(Calvin, Commentary on Joel, Part 2) Lecture Thirty-ninth. "Hear this, ye old men; and give ear, all ye inhabitants of the land: has this been in your days, and in the days of your fathers? This declare to your children and your children to their children, and their children to the next generation: the residue of the locust has the chafer eaten, and the residue of the chafer has the cankerworm eaten, and the residue of the cankerworm has the caterpillar eaten." I have in the last Lecture already mentioned what I think of this passage of the Prophet. Some think that a future punishment is denounced; but the context sufficiently proves that they mistake and pervert the real meaning of the Prophet; for, on the contrary, he reproves here the hardness of the people, - that they fell not their plagues. And as men are not easily moved by God's judgments, the Prophet here declares that God had executed such a vengeance as could not be regarded otherwise than miraculous; as though he said, "God often punishes men, and it behaves them to be attentive as soon as he raises up his finger. But common punishments are wont to be unheeded; men soon forget those punishments to which they have been accustomed. God has, however, treated you in an unusual manner, having openly as it were put forth his hand from heaven, and brought on you punishments nothing less than miraculous. Ye must then be more than stupid, if ye perceive not that you are smitten by God's hand." This is the true meaning of the Prophet, and may be easily gathered from the words. "Hear, ye old men", he says. He expressly addresses the old, because experience teaches men much; and the old, when they see any thing new or unusual, must know, that it is not according to the ordinary course of things. He who has past his fiftieth or sixtieth year, and sees something new happening which he had never thought of, doubtless acknowledges it as the unusual work of God. This is the reason why the Prophet directs here his discourse to the old; as though he said, "I will not terrify you about nothing; but let the old hear, who have been accustomed for many years to many revolutions; let them now answer me, whether in their whole life, which has been an age on the earth, have they seen any such thing." We now perceive the design of the Prophet; for he intended to awaken the Jews that they might understand that God had put forth his hand from heaven, and that it was impossible to ascribe what they had seen with their eyes to chance or to earthly causes, but that it was a miracle. And his object was to make the Jews at length ashamed of their folly in not having hitherto been attentive to God's punishments, and in having always flattered themselves, as though God slept in heaven, when yet he so violently thundered against them, and intended by an extraordinary course to move them, that they might at last perceive that they were summoned to judgment. He afterwards adds, "And an ye inhabitants of the land". Had the Prophet addressed only the old, some might seize on some pretext for their ignorance; hence he addressed and from the least to the greatest; and this he did, that the young might not exempt themselves from blame in proceeding in their obstinacy and in thus mocking God, when he called them to repentance. "Hear, he says, all ye inhabitants of the land; has this been in your days or in the days of your fathers?" He says first, has such a thing been in your days, for doubtless what happens rarely deserves a greater consideration. It is indeed true that foolish men are blind to the daily works of God; as the favor of God in making his sun to rise daily is but little thought of by us. This happens through our ingratitude; but our ingratitude is doubled, and is much more base and less excusable, when the Lord works in an unwonted manner, and we yet with closed eves overlook what ought to be deemed a miracle. This dullness the Prophet now reproves, "Has such a thing," he says, "happened in your days, or in the days of your fathers? Ye can recall to mind what your fathers have told you. It is certain that for two ages no such thing has happened. Your torpidity then is extreme, since ye neglect this judgment of God, which from its very rareness ought to have awakened your minds." He then adds, "Tell it to your children, your children to their children, their children to the next generation". In this verse the Prophet shows that the matter deserved to be remembered, and was not to be despised by posterity, even for many generations. It appears now quite clear that the Prophet threatens not what was to be, as some interpreters think; it would have been puerile: but, on the contrary, he expostulates here with the Jews, because they were so slothful and tardy in considering God's judgments; and especially as it was a remarkable instance, when God employed not usual means, but roused, and, as it were, terrified men by prodigies. Of this then tell: for "'aleyha" means no other thing than 'tell or declare this thing to your children;' and further, your children to their children. When any thing new happens, it may be, that we are at first moved with some wonder; but our feeling soon vanishes with the novelty, and we disregard what at first caused great astonishment. But the Prophet here showed, that such was the judgment of God of which he speaks, that it ought not to have been overlooked, no, not even by posterity. Let your children, he says, declare it to those after them, and their children to the fourth generation: it was to be always remembered. He adds what that judgment was, - that the hope of food had for many years disappointed them. It often happened, we know, that locusts devoured the standing corn; and then the chafers and the palmer worms did the same: these were ordinary events. But when one devastation