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Even on the male and female slaves,
in those days, I will pour out my spirit.
As the particle גם gam amplifies in Hebrew, it seems singular that the Prophet now limits to a few a gift common to all; for he had previously said, “Upon all flesh will I pour out my Spirit;” and now, “Upon servants and handmaids;” and he puts down “Also”. If he had simply said “Upon servants and handmaids will I pour out my Spirit,” there would have been no inconsistency, for it would have been the explanation of his former statement; for we know that what the Prophet says of all men must be taken with exception, inasmuch as many who were unbelievers were without this gift, and even those who before excelled in some sort of divine knowledge; we indeed know that the Jews were blinded, and we also know that not all among the common people were partakers of this excellent gift. There is no doubt, therefore, but that this which is said of “all flesh,” must be limited to the Church. It would not, then, have appeared strange, had the Prophet now added, “Upon servants and handmaids;” but the particles וגם ugam, “And also,” create difficulty: it is a way of speaking to enlarge on what has been said, but here it seems not to enlarge; for to pour out the Spirit upon all the people, is more than to pour it out on servants and handmaids. The solution is twofold: the particles וגם ugam are sometimes to be taken confirmatively. ‘I have blessed him,’ said Isaac of his son Jacob, ‘and also blessed shall he be.’ So in this place we may take the words of the Prophet to be, yea surely, being a repetition serving to confirm what had been said: but I prefer another sense; for the Prophet, I doubt not, meant here to add something more incredible than what he had previously said, “Upon servants and maid-servants will I pour out my Spirit,” that is, even upon those who were before Prophets; for they shall be enriched with a new gift, and shall gain increasing knowledge after the restoration of the Church, which is now approaching. We apprehend this to be the meaning of the Prophet. He had promised the grace of the Spirit to the whole body of the faithful, which appears, as I have said, from comparing the ancient state with our own: but now, after having spoken of the mass or the common people, he comes to the Prophets, who were superior to others who before performed the office of teaching, who attained rank and degree in the Church; these also shall gain accessions; that is, “My Spirit shall not only be conspicuous in the ignorant and the common people, but also in the Prophets themselves.”
Surely it is a greater thing when they are taught who were before superior to others, and whom the Lord had set over the Church, and when they appear as new men, after having received a gift which the Lord had not previously conferred on them. When, therefore, new light appears in such men, it is certainly a greater thing than when the Spirit is poured out on the common people. We now then see the Prophet’s meaning as to the servants and the handmaids. 1212 However true in itself is what is here advanced, yet the exposition seems rather too refined, and what the passage does not require. The difficulty stated will vanish, when we consider that “all flesh” is a general expression, afterwards particularized and limited: and “and all flesh,” according to what is subsequently specified, evidently means all conditions of men, men in all states and of every age, and not the whole of mankind. “And also,” in verse 29, is very emphatical, as the persons afterwards mentioned were of the lowest grade, “servants and handmaids,” that is, slaves: and such were many of the first converts to Christianity. See Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11. Though the word for ‘servants’ does not necessarily mean those in a servile condition, yet it has that meaning. The same is true of the word for handmaids. Hagar, expressly called a bondwoman by Paul, is called by this name, Genesis 16:1. And to view the words as signifying slaves, would make the prophecy more striking, as being literally fulfilled at the first promulgation of the Gospel.
He then repeats, In those days, intimating that so sudden and incredible the change will be, that Prophets will seem to have been before untaught men; for a much more excellent doctrine shall be given them. Then God shall so pour out his Spirits that all the ancient prophecies will appear obscure and of no value, compared with the great and extraordinary light which Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, will bring at his rising. And he mentions “handmaids”, for there were, we know, Prophetesses under the Law. Let us now go on —