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Commentary On Joel Amos Obadiah by Jean Calvin

Amos 5:21-23

21. I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies.

21. Odi, reprobavi dies festos vestros, et non olfaciam in solennitatibus vestris (alii legunt, sacrificia vestra, et non olfaciam in congregationibus vestris; sed de vocibus postea dicam suo loco.)

22. Though ye offer me burnt offerings and your meat offerings, I will not accept them: neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat beasts.

22. Certe si obtuleritis mihi holocausta et munera vestra, grata non habebo: et pacifica pinguium vestrorum non respiciam.

23. Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols.

23. Tolle a me multitudinem canticorum tuorum; et concertum lyrarum tuarum non audiam.

Here the Prophet, anticipating an objection, shows that the Israelites deceived themselves, for they believed that God was pacified by their sacrifices: he declares all these to be useless; not only, as I think, because they themselves were impure; but because all their sacrifices were mere profanations. We have said elsewhere that sacrifices are often reprehended by the Prophets, when not accompanied by godliness and sincerity: for why did God command sacrifices to be offered to him under the law, except as religious exercises? It was hence necessary that they should be accompanied with penitence and faith. But hypocrites thought, as we have seen, that they thereby discharged their whole duty: it was then a profanation of divine worship. Though the Jews, as to the external form, had not departed from the rule of the law, yet their sacrifices were vicious, and repudiated by God: |I cannot bear them -- they are a weariness to me -- I repudiate them -- I loathe them,| -- these are expressions we meet with every where in Isaiah. And yet hypocrites regarded their worship as conformable to the law; but impurity of heart vitiated all their works, and this was the reason that God rejected every thing which the Jews thought available for holiness. But different, as I think, was the design of our Prophet: for it was not only for this reason that he blamed the Israelites, -- because they falsely pretended God's name in their sacrifices, but because they were apostates; for they had departed from the teaching of the law, and built for themselves a spurious temple.

It is yet true that they were deluded with this false notion, that their sins were expiated by sacrifices: but God reproved the Israelites, not only for this gross error, with which the Jews were also infected but for having renounced his true and lawful worship. Hence the external form of their worship deserved to be condemned; for it was not right to offer sacrifices except on mount Zion: but they, without having the ark of the covenant, devised a worship else-where, and even there worshipped the calves. We now understand the design of the Prophet: and this ought to be carefully observed, for interpreters think that the Prophet had nothing else in view, but to condemn a false presumption in the Israelites, because they sought to satisfy God with external sacrifices, while they were yet continuing obstinately in their sins. But the other evil ought to be added, which was, that they had corrupted the true worship of God even in its outward form.

Having now pointed out the prophet's object, I come to consider his words, I have hated, I have rejected, etc. The word chgg, chegig, means to leap and to dance: hence chg, cheg, signifies a sacrifice as well as a festal day. Some then render the words, |I have rejected your sacrifices,| and those which follow, thus, |I will not smell at your solemnities.| Others render the last word, |assemblies.| tsr, otser, means to restrain, and sometimes to gather: hence tsrh, ostare, means an assembly or a congregation. But tsrt, osteret, means a festal day, because the people, as it is well known, were then restrained from work, and also, because they were detained in the sanctuary. But with respect to the subject itself, it makes but little difference, whether we read assembly or a festal day: we see that what the Prophet meant was this, -- that God rejected all the rites, by which the Israelites thought that he was pacified, as though they were the most effectual expiations. He does not simply declare that they were of no account before God; but he speaks much stronger and says, that God despised and abhorred them. I regard, he says, with hatred your festal days. He speaks also of burnt offerings,

When ye offer me sacrifices and your gift, etc. mnchh, meneche, properly means a gift of flour, which was an addition to the sacrifice; but it is often taken generally for any kind of offering. It is indeed certain that the Prophet meant, that however much the Israelites accumulated their ritual observances, they did nothing towards appeasing God, inasmuch as they observed not the law that was given them; and they turned also to a wrong purpose their sacrifices; for they did not exercise themselves in piety and in the spiritual worship of God, but, on the contrary, spread veils before God, that by presenting a fictitious form of worship, they might cover all their sins; for they thought themselves to be hidden from God.

This is the reason why the Prophet declares that these offerings would not be received by God, l' 'rtsh, la areste, I will not accept them. The Prophet no doubt alludes here to those promises, which are to be found everywhere in the law, as he did when he said in the last verse, l' 'rych, la arich, I will not smell rvchh, ruch, means to smell; and Moses often uses the expression, that God is delighted with the odour of sacrifices, or with the smell of incense. But when the Lord declares that odour is pleasant to him, he means that it is so, provided the people sacrificed rightly, that is, when they brought not sacrifices as false veils to cover their sins, but as true and real evidences of their faith and repentance; God promised in that case that sacrifices would be a sweet odour to him. Now, on the contrary, he declares that the perfume would not be acceptable to him, nor sacrifices appeasing. But sacrifices not only were acceptable to God, but also pacified him. Since then the Lord had so often said, that he would be propitious to his people, when sacrifices were offered, it was necessary expressly to cut off this confidence from the Israelites, when they dealt not faithfully with God. God never disappointed his true worshipers, but ever received them into favor, provided they approached him in sincerity. But as these hypocrites dealt falsely with him, they were necessarily disappointed of their hope, as the Prophet here declares.

The peace-offerings of your fat things, he says, I will not regard God indeed promised in the law that he would regard their sacrifices provided they were lawful; but as the Israelites had in two ways departed from pure worship, God now justly says, I will not look on your sacrifices, nor on the peace-offerings of your fat things He calls them the peace-offerings of fat things, intimating, that though the beasts were the choicest, they would not yet be acceptable to him; for the Lord regards not fatness, as he needs neither meat nor drink. Then, in a word, the Prophet here sets this fatness in opposition to true godliness and obedience too. In both respects there was, as we have seen, a defect among the Israelites; for they obeyed not the law as to its outward requirements, and their hearts were impure and perverse: hence all their sacrifices were necessarily polluted and corrupt.

It follows, Take away from me the multitude of thy songs By speaking of multitude, he aims at hypocrites, who toil much in their devices without measure or end, as we see done at this day by those under the Papacy; for they accumulate endless forms of worship, and greatly weary themselves, morning and evening; in short, they spend days and nights in performing their ceremonies, and every one devises some new thing, and all these they heap together. Inasmuch, then, as men, when they have begun to turn aside from the pure word of God, continually invent various kinds of trifles, the Prophet here touches indirectly on this foolish laboriousness (stultan sedulitatem -- foolish sedulity) when he says, Take away from me the multitude of thy songs. He might have simply said, |Thy songs please me not;| but he mentions their multitude, because hypocrites, as I have said, fix no limits to their outward ceremonies: and a vast heap especially follows, when once they take to themselves the liberty of devising this or that form of worship. Hence God testifies here, that they spend labor in vain, for he rejects what he does not command, and whatever is not rightly offered to him.

And the harmony of lyres, or of musical instruments. But nvl, nabel, was an instrument, which, as to its kind, is unknown to us now. Take away, then, from me the harmony of lyres; for the verb, take away, may refer to both clauses; though some join them to the last the verb |lo l' 'sm, la ashimo, I will not hear. The difference really is very little: but their view is the most probable, who join together the two clauses, Take away from me the multitude of thy songs and the harmony of lyres;' with which thou thinkest me to be delighted. They afterwards take l' 'sm |I will not hear,| by itself. But I contend not about such minute things: it is enough to know the design of the Prophet. It now follows --

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