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Commentary On Joel Amos Obadiah by Jean Calvin

Amos 7:16

16. Now therefore hear thou the word of the Lord: Thou sayest Prophesy not against Israel, and drop not thy word against the house of Isaac.

16. Et nunc audi verbum Jehova tu, qui dicis, Ne prophetes super Israel, et ne stilles (vel, loquaris) super domum Isaac.

17. Therefore thus saith the Lord: Thy wife shall be an harlot in the city, and thy sons and thy daughters shall fall by the sword, and thy land shall be divided by line; and thou shalt die in a polluted land: and Israel shall surely go into captivity forth of his land.

17. Propterea sic dicit Jehova, Uxor tua in urbe prostituetur, et filii tui et filiae tuae gladio cadent, et terra tua funiculo devidetur, et tu in terra polluta morieris: et Israel migrando migrabit e terra sua (ad verbum est, de super terram suam.)

Amos having shown that he must obey God, who had committed to him the office of teaching, now turns his discourse to Amaziah, and points out what he would gain by his insolence in daring to forbid a Prophet, an ambassador of the God of heaven, to proclaim what he had in command. As, then, Amaziah had proceeded into such a degree of rashness or rather of madness Amos now assails him and says, Hear then now the word of Jehovah He sets here the word or the decree of God in opposition to the prohibition of Amaziah: for the ungodly priest had forbidden God's servant to proclaim his words any more in the land of Israel: |Who art thou? Thou indeed thus speakest; but God will also speak in his turn.| He shows, at the same time, the difference between the speech of Amaziah and the word of God: the impostor had indeed attempted to terrify the holy man so as to makehim to desist from his office, though the attempt was vain; but Amos shows that God's word would not be without effect: |Whether I hold my peace or speak,| he seems to say, |this vengeance is suspended over thee.| But he, at the same time, connects God's vengeance with his doctrine; for this was also necessary, that the ungodly priest might know that he gained nothing else, by attempting to do everything, than that he had doubly increased the vengeance of God.

There is, therefore, great emphasis in these words, Now hear the word of Jehovah thou who sayest, Prophesy not. Amaziah was indeed worthy of being destroyed by God a hundred times, together with all his offspring: but Amos intimates that God's wrath was especially kindled by this madness, -- that Amaziah dared to put a restraint on God, and to forbid his Spirit freely to reprove the sins of the whole people. Since, then, he proceeded so far, Amos shows that he would have justly to suffer the punishment due to his presumption, yea, to his furious and sacrilegious audacity, inasmuch as he set himself up against God, and sought to take from him his supreme authority, for nothing belongs more peculiarly to God than the office of judging the world; and this he does by his word and his Prophets. As, then, Amaziah had attempted to rob God of his own right and authority, the Prophet shows that vengeance had been thereby increased: Thou then, who sayest, Prophesy not against Israel, and speak not, hear the word of Jehovah

Remarkable is this passage, and from it we learn that nothing is better for us, when God rebukes us, than to descend into our own consciences, and to submit to the sentence which proceeds from his mouth, and humbly to entreat pardon as soon as he condemns us: for if we be refractory, God will not cease to speak, though we a hundred times forbid him; he will therefore go on notwithstanding our unwillingness. Further, we may vomit forth many blasphemies; but what can our clamorous words do? The Lord will, at the same time, speak with effect; he will not scatter his threatening in the air, but will really fulfill what proceeds from his mouth; and for this reason Paul compares heavenly truth to a sword, for vengeance is prepared for despisers. We ought therefore to take notice of this in the Prophet's words, -- that when profane men attempt to repel every tenth and all threatening, they gain nothing by their perverseness; for the lord will exercise his own right; and he will also join to his word, as they say, its execution. Thou then who sayest, Prophesy not, hear the word of Jehovah; though thou mayest growl, yet God will not be hindered by these thy commands; but he will ever continue complete in his own authority.| And he mentions word, as we have already said, to show that the truth, with which the ungodly contend, is connected with the power of God. God might indeed destroy all the unbelieving in silence, without uttering his voice; but he will have his Word honored, that the ungodly may know that they contend in vain, while they vomit forth their rage against his word, for they will at length find that in his word is included their condemnation.

Now, when he says, Prophecy not against Israel, and speak not against the house of Isaac, we may learn again from these words, that the word Isaac is used by the Prophet by way of concession; for the people of Israel were then wont to adduce the example of this holy patriarch. Thus superstitious men, neglecting the law of God, the common rule, ever turn aside to the examples of the saints; and they do this without any discrimination; nay, as their minds are perverted, when anything has been wrongfully done by the fathers, they instantly lay hold on it: and then, when there is anything peculiar, which God had approved in the fathers but wished not to be drawn, as they commonly say, into a precedent, the superstitious think that they have the best reason in their favor, when they can set up such a shield against God. As, then, the Israelites had at that time the name of their father Isaac in their mouths while they were foolishly worshipping God in Bethel and in other places, contrary to what the law prescribed, the Prophet Amos designedly repeats here again the name of Isaac, expressing it probably in imitation of what had been said by Amaziah.

