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Commentary On Joel Amos Obadiah by Jean Calvin

Amos 3:13-14

13. Hear ye, and testify in the house of Jacob, saith the Lord GOD, the God of hosts,

13. Audite et testificamini in domo Jacob, dicit Dominus Jehova, Deus exercituum,

14. That in the day that I shall visit the transgressions of Israel upon him I will also visit the altars of Bethel: and the horns of the altar shall be cut off, and fall to the ground.

14. Quia die quo visitabo scelera Israel super ipsum, etiam visitabo super altaria Bethel: et scindentur cornua altaris et cadent ad terram.

Amos, I have no doubt, added this passage, to show that the superstitions, in which he knew the Israelites falsely trusted, would be so far from being of any help to them, that they would, on the contrary, lead them to ruin, because the people were by them provoking God's wrath the more against themselves. When the Israelites heard that God was offended with them, they looked on their sacrifices and other superstitions, as their shield and cover: for thus do hypocrites mock God. But we know that the sacrifices offered at Bethel were mere profanations; for the whole worship was spurious. God had indeed chosen to himself a place where he designed sacrifices to be offered. The Israelites built a temple without any command, nay, against the manifest prohibition of God. Since then they had thus violated and corrupted the whole worship of God, strange was their madness to dare to obtrude on God their superstitions, as though they could thus pacify his displeasure! The Prophet then rebukes now this stupidity and says, In the day when God shall visit the sins of Israel, he will inflict punishment on the altars of Bethel By the sins, which the Prophet mentions, he means plunder, unjust exactions, robbery, and similar crimes; for there prevailed then, as we have seen, among the people, an unbridled cruelty, avarice, and perfidiousness.

Hence he says now, When God shall visit the sins of Israel; that is, when he shall punish avarice, pride, and cruelty; when he shall execute vengeance on pillages and robberies, he shall then visit also the altars of Bethel. The Israelites thought that God would be propitious to them while they sacrificed though they were wholly abandoned in their lives: they indeed thought that every uncleanness was purified by their expiations; and they thought that God was satisfied while they performed an external worship. Hence, when they offered sacrifices, they imagined that they thus made a compact with God, and presented such a compensation, that he dared not to punish their sins. Their own fancy greatly deceives them,| says Amos. For, as we know, this was, at the same time, their principal sin, -- that they rashly dared to change the worship of God, that they dared to build a temple without his command; in short, that they had violated the whole law. God then will begin with superstitions in executing judgment for the sins of the people. We now then understand the Prophet's design in saying, that God would visit the altars of Bethel when inflicting punishment on the sins of Israel.

But as it was difficult to produce conviction on this subject, the Prophet here invites attention, Hear ye, and testify, he says, in the house of Jacob. Having bidden them to hear, he introduces God as the speaker: for the Israelites, as we know they were wont to do, might have pretended that Amos had, without authority, threatened such a punishment. |Nothing is mine,| he says. We then see the design of this address, when he says, Hear: he shows God to be the author of this prophecy, and that nothing was his own but the ministration. Hear ye, then, and testify in the house of Jacob By the word testify, he seals his prophecy that it might have more weight, that they might not think that it was a mere mockery, but might know that God was dealing seriously with them, Then testify ye in the house of Jacob. And for the same purpose are the titles which he ascribes to God, The Lord Jehovah, he says, the God of hosts He might have used only one word, |Thus saith Jehovah,| as the prophets mostly do; but he ascribes dominion to him, and he also brings before them his power, -- for what end? To strike the Israelites with terror, that vain flatteries might no longer, as heretofore, take possession of them; but that they might understand, that so far were they from doing anything towards pacifying God's wrath by their superstitions, that they thereby the more provoked him.

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