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Verses 12-14

Joel 2:12-14. Therefore, also now, &c. Or, Nevertheless, also now, saith the Lord, &c. Here a method is pointed out, whereby they might still have hopes of avoiding the calamity denounced against them, namely, by turning to God sincerely, and publicly testifying their inward repentance and grief for their sins, by outward expressions of sorrow and humiliation. And rend your heart Rending of the garments was customary in times of great sorrow and affliction, not only among the Jews and Israelites, but among almost all the ancient nations. The prophet here does not absolutely forbid their using this outward sign of sorrow, but exhorts them to attend more to inward contrition and humiliation, without which the outward signs of them were of no signification before God. The Hebrew writers often signify the preference that is due to one thing above another in terms which express the rejecting of that which is less worthy. Thus we read, Hosea 6:6, I will have mercy and not sacrifice; that is, I require mercy rather than sacrifice. In the same sense we are to understand the text before us. God prefers a broken and a contrite heart far before all outward expressions of humiliation and grief. For he is gracious and merciful, &c. These words allude to God’s own declaration of himself, Exodus 34:6, on which they might with good reason ground hopes of forgiveness on their repenting unfeignedly of their sins, and bringing forth fruit worthy of repentance. And repenteth him of the evil That is, of the evil which he had threatened to inflict in case those, against whom his threatenings were denounced, did not turn to him in true repentance. God is in Scripture said to repent when the humiliation of sinners and the reformation of their conduct make it unfit that he should inflict the punishment threatened by him. Who knoweth if he will return, and repent God’s own nature, and the former instances we have found of his merciful disposition, encourage us to hope, that our sincere repentance may avail to avert his wrath, and engage him to restore his blessings upon us and our land. The prophet expresses himself between hope and fear of what might be the event, lest he should fill them with too much security on one hand, or drive them on the other, by a despair of pardon, to have no thoughts of repentance or amendment, but to go on still in their sins. Even a meat-offering and a drink-offering unto the Lord your God At least sufficient provision to supply the necessary parts of God’s public worship, which since the dearth had been necessarily omitted.

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