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Commentary On Joel Amos Obadiah by Jean Calvin

Amos 5:1

1. Hear ye this word which I take up against you, even a lamentation, O house of Israel.

1. Audite verbum hoc quod ego tollo super vos, lamentum domus Israel.

Some render the verse thus, |Hear ye this word, because upon you, or for you, I raise a lamentation:| but we shall hereafter speak more at large as to the proper rendering. Let us see what the subject is. The Prophet here denounces on the Israelites the punishment they had deserved; and yet they did not think that it was nigh; and they ferociously despised, I have no doubt, the denunciation itself, because no chance had as yet taken place, which might have pointed out such a destruction. Hence the Prophet and his threatenings were both despised.

He however threatens them here in severe terms with the judgment of God, which they feared not: and this is the reason why he says, Hear ye. It was not, indeed, without reason that he thus began and intimated that they greatly flattered themselves, nay, that they stopped their ears against wholesome counsels: the admonition would have been otherwise superfluous. The Prophet then indirectly reproves that supine indifference in which the Israelites indulged themselves.

But with regard to the words, some, as I have before mentioned, refer this lamentation to Amos himself, as though he had said, that he lamented the state of the people, finding that they were so stupid, and did not perceive how dreadful the wrath of God is. Since, then, they thus flattered themselves in their sins, those interpreters think that the Prophet here assumes the character of a mourner for that irreclaimable people. Hear, he says, this word even because I lament over you. For the more refractory the people were, the more touched with grief the prophet no doubt was: for he saw how horrible the judgment of God was, which was nigh them, on account of their stubbornness. No wonder then that the Prophet says here, that he undertook or raised lamentation for the people; and this mode of speaking is common in Scripture.

But yet I rather think that another sense is more suitable to this place, which becomes evident by putting in an exegetic particle, Hear ye then this word which I raise upon you, even a lamentation, etc. The word ms', mesha, rendered burden, is derived from the verb ns', nusha, which means to raise up: and there is a striking allusion to the subject treated of here. For the Prophet does not here simply teach the people, nor comfort them, nor does he only warn them, but he denounces on them the last punishment. We hence see the import of the expression, to raise up a word; it was the same as though he said, |I lay on you this prophecy:| for a burden is laid on the shoulders of men when God's wrath is denounced.

It afterwards follows, Even a lamentation, O house of Israel; which means, |I raise upon you a word, which will constrain you to mourn and lament: though now ye are so refractory against God, that ye spurn all warnings, and reject all threatening; yet this word shall at last prove mournful to you.| This seems to be the genuine sense of the Prophet: in the first place, he reproves the stupidity of the people of Israel, by demanding a hearing; then he reproves their contempt of God in despising all threatenings; and he shows also that this prophecy would prove mournful to them for having so long trifled with God, |The lament of the house of Israel shall be this word, which I now raise up upon you.| it follows --

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