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In order to impress Israel the more, Amos begins this his third appeal by a “dirge” over its destruction, mourning over those who were full of joy, and thought themselves safe and enviable. As if a living man, in the midst of his pride and luxury and buoyant recklessness of heart, could see his own funeral procession, and hear, as it were, over himself the “earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” It would give solemn thoughts, even though he should impatiently put them from him. So must it to Israel, when after the tide of victories of Jeroboam II, Amos said, “Hear this word which I am lifting up,” as a heavy weight, to cast it down “against” or “upon you,” a funeral “dirge,” O house of Israel. Human greatness is so unstable, human strength so fleeting, that the prophet of decay finds a response in man’s own conscience, however he may silence or resent it. He would not resent it, unless he felt its force.
Dionysius: “Amos, an Israelite, mourneth over Israel, as Samuel did over Saul 1 Samuel 15:35, or as Isaiah says, “I will weep bitterly; labor not to comfort me, because of the spoiling of the daughter of my people” Isaiah 22:4; images of Him who wept over Jerusalem.” “So are they bewailed, who know not why they are bewailed, the more miserable, because they know not their own misery.”
She hath fallen, she shall rise no more, the virgin of Israel; she hath been dashed down upon her land, there is none to raise her up - Such is the dirge, a dirge like that of David over Saul and Jonathan, over what once was lovely and mighty, but which had perished. He speaks of all as past, and that, irremediably. Israel is one of the things which had been, and which would never again be. He calls her tenderly, “the virgin of Israel,” not as having retained her purity or her fealty to God; still less, with human boastfulness, as though she had as yet been unsubdued by man. For she had been faithless to God, and had been many times conquered by man. Nor does it even seem that God so calls her, because He once espoused her to Himself For isaiah so calls Babylon. But Scripture seems to speak of cities, as women, because in women tenderness is most seen; they are most tenderly guarded; they, when pure, are most lovely; they, when corrupted, are most debased.
Hence , “God says on the one hand, “I remember thee, the love of thine espousals” Jeremiah 2:2; on the other, “Hear, thou harlot, the word of the Lord” Ezekiel 16:35. When He claims her faithfulness He calls her, betrothed.” Again , “when He willeth to signify that a city or nation has been as tenderly loved and anxiously guarded, whether by Himsclf or by others, He calleth it “virgin,” or when lie would indicate its beauty and lovely array. Isaiah saith, ‘come down and sit in the dust, virgin daughter of Babylon’ Isaiah 47:1, that is, thou who livedest before in all delicacies, like a virgin under the shelter of her home. For it follows, ‘for thou shalt no more be called tender and delicate.’” More pitiable, for their tenderness and delicacy, is the distress of women. And so he pictures her as already fallen, “dashed” (the word imitates the sound) to the earth “upon her own ground.” An army may be lost, and the nation recover. She was “dashed down upon her own ground.” In the abode of her strength, in the midst of her resources, in her innermost retreat, she should fall. In herself, she fell powerless. And he adds, she has “no one to raise her up;” none to have ruth upon her; image of the judgment on a lost soul, when the terrible sentence is spoken and none can intercede! “She shall not rise again.” As she fell, she did not again rise. The prophet beholds beyond the eighty-five years which separated the prosperity under Jeroboam II from her captivity. As a people, he says, she should be restored no more; nor was she.
The city that went out by a thousand - (that is, probably that sent out a thousand fighting men, as the word “went out” is often used for, “went out” to fight,) “shall have” literally, “shall retain, an hundred.” She was to be decimated. Only, the tenth alone was to be reserved alive; the nine-tenths were to be destroyed. And this, alike in larger places and in the small. The city “that went forth an hundred shall retain ten.” Smaller places escape for their obscurity, the larger from their strength and situation. One common doom was to befall all. Out of all that multitude, one tithe alone was to he preserved , “dedicated to God,” that remnant which God always promised to reserve.
Seek ye Me and ye shall live - Literally, “seek Me; and live.” Wonderful conciseness of the word of God, which, in two words, comprises the whole of the creature’s duty and his hopes, his time and his eternity. The prophet users the two imperatives, inoneing both, man’s duty and his reward. He does not speak of them, as cause and effect, but as one. Where the one is, there is the other. To seek God is to live. For to seek God is to find Him, and God is Life and the Source of life. Forgiveness, grace, life, enter the soul at once. But the seeking is diligent seeking. : “It is not to seek God anyhow, but as it is right and meet that He should be sought, longed for, prayed for, who is so great, a Good, constantly, fervently, yea, to our power, the more constantly and fervently, as an Infinite Good is more to be longed for, more loved than all created good.” The object of the search is God Himself. “Seek Me,” that is, seek God for Himself, not for anything out of Him, not for His gifts, not for anything to be loved with Him. This is not to seek Him purely. All is found in Him, but by seeking Him first, and then loving Him in all, and all in Him. “And ye shall live,” first by the life of the body, escaping the enemy; then by the life of grace now, and the life of glory hereafter, as in that of the Psalmist, “your heart shall live who seek God” Psalms 69:32.
But (and) seek not Bethel - Israel pretended to seek God in Bethel. Amos sets the two seeking, as incompatible. The god, worshiped at Bethel, was not the One God. To seek God there was to lose Him. “Seek not God,” he would say, “and a phantom, which will lead from God.”
And pass not to Beersheba - Jeroboam I pretended that it was too much for Israel to go up to Jerusalem. And Yet Israel thought it not too much to go to the extremest point of Judah toward Idumaea , perhaps, four times as far south of Jerusalem, as Jerusalem lay from Bethel. For Beersheba is thought to have lain some thirty miles south of Hebron , which is twenty-two miles south of Jerusalem ; while Bethel is but twelve to the north. So much pains will people take in self-willed service, and yet not see that it takes away the excuse for neglecting the true. At Beersheba, Abraham “called upon the name of the Lord, the everlasting God” Genesis 21:33. There God revealed Himself to Isaac and Jacob Genesis 26:23-24; Genesis 46:1. There, because He had so revealed Himself, Judah made a place of idolatry, which Israel, seeking nought besides from Judah, sought. Beersheba was still a town or large village in the time of Jerome. Now all is swept away, except “some foundations of ruins,” spread over 34 of a mile, “with scarcely one stone upon another” . The wells alone remain , with the ancient names.
Gilgal shall surely go into captivity - The verbal allusions in the prophets are sometimes artificial; sometimes, they develop the meaning of the word itself, as when Zephaniah says, “Ekron (probably the “firm-rooting”) “shall be uprooted” Zephaniah 2:4; sometimes, as here, the words are connected, although not the same. In all cases, the likeness of sound was calculated to fix them in men’s memories. It would be so, if one with authority could say, “Paris perira” , “Paris shall perish” or “London is undone.” Still more would the words, Hag-gilgal galo yigleh, because the name Gilgal still retained its first meaning, “the great rolling , and the word joined with it had a kindred meaning. Originally it probably means, “swept clear away.” God first “rolled away the reproaeh of Egypt” Joshua 5:9 from His people there. Then, when it made itself like the pagan, it should itself be rolled clear away Jeremiah 51:25. Gilgal was originally in Benjamin, but Israel had probably annexed it to itself, as it had Bethel and Jericho 1 Kings 16:34, both of which had been assigned by Joshua to Benjamin Joshua 18:21-22.
And Bethel shall come to nought - Hosea had called “Bethel, God’s house,” by the name of “Bethaven Hosea 4:15; Hosea 10:5, Vanity-house.” Amos, in allusion to this probably, drops the first half of the name, and says that it shall not merely be “house of vanity,” but “Aven, vanity” itself. “By sin the soul, which was the house or temple of God, becomes the temple of vanity and of devils.”
Seek ye the Lord and ye shall live - Literally, “seek the Lord and live;” being united to Him, the Fountain of life. He reimpresses on them the one simple need of the creature, “seek God,” the one true God as He revealed Himself, not as worldly people, or the politicians of Jeroboam’s court, or the calf-priests, fabled of Him. “Seek Him.” For in Him is all; without Him, nothing.
Lest He break out like fire in Bethel - Formerly the Spirit of God came vehemently down upon Sansom Judges 14:6, Judges 14:19; Judges 15:14 and Saul 1 Samuel 10:6; 1 Samuel 11:6 and David 1 Samuel 16:13, to fit them as instruments for God; as did the Evil spirit, when God departed from Saul 1 Samuel 18:10. So now, unless they repented, God Himself would suddenly show His powerful presence among them, but, as He had revealed Himself to be, “the, Lord thy God is a consuming Fire” Deuteronomy 4:24. “And devour” it, literally, “and it” (the fire) “shall devor, and” there be “none to quench” it “in” (better, “for”) Bethel.” Bethel, the center of their idol-hopes, so far from aiding them then, shall not be able to help itself, nor shall there be any to help it. The fire of God kindles around it, and there is none to quench it for her (as in Jeremiah 4:4).
Montanus: “The whole place treateth of mercy and justice. The whole ground of people’s punishment, calamities, condemnation is ascribed to their own fault and negligence, who neglect the deliverance often promised and offered them by God, and ‘love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil’ John 3:19. Whoever is not saved, the whole blame lies in their own will and negligence and malice. God, who ‘willeth not that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance’ 2 Peter 3:9, Himself unsought, seeks, entreats, ceases not to monish, exhort, set before them their guilt, that they may cease to prepare such evil for themselves. But they neither give Him entrance, nor hear His entreaties, nor admit the warnings of the divine mercy, which if they neglect, they must needs be made over to His justice. The goodness of God is lacking to no one, save those who are wanting to themselves. Wherefore, having often besought them before, He invites them yet again to salvation, putting forth that His Name, so full of mysteries of mercy; ‘Seek the Lord and live,’” seek Him who is, the Unchangeable. He who had willed their salvation, still willed it, for He “changes not” Malachi 3:6. “He adds threatenings, that those whom He calls to life, He might either allure by promises, or scare from death through fear of the impending evil.”
Ye who turn - Those whom he calls to seek God, were people filled with all injustice, who turned the sweetness of justice into the bitterness of wormwood . Moses had used “gall” and “wormwood” as a proverb; “lest there be among you a root that beareth gall and wormwood; the Lord will not spare him, but then the anger of the Lord and His jealousy shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon him” Deuteronomy 29:18, Deuteronomy 29:20. The word of Amos would remind them of the word of Moses.
And leave off righteousness in the earth - Better, “and set righteousness to rest on the ground” . They dethroned righteousness, the representative and vice-gerent of God, and made it rest on the ground. The “little horn,” Daniel says, should “cast truth to the ground” Daniel 8:12. These seem to have blended outrage with insult, as when “the Lord our Righteousness” Jeremiah 23:6 took our flesh, “they put on Him” the “scarlet robe, and the crown of thorns” upon His Head, and bowed the knee before Him, and mocked Him,” and then “crucified Him.” They “deposed” her, “set her down,” it may be, with a mock make-believe deference, as people now-a-days, in civil terms, depose God, ignoring Him and His right over them. They set her on the ground and so left her, the image of God. This they did, not in one way only, but in all the ways in which they could. He does not limit it to the “righteousness” shown in doing justice. It includes all transactions between man and man, in which right enters, all buying and selling, all equity, all giving to another his due. All the bands of society were dissolved, and righteousness was placed on the ground, to be trampled on by all in all things.
Seek Him that maketh the seven stars - Misbelief effaces the thought of God as He Is. It retains the name God, but means something quite different from the One True God. So people spoke of “the Deity,” as a sort of First Cause of all things, and did not perceive that they only meant to own that this fair harmony of things created was not (at least as it now exists,) self-existent, and that they had lost sight of the Personal God who had made known to them His Will, whom they were to believe in, obey, fear, love. “The Deity” was no object of fear or love. It was but a bold confession that they did not mean to be Atheists, or that they meant intellectually to admire the creation. Such confessions, even when not consciously atheistic, become at least the parents of Atheism or Panotheism, and slide insensibly into either. For a First Cause, who is conceived of as no more, is an abstraction, not God. God is the Cause of all causes.
All things are, and have their relations to each other, as cause and effect, because He so created them. A “Great First Cause,” who is only thought of as a Cause, is a mere fiction of a man’s imagining, an attempt to appear to account for the mysteries of being, without owning that, since our being is from God, we are responsible creatures whom He created for Himself, and who are to yield to Him an account of the use of our being which He gave us. In like way, Israel had probably so mixed up the thought of God with Nature, that it had lost sight of God, as distinct from the creation. And so Amos, after appealing to their consciences, sets forth God to them as the Creator, Disposer of all things, and the Just God, who redresseth man’s violence and injustice. The “seven stars,” literally, “the heap,” are the striking cluster of stars, called by Greeks and Latins the Pleiades, , which consist of seven larger stars, and in all of above forty.
Orion, a constellation in one line with the Pleiades, was conceived by the Arabs and Syrians also, as a gigantic figure. The Chaldee also renders, the “violent” or “the rebel.” The Hebrew title “כּסיל Keciyl, fool,” adds the idea of an irreligious man, which is also the meaning of Nimrod, “rebel,” literally, “let us rebel.” Job, in that he speaks of “the bands of Orion Job 38:31, pictures him as “bound,” the “belt” being the “band.” This falls in with the later tradition, that Nimrod, who, as the founder of Babel, was the first rebel against God , was represented by the easterns in their grouping of the stars, as a giant chained , the same constellation which we call Orion.
And turneth the shadow of death into the morning - This is no mere alternation of night and day, no “kindling” of “each day out of night.” The “shadow of death” is strictly the darkness of death, or of the grave Job 3:5; Job 10:21-22; Job 34:22; Job 38:17; Psalms 23:4; Jeremiah 13:16. It is used of darkness intense as the darkness of the grave Job 28:3, of gloom Job 24:17, or moral benightening (Isaiah 9:2, (1 Hebrew)) which seems to cast “the shadow of death” over the soul, of distress which is as the forerunner of death Job 16:16; Psalms 44:19; Psalms 107:10, Psalms 107:14; Jeremiah 2:6; Jeremiah 13:16, or of things, hidden as the grave, which God alone can bring to light Job 12:22. The word is united with darkness, physical, moral, mental, but always as intensifying it, beyond any mere darkness. Amos first sets forth the power of God, then His goodness. Out of every extremity of ill, God can, will, does, deliver. He who said, “let there be light and there was light,” at once changeth any depth of darkness into light, the death-darkness of sin into the dawn of grace, the hopeless night of ignorance into “the day-star from on high,” the night of the grave into the eternal morn of the Resurrection which knoweth no setting. But then on impenitence the contrary follows;
And maketh the day dark with night - Literally, “and darkeneth day into night.” As God withdraws “the shadow of death,” so that there should be no trace of it left, but all is filled with His light, so, again, when His light is abused or neglected, He so withdraws it, as at times, to leave no trace or gleam of it. Conscience becomes benighted, so as to sin undoubtingly: faith is darkened, so that the soul no more even suspects the truth. Hell has no light.
That calleth for the waters of the sea - This can be no other than a memory of the flood, “when the waters prevailed over the earth Genesis 7:24. The prophet speaks of nothing partial. He speaks of “sea” and “earth,” each, as a whole, standing against the other. “God calleth the waters of the sea and poureth them over the face of the earth.” They seem ever threatening the land, but for Him “which hath placed the sand for the bound of the sea, that it cannot pass it” Jeremiah 5:22. Now God calls them, and “pours them over the face,” that is, the whole surface. The flood, He promised, should not again be. But it is the image of that universal destruction, which shall end man’s thousands of years of rebellion against God. The words then of Amos, in their simplest sense, speak of a future universal judgment of the inhabitants of the earth, like, in extent, to that former judgment, when God “brought in the flood upon the world of the ungodly” 2 Peter 2:5.
