(Calvin, Commentary on Amos, part 8) Lecture Fifty-sixth. "But I gave you cleanness of teeth in all your cities, and want of bread in all your borders; and ye turned not to me, saith Jehovah". God here expostulates with the people on account of their incurable perverseness; for he had tried to restore them to the right way, not only by his word, but also by heavy punishments; but he effected nothing. This hardness doubled the guilt of that people, as they could not be subdued by God's chastisements. The Prophet now says, that the people had been chastised with famine, "I gave them, he says, cleanness of teeth". It is a figurative expression, by which Amos means want, and he explains it himself by "want of bread". The whole country then labored under want and deficiency of provisions, though the land, as it is well known, was very fruitful. Now since the end of punishment is to turn men to God and his service, it is evident, when no fruit follows, that the mind is hardened in evil. Hence the Prophet shows here, that the Israelites were not only guilty, but had also pertinaciously resisted God, for their vices could be corrected by no punishment. We have just mentioned famine, another kind of punishment follows - Amos 4:7 And also I have withholden the rain from you, when [there were] yet three months to the harvest: and I caused it to rain upon one city, and caused it not to rain upon another city: one piece was rained upon, and the piece whereupon it rained not withered. I have said that another kind of punishment is here recorded by the Prophet; it is not, however, wholly different: for whence comes the want we have noticed, except through drought? For when God intends to deprive men of support, he shuts up heaven and makes it iron, so that it hears not the earth, according to what we have noticed elsewhere. Yet these words of the Prophet are not superfluous; for God would have the punishment he inflicts on men to be more attentively considered. When men are reduced to want, they will indeed acknowledge it to be the curse of God, except they be very stupid; but when a drought precedes, when the earth disappoints its cultivators, and then a want of food follows, more time is given to men to think of God's displeasure. This is the reason why the Prophet now distinctly speaks of rain being withheld, after having said that the people had been before visited with a deficiency of provisions; as though he said "Ye ought to have returned, at least after a long course of time, to a sound mind. If God had been offended with you only for one day, and had given tokens of his displeasure, the shortness of time might have been some excuse for you: but as the earth had become dry; as God had restrained rain, and as hence sterility followed, and afterwards there came want, how great was your stupidity not to attend to so many and so successive tokens of God's wrath?" We now perceive why the Prophet here connects drought with want of food, the cause with the effect: it was, that the stupidity of the people might hence be more evident. But he says that God had "withheld rain from them, when three months still remained to the harvest". When it rains not for a whole month, the earth becomes dry, and men become anxious, for it is an ill omen: but when two months pass without rain, men begin to be filled with apprehension and even dread; but if continual dryness lasts to the end of the third month, it is a sign of some great evil. The Prophet, then, here shows that the Israelites had not been in an ordinary way chastised, and that they were very stupid, as they did not, during the whole three months, apply their minds to consider their sins, though God urged them, and though his wrath had been manifested for so long a time. We now then see that the hardness of the people is amplified by the consideration of time, inasmuch as they were not awakened by a sign so portentous, "When there were yet three months, he says, to the harvests I withheld rain from you". Another circumstance follows, "God rained on one city, on another he did not rain; one part was watered, and no drop of rain fell on another". This difference could not be ascribed to chance: except men resolved to be willfully mad, and to reject all reason, they must surely have been constrained to confess these to have been manifest signs of God's wrath. How came it, that one place was rained upon, and another remained dry? that two neighboring cities were treated so differently? Whence was this, except that God appeared angry from heaven? The Prophet then does here again condemn the obstinacy of the people: they did not see in this difference the wrath of God, which was yet so very conspicuous. The import of the whole is, that God shows that he had to do with a people past recovery; for they were refractory and obstinate in their wickedness, and could bear the application of no remedy. It follows - Amos 4:8 So two [or] three cities wandered unto one city, to drink water; but they were not satisfied: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD. Marking the difference, the Prophet relates, that two or three cities had come to one, to seek drink, and that they were not satisfied, because the waters failed