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The Sins of Israel’s Neighbours and the Punishments which Should Follow
1. We may paraphrase the main part of the sentence thus: ’The words of Amos, describing what he saw in prophetic vision.’
Herdmen] or rather, ’keepers of a peculiar breed of sheep called naqad.’ There must have been a number of these sheepowners in and near Tekoa. Mesha, king of Moab, is called by the same name noqed (2 Kings 3:4), where our English Bible uses the word ’sheep-master.’ Tekoa] 5 m. S. of Bethlehem, on a hill 2,788 ft. high, was at the border of the ’wilderness of Tekoa’ (2 Chronicles 20:20; 2 Chronicles 1 Mac 19:33), which was fit only for pasturage and largely used for this. Palestine has always been subject to earthquakes, but the one here referred to, which occurred in the reign of Uzziah (Zechariah 14:5), seems to have been of exceptional violence. The language of many passages in the poetical and prophetical books is derived from the alarming movements of the earth-shaken ground (Psalms 46:2, Psalms 46:6; Psalms 60:2; Isaiah 24:19, etc.).
2. The threatening character of this v. gives notice beforehand of the tone of the whole prophecy. Zion and Jerusalem are God’s abode, from which His voice is heard like a lion’s roar. The burning wind is His voice. A modern traveller speaks of the simoom ’caressing you like a lion with flaming breath.’ Habitations] RV ’pastures,’ i.e. the sheep, which mourn because the grass is parched (Joel 1:18, Joel 1:20; Isaiah 3:26). The summit of Carmel is usually wet with heavy dews; even it becomes withered.
3. Amos was sent to preach to Israel, but he here (Amos 1:3 to Amos 2:5) prefixes to his records of that preaching a section which shows that Jehovah is the Guardian of Righteousness, the Avenger of wrong and cruelty, amongst all the neighbouring races as well, Syria, Philistia, Tyre, Edom, Ammon, Moab.
For] i.e. because of. Three transgressions.. and.. four] an indefinite and considerable number (Job 5:19). For the attacks made by Damascus see 2 Kings 8:12; 2 Kings 10:32; 2 Kings 13:22. Gilead, being the nearest Israelite district, bore the first brunt. The threshing-sledge, a thick wooden board with pointed pieces of iron or of basalt on the under side, and a heavy weight or a driver above, is the figure for the harshest severity.
5. The bar is that by which the city gate was secured. The plain (RV ’valley’) of Aven] the plain of Cœle-Syria, in which Heliopolis (since called Baalbek), the great seat of sunworship, was situated. Beth-Eden (the house of Eden) was in Syria, but its precise locality is uncertain, and we can only say of Kir that it must have been not far from Elam in the distant east (Isaiah 22:6): cp. 2 Kings 16:9; Amos 9:7.
6-8. During the troubles with Syria the Philistines doubtless made raids, carrying off the whole captivity, i.e. the whole of the population of the district, at one swoop. The captives were sold to their bitterest enemies, the Edomites. Gaza] richest and strongest city of Philistia, on the caravan route to Petra, the capital of Edom. The expression the remnant of the Philistines indicates that a portion of them had already been destroyed. In 2 Chronicles 26:6; Uzziah’s victories over them are enumerated.
9, 10. Tyre became the leading city in Phœnicia about 900 b.c. The Phœnicians were the great slave-dealers of antiquity: see 1 Maccabees 3:41; 2 Maccabees 8:25. The ’covenant of brethren’ (RM), or brotherly covenant (AV), is the friendly agreement which always subsisted between Tyre and the Hebrews (2 Samuel 5:11; 1 Kings 5:1; 1 Kings 9:11, 1 Kings 9:14, etc.), and doubtless had occasionally been cemented by formal treaty. We never read of wars waged by the Israelites against Tyre or Sidon.
11, 12. Edom’s crimes were hostility against a kindred nation, his brother (Malachi 1:2); the casting off all pity, or, as RM has it, ’the corrupting his compassions’ (cp. Ezekiel 28:17), i.e. the doing violence to his own better, kinder nature; the tearing his prey continually, like an infuriated beast (1 Kings 13:28; Job 16:9); the insatiableness of his revenge. We know that in later times Israel had no more relentless foe (Obadiah 1:10-14 Psalms 137:7).
12. Teman was the name of a city and district of Edom, 15 m. from Petra. The ruins of Bozrah are 4 m. SE. of the Dead Sea.
13. Judges 11 and Jeremiah 49:1 show how eager the Ammonites were to ’enlarge their border.’ Such barbarities as are here mentioned were quite common in Oriental warfare (2 Kings 8:12; Hosea 14:1), but the OT. seems to represent the Ammonites in a peculiarly unfavourable light (1 Samuel 11:2; 2 Samuel 10).
14. Rabbah] on the banks of the Upper Jabbok (2 Samuel 11, 12). The shouting means the war-cry.
15. Some of the ancient translations, with which Jeremiah 49:3 (see RV) agrees, understand this v. as referring, not to the king, but to the Ammonite god Malcam, with his priests and his princes. This involves no alteration in the consonants of the principal word, which in either case is Malcam.
Amos 2:1-3. Jehovah will punish the wrongs which these petty nations do each other, as well as their outrages upon Israel.
1. Burning the king’s bones into lime was a gross indignity (Joshua 7:25; 2 Kings 23:16, 2 Kings 23:18). Their thorough destruction prevented the man’s being ’gathered to his fathers.’ And there may have been a belief that the spirit suffered when the corpse was abused (Job 14:22; Isaiah 66:24). Jewish tradition looked on this cremation as an act of vengeance for the part taken by Edom in the campaign described 2 Kings 3. Kirioth] RV ’Kerioth.’ Perhaps to be identified with Ar, the capital of Moab: when one of these is named the other is omitted. It is mentioned in the famous inscription of Mesha, who was king of Moab in Ahab’s time, and seems to have been a sanctuary. His words are, ’before Chemosh in Keriyyoth.’
3. Judge, sceptre-holder (Amos 1:5-8), king (Amos 1:15), are all practically identical in meaning.
4, 5. The surrounding nations are charged with violations of the law written in the heart, Judah with offences against a law set forth in positive commandments. Their lies] the unreal, imaginary deities, the Baalim and Ashtaroth, who have no existence save in the mind of the worshipper, and therefore are sure to disappoint his hopes.
Israel’s Sins and Ingratitude
6-8. Israel is now threatened in the same form as the rest, but Amos 2:6-16 were not spoken by Amos at Bethel; they form the conclusion of the preface which he wrote after his return home.
6. The unrighteous judges condemn the innocent for the sake of a bribe. A pair of shoes would have been too paltry a present, but for the fact that the shoe was a symbol of property (Ruth 4:7; Psalms 60:10). To hand over the shoes was equivalent to our delivery of title-deeds.
7. They begrudge the very dust, a sign of mourning, which a poor man has sprinkled on his head: they hinder the man who is in a lowly position from attaining his modest purpose. To profane.. name] The religion of many of the nations of antiquity sanctioned unchastity and even adopted it as part of the worship of the gods, but if Jehovah’s worshippers are morally unclean they pollute His Holy Name.
8. The poor in the East sleep in their day-clothes. Garments taken in pledge should therefore be restored ere nightfall (Exodus 22:25; Deuteronomy 24:12); but these creditors, undeterred by their supposed nearness to their god, treat the needy man’s clothes as if they belonged to themselves. Possibly, however, Amos wrote, ’And they stretch out beside every altar clothes taken in pledge,’ meaning that they hung them up as a votive offering in honour of their god.
They drink the wine of the condemned in the house of their god] that is to say, at their sacrificial banquets they drank wine obtained by unjust fines, and whilst they imagined themselves to be worshipping the God of Israel He disclaimed them: they were really worshipping an idol of their own imagination.
9-16. The ingratitude thus evinced and the judgment which it provokes.
9. We may exhibit the emphasis designed by Amos by rendering thus: ’Yet it was I who destroyed.. and it was I who brought you up,’ etc. The Amorite here is a name for all the earlier inhabitants of the Holy Land. Instead of fruit from above, etc., we say ’root and branch.’ But the Canaanites were not utterly extirpated (Joshua 13:13; Joshua 16:10; Judges 1:19-36; 2 Samuel 5:7).
11. The accounts we have of Samuel, Elijah, Elisha, and the ’schools of the prophets,’ show that prophets, declaring God’s will by word of mouth, had been more numerous in the northern than in the southern kingdom. The ’Nazirites’ (RV) showed their obedience to His will by self-control, austerities, renunciations of pleasant things (Numbers 6). God’s most precious gift to His people consisted in true men, and, above all, in inspired prophets.
12. It was exceedingly base to tempt the Nazirite to break his vow. For the silencing of the prophets see 1 Kings 1:22; Isaiah 30:10-11; Micah 2:6, Micah 2:11.
13. The v. may be understood in two ways. First, as in AV, which represents Israel as a burden on God (Isaiah 1:14; Isaiah 7:13 etc.). Secondly, and better, as in RV, ’Behold, I will press you in your place, as a cart presseth that is full of sheaves.’ As the ground reels under the loaded wagon so shall they under God’s heavy hand (Psalms 32:4; Job 33:2).
16. The stress lies on the word naked. In headlong flight the long, outer garment would be cast away as a hindrance.
Here, and at Amos 3:13, Amos 3:15; Amos 4:3, Amos 4:5-6, Amos 4:8-9, Amos 4:10-11; Amos 6:8; Amos 8:11; Amos 9:7-8, Amos 9:12-13, the expression rendered saith the Lord is a kind of exclamation, thrown in parenthetically to call attention to the gravity of what is said. Utterance of Jehovah! the prophet cries.
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Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Amos 2". "Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
Second Sunday after Epiphany