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This chapter comprises the fifth vision of Amos as recorded in this section of the prophecy. It is a vision diverse from all of the others and deals with a great deal more than the temporal fortunes of the kingdom of Israel (either one of the two kingdoms, Judah, or Israel). It entails the final and total destruction of both Jewish kingdoms, as such, including even the overthrow of the Jerusalem temple, accounted as sacred by all Israel (Amos 9:1-4). The certainty of this was emphasized by means of Amos' third doxology (Amos 9:5,6). The vaunted position of the Jews as God's chosen people, a fact the Jews had mistakenly interpreted as a perpetual heavenly endorsement of their earthly, secular monarchy, is announced as being solemnly withdrawn by the Lord in the announcement that the Jews were nothing more to him than the Ethiopians and the Philistines! a fact which is sadly absent from the thoughts of most of the commentators on this passage. In this very discerning passage, the "seed of Abraham," called the "house of Jacob" (Amos 9:8), is severed, terminally and completely from any identification whatever with a Jewish state, whether ancient Judah, or Israel, or any subsequent state (or kingdom) that might appear later in history, professing to be any kind of successor to it (Amos 9:7-10). Finally, the chapter presents a prophecy of the Messiah, Jesus Christ the Lord, and the "rebuilding of the fallen tabernacle of David," which is as beautiful and circumstantial a prophecy of the church of Christ as may be found anywhere in the Bible (Amos 9:11-14). Without any doubt, this is one of the most important and instructive chapters to be found in the Old Testament.
Regarding the doubts of critical scholars and their fulminations against passages in this chapter, such things are due, categorically, to their blindness to the prophetic appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ and his church in these passages, and also to their failure to understand that neither the Jewish temple (at Jerusalem) nor the secular kingdom of Solomon were in any sense harmonious with the will of God, and also to their failure to understand that no kingdom, state or nation, in the sense of its corporate existence, either ever was or ever will be "the chosen people of God," a fact made crystal clear in this chapter.
"I saw the Lord standing beside the altar: and he said, Smite the capitals that the threshold may shake; and break them in pieces on the head of all of them; and I will slay the last of them with the sword: there shall not one of them flee away, and there shall not one of them escape."
"The Lord standing beside the altar..." The notion that this is a reference to the pagan altars (plural) in the temple at Bethel is false. It is utterly inconceivable that the Lord would have taken a place beside the golden calf in the so-called "temple," at Bethel, which, in the first place, is not called "a temple." There was a pagan shrine there, of course, but no temple. There were many altars there and at other places in Israel; and no one of them could possibly have been designated as "the altar" associated with the history of the Jews. Many arguments are suggested in order to justify the application of this verse to Bethel, such as: "it is the only holy place at which tradition locates Amos during his ministry;" "the chief temple of Northern Israel was located at Bethel;" "Jacob saw the Lord at Bethel;" "there is a close connection with the preceding chapter 8, (Amos 8:14) which mentions Bethel in the last verse," etc.; but none of these alleged arguments has any weight whatever. As C. G. Keil noted:
"There is no ground whatever for the assertion that this chapter contains simply an explanation of Amos 8:14 ... There was not any one altar in the northern kingdom that could be called "the altar" ... In Amos 3:14, Amos foretold the destruction of "the altars" (plural) at Bethel ... So there was not any one altar in the kingdom of the ten tribes, that could be called "the altar."
Another allegation designed to support this passage as a reference to Bethel relies upon the assumption that this prophecy is not at all concerned with the southern kingdom, an assumption denied by the frequent and pertinent references to the southern kingdom, and to "the whole house of Israel, and to Judah," etc., occurring frequently enough. Some of these are: Amos 2:5; 6:1; 5:4,5; 8:11,12, etc. It is true enough that the northern kingdom is the principal focus of the prophecy, but not for one instant is the southern kingdom left very far out of sight, as, for example, when the apostasy of David was mentioned in Amos 6:5. One simply cannot read Amos 9:1 as any kind of reference to Bethel.