on account of so large a number: for though the fountains could have supplied the inhabitants, yet when such a multitude flowed from every quarter, the very fountains became exhausted. The Prophet thus aggravates the punishment brought by God on the Israelites; for so great was the thirst, that whole cities had recourse to fountains, where they heard that there was any water. It was indeed an unusual thing for inhabitants to leave their own city and to run to another to seek water, like wild beasts who, when satiated with prey, run far for water: but it is an unwonted thing for men to undertake a long journey for the sake of finding drink: for they dig wells for themselves, and seek water by their own industry, when rivers do not flow, or when fountains do not supply them with drink. When therefore men are forced to leave their own homes and to seek water at a distance, and when they exhaust the fountains, it is a portend which ought to be observed. But how was it that the Israelites took no notice of God's hand, which was then as it were visible? Hence then, as they repented not, their obstinate blindness became quite evident. They were no doubt terrified with fear and harassed by grief; but all this produced no effect, for they continued in their sins, took delight in their own superstitions, and pursued the same life as before. Since then they divested not themselves of their own character, nor ceased to provoke continually the wrath of God, their hopeless and incorrigible obstinacy is here manifestly proved. This was the Prophet's design. It follows - Amos 4:9 I have smitten you with blasting and mildew: when your gardens and your vineyards and your fig trees and your olive trees increased, the palmerworm devoured [them]: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD. Though one kind of punishment may not convince men, they are yet thereby proved with sufficient clearness to be guilty before God. But when in various ways he urges them, and after having tried in vain to correct them in one way, he has recourse to another, and still effects nothing, it hence more fully appears that they, who are thus ever unmoved, and remain stupid whatever means God may adopt to lead them to repentance, are altogether past recovery. This is the drift of what the Prophet now adds: he says that they had "been smitten by the east wind". He shows that want of food does not always proceed from one cause; for men become hardened when they feel only one evil: as the case is when a country labors under a drought, it will be thought to be as it were its fate. But when God chastises men in various ways, they ought then no doubt to be touched and really affected: when, on the contrary, they pass by all punishments with their eyes closed, it is certain, that they are wholly obstinate and so fascinated by the devil, that they feel nothing and discern nothing. This is the reason why the Prophet records the various punishments which had been already inflicted on the people. Hence he says now, that they had been smitten by the east wind, and "by the mildew". What mischief the mildew does to the standing corn, we know; when the sun rises after a cold rain, it burns out its substance, so that the ears grow yellow, and rottenness follows. God then says, that the standing corn of the people had been destroyed by this blasting, after dryness had already prevailed though not through the whole land in an equal degree; for God rained on one part, while a neighboring region was parched through want of rain: the Prophet having stated this, now mentions also the mildew. He says further, that the fig-trees and vines had been consumed, that the gardens had been destroyed, and that the olive trees had been devoured by chafers or palmer worms. Since then the Israelites had been in so many ways warned, was it not a strange and monstrous blindness, that being affrighted they could bear these chastisements of God, and be not moved to return to the right way? If the first chastisement had no effect, if the second also had been without fruit, they ought surely at last to have repented; but as they proceeded in their usual course, and continued like themselves in that contumacy of which we have spoken, what any more remained for them, but to be wholly destroyed as those who had trifled with God? We now then understand what the Prophet means. Moreover, this passage teaches, as other similar passages do, that seasons vary not by chance; that now drought prevails, and then continual rains destroy the fruits of the earth, that now chafers are produced, and then that heaven is filled with various infections, - that these things happen not by chance, is what this passage clearly shows: but that they are so many tokens of God's wrath, set; before our eyes. God indeed does not govern the world, according to what profane men think, as though he gave uncontrolled license both in heaven and earth; but he now withholds rain, then he pours it down in profusion; he now burns the corn with heat, then he temperates the air; he now shows himself kind to men, then he shows himself angry with them. Let us then learn to refer the whole order of nature to the special providence of God. I mention his special