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Commentary On Joel Amos Obadiah by Jean Calvin

Amos 6:8

8. The Lord God hath sworn by himself, saith the Lord the God of hosts, I abhor the excellency of Jacob, and hate his palaces: therefore will I deliver up the city with all that is therein.

8. Juravit Dominus Jehova per animam suam, dicit Jehova, Deus exercituum, Detestor ego excellentiam Jacob, palatia ejus odio habeo, et tradam urbem et plenitudinem ejus.

God here declares that he would not desist, because he had hitherto loaded his people with many benefits: for he had now changed his purpose, so that he would no longer continue his favors. And this was designedly added by the Prophet; for hypocrites, we know, grow hardened, when they consider what dignity had been conferred on them; for they think their possessions to be firm and perpetual: hence they become haughty towards God. Since then hypocrites act thus foolishly, the Prophet justly says that it would avail them nothing, that they had hitherto excelled in many endowments for God no longer regarded their excellency.

The word g'vn, gaun, means in Hebrew pride and also excellency; but it is to be taken here in a good sense, as it is in many other places. In Isaiah 2:10, it cannot be taken otherwise than for glory, for it is applied to God. So also in Psalm 47:4, The glory of Jacob, whom I loved; he had fixed the inheritance of God.' The gifts of God ever deserve praise: hence the Prophet in this place inveighs not against pride; but, on the contrary, he shows that the Israelites were deceived; for they set up their excellency and nobility in opposition to God, as though they were to be thus exempt from all punishment. God then says that he had now rejected this excellency, which yet was his gift; but as the Israelites had abused his benefits, they were therefore to be esteemed of no account. The meaning then is, -- that there is no acceptance of persons before God, that the dignity which had been conferred on the people of Israel was now of no moment; for it was a mere mask: they were unworthy of adoption, they were unworthy of the priesthood and kingdom. It was then the same as if the Prophet had said, |I will judge you as the common people and heathens; for your dignity, of which ye are stripped, is now of no account with me.| They had indeed long before departed from God; they were therefore wholly unworthy of being owned by God as his inheritance.

I detest then the excellency of Jacob, and his palaces; that is, all the wealth with which they have been hitherto adorned. But the Prophet does not take either palaces or excellency in a bad sense; on the contrary, he shows that God's blessings are no safeguards to the wicked, so as to avoid the judgment which they deserve.

He afterwards adds, I will deliver up the city and its fullness; that is, |Though ye are now full of wealth, I will empty you of all your abundance|. Hence, I will deliver up the city together with its fullness, that is, its opulence.

But that this threatening might not be slighted, the Prophet confirms it by interposing an oath. Hence he says, that God had sworn. And as we know that God's name is precious to him, it is certain that it was not in vain adduced here, but on account of the hardness and contumacy of those who were wont to set at nought all the prophecies, and were wont in particular to regard as nothing all threatenings. This was the reason why the Prophet wished thus to ratify what he had said: it was, that hypocrites might understand that they could not escape the vengeance which he had denounced. The form of swearing, as it is, may seem apparently improper; but God in this place puts on the character of man, as he does often in other places. He swears by his soul, that is, by his life, as though he were one of mankind. But we ought to accustom ourselves to such forms, in which God familiarly accommodates himself to our capacities: for what Hilary philosophizes about the soul, as though God the Father swore by his own wisdom, is frivolous: that good man certainly exposed his own doctrine to ridicule, while he was attempting to refute the Arians. |God the Father, he says, swears by his own wisdom. Now he who is wont to swear by himself, could not swear by an inferior; but wisdom is the only begotten Son of God: hence it follows, that the Son is equal to the Father.| These things at first sight seem plausible; but they are puerile trifles.

Let it then be observed, that God borrows from men this mode of swearing; as though he said, |If men be believed when swearing by their life, which yet is evanescent, of how much greater weight must that oath be, by which I pledge my own life?| Since God thus speaks, surely the whole world ought to tremble. We now apprehend the Prophet's design. Let us go on --

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