This verse is therefore a prophecy of the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, with the implied end of the kingdom and of the dynasty of David at the same time. Most Biblical exegetes seem to be unaware of what the Old Testament says of that Solomonic temple. To begin with, it was never God's idea at all, but David's (2 Samuel 7). It stood in exactly the same relationship to the tabernacle (which God indeed had given the people) as that in which the secular monarchy stood to the theocracy, namely, a rejection of it, neither the monarchy nor the temple ever being, in any sense whatever the true will of God. The Christian martyr Stephen made this abundantly clear in Acts 7:44-50. The summary and final end of the northern kingdom had just been announced in preceding verses; and, in this passage, preparatory to the prophecy of the eternal kingdom of the Messiah, Amos made it clear that neither the northern nor the southern kingdom, in their corporate existence, would in any manner enter into the eternal purpose of God regarding the "true Israel," which was never identified with either one of them.
The reason that the temple was widely viewed in Israel as "God's house" is that God indeed did accommodate to it, as also he did in the case of the monarchy; and so long as the Lord continued to send prophets to the northern kingdom, so long did they, despite all their sin, still pass as belonging to the "people of God." This points up the relevance of this reference to the temple at Jerusalem, which Keil defined as, "the divinely appointed sanctuary and the throne of Jehovah." Thus, what happened to the temple and the kingdom of Judah was of the most vital relevance to Israel also, hence the inclusion of this fifth vision of Amos' prophecy. God appeared at the altar in Jerusalem, because there at the true sacrificial place of the nation (both of Judah and of Israel), their sins were heaped up; and from that perspective the Lord will judge and punish them.
Considerable attention has been devoted to the meaning of "altar" in this first verse; because, when this is understood as a reference to the pagan altars in Bethel, a correct interpretation of the entire passage becomes impossible.
"Though they dig into Sheol, thence shall my hand take them; and though they climb up to heaven, thence will I bring them down. And though they hide themselves in the top of Carmel, I will search and take them out thence; and though they be hid from my sight in the bottom of the sea, thence will I command the serpent, and it shall bite them. And though they go into captivity before their enemies, thence will I command the sword, and it shall slay them: and I will set mine eyes upon them for evil, and not for good."
This passage is a further elaboration of what was said in the conclusion of Amos 9:1, that, "not one of them shall escape." There is no teaching here to the effect that anyone could hide from God, or that it would be necessary for God to "search" for any who might be attempting to do so. This is highly accommodative language used to emphasize the inevitability of their destruction and the utter impossibility of any person being able to escape it.
"Hide in the top of Carmel ..." Harper tells us that Carmel was noted for, "its limestone caves, said to exceed 2,000 in number, and to be so close together and so serpentine as to make the discovery of a fugitive entirely impossible."
"The whole passage simply wishes to say that there is no place in the whole universe where they can feel themselves secure against Yahweh.
"Though they go into captivity ..." Amos had pointedly prophesied this fate for Israel; and this is a terrifying amplification of it, showing that the captivity in store for them will not be a benign and favorable one (as it had been in Egypt, at first); but it will be terminal. The historical disappearance of the ten tribes after the Assyrian captivity is proof enough of what happened. W. R. Harper, and other later commentators following his views, have supposed that this clause is addressed to an Israelite conception (borrowed from paganism, into which the whole nation had slipped) to the effect that, "In a strange and foreign land, they would be under the power of the god or gods of that land," and not any longer under Jehovah! We do not believe there is anything like this in view, either in this place or in Jonah 1:1.
"For the Lord Jehovah of hosts, is he that toucheth the land and it melteth, and all that dwell therein shall mourn; and it shall rise up wholly like the River, and shall sink again, like the river of Egypt; it is he that buildeth his chambers in the heavens, and hath founded his vault upon the earth; he that calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth; Jehovah is his name."
THE DOXOLOGY This is the third of Amos' doxologies, the other two being in Amos 4:13 and Amos 5:8,9, the purpose of all three being quite clearly that of a reminder that the Lord, whose word to Israel Amos was faithfully delivering, was indeed all-sufficient and powerful to bring to pass exactly that which he promised. As Keil accurately discerned the intent of these verses: "To strengthen his threat, Amos proceeds (in Amos 9:5,6) to describe Jehovah as the Lord of heaven and earth, who sends judgments upon the earth with omnipotent power."