The words have been thought also to describe that daily marvel of God’s Providence, how, from the salt briny sea, which could bring but barrenness, He, by the heat of the Sun, draws up the moisture, and discharges it anew in life-giving showers on the surface of the earth. God’s daily care of us, in the workings of His creatures is a witness Acts 14:17 of His relation to us as our Father; it is an earnest also of our relation, and so of our accountableness, to Him.
The Lord is His name - He, the One Self-existent Unchangeable God, who revealed Himself to their forefathers, and forbade them to worship Him under any form of their own device.
That strengtheneth the spoiled - (Literally, “spoil” English margin) probably That “maketh devastation to smile on the strong.” . The “smile,” in anger, attests both the extremity of anger, and the consciousness of the ease, wherewith the offence can be punished. They were strong in their own strength; strong, as they deemed, in their “fortress” ; “strong with an evil strength, like one phrensied against his physician.” But their strength would be weakness. “Desolation” when God willed, would “smile at” all which they accounted “might,” and would “come against the fortress,” which, as they deemed, “cut off” all approach.
They hate him that rebuketh - “The gate” is the well-known place of concourse, where just or, in Israel now, unjust judgment was given Deuteronomy 25:7; Job 5:4; Job 31:21; 2 Samuel 15:2; Proverbs 22:22; Isaiah 29:21, where all was done which was to be done publicly Ruth 4:1, Ruth 4:11. Samaria had a large area by its chief gate, where two kings could hold court, and the 400 false prophets and the people, in great numbers, could gather 1Ki 22:10; 2 Chronicles 18:9, and a market could be held 2 Kings 7:1. Josiah brake down an idol-shrine, which was in one of the gates of Jerusalem 2 Kings 23:8. The prophets seized the opportunity of finding the people together, and preached to them there. So it was even in the days of Solomon. “Wisdom crieth without; she uttereth her voice in the streets; she crieth in the chief place of concourse, in the openings of the gates, in the city she uttereth her words, How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity?...” Proverbs 1:20-22, and again, “She standeth in the top of high places, by the way, in the meeting of the paths. She crieth at the gates, at the entry of the city, at the coming in at the doors; Unto you, O men, I call, “Proverbs 8:2-4. Jeremiah mentions two occasions, upon which God bade him reprove the king and people in the gates of Jerusalem Jeremiah 17:19; Jeremiah 19:2. There doubtless Amos and Hosea reproved them, and, for reproving, were “hated.” As Isaiah says, “they lay a snare for him that reproveth in the gate” Isaiah 29:21. They sinned publicly, and therefore they were to be rebuked publicly. They sinned “in the gate” by injustice and oppression, and therefore were to be “rebuked before all, that others also might fear” 1 Timothy 5:20.
And they abhor him that speaketh uprightly - Literally, “perfectly.” The prophets spoke “perfectly” , “for they spoke the all-perfect word of God, of which David says, “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul” Psalms 19:7. “Carnal eyes hate the light of truth, which they cast aside for execrable lies, closing to themselves the fountain of the divine mercy” . Rup.: “This is the sin which hath no remission; this is the sin of the strong and mighty, who sin not out of ignorance or weakness, but with impenitent heart proudly defend their sin, and ‘hate him that rebuketh arid abhor him who’ dareth to ‘speak perfectly,’ that is, not things which please them, but resisting their evil.” This, like all other good of God and evil of man, met most in and against Christ. Rup.: “Who is he who ‘rebuked in the gate’ or who ‘spake perfectly?’ David rebuked them, and spake much perfectly, and so they hated him and said, ‘what portion have we in David, or what inheritance have we in the son of Jesse?’ 1 Kings 12:16, Him also who spake these very words, and the other prophets they hated and abhorred. But as the rest, so this too, is truly and indubitably fulfilled in Christ, rebuking justly and speaking perfectly. He Himself saith in a Psalm, ‘They that sat in the gate spake against Me’ Psalms 69:12, wherefore, when He had said, ‘he that hateth Me hateth My Father also’ John 15:23-25, and, ‘now they have. both seen and hated both Me and My Father,’ He subjoined, ‘that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, they hated Me without a cause.’ Above all then, we understand Christ, whom they hated, ‘rebuking in the gate,’ that is, openly and in public; as He said, ‘I spake openly to the world, and in secret have I said nothing’ John 18:20. He alone spake perfectly, ‘Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth.’ 1 Peter 2:22. In wisdom also and doctrine, He alone spake perfectly, perfectly. and so wonderfully, that ‘the officers of the chief priests and Pharisees’ who were ‘sent to take, Him, said, Never man spake like this Man.’ John 7:45-46.
Jerome: “it is a great sin to hate him who rebuketh, especially if he rebuke thee, not out of dislike, but out of love, if he doth it ‘between thee and him alone Matthew 18:15-17, if, taking with’ him a brother, if afterward, in the presence of the Church, so that it may be evident that he does not blame thee out of any love of detraction, but out of zeal for thine amendment.”
Forasmuch therefore - (Since they rejected reproof, he pronounces the sentence of God upon them,) “as your treading is upon the poor.” This expresses more habitual trampling on the poor, than if he had said, “ye tread upon the poor.” They were ever trampling on those who were already of low and depressed condition. “And ye take from him burdens of wheat, presents of wheat.” The word always signifies presents, voluntary , or involuntary , what was carried, offered to anyone. They received “wheat” from the poor, cleansed, winnowed, and “sold the refuse Amos 8:6, requiring what it was wrong to receive, and selling what at the least it was disgraceful not to give. God had expressly forbidden to “lend food for interest” Leviticus 25:37; Deuteronomy 23:19. It may be that, in order to evade the law, the interest was called “a present.”
Ye have built house of hewn stone - The houses of Israel were, perhaps most commonly, built of brick dried in the sun only. As least, houses built of hewn stone, like most of our’s, are proverbially contrasted with them, as the more solid with the more ordinary building. “The white bricks are fallen down, and we will build with hewn, stones” Isaiah 9:10. And Ezekiel is bidden to dig through the wall of his house Ezekiel 12:5, Ezekiel 12:7. Houses of stone there were, as appears from the directions as to the unhealthy accretions, called the leprosy of the house Leviticus 14:34-48. It may be, however, that their houses of “hewn stone,” had a smoothed surface, like our “ashlar.” Anyhow, the sin of luxury is not simply measured by the things themselves, but by their relation to ourselves and our condition also; and wrong is not estimated by the extent of the gain and loss of the two parties only, but by the injury inflicted.
These men, who built houses, luxurious for them, had wrung from the poor their living, as those do, who beat down the wages of the poor. Therefore they were not to take possession of what was their own; as Ahab, who by murder possessed himself of Naboth’s vineyard, forfeited his throne and his life. God, in the law, consulted for the feeling which desires to enter into the fruit of a man’s toil. When they should go to war they were to proclaim, “what man” is there that hath built a new house, and hath not dedicated it? let him go and return to his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man dedicate it. And what man is he that hath planted a vineyard and hath not eaten of it? let him go. and return unto his house, lest he die in the battle and another man eat of it” Deuteronomy 20:5-6. Now God reversed all this, and withdrew the tender love, whereby He had provided it. The words, from their proverbial character, express a principle of God’s judgments, that wrong dealing, whereby a man would secure himself or enlarge his inheritance, destroys both. Who poorer than our Lord, bared of all upon the Cross, of whom it had been written, “They persecuted the poor helpless man, that they might slay him who was vexed at the heart” Psalms 109:15, and of whom the Jews said, “Come let us kill Him, that the inheritance may be ours?” Matthew 21:38. They killed Him, they said, “lest the Romans take away our place and nation” John 11:48. “The vineyard was taken from them;” their “place” destroyed, their “nation” dispersed.
