1 Woe to those who devise iniquity and work evil upon their beds! When the morning is light, they practice it, because it is in the power of their hand.
2 And they covet fields and take them by violence, and also houses, and take them away. Thus they oppress a man and his house, even a man and his heritage.
3 Therefore, thus says the LORD: "Behold, against this family I devise an evil, from which you shall not remove your necks, neither shall you go haughtily, for this time is evil.
4 In that day one shall take up a parable against you and lament with a grievous lamentation, and say, 'We are utterly wasted. He has changed the portion of my people. How he has removed it from me! To the rebellious he has divided our fields.'
5 Therefore, you shall have no one who shall cast the line by lot in the congregation of the LORD.
6 'Do not prophesy,' they say to those who prophesy. They shall not prophesy to them. Reproaches shall not depart.
7 Shall it be said, O house of Jacob, 'Is the Spirit of the LORD straitened? Are these his doings?' Do my words not do good to him who walks uprightly?
8 Even of late my people have risen up as an enemy. You pull off the robe with the garment from those who pass by securely as men averse to war.
9 The women of my people you have cast out from their pleasant houses. From their children you have taken away my glory forever.
10 Arise, and depart, for this is not your rest. Because it is polluted, it shall destroy you, even with a grievous destruction.
11 If a man walking in a spirit of falsehood lies, saying, 'I will prophesy to you of wine and of strong drink,' he shall even be the prophet of this people.
12 I will surely assemble, O Jacob, all of you. I will surely gather the remnant of Israel. I will put them together as the sheep of Bozrah, as the flock in the midst of their fold. They shall make great noise by reason of the multitude of men.
13 The breaker has come up before them. They have broken up and have passed through the gate and gone out by it. And their king shall pass before them, and the LORD at their head."
John Gill's Chapter Summary:
In this chapter complaint is made of the sins of the people of Israel, and they are threatened with punishment for them. The sins they are charged with are covetousness, oppression, and injustice, which were premeditated, and done deliberately (verses 1-2); therefore the Lord devised evil against them, they should not escape; and which would bring down their pride, and cause them to take up a lamentation, because they should not enjoy the portion of land that belonged to them (verses 3-5); they are further charged with opposing the prophets of the Lord, the folly and wickedness of which is exposed (verses 6-7); and with great inhumanity and barbarity, even to women and children (verses 8-9); and therefore are ordered to expect and prepare for a removal out of their land (verse 10); and the rather, since they gave encouragement and heed to false prophets, and delighted in them (verse 11); and the chapter is concluded with words of comfort to the remnant among them, and with precious promises of the Messiah, and the blessings of grace by him (verses 12-13).
[v.1] - "because it is in the power of their hand" - From John Calvin's Commentary: "The Prophet means, that they dared to try what they could, and that therefore their hand was always ready; whenever there was hope of lucre or gain, the hand was immediately prepared. How so? Because they were restrained neither by the fear of God nor by any regard for justice; but their hand was for power, that is, what they could, they dared to do." See verse 2 for an elaboration.
[v.2] - From John Calvin's Commentary: "But it behooves us carefully to consider how greatly displeasing to God are frauds and plunders, so that each of us may keep himself from doing any wrong, and be so ruled by a desire of what is right, that every one of us may act in good faith toward his neighbors, seek nothing that is unjust, and bridle his own desires: and whenever Satan attempts to allure us, let what is here taught be to us as a bridle to restrain us."
[v.3] - "this family" - This is referring to the people of Israel (John Owen).
[v.5] - "cast the line by lot" - That is, divide, or measure with the measuring line, the inheritance of the land. It can also be read as, "divide the land by lot." Reference, Joshua 14:1-5.
John Calvin's Prayer for Verses 1-6:
Grant, Almighty God, that as you are pleased to try our patience by requiring mutual justice and the offices of love and benevolence,— O grant, that we may not be wolves one to another, but show ourselves to be really your children, by observing all those duties of justice and kindness which you command, and thus follow what is right and just through the whole course of our life, that we may at length enjoy that blessedness which is laid up for us in heaven, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
[v.7] - From John Calvin's Commentary: "But though the Prophet here upbraids the ancient people with ingratitude, yet this truth is especially useful to us, which God declares, when he says that his word is good and sweet to all the godly. Let us then learn to become submissive to God, and then he will convey to us by his word nothing but sweetness, nothing but delights; we shall then find nothing more desirable than to be fed by this spiritual food; and it will ever be a real joy to us, whenever the Lord will open his mouth to teach us. But when at any time the word of the Lord goads and wounds, and thus exasperates us, let us know that it is through our own fault."
[v.8] - "Even of late my people have risen up as an enemy" - This may also be read as, "And those who were formerly my people, have risen up as an enemy against me."
[v.10a] - "this is not your rest" - From John Gill's Exposition: "The land in which the ten tribes then dwelt, and which was given to their fathers for an inheritance, and for a resting place, and had been so for ages past, now would be no more so, because of their sins and transgressions; they must not expect to abide here long, and enjoy rest and ease; but to be turned out, and deprived of all the blessings of it, and be carried into a foreign country, where, instead of rest and case, they should be in slavery and bondage."
[v.10b] - "Because it is polluted, it shall destroy you" - From the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary: "The land shall spew you out, because of the defilements wherewith you 'polluted' it (Leviticus 18:25-28; Jeremiah 3:2; Ezekiel 36:12-14)." From the Pulpit Commentary: "The land is said to destroy when it ejects its inhabitants, as though the inanimate creation rose in judgment against the sinners."
[v.11a] - From John Calvin's Commentary: "The Prophet points out here another vice by which the people were infected—that they wished to be soothed with flatteries: for all the ungodly think that they are in a manner exempt from God's judgment, when they hear no reproof; indeed, they think themselves happy, when they get flatterers, who are indulgent to their vices. This is now the disease which the Prophet discovers as prevailing among the people."
[v.11b] - "If a man walking in a spirit of falsehood lies" - This is a difficult passage to render in English. Literally, it can be rendered, "If a man, the follower of the spirit and of deception" (John Owen). A man who is a "follower of the spirit" is said to be a prophet, or to profess the office of a teacher (John Calvin). Calvin renders this passage as, "If a man walks in the spirit, and deceitfully lies." The Pulpit Commentary explains the passage as being a hendiadys (a figure of speech used for emphasis, where two words joined by and are used to express a single complex idea) for "a spirit of falsehood," or "a lying spirit," citing 1st Kings 22:22 and comparing with Ezekiel 3:2-3, 17.
John Calvin's Prayer for Verses 7-11:
Grant, Almighty God, that since we cannot otherwise really profit by your word, than by having all our thoughts and affections subjected to you, and offered to you as a sacrifice,— O grant, that we may allow you, by the sound of your word, so to pierce through everything within us, that being dead in ourselves, we may live to you, and never allow flatteries to become our ruin, but that we may, on the contrary, patiently endure reproofs, however bitter they may be, only let them serve to us as medicine, by which our inward vices may be cleansed, until at length being thoroughly cleansed and formed into new creatures, we may, by a pious and holy life, really glorify your name, and be received into that celestial glory, which has been purchased for us by the blood of your only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
[v.12-13a] - These two verses are often viewed in a good sense as a promise of restoration and words of comfort, as with John Gill, Matthew Henry, and the Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, among others. However, John Calvin and John Owen (and others) have good reason to think that this passage carries the same tone as with the previous verses in this chapter and with the verses at the beginning of the next chapter. They see this passage as the Israelites being gathered together into the sheep fold all for the same judgment for their sins. Then they will be led into that judgment, that is, the captivity, by their king, which would be, as Calvin says, "the saddest spectacle." John Owen notes that the Hebrew words, tehimenah (they shall make great noise) and happoretz (the breaker), are both almost always taken in a bad sense. He later notes that the word, Then, at the beginning of verse 4 of the next chapter can only mean, "at that time," connected to these last two verses of chapter 2, which should not have been separated from the first 4 verses of chapter 3. He then concludes that this connection confirms that these two verses are more likely a threatening and not a promise.
[v.12-13b] - Calvin's prayer for these verses is included with the first five verses of the next chapter. Therefore, the prayer is in the next chapter.