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Commentary On Joel Amos Obadiah by Jean Calvin

Amos 4:2

2. The Lord God hath sworn by his holiness, that, lo, the days shall come upon you, that he will take you away with hooks, and your posterity with fishhooks.

2. Juravit Dominus Jehova per sanctuarium suum, quia ecce dies veniunt super vos, et tollet vos in clypeo (vertunt quidam; alii, in hamo,) et residuum vestrum in spina piscationis.

Here Amos declares what sort of punishment awaited those fat cattle, who being well fed despised God, and were torpid in their fatness. He therefore says, that the days were nigh, when they should be taken away together with all that they had, and all their posterity, as by a hook of a fisher.

But to give more effect to his combination, he says that God had sworn by his sanctuary. The simple word of God ought indeed to have been sufficient: but as we do not easily embrace the promises of God, so also hypocrites and the reprobate are not easily terrified by his threatening; but they laugh to scorn, or at least regard as empty, what God's servants declare. It was then necessary that God should interpose this oath, that secure men might be more effectually aroused.

|The Lord then has sworn by his sanctuary|. It is singular that God should swear by his temple rather than by himself: and this seems strange; for the Lord is wont to swear by himself for this reason, -- because there is none greater by whom he can swear, as the Apostle says, (Hebrews 6:13.) God then seems to transfer the honor due to himself to stones and wood; which appears by no means consistent. But the name of the temple amounts to the same thing as the name of God. God then says that he had sworn by the sanctuary, because he himself is invisible, and the temple was his ostensible image, by which he exhibited himself as visible: it was also a sign and symbol of religion, where the face of God shone forth. God did not then divest himself of his own glory, that he might adorn with it the temple; but he rather accommodated himself here to the rude state of men; for he could not in himself be known, but in a certain way appeared to them in the temple. Hence he swore by the temple.

But the special reason, which interpreters have not pointed out, ought to be noticed, and that is, that God, by swearing by his sanctuary, repudiated all the fictitious forms of worship in which the Israelites gloried, as we have already seen. The meaning is this, -- |God, who is rightly worshipped on mount Zion, and who seeks to be invoked there only, swears by himself; and though holiness dwells in himself alone, he yet sets before you the symbol of his holiness, the sanctuary at Jerusalem: he therefore repudiates all your forms of worship, and regards your temples as stews or brothels.| We hence see that there is included in this expression a contrast between the sanctuary, where the Jews rightly and legitimately worshipped God, and the spurious temples which Jeroboam built, and also the high places where the Israelites imagined that they worshipped him. We now then understand what is meant by the words, that God sware by his sanctuary

And he sware by his sanctuary, that the days would come, yea, were nigh, in which they should be taken away with hooks, or with shields. tsnh, tsane, means in Hebrew to be cold: but tsnvt, tsanut denotes shields in that language, and sometimes fishing-hooks. Some yet think that the instrument by which the flesh is pulled off is intended, as though the Prophet still alluded to his former comparison. But another thing, which is wholly different, seems to be meant here, and that is, that these fat cows would be drawn out as a little fish by a hook; for afterwards he mentions a thorn or a hook again. It is the same as though he had said, |Ye are indeed of great weight, and ye are very heavy through your fatness; but this your grossness will not prevent God from quickly taking you away, as when one draws out a fish by a hook.| We see how well these two different similitudes harmonize: |Ye are now trusting in your own fatness, but God will draw you forth as if ye were of no weight at all: ye shall therefore be dragged away by your enemies, not as fat cows but as small fishes, and a hook will be sufficient, which will draw you away into remote lands.| This change ought to have seriously affected the Israelites, when they understood that they would be stripped of their fatness and wealth, and then taken away as though they were small fishes, that a hook was enough, and that there would be no need of large wagons. It follows --

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