The Overthrow of the Kingdom of the Ten Tribes - Amos 5 and Amos 6:1-14
The elegy, which the prophet commences in Amos 5:2, upon the fall of the daughter of Israel, forms the theme of the admonitory addresses in these two chapters. These addresses, which are divided into four parts by the admonitions, “Seek Jehovah, and live,” in Amos 5:4 and Amos 5:6, “Seek good” in Amos 5:14, and the two woes ( hōi ) in Amos 5:18 and Amos 6:1, have no other purpose than this, to impress upon the people of God the impossibility of averting the threatened destruction, and to take away from the self-secure sinners the false foundations of their trust, by setting the demands of God before them once more. In every one of these sections, therefore, the proclamation of the judgment returns again, and that in a form of greater and greater intensity, till it reaches to the banishment of the whole nation, and the overthrow of Samaria and the kingdom (Amos 5:27; Amos 6:8.).
The Elegy. - Amos 5:1. “Hear ye this word, which I raise over you; a lamentation, O house of Israel. Amos 5:2. The virgin Israel is fallen; she does not rise up again; cast down upon her soil; no one sets her up. Amos 5:3. For thus saith the Lord Jehovah, The city that goes out by a thousand will retain a hundred, and that which goes out by a hundred will retain ten, for the house of Israel.” הדּבר הזּה is still further defined in the relative clause אשׁר וגו as קינה, a mournful song, lit., a lamentation or dirge for one who is dead (cf. 2 Samuel 1:17; 2 Chronicles 35:25). אשׁר is a relative pronoun, not a conjunction (for); and qı̄nâh is an explanatory apposition: which I raise or commence as (or “namely”) a lamentation. “House of Israel” is synonymous with “house of Joseph” (Amos 5:6), hence Israel of the ten tribes. The lamentation follows in Amos 5:2, showing itself to be a song by the rhythm and by its poetical form. נפל, to fall, denotes a violent death (2 Samuel 1:19, 2 Samuel 1:25), and is here a figure used to denote the overthrow or destruction of the kingdom. The expression virgin Israel (an epexegetical genitive, not “of Israel”) rests upon a poetical personification of the population of a city or of a kingdom, as a daughter, and wherever the further idea of being unconquered is added, as a virgin (see at Isaiah 23:12). Here, too, the term “virgin” is used to indicate the contrast between the overthrow predicted and the original destination of Israel, as the people of God, to be unconquered by any heathen nation whatever. The second clause of the verse strengthens the first. נטּשׁ, to be stretched out or cast down, describes the fall as a violent overthrow. The third verse does not form part of the lamentation, but gives a brief, cursory vindication of it by the announcement that Israel will perish in war, even to a very small remnant. יצא refers to their marching out to war, and אלף, מאה is subordinated to it, as a more precise definition of the manner in which they marched out (cf. Ewald, §279, b ).
The short, cursory explanation of the reason for the lamentation opened here, is followed in Amos 5:4. by the more elaborate proof, that Israel has deserved to be destroyed, because it has done the very opposite of what God demands of His people. God requires that they should seek Him, and forsake idolatry, in order to live (Amos 5:4-6); but Israel on the contrary, turns right into unrighteousness, without fearing the almighty God and His judgment (Amos 5:7-9). This unrighteousness God must punish (Amos 5:10-12). Amos 5:4. “For thus saith Jehovah to the house of Israel, Seek ye me, and live. Amos 5:5. And seek not Bethel, and come not to Gilgal, and go not over to Beersheba: for Gilgal repays it with captivity, and Bethel comes to nought. Amos 5:6. Seek Jehovah, and live; that He fall not upon the house of Joseph like fire, and it devour, and there be none to quench it for Bethel.” The kı̄ in Amos 5:4 is co-ordinate to that in Amos 5:3, “Seek me, and live,” for “Seek me, so shall ye live.” For this meaning of two imperatives, following directly the one upon the other, see Gesenius, §130, 2, and Ewald, §347, b. חיה, not merely to remain alive, not to perish, but to obtain possession of true life. God can only be sought, however, in His revelation, or in the manner in which He wishes to be sought and worshipped. This explains the antithesis, “Seek not Bethel,” etc. In addition to Bethel and Gilgal (see at Amos 4:4), Beersheba, which was in the southern part of Judah, is also mentioned here, being the place where Abraham had called upon the Lord (Genesis 21:33), and where the Lord had appeared to Isaac and Jacob (Genesis 26:24 and Genesis 46:1; see also at Genesis 21:31). These sacred reminiscences from the olden time had caused Beersheba to be made into a place of idolatrous worship, to which the Israelites went on pilgrimage beyond the border of their own kingdom ( עבר ). But visiting these idolatrous places of worship did no good, for the places themselves would be given up to destruction. Gilgal would wander into captivity (an expression used here on account of the similarity in the ring of גּלגּל and גּלה יגלה ). Bethel would become 'âven , that is to say, not “an idol” here, but “nothingness,” though there is an allusion to the change of Beth - el (God's house) into Beth - 'âven (an idol-house; see at Hosea 4:15). The Judaean Beersheba is passed over in the threat, because the primary intention of Amos is simply to predict the destruction of the kingdom of the ten tribes. After this warning the prophet repeats the exhortation to seek Jehovah, and adds this threatening, “that Jehovah come not like fire upon the house of Joseph” ( tsâlach , generally construed with ‛al or 'el , cf. Judges 14:19; Judges 15:14; 1 Samuel 10:6; here with an accusative, to fall upon a person), “and it (the fire) devour, without there being any to extinguish it for Bethel.” Bethel, as the chief place of worship in Israel, is mentioned here for the kingdom itself, which is called the “house of Joseph,” from Joseph the father of Ephraim, the most powerful tribe in that kingdom.
