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Hear ye this word which I take up against you, even a lamentation, O house of Israel.
Hear ye this word which I take up against you, even a lamentation - an elegy for the destruction coming on you. Compare Ezekiel 32:2, "take up a lamentation" - namely, as a mournful burden (Ezekiel 19:1; Ezekiel 27:2).
The virgin of Israel is fallen; she shall no more rise: she is forsaken upon her land; there is none to raise her up.
The virgin of Israel is fallen - the Israelite state, heretofore unsubdued by foreigners. Compare Isaiah 23:12; Jeremiah 18:13; Jeremiah 31:4; Jeremiah 31:21; Lamentations 2:13 ("What shall I equal to thee, that I may comfort thee, O virgin daughter of Zion?") may be interpreted, Thou who wast once the "virgin daughter of Zion." Rather, "virgin," as applied to a state, implies its beauty, and the delights on which it prides itself, its luxuries, power, and wealth (Calvin).
She shall no more rise - in the existing order of things; in the Messianic dispensation it is to rise again, according to many prophecies (cf. 2 Kings 6:23, "So the bands of Syria came no more into the land of Israel" (no more for a considerable time); 2 Kings 24:7, for the restricted sense of "no more").
She is forsaken upon her land - or [nipªshaah], "prostrated upon," etc. (cf. Ezekiel 29:5; Ezekiel 32:4, "I will cast thee forth upon the open field"). (Maurer.) 'She is dashed down upon her own ground. In the abode of her strength, in the midst of her resources, she should fall' (Pusey).
For thus saith the Lord GOD; The city that went out by a thousand shall leave an hundred, and that which went forth by an hundred shall leave ten, to the house of Israel.
The city that went out by a thousand i:e., 'the city from which there used to go out a thousand' equipped for war. "City" is put for "the inhabitants of the city," as in Amos 4:8.
Shall leave an hundred - shall have only a hundred left, the rest being destroyed by sword and pestilence (Deuteronomy 28:62).
For thus saith the LORD unto the house of Israel, Seek ye me, and ye shall live:
Seek ye me, and ye shall live - literally, "Seek ye me, and live." The second imperative expresses the certainty of "life" (escape from judgment) resulting from obedience to the precept in the first imperative. If they perish it is their own fault; God would forgive if they would repent (Isaiah 55:3; Isaiah 55:6).
But seek not Bethel, nor enter into Gilgal, and pass not to Beersheba: for Gilgal shall surely go into captivity, and Bethel shall come to nought.
But seek not Beth-el - i:e., the calves at Bethel.
Nor enter into Gilgal - (note, Amos 4:4). Since here there is the Lord's invitation to penitents to come to Him, it is accompanied with a warning, "seek not Beth-el," for ye cannot seek me and yet seek Bethel at the same time: so in Amos 4:4, where judgment is denounced against reprobates, God, on the contrary, tells them, "Come to Beth-el, and transgress" - i:e., He gives them up to their own ruinous sin.
And pass not to Beer-sheba - in Judah, on the southern frontier toward Edom. Once "the well of the oath" by Yahweh, ratifying Abraham's covenant with Abimelech, and the scene of his calling on "the Lord, the everlasting God" (Genesis 21:31; Genesis 21:33), now a stronghold of idolatry (Amos 8:14, "the manner of Beer-sheba liveth"). He counsels Israel not to add Judah's idolatry to her own.
Gilgal shall surely go into captivity - a play on similar sounds in the Hebrew, Gilgal, galoh, yigleh: 'Gilgal (the place of rolling) shall rolling be rolled away.'
Beth-el shall come to nought - Bethel (i:e., the house of God), called because of its vain idols - i:e., "the calves" - Beth-aven (i:e. the house of vanity, or nought, Hosea 4:15; Hosea 10:5; Hosea 10:8), shall indeed "come to nought."
Seek the LORD, and ye shall live; lest he break out like fire in the house of Joseph, and devour it, and there be none to quench it in Bethel.
