(Calvin, Commentary on Joel, Part 10) Lecture Forty-seventh. We said in our yesterday's Lecture, that God proves the singular love he has to his Church by condescending to undertake her cause, and contend as a worldly man would do for his paternal inheritance. He says, that "his heritage, Israel, had been dispersed among the nations"; as though he said, that it was an intolerable thing that enemies should, like robbers, thus divide his heritage. He speaks first of the people, then of the land; for God, as it is well known, consecrated the land to himself, and he would not have it occupied by profane nations. There was then a twofold sacrilege, - the people were carried away into distant lands, and others were sent to inhabit and possess their land, which God had destined for his children and elect people. There follows now another indignity still greater; for they cast lot on God's people, - "On my people they have cast lot, and prostituted a boy for a harlot, and a girl have they sold for wine, that they might drink". By these words the Prophet enhances the injury done them; for the Jews had been reproachfully treated. Some measure of humanity is mostly shown when men are sold; but the Prophet here complains in the person of God, that the Jews had been exposed to sale, as though they were the off scourings of mankind, and of no account. They have cast lots he says; and this was to show contempt; and the Prophet expresses more clearly what he meant, and says, that a boy had been given for a harlot, and a girl for wine. Some consider the Prophet as saying, that boys were prostituted to base and scandalous purposes; but I prefer another view, - that the enemies sold them for a mean price to gratify their gluttony, or their lust; as though the Prophet had said, that the Jews had to endure a grievous reproach by being set to sale, as they say, and that at the lowest price. He farther adds another kind of contempt; for whatever price the enemies procured by selling, they spent it either on harlot or on feasting. We hence see that a twofold injury is here mentioned, - the Jews had been so despised as not to be regarded as men, and had been sold not for the usual prices, but had been disposed of in contempt by their enemies almost for nothing; - and the other reproach was, that the price obtained for them was afterwards spent on gluttony and whoredom: yet this people was sacred to God. Now this contumelious treatment, the Prophet says, God would not endure, but would avenge such a wrong as if done to himself. This is then the meaning. But the reason which induces me thus to interpret the Prophet is because he says that a girl was sold for wine, as the boy for a harlot; and the construction of the Prophet's words is the same. It is indeed certain that in the latter clause the Prophet meant nothing else but that the price was wickedly spent for vile and shameful purposes; then the former clause must be understood in the same way. Let us proceed - Joel 3:4-6 4 Yea, and what have ye to do with me, O Tyre, and Zidon, and all the coasts of Palestine? will ye render me a recompence? and if ye recompense me, swiftly [and] speedily will I return your recompence upon your own head; 5 Because ye have taken my silver and my gold, and have carried into your temples my goodly pleasant things: 6 The children also of Judah and the children of Jerusalem have ye sold unto the Grecians, that ye might remove them far from their border. God expostulates here with Tyre and Sidon, and other neighboring nations, and shows that they vexed his people without cause Had they been provoked some excuse might have been made; but since they made war of their own accord, the wrong was doubled. This is what God means these words. "What have ye to do with me, O Tyre and Sidon?" He indeed continues the subject before explained: but he speaks of the concern here as hid own; he seems not now to undertake the protection of his own people, but detents his own cause. "What have ye to do with me?" he says. God then interposes himself; as though he said, that the Syrians and Sidonians were not only called by him to judgment because they had unjustly wronged his people, and brought many troubles on men deserving no such things; but he says also, that he stood up in his own defense. "What have I to do with you, O Syrians and Sidonians?" as we say in French, Qu'avons-nous a desmeller? (what have we to decide?) Now the Prophet had this in view, that the Syrians and Sidonians became voluntary enemies to the Jews, when they had no dispute with them; and this, as we have said, was less to be borne. "What then have ye to do with me, O Syrians and Sidonians? Do I owe anything to you? Am I under any obligation to you? Do ye repay me my recompense?" that is, "Can you boast of any reason or just pretence for making, war on my people?" He then means, that there had been no wrong done to the Syrians and Sidonians, which they could now retaliate, but that they made an attack through their own wickedness, and were only impelled by avarice or cruelty thus to harass the miserable Jews: "Ye repay not," he says, "a recompense to me; for ye cannot pretend that any wrong has been done to you by me." "But if ye repay this to me, he says, I will swiftly return the recompense on your head". "Gamal" means not only to repay, as the Hebrew scholars ever render it, but also to confer, to bestow, as it has been stated in another place. 'What shall I repay to the Lord for all the things which he has recompensed to me?' This is the common version; but it is an improper and inconsistent mode of speaking. David no doubt refers to God's benefits; then it is, 'What shall I repay for all the benefits which the Lord has bestowed on me?' Then he who first does wrong, or bestows good, is said to recompense; and this is the sense in this place. 'If ye,' he says, 'thus deal with me, "swiftly", "meherah" suddenly (for the word is to be taken as an adverb,) will I return recompense on your head;' that is, "Ye shall not be unpunished, since ye have acted so unjustly with me and my people." We now perceive the whole meaning of the Prophet: He enhances the crime of the Syrians and Sidonians, because they willfully distressed the Jews, and joined themselves to their foreign enemies, for the purpose of seizing on a part of the spoil. As, then, vicinity softened not their minds, their inhumanity was on this account more fully proved. But, as I have said, the Lord here places himself between the two parties, to intimate, that he performs his own proper office when he takes care of the safety of his Church. He afterwards shows that this wickedness should not be unpunished - "If ye deal thus with me, he says, I shall swiftly (suddenly) return the recompense on your heads". This passage contains a singular consolation; for God declares that whatever evils the faithful endure belong to him, and also that he will not suffer those under his protection and defense to be distressed with impunity, but will quickly return recompense on the heads of those who unjustly injure his heritage. We now understand the Prophet's design: he doubtless intended to support the minds of the godly with this thought, - that their afflictions are objects of concern with God and that he will shortly be the avenger of them, however necessary it may be that they should for a time be thus violently and reproachfully treated by wicked men. Let us now proceed: He says that their silver and their gold had been taken away by the Syrians and the Sidonians. All who were the neighbors of that people, no doubt, derived gain from their calamity, as is usually the case. They were at first ill disposed towards them; there was then a new temptation; they gaped after booty: and they showed themselves openly their enemies, when they saw that there was hope of gain. Such was the case with the Syrians and Sidonians. There is no doubt, but that they sedulously courted the favor of the Assyrians, that they helped them with provisions and other things, that they might partake of the spoil. It was, therefore, no wonder that gold and silver was taken away by them, for the carriage of them [to Assyria] would have been tedious: and, as I have just hinted, it is usually the case, that conquerors gratify those by whom they have been assisted. Many extend this plunder generally to the whole wealth of the people; that is, that the enemies plundered what gold and silver there was in Judea, and that the Sidonians got a portion of it for themselves. But there seems to have been a special complaint, that the sacred vessels of the temple were taken away by the Syrians and Sidonians: I therefore prefer to render the word, temples, rather than palaces. Some say, 'Ye have carried away my silver and my gold to your palaces.' Though the word is capable of two meanings, yet the Prophet, I have no doubt, refers here to the temples. The Syrians, then, and the Sidonians profaned the silver and the gold of the temple by dedicating them to their idols; they adorned their idols with spoils taken from the only true God. This was the reason why God was so exceedingly displeased. There was, indeed, a cause why God, as we have said, contended for the whole nation of Israel: but it was a far more heinous wrong to spoil the temple, and to strip it of its ornaments, and then to adorn idols with its sacred vessels; for God was thus treated with scorn; and in contempt of him, the Syrians and Sidonians built, as it were, a trophy of victory in their own dens, where they performed sacrilegious acts in worshipping fictitious gods. "Ye have taken away, he says, my gold and silver, and my desirable good things". God speaks here after the manner of men; for it is certain that even under the law he stood in no need of gold or silver, or of other precious things; he wished the temple to be adorned with vessels and other valuable furniture for the sake of the ignorant people; for the Jews could not have been preserved in pure and right worship, had not God assisted their weak faith by these helps. But yet, as obedience is acceptable to him, he says that whatever was an ornament in the temple was a desirable thing to him; while, at the same time, by speaking thus, he put on, as I have said, a character not his own, as he has no need of such things, nor is he delighted with them. We ought not, indeed, to imagine God to be like a child, who takes delight in gold and silver and such things; but what is said here was intended for the benefit of the people, that they might know that God approved of that worship, for it was according to his command. He therefore calls every thing that was in the temple desirable, "Ye have, he says, carried away into your temples my desirable good things". It follows, "And the children of Judah, and the children of Jerusalem, have ye sold to the children of the Grecians". There is here another complaint subjoined, - that the Syrians and Sidonians had been sacrilegious towards God, that they had cruelly treated God's afflicted people. In the last verse, God inveighed against the Syrians, and Sidonians for having prostituted to their idols gold and silver stolen from him; he now again returns to the Jews themselves, who, he says, had been sold to the children of the Grecians; that is, to people beyond the sea: for as Javan passed into Europe, he includes under that name the nations beyond the sea. And he says, that they sold the Jews to the Greeks that they might drive them far from their own borders, so that there might be no hope of return. Here the cruelty of the Syrians and Sidonians becomes more evident; for they took care to drive those wretched men far away, that no return to their country might be open to them, but that they might be wholly expatriated. We now perceive what the Prophet had in view: He intended that the faithful though trodden under foot by the nations, should yet have allayed their grief by some consolation, and know that they were not neglected by God; and that though he connived at their evils for a time, he would yet be their defender, and would contend for them as for his own heritage, because they had been so unjustly treated. He afterwards adds - Joel 3:7 Behold, I will raise them out of the place whither ye have sold them, and will return your recompence upon your own head: The Prophet declares here more fully and expressly, that God had not so deserted the Jews, but that he intended, in course of time, to stretch forth his hand to them again. It was indeed a temporary desertion: but it behaved the faithful in the meantime to rely on this assurance, - that God purposed again to restore his people: and of this the Prophet now speaks, "Behold, he says, I will raise them from the place unto which ye have sold them"; as though he said "Neither distance of place, nor the intervening sea, will hinder me from restoring my people." As then the Syrians and Sidonians thought that the Jews were precluded a return to their country, because they were taken away into distant parts of the world, God says that this would be no obstacle in his way to collect again his Church. But it may he asked, When has this prediction been fulfilled? as we indeed know that the Jews have never returned to their own country: for shortly after their return from exile, they were in various ways diminished; and at length the most grievous calamities followed, which consumed the greatest part of the people. Since this then has been the condition of that nation, we ought to inquire whether Christ has collected the Jews, who had been far dispersed. We indeed know that they were then especially scattered; for the land of Judea never ceased to be distressed by continual wars until Jerusalem was destroyed, and the people were almost wholly consumed. Since then it has been so, when can we say that this prediction has been fulfilled? Many explain the words allegorically, and say, that the Prophet speaks of apostles and martyrs, who, through various persecutions, were driven into different parts; but this is a strained view. I therefore do not doubt, but that here he refers to a spiritual gathering: and it is certain that God, since the appearance of Christ, has joined together his Church by the bond of faith; for not only that people have united together in one, but also the Gentiles, who were before alienated from the Church, and had no intercourse with it, have been collected into one body. We hence see, that what the Prophet says has been spiritually fulfilled; even the children of Judah and the children of Jerusalem have been redeemed by the Lord, and restored again, not on foot or by sea; for Jerusalem has been built everywhere as it is said in Zechariah. "I will therefore gather them", he says; and he adds, I will return recompense on your head". He again confirms what he said before, - that though the ungodly should exult, while ruling over the children of God, their cruelty would not be unpunished; for they shall find that the Church is never neglected by God; though he may subject it to various troubles, and exercise its patience, and even chastise it, he will yet be ever its defender. It follows - Joel 3:8 And I will sell your sons and your daughters into the hand of the children of Judah, and they shall sell them to the Sabeans, to a people far off: for the LORD hath spoken [it]. The Prophet describes here a wonderful change: the Syrians and Sidonians did sell the Jews; but who is to be the seller now? God himself will take this office, - "I, he says, will sell your children", as though he said, "The Jews shall subdue you and reduce you to bondage," - by whose authority? "It shall be, as if they bought you at my hands." He means that this servitude would be legitimate; and thus he makes the Jews to be different from the Syrians and Sidonians, who had been violent robbers, and unjustly seized on what was not their own: and hence the manner of the sale is thus described, - "I myself shall be the author of this change, and the thing shall be done by my authority, as if I had interposed my own name;" and the Jews themselves shall sell, he says, your sons and your daughters to the Sabeans, a distant nation; that is, the people of the East: for the Prophet, I doubt not, by mentioning a part for the whole, meant here to designate Eastern nations, such as the Persians and Medes; but he says, that the Tyrians and Sidonians shall be driven to the meet distant countries; for the Sabeans were very far distant from the Phoenician Sea, and were known as being very nigh the Indians. But it may be asked here, When has God executed this judgment? for the Jews never possessed such power as to be able to subdue neighboring nations, and to sell them at pleasure to unknown merchants. It would indeed be foolish and puerile to insist here on a literal fulfillment: at the same time, I do not say, that the Prophet speaks allegorically; for I am disposed to keep from allegories, as there is in them nothing sound nor solid: but I must yet say that there is a figurative language used here, when it is said, that the Syrians and Sidonians shall be sold and driven here and there into distant countries, and that this shall be done for the sake of God's chosen people and his Church, as though the Jews were to be the sellers. When God says, "I will sell," it is not meant that he is to descend from heaven for the purpose of selling, but that he will execute judgment on them; and then the second clause, - that they shall be sold by the Jews, derives its meaning from the first; and this cannot be a common sake, as if the Jews were to receive a price and make a merchandise of them. But God declares that the Jews would be the sellers, because in this manner he signifies his vengeance for the wrong done to them; that is, by selling them "to the Sabeans, a distant nation". We further know, that the changes which then followed were such that God turned upside down nearly the whole world; for he drove the Syrian and the Sidonians to the most distant countries. No one could have thought that this was done for the sake of the Jews, who were hated and abominated by all. But yet God declares, that he would do this from regard to his Church even sell the Syrians and the Sidonians, though it was commonly unknown to men; for it was the hidden judgment of God. But the faithful who had been already taught that God would do this, were reminded by the event how precious to God is his heritage, since he avenges those wrongs, the memory of which had long before been buried. This then is the import of the whole. The Prophet now subjoins - Joel 3:9-11 9 Proclaim ye this among the Gentiles; Prepare war, wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near; let them come up: 10 Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruninghooks into spears: let the weak say, I [am] strong. 11 Assemble yourselves, and come, all ye heathen, and gather yourselves together round about: thither cause thy mighty ones to come down, O LORD. Some think these words were announced lest the people, being terrified by their evils, should become wholly dejected; and they elicit this meaning, - that God placed this dreadful spectacle of evils before their eyes, that the Jews might prepare and strengthen themselves for enduring them; that though nations should everywhere rise up, they might yet abide arm in the hope, that God would be the defender of his own Church. But the Prophet, I doubt not, continues the same discourse, and denounces war on the heathen nations, who had molested the Church with so many troubles; "Publish this, he says, among the nations, proclaim war, rouse the strong; let them come, let them ascend": and we know how necessary it was by such means to confirm what he had previously said: for the ungodly are moved by no threats, nay, they laugh to scorn all God's judgments; while the faithful yielding to their evils, can hardly raise up their minds, even though God promises to be a helper to them. Except, then, the matter had been set forth as painted before their eyes they would not have experienced the power of consolation. Hence the lively representation we see here was intended for this end, - that the people, being led to view the whole event, might entertain hope of their future salvation, while they now saw God collecting his army, and mustering his forces to punish the enemies of his Church. The faithful, then not only hearing by mere words that this would be, but also seeing, as it were, with their eyes what the Lord sets forth by a figure, and a lively representation, were more effectually impressed and felt more assured that God would become at length their deliverer. We now then see why the Prophet here bids war to be everywhere announced and proclaimed, and also why he bids the strong to assemble, and all warlike men to ascend; as though he said, "The Lord will not disappoint you with empty words, but will come provided with an army to save you. When ye hear, then, that he will be the author of your salvation, think also that all nations are in his power, and that the whole world can in a moment be roused up by his rod, so that all its forces may from all quarters come together, and all the power of the world meet in obedience to him. Know, then, that being provided with his forces, he comes not to you naked, nor feeds you with mere words, as they are wont to do who have no help to give but words only: this is not what God does; for he can even to-day execute what he has denounced; but he stays for the ripened time. In the meanwhile, give him his honor, and know that there is not wanting the means to protect you, if he wished; but he would have you for a time to be subject to the cross and to tribulations that he may at length avenge the wrongs done to you." It may be now asked who are the nations meant by the Prophet? for he said before, that God would visit all nations with punishment, whereas, there was then no nation in the world friendly to the Jews. But in this there is nothing inconsistent; for God caused all the enemies of the Church to assail one another on every side, and to destroy themselves with mutual slaughters. Hence, when he designed to take vengeance on the Tyrians and Sidonians, he roused up the Persian and Medes; and when he purposed to punish the Persian and Medes, he called the Greeks into Asia; and he had before brought low the Assyrians. Thus he armed all nations, but each in its turn; and one after the other underwent the punishment they deserved. And so the expression of the Prophet must not be taken in a too restricted sense, as though the Lord would at the same time collect an army from the whole world, to punish the enemies of his Church; but that he rouses the whole world, so that some suffer punishment from others; and yet no enemy of the Church remains unpunished. We now perceive the Prophet's objects in saying, "Publish this among the nations"; that is, God will move dreadful tumults through the whole world, and will do this for the sake of his Church: for though he exposes his people to many miseries, he will yet have the remnant, as we have before seen, to be saved. He afterwards adds, "Beat your plowshares into swords". When Isaiah and Micah prophesied of the kingdom of Christ, they said, 'Beat your swords into pruninghooks, and your spears into plowshares', (Isa.2, Mic.4.) This sentence is now inverted by Joel. The words of Isaiah and Micah were intended figuratively to show that the world would be at peace when Christ reconciled men to God, and taught them to cultivate brotherly kindness. But the Prophet says here, that there would be turbulent commotions everywhere, so that there would be no use made of the plough or of the pruninghook; husbandmen would cease from their labour, the land would remain waste; for this is the case when a whole country is exposed to violence; no one dares go out, all desert their fields, cultivation is neglected. Hence the Prophet says, 'Turn your plowshares into swords, and your pruninghooks into spears;' that is, field labour will cease, and all will strenuously apply themselves to war. And "let the weak say, I am strong", for there will then be no exemption from war. Excuses, we know, availed formerly on the ground of age or disease, when soldiers were collected; and if any one could have pleaded disease, he was dismissed; but the Prophet says, that there will be no exemption then; "God", he says, "will excuse none, he will compel all to become warriors, he will even draw out all the sick from their beds; all will be constrained to put on arms". It hence appears how ardently the Lord loves his Church, since he spares no nations and no people, and exempts none from punishment; for all who have vexed the Church must necessarily receive their recompense. Since then God so severely punishes the enemies of his Church, he thereby gives a singular evidence of his paternal love to us. At length he concludes, "There will Jehovah overthrow thy mighty ones". Though the Prophet uses the singular number, "thy", he no doubt refers to the whole earth; as though he said, "Whatever enemies there may be to my people, I will cut them down, however strong they may be." We now perceive that everything the Prophet has hitherto said has been for this end - to show, that God takes care of the safety of his Church, even in its heaviest afflictions, and that he will be the avenger of wrongs, after having for a time tried the patience of his people and chastised their faults - that there will be a turn in the state of things, so that the condition of the Church will be ever more desirable, even under its greatest evils, than of those whom the Lord bears with and indulges, and on whom he does not so quickly take vengeance. Prayer. Grant, Almighty God, that as we ara assailed on every side by enemies, and as not only the wicked according to the flesh are incensed against us, but Satan also musters his forces and contrives in various ways to ruin us, - O grant, that we being furnished with the courage thy Spirit bestows, may fight to the end under thy guidance and never be wearied under any evils. And may we, at the same time, be humbled under thy mighty hand when it pleases thee to afflict us and so sustain all our troubles that with a courageous mind we may strive for that victory which thou promises to us, and that having completed all our struggles we may at length attain that blessed rest which is reserved for us in heaven through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. Calvin, Commentary on Joel (Continued in part 11...) ---------------------------------------------------- file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-04: cvjoe-10.txt .