happened, and another followed, and there was no end; when there had been four barren years, suddenly produced by insects, which devoured the growth of the earth; - this was certainly unusual. Hence the Prophet says, that this could not have been chance; for God intended to show to the Jews some extraordinary portent, that even against their will they might observe his hand. When any thing trifling happens, if it be rare, it will strike the attention of men; for we often see that the world makes a great noise about frivolous things. "But this wonder," says the Prophet, "ought to have produced effect on you. What then will ye do, since ye are starving, and the causes are evident; for God has cursed your land, and brought these insects, which have consumed your food before your eyes. Since it is so, it is surely the time for you to repent; and you have been hitherto very regardless having overlooked God's judgments, which have been so remarkable and so memorable." Let us now proceed. Joel 1:5 Awake, ye drunkards, and weep; and howl, all ye drinkers of wine, because of the new wine; for it is cut off from your mouth. The Prophet adds this verse for the sake of amplifying; for when God sees men either contemptuously laughing at or disregarding his judgments, he derides them; and this mode the Prophet now adopts. 'Ye drunkards,' he says, 'awake, and weep and howl.' In these words he addresses, on the subject in hand, those who had willfully closed their eyes to judgments so manifest. The Jews had become torpid, and had covered themselves over as it were with hardness; it was then necessary to draw them forth as by force into the light. But the Prophet accosts the drunkards by name; and it is probable that this vice was then very common among the people. However that might be, the Prophet by mentioning this instance shows more convincingly, that there was no pretence for passing by things, and that the Jews could not excuse their indifference if they took no notice; for the very drunkards, who had degenerated from the state of men, did themselves feel the calamity, for the wine had been cut off from their mouth. And this expression of the Prophet, "Awake", ought to be noticed; for the drunkards, even while awake, are asleep, and also spend a great portion of time in sleep. The Prophet had this in view, that men, though not endued with great knowledge, but even void of common sense, could no longer flatter themselves; for the very drunkards, who had wholly suffocated their senses, and had become thus estranged in their minds, did yet perceive the judgment of God; though drowsiness held them bound, they were yet constrained to awake at such a manifest punishment. "What then does this ignorance mean, when ye see not that you are smitten by God's hand?" To the same purpose are the words, "Weep and howl". Drunkards, on the contrary, give themselves up to mirth, and intemperately indulge themselves; and there is nothing more difficult than to make them to feel sorrow; for wine so infatuates their senses, that they continue to laugh in the greatest calamities. But the Prophet says, Weep and howl, ye drunkards! What then ought sober men to do? He then adds, "Cut off is the wine from your mouth". He says not, "The use of wine is taken away frown you;" but he says, "from your mouth". Though no one should think of vineyards or of winecellars or of cups, yet they shall be forced, willing or unwilling, to feel the judgment of God in their mouth and in their lips. This is what the Prophet means. We then see how much he aggravates what he had said before: and we must remember that his object was to strike shame into the people, who had become thus torpid with regard to God's judgments. As to the word "'asis", some render it new wine. "'asas" is to press; and hence "'asis" is properly the wine that is pressed in the wine-vat. New wine is not what is drawn out of the bottle, but what is pressed out as it were by force. But the Prophet, I have no doubt, includes here under one kind every sort of wine. Let us go on. Joel 1:6,7 For a nation is come up upon my land, strong, and without number, whose teeth [are] the teeth of a lion, and he hath the cheek teeth of a great lion. He hath laid my vine waste, and barked my fig tree: he hath made it clean bare, and cast [it] away; the branches thereof are made white. Of what some think, that punishment, not yet inflicted, is denounced here on the people, I again repeat, I do not approve; but, on the contrary, the Prophet, according to my view, records another judgment of God, in order to show that God had not only in one way warned the Jews of their sins, that he might restore them to a right mind; but that he had tried all means to bring them to the right way, though they proved to have been irreclaimable. After having then spoke of the sterility of the fields and of other calamities, he now adds that the Jews had been visited with war. Surely famine ought to have touched them, especially when they saw that evils, succeeding evils, had happened for several years contrary to the usual course of things, so that they could not be imputed to chance. But when God brought war upon them, when they were already worn out with famine, must they not have been more than insane in mind, to have continued astonied at God's judgments and not to repent? Then the meaning of the Prophet is, that God had tried, by every means possible, to find out whether the Jews were healable, and had given them every opportunity to repent, but that they were wholly perverse and untamable. Then he says, "Verily a nation came up". The particle "ki" is not to be taken as a causative, but only as explanatory, "Verily, or surely, he says, a nation came up"; though an inference also is not amiss, if it be drawn from the beginning of the verse: 'Hear, ye old men, and tell your children;' what shall we tell? even this, that a nation, &c. But in this form also "ki" would be exegetical, and the sense would be the same. This much as to the meaning of the passage. "A nation, then, came up over my land". God here justly claims the land of Canaan as his own heritage, and does so designedly, that the Jews might more clearly know that he was angry with them; for their condition would not have been worse than that of other nations, had not God resolved to punish them for their sins. There is here then an implied comparison between Judea and other countries, as though the Prophet said, "How comes it, that your land is wasted by wars and many other calamities, while other countries are at rest? This land is no doubt sacred to God, for he has chosen it for himself, that he might rule in it; he has here his own habitation: it then must be that there is some cause for God's wrath, as your land is so miserably wasted, when other lands enjoy tranquillity." We now perceive what the Prophet means. A nation, he says, came up upon my land, and what then? God could surely have prevented this; he could have defended his own land, of which he was the keeper, and which was under his protection: how then had it happened that enemies with impunity inundated this land, having marched into it and utterly laid it waste, except that it had been forsaken by the Lord himself? "A nation, he says, came up upon my land, strong and without number"; and further, "who had the teeth of a lion, the jaw-bones of a young lion". The nations had no strength which God could not in an instant have broken down, nor had he need of mighty auxiliaries, for he could by a nod only have reduced to nothing whatever men might have attempted: when, therefore, the Assyrians so impetuously assailed the Jews they were necessarily exposed to the wantonness of their enemies, for they were unworthy of being protected, as hitherto, by the hand of God. He afterwards adds, that "his vine had been exposed to desolation and waste, his fig-tree to the stripping of the bark". God speaks not here of his own vine, as in some other places, in which he designates his Church by this term; but he calls everything on earth his own, as he calls the whole race of Abraham his children: and he thus reproaches the Jews for having reduced themselves to such wretchedness through their own fault; for they would have never been spoiled by their enemies, had not God, who was wont to defend then, previously rejected them; for there was nothing in their land which he did not claim as his own; as he had chosen the people, so he had consecrated the land to himself. Whatsoever, then, enlisted in Judea, was, as it were, sacred to God. Now when both the vines and the fig-trees were exposed to the depredations of the unbelieving, it was certain that God no longer ruled there. How so? Even because the Jews had expelled him. He afterwards enlarges on the same subject; for what follows, "By denuding he has denuded it and cast it away", is not a mere narrative; the Prophet here declares not simply what had taken place; but as we have already said, adduces more proof, and tries to awaken the drowsy senses of the people, yea, to arouse them from that lethargy by which the minds of all had been seized; hence it is that he uses in his teaching so many expressions. This is the reason why he says that the vine and the fig-tree had been denuded, and also that the leaves had been taken away, that the branches had been made bare and white; so that there remained neither produce nor growth. Many interpreters join these three verses with the former, as if the Prophet now expressed what he had said before of the palmer worm, the chafer, and the locust; for they think that he spake allegorically when he said that all the fruits of the land had been consumed by the locusts and the chafers. They therefore add, that these locusts, or chafers, or the palmer worms, were the Assyrians, as well as the Persian and the Greeks, that is, Alexander of Macedon and the Romans: but this is wholly a strained views so that there is no need of a long argument; for any one may easily perceive that the Prophet mentions another kind of punishments that he might in every way render the Jews inexcusable who were not roused by judgments so multiplied, but remained still obstinate in their vices. Let us now proceed. Joel 1:8 Lament like a virgin girded with sackcloth for the husband of her youth. The Prophet now addresses the whole land. "Lament", he says; not in an ordinary way, but like a widow, whose husband is dead, whom she had married when young. The love, we know, of a young man towards a young woman, and so of a young woman towards a young man, is more tender than when a person in years marries an elderly woman. This is the reason that the Prophet here mentions the husband of her youth; he wished to set forth the heaviest lamentation, and hence he says "The Jews ought not surely to be otherwise affected by so many calamities, than a widow who has lost her husband while young, and not arrived at maturity, but in the flower of his age." As then such widows feel bitterly their loss, so the Prophet has adduced their case. The Hebrews often call a husband "ba'al", because he is the lord of his wife and has her under his protection. Literally it is, "For the lord of her youth;" and hence it is, that they also called their idols "ba'alim", as though they were as we have often said in our comment on the Prophet Hosea, their patrons. The sum of the whole is, That the Jews could not have continued in an unconcerned state, without being void of all reason and discernment; for they were forced, willing or unwilling, to feel a most grievous calamity. It is a monstrous thing, when a widow, losing her husband when yet young, refrains from mourning. Now then, since God had afflicted his land with so many evils, he wished to bring on them, as it were, the grief of widowhood. It follows - Joel 1:9 The meat offering and the drink offering is cut off from the house of the LORD; the priests, the LORD's ministers, mourn. Here, in other words, the Prophet paints the calamity; for, as it has been said, we see how great is the slowness of men to discern God's judgments; and the Jews, we know, were not more attentive to them than we are now. It was, therefore, needful to prick them with various goads, as the Prophet now does, as though he said, "If ye are not now concerned for want of food, if ye consider not even what the very drunkards are constrained to feel, who perceive not the evil at a distance, but taste it in their lips - if all these things are of no account with you, do at least look on the temple of God, which is now destitute of its ordinary services; for through the sterility of your fields, through so great a scarcity, neither bread nor wine is offered. Since then ye see that the worship of God has ceased, how is it ye yourselves still remain? Why is it that ye perceive not that God's fury is kindled against you? For surely except God had been most grievously offended, he would at least have had some regard for his own worship; he would not have suffered his temple to remain without sacrifices." The Jews, we know, daily poured their libations, and offered meat-offerings. When, therefore, Joel mentions "minchah" and libation, he doubtless meant to show that the worship of God was nearly abolished. But God would have never permitted such a thing, had he not been grievously offended by the sins of men. Hence the indifference, or rather the stupidity of the people, is more clearly proved, inasmuch as they perceived not the signs of God's wrath made evident even in the very temple. It follows - Joel 1:10 The field is wasted, the land mourneth; for the corn is wasted: the new wine is dried up, the oil languisheth. The Prophet goes on here with the same subject, and uses these many words to give more effect to what he said; for he knew that he addressed the deaf, who, by long habit, had so hardened themselves that God could effect nothing, at least very little, by his word. This is the reason why the Prophet so earnestly presses a subject so evident. Should any one ask what need there was of so many expressions, as it seems to be a needless use of words; I do indeed allow that all that the Prophet wished to say might have been expressed in one sentence, as there is here nothing intricate: but it was not enough that what he said should be understood, except the Jews applied it to themselves, and perceived that they had to do with God; and to make this application they were not disposed. It is not then without reason that the Prophet labors here, and enforces the same thing in many words. Hence he says, "The field is wasted, and the land mourns; for the corn has perished, for dried up has the wine, for destroyed has been the oil". And by these words he intimates that they seeing saw nothing; as though he said, "Let necessity extort mourning from you; ye are indeed starving, all complain of want, all deplore the need of bread and wine; and yet no one of you thinks whence this want is, that it is from the hand of God. Ye feel it in your mouth, ye feel it in your palate, ye feel it in your throat, ye feel it in your stomach; but ye feel it not in your heart." In short, the Prophet intimates that the Jews were void of right understanding; they indeed deplored their famine, but they were like brute beasts, who, when hungry, show signs of impatience. So the Jews mourned, because their stomach disquieted them; but they knew not that the cause of their want and famine was their sins. It afterwards follows - Joel 1:11 Be ye ashamed, O ye husbandmen; howl, O ye vinedressers, for the wheat and for the barley; because the harvest of the field is perished. The Prophet says nothing new here, but only strengthens what he had said before, and is not wordy without reason; for he intends here not merely to teach, but also to produce an effect: And this is the design of heavenly teaching; for God not only wishes that what he says may be understood, but intends also to penetrate into our hearts: and the word of God, we know, consists not of doctrine only, but also of exhortations, and threatenings, and reproofs. This plan then the Prophet now pursues: "Ye husband men, he says, be ashamed, and ye vinedressers, howl; for perished has the harvest of the field". The sum of the whole is, that the Jews, as we have already said, could by no excuse cover their indifference; for their clamour was everywhere heard, their complaints everywhere resounded, that the land had become a waste, that they were themselves famished that they were afflicted with many calamities; and yet no one acknowledged that God, who visited them for their sins, was the author. But what remains I shall put off until to-morrow. Prayer. Grant, Almighty God, that as thou invites us daily by various means to repentance, and continues also to urge us, because thou sees our extreme tardiness, - O grant that we may at length be awakened from our indifference, and suffer us not to be inebriated by the charms of Satan and the world; but by thy Spirit rouse us to real groaning, that, being ashamed of ourselves, we may flee to thy mercy, and doubt not but that thou wilt be propitious to us, provided with a sincere heart we call on thee, and seek that reconciliation which thou daily offerest to us by thy Gospel in the name of thy only begotten Son. Amen. Calvin, Commentary on Joel (Continued in part 3...) ---------------------------------------------------- file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-04: cvjoe-02.txt .