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Commentary On Joel Amos Obadiah by Jean Calvin

Amos 8:5

5. Saying, When will the new moon be gone, that we may sell corn? and the sabbath, that we may set forth wheat, making the ephah small, and the shekel great, and falsifying the balances by deceit?

5. Dicendo, Quando transibit mensis, ut vendamus frumentum? et sabbathum, ut aperiamus (hoc est, depromamus) triticum, et attenuemus ephah? (hoc est, mensuram minuemus; scimus enim ephah fuisse communem mensuram: quando ergo minuemus mensuram,) et augemus sql, siclum, et pervertamus stateras dolosas?

The Prophet goes on here with the same subject; for this could not apply to the whole people, but only to the plunderers who were able to oppress the miserable and the poor among the common people, and who had a great abundance of corn: the same we see at this day, -- a few men in time of want have provisions hoarded up, so that they as it were put to death miserable men by reducing them to want. Since then the few rich held the whole people in a state of famine, the Prophet says here, |Do you think that God deals too rigidly or too cruelly with your inasmuch as ye have hitherto been killing men with misery and want?| Were any one to object, and say, that the slaughter which the Prophet has already threatened was to be common to the whole people, and that therefore it is now improperly stated, that the wrongs done to the people were brought on them by a few men: to this I answer, that there were other vices among the people which required to be corrected, and this we have already seen, and shall see again in other parts; but it was necessary to make a beginning with the proud men, who, relying on their own dignity, thought themselves exempt and free from the common lot. Hence it was necessary to close their mouths: and further, the Prophet did not spare others in their turn. But we see to what extent of mad folly haughty men, and such as possess worldly riches and powers would run, were not the Lord to restrain and check them. This is the reason why the Prophet now especially addresses them.

Ye therefore say, When will pass the month, that we may sell corn? Some take chds, chedash, month, for the new-moon; and it is sometimes so taken and this interpretation is probable; for immediately follows the word, Sabbath. When then will pass the month, and when will pass Sabbath, that we may be able to sell our corn? As it was not lawful to carry on business either on the Sabbath or on the new-moon, whenever they rested but one day, they thought that so much time was lost to them; for we see that the avaricious grow weary, as their cupidity ever excites them, for they are like an oven: and since they are thus hot, if an hour is lost they think that a whole year has passed away; they calculate the very moments of time. |How is it,| they say, |there is no merchant coming? I have now rested one day, and I have not gained a farthing.| As then the avaricious are so extremely careful, it is probable that the Prophet here refers to this disease of the mind, as though he said, |You have no rest, no relaxation. God has commanded his people to rest on every new-moon; and his will also is, that you should abstain from every work on the seventh day: ye think it is time as lost, for ye get no gain.| But another exposition is equally probable, which is this, -- that they expected corn to be every month dearer; as those robbers in our day gape for gain, who from every quarter heap together corn, and thus reduce us to want; they look forward, month after month, and think that some calamity may happen to increase the price of corn; frost or rain may come, some disaster may take place; when the spring passes away, there may come some hail or mildew; in short, they are, as it were, laying in wait for some evil. This meaning does not ill suit this place; at the same time they refer it to the intercalary month, which being an addition, prolongs time, so that the year becomes longer: and what follows, respecting the Sabbath corresponds well with this view; as the word is to be taken in another sense than of the seventh day, for we know that on every seventh year there was no sloughing, no cultivation of the land, among the Jews; and the corn was then dearer, when there was no crop. Thus then there was a prey as it were provided for the avaricious and the extortioners.

When then will pass the Sabbath, that we may open our storehouses? They closed their storehouses, until the whole year, without cultivation or produce or harvest, had passed away; and then they opened their storehouses, or at least it was the time when they in a great measure opened them. Since then they so cruelly dealt with the people, the Prophet justly reproves them, and shows that God did not too rigidly treat theme but recompensed them with such a reward as they merited. Other matters we shall defer to the next Lecture.

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