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The First Address
1-8. A call to attention.
9, 10. The oppressions practised by the powerful.
11-15. The disasters which should overtake them, their sanctuary and their palaces.
1. ’Race’ would be a more correct word than family. Judah is included in the appeal, but immediately drops out of sight again.
2. In the Bible to know frequently means to care for, to be deeply interested in (Genesis 18:19; Hosea 13:5; Nahum 1:7; Job 22:13; Psalms 1:6; Psalms 73:11; Proverbs 2:10; Galatians 4:9): at Jeremiah 1:5 and here it has the allied sense ’to choose.’ Jehovah chose Israel alone to be His people. And they argued as Dr. Arnold did when he was a child: ’I could not make out how, if my mother loved me more than strange children, she should find fault with me and not with them.’
3. Be agreed] RV ’have agreed,’ have made an appointment. If two people were seen walking together in the desolate regions with which Amos was familiar it might be assumed that they had not met by chance. Nothing happens by chance. There is a reason and cause for Israel’s calamities.
4. ’Thicket’ is preferable to forest: wild and broken country is in view. Amos intimates that a prophet’s threats are not idle sound, any more than a lion’s roar is.
5. Shall one take up a snare from the earth? etc.] RV ’Shall a snare spring up from the ground?’ etc. The snare is the bird-trap as a whole: the gin (the word is a contraction of ’engine’) is the mechanism by which the trap acts. But the trap does not go off till the bird starts it. The thought is that when the time of misfortune arrives Israel will be caught in it as the bird in the trap.
6. Israel cannot plead lack of warning (Ezekiel 33:4-5). All things are ordered by God, and therefore His prophets are able to give such warning. Evil here means disaster.
7. His secret is the purpose He has formed: cp. Genesis 18:17.
8. Luther said, at the Diet of Worms: ’Here I stand: I can do no other.’
9. In the palaces] RM ’upon’; the proclamation is made from the flat roof: cp. Luke 12:3. Those who dwell in palaces are to be judged by their peers. Possibly Amos wrote, ’Asshur and Egypt,’ the two great nations, Assyria and Egypt, the hammer and anvil, between which Israel lay. The mountain of Samaria (the capital of Israel) is surrounded by loftier ones, on which the spectators are supposed to stand. The oppressed] RV ’oppressions.’
10. They have lost the power to do equity. Their eyes gloat over treasures of gold and silver in their palaces: a prophet’s eye sees only stores of violence and robbery (Romans 2:5; James 5:1-4).
12. Even the wealthiest will escape with nothing but bare life. ’They sit in Samaria in the corner of a couch, and on the silken cushions of a bed’ (RV). These cushions formed the divan, which is often the sole article of furniture in an Oriental reception room: the corner seat is the place of honour. The shepherd prophet loathed these modern luxuries.
14. Beth-el had been a sanctuary prior to the Israelite occupation of the land. In the days of Amos it was the undisputed religious capital of the northern kingdom (Amos 7:13), whose subjects gathered there for seasons of special worship (Amos 4:1). No doubt the sacred pillar and post which we read of so often in connexion with the high places stood near the altar. The idol to which devotion was paid as the representative of Jehovah was the golden calf set up by Jeroboam I (1 Kings 12:29). Burnt offerings, thank offerings and meal offerings were presented on the altars (Amos 5:22), and the service was made more attractive by singing and the music of the viol. But all this was vitiated by two faults. First, the god whom the worshippers adored was not the Holy One who alone is worthy, but a mere nature-god, dispenser of corn and wine and oil, of water, flax and wool (Hosea 2:5; Hosea 9:1). And, secondly, the worship was not of a kind to make men better, it was closely associated with immorality and with luxurious eating and drinking (Amos 2:7-8); it did not promote either justice or generosity to others (Amos 2:8; Amos 5:24). The horns were the most sacred part of the altar: to cut them off was to desecrate it thoroughly.
15. Winter and summer house were in some cases distinct buildings, but in others were parts of the same structure differently situated (Judges 3:20; Jeremiah 3:22). The houses of ivory remind us of Nero’s ’Golden House’ at Rome: ’The interior was decorated in the most lavish way, with gold, precious stones and ivory... The supper rooms had panelled ceilings, overlaid with ivory.’ It was a valuable commodity. Sennacherib, on one of the inscriptions which have come down to us, states that Hezekiah gave him ’a couch of ivory, thrones of ivory, an elephant’s tusk.’
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Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Amos 3". "Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent