(Calvin, Commentary on Amos, part 2) Lecture Fiftieth. We explained in yesterday's Lecture, that what the Prophet means by the three and four transgressions of Damascus, is perverse and incurable wickedness; for God here declares that he had borne long enough with the sins of Damascus, and that now he is in a manner forced to proceed to extreme rigor, seeing that there was no hope of amendment. But what follows may seem strange; for immediately the Prophet subjoins, "Because they have threshed Gilead with iron wains", or serrated machines. He records here only one wickedness: where, then, were the seven of which he spoke? The answer may be easily given. By naming the three and four sins of Damascus, he means not different kinds of sins, but rather the perverseness which we have mentioned; for they had been extremely rebellious against God, and God had suspended his vengeance, till it became evident that they were unhealable. It was, therefore, not necessary to mention here seven different sins; for it was enough that Damascus, which means the kingdom of Syria, was held bound by such a degree of obstinacy, that no remedy could be applied to its transgressions; for it had for a long time tried the patience of God. Now the Prophet subjoins, "I will send fire unto the house of Hazael, which will devour the palaces of Ben-hadad". The Prophet speaks still of the kingdom of Syria; for we know that both Ben-hadad and Hazael were kings of Syria. But Jerome is much mistaken, who thinks that Ben-hadad was here put in the second place, as if he had been the successor of Hazael, while sacred history relates that Hazael came to Elisha when Ben-hadad was ill in his bed, (2 Kings 8: 9;) and he was sent to request an answer. Now the Prophet declared that Hazael would be the king of Syria, and declared this not without tears; for he pitied his own people, of which this Syrian would be the destroyer. After he returned home, he strangled Ben-hadad, and took to himself the royal dignity. But it is common enough in Scripture to speak of a thing present, and then, as in this place, to add what has past, "I will send fire into the house of Hazael, and this fire will devour the palaces of Ben-hadad"; as though he said, "I will destroy the kingdom of Syria, I will consume it as with burning." But he first names the house of Hazael, and then the palaces of Ben-hadad; as though he said, "No ancientness shall preserve that kingdom from being destroyed." For, metaphorically, under the word fire, he designates every kind of consumption; and we know how great is the violence of fire. It is then as though he said, that no wealth, no strength, no fortifications, would stand in the way to prevent the kingdom of Syria from being destroyed. He then adds, "I will break in pieces the bar of Damascus". The Prophet confirms what he had already said; for Damascus, being strongly fortified, might have seemed unassailable. By bar, the Prophet, mentioning a part for the whole, meant strongholds and everything which could keep out enemies. Nothing, then, shall prevent enemies from taking possession of the city of Damascus. How so? Because the Lord will break in pieces its bars. It is then added, "I will cut off, or destroy, the inhabitant from Bikoth Aven", or from the plain of Aven. It is uncertain whether this was the proper name of a place or not, though this is probable; and yet it means a plain, derived from a verb, which signifies to cut into two, or divide, because a plain or a valley divides or separates mountains; hence a valley or plain is called in Hebrew a division. Now, we know that there were most delightful plains in the kingdom of Syria, and even near Damascus. Aven also may have been the name of a place, though it means in Hebrew trouble or laborer. But whatever it may have been, the Prophet no doubt declares here, that all the plains nigh Damascus, and in the kingdom of Syria, would be deprived of their inhabitants. "I will then destroy the inhabitant from the plain of Aven, and the holder of the sceptre from the house of Eden", or from the house of pleasure. This also may have been the name of a place, and from its situation a region, which, by its pleasantness greatly delighted its inhabitants. But the Prophet, I have no doubt, alludes, in these two words, to "trouble" and "pleasure". "Removed", he says, shall be the people of Syria into Kir". The purport of this is, that the kingdom of Syria would be wasted, so that the people would be taken into Assyria; for the Prophet declares that the Assyrians would be the conquerors, and remove the spoils into their own kingdom, and lead away the people as captives; for the word city, as a part for the whole, is put here for the whole land. It now follows - Amos 1:6-8 6 Thus saith the LORD; For three transgressions of Gaza, and for four, I will not turn away [the punishment] thereof; because they carried away captive the whole captivity, to deliver [them] up to Edom: 7 But I will send a fire on the wall of Gaza, which shall devour the palaces thereof: 8 And I will cut off the inhabitant from Ashdod, and him that holdeth the sceptre from Ashkelon, and I will turn mine hand against Ekron: and the remnant of the Philistines shall perish, saith the Lord GOD. Amos directs here his discourse against Gaza, which the Philistine occupied. It was situated in the tribe of Judah, towards the sea; but as the Anakims were its inhabitants, the Philistine kept possession of it. Then the Jews had these enemies as "aktorekous", (guardians of the shore,), who had a greater opportunity of doing harm from being so near: and we may learn from the Prophet's words, that the Philistines, who dwelt at Gaza, when they saw the Israelites oppressed by their enemies, joined their forces to foreign allies, and that the Jews did the same. God then now denounces punishment on them. As to the word, Gaza, some think that it was given to the city, because Cambyses, when warring with the Egyptians, had deposited there his money and valuable furniture; and because the Persian call a treasure, gaza; but this is frivolous. We indeed know that the Greek translators ever put "gamma" for an "ayin"; as of Omorrha they make Gomorrha, so of Oza they make Gaza. Besides, the city had this name before the time of Cambyses. It was then more probably thus called from its strength: and that the Greeks rendered it Gaza was according to their usual practice, as I have said as to other words. But there were two Gazas; when the first was demolished, the inhabitants built another near the sea. Hence Luke, in the 8th chapter of the Acts says, that Gaza was a desert; and he thus makes a difference between Gaza on the sea-side and the old one, which had been previously demolished. But Amos speaks of the first Gaza; for he threatens to it that destruction, through which it happened that the city was removed to the shores of the Mediterranean. I come non to the Prophet's words: "God, he says, will not be propitious to Gaza for three and four transgressions", as the Philistine had so provoked God, that they were now wholly unworthy of pardon and mercy. I reminded you in yesterday's Lecture, that there is presented to us here a sad spectacles but yet useful; for we here see so many people in such a corrupted state, that their wickedness was become to God intolerable: but at this day the state of things in the world is more corrupt, for iniquity overflows like a deluge. Whatever then men may think of their evils, the Lord from heaven sees how great and how irreclaimable is their obstinacy. It is nothing that some throw blame on others, or look for some alleviation, since all are ungodly and wicked: for we see that God here declares that he would, at the same time, take vengeance on many nations. The Idumeans might then have objected, and said, that their neighbors were nothing better; others might have made the same excuse; every one might have had his defense ready, if such a pretext availed, that all were alike implicated in the same guilt and wickedness. But we see that God appears here as a judge against all nations. Let us not then be deceived by vain delusions, when we see that others are like us; let every one know that he must bear his own burden before God: "I will not then be propitious for three and for four transgressions". "Because they carried away, he says, a complete captivity". The Prophet records here a special crime, - that the Gazites took away Jews and Israelites, and removed them as captives into Idumea, and confined them there. I have already said that it was not the Prophet's design to enumerate all their sins, but that he was content to mention one crime, that the Israelites might understand that they were involved in a heavier guilt, because they had grievously offended both God and men. If then so severe a vengeance was to be taken on Gaza, they ought to have known, that a heavier vengeance awaited them, because they were guilty of more and greater sins. But he says that they had effected a complete captivity, inasmuch as they had spared neither women, nor children, nor old men; for captivity is called perfect or complete, when no distinction is made, but when all are taken away indiscriminately, without any selection. They then carried away a complete captivity, so that no pity either for sex or for age touched them: "that they might shut them up, he says, in Edom". Now follows a denunciation of punishment, - that "God would send a fire on the wall of Gaza, to devour its palaces". And it hence appears that Gaza was a splendid town, and sumptuously built; and for this reason the Prophet speaks of its palaces. He shows, at the same time, that neither strength nor wealth would prevent God from executing the punishment which the Gazites deserved. He names also other cities of Palestine, even Ascalon and Azdod, or Azotus, and Ecron. These cities the Philistine then possessed. The Prophet then intimates, that wheresoever they might flee, there would be no safe place for them; for the Lord would expose as a prey to enemies, not only Gala, but also all the other cities. We may conclude