For I know - Literally, “I have known.” They thought that God did not know, because He did not avenge; as the Psalmist says, “Thy judgments are far above out of his sight” Psalms 10:5. People who do not act with the thought of God, cease to know Him, and forget that He knows them. “Your manifold transgressions;” literally, “many are your transgressions and mighty your sins.” Their deeds, they knew, were mighty, strong, vigorous, decided. God says, that their “sins” were so, not many and great only, but “mighty, strong” , “issuing not out of ignorance and infirmity, but out of proud strength” , “‘strong’ in the oppression of the poor and in provoking God,” and bringing down His wrath. So Asaph says of the prosperous; “Pride encompasseth them, as a chain; they are corrupt, they speak oppression wickedly; they speak from on high” Psalms 73:6, Psalms 73:8.
They afflict the just - Literally, “afflicters of the just,” that is, such as habitually afflicted him; whose habit and quality it was to afflict him. Our version mostly renders the word “enemies.” Originally, it signifies “afflicting, persecuting” enemies. Yet it is used also of the enemies of God, perhaps such as persecute Him in His people, or in His Son when in the flesh. The unjust hate the just, as is said in the book of Wisdom; “The ungodly said, Therefore let us lie in wait for the righteous, because he is not for our turn, and is clean contrary to our doings: he upbraideth us with our offending the law. He profeseth to have the knowledge of God, and he calleth himself the child of the Lord. He was made to reprove our thoughts. He is grievous unto us even to behold, for his life is not as other people’s, his ways are of another fashion” (WisdomPsalms 2:1; Psalms 2:1, Psa 2:12-15). So when the Truth and Righteousness came into the world, the Scribes and Pharisees hated Him because He reproved them, “denied” Acts 3:14 and crucified “the Holy one and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto” them, haters and “enemies of the Just,” and preferring to Him the unjust.
That take a bribe - Literally, “a ransom.” It may be that, contrary to the law, which forbade, in these same words Numbers 35:22, “to take any ransom for the life of a murderer,” they took some ransom to set free rich murderers, and so, (as we have seen for many years to be the effect of unjust acquittals,) blood was shed with impunity, and was shed the more, because it was disregarded. The word, however, is used in one place apparently of any bribe, through which a man connives at injustice 1 Samuel 12:3.
Therefore the prudent shall keep silence in that time - The “time” may be either the time of the obduracy of the wicked, or that of the common punishment. For a time may be called “evil,” whether evil is done, or is suffered in it, as Jacob says, “Few and evil have the days of the years of my life been” Genesis 47:9. Of the first, he would perhaps say, that the oppressed poor would, if wise, be silent, not complaining or accusing, for, injustice having the mastery, complaint would only bring on them fresh sufferings. And again also he may mean that, on account of the incorrigibleness of the people, the wise and the prophets would be silent, because the more the people were rebuked, the more impatient and worse they became. So our Lord was silent before His judges, as had been foretold of Him, for since they would not hear, His speaking would only increase their condemnation. “If I tell you, ye will not believe; and if I also ask you, ye will not answer Me, nor let Me go” Luke 22:67-68. So God said by Solomon: “He that reproveth a scorner getteth himself shame, and he that rebuketh a wicked man getteth himself a blot” Proverbs 9:7. And our Lord bids, “Give not that which is holy unto dogs, and cast not your pearls before swine” Matthew 7:6. They hated and rejected those who rebuked them. Matthew 7:10. Since then rebuke profited not, the prophets should hold their peace. It is a fearful judgment, when God withholds His warnings. In times of punishment also the prudent keep silence. Intense affliction is “dumb and openeth not its month,” owning the hand of God. It may be too, that Amos, like Hosea Hosea 4:4, Hosea 4:17, expresses the uselessness of all reproof, in regard to the most of those whom be called to repentance, even while he continued earnestly to rebuke them.
Seek good and not evil - that is, and “seek not evil.” Amos again takes up his warning, “seek not Bethel; seek the Lord.” Now they not only “did evil,” but they “sought” it diligently; they were diligent in doing it, and so, in bringing it on themselves; they sought it out and the occasions of it. People “cannot seek good without first putting away evil, as it is written, ‘cease to do evil, learn to do well’ Isaiah 1:16-17.” “Ye cannot serve God and Mammon.” He bids them use the same diligence in seeking good which they now used for evil. Seek it also wholly, not seeking at one while good, at another, evil, but wholly good, and Him who is Good. “He seeketh good, who believeth in Him who saith, ‘I am the Good Shepherd’ John 10:11.”
That ye may live - In Him who “is the Life; and so the Lord, the God of hosts shall be with you,” by His holy presence, grace and protection, “as ye have spoken.” Israel looked away from the sins whereby he displeased God, and looked to his half-worship of God as entitling him to all which God had promised to full obedience. : “They gloried in the nobleness of their birth after the flesh, not in imitating the faith and lives of the patriarchs. So then, because they were descended from Abraham, they thought that God must defend them. Such were those Jews, to whom the Saveour said, “If ye were Abraham’s seed, ye would do the works of Abraham” John 8:39; and His forerunner, ‘think not to say within yourselves, we have Abraham for our father’ Matthew 3:9.” They wished that God should abide with them, that they might “abide in the land” Psalms 37:3, but they cared not to abide with God.
Hate the evil and love the good - Man will not cease wholly to “seek evil,” unless he “hate” it; nor will he “seek good,” unless he “love” it. Jerome: “He ‘hateth evil,’ who not only is not overcome by pleasure, but hates its deeds; and he ‘loveth good,’ who, not unwillingly or of necessity or from fear, doth what is good, but because it is good.” Dionysius: “Evil of sin must be hated, in and for itself; the sinner must not be hated in himself, but only the evil in him.” They hated him, who reproved them; he bids them hate sin. They “set down righteousness on the ground;” he bids them, “establish,” literally, “set up firmly, judgment in the gate.” To undo, as far as anyone can, the effects of past sin, is among the first-fruits of repentance.
It may be that the Lord God of Hosts will be gracious - o: “He speaks so, in regard of the changeableness and uncertainty, not in God, but in man. There is no question but that God is gracious to all who “hate evil and love good;” but He doth not always deliver them from temporal calamity or captivity, because it is not for their salvation. Yet had Israel “hated evil and loved good,” perchance He would have delivered them from captivity, although He frequently said, they should be carried captive. For so He said to the two tribes in Jeremiah, “Amend your ways, and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place” Jeremiah 7:3. But since God knew that most of them would not repent, He saith not, “will be gracious unto Israel,” but, “unto the remnant of Joseph, that is, “the remnant, according to the election of grace” Romans 11:4-5; such as had been “the seven thousand who bowed not the knee unto Baal;” those who repented, while “the rest were hardened.” He says, “Joseph,” not Ephraim, in order to recall to them the deeds of their father. Jacob’s blessing on Joseph descended upon Ephraim, but was forfeited by Jeroboam’s “sin wherewith he made Israel to sin.” Rup.: “Joseph in his deeds and sufferings was a type of Jesus Christ, in whom the remnant is saved.” “A remnant,” however, only, “should be saved;” so the prophet says;
Therefore the Lord, the God of Hosts, the Lord - For the third time in these three last verses Amos again reminds them, by whose authority he speaks, His who had revealed Himself as “I am,” the self-existent God, God by nature and of nature, the Creator and Ruler and Lord of all, visible or invisible, against their false gods, or fictitious substitutes for the true God. Here, over and above those titles, “He is,” that is, He alone is, the “God of Hosts, God of all things, in heaven and earth,” the heavenly bodies from whose influences the idolaters hoped for good, and the unseen evil beings Isaiah 24:21, who seduced them, he adds the title, which people most shrink from, “Lord.” He who so threatened, was the Same who had absolute power over His creatures, to dispose of them, as He willed. It costs people nothing to own God, as a Creator, the Cause of causes, the Orderer of all things by certain fixed laws. It satisfies certain intellects, so to own Him. What man, a sinner, shrinks from, is that the God is Lord, the absolute disposer and Master of his sinful self.
