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Commentary On Joel Amos Obadiah by Jean Calvin

Amos 6:2

2. Pass ye unto Calneh, and see; and from thence go ye to Hamath the great: then go down to Gath of the Philistines: be they better than these kingdoms? or their border greater than your border?

2. Transite Chalneh et aspicite; ite illinc in Chamath magnam, et descendite in Gath Philistinorum; an meliores sint regnis istis? An terminus illorum major termino vestro?

By this representation Amos shows that there was no excuse for the Jews or the Israelites for sleeping in their sins, inasmuch as they could see, as it were in a mirror, the judgments which God brought on heathen nations. It is a singular favor, when God teaches us at the expense of others: for he could justly punish us as soon as we transgress; but this he does not, on the contrary he spares us; and at the same time he sets others before us as examples. This is, as we have said a singular favor: and this is the mode of teaching which our Prophet now adopts. He says, that Calneh and Hamath, and Gath, were remarkable evidences of God's wrath, by which the Israelites might learn, that they had no reason to rest on their wealth, to rely on their fortresses, and to think themselves free from all dangers; for as God had destroyed these cities, which seemed impregnable, so he could also cut off Jerusalem and Samaria, whenever he pleased. This is the real meaning of the Prophet.

Some read the sentence negatively |Are not these places better than your kingdoms?| But this is not consistent with the Prophet's words. Others attend not to the object of the Prophet; for they think that the blessings of God are here compared, as though he said, |God deals more liberally with you than with the Chaldeans, the Assyrians, and the neighboring nations.| For Calneh was situated in the plain of Babylon, as it is evident from Genesis 10:10; and Hamath was also a celebrated city, mentioned in that chapter, and in many other places; and Gath was a renowned city of the Philistines. In this opinion therefore interpreters mostly agree; that is, that there is set forth here God's bounty to the Jews and Israelites, seeing that he had favored them with a rich and fertile country, and preferred them to other nations. But this view seems not to me to be the correct one; for when a comparison is made between Calneh and Jerusalem, Babylon was no doubt the more fruitful and the more pleasant country, as we learn from all histories. The Prophet then does not speak here of the ancient condition of these places, but shows, as I have already said, that it availed these cities nothing, that they were wealthy, that they were fortified by all kinds of defenses; for God, at last, executed vengeance on them. Hence the Prophet declares that the same was now nigh the Jews and the Israelites.

|What will hinder the hand of God,| he says, |from delivering you to destruction? For if men could have arrested God's wrath by any fortresses, certainly Calneh and Hamath, and Gath, would have resisted by their forces; but the Lord has yet executed his vengeance on these cities, though fortified; your confidence then is nothing but infatuation, which deceives you.| Jeremiah uses a similar language, when he says, Go to Shiloh,' (Jeremiah 7:12) He certainly does not remind the Jews, that the Lord had more splendidly adorned them than Shiloh; but he had quite a different thing in view. Shiloh had indeed been eminent, for it had long afforded a dwelling to the ark of the covenant; the sanctuary of God had been there. But at that time the place was deserted; and Jeremiah sets before the eyes of the people its sad desolation, that they might know that they ought to dread the same event, except they repented; for if they hardened their necks, nothing could prevent God from dealing with them as he did before with the inhabitants of Shiloh.

We now then perceive the meaning of the Prophet, when he says, Go and pass into Calneh, and see In bidding them to see, he no doubt refers to the dreadful change which had taken place there. For Calneh had been a strongly fortified city, and possessed supreme power; and the neighboring country was also no less pleasant than fruitful: but it was now a solitary place; for Babylon, as it is well known, had swallowed up Calneh. Since then the place afforded such a spectacle, the Prophet rightly says, Pass over into Calneh, and see; that is consider, as in a mirror, what men can gain by their pride and haughtiness, when they harden themselves against God: for this was the cause of destruction to that celebrated city.

From thence, he says, go to Hamath, rvh, rebe, the great; which was a well-known city of Assyria; and see there, |How has it happened that a city so famous was entirely overthrown, except that the Lord could not endure so great a perverseness? As they had abused his patience, he at length executed his vengeance. The same thing also happened to your neighbors.| For the Jews and the Israelites were not far distant from Gath. Now then since there were so many evidences of God's wrath before their eyes, justly does the Prophet here inveigh against their want of thought, inasmuch as they feared not God's judgment, which was nigh at hand.

Are they then better? that is, is the condition of these cities better than that of the two kingdoms, Judah and Israel? and then, Is their border larger than your border? They have indeed been reduced to such straits, that they even pay tribute for their houses, whereas formerly they occupied a wide extent of country, and ruled, as it were, with extended wings, far and wide: but God has taken away those territories: for all these cities are become tributaries. See, he says, Is their border larger than your border? It now follows --

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