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Commentary On Joel Amos Obadiah by Jean Calvin

Obadiah 12-14

12. But thou shouldest not have looked on the day of thy brother in the day that he became a stranger; neither shouldest thou have rejoiced over the children of Judah in the day of their destruction; neither shouldest thou have spoken proudly in the day of distress.

12. Et non aspicias in die fratris tui, in die alientationis ejus, et ne gaudeas super filiis Jehudah die exitii corum, et ne magnifices os tuum in die afflictionis (hoc est, ne magnifice loquaris.)

13. Thou shouldest not have entered into the gate of my people in the day of their calamity; yea, thou shouldest not have looked on their affliction in the day of their calamity, nor have laid hands on their substance in the day of their calamity;

13. Ne intres in portam populi mei die exitii eorum, ne aspicias etiam tu in afflictione ejus, (in malo ejus,) in die exitii ejus, et ne extendas (manum subaudiendum est) in substantiam ejus in die exitii ejus;

14. Neither shouldest thou have stood in the crossway, to cut off those of his that did escape; neither shouldest thou have delivered up those of his that did remain in the day of distress.

14. Et ne stes super exitum (vel, lacerationem, confractionem,) ad perdendum eos qui evaserint, et ne tradas (vel, concludas) residuos ejus in dic afflictionis.

The Prophet enumerates here the kinds of cruelty which the Idumeans exercised towards the Church of God, the children of Abraham, their own kindred. But he speaks by way of prohibition; it is then a personification, by which the Prophet introduces God as the speaker, as though he taught and admonished them on the duties of human kindness. Engraven, indeed, on their hearts ought all these to have been, on account of which he now reproaches them; for by forgetting humanity they had departed from everything right which nature requires. God indeed did not commence by instructing or teaching the Idumeans what were their duties; but the Prophet reminds them of things which must have been well known to them, and were beyond all dispute true.

Hence he says, Thou shouldest not look on in the day of thy brother, in the day of his alienation. The day of Judah he calls that in which God visited him: so the day of Jerusalem is called the day of calamity. Thou shouldest not then look on: we know in what sense this verb, to look on, is usually taken in Scripture; it is applied to men, when they lie in wait, or very anxiously desire anything, or rejoice at what they witness. The Prophet no doubt takes it metaphorically for taking delight in the misery of the chosen people; for, shortly after, he repeats the same word. Thou shouldest not then look on in the day of thy brother, even in the day of his alienation Some take another sense; but I approve of their opinion, who regard this alienation as meaning exile; at the same time, they give not the reason for this metaphor, which is this, -- that such a change then took place in the people, that they put on a new appearance. It was then alienation, when God wholly abolished the glory of the kingdom of Judah, and when he took away all his favors, so that the appearance of the people became deformed. In the day then of his alienation, that is, when the Lord stripped him of his ancient dignity.

Thou shouldest not rejoice, he says, over the children of Judah, in the day of their destruction, that is of their ruin; |thou shouldest not make thy mouth great in the day of affliction|. We now perceive what the Prophet means. Though indeed he seems here to show to the Idumeans their duty, he yet reproves them for having neglected all the laws of humanity, and of having been carried away by their own pride and cruelty. It hence follows that they were worthy of that dreadful vengeance which he has already mentioned. In case then the Idumeans complained that God dealt too severely with them, the Prophet here reminds them, that they in many ways sought such a ruin for themselves, -- How so? |Were not thou delighted with the calamity of thy brother? Didst not thou laugh when Judah was distressed? And didst not thou speak loftily in ridicule? Was this outrageousness to be endured? Can the Lord now spare thee, as thou hast been so cruel towards thy brother?| And he repeats the name of brother, for the crime was the more atrocious, as it has been already said, as they showed no regard for those of their own blood. But the Prophet often mentions either affliction, or ruin, or calamity, or evils, or adversity; for it is a feeling naturally implanted in us, that when one is distressed, we are touched with pity; even when we see our enemies lie prostrate on the ground, our hatred and anger are extinguished, or at least are abated: and all who see even their enemies ill-treated, become, as it were, other men, that is, they put off the anger with which they were previously inflamed. As then this is what is common almost to all men, it appears that the Idumeans must have been doubly and treble barbarous, when they rejoiced at the calamity of their brethren, and took pleasure in a spectacle so sad and mournful, and even spoke proudly, and jeered the miserable Jews; for this, as we have said, is the meaning of the words, to make great the mouth.