Seek the Lord ... lest he break out like fire - bursting through everything in His way. God is "a consuming fire" (Deuteronomy 4:24; Isaiah 10:17; Lamentations 2:3, "He burned against Jacob like a flaming fire which devoureth round about").
In the house of Joseph - the kingdom of Israel, of which the tribe of Ephraim, Joseph's son, was the chief tribe (cf. Ezekiel 37:16).
None to quench it in Beth-el - i:e., none in Bethel to quench it; none of the Bethel idols, on which Israel so depended, able to remove the divine judgments. Or, better, 'and there be none to quench it for Bethel.'
Ye who turn judgment to wormwood, and leave off righteousness in the earth,
Ye who turn judgment to wormwood - i:e. pervert it to most bitter wrong. As justice is sweet, so injustice is bitterness to the injured. Wormwood is from an Arabic root, to execrate, on account of its noxious and bitter qualities. Amos evidently has in view Deuteronomy 29:18, "Lest there should be among you a root that beareth gall and wormwood."
And leave off righteousness in the earth. Maurer translates [ hiniychuw (H3240)], 'cast righteousness to the ground,' as in Isaiah 28:2, "shall cast down to the earth with the hand;" Daniel 8:12, "An host was given him (the blasphemous little horn), and it cast down the truth to the ground." Pusey translates, 'Set righteousness to rest on the ground.' They dethroned righteousness, the vicegerent and representative of God, and made it rest on the ground.
Seek him that maketh the seven stars and Orion, and turneth the shadow of death into the morning, and maketh the day dark with night: that calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth: The LORD is his name:
The seven stars and Orion, [ Kiymaah (H3598)]. The Pleiades-literally, the heap or cluster of seven larger stars and others smaller (Job 9:9; Job 38:31). The former whole passage seems to have been in Amos' mind. He names the stars well known to shepherds (to which class Amos belonged) - Orion as the precursor of the tempests, which are here threatened, and the Pleiades as ushering in spring. See the note at Job 9:9. Orion [ uw-Kªciyl (H3685)] in Hebrew means a fool or irreligious man: answering to Nimrod (literally, 'let us rebel') the rebel against God.
And turneth the shadow of death into the morning - "shadow of death" - Hebraism for the densest darkness.
Calleth for the waters of the sea - both to send deluges in judgment, and the ordinary rain in mercy (1 Kings 18:44). Job 38:34, "Canst thou lift up thy voice to the clouds, that abundance of waters may cover thee?"
That strengtheneth the spoiled against the strong, so that the spoiled shall come against the fortress. That strengtheneth the spoiled - literally, spoil, or devastation: hence, the person spoiled. Winer, Maurer, and the best modern critics, translate, 'maketh devastation (or destruction) suddenly to arise-literally, maketh it to gleam forth llke the dawn [ baalag (H1082)]. Ancient versions support the English version. The Hebrew is elsewhere used, to make to shine, to make glad; and as the English version here (Psalms 39:13, Hebrew Bible). Pusey translates, 'that maketh devastation to smile on the strong.' The smile of derision and wrath marking the ease wherewith those fancying themselves strong are given to devastation, 'recover strength.'
So that the spoiled shall come - `devastation,' or destruction shall come upon' (Maurer). The English version expresses that, strong as Israel fancies herself after the successes of Jeroboam II (2 Kings 14:25), even the weakest can be made by God to prevail.
Against the fortress - i:e., against the strongest. The Hebrew for fortress [ mibtsaar (H4013)] expresses that "the strong" fancied it cut off all approach.
They hate him that rebuketh in the gate, and they abhor him that speaketh uprightly.
They hate him that rebuketh in the gate - the judge who condemns their iniquity in the place of judgment (Isaiah 29:21).
And they abhor him that speaketh uprightly - they abhor the prophet telling them the unwelcome truth: answering in the parallelism to the judge "that rebuketh in the gate uprightly" - literally, perfectly (cf. 1 Kings 22:8; Proverbs 9:8; Proverbs 12:1; Jeremiah 36:23, "When Jehudi had read three or four leaves, he (Jehoiakim) cut it with the penknife, and cast it into the fire that was on the hearth, until all the roll was consumed in the fire that was on the hearth."
Him that rebuketh in the gate - in the first clause-may refer not merely to the judge, but also to the prophet reproving the people in the most public place of concourse, the gate of Samaria, as Jeremiah did (Jeremiah 17:19; Jeremiah 19:2) in the gate of Jerusalem. Compare Proverbs 8:2-20.8.4.
Forasmuch therefore as your treading is upon the poor, and ye take from him burdens of wheat: ye have built houses of hewn stone, but ye shall not dwell in them; ye have planted pleasant vineyards, but ye shall not drink wine of them.
Forasmuch therefore as your treading isle upon the poor, and ye take from him burdens of wheat - burdensome taxes, levied in kind from the wheat of the needy to pamper the lusts of the great (Henderson). Or wheat advanced in time of scarcity, and exacted again at a burdensome interest (Rabbi Salomon).
Ye have built houses of hewn stone, but ye shall not dwell in them; ye have planted pleasant vineyards, but ye shall not drink wine of them - according to the original prophecy of Moses (Deuteronomy 28:30; Deuteronomy 28:38; Deuteronomy 28:38). The converse shall be true in restored Israel (Amos 9:14; Isaiah 65:21-23.65.22, "They shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them. They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat"). Ordinarily their houses were built of sun-dried bricks (Isaiah 9:10; Ezekiel 12:5; Ezekiel 12:7).
For I know your manifold transgressions and your mighty sins: they afflict the just, they take a bribe, and they turn aside the poor in the gate from their right.
They afflict the just, they take a bribe - rather, '(ye), who afflict the just, take a bribe-literally, a price with which one who has an unjust cause ransoms himself from your sentence (1 Samuel 12:3, "a bribe," margin, a ransom, Proverbs 6:35).
They turn aside the poor in the gate from their right - refuse them their right in the place of justice (Amos 2:7; Isaiah 29:21).
Therefore the prudent shall keep silence in that time; for it is an evil time.
Therefore the prudent - the spiritually wise.
Shall keep silence in that time; for it is an evil time - not mere silence of tongue, but the prudent shall keep himself quiet from taking part in any public or private affairs which he can avoid; as it is "an evil time," and one in which all law is set at naught. Ephesians 5:16, "See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil;" and Colossians 4:4, "Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time," refer to this. Instead of impatiently agitating against irremediable evils, the godly wise will not cast pearls before swine (answering to "them that are without"), who would trample these, and rend the offerers (Matthew 7:6), but will patiently wait for God's time of deliverance in silent submission (Psalms 39:9, "I was dumb, I opened not my mouth; because thou didst it." Also in the time of "evil" - i:e., calamity-the godly prudent will be silently submissive to God's stroke; as when Nadab and Abihu, Aaron's sons, had been devoured by "fire from the Lord," because they offered "strange fire," and the Lord said, "I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me," "Aaron held his peace," Leviticus 10:3).
Seek good, and not evil, that ye may live: and so the LORD, the God of hosts, shall be with you, as ye have spoken.
Seek good, and not evil, that ye may live; and so - on condition of your "seeking good."
The Lord, the God of hosts, shall be with you, as ye have spoken - as ye have boasted-namely, that God is with you, and that you are His people (Micah 3:11).
Hate the evil, and love the good, and establish judgment in the gate: it may be that the LORD God of hosts will be gracious unto the remnant of Joseph.
Hate the evil, and love the good - (Isaiah 1:16-23.1.17; Romans 12:9, "Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good").
And establish judgment in the gate - justice in the place where causes are tried.
It may be that the Lord God of hosts will be gracious - so "peradventure" (Exodus 32:30). Not that men are to come to God with an uncertainty whether or no He will be gracious; the expression merely implies the difficulty in the way, because of the lack of true repentance on man's part, so as to stimulate the zealous earnestness of believers in seeking God (cf. Genesis 16:2; Joel 2:14; Acts 8:22).
