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Commentary On Joel Amos Obadiah by Jean Calvin

Amos 5:8

8. Seek him that maketh the seven stars and Orion, and turneth the shadow of death into the morning, and maketh the day dark with night: that calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth: The LORD is his name:

8. Qui facit Pleiades et Orionem, qui convertit in lucem matutinam tenebras, et diem in noctem obtenebrescere facit: qui vocat aquas maris et effundit super superficiem terrae: Jehova nomen ejus.

Some interpreters connect this verse with the former, and think that what the Prophet had said before is here explained; but they are greatly mistaken, and misrepresent the meaning of the Prophet. We have indeed said, that the Prophet shows in that verse that the Israelites were not only perfidious and covenant-breakers with regard to God, having fallen away from his pure worship, but that they also acted iniquitously and dishonestly towards men: but these interpreters think that God is, by a metaphor, called righteousness and that religion is called judgment. This is in no way the mind of the Prophet; nay, it is, as I have already said, wholly different.

What, then, does the Prophet mean? I take this verse by itself; but yet we must see why the Prophet proclaims to us, in such sublime terms, the power of God. We know how heedlessly hypocrites trifle with Gods as though they had to do with a child: for they imagine a god according to their own fancy; yea, they transform him whenever they please, and think him to be delighted with frivolous trifles. Hence it is, that the way of pacifying God is with them so easy. When in various ways they provoke God's wrath, there is in readiness some little expiation, and they think that it is a satisfaction to God. As then hypocrites imagine that God is similar to a dead idol, this is the reason why the Prophet, in order to banish these delusions, shows that the nature of God is far different. |What sort of being,| he says, |do you think God to be? for ye bring your worthless and frivolous expiations as though God would be satisfied with these trifles, as though he were a child or some silly woman: but God is He who makes the Pleiades and Orion, who turns darkness into morning, who changes day into night, who pours forth on the earth the waters of the sea Go to now, and set forth your play-things, as though access to God were open to you, when ye labor to pacify him with your trifles.| We now perceive the Prophet's object: we see how this verse ought to be taken separately, and yet to be connected with the main discourse of the Prophet; for after having inveighed against the gross vices of the people, seeing he had to contend with the headstrong, yea, with the mockers of God, he grows angry and sharply exclaims, |What do ye think or feign God to be?| Then the Prophet sets forth the character of God as being far different from what hypocrites imagine him to be in their own fancies. |What are your notions of him?| he says. |You indeed make God to be like a child; but he made the Pleiades and Orion.|

Some translate kymh, kime, Arcturus. There is no need of laboring much about such names; for the Jews, ignorant of the liberal sciences, cannot at this day certainly determine what stars are meant; and they show also their complete ignorance as to herbs. They are indeed bold enough; they define what every word means; but yet they betray, as I have said, their own want of knowledge. And our Prophet was a shepherd, and had never learnt astronomy in his youth, or in his manhood. He therefore speaks of the stars according to the common notions of his age: but he, no doubt, selected two stars of an opposite influence. The Pleiades (which are also called the seven Stars) are, we know, mild; for when they rise, they moderate the rigor of the cold, and also bring with them the vernal rain. But Orion is a fiercer star, and ever excites grievous and turbulent commotions both at its rising and setting. This being the case, the Prophet names here those stars most commonly known. He says |Since the Lord changes the seasons, so that the mildness of the spring follows the rigor of winter, and since days succeed nights, and darkness comes after the light, and since it is God who renders a serene heaven suddenly cloudy by raising vapors from the veins of the earth, or from the sea, since all these changes manifest to us the wonderful power of God, how is it that men so presumptuously trifle with him? Whence is this so great a stupidity, unless they wholly overlook the works of God, and leave him a name only, and see not what is before their eyes?| We hence see how beautifully and how strikingly the Prophet does here set forth the power of God, and how opportunely he speaks of it. He then maketh the Pleiades and Orion

And he adds, He changeth darkness into the morning, he maketh the day to grow dark into night Here he brings before us the various changes of times. The night turns not into day by chance, nor does darkness come over the earth by chance when the sun has ceased to shine. Since then this variety ought to awaken even the unwilling, and to constrain them to adore God, how is it that his majesty is treated by men with such mockery, that they bring their frivolous expiations, and think him to be no more angry with them when they present to him what is worthless and childish, as when a nurse by a pleasing sound soothes an infant? I say again, whence is this so great a stupor, except that men willfully close their eyes to so bright a display, by which God shows himself to us, that he might constrain us all to adore his name? We now see why the Prophet describes the various changes which daily take place.

He speaks also of the waters of the sea, Who calleth, he says, the waters of the sea, and poureth them on the surface of the earth Some explain this of fountains; for they think that all waters proceed from the sea, and that fountains are nothing else but as it were the eyes of the sea: but this passage ought rather to be viewed as referring to rains; for the power of God is not so conspicuous in the waters which come from the earth, as when he suddenly darkens the heavens with vapors. For whence is it, that the heavens, a while ago clear, is now cloudy? We see clouds rising, -- but at whose command? Philosophers indeed assign some natural causes; they say that vapors are drawn up both from the earth and the sea by the heat of the sun: but why is this done to-day rather than yesterday? Whence is this diversity, except that God shows that the element of water is under his control, and also the air itself, as veil as the vapors, which are formed as it were out of nothing? For what is vapor but gross air, or air condensed? and yet vapors arise from the hollow places of the earth as well as from the sea. Certainly the water could not of itself produce a new element: it is ponderous, and vapors rise up on high: how is it that water thus loses its own nature? But vapors are in a middle state between air and water, and yet they ascend above the air, and arise from the earth to the heavens. The Prophet therefore does not without reason say, that waters are called, that is, that these vapors are called, from the sea, and are afterwards poured on the surface of the earth. This may be understood of the clouds as well as of rain; for clouds extend over the earth and surround us; and rain is poured on the earth. This is doubtless the wonderful work of God.

Hence the Prophet concludes, Jehovah is his name It is not the idol which you have devised for yourselves; for your expiations might indeed draw a smile from a child but they cannot satisfy the judgment of God. Then think that you have to do with God himself, and let these fallacious delusions deceive you no longer.| It follows --

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