providence, lest we should dream only of some general operation, as ungodly men do: but let us know that God would have himself to be seen in daily events, so that the tokens of his love may make us to rejoice, and also that the tokens of his wrath may humble us, to the end that we may repent. Let this then be learnt from the present words of the Prophet. Amos further teaches us, that wind and rain, hail and droughts heat and cold, are arms or weapons by which God executes vengeance on account of our sins. Whenever God then intends to inflict punishment on us, he puts on his armour, that is, he sends either rain, or wind, or drought, or heat, or hail. Since it is so, let us not think that either rain or heat is fortuitous, or that they depend on the situation of the stars as ungodly men imagine. Let us therefore know, that all nature so obeys God's command, that when rain falls seasonably, it is a token of his love towards us, and that when it is unseasonable, it is a proof of his displeasure. It is meet to think the same of heat and of cold, and of all other things. Let us now go on with the words of the Prophet - Amos 4:10 I have sent among you the pestilence after the manner of Egypt: your young men have I slain with the sword, and have taken away your horses; and I have made the stink of your camps to come up unto your nostrils: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD. God now expostulates with the people, because their perverseness had not been subdued even by additional punishments; for he had in vain exhorted and stimulated them to repentance. He says, that they had been smitten with pestilence. The Prophet has hitherto spoken only of the sterility of the land, and of the fruit being destroyed by infections; he has hitherto mentioned want only with its causes; this only has been stated: but now he adds that the people had been afflicted with pestilence, and also with war, and that they had still persevered in their wickedness. Whatever measures then God had adopted to correct the vices of the people, the Prophet now complains and deplores, that they all had been tried in vain. But so many upbraidings are mentioned, that God might show that there was no more any hope of pardon, inasmuch as they thus continued to be untractable and perverse. He then says that he had "sent pestilence according to the manner of Egypt. "Derech" means a way, but is taken for mode or manners as the 10th chapter of Isaiah 'I will smite him according to the manner of Egypt,' says God, speaking of Sennacherib, as though he said, "Ye know how formerly I checked the fury of Pharaoh; I will now put on the same armour, that I may drive far from you your energy Sennacherib." But the Prophet says here, that God had exercised towards the Israelites the same extreme rigor which he had used towards the Egyptians; as though he said, "I have been forced by your obstinacy to turn my power against you: ye know how Egypt was formerly smitten by me from kindness to your fathers; I then showed how dear to me was your preservation, by putting forth my strength to destroy the Egyptians: how is it that I now turn my weapons against you for your destruction? I have been indeed always ready to oppose your enemies, and kindly to cherish you in my paternal bosom. As then ye are become to me like the Egyptians, how is this and whence this change, except that ye have constrained me by your irreclaimable wickedness?" We now then see why the Prophet speaks here expressly of the Egyptians. He intimates that God could not show favor to the Israelites, which he would have continued to show, had they not closed the door against it; as though he said, "I had chosen you from other nations; but now I chastise you, not as I do the uncircumcised Gentiles, but I avowedly carry on war with you, as though ye were Egyptians." We see how much it serves for amplification, when Amos compares the Israelites to the Egyptians, as though he had said that they, by their perverse wickedness, had extinguished all God's favor, so that the memory of their gratuitous adoption was of no more avail to them. I have therefore sent among you pestilence after the manner of Egypt. And he adds, "I slew with the sword your strong" men. It was a different kind of punishment, that all the strong had been slain, that their horses had been led into captivity, and that, finally, the foetor of dead bodies had ascended to suffocate them. These were certainly unusual tokens of God's wrath. As the people had not repented, it became now again quite evident, that their diseases were not healable; for God had effected nothing by the application of so many remedies. These different kinds of punishments ought to be carefully noticed, because the Lord has collected them together, as so many arguments to prove the contumacy of the people. By saying that the "foetor of camps had ascended to their nostrils", it was the same as if he had said, "There has been no need of external force; though no enemy had been hostile to you, ye have yet been suffocated by your own foetor; for this came up from your own camps into your nostrils, and deprived you of life. Since God then had raised up this intestine putridity, ought you not to have been at