"Like the River, etc ...." This is almost identical with Amos 8:8. (See under that verse for the interpretation, which is identical with what is meant here.)
Smith detected an interesting progression in the three doxologies of Amos, thus:
"The first doxology praises God as the creator of the universe (Amos 4:13). The second begins with creation (Amos 5:8) and goes on to refer to God's control. In this third doxology Yahweh's creative power is turned into destructive might.
"Calling for the waters of the sea ..." As noted in the interpretation of Amos 8:8, which see, this appears to be a reminder of the great flood which God sent upon rebellious mankind as a punishment of their malignant wickedness.
"Are ye not as the children of the Ethiopians unto me, O children of Israel? saith Jehovah. Have not I brought up Israel out of the land of Egypt, and the Philistines from Caphtor, and the Syrians from Kir?"
Due to their gross and repeated rebellions against God, Israel had forfeited their status as "God's chosen people"; and here is revealed that God's providences for them had in no sense been heaped upon them without any concern for other nations. Israel seems to have been perpetually blind to the truth that even God's great promise to Abraham, upon which all Jewish and Christian hopes must ultimately rest, had never been given with a view to benefiting his secular posterity alone, but that, in Abraham, "All the families of the earth might be blessed" (Genesis 12:3). Even from the first, as demonstrated by the rejection of a great portion of Abraham's literal descendants, such as Esau, Ishmael, and the sons of Keturah, Abraham's fleshly posterity was never the true possessor of the promise, which pertained to his "spiritual seed" alone, those of a like faith and disposition of their great progenitor.
The Jewish race, all of them, northern and southern kingdoms, had further perverted and misconstrued the promise by applying it, without reservation, to their secular kingdoms. This prophecy put an end to that error, for all who will read and understand Amos.
"Are ye not as the children of the Ethiopians...?" In a word, this means that, "Jews, in the fleshly sense, are of no more concern to Almighty God than the Ethiopians, the Philistines and the Syrians. This is still the truth. God has no more any special program for dealing with racial Jews than he does for the Japanese, the Germans, the French, or the Iranians. As Paul put it: "For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek: for the same Lord is Lord of all" (Romans 10:12). It must be accounted as absolutely incredible that a vast number of "Christian scholars" do not in any sense believe this!
"The Philistines from Caphtor, and the Syrians from Kir ..." God's providence had also been showered upon these nations. Paul, in his great missionary solicitation of the Gentiles did not fail to point out that:
"God, in the generations gone by suffered all the nations to walk in their own ways; and yet he left not himself without witness, in that he did good and gave you from heaven rains and fruitful seasons, filling your hearts with food and gladness" (Acts 14:16,17).
"Behold the eyes of the Lord Jehovah are upon the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from off the face of the earth."
This verse is not a promise that God will destroy "the house of Jacob," nor a promise that God will annihilate the total posterity of Abraham; but it is a promise to wipe "the sinful kingdom" off the face of the planet. Which sinful kingdom? Every sinful kingdom, especially the northern kingdom and the southern kingdom of Israel. The ultimate application of this to the whole world of wicked and unbelieving humanity is dramatically detailed in the prophecy of Revelation (Revelation 19:11-21). In the case of the kingdoms of the Jews, the very initiation of their kingdom under Saul was a rejection of God (1 Samuel 8:7); reciprocally, this was also their rejection of their own status as "God's chosen people," a term that henceforth would apply to the "righteous remnant" and not to Israel as a whole.
McKeating interpreted this and the preceding verse 7 as "a formal contradiction of Amos 3:2, `For you alone have I cared among all the nations of the world.'" However, these verses are not speaking of the same thing. God's solicitous care for "you," means his special and unique care for those who love and obey him, a promise valid now, and eternally, and which in no sense nullifies or contradicts what is said here of the destruction of the sinful kingdom. Furthermore, in God's selection and choice of Abraham's posterity as containing "his chosen people," there were countless instances in which Israel had indeed been "cared for" by the Father in a manner absolutely unique in human history, a blessing absolutely not founded in any divine partiality for Jews, but necessary for the ultimate blessing of "all the families of the earth." At the time of God's choice of Israel, idolatry was so widespread and nearly universal on earth, that the very knowledge of God might have perished from the planet had it not been for the choice of Abraham.