Now follows a denunciation, Therefore thus saith Jehovah This lkn, lacen, therefore, shows that Amaziah suffered punishment, not only because he had corrupted God's worship, because he had deceived the people by his impostures and because he had made gain by the disguise of religion; but because he had insolently dared to oppose the authority of God, and to turn aside the Prophet from his office, both by hidden crafts and by open violence. Inasmuch then as he had attempted to do this, Amos now declares that punishment awaited him. We hence see that destruction is doubly increased, when we set up a hard and iron neck against God, who would have us to be pliant, and when he reproves us, requires from us at least this modesty -- that we confess that we have sinned. But when we evade, or when we proceed still outward, this issue will at last follow -- that God will execute double vengeance on account of our obstinacy. Therefore then Jehovah saith: and O! that this were deeply engraven on the hearts of men; there would not then be so much rebellion at this day prevailing in the world. But we see how daring men are; for as soon as the Lord severely reproves them, they murmur; and then, if they have any authority they stretch every nerve to take away from God his own rights, and from his servants their liberty. At the same time, when we observe the ungodly to be so blind, that they perceive not the vengeance, such as the Prophet here denounces, to be nigh them, and dread it not, it behooves us duly to weigh what the Prophet here declares and that is, that perverse men, as I have already said, do gain this only by their obstinacy -- that they more and more inflame God's displeasure.

With respect to the kind of punishment he was to suffer, it is said, Thy wife in the city shall be wanton: it is so literally; but the Prophet speaks not here of voluntary wantonness. He then intimates that Amaziah could not escape punishment, but that his wife would be made a prostitute, when the enemies occupied the land of Israel. We indeed know that it was a common thing for conquerors to abuse women: and well would it be, were the practice abolished at this day. Besides, it was deemed lawful in that age for the conqueror to take to himself not only the daughter but also the wife of another. This then is the reason why the Prophet says, Thy wife shall be a prostitute. But he says, in the city; which was far more grievous, than if the wife of Amaziah had been led to a distance, and suffered that reproach in an unknown country: it would have less wounded the mind of Amaziah, if the enemies had taken away his wife, and this disgrace had continued unknown to him, it being done in a distant land. But when his wife was publicly and before the eyes of all constrained to submit to this baseness and turpitude, it was much more hard to be endured, and occasioned much greater grief. We hence see that the punishment was much increased by this circumstance, which the Prophet states when he says, Thy wife shall in the city be a prostitute.

Then it follows, Thy sons and thy daughters shall by the sword fall It is a second punishment, when he declares, that the sons and also the daughters of the ungodly priest would be slain by the enemies. It was indeed probable, that some also of the common people had suffered the same evils; but God no doubt punished the willfulness and madness of Amaziah for having dared to resist admonitions as well as threatening.

But he also adds, Thy land shall be divided by a line He means by this statement, that there should be none to succeed Amaziah; but that whatever land he possessed should become a prey to the enemies. Thy land then shall be divided by a line. It may at the same time be, that Amos speaks here generally of the land of Israel; and this seems to me probable. I indeed allow that neither by Amaziah nor by the other priests was the law of God kept; but we yet know that there was some affinity between the lawful priesthood, and the spurious priesthood which the first Jeroboam had introduced. Hence I conjecture that Amaziah had no possessions, it being lawful for priests to have only gardens and pastures for their cattle; but they cultivated no lands. I am therefore disposed to extend to the whole people what is said of the land of one man; and this opinion is confirmed by what immediately follows.

But thou shalt die in a polluted land. He called that the land of Amaziah in which he and the rest of the people dwelt; but he calls the land into which he, with all the rest, were to be driven, a polluted land. If any one objects and says that this punishment did not apply to one man, the ready answer is this, -- that God meant that an especial mark should be imprinted on his common judgment, that Amaziah might know, that he had as it were accelerated God's vengeance, which yet he intended to turn aside, when he sent away, as we have seen, the Prophet Amos into the land of Judah.

It follows at last, Israel by migrating shall migrate from his own land We here see that the Prophet proclaimed no private threatening, either to Amaziah himself or to his wife or to his children, but extended his discourse to the whole people: the fact at the same time remains unchanged that God intended to punish the perverseness of that ungodly man, while executing his vengeance on the whole people. Now follows --

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