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Commentary On Joel Amos Obadiah by Jean Calvin

Amos 6:4

4. That lie upon beds of ivory, and stretch themselves upon their couches, and eat the lambs out of the flock, and the calves out of the midst of the stall;

4. Qui decumbunt (vel, dormiunt) in lectis eburneis et se extendunt super strata sua (alii vertunt, et superflua; alii, induti sunt tiaris; sed utrumque mihi videtur coactum,) qui comedunt agnos e grege (hoc est, selectos) et vitulos e medio saginarii (vel, opimi pascui; nam mrvq quidam ita vertunt.)

Amos still pursues the reproof we have noticed at the beginning of the chapter, -- that the chief men, of whom he speaks, cast away from them all cares and anxieties, and indulged in pleasures, while the whole country was miserably distressed. We must ever bear in mind what I have already said, -- that luxury is not simply reprehended by the Prophet, as some incorrectly think, without sufficiently considering what is said, for it is not what the Prophet treats of; but he upbraids the Israelites for setting up an iron neck against God's judgments, yea, for shamelessly trifling with God, while he was endeavoring to lead them by degrees to repentance. The Prophet complains that nothing availed with them.

He then says, first, that they slept on ivory beds. To use ivory beds was not in itself bad, except that excess is ever to be condemned; for, when we give up ourselves to pomps and pleasures, we certainly are not then free from sin: indeed, every desire for present things, which exceeds moderation, is ever justly reprehensible. And when men greedily seek splendor and display, or become ambitious and proud, or are given to delicacies, they are guilty of vices ever condemned by God. But it might be, that one used an ivory bed, who was yet willing to lie on the ground: for we know that there was then a great abundance of ivory, and that it was commonly used in Asia. Italy formerly knew not what it was to use a bed of ivory, that is, before the victory of Lucius Scipio: but after the king Antiochus was conquered, then Italy freely used ivory beds and fineries; and thus luxury broke down their courage and effeminated them.

I will come now to our Prophet: it might have been that ivory was not then so valuable in Judea: they might then have used ivory beds without blame. But Amos ever regards the miseries of those times. The rich then ought to have given up all their luxuries, and to have betaken themselves to dust and ashes, when they saw that God was incensed with them, when they saw that the fire of his vengeance was kindled. We now then perceive why Amos was so indignant against those who slept on ivory beds.

He adds, And who extend themselves on their beds: for srch, sarech, is properly to extend; it means also to become fetid; and further, it means to be superfluous; and therefore some render the words, |upon ivory beds and superfluities;| but this is strained, and agrees not with what follows, upon their couches. The Prophet then, I have no doubt, points out here the manners of those who so heedlessly indulged themselves: |Ye extend,| he says, |your legs and your arms on your couches, as idle men, accustomed to indulgences, are wont to do. But the Lord will awaken you in a new way; his scourges ought to have roused you, but ye remain asleep. Hence, since God could not terrify you by his rods, nothing more remains but to draw you forth against your will to be punished.| This was the reason why the Prophet said that they extended themselves on their couches.

Ye eat also the lambs from the flock, and the calves from the midst of the rich pasture, or of the stall. I prefer taking mrvq, merebek, for folds. Since then they loved fat meat, the Prophet reproves this luxury: he had indeed in view, as it has been already said, the then calamitous time; for if the rich had in their usual way feasted, and had even taken fat meat, they would not have deserved so severe a punishment: but when the Lord called them to mourning, and when the signals of his wrath spread horror all around, it was a stupidity not to be endured, for them to continue their indulgences, which they ought, on the contrary, to have renounced. Indeed, this passage agrees with that of Isaiah, to which I have already referred. It now follows --

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