McKeating's allegation of a contradiction here, as is usually the case with such allegations, is founded upon a fundamental ignorance of what this prophecy is saying. Hammershaimb correctly observed what is denoted by these verses thus:
"The point was that Israel had no entitlement to sin more than others, because Yahweh had chosen it; on the contrary, this carried with it all the greater obligations on the side of the people, and Yahweh would not spare them for that reason."
There is nothing in these verses which may be interpreted as a denial that, "God is the God of all history, not of Hebrew history alone; he is behind all the great world movements, the migrations of people ... are ultimately determined and effected by him." Paul's great sermon in Athens emphasizes this truth (Acts 17).
Smith also observed that:
"God seems to be announcing the end of God's special relationship to Israel as a nation (i.e., a kingdom). It means that God will treat Israel like any other nation; the nation will have no special privileges; and when they sin they will be punished."
This of course, is true; but it needs to be pointed out that their secular state had never been the object of any special favor from God (for it was contrary to his will), except in the necessity that time and again, there was no way to aid the "righteous remnant" without aiding and favoring the wicked state of which that remnant was an integral part. This mingling of the two Israels in the Old Testament is one of the primary factors usually overlooked by commentators. Paul elaborated the distinction between these two Israels in Romans (Romans 9-11), and no full understanding either of the New Testament or the ancient prophecies is possible without keeping this distinction constantly in view. The true Israel was, and ever will be, the people who love and obey God; the other Israel, as this passage dogmatically affirms has the same status with God as the Ethiopians, the Philistines and the Syrians!
"The sinful kingdom ..." in this verse refers to both Judah and Israel; but "the house of Jacob" in the last half of this verse is a reference to the "righteous remnant," which is the true Israel.
"Save that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob, saith Jehovah."
Having failed, completely, to understand what Amos is saying, some commentators assault the integrity of this passage:
"This flatly contradicts the point of the whole (verse). It is a later addition to the text ... The opinion expressed in 8b is doubtless that of a Judean redactor ... These verses are manifestly later additions," etc.
Such denials of the Word of God may be rejected with impunity; they are founded upon no sufficient evidence and are but the futile denials of some scholars whose fallacious interpretations of previous passages are contradicted here. It should be kept in mind, however, that it is not the previous words of the prophet Amos which this half-verse contradicts, but the false opinions advanced in the inaccurate interpretation of preceding verses.
Smith, after taking note of the assault upon the integrity of this verse, freely admitted that, "It must also be said that these verses could have come from Amos." The obvious truth is that any one understanding the full significance of this section finds them fully harmonious with the whole verse and the whole prophecy and will have no hesitancy whatever in receiving them as the true words of God spoken through Amos.
Essentially, it is the good news of this passage which is so repulsive to many interpreters, who have already decided that there can be no good news at all in a book with so many warnings and denunciations. As Smith said, "Many earlier scholars did not believe that a prophet could predict judgment and hope (woe and weal) at the same time." Fortunately, most present-day scholars have outgrown such a naive and foolish notion. "Present scholars recognize that messages of weal and woe often came from the same prophet." It is surely evident that scholarly bias entered into the rejection of this part of Amos, as did also their failure to discern its true import.
"The house of Jacob ..." is not a mere distinction between the northern and southern kingdoms, for the term stands for "the righteous remnant" of both kingdoms; the true antithesis is between the "sinful kingdom" (8a) and "house of Jacob" as a "divine kernel in the nation, by virtue of its divine election, out of which the Lord will form a new and holy people." This "kernel" is the "righteous remnant," the true Israel of God, who were never, in fact, identifiable as "the kingdom." Elijah and the 7,000 who had not bowed to Baal represented the totality of that remnant during the reign of the wicked Ahab (1 Kings 19:10; Romans 11:4). This righteous remnant was the remnant formed by the true believers in both the secular kingdoms of Israel and Judah, in the same sense that "the sinful kingdom" refers to the same two secular kingdoms.