Wailing in all streets - Literally, “broad places,” that is, market-places. “There,” where judgments were held, where were the markets, where consequently had been all the manifold oppressions through injustice in judgments and in dealings, and the wailings of the oppressed; “wailing” should come on them.
They shall say in all-the highways - that is, “streets, alas! alas!” our, “woe, woe.” It is the word so often used by our Lord; “woe unto you.” This is no imagery. Truth has a more awful, sterner, reality than any imagery. The terribleness of the prophecy lies in its truth. When war pressed without on the walls of Samaria, and within was famine and pestilence, woe, woe, woe, must have echoed in every street, for in every street was death and fear of worse. Yet imagine every sound of joy or din or hum of people, or mirth of children, hushed in the streets, and woe, woe, going up from every street of a metropolis, in one unmitigated, unchanging, ever-repeated monotony of grief. Such were the present fruits of sin. Yet what a mere shadow of the inward grief is its outward utterance!
And they shall call the farmer to mourning - To cultivate the fields would then only be to provide food for the enemy. His occupation would be gone. One universal sorrow would give one universal employment. To this, they would call those unskilled, with their deep strong voices; they would, by a public act, “proclaim wailing to those skillful in lamentation.” It was, as it were, a dirge over the funeral of their country. As, at funerals, they employed minstrels, both men and women , who, by mournful anthems and the touching plaintiveness of the human voice, should stir up deeper depths of sorrow, so here, over the whole of Israel. And as at the funeral of one respected or beloved, they used exclamations of woe, “ah my brother!” and “ah sister, ah lord, ah his glory,” so Jeremiah bids them, “call and make haste and take up a wailing for us, that our eyes may run down with tears: for a voice of wailing is heard out of Zion. How are we spoiled!” Jeremiah 9:17-19. : “In joy, men long to impart their joys to others, and exhort them to joy with them. Our Lord sanctions this, in speaking of the Good Shepherd, who called His friends and neighbors together, “rejoice with Me, for I have found the sheep which I had lost.”
Nor is it anything new, that, when we have received any great benefit from God, we call even the inanimate creation to thank and praise God. So did David ofttimes and the three children. So too in sorrow. When anything adverse has befallen us, we invite even senseless things to grieve with us, as though our own tears sufficed not for so great a sorrow.” The same feeling makes the rich now clothe those of their household in mourning, which made those of old hire mourners, that all might be in harmony with their grief.
And in all vineyards shall be wailing - All joy should be turned into sorrow. Where aforetime was the vintage-shout in thankfulness for the ingathering, and anticipating gladness to come, there, in the source of their luxury, should be wailing, the forerunner of sorrow to come. it was a vintage, not of wine, but of woe.
For I will pass through thee - In the destruction of the firstborn in Egypt, God did not “pass through” but “passed over” them, and they kept, in memory thereof the feast of the Passover. Now God would no longer “pass over” them and their sins. He says, “I will pass through thee,” as He then said, “I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn of the land of Egypt - and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment” Exodus 12:12. As God says by Hosea, “I will not enter the city” Hosea 11:9, that is, He would not make His presence felt, or take cognizance, when to take cognizance would be to punish, so here, contrariwise, He says, “I will pass through,” taking exact and severe account, in judgment. Jerome further says, “so often as this word is used in Holy Scripture, in the person of God, it denotes punishment, that He would not abide among them, but would pass through and leave them. Surely, it is an image of this, that, when the Jews would have cast our Lord headlong from the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, “He passed through the midst of them Luke 4:30, so that they could not see Him nor know Him, “and so went His way.” And this, when He had just told them, that none of the widows of Israel were fed by Elias, or the lepers cleansed by Elisha, save the widow of Sarepta, and Naaman the Syrian. So should their leprosy cleave to them, and the famine of the word of God and of the oil of the Holy Spirit abide among them, while the Gentiles were washed by His laver and fed with the bread of life.”
Woe unto you that desire - for yourselves.
The Day of the Lord - There were “mockers in those days” 2 Peter 3:3-4; Jude 1:18, as there are now, and as there shall be in the last. And as the “scoffers in the last days” 2 Peter 3:3-4; Jude 1:18 shall say, “Where is the promise of His coming?” so these said, “let Him make speed and hasten His work, that we way see it, and let the council of the Holy One of Israel draw nigh and come, that we may know it” Isaiah 5:19. Jeremiah complained; “they say unto me, where is the word of the Lord? let it come now!” Jeremiah 17:15. And God says to Ezekiel, “Son of man, what is that proverb that ye have in the land of Israel, saying, the days are prolonged, and every vision faileth? The vision that he seeth is for many days, and he prophesieth of the times far off” Ezekiel 12:22, Ezekiel 12:27. “They would shew their courage and strength of mind, by longing for the Day of the Lord, which the prophets foretold, in which God was to shew forth His power on the disobedient.”
Lap.: “Let it come, what these prophets threaten until they are hoarse, let it come, let it come. It is ever held out to us, and never comes. We do not believe that it will come at all, or if it do come, it will not be so dreadful after all; it will go as it came.” It may be, however, that they who scoffed at Amos, cloked their unbelief under the form of desiring the good days, which God had promised by Joel afterward. Jerome: “There is not,” they would say, “so much of evil in the captivity, as there is of good in what the Lord has promised afterward.” Amos meets the hypocrisy or the scoff, by the appeal to their consciences, “to what end is it to you?” They had nothing in common with it or with God. Whatever it had of good, was not for such as them. “The Day of the Lord is darkness, and not light.” Like the pillar of the cloud between Israel and the Egyptians, which betokened God’s presence, every day in which He shows forth His presence, is a day of light and darkness to those of different characters.
The prophets foretold both, but not to all. These scoffers either denied the Coming of that day altogether, or denied its terrors. Either way, they disbelieved God, and, disbelieving Him, would have no share in His promises. To them, the Day of the Lord would be unmixed darkness, distress, desolation, destruction, without one ray of gladness. The tempers of people, their belief or disbelief, are the same, as to the Great Day of the Lord, the Day of Judgment. It is all one, whether people deny it altogether or deny its terrors. In either case, they deny it, such as God has ordained it. The words of Amos condemn them too. “The Day of the Lord” had already become the name for every day of judgment, leading on to the Last Day. The principle of all God’s judgments is one and the same. One and the same are the characters of those who are to be judged. In one and the same way, is each judgment looked forward to, neglected, prepared for, believed, disbelieved. In one and the same way, our Lord has taught us, will the Great Day come, as the judgments of the flood or upon Sodom, and will find people prepared or unprepared, as they were then. Words then, which describe the character of any day of Judgment, do, according to the Mind of God the Holy Spirit, describe all, and the last also. Of this too, and that chiefly, because it is the greatest, are the words spoken, “Woe unto you, who desire,” amiss or rashly or scornfully or in misbelief, “the Day of the Lord, to what end is it for you? The Day of the Lord is darkness and not light.”
Rup.: “This sounds a strange woe. It had not seemed strange, had he said, ‘Woe to you, who fear not the Day of the Lord.’ For, ‘not to fear,’ belongs to bad, ungodly people. But the good may desire it, so that the Apostle says, ‘I desire to depart and to be with Christ’ Philippians 1:23. Yet even their desire is not without a sort of fear. For ‘who can say, I have made my heart clean?’ Proverbs 20:9. Yet that is the fear, not of slaves, but of sons; ‘nor hath it torment,’ 1 John 4:18, for it hath ‘strong consolation through hope’ Hebrews 6:18; Romans 5:2. When then he says, ‘Woe unto you that desire the Day of the Lord,’ he rebuketh their boldness, ‘who trust in themselves, that they are righteous’ Luke 18:9.” “At one and the same time,” says Jerome, “the confidence of the proud is shaken off, who, in order to appear righteous before people, are accustomed to long for the Day of Judgment and to say, ‘Would that the Lord would come, would that we might be dissolved and be with Christ,’ imitating the Pharisee, who spake in the Gospel, “God, I thank Thee, that I am not as other men are” Luke 18:11-12.
