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Commentary On Joel Amos Obadiah by Jean Calvin

Amos 8:10

10. And I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation; and I will bring up sackcloth upon all loins, and baldness upon every head; and I will make it as the mourning of an only son, and the end thereof as a bitter day.

10. Et convertam dies festos vestros in luctum, et omnia cantica vestra in lamentum; et ascendere faciam super omnia dorsa (vel, super omnes lumbos) saccum, et super omne caput calvitium; et ponam eam quasi luctum (vel potius, quasi in luctu) unigeniti, et posteritatem ejus quasi in die amaritudinis.

The Prophet pursues the same subject; but he omits the figurative mode which he had before adopted. He therefore denounces vengeance more openly, -- that God would turn their festal-days into mourning, and their songs into lamentation. This was designedly mentioned; for the Israelites, we know, flattered themselves on account of their ceremonies by which at the same time they more and more provoked God's displeasure: for the worship of God, which they pretended to perform, was mere superstition, and was therefore a profanation of true religion. Though then they thus brought on themselves God's judgment by their wicked ceremonies, they yet thought that they were sufficiently disguised; for as Jeremiah says, ceremonies are to hypocrites the dens of robbers, (Jeremiah 7:10,11.) So here the Prophet speaks expressly of festal-days and of songs, -- |Think ye that I am pacified on your feast-days, when ye offer sacrifices to me, or rather to idols under my name; and think ye that I am delighted with your songs? these things are so regarded by me, that they the more excite my wrath. Your festal-days then will I turn to mourning, and your songs to lamentation. At the same time, the Prophet threatens generally what we have before noticed, -- that there would be mourning among the whole people for having too long abused the forbearance of God; I will then turn your joy into mourning. This is the sum of the whole. We have already shown why he names feast-days and songs, and that is, because they thought them to be expiations to turn aside God's vengeance, when yet they were fans by which they kindled more and more the fire of his displeasure.

He afterwards adds, I will make to come up on all backs the sackcloth, and on every head baldness. These are various modes of speaking, which refer to the same thing: for they were wont to put on sackcloth and they were wont to shave their heads when in grief and mourning. The Prophet then means, that there would be extreme sorrow among the people, that having cast away all delights, they would be constrained to give up themselves entirely to weeping, lamentation, and grief. I will then make to come up on all loins the sackcloth, that is, I will make each one to put off all valuable and soft clothing and to put on sackcloth; and also to shave their heads, and even to tear off their hair, as they were wont to do. We indeed know that the orientals were more disposed to adopt external tokens of sorrow than we are. It was in truth the levity of that country that accounts for their playing the part of actors in mourning; and from this practice of mourning our Prophet borrowed his mode of speaking.

He afterwards subjoins, I will set her (he speaks of the Israelites under the name of land) in mourning as for an only begotten This similitude occurs also in another place, They shall mourn as for an only-begotten,' says Zechariah 12; so also in other places; so that there is no need of a long explanation. For when one has many children and one dies, he patiently bears his death; but when any one is bereaved of an only-begotten, there is no end nor moderation to his grief; for there is no comfort remaining. This is the reason why the Prophet says, that there would be grief, such as that which is felt for an only-begotten.

And he shows that these calamities would not be for a short time only, Her posterity, he says, shall be as in the day of bitterness For hypocrites drive away, or at least moderate, their fear of punishment by imagining that God will not be so severe and rigid but for a short time, -- |O! it cannot be God will for long punish our sins; but it will be like mist which soon passes away.| Thus hypocrites felicitate themselves. Then the Prophet does not without reason subjoin this second clause, that their posterity shall be as in the day of bitterness. Hence when they shall think themselves freed from all evils, then new ones shall succeed, so that their posterity shall even doubly grieve; for they shall feel more bitterness than their fathers. It now follows --

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