To add force to this warning, Amos (Amos 5:7-9) exhibits the moral corruption of the Israelites, in contrast with the omnipotence of Jehovah as it manifests itself in terrible judgments. Amos 5:7. “They that change right into wormwood, and bring righteousness down to the earth. Amos 5:8. He that maketh the seven stars and Orion, and turneth the shadow of death into morning, and darkeneth day to night: that calleth to the waters of the sea, and poureth them over the surface of the earth; Jehovah is His name. Amos 5:9. Who causeth desolation to flash upon the strong, and desolation cometh upon the fortress.” The sentences in Amos 5:7 and Amos 5:8 are written without any connecting link. The participle in Amos 5:7 cannot be taken as an address, for it is carried on in the third person ( hinnı̄chū ), not in the second. And hahōph e khı̄m (who turn) cannot be in apposition to Beth - el , since the latter refers not to the inhabitants, but to the houses. As Amos is generally fond of a participial construction (cf. Amos 2:7; Amos 4:13), so in a spirited address he likes to utter the thoughts one after another without any logical link of connection. As a matter of fact, hahōph e khı̄m is connected with bēth - yōsēph (the house of Joseph), “Seek the Lord, ye of the house of Joseph, who turn right into wrong;” but instead of this connection, he proceeds with a simple description, They are turning,” etc. La‛ănâh , wormwood, a bitter plant, is a figurative term denoting bitter wrong (cf. Amos 6:12), the actions of men being regarded, according to Deuteronomy 29:17, as the fruits of their state of mind. Laying righteousness on the ground ( hinnı̄ăch from nūăch ) answers to our “trampling under feet.” Hitzig has correctly explained the train of thought in Amos 5:7 and Amos 5:8 : “They do this, whereas Jehovah is the Almighty, and can bring destruction suddenly upon them.” To show this antithesis, the article which takes the place of the relative is omitted from the participles ‛ōsēh and hōphēkh . The description of the divine omnipotence commences with the creation of the brightly shining stars; then follow manifestations of this omnipotence, which are repeated in the government of the world. Kı̄mâh , lit., the crowd, is the group of seven stars, the constellation of the Pleiades. K e sı̄l , the gate, according to the ancient versions the giant, is the constellation of Orion. The two are mentioned together in Job 9:9 and Job 38:31 (see Delitzsch on the latter). And He also turns the darkest night into morning, and darkens the day into night again. These words refer to the regular interchange of day and night; for tsalmâveth , the shadow of death, i.e., thick darkness, never denotes the regularly recurring gloominess of night, but the appalling gloom of night (Job 24:17), more especially of the night of death (Job 3:5; Job 10:21-22; Job 38:17; Psalms 44:20), the unlighted depth of the heart of the earth (Job 28:3), the darkness of the prison (Psalms 107:10, Psalms 107:14), also of wickedness (Job 12:22; Job 34:22), of sufferings (Job 16:16; Jeremiah 13:16; Psalms 23:4), and of spiritual misery (Isaiah 9:1). Consequently the words point to the judicial rule of the Almighty in the world. As the Almighty turns the darkness of death into light, and the deepest misery into prosperity and health,
(Note: Theodoret has given a correct explanation, though he does not quite exhaust the force of the words: “It is easy for Him to turn even the greatest dangers into happiness; for by the shadow of death he means great dangers. And it is also easy to bring calamity upon those who are in prosperity.”)
so He darkens the bright day of prosperity into the dark night of adversity, and calls to the waters of the sea to pour themselves over the earth like the flood, and to destroy the ungodly. The idea that by the waters of the sea, which pour themselves out at the call of God over the surface of the earth, we are to understand the moisture which rises from the sea and then falls upon the earth as rain, no more answers to the words themselves, than the idea expressed by Hitzig, that they refer to the water of the rivers and brooks, which flow out of the sea as well as into it (Ecclesiastes 1:7). The words suggest the thought of terrible inundations of the earth by the swelling of the sea, and the allusion to the judgment of the flood can hardly be overlooked. This judicial act of the Almighty, no strong man and no fortress can defy. With the swiftness of lightning He causes desolation to smite the strong man. Bâlag , lit., micare, used in the Arabic to denote the lighting up of the rays of the dawn, hiphil to cause to light up, is applied here to motion with the swiftness of lightning; it is also employed in a purely metaphorical sense for the lighting up of the countenance (Ps. 39:14; Job 9:27; Job 10:20). In Amos 5:9 the address is continued in a descriptive form; יבוא has not a causative meaning. The two clauses of this verse point to the fate which awaits the Israelites who trust in their strength and their fortifications (Amos 6:13). And yet they persist in unrighteousness.
“They hate the monitor in the gate, and abhor him that speaketh uprightly. Amos 5:11. Therefore, because ye tread upon the poor, and take the distribution of corn from him, ye have built houses of square stones, and will not dwell therein; planted pleasant vineyards, and will not drink their wine. Amos 5:12. For I know how many are your transgressions, and how great your sins; oppressing the righteous, taking atonement money; and ye bow down the poor in the gate.” However natural it may seem to take מוכיח and דּבר תּמים in Amos 5:10 as referring to prophets, who charge the ungodly with their acts of unrighteousness, as Jerome does, this explanation is precluded not only by bassha‛ar (in the gate), since the gate was not the meeting-place of the people where the prophets were accustomed to stand, but the place where courts of judgment were held, and all the public affairs of the community discussed (see at Deuteronomy 21:19); but also by the first half of Amos 5:11, which presupposes judicial proceedings. Mōkhı̄ăch is not merely the judge who puts down unjust accusers, but any one who lifts up his voice in a court of justice against acts of injustice (as in Isaiah 29:21). דּבר תּמים, he who says what is blameless, i.e., what is right and true: this is to be taken generally, and not to be restricted to the accused who seeks to defend his innocence. תּעב is a stronger expression than שׂנא . The punishment for this unjust oppression of the poor will be the withdrawal of their possessions. The ἁπ. λεγ. bōshēs is a dialectically different form for בוסס, from בוּס, to trample down (Rashi, Kimchi), analogous to the interchange of שׁריון and סריון, a coat of mail, although as a rule שׁ passes into ס, and not ס into שׁ . For the derivation from בושׁ, according to which בושׁס would stand for בושׁשׁ (Hitzig and Tuch on Genesis p. 85), is opposed both to the construction with על, and also to the circumstance that בּושׁשׁ means to delay (Exodus 32:1; Judges 5:28); and the derivation suggested by Hitzig from an Arabic verb, signifying to carry one's self haughtily towards others, is a mere loophole. Taking a gift of corn from the poor refers to unjust extortion on the part of the judge, who will only do justice to a poor man when he is paid for it. The main clause, which was introduced with lâkhēn , is continued with בּתּי גזית : “thus have ye built houses of square stones, and shall not dwell therein;” for “ye shall not dwell in the houses of square stones which ye have built.” The threat is taken from Deuteronomy 28:30, Deuteronomy 28:39, and sets before them the plundering of the land and the banishment of the people. Houses built of square stones are splendid buildings (see Isaiah 9:9). The reason for this threat is given in Amos 5:12, where reference is made to the multitude and magnitude of the sins, of which injustice in the administration of justice is again held up as the chief sin. The participles צררי and לקחי are attached to the suffixes of פּשׁעיכם and חטּאתיכם : your sins, who oppress the righteous, attack him, and take atonement money, contrary to the express command of the law in Numbers 35:31, to take no kōpher for the soul of a murderer. The judges allowed the rich murderer to purchase exemption from capital punishment by the payment of atonement money, whilst they bowed down the right of the poor. Observe the transition from the participle to the third person fem., by which the prophet turns away with disgust from these ungodly judges. Bowing down the poor is a concise expression for bowing down the right of the poor: compare Amos 2:7 and the warnings against this sin (Exodus 23:6; Deuteronomy 16:19).