For the very fact, that they “desire,” and do not fear, “the Day of the Lord,” shows, that they are worthy of punishment, since no man is without sin 2 Chronicles 6:36, and the “stars are not pure in His sight” Job 25:5. And He “concluded all under sin, that he might have mercy upon all” Galatians 3:22; Romans 11:32. Since, then, no one can judge concerning the Judgment of God, and we are to “give account of every idle word” Matthew 12:36, and Job “offered sacrifices” Job 1:5 daily for his sons, lest they should have thought something perversely against the Lord, what rashness it is, to long to reign alone! 1 Corinthians 4:8. In troubles and distresses we are accustomed to say, ‘would that we might depart out of the body and be freed from the miseries of this world,’ not knowing that, while we are in this flesh, we have place for repentance; but if we depart, we shall hear that of the prophet, “in hell who will give Thee thanks?” Psalms 6:5. That is “the sorrow of this world” 2 Corinthians 7:10, which worketh “death,” wherewith the Apostle would not have him sorrow who had sinned with his father’s wife; the sorrow whereby the wretched Judas too perished, who, “swallowed up with overmuch sorrow” 2 Corinthians 2:7, joined murder Matthew 27:3-5 to his betrayal, a murder the worst of murders, so that where he thought to find a remedy, and that death by hanging was the end of ills, there he found the lion and the bear, and the serpent, under which names I think that different punishments are intended, or else the devil himself, who is rightly called a lion or bear or serpent.”
As if a man, did flee from a lion - The Day of the Lord is a day of terror on every side. Before and behind, without and within, abroad under the roof of heaven, or under the shelter of his own, everywhere is terror and death. The Syrian bear is said to have been more fierce and savage than the lion. For its fierceness and voracity Daniel 7:5, God made it, in Daniel’s vision, a symbol of the empire of the Medes. From both lion and bear there might be escape by flight. When the man had “leaned his hand” trustfully “on the wall” of his own house, “and the serpent bit him,” there was no escape. He had fled from death to death, from peril to destruction.
Shall not the Day of the Lord be darkness? - He had described that Day as a day of inevitable destruction, such its man’s own conscience and guilty fears anticipate, and then appeals to their own consciences, “is it not so, as I have said?” People’s consciences are truer than their intellect. However, they may employ the subtlety of their intellect to dull their conscience, they feel, in their heart of hearts, that there is a Judge, that guilt is punished, that they are guilty. The soul is a witness to its own deathlessness, its own accountableness, its own punishableness . Intellect carries the question out of itself into the region of surmising and disputings. Conscience is compelled to receive it back into its own court, and to give the sentence, which it would fain withhold. Like the god of the pagan fable, who changed himself into all sorts of forms, but when he was still held fast, gave at the last, the true answer, conscience shrinks back, twists, writhes, evades, turns away, but, in the end, it will answer truly, when it must. The prophet then, turns quick round upon the conscience, and says, “tell me, for you know.”
I hate, I despise your feasts - Israel clave to its heart’s sin, the worship of the true God, under the idol-form of the calf; else, it would fain be conscientious and scrupulous. It had its “feasts” of solemn “joy” and the “restraint” of its “solemn assemblies” , which all were constrained to keep, abstaining from all servile work. They offered “whole burnt offerings,” the token of self-sacrifice, in which the sacrificer retained nothing to himself, but gave the whole freely to God. They offered also “peace offerings,” as tokens of the willing thankfulness of souls at peace with God. What they offered, was the best of its kind, “fatted beasts.” Hymns of praise, full-toned chorus, instrumental music! What was missing, Israel thought, to secure them the favor of God? Love and obedience. “If ye love Me, keep My commandments.” And so those things, whereby they hoped to propitiate God, were the object of His displeasure. “I hate, I despise, I will not accept” with good pleasure; “I will not regard,” look toward, “I will not hear, will not smell.” The words, “I will not smell,” reminded them of that threat in the law” Leviticus 26:31, “I will make your cities waste and bring your sanctuaries unto desolation, and I will not smell the savor of your sweet odors.” In so many ways does God declare that He would not accept or endure, what they all the while were building upon, as grounds of their acceptance. And yet so secure were they, that the only sacrifice which they did not offer, was the sin or trespass offering. Worshiping “nature,” not a holy, Personal, God, they had no sense of unholiness, for which to plead the Atoning Sacrifice to come. Truly each Day of Judgment unveils much self-deceit. How much more the Last!
Take thou away from Me - Literally, “from upon Me,” that is, from being a burden to Me, a weight on Me. So God says by Isaiah, “your new moons and your appointed feasts My soul hateth; they are a burden upon Me; I am weary to bear them” Isaiah 1:14. Their “songs” and hymns were but a confused, tumultuous, “noise,” since they had not the harmony of love.
For - (And) the melody of thy viols I will not hear - Yet the “nebel,” probably a sort of harp, was almost exclusively consecrated to the service of God, and the Psalms were God’s own writing. Doubtless they sounded harmoniously in their own ears; but it reached no further. Their melody, like much Church-music, was for itself, and ended in itself. : “Let Christian chanters learn hence, not to set the whole devotion of Psalmody in a good voice, subtlety of modulation and rapid intonation, etc., quavering like birds, to tickle the ears of the curious, take them off to themselves and away from prayer, lest they hear from God, ‘I will not hear the melody of thy viols.’ Let them learn that of the Apostle, ‘I will sing with the Spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also’ 1 Corinthians 14:15.” Augustine, in Psalms 30:1-12; Enarr. iv. (p. 203. Oxford Translation) L.: “If the Psalm prays, pray; if it sorrows, sorrow; if it is glad, rejoice; if full of hope, hope; if of fear, fear. For whatever is therein written, is our mirror.”
Augustine in Psalms 119:0 (n. 9. T. v. p. 470. Old Testament) L.: “How many are loud in voice, dumb in heart! How many lips are silent, but their love is loud! For the ears of God are to the heart of man. As the ears of the body are to the mouth of man, so the heart of man is to the ears of God. Many are heard with closed lips, and many who cry aloud are not heard.” Dionysius: “God says, ‘I will not hear,” as He says, ‘praise is not seemly in the mouth of a sinner’ (Ecclesiaticus 15:9), and, ‘to the ungodly saith God, what hast thou to do, to declare My statutes?’ Psalms 50:16, and, ‘he that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination’ Proverbs 28:9. It is not meant hereby that the wicked ought wholly to abstain from the praise of God and from prayers, but that they should be diligent to amend, and know that through such imperfect services they cannot be saved.” The prophet urges upon them the terribleness of the Day of Judgment, that they might feel and flee its terribleness, before it comes. He impresses on them the fruitlessness of their prayers, that, amending, they might so pray, that God would hear them.
But - (And) let judgment run down (Literally, “roll” English margin) “like water.” The duties of either table include both; since there is no true love for man without the love of God, nor any real love or duty to God without the love of man. People will exchange their sins for other sins. They will not break them off unless they be converted to God. But the first outward step in conversion, is to break off sin. He bids them then “let judgment,” which had hitherto ever been perverted in its course, “roll on like” a mighty tide of “waters,” sweeping before it all hindrances, obstructed by no power, turned aside by no bribery, but pouring on in one perpetual flow, reaching all, refreshing all, and “righteousness like a mighty (or ceaseless) stream.” The word “ethan” may signify “strong or perennial.” Whence the seventh month, just before the early rain, was called “the month Ethanim 1 Kings 8:2, that is, the month of the “perennial streams,” when they alone flowed. In the meaning “perennial,” it would stand tacitly contrasted with “streams which fail or lie.” True righteousness is not fitful, like an intermitting stream, vehement at one time, then disappearing, but continuous, unfailing.
Have ye offered - (better, “Did ye offer”) unto Me sacrifices and offerings? Israel justified himself to himself by his half-service. This had been his way from the first. “Their heart was not whole with God, neither abode they in His covenant” Psalms 78:37. He thought to be accepted by God, because he did a certain homage to Him. He acknowledged God in his own way. God sets before him another instance of this half-service and what it issued in; the service of that generation which He brought out of Egypt, and which left their bones in the wilderness. The idolatry of the ten tribes was the revival of the idolatry of the wilderness. The ten tribes owned as the forefathers of their worship those first idolaters . They identified themselves with sin which they did not commit. By approving it and copying it, they made that sin their own. As the Church of God in all times is one and the same, and Hosea says of God’s vision to Jacob, “there He spake with us” , so that great opposite camp, the city of the devil, has a continuous existence through all time. These idolaters were “filling up the measure of” their forefathers, and in the end of those forefathers, who perished in the wilderness where they sinned, they might behold their own. As God rejected the divided service of their forefathers, so He would their’s.
God does not say that they did not offer sacrifice at all, but that they did not offer unto “Him.” The “unto Me” is emphatic. If God is not served wholly and alone, He is not served at all. : “He regardeth not the offering, but the will of the offerer.” Some sacrifices were offered during the 38 years and a half, after God had rejected that generation, and left them to die in the wilderness. For the rebellion of Korah and his company was a claim to exercise the priesthood, as Aaron was exercising it Numbers 16:5, Numbers 16:9-10. When atonement was to be made, the “live coals” were already on the altar Numbers 16:46. These, however, were not the free-will offerings of the people, but the ordinance of God, performed by the priests. The people, in that they went after their idols, had no share in nor benefit from what was offered in their name. So Moses says, “they sacrificed to devils, not to God” Deuteronomy 32:17; and Ezekiel, “Their heart went after their idols” Ezekiel 20:16.
Those were the gods of their affections, whom they chose. God had taken them for His people, and had become their God, on the condition that they should not associate other gods with Him Exodus 20:2-5. Had they loved God who made them, they would have loved none beside Him. Since they chose other gods, these were the objects of their love. God was, at most, an object of their fear. As He said by Hosea, “their bread is for themselves, it shall not enter into the house of the Lord” Hosea 9:4, so here He asks, and by asking denies it, “Did ye offer unto Me?” Idolatry and heresy feign a god of their own. They do not own God as He has revealed Himself; and since they own not God as He is, the god whom they worship, is not the true God, but some creature of their own imaginings, such as they conceive God to be. Anti-Trinitarianism denies to God His essential Being, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Other heresies refuse to own His awful holiness and justice; others, the depth of His love and condescension. Plainly, their god is not the one true God. So these idolaters, while they associated with God gods of cruelty and lust, and looked to them for things which God in His holiness and love refused them, did not own God, as the One Holy Creator, the Sole Disposer of all things.
But ye have borne - Literally, “And ye bare the tabernacle of your Moloch” (literally, “your king,” from where the idol Moloch had its name.) He assigns the reason, why he had denied that they sacririced to God in the wilderness. “Did ye offer sacrifices unto Me, and ye bare?” that is, seeing that ye bare. The two were incompatible. Since they did “carry about the tabernacle of their king,” they did not really worship God. He whom they chose as “their king,” was their god. The “tabernacle” or “tent” was probably a little portable shrine, such as Demetrius the silversmith and those of his craft made for the little statues of their goddess Diana Acts 19:24. Such are mentioned in Egyptian idolatry. “They carry forth” we are told , “the image in a small shrine of gilt wood.”
Of your Moloch and Chiun - The two clauses must be read separately, the “tabernacles of Moloch” (strictly, “of your king,”) “and Chiun your images.” The two clauses, “the tabernacle of your king, and Chiun your images,” are altogether distinct. They correspond to one another, but they must not be read as one whole, in the sense, “the tabernacle of your king and of Chiun your images.” The rendering of the last clause is uncertain. God has so “utterly abolished the idols” Isaiah 2:18, through whom Satan contested with Him the allegiance of His people, that we have no certain knowledge, what they were. There may be some connection between the god whom the Israelites in the wilderness worshiped as “their king,” and him whose worship Solomon, in his decay, brought into Jerusalem, the god whom the Ammonites worshiped as “the king, Hammolech,” or, as he is once called, “Molech , and three times “Milchom” 1 Kings 11:5, 1Ki 11:33; 2 Kings 23:13 (perhaps an abstract, as some used to speak of “the Deity”). He is mostly called “Hammolech,” the Ammonite way of pronouncing what the Hebrews called “Hammelech, the king.”
But since the name designates the god only as “the king,” it may have been given to different gods, whom the pagan worshiped as their chief god. In Jewish idolatry, it became equivalent to Baal Jeremiah 19:5; Jeremiah 32:35, “lord;” and to avert his displeasure, the Hebrews (as did the Carthaginians, a Phoenician people, down to the time of our Lord ), burned their own children, “their sons and their daughters,” alive to him. Yet, even in these dreadful rites, the Carthaginian worship was more cold-blooded and artificial than that of Phoenicia. But whether “the king,” whom the Israelites worshiped in the wilderness, was the same as the Ammonite Molech or no, those dreadful sacrifices were then no part of his worship; else Amos would not have spoken of the idolatry, “as the carrying about his tabernacle” only.
He would have described it by its greatest offensiveness. “The king” was a title also of the Egyptian Deity, Osiris , who was identified with the sun, and whose worship Israel may probably have brought with them, as well as that of the calf, his symbol. Again most of the old translators have retained the Hebrew word Chiyyan , either regarding it as a proper name, or unable to translate it. Some later tradition identities it with tire planet Saturn , which under a different name, the Arabs propitiated as a malevolent being . In Ephrem’s time, the pagan Syrians worshiped “the child-devouring Chivan” .
Israel however, did not learn the idolatry from the neighboring Arabs, since it is not the Arab name of that planet . In Egyptian, the name of Chunsu, one of the 12 gods who severally were thought to preside over the 12 months, appears in an abridged form Chuns or Chon . He was, in their mythology, held to be “the oldest son of Ammon” ; “his name is said to signify , “power, might;” and he to be that ideal of might, worshiped as the Egyptian Hercules .”
Etymology M. See Sir G. Wilk. in Rawlinson, Herodotus, ii. 78. note. “The Egyptians called Hercules Chon.” L. Girald (Opp. ii. 327) from Xenophon. Antioch. Drus. but the authority given is wrong). The name Chun extended into Phoenician and Assyrian proper names. Still Chon is not Chiyyun; and the fact that the name was retained as Chon or Chun in Phoenicia (where the worship was borrowed) as well as in Assyria, is a ground for hesitating to identify with it the word of Chiyyun, which has a certain likeness only to the abridged name. Jerome’s Hebrew teacher on the other hand knew of no such tradition, and Jerome renders it “image . And certainly it is most natural to render it not as a name, but as a common noun. It may probably mean, “the pedestal,” the “basis of your images.” The prophet had spoken of their images, as covered over with their little “shrines, the shrines of your king.” Here he may, not improbably, speak of them, its fastened to a pedestal. Such were the gods, whom they chose for the One true God, gods, “carried about,” covered over, fixed to their place, lest they should fall.
The worship was certainly some form of star-worship, since there follows, “the star of your god.” It took place after the worship of the calf. For Stephen, after having spoken of that idolatry says, “Then God turned and gave them up to worship the host of heaven, as it is written in the book of the prophets” Acts 7:42. Upon their rebellions, God at last gave them up to themselves. Stephen calls the god whom they worshiped, “Rephan,” quoting the then existing Greek translation, “having regard,” Jerome says, “to the meaning rather than the words. This is to be observed in all Holy Scripture, that Apostles and apostolic men, in citing testimonies from the Old Testament, regard, not the words, but the meaning, nor do they follow the words, step by step, provided they do not depart from the meaning.”
Of the special idolatry there is no mention in Moses, in like way as the mention of the worship of the “goat , a second symbol of the Pantheistic worship of Egypt , is contained only incidentally in the prohibition of that worship. After the final rebellion, upon which God rejected that generation, Holy Scripture takes no account of them. They had failed God; they had forfeited the distinction, for which God had created, preserved, taught them, revealed Himself to them, and had, by great miracles, rescued them from Egypt. Thenceforth, that generation was cast aside unnoticed.
Which ye made to yourselves - This was the fundamental fault, that they “made it for themselves.” Instead of the tabernacle, which God, their king, appointed, they “bare about the tabernacle” of him whom they took for their king; and for the service which He gave, they “chose new gods” Judges 5:8 for themselves. Whereas God made them for Himself, they made for themselves gods out of their own mind. All idolatry is self will, first choosing a god, and then enslaved to it.
Therefore - (And) this being so, such having been their way from the beginning until now, will I cause you to go into captivity beyond Damascus Syria was the most powerful enemy by whom God had heretofore chastened them 2 Kings 13:7. From Syria He had recently, for the time, delivered them, and had given Damascus into their hands 2 Kings 14:25, 2 Kings 14:28. That day of grace had been wasted, and they were still rebellious. Now God would bring against them a mightier enemy. Damascus, the scene of their triumph, should be their pathway to captivity. God would “cause” them “to go into captivity,” not to “Damascus,” from where they might have easily returned, but “beyond” it, as He did, “into the cities of the Medes.” But Israel had, up to the time of Amos and beyond it, no enemy, no war, “beyond Damascus.” Jehu had probably paid tribute to Shalmanubar king of Assyria, to strengthen himself . The Assyrian monarch had warred against Israel’s enemies, and seemingly received some check from them (see the note above at Amos 1:3).
Against Israel he had shown no hostility. But for the conspiracy of one yet to be born in private life, one of the captains of Israel who by murder, became its sovereign, it might have continued on in its own land. The Assyrian monarchs needed tribute, not slaves; nor did they employ Israel as slaves. Exile was but a wholesale imprisonment of the nation in a large but safe prison-house. Had they been still, they were more profitable to Assyria, as tributaries in their own land. There was no temptation to remove them, when Amos prophesied. The temptation came with political intrigues which had not then commenced. The then Assyrian monarch, Shamasiva, defeated their enemies the Syrians, united with and aiding the Babylonians ; “they” had then had no share in the opposition to Assyria, but lay safe in their mountain-fastness.
It has been said , “Although the kingdom of Israel had, through Jeroboam, recovercd its old borders, yet careless insolence, luxury, unrighteousness, “must” bring the destruction of the kingdom which the prophet foretells. The prophet does but dimly forebode the superior power of Assyria.” Solomon had declared the truth, “Righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” Proverbs 14:34. But there are many sorts of decay. Decay does not involve the transportation of a people. Nay, decay would not bring it, but the contrary. A mere luxurious people rots on its own soil, and would be left to rot there. It was the little remnant of energy, political cabaling, warlike spirit, in Israel, which brought its ruin from man. Idolatry, “insolence, luxury, unrighteousness,” bring down the displeasure of God, not of man. Yet Amos foretold, that God would bring the destruction through man.
They were, too, no worse than their neighbors, nor so bad; not so bad as the Assyrians themselves, except that, God having revealed Himself to them, they had more light. The sin then, the punishment the mode of punishment, belong to the divine revelation. Such sins and worse have existed in Christian nations. They were in part sins directly against God. God reserves to Himself, how and when He will punish. He has annexed no such visible laws of punishment to a nation’s sins that man could, of his own wisdom or observation of God’s ways, foresee it. They through whom Itc willed to inflict it, and whom Amos pointed out, were not provoked by “those” sins. There was no connection between Israel’s present sins, and Assyria’s future vengeance. No Eastern despot cares for the oppressions of his subjects, so that his own tribute is collected. See the whole range of Muslim rule now. As far too as we know, neither Assyria nor any other power had hitherto punished rebellious nations by transporting them ; and certainly Israel had not yet rebelled, or meditated rebellion. He only who controls the rebellious wills of people, and through their self-will works out His own all-wise Will and man’s punishment, could know the future of Israel and Assyria, and how through the pride of Assyria He would bring down the pride of Samaria.
It has been well said by a thoughtful observer of the world’s history, “Whosoever attempts to prophesy, not being inspired, is a fool.” We English know our own sins, many and grievous; we know of a vast reign of violence, murder, blasphemy, theft, uncleanness, covetousness, dishonest dealing, unrighteousness, and of the breach of every commandment of God: we know well now of an instrument in God’s Hands, not far off; like the Assyrian, but within two hours of our coast; armaments have been collected; a harbor is being formed; our own coast openly examined; iron-sheeted vessels prepared; night-signals provided; some of our own alienated population organized; with a view to our invasion. We recognize the likelihood of the invasion, fortify our coast, arm, not as a profession, but for security. Our preparations testify, how widespread is our expectation. No one scarcely doubts that it will be.
Yet who dare predict the issue? Will God permit that scourge to come? Will he prevail? What would be the extent of our sufferings or loss? How would our commerce or our Empire be impaired? Would it be dismembered? Since no man can affirm anything as to this which is close at hand, since none of us would dare to affirm in God’s Name, in regard to any one stage of all this future, that this or that would or would not happen, then let people have at least the modesty of the magicians of Egypt, and seeing in God’s prophets those absolute predictions of a future, such as their own wisdom, under circumstances far more favorable, could not dare to make, own; “This is the finger of God” Exodus 8:19. Not we alone. We see all Europe shaken; we see powers of all sorts, heaving to and fro; we see the Turkish power ready to dissolve, stayed up, like a dead man, only by un-Christian jealousies of Christians. Some things we may partially guess at.
But with all our means of knowing what passes everywhere, with all our knowledge of the internal impulses of nations, hearing, as we do, almost every pulse which beats in the great European system, knowing the diseases which, here and there, threaten convulsion or dissolution, no one dare stake his human wisdom on any absolute prediction, like these of the shepherd of Tekoa as to Damascus (see the note above at Amos 1:5. pp. 160, 161) and Israel. To say the like in God’s Name, unless inspired, we should know to be blasphemy. God Himself set the alternative before men. “Let all the nations be gathered together, and let the people be assembled; who among them that can declare this, and show former things? Let them bring forth their witnesses, that they may be justified; or let them hear, and say,” It is “truth” Isaiah 43:9.
Stephen, in quoting this prophecy, substitutes, Babylon for Damascus, as indeed “the cities of the Medes” were further than Babylon. Perhaps he set the name, in order to remind them, that as God had brought Abraham “out of the land of the Chaldeans” Acts 7:4, leaving the idols which his “fathers” had “served” Joshua 24:14, to serve God only, so they, serving idols, were carried back, from where Abraham had come, forfeiting, with the faith of Abraham, the promises made to Abraham; aliens and outcasts.
Saith the Lord, the Lord of hosts - The Lord of the heavenly hosts for whose worship they forsook God; the Lord of the hosts on earth, whose ministry He employs to punish those who rebel against Him , “For He hath many hosts to execute His judgments, the hosts of the Assyrians, the Medes and Persians, the Greeks and Romans.” All creatures in heaven and in earth are, as He says of the holy Angels, “ministers of His, that do His pleasure” Psalms 103:21.
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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Amos 5". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany