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Amos, like Hosea, rebukes Israel directly, Judah indirectly. He had warned each nation separately. Now, ere he concentrates himself on Israel, he sums up what he had before said to Judah and in the Person of God. “Ye have been alike in My gifts to you, alike in your waste of them and your sins; alike ye shall be in your punishment.” What was said to Israel was said also to Judah: what was directed first to the former people, belongs to us, the later. What Jesus said to the Apostles, He said also to the Church, and to single souls, “What I say unto you, I say unto all, Watch” Mark 13:37.
Hear ye this word - With that solemn threefold call, so frequent in the Old Testament, he summons them thrice Amos 3:1; Amos 4:1; Amos 5:1, as in the Name of the Holy Trinity, to hear God’s words. : “The prophet, at the outset of the chapter, rouses the hearers to anxious consideration. For the words of the most High God are to be heard, not with a superficial, unawed, wandering mind, but with reverence, fear, and love.”
That the Lord hath spoken against - (and upon) you, (coming down from heaven Hebrews 12:25, both “upon” and “against” them) the whole family which I brought up from the land of Egypt To Abraham God had said, “in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed” Genesis 12:3. So now, in withdrawing that blessing from them. He takes it away from them, family by family Zechariah 12:12. He includes them, one and all, and Judah also, since all had been “brought out of Egypt.”
You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities - Such is the one law of God. The nearer anyone is brought unto God, the worse is his fall, and, his trial over, the more heavily is he punished. Nearness to God is a priceless, but an awesome gift. The most intense blessing becomes, by the abuse of free will, the most dreadful woe. For the nearer God places anyone to His own light, the more malignant is the choice of darkness instead of light. The more clearly anyone knows the relation to God, in which God has placed him, the more terrible is his rejection of God. The more God reveals to any, what He is, His essential perfections, His holiness and love, the more utter, tearful malignity it is, to have been brought face to face with God, and to have in deed said to Him, “On Thy terms I will have none of Thee.” The angels who sinned against fullest light, had no redemption or repentance; but became devils. “He took not on Him the nature of angels” Hebrews 2:16. “The angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitations, He hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great Day” Jude 1:6.
Of the former people, when their first day of grace was past, Daniel says; “under the whole heaven hath not been done, as hath been done upon Jerusalem” Daniel 9:12. Begin,” God saith in Ezekiel’s “at My sanctuary. Then they began at the ancient men which were before the house” Ezekiel 9:6. So our Lord lays down the rule of judgment and punishment hereafter” Luke 12:47-48 “the servant which knew his Lord’s will, and prepared not” himself, “neither did according to His will, shall be beaten with many” stripes. “But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much has been given, of him shall much be required, and to whom people have committed much, of him they will ask the more. The time is come,” says Peter, “that judgment must begin at the house of God” 1 Peter 4:17.
You only I have known - Such care had God had of Israel, so had He known them, and made Himself known to them, as if He had, in comparison, disregarded all besides, as He remained unknown by them. Knowledge, among people, is mutual, and so it seemed as if God knew not those, of whom He was not known. Knowledge, with God, is love, and so He seemed not to have known those, to whom, although “He left not Himself without witness” Acts 14:17, He had shown no such love (see the note at Hosea 13:5). Whence our Lord shall say to the wicked, “I never knew you” Matthew 7:23; and contrariwise, He says, “I am the good Shepherd and know My sheep, and am known of Mine” (John 10:14; see 2 Timothy 2:19). : “Myriads of cities and lands are there under the whole heaven, and in them countless multitudes; but you alone have I chosen out of all, made Myself known and visible among you by many miracles, chosen you out of a bitter unbearable bondage, trained you by My law to be well-pleasing to Me, fenced you with protection, brought you into the land promised to your fathers, enlightened you with prophecies.” : “Not, I deem, as though in the time of Israel and of the Old Testament, there were not, in the whole world, some good people and predestinated; but because God did not then choose any nation or whole people, save the children of Israel. For it was meet that that people, of which God willed to be Incarnate, should be distinguished by some special grace.”
Therefore I will punish you - o: “To depise God and to neglect the Lord’s Will procureth destruction to those who have known Him or been known of Him, and been spiritually made His own.” “I made you My own people, friends, sons. As a Father, I cherished, protected, exalted, you. Ye would not have Me as a Father, ye shall have Me as a Judge.” Rup.: “As Israel has, in its elect, been glorious above all, so, in the reprobate, has it been made viler than all, both before God and before people.” How much more Christians, and, among Christians, priests! It has of old been believed, that the deepest damnation will be that of ungodly priests.