length seriously affected, and to have returned to a right mind? Inasmuch then as no fruit followed, who does not see, that you have been in vain chastised, and that what alone remains for you is utter destruction? As God has hitherto stimulated you in vain by punishments, were he to proceed, he would lose all his labour. Since then God has hitherto to no purpose visited you with his scourges, there is no reason why he should chastise you more moderately: you must now then be utterly destroyed." This is the meaning: and he further adds - Amos 4:11 I have overthrown [some] of you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and ye were as a firebrand plucked out of the burning: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD. Amos proceeds further, and says, that God had used a severity towards his chosen people similar to that which formerly he showed towards Sodom and Gomorrah. That, we know, was a memorable evidence of God's wraths which ought to have filled all ages with dread, as it ought also at this day: and Scripture, whenever it graphically paints the wrath of God, sets Sodom and Gomorrah before our eyes. It was indeed a dreadful judgment, when God destroyed those cities with fire from heaven, when they were consumed, and when the earth, cleaving asunder, swallowed up the five cities. But he says that nearly the same ruin had taken place among the people of Israel, only that a few escaped, as when any one snatches a brand from the burning; for the second clause of the verse ought no doubt to be taken as a modification; for had Amos only said, that they had been overthrown as Sodom and Gomorrah, he would have said too much. The Prophet then corrects or modifies his expression by saying, that a few had remained, as when one snatches a brand from the burning. But in the meantime, they ought to have been at least moved by punishments so grievous and dreadful, since God had manifested his displeasure to them, as he did formerly to Sodom and Gomorrah. History seems, at the same time, to militate against this narrative of Amos; for he prophesied under Jeroboam the second, the son of Joash; and the state of the people was then prosperous, as sacred history records. How then could it be, that the Israelites had been destroyed like Sodom and Gomorrah? This difficulty may be easily solved, if we attend to what sacred history relates; for it says that God had pity on the Israelites, because all had been before consumed, the free man as well as the captive, (2 Kings 14: 25, 26.) When, therefore, there was so deplorable a devastation among the people, it was God's purpose to give them some relief for a time. Hence he made king Jeroboam successful, so that he recovered many cities; and the people flourished again: but it was a short prosperity. Now Amos reminds them of what they had suffered, and of the various means by which God had stimulated them to repentance though they proved wholly untamable. Then these two things are in no way inconsistent, - that the Israelites had been consumed before God spared them under Jeroboam, - and that they had yet been for a time relieved from those calamities, which proved ruinous both to the captive and to the free, as it is expressly declared. We must, at the same time, remember, that there was some residue among the people; for it was God's design to show mercy on account of his covenant. The people were indeed worthy of complete destruction; but it was God's will that some remnant should continue, lest any one should think that he had forgotten his covenant. We hence see why God had preserved some; it was, that he might contend with the wickedness of the people, and show that his covenant was not wholly void. So the Lord observed a middle course, that he might not spare hypocrites, and that he might not abolish his covenant; for it was necessary for that to stand perpetually, however ungodly and perfidious the Israelites may have been. The Prophet then shows, that God had been faithful even in this case, and constantly kept his covenant, though all the Israelites had fallen away from him. He at length concludes - Amos 4:12,13 Therefore thus will I do unto thee, O Israel: [and] because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel. For, lo, he that formeth the mountains, and createth the wind, and declareth unto man what [is] his thought, that maketh the morning darkness, and treadeth upon the high places of the earth, The LORD, The God of hosts, [is] his name. Amos here declares, in the person of God, that the people in vain hoped for pardon, or for a modification, or an abatement, or an end to their punishment; for God had in vain made the attempt, by many scourges and chastisements, to subdue their extreme arrogance: therefore, he says, "thus will I do to you". What does this particle "koh", thus, mean? Some think that God here denounces on the Israelites the punishments they had before experienced: but the Prophet, I doubt not, means something much more grievous. He now removes the exception which he lately mentioned as though be had said, that God would execute extreme punishment on this reprobate people without any mitigation. "This will I do to thee, Israel:" "Thou hast already perceived