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Commentary On Joel Amos Obadiah by Jean Calvin

Amos 6:10

10. And a man's uncle shall take him up, and he that burneth him, to bring out the bones out of the house, and shall say unto him that is by the sides of the house, Is there yet any with thee? and he shall say, No. Then shall he say, Hold thy tongue: for we may not make mention of the name of the Lord

10. Et tollet eum patruus ejus et avunculus ejus (vel, comburet eum) ad tollendum ossa e domo, et dicet ad eum qui erit in lateribus domus, An adhuc quispiam tecum? et dicet, Finis est (ad verbum, nihil;) et dicet, Tace; quia non licet recordari nominis Jehovae.

In the beginning of the verse the Prophet expresses more clearly what he had just said, -- that the pestilence would be so severe as to consume the whole family: for when he speaks of an uncle coming to bury the dead, he shows, that unless neighbors performed their duty, bodies would remain without the honor of a burial: but this never happened, except during extreme devastation; for though the pestilence destroyed many in the same city, there were yet always some who buried the dead. When therefore it was necessary for uncles to perform this office, it was evident how great the calamity would be. This the Prophet meant to express in these words, His uncle shall take him away; that is, his uncle shall take away each of the dead. But this office, being servile, as I have said, was wont to be committed to mercenaries; and when a father or an uncle was constrained to do this, it was a proof of great confusion.

An uncle then shall come and take him away srph, shireph, means to burn; it is written here with s, but the change of s into s is well known. Hence, many render the words, and shall burn him in order to take away his bones; and this interpretation seems to suit the place. Then it is, |he will burn him, that he may carry his bones out of the house|. Dead bodies, as it is well known, were usually carried forth and burnt publicly. But as one man could not carry out a dead body especially an old man, and Amos mentions an uncle, he says, that another plan would be necessary, that the uncle would burn his nephews at home, that he might have the bones only to carry out, as he could not carry forth their dead bodies. This seems to me to be the real meaning of the Prophet. For they who explain this of a maternal uncle, have no reason on their side: it was enough to mention one only when men were so few. If indeed a maternal uncle be added to the paternal one, a great number of men would seem to have been still remaining. But when mention is made only of one uncle, this circumstance agrees best with what I have stated. An uncle shall come, he shall take him; and then, he will burn him that he may carry forth his bones. The bones could be easier carried out when the body was burnt, for the burden was not so heavy. We now then perceive the meaning of the words.

It follows, And he will say to him who shall be at the sides of the house. By the sides of the house, understand the next dwellings. He will then inquire, Is there yet any one with thee? that is, Is any one of thy neighbors alive? We cannot indeed explain the sides of the house as meaning the inner parts of the house, except one understands a reference to be made to strangers or lodgers, as though the Prophet said, |If there will be any lodger, he will seek retreat in some corner of the house.| Then the uncle, when the whole house had become desolate, should he by chance meet a guest, says, |Is there any one with thee? And he shall say, There is an end|, or a decay. Though there be some ambiguity in the words, we yet see what the Prophet meant, and what he had in view. He indeed confirms what he had previously declared in the person of God, which was, -- that though ten remained alive in one house, yet all of them would die together, so that there would not be, no not one survivor; for the uncle, on inquiring respecting his nephews, whether any remained, would hear, that there was an end, that all had perished together. Now, the design of these words was to strike men with terror; for we know how great their stupidity is, as long as God spares them: but when they feel his hand, they then dread, though they are not moved by any threatenings. This, then, is the reason why the Prophet denounces here at large on the Israelites the dreadful judgment, which they would not dread, being, as we have seen, extremely secure and thoughtless.

It follows, And he will say; Be silent; for it is not meet to mention the name of Jehovah This place is differently explained. Some think that their extreme wickedness is here noticed, that those who died, even in their last moments, would not mention the name of God. They thus then expound the words, -- |Be silent,| as though it were the expression of one indignant or of one who denied God. Be silent, then; for they remembered not the name of God, that is, those whom God would have humbled, repented not of their perverseness; even death itself could not bring them to the right way. Others give this exposition: Be silent, for it is not meet to mention the name of God; that is, |What can God's name do to us? for we abhor it as a bad and an unhappy omen; for God brings us no joy|. The wicked dread the name of God, and wish it to be wholly obliterated. But it seems to me that the Prophet's design is another, which interpreters have not sufficiently weighed. We first find that the hypocrites, whom he reproves, boasted of God's name; for they said in adversity that it was the day of the Lord, as though they expected a change for the better. The Prophet now says, that the time would come when this boasting would cease, for they would perceive that God was offended with them, and they would no longer falsely pretend his name, as they had been wont to do. There is then a contrast to be understood between what is here said, and what is said in a former verse. The Prophet had previously inveighed against their rash vaunting, when they pretended the name of God without any shame, |O! we are God's people, we are a holy nation, we are God's heritage|. As, then, they were become thus arrogant, and yet had cast away God far from them, the Prophet now says, |These delusions shall then cease, by which ye now deceive yourselves; God will not suffer you wickedly to abuse his name, as we have ever hitherto done; and ye still go on in this iniquity. Ye shall at that time,| he says, |be silent respecting God's name; yea, it will be a dread to you.|

We now apprehend the Prophet's object: he means that such would be the grievousness of this last calamity, that the Israelites would really find that God was an enemy incensed against them, so that they would cast aside the false glorying which filled them with pride; yea, that they would dread the very name of God, for they would know that nothing would be better for them than to be hid from his presence. As it is said of the reprobate,

They will say to the mountains, Cover us;
and to the hills, Bury us,'
(Revelation 6:16)

so also in this place, the Prophet says, that when hypocrites shall be struck and seriously frightened by God's judgments, their false vauntings will continue no longer; for they would find that to be near God is to be near destruction. Be silent, then, for there is no reason for us to remember the name of Jehovah. It follows --

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