that Ascalon was the first city; for there was the royal residence, though Gaza was the capital of the whole nation; it might yet be that the pleasantness of its situation, and other attractions, might have induced the king to reside there, though it was not the metropolis; Him then "who holds the sceptre I will cut off from Ascalon". He at last concludes, that all the remnants of Palestine would be destroyed. Now, whenever God denounces destruction on the Jews, he ever gives some hope, and says that the remnant would be saved: but here the Prophet declares that whatever remained of that nation would be destroyed; for God purposed to destroy them altogether, and also their very name. He therefore adds, that "Jehovah Lord" had spoken, "saith the Lord Jehovah". This was added for confirmation; for the Philistine were then in possession of many and strong defenses, so that they boldly laughed to scorn the threatening of the Prophet. He therefore brings forward here the name of God. Now follows the prediction respecting Tyrus: - Amos 1:9,10 Thus saith the LORD; For three transgressions of Tyrus, and for four, I will not turn away [the punishment] thereof; because they delivered up the whole captivity to Edom, and remembered not the brotherly covenant: But I will send a fire on the wall of Tyrus, which shall devour the palaces thereof. He uses nearly the same words respecting Tyrus which he did respecting Gaza, and charges it with the same sin, which was that of removing the Jews from their country, as refugees and exiles, into Idumea, and of selling them as captives to the Idumeans. As of all the rest, he declares the same of Tyrus, that they had not lightly sinned, and that therefore no moderate chastisement was sufficient; for they had for a long time abused God's forbearance, and had become stubborn in their wickedness. But what he says, that "they had not been mindful of the covenant of brethren", some refer to Hiram and David; for we know that they had a brotherly intercourse, and called each other by the name of brothers; so great was the kindness between them. Some then think that the Tyrians are here condemned for having forgotten this covenant; for there ought to have remained among them some regard for the friendship which had existed between the two kings. But I know not whether this is too strained a view: I rather incline to another, and that is, that the Syrians delivered up the Jews and the Israelites to the Idumeans, when yet they knew them to be brethren: and they who implicate themselves in a matter of this kind are by no means excusable. When I see one conspiring for the ruin of his own brother, I see a detestable and a monstrous thing; if I abhor not a participation in the same crime, I am involved in the same guilt. When therefore the Syrians saw the Idumeans raging cruelly against their brethren, for they were descended from the same family, they ought doubtless to have shown to the Idumeans how alienated they were from all humanity and how perfidious they were against their own brethren and relatives. Now the Prophet says, that they had been unmindful of the covenant of brethren, because they made themselves assistants in so great and execrable a crime as that of carrying away Jews into Idumea, and of shutting them up there, when they knew that the Idumeans sought nothing else but the entire ruin of their own brethren. This seems to be the real meaning of the Prophet. But he adds, that "God would send a fire on the wall of Tyrus to consume its palaces". When this happened, cannot with certainty be known: for though Tyrus was demolished by Alexander, as Gaza also was, these cities, I doubt not, suffered this calamity long before the coming of Alexander of Macedon; and it is probable, as I have already reminded you, that the Assyrians laid waste these countries, and also took possession of Tyrus, though they did not demolish that city; for in Alexander's time there was no king there, it had been changed into a republic; the people were free, and had the chief authority. There must then have been there no small changes, for the state of the city and its government were wholly different from what they had been. We may then conclude that Tyrus was laid waste by the Assyrians, but afterwards recovered strength, and was a free city in the time of Alexander the Great. Let us now proceed: for I dwell not on every word, as we see that the same expressions are repeated by the Prophet. Amos 1:11,12 Thus saith the LORD; For three transgressions of Edom, and for four, I will not turn away [the punishment] thereof; because he did pursue his brother with the sword, and did cast off all pity, and his anger did tear perpetually, and he kept his wrath for ever: But I will send a fire upon Teman, which shall devour the palaces of Bozrah. The Prophet now passes to the Idumeans themselves. He had denounced ruin on the uncircumcised nations who delivered up the Jews into their hands: but they deserved a much heavier punishment, because their crime was much more atrocious. The Idumeans