|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
1:14-20 The sorrow of the people is turned into repentance and humiliation before God. With all the marks of sorrow and shame, sin must be confessed and bewailed. A day is to be appointed for this purpose; a day in which people must be kept from their common employments, that they may more closely attend God's services; and there is to be abstaining from meat and drink. Every one had added to the national guilt, all shared in the national calamity, therefore every one must join in repentance. When joy and gladness are cut off from God's house, when serious godliness decays, and love waxes cold, then it is time to cry unto the Lord. The prophet describes how grievous the calamity. See even the inferior creatures suffering for our transgression. And what better are they than beasts, who never cry to God but for corn and wine, and complain of the want of the delights of sense? Yet their crying to God in those cases, shames the stupidity of those who cry not to God in any case. Whatever may become of the nations and churches that persist in ungodliness, believers will find the comfort of acceptance with God, when the wicked shall be burned up with his indignation.
Verses 14-20. - After urging the priests to lead the way in the matter, he proceeds to summon all classes of the people, and particularly the elders, to engage in penitence, fasting, and solemn supplications, in order to avert the calamities that were impending, or to escape from them if they had already begun. Verse 14. - Sanctify ye a fast, call a solemn assembly, gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land into the house of the Lord your God, and cry unto the Lord. The command is addressed to the priests as the representatives and rulers of the people in all matters of religion; they communicated to the people the commands of Jehovah. This verse directs attention to three things - the duty commanded; the persons called upon to discharge it; and the place of its performance.
1. The duty required was a fast and a solemn assembly; and the priests are strictly enjoined to see to it that both these shall be duly announced and rightly observed. The fast was abstention from food in token of sorrow for sin; it was intended to be the external evidence of penitential sorrow for sin. The solemn assembly, or "day of restraint," as it stands in the margin, was a public meeting of the people for the purpose of solemn supplication that the Almighty might be entreated to deliver them from the sore calamity with which he had seen fit to visit them. It was a season during which they were restrained from all servile work, and attention given exclusively to humiliation and prayer.
2. The persons summoned for this purpose were the elders, those who were so both by age and office - the magistrates as examples to others, and as having been implicated in the sins from which they now suffered. With the word "elders" are joined all the inhabitants of the land - the whole of the people, poor ann rich alike; all had had their share in the national sin, all were sharers in the national suffering, and it therefore behoved all to repent of their sins and seek the Lord.
3. The place of assembly was the house of the Lord; that is, the temple, or that portion of it called "the court of the Israelites." Nor were they to assemble there without an errand; the purpose of their assembling in that sacred place was to supplicate the Lord to alleviate their distress, or rather remove it altogether. They were directed to cry mightily to the Lord; to cry unto him with vehement earnestness and importunate perseverance till he would be pleased to send relief. The proclamation of a fast was a common expedient, to which people, Jewish and Gentile, according to their respective light, resorted in the day of their difficulty and distress. We read of it on many occasions; for example, by King Jehoshaphat in prospect of a hostile attack by the allied armies of Moab, Ammon, and Edom; again in the reign of Jehoiakim; also by Ezra in the day of danger; and by the people of Nineveh in consequence of the preaching of Jonah.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Sanctify yea a fast,.... This is spoken to the priests, whose business it was to appoint a fast, as the Targum renders it; or to set apart a time for such religious service, as the word signifies; and to keep it holy themselves, and see that it was so kept by others: Kimchi interprets it, prepare the people for a fast; give them notice of it, that they may be prepared for it:
call a solemn assembly; of all the people of the land later mentioned: or, "proclaim a restraint" (w); a time of ceasing, as a fast day should be from all servile work, that attendance may be given to the duties of it, prayer and humiliation:
gather the elders: meaning not those in age, but in office:
and all the inhabitants of the land; not the magistrates only, though first and principally, as examples, who had been deeply concerned in guilt; but the common people also, even all of them:
into the house of the Lord your God; the temple, the court of the Israelites, where they were to go and supplicate the Lord, when such a calamity as this of locusts and caterpillars were upon them; and where they might hope the Lord would hear them, and remove his judgments from them, 1 Kings 8:37;
and cry unto the Lord; in prayer, with vehemence and earnestness of soul.
(w) "vocate retentionem", Montanus; "proclamate diem interdicti", Junius & Tremellius, Heb. "interdictum", Piscator; "edicite coetum cum cessatione", Cocceius.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
14. Sanctify … a fast—Appoint a solemn fast.
solemn assembly—literally, a "day of restraint" or cessation from work, so that all might give themselves to supplication (Joe 2:15, 16; 1Sa 7:5, 6; 2Ch 20:3-13).
elders—The contrast to "children" (Joe 2:16) requires age to be intended, though probably elders in office are included. Being the people's leaders in guilt, they ought to be their leaders also in repentance.
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