Yet since almost all punishment in this life is remedial, the saying admits another meaning that God would leave no sin unchastened in those whom He had made His own. Both are true meanings, fulfilled at different times. God chastens in proportion to His love, in the Day of grace. He punishes, in proportion to the grace and love despised and trampled upon without repentance in eternity. Here , “the most merciful Physician, cutting away the cancrous flesh, spareth not, that He may spare; He pitieth not, that He may the more pity. For ‘whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth.’” Hence, the prayer , “Burn, cut, here; and spare forever.” Contrariwise , “we should esteem any sinner the more miserable, when we see him left in his sin, unscourged. Whence it is said, “The turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them” Proverbs 1:32. For whoso “turneth away” from God and is “prosperous,” is the nearer to perdition, the more he is removed from the severity of discipline.” : “This is the terrible, this the extreme case, when we are no longer chastened for sins, when we are no more corrected for offending. For when we have exceeded the measure of sinning, God, in displeasure, turneth away from us His displeasure.” : “When you see a sinner, affluent, powerful, enjoying heath, with wife and circle of children, and that saying is fulfilled, ‘They are not in trouble’ Psalms 73:5 as other ‘men, neither are they plagued like’ other ‘men,’ in him is the threat of the prophet fulfilled, ‘I will not visit. ‘“
Sacred parables or enigmas must have many meanings. They are cast on the mind, to quicken it and rouse it by their very mystery. They are taken from objects which in different lights, represent different things, and so suggest them. This series of brief parables have, all of them, this in common, that each thing spoken of is alternately cause and effect, and where the one is found, ‘there’ must be the other. From the effect you can certainly infer the cause, without which it could not be, and from the cause you may be sure of the effect. Then, further, all the images are of terror and peril to the objects spoken of. The prophet impresses upon their minds both aspects of these things; “evil will not befall, unless it has been prepared;” “signs of evil will not shew themselves, unless the evil be at hand.” “The bird will not fall without the snare; if the snare rises and so shews itself, the bird is as good as taken. As surely then (the prophet would say) as the roaring of the lion, the rising of the snare, the alarm of the trumpet, betokens imminent peril, so surely does the warning Voice of God. ‘The lion hath roared; who will not fear?’ Again, as surely as these are the effects of their causes, so surely is all infliction sent by Him who alone has power over all things, and is the cause of all. ‘Shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it? Again, as these tokens are given before the evil comes, and the God of nature and of grace has made it a law in nature, that what is fearful should give signs of coming evil, so has He made it a law of His own dealing, not to inflict evil, without having fore-announced it.
‘Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but He reveleth His secret unto His servants the prophets.’ As nothing else is by chance, nor happens without cause, much less the acts of God. The lion or young lion when they roar, the bird when it falls to the ground, the snare when it rises, the trumpet’s sound, all have their cause and ground: shall not then much more the acts and works of God? Shall evil happen in the city, and have no ground in the Cause of all causes, God in His righteous judgments? As there is fear, whenever there are tokens and causes of fear, so fear ye now and watch, lest the fear overtake you and it be too late. The first words then,
Can (will) two walk together, except they be agreed? - are at once a general rule for all which follows, and have different bearings according to those its several aspects. And, before all these, it is an appeal at once to the conscience which feels itself parted from its God; “so neither will God be with thee, unless thou art agreed and of one mind with God. Think not to have God with thee, unless thou art with God;” as He saith, ‘I will not go up in the midst of thee, for thou art a stiff-necked people, lest I consume thee in the way’ Exodus 33:3; and, ‘if ye walk contrary unto Me, then will I also walk contrary unto you, and will punish you yet seven times for your sins’ Leviticus 26:23, Leviticus 26:4. And on the other hand, ‘They shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy’ Revelation 3:4. Lap.: “God cannot be agreed with the sinner who justifies himself. Rup.: “God who rebuketh, and Israel who is rebuked, are two. God saith, We are not agreed, in that Israel, when rebuked, heareth not Me, God, rebuking. Herein we are not agreed, that I rebuke, Israel justifieth himself. Lo, for so many years since Jeroboam made the golden calves, have I sent prophets, and none agreeth, for no one king departed from the sin of Jeroboam. So then I came Myself, God made man, rebuking and reproving: but ‘ye are they which justify yourselves before men’ Luke 16:15, and, being sick, ye say to the Physician, we need Thee not.” Augustine in Psalms 75:1-10 Lap.: “So long as thou confessest not thy sins, thou art in a manner litigating with God. For what displeaseth Him, thou praisest. Be at one with God. Let what displeaseth Him, displease thee. Thy past evil life displeaseth Him. If it please thee, thou art disjoined from Him; if it displease thee, by confessing thy sins, thou art joined to Him.” So He awakens and prepares the soul for the following words of awe.
