeed around them; as though he said, |You have no reason to think that there is any way of escape open to you; for God has hemmed you in on every side; there is therefore a siege which so confines you, that you in vain hope to escape.| An enemy, he says, is indeed around -- around the whole land, who will take away from thee thy strength. Here the Prophet removes from the Israelites their vain confidence; for they could not think of God's vengeance, while looking on their own power. They indeed thought that they had sufficient protection in their own large number, riches, and arms, as men are wont to set up against God what proceeds from himself, as though creatures could do anything against him, and as though God could not take away, when he pleases, what he has given: and yet such is the blindness of men. Hence the Prophet says, that all the wealth and all the strength in which the Israelites excelled would be useless, inasmuch as an enemy, he says, armed by God, shall take from thee thy strength; and thy palaces shall be plundered.

In the next verse he leaves some hope, though this is not avowedly done. For when he says that some would be saved, as when a shepherd snatches from the jaws of a lion the ear of a sheep or two legs, it is not the Prophet's design to mitigate the severe judgment of which he had before spoken; but shows, on the contrary, that when any should be saved, it would not be because the people would defend themselves, or were able to resist; but that it would be as when a trembling shepherd snatches some small portion of a spoil from the lion's mouth. We must bear in mind what I have just said of the proud confidence of the people; for the Israelites thought that they were safe enough from danger; and therefore despised all threatenings. But what does Amos say? |Think not,| he says, |that there will be any defense for you, for your enemies will be like lions, and there will be no more strength in you to resist them than in sheep when not only wolves but lions, seize them and take them as their prey.| When any thing is then saved, it is as it were by a miracle; the shepherd may perhaps take a part of the ear or two legs from the lion's mouth when he is satisfied. The shepherd dares not to contend with the lion; he always runs away from him, but the lion will have his prey and devour it at his pleasure; when he leaves a part of the ear or two legs, the shepherd will then seize on them, and say, |See, how many sheep have been devoured by lions:| and these will be the proof's of his loss. So now the Prophet says, |The Lord will expose you as a prey to your enemies, and their rapacity will not be less dreaded by you than that of a lion: in vain then ye think yourselves defended by your forces; for what is a sheep to a lion? But if any part of you should remain, it will be like an ear or a leg: and still more, -- as when a lion devours a sheep, and leaves nothing after having taken his prey until he is satisfied, so shall it happen to you|.

They are then mistaken who think that the preceding commination is here designedly mitigated; for the Prophet does not do this, but continues the same subject, and shows that the whole people would become a prey, that their enemies would be like lions, and that they would have no strength to resist. Some hope, I indeed allow, is here given to the people; for, as it has been before seen, God intended that there should ever be some remnant as a seed among that chosen people. This, I admit, is true: but we must yet regard what the Prophet treats of; and what he had in view. He then did not intend here expressly to console the Israelites; though incidentally he says, that some would remain, yet his object was to show that the whole kingdom was now given up as a prey to lions, and that nothing would be saved except a very small portion, as when a shepherd carries away an ear when the wolves and lions had been satiated. It follows --

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