(Calvin, Commentary on Amos, part 20) Lecture Sixty-eighth. Amos 9:7 [Are] ye not as children of the Ethiopians unto me, O children of Israel? saith the LORD. Have not I brought up Israel out of the land of Egypt? and the Philistines from Caphtor, and the Syrians from Kir? The Prophet shows here to the Israelites that their dignity would be no defense to them, as they expected. We have indeed seen in many places how foolish was the boasting of that people. Though they were more bound to God than other nations, they yet heedlessly boasted that they were a holy nation, as if indeed they had something of their own, but as Paul says, they were nothing. God had conferred on them singular benefits; but they were adorned with the plumes of another. Foolish then and absurd was their glorying, when they thought themselves to be of more worth in the sight of God than other nations. But as this foolish conceit had blinded them, the Prophet says now, "Whom do you think yourselves to be? Ye are to me as the children of the Ethiopians. I indeed once delivered you, not that I should be bound to you, but rather that I should have you bound to me, for ye have been redeemed through my kindness." Some think that the Israelites are compared to the Ethiopians, as they had not changed their skin, that is, their disposition; but this view I reject as strained. For the Prophet speaks here more simply, namely, that their condition differed nothing from that of the common class of men: "Ye do excel, but ye have nothing apart from me; if I take away from you what is mine, what will you have then remaining?" The emphasis is on the word, "to me", What are ye "to me"? For certainly they excelled among men; but before God they could bring nothing, since they had nothing of their own: nay, the more splendidly God adorned them, the more modestly and humbly they ought to have conducted themselves, seeing that they were bound to him for so many of his favors. But as they had forgotten their own condition, despised all the Prophets and felicitated themselves in their vices, he says, "Are ye not to me as the children of the Ethiopians, as foreign and the most alien nations? for what that is worthy of praise can I find in you? If then I look on you, what are ye? I certainly see no reason to prefer you even to the most obscure nations." He afterwards adds, "Have I not made to ascend, or brought, Israel from the land of Egypt?" Here the Prophet reminds them of their origin. Though they had indeed proceeded from Abraham, who had been chosen by God four hundred years before their redemption; yet, if we consider how cruelly they were treated in Egypt, that tyrannical servitude must certainly appear to have been like the grave. They then began to be a people, and to attain some name, when the Lord delivered them from Egypt. The Prophet's language is the same as though he had said, "Look whence the Lord has brought you out; for ye were as a dead carcass, and of no account: for the Egyptians treated your fathers as the vilest slaves: God brought you thence; then you have no nobility or excellency of your own, but the beginning of your dignity has proceeded from the gratuitous kindness of God. Yet ye think now that ye excel others, because ye have been redeemed: God has also redeemed the Philistines, when they were the servants of the Cappadocians; and besides, he redeemed the Syrians when they were servants to other nations." Some take "kir" to mean Cyrene; but as this is uncertain, I pass it by as doubtful. Whatever it was, there is no ground of dispute about the subject itself; for it is certain that the Israelites are here compared with the Philistines as well as with the Syrians, inasmuch as all had been alike redeemed by the Lord, and this favor was common to all of whom he speaks. As God then pitied in former ages other nations, it was certainly not peculiar to the race of Abraham, that they had been freed by God, and by means of extraordinary miracles: "Even the Philistine will say the same, and the Syrians will say the same; but yet ye say that they are profane nations. Since it is so, ye are now divested of all excellency, that is, there is nothing of your own in you, that ye should exalt yourselves above other nations." This is the meaning. It now follows - Amos 9:8,9 Behold, the eyes of the Lord GOD [are] upon the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from off the face of the earth; saving that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob, saith the LORD. For, lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like as [corn] is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth. Here the Prophet concludes that God would take vengeance on the Israelites as on other nations, without any difference; for they could not set up anything to prevent his judgment. It was indeed an extraordinary blindness in the Israelites, who were doubly guilty of ingratitude, to set up as their shield the benefits with which they had been favored. Though then the name of God had been wickedly and shamefully profaned by them, they yet thought that they were safe, because they had been once adopted. This presumption Amos now beats down. "Behold, he says, the eyes of the Lord Jehovah are upon all the wicked". Some restrict this to the kingdom of Israel, but, in my opinion, such a view militates against the design of the Prophet. He speaks indefinitely of all kingdoms as though he had said, that God would be the judge of the whole world, that he would spare no kingdoms or countries. God then will show himself everywhere to be the punisher of vices, and will summon all kingdoms before his tribunal, "By destroying I will destroy from the face of the earth all the ungodly and the wicked". Now the second clause I understand otherwise than most do: for they think it contains a mitigation of punishment, as the Prophets are wont to blend promises of favor with threatening, and as our Prophet does in this chapter. But it seems not to me that anything is promised to the Israelites: nay, if I am not much mistaken, it is an ironical mode of speaking; for Amos obliquely glances here at that infatuated presumption, of which we have spoken, that the Israelites thought that they were safe through some peculiar privilege, and that they were to be exempt from all punishment: "I will not spare unbelievers," he says, "who excuse themselves by comparing themselves with you. Shall I tolerate your sins and not dare to touch you, seeing that you know yourselves to be doubly wicked?" We must indeed notice in what other nations differed from the Israelites; for the more the children of Abraham had been raised, the more they increased their guilt when they despised God, the author of so many blessings, and became basely wanton by shaking off, as it were, the yoke. Since then they so ungratefully abused God's blessings, God might then have spared other nations: it was therefore necessary to bring them to punishment, for they were wholly inexcusable. As then they exceeded all other nations in impiety, the Prophet very properly reasons here from the greater to the less: "I take an account," he says, "of all the sins which are in the world, and no nations shall escape my hand: how then can the Israelites escape? For other nations can plead some ignorance, as they have never been taught; and that they go astray in darkness is no matter of wonder. But ye, to whom I have given light, and whom I have daily exhorted to repent, - shall ye be unpunished? How could this be? I should not then be the judge of the world." We now then perceive the real meaning of the Prophet: "Lo," he says "the eyes of Jehovah are upon every sinful kingdom; I will destroy all the nations who have sinned from the face of the earth, though they have the pretence of ignorance for their sins; shall I not now, forsooth, destroy the house of Israel?" Here then the Prophet speaks ironically, Except that I shall not destroy by destroying the house of Israel; that is, "Do you wish me to be subservient to you, as though my hands were tied, that I could not take vengeance on you? what right have you to do this? and what can hinder me from punishing ingratitude so great and so shameful?" He afterwards adds, "For, lo, I will command," &c. The Prophet here confirms the former sentence; and hence I conclude that the second part of the preceding verse is ironically expressed; for if he had promised pardon to the Israelites, he would have gone on with the same subject; but, on the contrary, he proceeds in another direction, and says, that God would justly punish the Israelites; for the event would at length make it known, that among them not even a grain would be found, but that all would be like chaff or refuse: "Lo, he says, I will shake among the nations the Israelites as corn is shaken in a sieve: a grain, he says, shall not fall on the earth"; as though he said, "Though I shall scatter the Israelites through various places that they may be dispersed here and there, yet this exile shall ever be like a sieve: they now contend with me, when any grain has fallen. The event then shall show, that there is in them nothing but chaff and filth; for I will by sieving cleanse my whole floor, and nothing shall be found to remain on it." If one objects and says, that there were some godly persons in that nation, though very small in number. This I admit to be true: but the Prophet speaks here, as in many other places, of the whole nation; he refers not to individuals. It was then true, with regard to the body of the people of Israel, that there was not one among them who could be compared to grain, for all had become empty through their iniquities; and hence they necessarily disappeared in the sieve, and were like chaff or refuse. But it must be observed, that God here cuts off the handle for evasion, for hypocrites ever contend with him; and although they cannot wholly clear themselves, they yet extenuate their sins, and accuse God of too much severity. The Prophet then anticipates such objections, "I will command," he says, "and will shake the house of Israel as corn is shaken." It was a very hard lot, when the people were thus driven into different parts of the world; it was indeed a dreadful tearing. The Israelites might have complained that they were too severely treated; but God by this similitude obviates this calumny, "They are indeed scattered in their exile, yet they remain in a sieve; I will shake them, he says, among the nations: but not otherwise than corn when shaken in a sieve:" and it is allowed by the consent of all that corn ought to be cleansed. Though the greater part disappears when the corn, threshed on the floor, is afterwards subjected to the fan; yet there is no one but sees that this is necessary and reasonable: no one complains that the chaff thus perishes. Why so? Because it is useless. God then shows that he is not cruel, nor exceeds moderation, though he may scatter his people through the remote regions of the earth, for he ever keeps them in a sieve. He afterwards adds, "And fall shall not a grain on the earth". They translate "tsror" a stone, but "tsarar" is to tie, and hence this word means what is collected or, binding, as when the children of Jacob had their money tied in their sacks, they said, 'Behold my binding;' so also now it is taken for the solid grain. God then intimates that he would not be so rigid as not to moderate his punishment, so as to spare the innocent. I have already said that though there would be still a remnant among the people, yet what the Prophet says is true as to the whole body; for it had nothing either sound or pure. But this objection might be made: It is certain that many faithful worshipers of God were taken away into exile with the wicked; they then fell on the earth as useless chaff or refuse; but God denies that this would be the case. To this I answer, that though the Lord involves his servants with the ungodly when he executes temporal punishment, he is yet ever propitious to them; and it is certain, that however hardly they may be dealt with, they yet do not expostulate; they groan, indeed, but at the same time they acknowledge that they are mercifully treated by the Lord. But another thing must also be remembered, - that though the Lord would not have dealt so severely with his people, had they been like the few who were good, yet not one of them was without some fault. Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, Shadrach, Meshech, and Abednego, were indeed like angels among men; and it was indeed a miracle, that they stood upright in the midst of so much impiety; they were yet led into captivity. When they approached God, they could not object, that they were punished beyond what they deserved. Worthy, indeed, was Jeremiah of heavier punishment; and so was Daniel, though an example of the highest and even of angelic integrity. God then could have cast them away as refuse: it is nevertheless certain that they were wheat; and the Lord shook them in the sieve like the chaff, yet so as ever to keep them gathered under his protection; but at the same time in a hidden manner: as, for instance, the wheat on the floor is beaten together with the chaff, this is common to both; no difference can be observed in the threshing. True is this, and the case is the same when the wheat is being winnowed. When therefore the wheat is gathered, it is, together with the chaff, to be sifted by the fan, without any difference; but the wheat remains. So also it happened to the pious worshipers of God; the Lord kept them collected in the sieve. But here he speaks of the people in general; and he says that the whole people were like refuse and filth, and that they vanished, because there was no solidity in them, no use to be made of them, so that no one remained in the sieve. That God then preserved his servants, was an instance of his wonderful working. But the denunciation of punishment, here spoken of, belonged to the outward dealings of God. As then the people were like refuse or chaff shaken and driven to various places, this happened to them justly, because nothing solid was found in them. It now follows - Amos 9:10 All the sinners of my people shall die by the sword, which say, The evil shall not overtake nor prevent us. Amos goes on with the same subject, - that God without any measure of cruelty would execute extreme vengeance on a reprobate people: "Die, he says, by the sword all the wicked of my people". In naming the wicked of the people, he meant no doubt to include the whole people; though if any one thinks that the elect are by implication excepted, who were mixed with the ungodly, I do not object: this is probable; but yet the Prophet speaks here of the people generally. He says that the wicked of the people would perish by the sword: for it was not the sin of a few that Amos here refers to, but the sin which prevailed among the whole nation. Then all the wicked of my people shall die by the sword. He points out what sort of people they were, or at least he mentions the chief mark by which their impiety might be discovered, - they obstinately despised all the judgments of God, "They say, It will not draw near; nor lay hold on our account, the evil". Security then, which of itself ever generates a contempt of God, is here mentioned as the principal mark of impiety. And doubtless the vices of men reach a point that is past hope, when they are touched neither by fear nor shame, but expect God's judgments without any concern or anxiety. Since then they thus drove far away from themselves all threatening, while at the same time they were ill at ease with themselves, and as it were burying themselves in deep caverns, and seeking false peace to their consciences, they were in a torpor, or rather stupor, incapable of any remedy. It is, therefore, no wonder that the Prophet lays down here this mark of security, when he is showing that there was no remnant of a sound mind in this people. Die then shall all the wicked by the sword, even those who say, It will not draw near; nor anticipate us, on our account, the evil: for we can not explain the word "takdim" in any other way than by referring it to the threatening. For the Prophets, we know, commonly declared that the day of the Lord was at hand, that his hand was already armed, that it had already seized the sword. As then the Prophets, in order to smite despisers with fear, were wont to threaten a near punishment; so the Prophet does here; wishing to expose the impious stupor of the people, he says, "You think that there will not be such haste as is foretold to you by the Prophets; but this sheer perverseness will be the cause of your ruin." As to the expression, It will not come "on our account", from a regard to us, it deserves to be noticed. Though hypocrites confess in general, that they cannot escape the hand of God, yet they still separate themselves from the common class, as if they are secured by some peculiar privilege. They therefore set up something in opposition to God, that they may not be blended with others. This folly the Prophet indirectly condemns by saying, that hypocrites are in a quiet and tranquil state, because they think that there will be to them no evil in common with the rest, as also they say in Isa. 28: 15, 'The scourge, if it passes, will not yet reach us.' We now then see what the Prophet has hitherto taught, and the meaning of these four verses which we have just explained. Now follows the promise - Amos 9:11 In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old: Here now the Prophet begins to set forth the consolation, which alone could support the minds of the godly under afflictions so severe. Threatening alone might have cast the strongest into despair; but the event itself must have overwhelmed whatever hope there might have been. Hence the Prophet now applies comfort by saying, that God would punish the sins of the people of Israel in such a way as to remember still his own promise. We know, that whenever the Prophets designed to give some hope to a distressed people, they set forth the Messiah, for in him all the promises of God, as Paul says, are Yea and Amen, (2 Cor. 1: 20:) and there was no other remedy for the dispersion than for God to gather all the scattered members under one head. Hence, when the head is taken away, the Church has no head; especially when it is scattered and torn, as was the case after the time of Amos. It is no wonder then that the Prophets, after having prophesied of the destruction of the people, such as happened after the two kingdoms were abolished, should recall the minds of the faithful to the Messiah; for except God had gathered the Church under one head, there would have been no hope. This is, therefore, the order which Amos now observes. "In that day, he says, will I raise up the tabernacle of David: as though he had said, that the only hope would be, when the redeemers who had been promised would appear. This is the import of the whole. After having shown then that the people had no hope from themselves, for God had tried all means, but in vain and after having denounced their final ruin, he now subjoins, "The Lord will yet have mercy on his people, for he will remember his covenant." How will this be? "The Redeemer shall come." We now then understand the design of the Prophet and the meaning of the verse. But when he speaks of the tabernacle of David, he refers, I doubt not, to the decayed state of things; for a tabernacle does not comport with royal dignity. It is the same as though Amos had said, "Though the house of David is destitute of all excellency, and is like a mean cottage, yet the Lord will perform what he has promised; he will raise up again his kingdom, and restore to him all the power which has been lost." The Prophet then had regard to that intervening time, when the house of David was deprived of all splendor and entirely thrown down. I will then raise up the tabernacle of David: he might have said the tabernacle of Jesse; but he seems to have designedly mentioned the name of David, that he might the more fully strengthen the minds of the godly in their dreadful desolation, so that they might with more alacrity flee to the promise: for the name of Jesse was more remote. As then the name of David was in repute, and as this oracle, 'Of the fruit of thy loins I will set on thy throne,' (Ps. 132: 11,) was commonly known, the Prophet brings forward here the house of David, in order that the faithful might remember that God had not in vain made a covenant with David: "The tabernacle then of David will I then raise up, and will fence in its breaches, and its ruins will I raise up"; and I will build "it as in the days of old". Thus the Prophet intimates that not only the throne of David would be overthrown but also that nothing would remain entire in his mean booth, for it would decay into ruins and all things would be subverted. In short, he intimates that mournful devastation would happen to the whole family of David. He speaks, as it is well understood, metaphorically of the tabernacle: but the sense is clear, and that is, that God would restore the royal dignity, as in former times, to the throne of David. This is a remarkable prediction, and deserves to be carefully weighed by us. It is certain that the Prophet here refers to the advent of Christ; and of this there is no dispute, for even the Jews are of this opinion, at least the more moderate of them. There are indeed those of a shameless front, who pervert all Scripture without any distinction: these and their barking we may pass by. It is however agreed that this passage of the Prophet cannot be otherwise explained than of the Messiah: for the restitution of David's family was not to be expected before his time; and this may easily be learnt from the testimonies of other Prophets. As then the Prophet here declares, that a Redeemer would come, who would renew the whole state of the kingdom, we see that the faith of the Fathers was ever fixed on Christ; for in the whole world it is he alone who has reconciled us to God: so also, the fallen Church could not have been restored otherwise than under one head, as we have already often stated. If then at this day we desire to raise up our minds to God, Christ must immediately become a Mediator between us; for when he is taken away, despair will ever overwhelm us, nor can we attain any sure hope. We may indeed be raised up by some wind or another; but our empty confidence will shortly come to nothing, except we have a confidence founded on Christ alone. This is one thing. We must secondly observe, that the interruption, when God overthrew the kingdom, I mean, the kingdom of Judah, is not inconsistent with the prediction of Jacob and other similar predictions. Jacob indeed had said, 'Taken away shall not be the sceptre from Judah, nor a lawgiver from his bosom, or from his feet, until he shall come, the Shiloh,' (Gen. 49: 10.) Afterwards followed this memorable promise, 'Sit of thy progeny on thy throne shall he, who shall call me his Father, and in return I will call him my Son, and his throne shall perpetually remain,' (Ps. 132: 11,12.) Here is promised the eternity of the kingdom; and yet we see that this kingdom was diminished under Rehoboam, we see that it was distressed with many evils through its whole progress, and at length it was miserably destroyed, and almost extinguished; nay, it had hardly the name of a kingdom, it had no splendor, no throne, no dignity, no sceptre, no crown. It then follows, that there seems to be an inconsistency between these events and the promises of God. But the Prophets easily reconcile these apparent contrarieties; for they say, that for a time there would be no kingdom, or at least that it would be disturbed by many calamities, so that there would appear no outward form of a kingdom, and no visible glory. As then they say this, and at the same time add, that there would come a restoration, that God would establish this kingdom by the power of his Christ, - as then the Prophets say this, they show that its perpetuity would really appear and be exhibited in Christ. Though then the kingdom had for some time fallen, this does not militate against the other predictions. This then is the right view of the subject: for Christ at length appeared, on whose head rests the true diadem or crown, and who has been elected by Gods and is the legitimate king, and who, having risen from the dead, reigns and now sits at the Father's right hand, and his throne shall not fail to the end of the world; nay, the world shall be renovated, and Christ's kingdom shall continue, though in another form, after the resurrection, as Paul shows to us; and yet Christ shall be really a king for ever. And the Prophet, by saying, "as in ancient days", confirms this truth, that the dignity of the kingdom would not continue uniform, but that the restoration would yet be such as to make it clearly evident that God had not in vain promised an eternal kingdom to David. Flourish then shall the kingdom of David for ever. But this has not been the case; for when the people returned from exile, Zerobabel, it is true, and also many others, obtained kingly power; yet what was it but precarious? They became even tributaries to the kings of the Persian and of the Medes. It then follows, that the kingdom of Israel never flourished, nor had there existed among the people anything but a limited power; we must, therefore, necessarily come to Christ and his kingdom. We hence see that the words of the Prophet cannot be otherwise understood than of Christ. It follows - Amos 9:12 That they may possess the remnant of Edom, and of all the heathen, which are called by my name, saith the LORD that doeth this. By these words the Prophet shows that the kingdom under Christ would be more renowned and larger than it had ever been under David. Since then the kingdom had been greatest in dignity, and wealth, and power, in the age of David, the Prophet here says, that its borders would be enlarged; for then he says, "Possess shall the Israelites the remnant of Edom". He speaks here in common of the Israelites and of the Jews, as before, at the beginning of the last chapter, he threatened both. But we now apprehend what he means, - that Edom shall come under the yoke. And it is sufficiently evident why he mentions here especially the Idumeans, and that is because they had been most inveterate enemies; and vicinity gave them greater opportunity for doing harm. As then the Idumeans harassed the miserable Jews, and gave them no respite, this is the reason why the Prophet says that they would come under the power of his elect people. He afterwards adds, that all nations would come also to the Jews. He speaks first of the Idumeans, but he also adds all other nations. I cannot finish to-day. Prayer. Grant, Almighty God, that as we see everywhere so many evident tokens of thy displeasure, and more grievous ones are impeding, if we indeed duly consider how grievously we have provoked thy wrath, and how wickedly also the whole world at this day rages against thee and at the same time abuses thy many and excellent benefits, - O grant, that we may ever remember thy covenant and entertain a perpetual confidence in thy only-begotten Son, that whenever it may please thee to sift us, thou mayest keep us in safety, until we come, not into any earthly storehouse but into thy celestial kingdom, where we may become partakers of that glory which thy Son has obtained for us, who has once for all redeemed us that we may ever remain under his guardianship and protection. Amen. Calvin, Commentary on Amos (continued in part 21...) -------------------------------------------------- file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-4/cvams-20.txt .