In connection with what follows, the words are also the prophet’s defense of his Mission. Israel “said to the prophets, prophesy not” (see the notes on Amos 2:12), or, “The Lord our God hath not sent thee” Jeremiah 43:2, because, while it disobeyed God, the prophets must “speak concernig it not good, but evil.” Amos prepares the way for his answer; ye yourselves admit, that “two will” not “walk together, unless they be agreed.” The seen and the unseen, the words of the prophets and the dealings of God, would not meet together, unless the prophets were of one mind with God, unless God had admitted them into His counsels, and “were agreed” with them, so that their words should precede His deeds, His deeds confirm His words by them.
Will a lion roar in the forest, when he hath no prey? - Then, further, each question by itself suggests its own thought. Amos had already, in repeating Joel’s words, spoken of God’s Voice, under the image of a lion roaring (Amos 1:2; Hosea 11:10 (add Hosea 5:14; Hosea 6:1; Hosea 13:7); Jeremiah 25:30). Hosea had likened Israel to “a silly dove without heat Hosea 7:11; on the other hand, he had likened God’s loud call to repentance to the roaring of the lion, the conversion of Israel to the return of the dove to its home Hosea 11:10-11. As the roaring of the lion causeth terror, for he sendeth forth his terrible roar when he is about to spring on his prey , so God threatens by His prophets, only when He is about to punish. Yet the lion’s roar is a warning to escape. God’s threatening is a warning to betake them to repentance, and so to escape from all fear, by fleeing from their sins. If the season is neglected, wilt thou rescue the prey from the lion’s grasp, or thyself from the wrath of God?
Can a bird fall in a snare - Again, the bird taken in the snare is the image of those drawn down from heaven, where ‘our conversation is Philippians 3:20 and the soul may rise free toward its God , “drawn up by the Spirit to high and heavenly things.” Such souls being allured by the things of earth, are entangled and taken by Satan; as, on the other hand, “the soul, escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowler Psalms 124:7, is a soul, set free by Christ and restored to heaven.
In the last likeness, the prophet comes nearer to the people themselves, and the trumpet is, at once, the well-known token of alarm among people, and of the loud voice of God, wakening them to repentance Isaiah 58:1; Joel 2:15 and still oftener, warning them of the approach of judgment Isaiah 18:3; Jeremiah 4:5; Jeremiah 6:1; Ezekiel 33:2-6; Hosea 5:8; Hosea 8:1; Revelation 8:1-13, or summoning man before Him 1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16. Rup.: “God’s Voice will not always be ‘a still small voice,’ or whispered only among the Angels, or heard as from the ground. It will be heard terribly in the whole world.” Jerome: “Whatever is said in Holy Scripture is a trumpet threatening, and with loud voice sinking into the hearts of believers. If we are righteous, we are called by the trumpet of Christ to bliss. If we are sinners, we know that we are to suffer torment.”
Is there evil in the city and the Lord hath not done it? - Evil is of two sorts, evil of sin, and evil of punishment. There is no other; for evil of nature, or evil of fortune, are evils, by God’s Providence, punishing the evil of sin. Augustine, c. Adim. 26: “Evil, which is sin, the Lord hath not done; evil, which is punishment for sin, the Lord bringeth.” The Providence of God governing and controlling all things, man doth ill which he wills, so as to suffer ill which he wills not. Only, evil which is by God’s Providence the punishment of sin is in this life remedial and through final impenitence alone becomes purely judicial.
Rib.: “Refer not, the prophet would say, the ills which ye suffer and will suffer, to any other causes, as people are accustomed to do. God, in His displeasure, sends them upon you. And that ye may know this the more certainly, whatever He shall send He will first reveal to the prophets and by them ye shall be forewarned. See then that ye despise not my words, or the words of the other prophets. People ascribe their sufferings to fortune, accident, any cause, rather than the displeasure of God. The intemperate will think anything the cause of their illness rather than their intemperance. People love the things of the world and cannot and will not be persuaded that so many evils are brought on them by the things which they love. So then God explains through the prophets the punishment which He purposes to bring on people.”
Surely the Lord God will do - For the Lord God “doeth”
Nothing, but He revealeth His secret unto His servants the prophets - So our Lord saith, “And now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe” (John 14:29; compare John 13:19). While it is yet a “secret” counsel within Himself, He admitteth to it His servants the prophets. The same word signifies “secret” and “secret counsel with a friend.” So , “God revealed to Noah that tie would bring the deluge, and to Abraham and Lot, that He would destroy the cities of the plain, and to Joseph the 7 years’ famine in Egypt, and to Moses its plagues, and to Moses and Joshua all the chastisements of His people, and to Jonah the destruction of Nineveh, that they who heard of the coming punishment, might eithcr avoid it by repentance, or, if they should despise it, might be more justly punished. And so now the Lord is about to reveal through Amos, His servant and prophet, what He willeth to do to the 10 tribes, that forsaking their idols and turning to Him, they might be freed from the impending peril; which is of the great mercy of God. He foretelleth evil to come, that He may not be compelled to inflict it. For He who forewarneth, willeth not to punish sinners.”
Lap.: “So He inflicted not on Egypt any plagues by the hand of Moses, but He first forewarned Pharaoh and the Egyptians by him; nor the sufferings by the Ammonites, Midianites and Philistines, related in the Book of Judges, but He foremonished Israel by Joshua Joshua 23:12-16; Joshua 24:19-20; nor did He inflict on the Jews that destruction by Titus and the Romans, but He foremonished them by Christ Luke 19:42-44 and the Apostles. So neither will He bring that last destruction on the world, without having first sent the prophets and Angels, who, sounding with the seven trumpets, shall proclaim it throughout the world” Revelation 8:2.
The Lion hath roared: who will not fear? The Lord God hath spoken: who can but prophesy? - that is, there is cause for you to fear, when the Lord “roareth from Zion;” but if ye fear not, God’s prophets dare not but fear. So Paul saith, “necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me if I preach not the Gospel! For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward; but if against my will, a dispensation” of the Gospel “is committed unto me” 1 Corinthians 9:16-17; and Peter and John, “whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye! For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” Acts 4:19-20; Moses was not excused, though slow of speech; nor Isaiah, though of polluted lips; nor Jeremiah, because he was a child; but God said, “Say not, I am child, for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee, thou shalt speak” Jeremiah 1:7. And Ezekiel was bidden, “be not rebellious, like that rebellious house” Ezekiel 2:8. And when Jeremiah would keep silence, he saith, “His Word was in mine heart as a burning fire, shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing and I could not stay” Jeremiah 20:9.
Publish - “ye,” they are the words of God, commissioning His prophets
In (on) the palaces of Ashdod - , that is, on the flat roofs of their high buidings, from where all can hear
And in (on) the palaces in the land of Egypt - Theodoret: “Since ye disbelieve, I will manifest to Ashdodites and Egyptians the transgressions of which ye are guilty.” Amos had already pronounced God’s sentence on “the palaces of Ashdod” and all Philistia, for their sins against Himself in His people (see the notes at Amos 1:6-8). Israel now, or a little later, courted Egypt Hosea 7:11; Hosea 12:1. To friend then and to foe, to those whom they dreaded and those whom they courted, God would lay open their sins. Contempt and contumely from an enemy aggravate suffering: man does not help whom he despiseth. “They were all ashamed of a people who could not profit them,” saith Isaiah Isaiah 30:5 subsequently, of Egypt in regard to Judah. From those palaces, already doomed to destruction for their sins, the summons was to go, to visit Samaria, and see her sins, amid grace which those people had not. As our Lord says, “It shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the Day of Judgment, than for that city” Matthew 10:15. Shame toward man survives shame toward God. What people are not ashamed to do, they are, apart from any consequences, ashamed to confess that they have done. Nay, to avoid a little passing shame, they rush upon “everlasting shame.” So God employs all inferior motives, shame, fear, hope of things present, if by any means He can win people, not to offend Him.
Assemble yourselves upon the mountains of Samaria - that is, those surrounding it. Samaria was chosen with much human wisdom for the strong capital of a small people. Imbedded in mountains, and out of any of the usual routes , it lay, a mountain-fastness in a rich valley. Armies might surge to and fro in the valley of Jezreel, and be unconscious of its existence. The way from that great valley to Samaria lay, every way, through deep and often narrowing valleys , down which the armies of Samaria might readily pour, but which, like Thermopylae, might be held by a handful of men against a large host.
The broad vale near the hill of Dothan , along which the blinded Syrian army followed Elisha to Samaria, contracts into “a narrow valley” , before it reaches Samaria. The author of the book of Judith, who knew well the country, speaks of “the passages of the hill-country” near Dothaim, “by” which “there was an entrance into Judaea, and it was easy to stop them that would come up, because the passage was strait for two men at the most” . : “A series of long winding ravines open from the mountains to the plain; these were the passes so often defended by the ‘horns of Joseph, the ten thousands of Ephraim, and the thousands of Manasseh’ against the invaders from the north.”
Within these lay “the wide rocky rampart” which fenced in Samaria from the north . “The fine round swelling hill of Samaria, now cultivated to the top, (about 1,100 feet above the sea , and 300 from its own valley ,) stands alone in the midst of a great basin of some two hours (or 5 miles) in diameter surrounded by higher mountains on every side.” : “The view from its summit presents a splendid panorama of the fertile basin and the mountains around, teeming with large villages, and includes not less than 25 degrees of the Mediterranean.” Such a place, out of reach, in those days, from the neighboring heights, was well-near impregnable, except by famine. But its inhabitants must have had handed down to them the memory, how those heights had once been populated, while their valleys were thronged with “all the hosts” 2 Kings 6:24 of Benhadad, his chariots and his horsemen; and the mountains, in which they had trusted to shut out the enemy, were the prison-walls of their famished people.
From those heights , “the Syrians could plainly distinguish the famishing inhabitants of the city. The adjacent circle of hills were so densely occupied, that not a man could push through to bring provisions to the beleaguered city.” The city, being built on the summit and terraced sides of the hill, unfenced and unconcealed by walls which, except at its base, were unneeded, lay open, unsheltered in every part from the gaze of the besiegers. The surrounding hills were one large amphitheater, from where to behold the tragedy of Israel , and enemies were invited to be the spectators. They could see its faminestricken inhabitants totter along those open terraces. Sin had brought this chastisement upon them. God had forgiven them then. When God who had, by His prophet, foretold their relief then 2 Kings 7:1-2, now by His prophet called anew those enemies of Samaria to those same heights to behold her sins, what could this mean but that He summoned them to avenge what He summoned them to behold?
It was no figure of speech. God avenges, as He comforts, not in word, but in deed. The triumph of those enemies David had especially deprecated, “Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Askelon; lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, lest the daughters of the uncircumised triumph” 2 Samuel 1:20. To these Israel was to be a gazingstock. They were like “the woman set in the midst John 8:3, amid one encircling sea of accusing insulting faces, with none to pity, none to intercede, none to show mercy to them who “had shewed no mercy.” Faint image of the shame of that Day, when not people’s deeds only, but “the secrets of all hearts shall be revealed” Romans 2:16, and “they shall begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us, and to the hills, Cover us” Luke 23:30; and of that “shame” there will be no end, for it is “everlasting” Daniel 12:2.
And behold the great tumults - I. e, the alarms, restlessness, disorders and confusion of a people intent on gain; turning all law upside down, the tumultuous noise of the oppressors and oppressed. It is the word which Solomon uses , “Better is little with the fear of the Lord, than great treasure and tumult therewith,” the tumults and restlessness of continual gaining. “And the oppressed,” or better (as in the English margin) the oppressions , the manifold ever-repeated acts by which people were crushed and trampled on.
In the midst thereof - Admitted within her, domiciled, reigning there in her very center, and never departing out of her, as the Psalmist says, “Wickedness is in the midst thereof; deciet and guile depart not from her streets” Psalms 55:11. Aforetime, God spared His people, that “His Name Ezekiel 20:9 should not be polluted before the pagan, among whom they were, in whose sight I made Myself known unto them in bringing them forth out of the land of Egypt.” Now He summons those same pagan as witnesses that Israel was justly condemned. These sins, being sins against the moral law, the pagan would condemn. People condemn in others, what they do themselves. But so they would see that God hated sin, for which He spared not His own people, and could the less triumph over God, when they saw the people whom God had established and protected, given up to the king of Assyria.
For - (and) they know not to do right They “have not known,” they have least all sense and knowledge, how “to do right” (literally, what is “straight-forward”) because they had so long ceased to do it. It is part of the miserable blindness of sin, that, while the soul acquires a quick insight into evil, it becomes, at last, not paralyzed only to “do” good, but unable to perceive it. So Jeremiah says, “they are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge” Jeremiah 4:22. Whence of the Christian Paul says, “I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil” Romans 16:19. People, step by step, lose the power of understanding either good or evil, the love of the world or the love of God. Either becomes “a strange language” to ears accustomed to the “songs of Zion” or the din of the world. When our Lord and God came to His own, they said, “we know that God spake unto Moses: as for this man we know not whence He is” John 9:29. And this blindness was brought about by covetousness which “blindeth the eyes” even of “the wise” Exodus 23:8, as he adds;
Who store - (Literally, with indignation, “the storers”
With violence and robbery - They could not understand what was right, while they habitually did what was wrong. They “stored up,” as they deemed, the gains and fruits; the robbery and injustice they saw not, because they turned away from seeing. But what is “stored” up, is not what wastes away, but what abides. Who doubts it? Then, what they treasured, were not the perishing things of earth, but, in truth, the sins themselves, as “a treasure of wrath against the Day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God” Romans 2:5. Strange treasure, to be so diligently accumulated, guarded, multiplied! Yet it is, in fact, all which remains. “So is he that layeth up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God” Luke 12:21. He adds, as an aggravation, “in their palaces.” Deformed as in all oppression, yet to “oppress the poor, to increase his riches” Proverbs 22:16, has an unnatural hideousness of its own. What was wrung from the poor, laid up “in places!” Yet what else is it to cheapen luxuries at the cost of the wages of the poor?
Therefore thus saith the Lord God - There was no human redress. The oppressor was mighty, but mightier the Avenger of the poor. Man would not help; therefore God would. “An adversary” there shall be, “even round about the land;” literally, “An enemy, and around the land!” The prophets speaks, as seeing him. The abruptness tells how suddenly that enemy should come, and hem in the whole land on all sides. What an unity in their destruction! He sees one “enemy, and” him everywhere, all “around,” encircling, encompassing, as with a net, their whole land, narrowing in, as he advanced, until it closed around and upon them. The corruption was universal, so should be the requital.
And he shall bring down thy strength from - (that is, away from) thee The word “bring down” implies a loftiness of pride which was to be brought low, as in Obadiah, “thence will I bring thee down” Obadiah 1:4; and in Isaiah, “I will bring down their strength to the earth” Isaiah 63:6. But further, their strength was not only, as in former oppressions, to be “brought down,” but “forth from thee. Thy palaces shall be spoiled;” those palaces, in which they had heaped up the spoils of the oppressed. Man’s sins are, in God’s Providence, the means of their punishment. “Woe to thee that spoilest and” Isaiah 33:1 (that is, whereas) thou wert “not spoiled, and dealest treacherously, and they dealt not treacherowsly with thee! when thou perfectest, spoiling, thou shalt be spoiled; when thou accomplihest dealing treacherously, they shall deal treacherously with thee.” Their spoiling should invite the spoiler, their oppressions should attract the oppressor and they, with all which they held to be their strength, should go “forth” into captivity.
Rib.: “The Lord will be justified in His sayings, and in His works, when He executeth judgment on ‘us and shall be cleared,’ even by the most unjust judges, ‘when He is judged.’ Psalms 51:4. He cites the Ashdodites and Egyptians as judges, who were witnesses of His benefits to this people, that they might see how justly He punished them. And now the hardened Jews themselves, Turks and all Hagarenes, might be called to behold at once our iniquities, and ‘the mercies of the Lord, that we are not consumed’ Lamentations 3:22. If these were gathered on the mountains of Samaria, and surveyed from aloft our sins, who worship Mammon and Vain-glory and Venus for God, doubtless the Name of God would through us be blasphemed among the pagan. ‘Imagine yourselves withdrawn for a while to the summit of some lofty mountain,’ says the blessed martyr Cyprian , ‘view thence the face of things, as they lie beneath you, yourself free from contact of earth, cast your eyes hither and thither, and mark the turmoils of this billowy world.
You too, recalled to self-remembrance, will pity the world; and, made more thankful to God, will congratulate yourself with deeper joy that you have escaped it. See thou the ways obstructed by bandits, the seas infested by pirates, war diffused everywhere by the camp’s bloodstained fierceness: a world reeking with mutual slaughter; and homicide, a crime in individuals, called virtue when worked by nations. Not innocence but the scale of its ferocity gains impunity for guilt. Turn thy eyes to the cities, thou wilt see a populated concourse more melancholy than any solitude.’ This and much more which he says of the life of the Gentiles, how it fits in with our’s, any can judge. What greater madness than that people, called to heavenly thrones, should cling to trifles of earth? immortal man glued to passing, perishable things people, redeemed by the Blood of Jesus Christ, for lucre wrong their brethren, redeemed by the same Price, the same Blood! No marvel then, that the Church is afflicted, and encompassed by unseen enemies, and her strength drawn down from her spoiled houses.”
“Samaria is also every soul, which willeth to please man by whom it thinketh it may be holpen, rather than God, and, boasting itself to be Israel, yet worshipeth the golden calves, that is, gold, silver, honors, and pleasures. Let people alien from the light of the Gospel survey ‘its tumults,’ with what ardor of mind riches, pleasures are sought, how ambition is served, how restless and disturbed the soul is in catching at nothings, how forgetful of God the Creator and of heavenly things and of itself, how minded, as if it were to perish with the body! What tumults, when ambition bids one thing, lust another, avarice another, wrath another, and, like strong winds on the sea, strong, unbridled passions strive together! They ‘know not to do right,’ bad ends spoiling acts in themselves good. They ‘treasure up violence,’ whereas they ought to treasure up grace and charity against that Day when God shall judge the secrets of people. And when they ascribe to themselves any benefits of the divine mercy, and any works pleasing to God, which they may have done or do, what else do they than ‘store up robbery?’ So then the powers of the soul are “spoiled,” when truths as to right action, once known and understood by the soul, fade and are obscure, when the memory retaineth nothing usefill, when the will is spoiled of virtues and yields to vicious affections.”
As the shepherd taketh - (Rather, rescueth) out of the mouth of the lion two legs (Properly, the shank, the lower part of the leg below the knee, which in animals is dry, and bone only and worthless) “or apiece” (the tip) “of an ear, so” (that is, so few and weak, so bared and spoiled, a mere remnant,) “shall the children of Israel be taken out” (rather, “rescued”) “that” now “dwell” at ease “in Samaria in the corner of a bed, and in Damascus” , in “a couch,” or rather “in Damascus, a couch.” Now, that soft, rounded, oblong, hill of Samaria, was one large luxurious couch, in which its rich and great rested securely, propped and cushioned up on both sides, in, what is still the place of dignity, “the corner of a bed,” or “Divan,” that is, the inner corner where the two sides meet. Damascus also, which Jeroboam had won for Israel, was a canopied couch to them, in which they stayed themselves. It is an image of listless ease and security, like that of these whom the false prophetesses lulled into careless stupidity as to their souls; “sewing pillows to all armholes,” or “wrists” Ezekiel 13:18, whereon to lean in a dull inertness.
In vain! Of all those who then dwelt at ease and in luxury, the Good Shepherd Himself should rescue from “the lion,” (the enemy, in the first instance the Assyrian,) a small remnant, in the sight of the enemy and of man of little account, but precious in the sight of God. The enemy would leave them perhaps, as not worth removing, just as, when the lion has devoured the fat and the strong, the shepherd may recover from him some slight piece of skin or extremity of the bones. Amos then, as well as Joel (see the note at Joel 2:32), preaches that same solemn sentence, so repeated throughout the prophets, “a reimnant” only “shall be saved.” So doubtless it was in the captivity of the ten tribes, as in the rest. So it was in Judah, when certain “of the poor of the land” only were “left behind vinedessers and for farmers” 2 Kings 25:12; Jeremiah 52:16. In the Gospel, “not many wise men after the flesh not many mighty, not many noble were called” 1 Corinthians 1:26, but “God chose the poor of this world, rich in faith James 2:5, and the Good Shepherd rescued from the mouth of the lion those whom man despised, yet who “had ears to hear.”
After the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, a poor remnant only escaped. Rup.: “The spirit of prophecy foresaw both captivities, the end whereof was to confirm the faith, not in one place only but in all the earth, and so a slight remnant was “rescued from the mouth of the lion,” that is, from the slaughter of the destroyers, and permitted to live, that through them, as a witness and monument, the justice of God might be known from age to age, and the truth of the Scriptures might be everywhere, borne about by them, still witnessing to Christ the Son of God, who is known by the law and the prophets. Hapness remnants, so “taken out” for the good of others, not their own!” As these remnants of the animal show what it was which the lion destroyed, yet are of no further profit, so are they now a memorial of what they once were, what grace through their sins they have lost.
Rib.: “Many souls will perish because they trust in their own strength, and no more call on God to have mercy on them than if they could rise of themselves and enter the way of salvation without God. They trust in the power of their friends, or the friendship of princes, or the doctrines of philophers, and repose in them as in a couch of Damascus. But Christ, the Good Shepherd, will rescue out of the mouth of “the lion,” who “goeth about seeking, whom he may devour,” what is last and of least esteem in this world, who have anything whereby the Good Shepherd can hold them. The “legs” signify the desire to go to hear the Word of God; the extremity of the ear, that obedience was not wholly lost. For if any begin even in part to obey the word of God which he hath heard, God, of His fatherly mercy, will help him and lead him on to perfect obedience. The legs also denote desire , whereby, as by certain steps, the soul approacheth to God or departeth from Him. Yet if a soul would be saved, desires suffice not; but if to these obedience to the heavenly commands be added, it shall be rescued from the mouth of the lion.”
Hear ye and testify ye in - (Rather unto or against ) the house of Israel; first “hear” yourselves, then “testify,” that is, solemnly “protest,” in the Name of God; and “bear witness unto” and “against” them, so that the solemn words may sink into them. It is of little avail to “testfy,” unless we first “hear;” nor can man “bear witness” to what he doth not know; nor will words make an “impression,” that is, leave a trace of themselves, be stamped in or on people’s souls, unless the soul which utters them have first hearkened unto them.
Saith the Lord God of hosts - “So thundereth, as it were, the authority of the Holy Spirit, through the mouth of the shepherd. Foretelling and protesting the destruction of the altar of Bethel, he sets his God against the god whom Israel had chosen as theirs and worshiped there, “the Lord God of hosts,” against “the similitude of a calf that eateth hay” Psalms 106:20. Not I, a shepherd, but so speaketh my God against your god.”
In the day that I shall visit the transgression of Israel upon, him, I will also visit (upon) the altars of Bethel - Israel then hoped that its false worship of “nature” would avail it. God says, contrariwise, that when He should punish, all their false worship, so far from helping them, should itself be the manifest object of His displeasure. Again God attests, at once, His long-suffering and His final retribution. Still had He foreborne to punish, “being slow to anger and of great goodness;” but when that day, fixed by the divine Wisdom, should come, wherein He should vindicate His own holiness, by enduring the sin no longer, then He would “visit their transgressions,” that is, all of them, old and new, forgotten by man or remembered, “upon them.” Scripture speaks of “visiting offences upon” because, in God’s Providence, the sin returns upon a man’s own head. It is not only the cause of his being punished, but it becomes part of his punishment.
The memory of a man’s sins will be part of his eternal suffering. Even in this life, “remorse,” as distinct from repentance, is the “gnawing” of a man’s own conscience for the folly of his sin. Then also God would visit upon the false worship. It is thought that God visits less speedily even grave sins against Himself, (so that man does not appeal falsely to Him and make Him, in a way, a partner of his offence,) than sins against His own creature, man. It may be that, All-Merciful as He is, He bears the rather with sins, involving corruption of the truth as to Himself, so long as they are done in ignorance, on account of the ignorant worship Acts 17:23, Acts 17:30; Acts 14:16 of Himself, or the fragments of truth which they contain, until the evil in them have its full sway in moral guilt Romans 1:0. Montanus: “Wonderful is the patience of God in enduring all those crimes and injuries which pertain directly to Himself; wonderful His waiting for repentance. But the deeds of guilt which violate human society, faith, and justice, hasten judgment and punishment, and, as it were, with a most effectual cry call upon the Divine Mind to punish, as it is written, “The voices of thy brother’s blood crieth unto Me from the ground, And now cursed art thou, ...” Genesis 4:10-11.
If then upon that very grave guilt against God Himself there be accumulated these other sins, this so increases the load, that God casts it out. However long then Israel with impunity, given itself to that vain, alien worship, this evinced the patience, not the approval, of God. Now, when they are to be punished for the fourth transgresston, they will be punished for the first, second and third, and so, most grievously; when brought to punishment for their other sins, they should suffer for their other guilt of impiety and superstition.”
And the horns of the altar - This was the one great “altar” 1 Kings 12:32-33; 1 Kings 13:1-5 for burnt-offerings, set up by Jeroboam, in imitation of that of God at Jerusalem, whose doom was pronounccd in the act of its would-be consecration. He had copied faithfully outward form. At each corner, where the two sides met in one, rose the “horn,” or pillar, a cubit high , there to sacrifice victims, Psalms 118:27, there to place the blood of atonement Exodus 29:12. So far from atoning, they themselves were “the” unatoned “sin” of “Jeroboam whereby 2 Kings 17:21 he drove Israel from following the Lord, and made them sin a great sin. These were to be cut off; hewn down, with violence. A century and a half had passed, since the man of God had pronounced its sentence. They still stood. The day was not yet come; Josiah was still unborn; yet Amos, as peremptorily, renews the sentence. In rejecting these, whereon the atonement was made, God pronounced them out of covenant with Himself. Heresy makes itself as like as it can to the truth, but is thereby the more deceiving, not the less deadly. Amos mentions the altars of Bethel, as well as the altar. Jeroboam made but one altar, keeping as close as he could to the divine ritual. But false worship and heresy ever hold their course, developing themselves. They never stand still where they began, but spread, like a cancer 2 Timothy 2:17. It is a test of heresy, like leprosy, that it spreads abroad Leviticus 13:0, preying on what at first seemed sound. The oneness of the altar had relation to the Unity of God. In Samaria, they worshiped, they know not what John 4:22, not God, but some portion of His manifold operations. The many altars, forbidden as they were, were more in harmony with the religion of Jeroboam, even because they were against God’s law. Heresy develops, becoming more consistent, by having less of truth.
And I will smite the winter house with the summer house - Upon idolatry, there follow luxury and pride. “So wealthy were they,” says Jerome, “as to possess two sorts of houses, “the winter house” being turned to the south, the “summer house” to the north, so that, according to the variety of the seasons, they might temper to them the heat and cold.” Yet of these luxuries, (so much more natural in the East where summer-heat is so intense, and there is so little provision against cold) the only instance expressly recorded, besides this place, is “the winter house” of Jehoiakim. In Greece and Rome , the end was attained, as with us, by north and south rooms in the same house. These, which Amos rebukes, were like our town and country houses, separate residences, since they were to be destroyed, one on the other. “Ivory houses” were houses, paneled, or inlaid, with ivory. Such a palace Ahab built 1 Kings 22:39. Even Solomon “in all his glory” had but an ivory throne 1 Kings 10:18. Else “ivory palaces” Psalms 45:8 are only mentioned, as part of the symbolic glory of the King of glory, the Christ. He adds, “and the great (or many) houses shall have an end, saith the Lord.” So prosperous were they in outward show, when Amos foretold their destruction. The desolation should be wide as well as mighty. All besides should pass away, and the Lord alone abide in that Day. : “What then shall we, if we would be right-minded, learn hence? How utterly nothing will all earthly brightness avail, all wealth, glory, or ought besides of luxury, if the love of God is lacking, and righteousness be not prized by us! For “treasures of wickedness profit nothing; but righteousness delivereth from death” Proverbs 10:2.
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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Amos 3". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30