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Commentary On Joel Amos Obadiah by Jean Calvin

Amos 6:12

12. Shall horses run upon the rock? will one plow there with oxen? for ye have turned judgment into gall, and the fruit of righteousness into hemlock:

12. An current in rupe equi? An arabitur bobus (est, an arabit quispiam in bobus; sed quia est verbum indefinitum, ideo verto impersonaliter, an ergo aratio fiet bobus, nempe in rupe?) quia vertistis in fel judicium et fructum justitiae in absynthium.

This verse interpreters misrepresent; for some think that the Prophet, by these figurative expressions, means, that the people were wholly unprofitable as to any thing good; as some one says, |The slothful ox wishes for the saddle, the horse wishes to plough.| They therefore suppose that this is the meaning of the words, |Ye are no more fitted to lead a good life than a horse is to run on a rock, or an ox to plough on a rock.| Others think that the Prophet complains that the order of things was subverted as though he said, |Ye have alike confounded all equity government, and justice. In short, ye have subverted all right; as when one tries to ride swiftly over a high rock, or attempts to plough there, which is contrary to the nature of things: ye are therefore become monsters.| Others, again, understand that the Prophet here complains that he had lost all his labor; for he had been singing, according to the common proverb, to the deaf. |What do I effect as to this iron generation? It is the same as if one tried to ride on the rock, to mount a rock on a swift horse; or as if one attempted to plough there; both which are impossible. So now, when I address stupid men, there is no fruit to my labor, and no advantage is gained.|

But let us see whether a fitter and a more suitable meaning can be elicited. We have already observed how secure the Israelites were; for they thought that God was, in a manner, bound to them, for he had pledged his faith to be a father to them. This adoption of God puffed up their hearts. The Prophet now reproves this presumptuous security; and, in a fitting manner, |Can a horse,| he says, |run on a rock? and can an ox plough in a stony place? So there is not among you a free course to God's blessings. Ye ought indeed to have been the vineyard and the field of the Lord; justice and judgment ought to have reigned among, you but ye have turned judgment into gall (r's, rash, which is variously taken, but as to the sense it matters but little,) ye have then turned judgment into gall, and righteousness into hemlock Since then ye are so perverse, a way for God's blessings is doubtless closed up. It cannot be that the Lord will act towards you in a manner like himself; for he must necessarily be refractory towards the refractory, as he is gentle towards the gentle|. The Prophet seems to me to mean this and if any one impartially considers the whole verse, he will easily find out the truth of what I have stated, namely, that the Prophet here reproves the supreme haughtiness of the Israelitic people, who thought God bound to them though, at the same time, they, as it were, designedly provoked his wrath. |Ye think|, he says, |that God will be always propitious to you; whence is this confidence? Is it because he has adopted you, because he made a covenant with your fathers? True he has done so; but what sort of covenant was it? What was engaged on your part? Was it not that ye would be perfect before him? But ye have turned judgment into gall, and righteousness into hemlock Since then ye are thus covenant-breakers, what can God now do? Do you wish him to proceed in the same course, and to bestow on you his blessings? Ye do not allow them to be bestowed. For ye are become like craggy rocks. How can God proceed in his course? how can he continue his benefits to you? He can certainly no more do so than a horse, however nimble he may be, can run swiftly on a rock or an ox plough on a rock.| We now understand what the Prophet means in this place. A confirmation of this view now follows, and from this connection the truth of what I have stated will become more evident.

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