Unto the remnant of Joseph - (see Amos 5:6, "the house of Joseph"). Israel (represented by "Ephraim," the leading tribe, and descendant of Joseph) was, comparatively to what it once was, now but a remnant, Hazael of Syria having smitten all the coasts from Jordan eastward, Gilead and Bashan, Gad, Reuben, and Manasseh (2 Kings 10:32-12.10.33) (Henderson.) Rather, 'the remnant of Israel that shall have been left after the wicked have been destroyed' (Maurer).
Therefore the LORD, the God of hosts, the Lord, saith thus; Wailing shall be in all streets; and they shall say in all the highways, Alas! alas! and they shall call the husbandman to mourning, and such as are skilful of lamentation to wailing.
Therefore - resumed from Amos 5:13. God foresees that they will not obey the exhortation (Amos 5:14-30.5.15); but will persevere in their unrighteousness - "manifold transgressions and mighty sins," stigmatized Amos 5:7; Amos 5:10; Amos 5:12.
The Lord (JEHOVAH), the God of hosts, the Lord - an accumulation of titles, of which His LORDSHIP over all things is the climax, to mark that from His judgment there is no appeal.
Wailing shall be in all streets; and they shall say in all the highways - the broad open spaces and the narrow streets common in the East.
Alas! alas! and they shall call the farmer to mourning - the citizens shall call the inexperienced farmers to act the part usually performed by professional mourners, as there will not be enough of the latter for the universal mourning which shall prevail.
And such as are skillful of lamentation - professional mourners, hired to lead off the lamentations for the deceased; alluded to in Ecclesiastes 12:5, "Man goeth to his long home; and the mourners go about the streets;" generally females (Jeremiah 9:17-24.9.19, "Call for the mourning women, that they may come").
And in all vineyards shall be wailing: for I will pass through thee, saith the LORD.
In all vineyards shall be wailing - where usually songs of joy were heard.
For I will pass through thee - taking vengeance (Exodus 12:12; Exodus 12:23; Nahum 1:12). "Pass over" and "pass by," on the contrary, are used of God's forgiving, as God passed over the Israelite houses which had the blood-mark on the door (Exodus 12:23; Micah 7:18; cf. Amos 7:8).
Woe unto you that desire the day of the LORD! to what end is it for you? the day of the LORD is darkness, and not light.
Woe unto you that desire the day of the Lord! - Woe unto you who do not scruple to say in irony, 'We desire that the day of the Lord would come!' - i:e., Woe to you who treat it as if it were a mere dream of the prophets! (Isaiah 5:19; Jeremiah 17:15; Ezekiel 12:22.) To what end is it for you? Amos taking their ironical words in earnest: for God often takes the blasphemer at his own word, in righteous retribution making the scoffer's jest a terrible reality against himself. Ye have but little reason to desire the day of the Lord; because it will be to you calamity, and not joy.
As if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him; or went into the house, and leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him.
As if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him - trying to escape one calamity he falls into another. This perhaps implies that in Amos 5:18 their ironical desire for the day of the Lord was as if it would be an escape from existing calamities. The coming of the day of the Lord would be good news to us, if true, because we have served God (i:e., the golden calves). So do hypocrites flatter themselves as to death and judgment, as if these would be a relief from existing ills of life. The lion may from generosity spare the prostrate, but the bear spares none (cf. Job 20:24; Isaiah 24:18).
Or went into the house, and leaned his hand on the wall and a serpent bit him - i:e., leaned on the side wall of the house, to support himself from falling. Snakes often hide themselves in fissures in a wall. Those not reformed by God's judgments will be pursued by them; if they escape one, another is ready to seize them.
Shall not the day of the LORD be darkness, and not light? even very dark, and no brightness in it?
No JFB commentary on this verse.
I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies.
I hate, I despise. The two verbs joined without a conjunction express God's strong abhorrence. Your feast days - yours, not mine; I do not acknowledge them: unlike those in Judah, yours are of human, not divine institution.
I will not smell - i:e., I will take no delight in the sacrifices offered (Genesis 8:21, "The Lord smelled a sweet savour;" Leviticus 26:31).
In your solemn assemblies - literally, days of restraint. Isaiah 1:10-23.1.15, "Incense is an abomination unto me ... the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting," etc., etc., is parallel. Isaiah is fuller, Amos more condensed. Amos condemns Israel, not only on the ground of their thinking to satisfy God by sacrifices without obedience, the charge brought by Isaiah against the Jews, but also because even their external ritual was a mere corruption, and unsanctioned by God.
Though ye offer me burnt offerings and your meat offerings, I will not accept them: neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat beasts.
Though ye offer me ... your meat offerings - flour, etc. Unbloody offerings.
Neither will I regard the peace offerings - offerings for obtaining from God peace and prosperity. Hebrew, thank offerings.
Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols.
Take thou away from me - literally, 'Take away from upon me;' the idea being that of a burden pressing upon the bearer. So Isaiah 1:14, "They are a trouble unto me (literally, a burden upon me): I am weary to bear them."
The noise of thy songs - the hymns and instrumental music on sacred occasions are to me nothing but a disagreeable noise.
For I will not hear the melody of thy viols. Isaiah substitutes "prayers" (Isaiah 1:15) for the "songs" and "melody" here; but, like Amos, closes with "I will not hear," "yea, when ye make many prayers I will not hear."
But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.
But let judgment - justice.
Run down - literally, roll, i:e., flow abundantly (Isaiah 48:18). Without the desire to fulfill righteousness in the offerer, the sacrifice is hateful to God (1 Samuel 15:22; Psalms 66:18; Hosea 6:6; Micah 6:8).
Have ye offered unto me sacrifices and offerings in the wilderness forty years, O house of Israel?
Have ye offered unto me sacrifices and offerings in the wilderness forty years, O house of Israel? But ye have borne the tabernacle of your Moloch. Yes; ye have offered unto me sacrifices, etc. "But (all the time with strange inconsistency) ye have borne (aloft in solemn pomp) the tabernacle (i:e., the portable shrine, or model tabernacle: small enough not to be detected by Moses) of your Moloch" (that idol is 'your' god; I am not, though ye go through the form of presenting offerings to me). Similarly Acts 19:24 mentions "silver shrines for Diana made by Demetrius, a silversmith, for her worshippers. The question, "Have ye," better, 'Did ye offer unto me sacrifices?' is not denial (for they did offer in the wilderness to Yahweh sacrifices of the cattle which they took with them in their nomad life there, Exodus 24:4-2.24.5; Numbers 7:1 and Numbers 9:1, etc.), but a strong affirmation (cf. 1 Samuel 2:27-9.2.28; Jeremiah 31:20, "Is Ephraim my dear son?" implying strongly that he is; Ezekiel 20:4). The sin of Israel in Amos' time is the very sin of their forefathers, mocking God with worship, while at the same time worshipping idols (cf. Ezekiel 20:39). It was clandestine in Moses' time, else he would have put it down; he was aware generally of their unfaithfulness, though not knowing the particulars (Deuteronomy 31:21; Deuteronomy 31:27).
Moloch and Chiun. Moloch means king, answering to Mars (Bengel); or answering to the Sun (Jablonski); or answering to Saturn, the same as "Chiun" (Maurer). The Septuagint translates "Chiun" into Remphan, as Stephen quotes it (Acts 7:42-44.7.43). The same god had often different names. Moloch is the Ammonite name; Chiun the Arabic and Persian name, written also Chevan. In an Arabic lexicon, Chiun means austere; so astrologers represented Saturn as a planet baleful in his influence. Hence, the Phoenicians offered human sacrifices to him, children especially: so idolatrous Israel also. Rimmon was the Syrian name (2 Kings 5:18); pronounced as Remvan, or 'Remphan,' just as Chiun was also Chevan. Moloch had the form of a king; Chevan or Chiun, of a star (Grotius). Remphan was the Egyptian name for Saturn: hence, the Septuagint translator of Amos gave the Egyptian name Raiphan for the Hebrew, being an Egyptian [anelabete teen skeeneen tou Moloch kai to astron tou Theou humoon Raifan, tous tupous autoon hous epoieesate heautois] (Hodius II. 'Bibl.,' 4:115). The same as the Nile, of which the Egyptians made the star Saturn the representative (Harenberg). Bengel considers Remphan or Rephan akin to Teraphim, and Remphis, the name of a king of Egypt. The Hebrews became infected with Sabeanism, the oldest form of idolatry, the worship of the tsaabaa' (H6633), starry hosts, in their stay in the Arabian desert, where Job notices its prevalence (Job 31:26): in opposition to such Sabeanism, in Amos 5:27, Yahweh declares Himself "the God of hosts." Your images, the star of your god. R. Isaac Caro say all the astrologers represented Saturn as the star of Israel. Probably there was a figure of a star on the head of the image of the idol, to represent the planet Saturn; hence, "images" correspond to "star" in the parallel clause. A star in hieroglyphics represents God (Numbers 24:17, "There shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a sceptre shall rise out of Israel"). Images are either a Hebraism for image, or refer to the many images made to represent Chiun. Pusey suggests that Chiun [comes from kuwn (H3559), to set firmly, and] means the pedestal. 'Ye did bear the (portable) shrine of your idol-king, and the pedestal of your images.'
Therefore will I cause you to go into captivity beyond Damascus, saith the LORD, whose name is The God of hosts.
Therefore will I cause you to go into captivity beyond Damascus. In Acts 7:43 it is "beyond Babylon," which includes beyond Damascus. In Amos' time, Damascus was the object of Israel's fear, because of the Syrian wars. Babylon was not yet named as the place of their captivity. Stephen supplies this name, Babylon, which, in Amos' days, was not designed by the Spirit to be specified as yet. Their place of exile was, in fact, as he states, "beyond Babylon," in Halah and Habor, by the river Gozan, and in the cites of the Medes (2 Kings 17:6: cf. here Amos 1:5; Amos 4:3; Amos 6:14). The road to Assyria lay though "Damascus." It is therefore specified, that not merely shall they be carried captives to Damascus, as they had been by Syrian kings (2 Kings 10:32-12.10.33; 2 Kings 13:7), but, beyond that, to a region whence a return was not so possible as from Damascus. They were led captive by Satan into idolatry, therefore God caused them to go captives among idolaters. Compare 2 Kings 15:29; 2 Kings 16:9. "The King of Assyria hearkened unto him (Ahab); and went up against Damascus, and took it, and carried the people of it captive to Kir;" Isaiah 8:4, whence it appears Tiglath-pileser attacked Israel and Damascus at the same time, at Ahaz's request (Amos 3:11, "An adversary there shall be even round about the land; and he shall bring down thy strength from thee, and thy palaces shall be spoiled").
(1) Amos takes up, as a mournful burden, a dirge over Israel, as though his country were already dead, and he a mourner at the funeral (Amos 5:1-30.5.2). "Dashed down upon her own ground," in the midst of her resources, she is regarded in God's purpose, on account of her sin, as "fallen" to "rise no more" in the then existing order of things. She who, from her capital, used to go forth to battle by thousands, should retain but hundreds. Out of all her multitude only one tithe should remain-the remnant dedicated to God according to the election of grace, the nucleus both of those gathered out into the spiritual Israel, and also of the literal and national Israel, hereafter to be restored (Amos 5:3).
(2) The whole of our duty and our reward is comprised in the four words, as they are in the original, "Seek me, and live." The two things, to seek God and to live, are not mealy cause and effect, but they are one, For to seek God is to find God; and to find God is life. The object of our search is God Himself. We are to seek God, not so much for His gifts as for Himself, who comprises in Himself all that is good. Such a good and all-satisfying One is to be sought with all the earnestness that becomes those who have such a glorious object in view. In Him, by union with Him, we have the life of grace now and the life of glory hereafter; according to the promise in the Psalm, "Your hearts shall live that seek God" (Psalms 69:32); and again, Psalms 84:11, "The Lord will give grace and glory."
(3) In seeking God we must not think that we can at the same time seek idols (Amos 5:5). Men will be at the greatest trouble to carry out their own self-willed service, and yet shrink from the only true service, that of God, whose service is perfect freedom. Jeroboam I alleged to his people: "It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem." Yet they now thought it not too much to go even as far as to Beersheba in the extreme south of Judea; in fact, four times as far south of Jerusalem as Jerusalem lay from Bethel. While Israel would not accept from Judah the temple-worship of Yahweh, the only legitimate worship, she eagerly sought from Judah the idolatrous worship practiced at Beersheba. In just retribution, Gilgal, where God first had "rolled away the reproach of Egypt" from His people (Joshua 5:9), now that it had fallen into paganism, should itself be rolled away; and Bethel, once the house of God, but now become Bethaven, the house of nought, should indeed "come to nought" (Amos 5:5).
(4) Again and again the prophet urges the people to "seek the Lord," and so to know Him as the source of life, rather than know Him as "a consuming fire" (Amos 5:6). Heretofore, instead of seeking the God of righteousness, they had practiced all unrighteousness, and cast down justice from her throne (Amos 5:7). Now they are invited to serve and love the Personal God, who has made all the hosts of heaven, whom idolaters worship instead of their Creator. He can "turn the shadow of death into the morning," dispelling the darkness of affliction with the brightness of His presence revealed to mourning penitents; on the other hand, He can speedily "make the day dark with night" to those who harden themselves in sin because of their prosperity. He can send a deluge of destruction, or else the fertilizing rain at will "upon the face of the earth" (Amos 5:8). Who, then, can be conceived more worthy to be "sought" with all the heart than this glorious and Almighty Yahweh, whether. we view Him in relation to our fears or hopes? "The fortress" of man's vain confidence can be in a moment laid low by Him (Amos 5:9).
(5) It is a characteristic of the ungodly to "hate rebuke." The prophet had reproved them "in the gate," the most public place of resort, even as they had sinned publicly. The area at the gate of Samaria was very large (1 Kings 22:10; 2 Chronicles 8:9). Therefore it was well suited for being the scene of the prophet's upright denunciations (Amos 5:10). But the more he sought their best interests, the more they abhorred him. Herein he is a type of the Saviour, who testified, "They that sit in the gate speak against me" (Psalms 69:12). And again, "They hated me without a cause" (John 15:23-43.15.25). It is of Jesus alone that the words, typically applied to the prophet, can be used in their fullest sense; because He alone "spake uprightly," or perfectly, as the Hebrew expresses. He "spake openly to the world" (John 18:20); and so perfect were His words that His enemies' emissaries had to testify, "Never man spake like this man" (John 7:46).
(6) The burdensome oppression of the poor by the rich, who "trod" them under foot, in order to minister to their own luxury, provoked God to threaten they should not "dwell" in the houses built by wrong, nor "drink wine of the pleasant vineyards" planted in injustice. The transgressor flatters himself that God knows not, or at least takes no special cognizance of, his "mighty sins." But such transgressions as are the offspring of proud strength are those which especially are noted by God for judgment. The poor oppressed are God's clients; and He vindicates "their right" (Amos 5:12). And however earthly judges may be influenced by a "bribe," no ransom can rescue the haughty wrong-doer from his deserved doom.
(7) There are times when silence is the greatest prudence on the part of the godly. Instead of impatient murmurings against irremediable evils, and also instead of casting pearls of godly counsel before those who are self-willed and grovelling as the swine, the pious should meekly and in silent submission wait for God's time of deliverance (Amos 5:13). Such is the example that our blessed Master hath set before us.