With the new turn that all talking is useless, Amos repeats the admonition to seek good and hate evil, if they would live and obtain favour with God _(Amos 5:13-15); and then appends the threat that deep mourning will arise on every hand, since God is drawing near to judgment. Amos 5:13. “Therefore, whoever has prudence at this time is silent, for it is an evil time.” As lâkhēn (therefore) always introduces the threatening of divine punishment after the exposure of the sins (cf. Amos 5:11, Amos 5:16; Amos 6:7; Amos 4:12; Amos 3:11), we might be disposed to connect Amos 5:13 with the preceding verse; but the contents of the verse require that it should be taken in connection with what follows, so that lâkhēn simply denote the close connection of the two turns of speech, i.e., indicates that the new command in Amos 5:14, Amos 5:15 is a consequence of the previous warnings. Hammaskı̄l , the prudent man, he who acts wisely, is silent. בּעת ההיא, at a time such as this is, because it is an evil time, not however “a dangerous time to speak, on account of the malignity of those in power,” but a time of moral corruption, in which all speaking and warning are of no avail. It is opposed to the context to refer בעת ההיא to the future, i.e., to the time when God will come to punish, in which case the silence would be equivalent to not murmuring against God (Rashi and others). At the same time, love to his people, and zeal for their deliverance, impel the prophet to repeat his call to them to return.
“Seek good, and not evil, that ye may live; and so Jehovah the God of hosts may be with you, as ye say. Amos 5:15. Hate evil, and love good, and set up justice in the gate; perhaps Jehovah the God of hosts will show favour to the remnant of Joseph.” The command to seek and love good is practically the same as that to seek the Lord in Amos 5:4, Amos 5:6; and therefore the promise is the same, “that ye may live.” But it is only in fellowship with God that man has life. This truth the Israelites laid hold of in a perfectly outward sense, fancying that they stood in fellowship with God by virtue of their outward connection with the covenant nation as sons of Israel or Abraham (cf. John 8:39), and that the threatened judgment could not reach them, but that God would deliver them in every time of oppression by the heathen (cf. Micah 3:11; Jeremiah 7:10). Amos meets this delusion with the remark, “that Jehovah may be so with you as ye say.” כּן neither means “in case ye do so” (Rashi, Baur), nor “in like manner as, i.e., if ye strive after good” (Hitzig). Neither of these meanings can be established, and here they are untenable, for the simple reason that כּן unmistakeably corresponds with the following כּאשׁר . It means nothing more than “so as ye say.” The thought is the following: “Seek good, and not evil: then will Jehovah the God of the heavenly hosts be with you as a helper in distress, so as ye say.” This implied that in their present condition, so long as they sought good, they ought not to comfort themselves with the certainty of Jehovah's help. Seeking good is explained in v. 15 as loving good, and this is still further defined as setting up justice in the gate, i.e., maintaining a righteous administration of justice at the place of judgment; and to this the hope, so humiliating to carnal security, is attached: perhaps God will then show favour to the remnant of the people. The emphasis in these words is laid as much upon perhaps as upon the remnant of Joseph. The expression “ perhaps He will show favour” indicates that the measure of Israel's sins was full, and no deliverance could be hoped for if God were to proceed to act according to His righteousness. The “remnant of Joseph” does not refer to “the existing condition of the ten tribes” (Ros., Hitzig). For although Hazael and Benhadad had conquered the whole of the land of Gilead in the times of Jehu and Jehoahaz, and had annihilated the Israelitish army with the exception of a very small remnant (2 Kings 10:32-33; 2 Kings 13:3, 2 Kings 13:7), Joash and Jeroboam II had recovered from the Syrians all the conquered territory, and restored the kingdom to its original bounds (2 Kings 13:23., 2 Kings 14:26-28). Consequently Amos could not possibly describe the state of the kingdom of the ten tribes in the time of Jeroboam II as “the remnant of Joseph.” As the Syrians had not attempted any deportation, the nation of the ten tribes during the reign of Jeroboam was still, or was once more, all Israel. If, therefore, Amos merely holds out the possibility of the favouring of the remnant of Joseph, he thereby gives distinctly to understand, that in the approaching judgment Israel will perish with the exception of a remnant, which may possibly be preserved after the great chastisement (cf. Amos 5:3), just as Joel (Joel 3:5) and Isaiah (Isaiah 6:13; Isaiah 10:21-23) promise only the salvation of a remnant to the kingdom of Judah.
This judgment is announced in Amos 5:16, Amos 5:17. Amos 5:16. “Therefore thus saith Jehovah the God of hosts, the Lord: In all roads lamentation! and in all streets will men say, Alas! alas! and they call the husbandman to mourning, and lamentation to those skilled in lamenting. Amos 5:17. And in all vineyards lamentation, because I go through the midst of thee, saith Jehovah.” Lâkhēn (therefore) is not connected with the admonitions in Amos 5:14, Amos 5:15, nor can it point back to the reproaches in Amos 5:7, Amos 5:10-12, since they are too far off: it rather links on to the substance of Amos 5:13, which involves the thought that all admonition to return is fruitless, and the ungodly still persist in their unrighteousness, - a thought which also forms the background of Amos 5:14, Amos 5:15. The meaning of Amos 5:16, Amos 5:17 is, that mourning and lamentation for the dead will fill both city and land. On every hand will there be dead to weep for, because Jehovah will go judging through the land. The roads and streets are not merely those of the capital, although these are primarily to be thought of, but those of all the towns in the kingdom. Mispēd is the death-wail. This is evident from the parallel 'âmar hō hō , saying, Alas, alas! i.e., striking up the death-wail (cf. Jeremiah 22:18). And this death-wail will not be heard in all the streets of the towns only, but the husbandman will also be called from the field to mourn, i.e., to seep for one who has died in his house. The verb קראוּ, they call, belongs to מספּד אל י, they call lamentation to those skilled in mourning: for they call out the word mispēd to the professional mourners; in other words, they send for them to strike up their wailing for the dead. ידעי נהי (those skilled in mourning) are the public wailing women, who were hired when a death occurred to sing mourning songs (compare Jeremiah 9:16; Matthew 9:23, and my Bibl. Archäologie, ii. p. 105). Even in all the vineyards, the places where rejoicing is generally looked for (Amos 5:11; Isaiah 16:10), the death-wail will be heard. Amos 5:17 mentions the event which occasions the lamentation everywhere. כּי, for (not “if”) I go through the midst of thee. These words are easily explained from Exodus 12:12, from which Amos has taken them. Jehovah there says to Moses, “I pass through the land of Egypt, and smite all the first-born.” And just as the Lord once passed through Egypt, so will He now pass judicially through Israel, and slay the ungodly. For Israel is no longer the nation of the covenant, which He passes over and spares (Amos 7:8; Amos 8:2), but has become an Egypt, which He will pass through as a judge to punish it. This threat is carried out still further in the next two sections, commencing with hōi .
The first turn. - Amos 5:18. “Woe to those who desire the day of Jehovah! What good is the day of Jehovah to you? It is darkness, and not light. Amos 5:19. As if a man fleeth before the lion, and the bear meets him; and he comes into the house, and rests his hand upon the wall, and the snake bites him. Amos 5:20. Alas! is not the day of Jehovah darkness, and not light; and gloom, and no brightness in it?” As the Israelites rested their hope of deliverance from every kind of hostile oppression upon their outward connection with the covenant nation (Amos 5:14); many wished the day to come, on which Jehovah would judge all the heathen, and redeem Israel out of all distress, and exalt it to might and dominion above all nations, and bless it with honour and glory, applying the prophecy of Joel in ch. 3 without the least reserve to Israel as the nation of Jehovah, and without considering that, according to Joel 2:32, those only would be saved on the day of Jehovah who called upon the name of the Lord, and were called by the Lord, i.e., were acknowledged by the Lord as His own. These infatuated hopes, which confirmed the nation in the security of its life of sin, are met by Amos with an exclamation of woe upon those who long for the day of Jehovah to come, and with the declaration explanatory of the woe, that that day is darkness and not light, and will bring them nothing but harm and destruction, and not prosperity and salvation. He explains this in Amos 5:19 by a figure taken from life. To those who wish the day of Jehovah to come, the same thing will happen as to a man who, when fleeing from a lion, meets a bear, etc. The meaning is perfectly clear: whoever would escape one danger, falls into a second; and whoever escapes this, falls into a third, and perishes therein. The serpent's bite in the hand is fatal. “In that day every place is full of danger and death; neither in-doors nor out-of-doors is any one safe: for out-of-doors lions and bears prowl about, and in-doors snakes lie hidden, even in the holes of the walls” (C. a. Lap.). After this figurative indication of the sufferings and calamities which the day of the Lord will bring, Amos once more repeats in v. 20, in a still more emphatic manner ( הלא, nonne = assuredly), that it will be no day of salvation, sc. to those who seek evil and not good, and trample justice and righteousness under foot (Amos 5:14, Amos 5:15).
This threatening judgment will not be averted by the Israelites, even by their feasts and sacrifices (Amos 5:21, Amos 5:22). The Lord has no pleasure in the feasts which they celebrate. Their outward, heartless worship, does not make them into the people of God, who can count upon His grace. Amos 5:21. “I hate, I despise your feasts, and do not like to smell your holy days. Amos 5:22. For if ye offer me burnt-offerings, and your meat-offerings, I have no pleasure therein; and the thank-offering of your fatted calves I do not regard. Amos 5:23. Put away from me the noise of thy songs; and I do not like to hear the playing of thy harps. Amos 5:24. And let judgment roll like water, and righteousness like an inexhaustible stream.” By the rejection of the opus operatum of the feasts and sacrifices, the roots are cut away from the false reliance of the Israelites upon their connection with the people of God. The combination of the words שׂנאתי מאסתּי expresses in the strongest terms the dislike of God to the feasts of those who were at enmity with Him. Chaggı̄m are the great annual feasts; ‛ătsârōth , the meetings for worship at those feasts, inasmuch as a holy meeting took place at the ‛ătsereth of the feast of Passover and feast of Tabernacles (see at Leviticus 23:36). Rı̄ăch , to smell, is an expression of satisfaction, with an allusion to the ריח ניחוח, which ascended to God from the burning sacrifice (see Leviticus 26:31). Kı̄ , in Amos 5:22, is explanatory: “for,” not “yea.” The observance of the feast culminated in the sacrificers. God did not like the feasts, because He had no pleasure in the sacrifices. In Amos 5:23 the two kinds of sacrifice, ‛ōlâh and minchâh , are divided between the protasis and apodosis, which gives rise to a certain incongruity. The sentences, if written fully, would read thus: When ye offer me burnt-offerings and meat-offerings, I have no pleasure in your burnt-offerings and meat-offerings. To these two kinds the shelem, the health-offering or peace-offering, is added as a third class in Amos 5:22 . מריאים, fattened things, generally mentioned along with bâqâr as one particular species, for fattened calves (see Isaiah 1:11). In הסר (Amos 5:23) Israel is addressed as a whole. המון שׁריך, the noise of thy songs, answers to the strong expression הסר . The singing of their psalms is nothing more to God than a wearisome noise, which is to be brought to an end. Singing and playing upon harps formed part of the temple worship (vid., 1 Chronicles 16:40; 1 Chronicles 23:5, and 1 Chronicles 23:25). Isaiah (Isaiah 1:11.) also refuses the heartless sacrifice and worship of the people, who have fallen away from God in their hearts. It is very clear from the sentence which Amos pronounces here, that the worship at Bethel was an imitation of the temple service at Jerusalem. If, therefore, with Amos 6:1 in view, where the careless upon Mount Zion and in Samaria are addressed, we are warranted in assuming that here also the prophet has the worship in Judah in his mind as well; the words apply primarily and chiefly to the worship of the kingdom of the ten tribes, and therefore even in that case they prove that, with regard to ritual, it was based upon the model of the temple service at Jerusalem. Because the Lord has no pleasure in this hypocritical worship, the judgment shall pour like a flood over the land. The meaning of Amos 5:24 is not, “Let justice and righteousness take the place of your sacrifices.” Mishpât is not the justice to be practised by men; for “although Jehovah might promise that He would create righteousness in the nation, so that it would fill the land as it were like a flood (Isaiah 11:9), He only demands righteousness generally, and not actually in floods” (Hitzig). Still less can mishpât ūts e dâqâh be understood as relating to the righteousness of the gospel which Christ has revealed. This thought is a very far-fetched one here, and is only founded upon the rendering given to ויגּל, et revelabitur (Targ., Jerome, = ויגּל ), whereas יגּל comes from גּלל, to roll, to roll along. The verse is to be explained according to Isaiah 10:22, and threatens the flooding of the land with judgment and the punitive righteousness of God (Theod. Mops., Theodoret, Cyr., Kimchi, and others).
Their heartless worship would not arrest the flood of divine judgments, since Israel had from time immemorial been addicted to idolatry. Amos 5:25. “Have ye offered me sacrifices and gifts in the desert forty years, O house of Israel? Amos 5:26. But have ye borne the booth of your king and the pedestal of your images, the star of your gods, which ye made for yourselves? Amos 5:27. Then I will carry you beyond Damascus, saith Jehovah; God of hosts is His name.” The connection between these verses and what precedes is explained by Hengstenberg thus: “All this (the acts of worship enumerated in Amos 5:21-23) can no more be called a true worship, than the open idolatry in the wilderness. Therefore (Amos 5:17) as in that instance the outwardly idolatrous people did not tread the holy land, so now will the inwardly idolatrous people be driven out of the holy land” ( Dissertations on the Pentateuch, vol. i. p. 157 transl.). But if this were the train of thought, the prophet would not have omitted all reference to the punishment of the idolatrous people in the wilderness. And as there is no such allusion here, it is more natural to take Amos 5:25 and Amos 5:26, as Calvin does, and regard the reference to the idolatry of the people, which was practised even in the wilderness, as assigning a further reason for their exposure to punishment.
(Note: “In this place,” says Calvin, “the prophet proves more clearly, that he is not merely reproving hypocrisy among the Israelites, or the fact that they only obtruded their external pomps upon the notice of God, without any true piety of heart, but he also condemns their departure from the precepts of the law. And he shows that this was not a new disease among the Israelitish people, since their fathers had mixed up such leaven as this with the worship of God from the very beginning, and had thereby corrupted that worship. He therefore shows that the Israelites had always been addicted to superstitions, and could not be kept in any way whatever to the true and innate worship of God.”)
The question, “Have ye offered me sacrifices?” is equivalent to a denial, and the words apply to the nation as a whole, or the great mass of the people, individual exceptions being passed by. The forty years are used as a round number, to denote the time during which the people were sentenced to die in the wilderness after the rebellion at Kadesh, just as in Numbers 14:33-34, and Joshua 5:6, where this time, which actually amounted to only thirty-eight years, is given, as it is here, as forty years. And “the prophet could speak all the more naturally of forty years, since the germ of apostasy already existed in the great mass of the people, even when they still continued outwardly to maintain their fidelity to the God of Israel” (Hengstenberg). During that time even the circumcision of the children born in the thirty-eight years was suspended (see at Joshua 5:5-7), and the sacrificial worship prescribed by the law fell more and more into disuse, so that the generation that was sentenced to die out offered no more sacrifices. Z e bhâchı̄m (slain-offerings) and minchâh (meat-offerings), i.e., bleeding and bloodless sacrifices, are mentioned here as the two principal kinds, to denote sacrifices of all kinds. We cannot infer from this that the daily sacrificial worship was entirely suspended: in Numbers 17:11, indeed, the altar-fire is actually mentioned, and the daily sacrifice assumed to be still in existence; at the same time, the event there referred to belonged to the time immediately succeeding the passing of the sentence upon the people. Amos mentions the omission of the sacrifices, however, not as an evidence that the blessings which the Lord had conferred upon the people were not to be attributed to the sacrifices they had offered to Him, As Ephraem Syrus supposes, nor to support the assertion that God does not need or wish for their worship, for which Hitzig appeals to Jeremiah 7:22; but as a proof that from time immemorial Israel has acted faithlessly towards its God, in adducing which he comprehends all the different generations of the people in the unity of the house of Israel, because the existing generation resembled the contemporaries of Moses in character and conduct.
Amos 5:26 is attached in an adversative sense: “To me (Jehovah) ye have offered no sacrifices, but ye have borne,” etc. The opposition between the Jehovah-worship which they suspended, and the idol-worship which they carried on, is so clearly expressed in the verbs הגּשׁתּם and נשׂאתם, which correspond to one another, that the idea is precluded at once as altogether untenable, that “Amos 5:26 refers to either the present or future in the form of an inference drawn from the preceding verse: therefore do ye (or shall ye) carry the hut of your king,” etc. Moreover, the idea of the idols being carried into captivity, which would be the meaning of נשׂא in that case, is utterly foreign to the prophetical range of thought. It is not those who go into captivity who carry their gods away with them; but the gods of a vanquished nation are carried away by the conquerors (Isaiah 46:1). To give a correct interpretation to this difficult verse, which has been explained in various ways from the very earliest times, it is necessary, above all things, to bear in mind the parallelism of the clauses. Whereas in the first half of the verse the two objects are connected together by the copula ו ( ואת ), the omission of both את and the copula ו before כּוכב indicates most obviously that כּוכב אלהיכם does not introduce a third object in addition to the two preceding ones, but rather that the intention is to define those objects more precisely; from which it follows still further, that סכּוּת מלכּכם and כּיּוּן צלמיכם do not denote two different kinds of idolatry, but simply two different forms of the very same idolatry. The two ἁπ. λεγ. sikkūth and kiyyūn are undoubtedly appellatives, notwithstanding the fact that the ancient versions have taken kiyyūn as the proper name of a deity. This is required by the parallelism of the members; for צלמיכם stands in the same relation to כיון as מלככם to סכות . The plural צלמיכם, however, cannot be in apposition to the singular כיון ( kiyyūn , your images), but must be a genitive governed by it: “the kiyyūn of your images.” And in the same way מלככם is the genitive after סכות : “the sikkūth of your king.” Sikkūth has been taken in an appellative sense by all the ancient translators. The lxx and Symm. render it τὴν σκηνήν ; the Peshito, Jerome, and the Ar. tentorium . The Chaldee has retained sikkūth . The rendering adopted by Aquila, συσκιασμός, is etymologically the more exact; for sikkūth , from סכך, to shade, signifies a shade or shelter, hence a covering, a booth, and is not to be explained either from sâkhath , to be silent, from which Hitzig deduces the meaning “block,” or from the Syriac and Chaldee word סכתא, a nail or stake, as Rosenmüller and Ewald suppose. כּיּוּן, from כּוּן, is related to כּן, basis (Exodus 30:18), and מכונה, and signifies a pedestal or framework. The correctness of the Masoretic pointing of the word is attested by the kiyyūn of the Chaldee, and also by צלמיכם, inasmuch as the reading כּיון, which is given in the lxx and Syr., requires the singular צלמכם, which is also given in the Syriac. צלמים are images of gods, as in Numbers 33:52; 2 Kings 11:18. The words כּוכב אל which follow are indeed also governed by נשׂאתם ; but, as the omission of ואת clearly shows, the connection is only a loose one, so that it is rather to be regarded as in apposition to the preceding objects in the sense of “namely, the star of your god;” and there is no necessity to alter the pointing, as Hitzig proposes, and read כּוכב, “a star was your god,” although this rendering expresses the sense quite correctly. כּוכב אלהיכם is equivalent to the star, which is your god, which ye worship as your god (for this use of the construct state, see Ges. §116, 5). By the star we have to picture to ourselves not a star formed by human hand as a representation of the god, nor an image of a god with the figure of a star upon its head, like those found upon the Ninevite sculptures (see Layard). For if this had been what Amos meant, he would have repeated the particle ואת before כּוכב . The thought is therefore the following: the king whose booth, and the images whose stand they carried, were a star which they had made their god, i.e., a star-deity ( אשׁר refers to אלהיכם, not to כּוכב ). This star-god, which they worshipped as their king, they had embodied in ts e lâmı̄m . The booth and the stand were the things used for protecting and carrying the images of the star-god.
