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Commentary On Joel Amos Obadiah by Jean Calvin

Obadiah 2-4

2 Behold, I have made thee small among the heathen: thou art greatly despised.

2 Ecce parvum posui te inter gentes, contemptus tu valde.

3 The pride of thine heart hath deceived thee, thou that dwellest in the clefts of the rock, whose habitation is high; that saith in his heart, Who shall bring me down to the ground?

3 Superbia cordis tui decepit te, qui habitas in scissuras petrae (vel, rupis;) excelsa habitatio ejus, dicens in corde suo, Quis detrahet me in terram?

4 Though thou exalt thyself as the eagle, and though thou set thy nest among the stars, thence will I bring thee down, saith the LORD.

4 Si exaltaveris quasi aquila, etsi inter nubes posueris nidum suum, inde ego detraham te, dicit Jehova.

Jeremiah uses nearly the same words; but the sense of the expression is ambiguous, when he says, Lo, little have I set thee.' To me it appears probable, that the Prophet reproves the Idumeans, because they became arrogant, as it were, against the will of God, and in opposition to it, when, at the same time, they were confined to the narrow passes of mountains. It is said elsewhere, (Malachi 1:2,) Jacob and Esau, were they not brethren?' |But I have given to you the inheritance promised to your father Abraham; I have transferred the Idumeans to mount Seir.| Now it is less bearable, if any one be elated with pride, when his condition is not so honorable. I therefore think that the Idumeans are here condemned because they vaunted so much, and arrogated to themselves more than what was right, when they yet were contemptible, when their condition was mean and obscure, for they dwelt on mount Seir. But others think that the punishment, which was impending over them, is here denounced, Lo, little have I made thee among the nations, and Jeremiah says, and contemptible among men'; he omits the two words, thou and exceedingly; he says only, and contemptible among men'. But as to the substance, there is hardly any difference. If then we understand that that nation was proud without reason, the sense is evident, that is, that they, like the giants, carried on war against God, that they vaunted themselves, though confined to the narrow passes of mountains. Though I leave to others their own free opinion, I am yet inclined to the former view, while the latter has been adopted nearly by the consent of all; and that is, that God was resolved forcibly to constrain to order those ferocious men, who, for no reason, and even in opposition to nature, are become insolent. But if a different interpretation be more approved, we may say, that the Prophet begins with a threatening, and then subjoins a reason why God determined to diminish and even to destroy them: for though they dwelt on mountains, it was yet a fertile region; and further, they had gathered in course of long time much wealth, when they attained security, when no enemy disturbed them. This then is the reasoning, Lo, I have made thee small and contemptible in the mountain, -- and why? because the pride of thy heart has deceived thee; and Jeremiah adds, terror, although some render tphltstk taphlatastae, image; but this seems not appropriate. Jeremiah then, I doubt not, mentions terror in the first place; for it almost ever happens, that the proud strike others with fear: such then were the Idumeans.

Now if we follow the first meaning I explained, the two verses may be read as connected, Lo, I have made thee small and contemptible among the nations; but the pride of thy heart has deceived thee; some render it, has raised thee up, deriving it from ns' nusha: but they read s shin, pointed on the left side; for if ns' nusha has the point in the branch of the shin, on the right hand, it means to deceive, but if on the left, it signifies to raise up. Then they give this translations |The pride of thine heart has raised thee up:| but we clearly learn from Jeremiah, that it ought, as almost all interpreters agree, to be rendered thus, |The pride of thine heart has deceived thee:| for he says not hsy'k eshiac but hsy' 'vtk eshia autea, that is, it was to thee the cause of error and of madness. Of the sense then of this verb there can be no doubt.

The Prophet now laughs to scorn the Idumeans, because they relied on their own fortresses, and thought themselves, according to the common saying, to be beyond the reach of darts; and hence they petulantly insulted the Israelites and despised God himself. The Prophet therefore says, that the Idumeans in vain felicitated themselves, for he shows that all they promised to themselves were mere delusions. The import of what is said then is, |Whence is this your security, that ye think that enemies can do you no harm? Yea, ye despise God as well as men; whence is this haughtiness? whence also is the great confidence with which ye are puffed up? Verily, it comes only from mere delusions. The pride of thine heart has deceived thee.|

And yet there was not wanting a reason why the Idumeans were thus insolent, as the Prophet also states: but he at the same time shows that they had deceived themselves; for God cared not for their fortresses; nay, he counted them as nothing. Thou dwellest, he says, (this is to be regarded as a concession,) in the clefts of the stone; some read, |between the windings of the rock;| though others think sl Salo to be the name of a city. But though I should allow that the Prophet alludes to the name of a city, I yet do not see how can that stand which they hold; for clefts comfort not with a city situated on a plain, though within the ranges of mountains. I do not then doubt but that sl Salo here means mount Seir. As then the Idumeans had fortresses amidst rocks, they thought that all enemies could easily be kept out.

And hence it follows, The height is his habitation, that is, he dwells in lofty places; and hence he says in his heart, Who shall draw me down to the ground? He afterwards subjoins what I have already stated, -- that though their region was exceedingly well fortified, yet the Idumeans were greatly deceived, and indulged themselves in vain delusions, |If thou shouldest raise up thy seat, he says, like the eagle|, -- literally, If thou shouldest rise as the eagle,' -- |and if thou shouldest among the clouds set and nest, I will thence draw thee down, saith Jehovah|. We now see that the Prophet did not without reason deride the confidence with which the Idumeans were inflated, by setting up their fortresses in opposition to God: for it is the greatest madness for men to rely on their own power and to despise God himself. At the same time he could, as it were, easily dissipate by one blast every idea of defense or of power that is in us; but this subject will be more fully handled by us tomorrow.

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