The Third Address
1-6. A lament, a warning, and an invitation.
7, 10-20. Denunciation of injustice and oppression, with threats of pestilence and judgment.
21-27. A repudiation of their attempt to please God by mere ritual.
1, 2. Lamentation] a technical term for mournful poetry consisting of short lines of unequal length: here, for instance (Amos 5:2), the dirge consists of four lines, the first and third having three accents, the second and fourth two. Virgin] because, though often defeated, Israel had not yet been thoroughly conquered.
5. Pass not to Beer-sheba] People living in the northern kingdom would have to 'pass,' to cross over, the territory of Judah to reach the famous sanctuary in the extreme S. of the land. In the reference to Gilgal there is one of those plays on sound which are so common in impassioned speech: 'Hag-Gilgâl galôh yigleh.' And in that to Beth-el a play on ideas: Bethel ('House of God') shall become Aven ('Nothing'). Hosea actually calls it Beth Aven, 'House of Nothing' (Hosea 4:15; Hosea 5:8; Hosea 10:5), and also Aven (Hosea 10:8). Bethel is now called Beit-in.
6. The better reading would be: 'Lest he send forth fire' (cp. Amos 1:4, Amos 1:7, Amos 1:10, Amos 1:12; Amos 2:2, Amos 2:5) 'upon the house of Joseph and there be none to quench it for Bethel.' Israel is entitled the house of Joseph, because Ephraim, the descendant of Joseph, is the chief tribe in the northern kingdom.
7. Instead of justice there is injustice, bitter as wormwood.
8, 9. Cp. Amos 4:13, and see Job 38:31; Isaiah 13:10; Isaiah 25:2, Isaiah 25:12.
8. The seven stars] RV 'the Pleiades,' lit. 'the heap.' The shadow of death] RM 'deep darkness,' is better.
10. The subject of Amos 5:7 is now resumed: they who turn justice into wormwood, etc., hate in the gate the man who reproves injustice. The gate is the broad, open space before the city wall, where all business is discussed and justice is supposed to be administered: cp. Amos 5:12.
11. Burdens of wheat] RV 'exactions of wheat.' These remind us of the way in which the French nobility used to 'grind down the peasantry to the utmost farthing to extort money to spend in debauchery and riot in Paris': cp. also 2 Samuel 12:3. Houses of hewn stone were a mark of great wealth (Isaiah 9:10).
12. RV 'For I know how manifold are your transgressions and how mighty are your sins; ye that afflict the just, that take a bribe, and that turn aside the needy,' etc. Bribe] The word means 'ransom' (see Exodus 21:30; Proverbs 6:35); on many occasions it would defeat the ends of justice if a ransom was accepted.
13. What is the use of talking? As a modern writer says:
'For what avail'd it, all the noise And outcry of the former men?'
14. As ye have spoken] RV 'as ye say,' i.e. as ye say He is, as ye flatter yourselves He is.
15. The remnant] At best a mere fraction will escape.
16, 17. Streets] RV 'broad ways': what we call squares and open spaces. The wailing is the tremulous, high-pitched lament for the dead. The most necessary occupations are suspended because of the great number of deaths. Where the merry shout of the grapegatherers had been common, sounds of woe may now be heard. The skilful of lamentation are the professional mourners (Matthew 9:23 : cp. 2 Samuel 3:31; Jeremiah 34:5; Ezekiel 26:17; Ezekiel 27:32).
I will pass through, etc.] as the destroying angel passed through Egypt (Exodus 12).
18-20. Day of the Lord] see Intro., and cp. Isaiah 5:30; Isaiah 8:22; Joel 2:2; Obadiah 1:15.
21. Festivals such as Tabernacles (1 Kings 12:33) are meant. I will not smell] RV 'I will take no delight.' The original words refer to the smelling the pleasant odour of the sacrifice (Genesis 8:21; Leviticus 26:31).
22. The burnt offering was the costliest of sacrifices, and in early times was not often presented by private individuals.
Meat offerings] RV 'meal offerings': flour, or flour mingled with salt, oil, and incense.
Peace offerings] The 'thank offerings' of RM is better. These were partly eaten by the worshippers. Fat beasts were, of course, a costly sacrifice.
23, 24. Vocal and instrumental music was employed in the Temple service at Bethel, but was utterly distasteful to God because of the unrighteousness of the singers and the people generally: cp. Isaiah 1:13; Ezekiel 26:13.
Viols] a kind of lute or guitar, with ten or twelve strings and a sounding-board. Mighty stream] RM 'ever-flowing.'
25. Have ye offered?] RV 'Did ye bring?' The answer is 'No.' So far is God from being influenced by sacrifices that all the time when His Providential care over them was most marked they were in the habit of presenting Him no oblations at all: cp. Joshua 5:5-7; 1 Samuel 15:22; Jeremiah 7:22, Jeremiah 7:23.
26, 27. Render, 'And ye shall take up Sikkuth your king, and Kçwân your images, the star of your god which ye made for yourselves. And I will cause,' etc. Kçwân is the name of one of the Babylonian planetary deities who has been variously identified with Saturn or Mars. Another title of the same god, Tsalme, is probably concealed under the words rendered 'your images.' It is at present uncertain who is meant by Sikkuth. The idolaters will have to carry their idols into exile, beyond Damascus, i.e. into Assyria, which is thus vaguely indicated.
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Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Amos 5". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany