1 I saw the Lord standing upon the altar, and he said, "Smite the lintel of the door, so that the posts may shake. Cut them in the head, all of them. I will slay the last of them with the sword. He who flees of them shall not flee away, and he who escapes of them shall not be delivered.
2 Though they dig into the place of the dead, from there my hand shall take them. Though they climb up to heaven, from there I will bring them down.
3 Though they hide themselves in the top of Carmel, I will search and take them out from there. Though they are hid from my sight in the bottom of the sea, from there I will command the serpent, and he shall bite them.
4 Though they go into captivity before their enemies, from there I will command the sword, and it shall slay them. And I will set my eyes upon them for evil and not for good."
5 And the Lord GOD of hosts is he who touches the land, and it shall melt, and all who dwell in it shall mourn. And it shall rise up wholly like a flood, and shall be drowned as by the flood of Egypt.
6 It is he who builds his upper chambers in the heaven and has founded his vault on the earth, he who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out upon the face of the earth—Yahweh is his name.
7 "Are you not as children of the Cushites to me, O children of Israel?" says the LORD. "Have I not brought up Israel from the land of Egypt, the Philistines from Caphtor, and the Assyrians from Kir?
8 Behold, the eyes of the Lord GOD are upon the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from off the face of the earth, except that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob," says the LORD.
9 "For behold, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet the least grain shall not fall upon the earth.
10 All the sinners of my people shall die by the sword, who say, 'The evil shall not overtake nor fall upon us.'
11 In that day I will raise up the tabernacle of David that has fallen and close up its breaches. And I will raise up its ruins and build it as in the days of old,
12 So that they may possess the remnant of Edom and of all the heathen who are called by my name," says the LORD who does this.
13 "Behold, the days come," says the LORD, "that the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes shall overtake him who sows seed. And the mountains shall drop sweet wine, and all the hills shall melt.
14 And I will bring back the captivity of my people of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities and inhabit them. And they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine. They shall also make gardens and eat their fruit.
15 And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no longer be pulled up out of their land which I have given them," says the LORD your God.
John Gill's Chapter Summary:
This chapter contains the fifth and last vision the prophet saw; which represents the certain desolation of the land, city, and temple, and the slaughter of all sorts of persons, high and low, none should escape it (verse 1); [wherever they would be], they would be found out, whether in hell or heaven, on the tops of the highest mountains, or in the bottom of the sea, or in a foreign land, since the eyes of the Lord were upon them for evil (verses 2-4); nor could they hope to escape, when they considered his greatness and his power, and what he could do, and had done; and how they had behaved toward him, even though they were the people he had brought out of Egypt (verses 5-7); but though the sinful kingdom should be destroyed, yet not utterly, a remnant should be saved (verses 8-10); and the chapter is concluded with gracious promises of raising up the tabernacle of David [which had] fallen down, and of the return of the people of Israel to their own land; and of their settlement and continuance in it, never more to depart from it (verses 11-15).
[v.1a] - "lintel" - The Hebrew word is kaphtor (kaf-tore'), which means, the capital of a column. The capital is the uppermost part of a column, pillar or pilaster, serving as the head or crowning, and placed immediately over the shaft, and under the entablature.
[v.1b] - "Cut them in the head" - The Hebrew word from which head is translated is rosh (roshe), which in this case likely refers to the chief men, or the priests and rulers of the people.
[v.1c] - "the last of them" - The Hebrew word used here is achariyth (akh-ar-eeth'), which refers to the remnant, or those remaining. This is likely referring to the common people after the leaders were cut off (see note 1b).
[v.1d] - From John Calvin's Commentary: "Since the prophet denounces such and so dreadful a destruction of an elect people, and since the vision was exhibited to him in the temple, there is no reason for us to trust in our profession, and to wait until God's judgments come, as we see many are doing in our day, who are wholly careless, because they think that no evil can happen to them, inasmuch as they bear the name of God."
[v.2-4] - From John Calvin’s Commentary: "A useful warning may be here gathered,— that when God threatens us, we in vain seek subterfuges, and his hand extends itself to the lowest deep as well as to heaven." Reference, Psalm 139:7-8.
[v.3] - "serpent" - This is to be understood as a large sea creature, such as Leviathan. Reference, Isaiah 27:1.
[v.5] - "And it shall rise up wholly like a flood, etc." - See the note for Amos 8:8.
[v.6a] - "upper chambers" - The Hebrew word here is maalah (mah-al-aw'), which means elevation (that is, the act of elevating), to go up, ascents, steps or stairs to ascend. By this is meant the places ascended to, such as chambers, or upper chambers.
[v.6b] - "vault" - The Hebrew word here is aguddah (ag-ood-daw'), which can have a couple of different meanings for this verse. One meaning, as in the KJV, is troop, as in all the animate creatures, which are God's troop and do his will. This meaning is based on the usage of the same Hebrew word in 2nd Samuel 2:25 (see also Genesis 2:1). The other meaning is vault, as in a continued arch, or an arched roof. This would refer to the vaulted sky, or the firmament, which rests, or is founded, on the earth.
John Calvin's Prayer for Verses 1-6:
Grant, Almighty God, that as you have showed to us by evidences so remarkable that all things are under your command, and that we, who live in this world through your favor, are as nothing, for you could reduce us to nothing in a moment,— O grant, that being conscious of your power, we may reverently fear your hand, and be wholly devoted to your glory; and as you kindly offer yourself to us as a Father, may we be drawn by this kindness, and surrender ourselves wholly to you by a willing obedience, and never labor for anything through life but to glorify your name, as you have redeemed us through your only begotten Son, that so we may also enjoy through him that eternal inheritance which is laid up for us in heaven. Amen.
[v.7-9] - From Matthew Henry's Commentary: "[Observe:] How graciously God will separate between the precious and the vile in the day of retribution. Though the wicked Israelites shall be as the wicked Ethiopians, and their being called Israelites shall stand them in no stead, yet the pious Israelites shall not be as the wicked ones; no, the Judge of all the earth will do right, more right than to slay the righteous with the wicked (Genesis 18:25). His eyes are upon the sinful kingdom, to spy out those in it who preserve their integrity and swim against the stream, who sigh and cry for the abominations of their land, and they shall be marked for preservation, so that the destruction shall not be total: 'I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob,' not ruin them by wholesale and in the gross, good and bad together, but I will distinguish, as becomes a righteous judge. The house of Israel shall be sifted as corn is sifted; they shall be greatly hurried, and shaken, and tossed, but still in the hands of God, in both his hands, as the sieve in the hands of him who sifts."
[v.9] - "corn" - Literally, "a binding," or something bound up, collected, or bundled, as in a parcel or pouch. This comes from the Hebrew word tsrowr (tser-ore'). The Israelites will be collected in a sieve like corn.
[v.10] - "The evil shall not overtake nor fall upon us" - Compare with what is said of the scourge in Isaiah 28:15.
[v.11-12] - Quoted in Acts 15:16-17.
[v.11a] - "In that day" - That is, in the day when the promised Redeemer would come.
[v.11b] - From John Calvin's Commentary: "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 learned from the testimonies of other Prophets. And 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... 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."
John Calvin's Prayer for Verses 7-12:
Grant, Almighty God, that as we see everywhere so many evident tokens of your displeasure, and more grievous ones are impeding, if we indeed duly consider how grievously we have provoked your wrath, and how wickedly also the whole world at this day rages against you, and at the same time abuses your many and excellent benefits,— O grant, that we may ever remember your covenant, and entertain a perpetual confidence in your only-begotten Son, that whenever it may please you to sift us, you may keep us in safety, until we come, not into any earthly storehouse, but into your celestial kingdom, where we may become partakers of that glory which your Son has obtained for us, who has once for all redeemed us, that we may ever remain under his guardianship and protection. Amen.
[v.13a] - From John Calvin's Commentary: "The Spirit under these figurative expressions declares, that the kingdom of Christ shall in every way be happy and blessed, or that the Church of God, which means the same thing, shall be blessed, when Christ shall begin to reign."
[v.13b] - Reference, Leviticus 26:5.
[v.13-15] - Calvin's prayer for these verses is included with the first prayer in Obadiah, though the above prayer could easily apply to these verses. The passage from the prayer in Obadiah that relates to these verses is this: "so that we may quietly live even amidst all dangers..."