Thus, here in Amos 9:8b is introduced the subject of the concluding verses of Amos' great prophecy which foretells how God will, from that righteous remnant, develop the universal kingdom of the church of Christ and endow it with the most extravagant blessings, that new "kingdom," being not a kingdom of this world at all, but the true followers of Christ, his church being called the "rebuilt tabernacle of David" (Amos 9:11).
"For lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all the nations, like as grain is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least kernel fall upon the earth."
The "house of Israel" here has exactly the same meaning as "the house of Jacob," having no reference at all to any secular kingdom, but to that "kernel," the righteous remnant who truly love and obey the Lord, not a single one of whom shall be lost or suffer destruction from the Lord. The simile here is that of a sieve used for screening out the trash, small stones, and chaff from the true wheat which passes through the sieve.
The historical fulfillment of this took place very shortly after the times of Amos' prophecy when the northern kingdom was carried away by the Assyrians, never more to appear any more as any kind of an entity; but, as the future of the southern kingdom comes particularly into focus here, since it was with that kingdom that "the righteous remnant" would be principally identified in the future (after the destruction of the northern kingdom), this verse is especially a reference to the southern kingdom. This "sifting" was fulfilled in the fail of their city, the destruction of their temple, and the deporting of the whole nation to Babylon; but there are overtones in the passage reaching far beyond that historical event.
It should ever be remembered that the old Israel is a type of the new; and that sifting of the house of Jacob among the nations in the Old Testament is still going on. "The shaking of Israel in the sieve is still being fulfilled upon the Jews who are dispersed among all nations." Who but God could have prophesied such a remarkable thing concerning Israel, at a time in history when it would have appeared utterly incredible? No, these verses were not added by any later editor, or redactor!
"Not the least kernel shall fall to earth ..." This means that no Israelite, or any other person on earth, who truly loves and seeks to do the will of God will be cut off, regardless of the evil nature of any kingdom, or group of people, with whom he may be environmentally associated. God knows what he is doing.
"All the sinners of my people shall die by the sword, who say, the evil shall not overtake nor meet us."
Here again is reaffirmed the constant thesis of Amos that the two secular kingdoms, which were evil, shall surely fail, and the kingdoms shall be wiped off the face of the earth. The "not utterly destroy" of the previous verse (Amos 9:8b) is not a denial of this, but an indication of a different fate for the "righteous remnant," in keeping with God's eternal purpose. There are two things in these verses that must be differentiated, the "kernel" and the "sinful kingdom," the great burden of the prophecy being directed against the latter.
"In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up its ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old."
PROPHECY OF THE CHURCH OF CHRIST
This verse foretells how salvation for all men "shall be effected in the house of David, in whose line Christ was to come." Note that the Jerusalem temple is by-passed, absolutely, here. All of the great victories of Israel were won during the period when they had the "tabernacle," not the temple; and, as Barnes pointed out, "He speaks of the house of David, not in any terms of royal greatness; he tells not of its palaces." This powerful and suggestive mention of the tabernacle speaks of the days of the humility of Israel, indicating that when God's salvation comes, it will be associated with the humble, and the simple, rather than with the royal palaces and Solomonic glory of the house of David. Some of the scholars have translated "tabernacle" here as "hut," applying it to the postexilic ruin of David's dynasty; but there is unequivocally a reference here to the ancient "tabernacle" of the Jewish wanderings in the wilderness, as proved by the sacred author James' reference to this passage in Acts 15:
"After these things, I will return,
And I will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen;
And I will build again the ruins thereof,
And I will set it up:
That the residue of men may seek after the Lord,
And all the Gentiles upon whom my name is called,
Saith the Lord, who maketh these things known from of old."
It should be remembered that James here was not quoting Amos alone, attributing his quotations to "the prophets." (Acts 15:15). However, the words of Amos in this verse are definitely among the passages referred to, making it certain that this is a reference to the building up of the Church, the antitype of the tabernacle. Note that there is no reference whatever here to the Jewish temple, itself an apostasy from the tabernacle; and, it is in the sense of that semi-pagan temple having supplanted and taken the place of the tabernacle that the "tabernacle" is here represented as "fallen," meaning that the Jews had simply discarded it and gone into the temple business.
The type of blunder into which many scholars fall in the interpretation of this place is exemplified by this: "The tabernacle of David is the Davidic dynasty, and these words presuppose that it had come to an end; they must therefore have been written later than the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C." Such a view would, of course, remove the passage far from the days of Amos. It should be perfectly obvious to any discerning student that there is no possible reference here to "David's dynasty." That had not fallen when Amos wrote, but the "tabernacle" had fallen!
"In that day ..." is a "reference to the times of the Messiah," and, in no sense was fulfilled by anything that occurred before that. After the Babylonian captivity, Israel did indeed return to their land (not the northern kingdom, but the Davidic branch of it, the southern kingdom), but they did not restore the "fallen tabernacle" at all, but merely built another temple, a far different thing, the difference being that God had given the plans and specifications of the tabernacle to Moses; but the temple was planned and built by men (Acts 7:44-47). The great error of the temple was that it was patterned after the great pagan temples of the period, and was the result of the same desire of the Israelites that led to the formation of the monarchy, namely, that they could be "like the nations around them." Thus, when Christ established his church, it was not a "rebuilding of the fallen temple," but a rebuilding of the "fallen tabernacle."
"And close up the breaches of it ..." This does not refer to holes made in the palaces of Jewish kings, but it refers to healing the breach among God's people. Jeroboam had divided the "chosen people"; and the righteous remnant from both divisions were thus separated; but when Messiah would come, then all of God's true Israel would be under one theocratic head, namely Christ.
David's kingdom is a type of Christ's; and the restoration of the fallen tabernacle is the same thing as the raising up of one of David's posterity (Christ) to sit upon David's throne forever, a prophecy of the resurrection of Christ and his enthronement in heaven, as Peter pointed out (Acts 2:30,31). No one could possibly be expected to raise up again the kingdom of David, except one of his descendants, this being the significance of the genealogies of Jesus which show him to be of "the flesh of David." Thus, in this extended meaning of the "fallen tabernacle" being restored, there is also hidden this prophecy of the restoration of David's throne "in the spiritual sense." All kinds of errors result from a misunderstanding of the last clause of this verse:
"I will raise up its ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old ..." This is alleged to mean that God will reproduce in the history of Israel another period reflecting the same kind of pride and glory that characterized the old Davidic and Solomonic empire; but this is definitely not the thing to be rebuilt. "The tabernacle" stands for the time when God's communion with his people had been established upon an intimate and continual communication, in short, for "their fellowship with God." It was that fellowship which had been destroyed by the sins and wickedness of the people; and it was preeminently the "broken fellowship with God," which would be restored in the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, which, alone, is foretold in this promise to "rebuild," as "in the days of old." It was the great error of Israel, during our Lord's ministry, that led them to identify the blessed Messiah himself as one who would recreate their old Solomonic empire, which, in reality, was the scandal of forty generations, and the very last thing on earth that God would have promised to "rebuild." Christian interpreters today ought not to fall into the same error that was fatal to Israel.
Of course, those espousing a premillennial view of the Bible suppose that this passage supports their contention: "Amos' view of the Messianic kingdom under the throne of David, represents it as universal, and as including the Gentiles." The church of course is "under the throne of David' only in the spiritual sense of David's throne having been an Old Testament type of universal reign of Christ upon his throne in heaven. No temporal restoration of David's monarchy is prophesied here.
Another unfounded theory based upon this passage is that of the projected return of the fleshly Jews to their land in Palestine and the exercise of some very wide and successful dominion from Jerusalem during the historical period of the church of Jesus Christ himself. Clarke referred to this, defining it thus:
"It must therefore refer to their restoration under the gospel, when they shall receive the Lord Jesus as their Messiah, and be by him restored to their own land. Those victories (in the return of the southern kingdom to Palestine after the captivity) could not warrant the terms of the prediction in this verse."
Such interpretations overlook the fact that, long ago, God put "no distinction" between Jews and anyone else on earth (Romans 10:12); their status as "God's chosen people" was by themselves repudiated and rejected. After extended mercies and extensive opportunities repeatedly offered them, the fleshly Israel adamantly refused to have any of it, even crucifying the Son of God when he appeared upon earth; and the notion that God will, for some incredible reason, again restore secular, fleshly and rebellious Israel to "their land" in Palestine is one of the most preposterous notions ever conceived by the students of God's word. God's Israel today knows nothing of race, or any secular kingdom; it is a spiritual Israel, the only "sons of Abraham" on earth today, being, in the light of the Scriptures, those who have been "baptized into Christ." And should the Jews ever receive Christ as their Messiah, they would of necessity also be "baptized into him"; and therefore, such a proposition as that advanced by Clarke would mean that the holy church itself, in its entirety, and not merely some racial fraction of it, would be reestablished in Palestine! What a fantastic misunderstanding!
James D. Bales' summary of the teaching of this place is:
"The rebuilding of the tabernacle of David, was evidently not a rebuilding of the Mosaic system, but the restoration of a king on David's throne; and that Christ is now on David's throne we have shown in another chapter. The Mosaical system will not be rebuilt; its mediator has now been replaced by Christ (Deuteronomy 18:15-17; Acts 3:22-26). The old Covenant was to pass away, and it has passed away (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 8:5-10,16). Its sacrifices have ceased for the Lamb of God has been offered once for all to bear the sins of the world.
"That they may possess the remnant of Edom, and all the nations that are called by thy name, saith Jehovah that doeth this."
Without any doubt, "The possession of the heathen nations by Israel is spiritual." Israel's possession of the remnant of Edom, and all other heathen nations was also foretold by Isaiah thus:
"And the sons of them that afflicted thee shall come bending unto thee; and all they that despised thee shall bow themselves down at the soles of thy feet; and they shall call thee The city of Jehovah, the Zion of the Holy One of Israel (Isaiah 60:14)."
Both passages (here, and in Isaiah) are fulfilled in this manner: Christ is the true Israel, of which ancient Jacob was only a feeble type; and all who are Christ's and worship him, are therefore worshipping Israel! Indirect reference to this is found in Revelation 3:9, where, in the present dispensation, the false Jews who opposed Christianity, received the word from Jesus that they would "come and worship before the feet" of the church at Philadelphia, fulfilled when Jews were converted and bowed before Christ with whom, for ages during the present order, Gentiles have been identified. "Thus, `the taking possession' referred to here will be of a very different character from the subjugation of Edom and other nations to David." "The relationship between Israel and the nations will not be that of a conqueror to the conquered because it will be the Lord 'who will do this.'" Still another excellent commentary concerning the proper interpretation of these verses is that of J. A. Motyer:
"The warlike metaphor in many of these passages is, of course, to be understood in terms of the kingship of the Lord Jesus Christ and the missionary expansion of his Church. This is the interpretation authorized by the New Testament (Acts 15:12-19).
"All the nations that are called by thy name ..." A very interesting fact regarding this passage concerns the variation of it that appears to be in Acts in the passage cited above:
"Through slight changes, almost infinitesimal in the Hebrew, the Septuagint translators (circa 250 B.C.) rendered this passage: "That the residue of men may seek after the Lord," these last two words being supplied as a necessary object to the transitive verb "seek"; and so it is quoted by James at the Council in Jerusalem (Acts 15:17). This passage is especially interesting as an outstanding example in textual criticism."
In the manner thus indicated, the scholars, some of them, have made this example (as they call it) their carte blanche permission to change the Hebrew text in any manner that pleases them; but we reject this. In the first place, we have already noted that there is no certainty that James quoted this verse, having categorically stated that what he quoted came from more than one prophet (Acts 15:15); and the words might well have been James' own inspired words derived from interpretation of the general message of many Old Testament prophets. But even if it could be proved that he actually quoted this changed translation from the LXX, the explanation would then be that offered by Barnes:
"James quoted the words as they were familiar to his hearers (the Gentiles accompanying Paul), not correcting those that did not impair the meaning. This showed, incidentally, that even imperfection of translation does not empty God's Word."