(8) In order to "seek good" effectually and savingly, we must seek it consistently and perseveringly. We must not seek good by fits and starts, and seek evil in the interval. We must "cease to do evil," if we would, "learn to do well," and so have "the Lord with" us indeed (Amos 5:14). For this end we must positively "hate the evil, and love the good" (Amos 5:15). Nothing so effectually deters us from evil as that we hate it; nor does anything more powerfully draw us to follow earnestly that which is good, as that we love it.
(9) They who had cast down justice to the ground (Amos 5:7) are exhorted now, to "establish justice in the gate," if so be that "the Lord God of hosts will be gracious unto the remnant of Joseph" (Amos 5:15). Though God is always gracious to the truly penitent, He does not always deliver them from the temporal consequences of their sins. Whatever may be their portion in this world, God will save finally all who belong to the "remnant according to the election of grace."
(10) But as to the unhumbled oppressors, the sentence of God is, "Wailing shall be in all streets" (Amos 5:16). The scene of the wailings of the oppressed was to be the scene of the wailings of their oppressors. All should join in the one universal dirge over their fallen country. For God would no longer pass over the nation in sparing mercy, but would "pass through" them in judgment (Amos 5:17).
(11) How awful was the presumption of those who affected to "desire the day of the Lord," as if the judgments foretold by the prophets in connection with it were a fable! What they said in derision should prove to them a dreadful reality. Their desire for the coming of the day of the Lord should be gratified. But it should prove to them, not what they affected to expect, a day of "light," but a day of "darkness" (Amos 5:18). Thus many who, because of present calamities, wish for death and eternity, though not at all prepared to meet God, shall find that, escaping comparatively trifling ills, they plunge into the worst, and those never-ending (Amos 5:19-30.5.20). If they would hear the voice of conscience and the Word of God, they would see at once that "the day of the Lord" hath "no brightness" for them, but the blackness of "darkness" forever.
(12) When love and obedience are wanting, the costliest offerings are hateful to God (Amos 5:21-30.5.22). The most harmonious "melody" of "songs" and church music are an unmeaning "noise," which God desires to be taken away as a burden pressing upon Him, so long as the heart does not make melody in concert with the voice and the instrument. Let us each resolve, by God's grace, "I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also" (1 Corinthians 14:15). Without the sincere desire to fulfill righteousness, the worshipper's service is hateful to God (Amos 5:24). Let it, as a "mighty stream," "roll" on steadily, sweeping away every sinful obstacle, and then God will accept the humble prayers and praises of the worshipper for His own mercy's sake.
(13) But Israel's worship was a vain attempt to serve God, and all the while to serve their favourite idols (Amos 5:25-30.5.26). The two are incompatible. He who serves his lusts, or combines any will-worship with service offered to the Lord, the true King, does not really render worship unto the Lord. For God, if not served wholly and alone, or not in the way that He hath appointed and revealed, is not served at all. The grand fault of Israel's worship was, it was one that they made to themselves. Whereas God has made us for Himself, carnal men make for themselves a religion of their own imagination, not the religion of the Bible.
(14) Such a self-chosen worship does not save, but deceives, to men's everlasting ruin. It caused Israel's "captivity beyond Damascus" (Amos 5:27). Nothing seemed more unlikely in Amos' time. The Assyrian king, Shamasiva (Rawlinson, 'Herodotus,' 1: 466), had just aided Israel against Syria allied with Babylon, and had defeated the armies of the latter. None but a prophet inspired by God could have foreseen the event, which, though so unlikely then, yet in due time came to pass. As Abraham was brought by God out of Chaldea and its idolatries, in order to serve God alone, so Israel, by lapsing into idolatry, in just retribution, forfeited the good land, and was carried by the enemy back to the original idolatrous birthplace of their ancestor. Truly God is righteous in all His judgments!
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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Amos 5". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent