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Commentary On Joel Amos Obadiah by Jean Calvin

Amos 8:7

7. The Lord hath sworn by the excellency of Jacob, Surely I will never forget any of their works.

7. Juravit Jehova per excellentiam Jacob, Si obliviscar unquam omnia opera eorum.

God, having made known the vices of the rich, now shows that he would be their judge and avenger: for were they only reproved, they would not have cared much, like the usurer mentioned by Horace, who said, |The people may hiss me, but I felicitate myself.| So also these robbers were wont to do, when they were filled: though the whole people exclaimed against them, though God thundered from heaven, they laughed everything to scorn; for they were utterly destitute of every shame; and they were also become hardened; and insatiable cupidity had so blinded and demented them, that they had cast aside every care for what was right and becoming. Since it was so, God now declares that they could not escape punishment; and that this threatening might more effectually penetrate into their hearts, the Prophet makes use of an oath in the name of God, Jehovah, he says, hath sworn by the excellency of Jacob

An old interpreter has rendered the words, |He has sworn against the pride of Jacob:| but he did not sufficiently consider the design of the Prophet; for he speaks not here of vice, but of that dignity which the Lord had conferred on the posterity of Abraham; for we have before seen this expression, I abhor the excellency of Jacob.' Some give this rendering, |I abhor the pride of Jacob,| as though God were speaking there of perverse haughtiness. But he, on the contrary, means, that the Israelites were deceived, for they thought themselves safe and secure, because they were introduced into great favor by a singular privilege. |This,| the Lord says, |will profit them nothing: I have hitherto been kind and bountiful to the children of Abraham; but I now abhor this whole dignity.| So also he says now in this place, Jehovah hath sworn by the excellency of Jacob. They were proud of their dignity which yet was the free gift of God, hence God interposes a form of oath, the fittest to reprove their presumption. Some at the same time give this translation, |By myself, (at least they give this explanation,) by myself have I sworn:| for God was the glory of Jacob. Others think that by this word, g'vn, gaun, is designated the sanctuary; for this was the excellency of Jacob, because God had chosen it as a habitation for himself in the midst of his people: hence, also, He is often said to dwell between the cherubim; not that he was inclosed in the sanctuary, but because the people perceived there his presence, his favor, and his power. But I rather understand by the term, excellency, in this place, the adoption, by which God had separated for himself that people from the rest of the world. Sworn then hath Jehovah. How? By the excellency of Jacob: and thus he glances in a severe manner at the ingratitude of the people, as they did not own themselves to be in every respect bound to God; for they had been peculiarly chosen, when yet other nations in many things excelled them. It was doubtless an invaluable favor for that ignoble people to have been chosen to be God's peculiar possession and heritage. Hence the Prophet now rightly introduces God as being angry; and the form of the oath is suited to set forth the people's ingratitude: |What! do ye now rise up against me, and elevate your horns? By what right? Under what pretext? Who are ye? I chose you, and ye truly repay me with this reward, -- that though ye owe me all things, ye seek to defraud me of my right. I therefore swear by the excellency of Jacob, -- I swear by the benefits which I conferred on you, -- that I will not allow that which is justly precious in my sight to be disgracefully profaned. Whatever then I have hitherto bestowed on you, I will return on your own heads, and, as ye deserve, ye shall miserably perish.| This is the meaning.

We hence see that the oath which the Prophet uses, ought to be applied to the present case. He says, I shall never forget all your works, that is, none of your works shall be passed by unpunished. For though conscience sometimes disturbs hypocrites yet they think that many things may be concealed; and if the hundredth part, or at farthest the tenth, must be accounted for, they think this to be quite enough: |Why! God may perhaps observe this or that, but many faults will escape him.| Since then hypocrites thus heedlessly deceive themselves, the Prophet says, |Nothing can ever be hid from my sight; nay, as I now know all their works, I will show that all their sins are recorded in my books, in my memory, so that all things shall at last be called to an account.| It now follows --

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