It follows, Thou shouldest not enter the gates of my people in the day of their destruction, nor shouldest thou look on in their calamity. Probably the Idumeans had made an irruption in company with the Assyrians and Chaldeans, when they ought to have remained at home, and there to lament the slaughter of their brethren. For if I cannot save my friend from death or from a calamity, I shall yet withdraw myself, for I could not bear to look on: but were I constrained to look on my friend, and be not able to succor him in his necessity, I should rather close my eyes; for there is in the eyes, we know, the tenderest sympathy. As then the Idumeans willingly went forth and entered Jerusalem with the enemies, it was hence evident that they were no better than wild beasts. Thou shouldest not then, he says, enter the gates of my people in the day of slaughter, nor shouldest thou especially then, look on. He again repeats gm 'th gam ate, thou also, or, especially thou: |If other neighbors do this, yet thou shouldest abstain, for thou art of the same blood; if thou can't not bring help, show at least some token of grief and of sympathy: but as thou willingly and gladly lookest on their calamities, it is quite evident that there is not in thee a particle of right feeling.|

He afterwards adds, Thou shouldest not stretch forth thy hand to his substance. Here he accuses the Idumeans of having been implicated in taking the spoils with other enemies, as though he said, |Ye have not only suffered your brethren to be pillaged, but ye became robbers yourselves. Ye ought to have felt sorrow in seeing them distressed by foreign enemies; but ye have plundered with them, and enriched yourselves with spoils; this certainly is by no means to be endured.|

It follows, And thou shouldest not stand on the going forth. The word phrq perek signifies to break, to dissipate, to rend; hence phrq perek, as a noun, in Hebrew means rending and breaking. Therefore some take it metaphorically for a place where two ways meet, when one road is cut or divided into two. When the two meet then there is a going forth by two ways; hence they take phrq, perek, for such a place. But we may simply take it for the rending of the people. Though I am certainly pleased with the first explanation, yet I do not confine the word to that meaning; and I prefer the idea of going forth, as it harmonizes better with the context: Thou hast stood then on the going forth; and for what purpose? To destroy those who had escaped, and to stop or to deliver up his remaining captives in the day of affliction. In short, the Prophet means that the Idumeans occupied all the ways, to intercept the miserable exiles, to whom flight was the only way of safety.

As then the miserable Jews tried by winding outlets to provide for their own safety, the Prophet says that they were intercepted by the Idumeans, lest any of them should escape, and that they were stopped, that afterwards they might be slain by their enemies. Inasmuch as the Assyrians and the Chaldeans were a people far remote from Judea, it is probable that the roads were unknown to them, and that they were afraid of being entrapped; but the Idumeans, who were familiarly acquainted with all their roads, could stand at all the outlets. Some give the following explanation, but it is too frigid: Thou shouldest not stand for the rending of thy brethren, that is, thou should not stand still, but strive to extend a helping hand to the distressed: but this, as I have said, is too frigid and strained. Thou shouldest not then stand on the going forth of the roads to destroy We now see what the Prophet had in view; to destroy, he says, and whom did they destroy? Even those who had already escaped. Expressly then is pointed out here the cruelty to which I have referred, that the Idumeans were not contented with the ruin of the city, and the great slaughter which had been made; but in case any had stealthily escaped, they occupied the outlets of the roads, that they might not flee away: and the same thing is meant when he adds, that all were betrayed or stopped who had remained alive in the day of affliction.

We now understand the Prophet's meaning; -- that the Idumeans could not complain that God was too severe with them, when he reduced them to nothing, because they had given examples of extreme cruelty towards their own brethren, and at a time when their calamities ought to have obliterated all hatred and old enmities, as it is usually the case even with men the most alienated from one another. Let us proceed --

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