with how many things I armed myself to take vengeance on the despisers of my law; I will now deal more severely with thee, for thy obstinacy compels me. Since, then, I have hitherto produced no effect on you, I will now bring the last punishment: for remedies cannot be applied to men past recovery." "Thus", then, he says, "will I do to thee Israel." "And because I will do this to thee", &c. "'Ekev" means often a reward or an end: this place may then be thus rendered: 'I will at length surely do this to you;' but the sense the most suitable seems to be this, Because I will this do to you, prepare to meet thy God. The passage may be explained in two ways: either as an ironical sentence, or as a simple and serious exhortation to repentance. If we take it ironically, the sense will be of this kind, "Come, now, meet me with all your obstinacy, and with whatever may serve you; will you be able to escape my vengeance by setting up yourselves against me, as you have hitherto done?" And certainly the Prophet, in denouncing final ruin on the people, seems here as though he wished designedly to touch them to the quick, when he says, "Meet now thy God and prepare thyself:" that is, "Gather all thy strength, and thy forces, and thy auxiliaries; try what all this will avail thee." But as in the next chapter, the Prophet exhorts again the Israelites to repentance, and sets before them the hope of favor, this place may be taken in another sense, as though he said, "Since thou seest thyself guilty, and also as thou seest that thou art seeking subterfuges in vain, being not able by any means to elude the hand of thy judge, then see at last, that thou meet thy God, that thou mayest anticipate the final ruin which is impending." The Prophets, we indeed know, after having threatened destruction to the chosen people, ever moderate the asperity of their doctrine, as there were at all times some remnant seed, though hidden. And similar passages we have seen both in Joel and in Hosea. It is not, therefore, improper to explain the words of Amos in this sense, - that though the people were almost past hope, he yet exhorted them to anticipate God's wrath. Prepare then thyself to meet thy God, as though he said, "However worthy thou art of being destroyed and though the Lord seems to have closed up the door of mercy, and despair meets thee on every side, thou can't yet mitigate God's wrath, provided thou prepares to meet him." But this preparation includes real renovation of the heart: it then takes place, when men are displeased with themselves, when with a changed mind they submit to God, and humbly pray for forgiveness. There is then an important meaning in the Prophet's words, Prepare thyself. With regard to meeting God, we know what Paul says in 1 Cor. 9:, 'If we judge ourselves, we shall not be judged by the Lord.' How comes it, then, that God deals severely with us, except that we spare ourselves? Hence this indulgence, with which we flatter ourselves, provokes God's wrath against us. We cannot then meet God, except we become our own judges, and condemn our sins and feel real sorrow. We now see what the Prophet means, if we regard the passage as not spoken ironically. But that he might rouse careless men more effectually, he then magnificently extols the power of God; and that he might produce more reverence and fear in men, especially the hardened and the refractory, he adorns his name with many commendations. As it was difficult to turn the headstrong, the Prophet accumulates many titles, to move the people, that they might entertain reverence for God. "God," he says, "has formed the mountains, and created the spirit," and further, "he knoweth hearts, and men themselves understand not what they think of, except as far as God sets before them their thoughts; God maketh the morning and the darkness, and walketh in the high places of the earth; and his name is, Jehovah, God of hosts." Why were all these encomiums added, but that the hearts of men might be touched, who were before void of thought and sunk in blind stupidity? We now understand the Prophet's object. But what remains to be said on the words will be added in tomorrow's lecture. Prayer. Grant, Almighty God, that since by thy word thou kindly invites us to thyself, we may not turn deaf ears to thee, but anticipate thy rod and scourges; and that when, for the stupidity and thoughtlessness by which we have become inebriated, thou addest those punishments by which thou sharply urgest us to repent, - O grant, that we may not continue wholly intractable, but at length turn our hearts to thy service and submit ourselves to the yoke of thy word, and that we may be so instructed by the punishments, which thou hast inflicted on us and still inflictest, that we may truly and from the heart turn to thee, and offer ourselves to thee as a sacrifice, that thou mayest govern us according to thy will, and so rule all our affections by thy Spirit, that we may through the whole of our life strive to glorify thy name in Christ Jesus, thy Son our Lord. Amen. Calvin, Commentary on Amos (continued in part 9...) -------------------------------------------------- file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-4/cvams-08.txt .