Authority for recklessly changing the Hebrew text every time some scholar thinks he could improve it is certainly not resident in this so-called "example."
"Behold the days come, saith Jehovah, that the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed: and the mountains shall drop sweet wine, and all the hills shall melt."
This language, couched in materialistic metaphor is nevertheless descriptive of the "spiritual blessings" to be realized upon the earth through the ultimate coming of the Messiah and the prosperity of his kingdom, the church, upon earth. Hyperbole is also employed, the very idea of the mountain springs running sweet wine instead of water being a certain indication of this. But, despite what seems to be over-extravagant language in this description, nothing weaker than this passage could properly convey the blessings that have come to mankind through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. In comparison to the dark heathen lands where the Lord has never been received, those portions of earth which are even in the most nominal sense "Christian" are excellent examples, even of those material blessings which carry the weight of the metaphor in this glorious promise; and this still leaves untouched the far greater and more wonderful spiritual blessings of the grace, mercy, and peace that are the inheritance of all who know the Lord.
Jamieson interpreted the metaphor of the "plowman and the reaper" as meaning that, "Such shall be the abundance that the harvest and vintage can hardly be gathered before time for preparing for the next crop." The footnote in the Catholic Bible is also excellent: "By this is meant the great abundance of spiritual blessings, which by a constant succession, will enrich the Church of Christ."
It was the great misfortune of the Hebrew people to interpret such passages as this literally; therefore, they looked forward to the coming of their Messiah who would enlarge their secular kingdom to include all surrounding nations and miraculously bring about the supernatural wonders like mountain springs running wine! The unspiritual in all generations find the Word of God an enigma.
"And I will bring back the captivity of my people Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them. And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be plucked up out of their land which I have given them, saith Jehovah thy God."
Just as the materialistic metaphor of Amos 9:13 did not indicate any of those things literally, the same is true here. The turning again of the captivity of Israel is a reference to the captivity of men "in trespasses and sins," and the consequent joy of salvation upon receiving the fountain of life in Christ Jesus. "Israel" is a type of the holy Church, and the peace and prosperity in evidence here are symbols of the spiritual blessings "in Christ." "The truth expressed through this imagery tells of the total reversal of the effects of sin." Sin is at the root of all man's problems; it was sin that resulted in insecurity, in wretchedness, unhappiness, and want. Solving the sin problem solves them all.
Some, of course, have found here a prophecy of the return of the Jews from Babylonian captivity, a captivity that occurred over a century later; but, as Keil noted, "This was no planting of Israel to dwell forever in their land, nor was it a setting up of the fallen tabernacle." It is absolutely mandatory to read this prophecy of something that applies after the "fallen tabernacle" was restored in the Church of Jesus Christ.
Furthermore, it is just as wrong to seek the fulfillment of this is some far-off future event (altogether mythical), "When the Jews, who have been converted to their God and Saviour Jesus Christ, will one day be led back to Palestine." In this light, it is a fact that, "The land which will flow with streams of divine blessing is not Palestine, but the domain of the Christian church. This divine project will be completed when, one day, the fullness of the Gentiles shall have entered into the kingdom of Christ.
"They shall build the waste cities, and shall inhabit them ..." Barnes gave an excellent interpretation of this, thus:
"Throughout the world, amid the desert of Heathendom, which was formerly deserted by God, Churches of Christ have arisen, which, for the firmness of faith, may be called cities, and for the gladness of hope which needeth not to be ashamed."
By way of summary: The raising up of the fallen tabernacle of David began with the coming of Christ and the establishment of his church, or kingdom, upon earth. The possession of the remnant of Edom and all the other Gentile nations upon whom the Lord's name is called began to take place with the missionary thrust of the apostolic church; the return of God's people from captivity, is the return of uncounted millions of men from the service and pursuit of sin, with the resultant joy that issues in such great blessings that the most extravagant metaphor is necessary to describe them. The continued sifting of "the righteous remnant" of whatever origin will continue throughout time until the full company of God's redeemed from earth shall have been completed. Blessed be the name of the Lord. Amen.
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Amos 9". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Sixth Week after Easter