derived their origin, as it is well known, from their common father Isaac and bore the same symbol of God's covenant, for they were circumcised. Since nearness of blood, and that sacred union, could not make them gentle to the Jews, we hence perceive how brutal was their inhumanity. They were then unworthy of being forgiven by God, when he became so severe a judge against heathen nations. But the Prophet says now, that the Idumeans had sinned more than their neighbors, and that their obstinacy was unhealable and that hence they could no longer be borne, for they had too long abused God's forbearance, who had withheld his vengeance until this time. He charges them with this crime, that "they pursued their brother with the sword". There is here an anomaly of the number, for he speaks of the whole people. Edom then pursued his brother, that is, the Jews. But the Prophet has intentionally put the singular number to enhance their crime: for he here placed here, as it were, two men, Edom and Jacob, who were really brothers, and even twins. Was it not then a most execrable ferocity in Edom to pursue his own brother Jacob? He then sets before us here two nations as two men, that he might more fully exhibit the barbarity of the Idumeans in forgetting their kindred, and in venting their rage against their own blood. "They have then pursued their brother with the sword"; that is, they have been avowed enemies, for they had joined themselves to heathen nations. When the Assyrians came against the Israelites, the Idumeans put on arms: and this, perhaps, happened before that war; for when the Syrians and Israelites conspired against the Jews, it is probable that the Idumeans joined in the same alliance. However this may have been, the Prophet reproaches them with cruelty for arming themselves against their own kindred, without any regard for their own blood. He afterwards adds, "They have destroyed their own compassions"; some render the words, "their own bowels;" and others in a strained and improper manner transfer the relative to the sons of Jacob, as though the Prophet had said, that Edom had destroyed the compassions, which were due, on account of their near relationship, from the posterity of Jacob. But the sense of the Prophet is clearly this, - that they destroyed their own compassions, which means, that they put off all sense of religion, and cast aside the first affections of nature. He then calls those the compassions of Edom, even such as he ought to have been influenced by: but as he had thrown aside all regard for humanity, there was not in him that compassion which he ought to have had. He then adds, "His anger has perpetually raged". He now compares the cruelty of the Idumeans to that of wild beasts; for they raged like fierce wild animals, and spared not their own blood. They then raged perpetually, even endlessly, and "retained their indignation perpetually". The Prophet seems here to allude to Edom or Esau, the father of the nation; for he cherished long, we know, his wrath against his brother; as he dared not to kill his brother during his father's life. Hence he said, I will wait till my father's death, then I will avenge myself, (Gen. 27: 41.) Since Esau then nourished this cruel hatred against his brother Jacob, the prophet here charges his posterity with the same crime; as though he had said, that they were too much like their father, or too much retained his perverse disposition, as they cherished and ever retained revenge in their hearts, and were wholly implacable. There may have been other causes of hatred between the Idumeans and the posterity of Jacob: but they ought, notwithstanding, whatever displeasure there may have been, to have forgiven their brethren. It was a monstrous thing past endurance, when a regard for their own blood did not reconcile those who were, by sacred bonds, connected together. We now perceive the object of the Prophet: and we here learn, that the Idumeans were more severely condemned than those mentioned before, and for this reason, - because they raged so cruelly against their own kindred. He says in the last place, "I will send fire on Teman, to consume the palaces of Bozrah". By fire he ever means any kind of destruction. But he compares God's vengeance to a burning fire. We know that when fire has once taken hold, not only on a house, but on a whole city, there is no remedy. So now the Prophet says, that God's vengeance would be dreadful, that it would consume whatever hatred there was among them: I will then send fire on Teman; which, as it is well known, was the first city of Idumea. Let us now proceed - Amos 1:13-15 13 Thus saith the LORD; For three transgressions of the children of Ammon, and for four, I will not turn away [the punishment] thereof; because they have ripped up the women with child of Gilead, that they might enlarge their border: 14 But I will kindle a fire in the wall of Rabbah, and it shall devour the palaces thereof, with shouting in the day of battle, with a tempest in the day of the whirlwind: 15 And their king shall go into captivity, he and his princes together, saith the LORD. He now prophesies against the Ammonites, who also derived their origin from the same common stock; for they were the posterity of Lot, as it is well known; and Lot was counted as the son of Abraham, as Abraham, having taken him with him from his country brought him up, no doubt, as his own son. Then Abraham was the common father of the Jews and of the Ammonites. Now, when the children of Ammon, without any regard to relationship, joined their forces to those of enemies, and conspired together, their cruelty admitted of no excuse. And there is no doubt but that they were guilty of many other crimes; but God, by his Prophet, enumerates not all the sins for which he had purposed to punish them, and only points out distinctly, as in passing, but one sin, and generally declares, that such people were utterly past hope, for they had hardened themselves in their wickedness. He therefore says of the children of Ammon, that they "rent the pregnant women". Some take "harot" for "harim", mountains; but I see not what can induce them, unless they think it strange that pregnant women were rent, that the Ammonites might extend further their borders; and for this ends it would be more suitable to regard the word as meaning mountains; as though he said, "They have cut through mountains, even the earth itself; there has been no obstacle through which the Ammonites have not made their way: an insatiable cupidity has so inflamed them, that they have rent the very mountains, and destroyed the whole order of nature." Others take mountains metaphorically for fortified cities; for when one seeks to take possession of a kingdoms cities stand in his way like mountains. But this exposition is too strained. Now, since "harot" mean women with child, the word, I doubt not, is to be taken in its genuine and usual sense, as we see it to be done in Hosea. But why does the Prophet say, that the Ammonites had rent pregnant women? It is to show, that their cupidity was so frantic, that they abstained not from any kind of cruelty. It is possible that one be so avaricious as to seek to devour up the whole earth, and yet be inclined to clemency. Alexander, the Macedonian, though a bloody man, did yet show some measure of kindness: but there have been others much more cruel; as the Persian, of whom Isaiah speaks, who desired not money, but shed blood, (Isa. 13: 17, &c.) So the Prophet says here of the Ammonites, that they not only, by unlawful means, extended their borders, used violence and became robbers who spoiled others of their property, but also that they did not spare even women with child. Now this is the worst thing in the storming of towns. When a town has wearied out an enemy, both pregnant women, and children, and infants may, through fury, be destroyed: but this is a rare thing, and never allowed, except under peculiar circumstances. He then reproaches the Ammonites, not only for their cupidity, but also for having committed every kind of cruelty to satisfy their greediness: "they have then torn asunder women with child, that they might extend their borders". "I will therefore kindle a fire in the wall of Rabbah, which shall devour its palaces", (the Prophet adds nothing new, I shall therefore go on,) "and this by tumult", or by glamour, "in the day of war". The Prophet means that enemies would come and suddenly lay waste the kingdom of Ammon; and that this would be the case, as a sudden fire lays hold on wood, in the day of war; that is as soon as the enemy attacked them, it would immediately put them to fight, and execute the vengeance they deserved, "by a whirlwind in the day of tempest". By these figurative terms the Prophet intimates that the calamity destructive to the Ammonites, would be sudden. He finally adds, "And their king shall go into captivity, he and his princes together". As "malkam" was an idol of the people, some regard it here as a proper name; but he says, "malkam hu wesaraw", 'their king, he and his princes;' hence the Prophet, no doubt, names the king of Ammon, for he joins with him his princes. He says then that the ruin of the kingdom would be such, that the king himself would be led captive by the Assyrians. This prediction was no doubt fulfilled, though there is no history of it extant. Prayer. Grant, Almighty God, that since thou hast designed, by so many examples, to teach the world the fear of thy name, we may improve under thy mighty hand, and not abuse thy forbearance, nor gather for ourselves a treasure of dreadful vengeance by our obstinacy and irreclaimable wickedness, but seasonably repent while thou invites us, and while it is the accepted time, and while thou offerest to us reconciliation, that being brought to nothing in ourselves, we may gather courage through grace, which is offered to us through Christ our Lord. Amen. Calvin, Commentary on Amos (continued in part 3...) -------------------------------------------------- file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-4/cvams-02.txt .