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Commentary On Joel Amos Obadiah by Jean Calvin

Amos 4:4-6

4. Come to Bethel, and transgress; at Gilgal multiply transgression; and bring your sacrifices every morning, and your tithes after three years:

4. Ita in Bethel et scelerate agite, in Gilgal adjicite scelerate agendum, et adducite mane sacrificia vestra, ad tres dies (hoc est, tertio anno) decimas vestras;

5. And offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving with leaven, and proclaim and publish the free offerings: for this liketh you, O ye children of Israel, saith the Lord God

5. Et adolete e fermento laudem et adducite voluntarias oblationes, publicite; quia sic vobis libuit, filii Israel, dicit Adonai Jehova.

6. And I also have given you cleanness of teeth in all your cities, and want of bread in all your places: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD.

6. Atque etiam ego dedi vobis mundiciem dentium (alii vertunt, obtusiones, sed male) in omnibus oppidis vestris, et penuriam panis in omnibus regionibus vestris; et non estis reversi usque ad me, dicit Jehova.

The Prophet here again pours contempt on the perverse confidence, in which the Israelites were become hardened. They thought, indeed, that their worship was fully approved by God, when they offered Sacrifices in Bethel and Gilgal. But the Prophet here shows, that the more sedulously they labored in performing sacred things, the more grievously they offended God, and the heavier judgment they gained for themselves. |What do you obtain by wearying yourselves, when ye so strictly offer sacrifices, and omit nothing that is prescribed in the law of God? Only this -- that you provoke God's wrath more and more.| But he condemns not the Israelites for thinking that they rendered a compensation, as hypocrites were wont to think, and were on this account often reproved by the Prophets; but he denounces their modes of worship as vicious and false, and abominable before God. The Prophets reprobated sacrifices for two reasons; -- first, because hypocrites brought them before God as a compensation, that they might escape the punishment they deserved, as though they paid God what they owed. Thus at Jerusalem, in the very temple, they profaned the name of God; they offered sacrifices according to what the law prescribed, but disregarded the true and legitimate end; for they thought that God was pacified by the blood of beasts, by incense, and other external rites: it was therefore a preposterous abuse. Hence the Prophets often reproved them, inasmuch as they obtruded their sacrifices on God as a compensation, as though they were real expiations for cleansing away sins: this, as the Prophets declared, was extremely puerile and foolish. But, secondly, Amos now goes much farther; for he blames not here the Israelites for thinking that they discharged their duty to God by external rites, but denounces all their worship as degenerate and perverted, for they called on God in places where he had not commanded: God designed one altar only for his people, and there he wished sacrifices to be offered to him; but the Israelites at their own will had built altars at Bethel and Gilgal. Hence the Prophet declares that all their profane modes of worship were nothing but abominations, however much the Israelites confided in them as their safety.

This is the reason why he now says Go ye to Bethel. It is the language of indignation; God indeed speaks ironically, and at the same time manifests his high displeasure, as though he had said, that they were wholly intractable, and could not be restrained by any corrections, as we say in French, Fai du pis que to pouvras So also God speaks in Ezekiel 20:39, Go, sacrifice to your idols.' When he saw the people running headlong with so much pertinacity into idolatry and superstitions, he said, |Go;| as though he intended to inflame their minds. It is indeed certain, that God does not stimulate sinners; but he thus manifests his extreme indignation. After having tried to restrain men, and seeing their ungovernable madness, he then says, |Go;| as though he said, |Ye are wholly irreclaimable; I effect nothing by my good advice; hear, then, the devil, who will lead you where you are inclined to go: Go then to Bethel, and there transgress; go to Gilgal, and transgress there again; heap sins on sins.|

But how did they transgress at Bethel? Even by worshipping God. We here see how little the pretense of good intention avails with God, which hypocrites ever bring forward. They imagine that, provided their purpose is to worship God, what they do cannot be disapproved: thus they wanton in their own inventions, and think that God obtains his due, so that he cannot complain. But the Prophet declares all their worship to be nothing else than abomination and execrable wickedness, though the Israelites, trusting in it, thought themselves safe. |Add, then, to transgress in Gilgal; and offer your sacrifices in the morning; be thus diligent, that nothing may be objected to you, as to the outward form.|

After three years, that is, in the third year, |bring also your tenths|; for thus it was commanded, as we read in Deuteronomy 14:28. Though, then, the Israelites worshipped God apparently in the strictest manner, yet Amos declares that the whole was vain and of no worth, yea, abominable before God, and that the more they wearied themselves, the more they kindled the wrath of God against themselves. And to the same purpose is the next verse.

And burn incense with the leaven of thank offering He speaks of peace-offerings; sacrifices of thanksgiving were wont to be offered with leaven; but with other sacrifices they presented cakes and unleavened bread. It was lawful in peace-offerings to offer leaven. However sedulous, then, the Israelites were in performing these rites, the Prophet intimates that they were in no way approved by God inasmuch as they had departed from the pure command of the law. Some take leaven in a bad sense, as meaning a vicious and impure sacrifice, which the law required to be free from leaven; but this view seems not suitable here; for nothing is here condemned in the Israelites, but that they had departed from what the law prescribed, that they had presumptuously changed the place of the temple, and also raised up a new priesthood. They were in other things careful and diligent enough; but this defection was the chief abomination. It could not then be, that God would approve of deprivations; for obedience, as it is said elsewhere, is of more account before him than all sacrifices, (1 Samuel 15:22) Proclaim, he says, ndvvt, nudabut, voluntary oblations. What he means is, |Though ye not only offer sacrifices morning and evenings as it has been commanded you, though ye not only present other sacrifices on festivals, but also add voluntary oblations to any extent, yet nothing pleases me.|

Bring forth then, and proclaim voluntary offerings; that is, |Appoint solemn assemblies with great pomp; yet this would be nothing else than to add sin to sin: ye are acting wickedly for this reason, -- because the very beginning is impious.|

But the last part of the verse must be noticed, For so it has pleased you, O children of Israel, saith the Lord Jehovah. By saying that the Israelites loved to do these things, he reprobates their presumption in devising at their own will new modes of worship; as though he said, |I require no sacrifices from you except those offered at Jerusalem; but ye offer them to me in a profane place. Regard then your sacrifices as offered to yourselves, and not to me.| We indeed know how hypocrites ever make God a debtor to themselves; when they undertake any labor in their frivolous ceremonies, they think that God is bound to them. But God denies that this work was done for him, for he had not enjoined it in his law. |It has thus pleased you,| he says, |Vous faites cela pour votre plaisir et bien mettez le sur vos comptes|. We then see what Amos meant here by saying, It has so pleased you, O children of Israel:' it is, as if he had said, |Ye ought to have consulted me, and simply to have obeyed my word, to have regarded what pleased me, what I have commanded; but ye have despised my word, neglected my law, and followed what pleased yourselves, and proceeded from your own fancies. Since, then, your own will is your law, seek a recompense from yourselves, for I allow none of these things. What I require is implicit submission, I look for nothing else but obedience to my law; as ye render not this but according to your own will, it is no worship of my name.|

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