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Commentary On Joel Amos Obadiah by Jean Calvin

Amos 5:11

11. Forasmuch therefore as your treading is upon the poor, and ye take from him burdens of wheat: ye have built houses of hewn stone, but ye shall not dwell in them; ye have planted pleasant vineyards, but ye shall not drink wine of them.

11. Quia calcastis pauperem (vel, onus imposuistis,) et onus frumenti abstulistis ab eo, domos excisionis (hoc est, ex lapide quadrato) aedificabitis, et non habitabitis in illis; vineas desiderabiles plantabitis, et non bibetis vinum earum.

The Prophet here declares, that though the judges enriched themselves by plunder, yet God would not allow them to enjoy their booty, but that he would deprive them of the great wealth they had accumulated. This is the import of the whole. We hence see that the Prophet contends not here with the common people, but professedly attacks the chief men, inasmuch as from them did proceed all the prevailing evil.

The first thing is, they imposed burdens on the poor, and then, they took away corn from them He says first, |A burden have you laid|, or, |ye have trodden on the poor;| for the verb may be taken in either sense, and it matters not which as to the import of the passage. It is not indeed often that we meet with a verb of four letters; but interpreters explain this as meaning to tread under foot or to lay a burden. The Prophet, I doubt not, accuses here the judges of not sparing miserable men, but of burdening them with tributes and exactions; for this is to burden the poor. Then he adds, |Ye have taken a load of corn|. The Prophet had doubtless fixed here on a species of cruelty in robbing others, the most detestable. When judges take money, or any other gift, it is less odious than when the poor are compelled to carry corn to them on their shoulders. It was the same as though they surrendered their very life to their plunderers; for when judges constrained loads of corn to be brought to them, it was as though they strangled the poor, or drew blood from their veins, inasmuch as they robbed them of their food and support. We now perceive what the Prophet meant: You have, he says, oppressed the poor, and taken from them a load of corn. Some render vr, ber, chosen, but improperly.

Ye shall therefore build, etc. He declares here that they would not realize their hope, though they plundered on all sides to build palaces, and though they got great possessions to enrich themselves and their heirs: |This self-love,| he says, |will deceive you; defraud, rob, plunder; but the Lord will at length strip you of all your robberies: for after having been venal, and prostituted not only your souls but your shame for gain, and after having spent much labor and expense in building, ye shall not dwell in your palaces; and when ye shall have planted vineyards with great expense and care, ye shall not drink their wine.| Isaiah also speaks in the same strain,

O plunderer, thou shalt be exposed to plunders'
(Isaiah 33:1)

Experience also teaches the same thing; for we see how the Lord transfers from one to another the possessions of this world: he who seems to provide riches after his death for his heirs for ever, passes his whole life, as we see, without enjoying his own property; for he is hungry in the midst of the greatest abundance, and even famishes himself. This is very frequently the case. And then when his abundance comes to his heirs, it falls into the hands of prodigals, who soon dissipate the whole. And sometimes the Lord allows not that such vast wealth should have heirs, and it is scattered here and there, and the very name is extinguished, though the name to such haughty and wealthy men is a great object, as they commonly wish it to be eminent in the world for some hundred ages after their death.

This passage of the Prophet ought therefore to be especially noticed. He tells us that unjust gains were laid up by these robbers and wicked plunderers, in order to amass great riches; but he adds, |The Lord will spoil them, and will not suffer them to enjoy their abundance, however anxiously they had collected it from all quarters.| Let us now proceed --

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