Sikkūth was no doubt a portable shrine, in which the image of the deity was kept. Such shrines ( ναΐ́σκοι ) were used by the Egyptians, according to Herodotus (ii. 63) and Diodorus Sic. (i. 97): they were “small chapels, generally gilded and ornamented with flowers and in other ways, intended to hold a small idol when processions were made, and to be carried or driven about with it” (Drumann, On the Rosetta Inscription, p. 211). The stand on which the chapel was placed during these processions was called παστοφόριον (Drumann, p. 212); the bearers were called ἱεραφόροι or παστοφόροι (D. p. 226). This Egyptian custom explains the prophet's words: “the hut of your king, and the stand of your images,” as Hengstenberg has shown in his Dissertations on the Pentateuch, vol. i. p. 161), and points to Egypt as the source of the idolatry condemned by Amos. This is also favoured by the fact, that the golden calf which the Israelites worshipped at Sinai was an imitation of the idolatry of Egypt; also by the testimony of the prophet Ezekiel (Ezekiel 20:7.), to the effect that the Israelites did not desist even in the wilderness from the abominations of their eyes, namely the idols of Egypt; and lastly, by the circumstance that the idea of there being any allusion in the words to the worship of Moloch or Saturn is altogether irreconcilable with the Hebrew text, and cannot be historically sustained,
(Note: This explanation of the words is simply founded upon the rendering of the lxx: καὶ ἀνελάβετε τὴν σκηνὴν τοῦ Μολόχ καὶ τὸ ἄστρον τοῦ Θεοῦ ὑμῶν Ῥαιφάν, τοὺς τύπους οὓς ἐποιήσατε ἑαυτοῖς . These translators, therefore, have not only rendered מלכּכם erroneously as Μολόχ, but have arbitrarily twisted the other words of the Hebrew text. For the Hebrew reading מלככם is proved to be the original one, not only by the τοῦ βασιλέως ὑμῶν of Symm. and Theod., but also by the Μαλχόμ of Aquila and the malkūm of the Peshito; and all the other ancient translators enter a protest against the displacing of the other words. The name Ῥαιφάν ( Ῥηφαν ), or Ῥεμφάν (Acts 7:43), however, owes its origin simply to the false reading of the unpointed כיון as ריפן, inasmuch as in the old Hebrew writings not only is כ similar to ר, but ו is also similar to פ ; and in 2 Samuel 22:12, where חשׁרת־מים is rendered σκοτός (i.e., חשׁכת ) ὑδάτων, we have an example of the interchange of כ and ר . There was no god Rephan or Rempha ; for the name never occurs apart from the lxx. The statement made in the Arabico-Coptic list of planets, edited by Ath. Kircher, that Suhhel (the Arabic name of Saturn) is the same as Ῥηφάν, and the remark found in a Coptic MS on the Acts of the Apostles, “ Rephan deus temporis ,” prove nothing more than that Coptic Christians supposed the Rephan or Remphan, whose name occurred in their version of the Bible which was founded upon the lxx, to be the star Saturn as the god of time; but they by no means prove that the ancient Egyptians called Saturn Rephan, or were acquainted with any deity of that name, since the occurrence of the Greek names Υλια and Σελινη for sun and moon are a sufficient proof of the very recent origin of the list referred to. It is true that the Peshito has also rendered כּיּוּן by k e 'wām ( כּיון ), by which the Syrians understood Saturn, as we may see from a passage of Ephraem Syrus, quoted by Gesenius in his Comm. on Isaiah (ii. p. 344), where this father, in his Sermones adv. haer. s. 8, when ridiculing the star-worshippers, refers to the Kevan , who devoured his own children. But no further evidence can be adduced in support of the correctness of this explanation of כּיון . The corresponding use of the Arabic Kaivan for Saturn, to which appeal has also been made, does not occur in any of the earlier Arabic writings, but has simply passed into the Arabic from the Persian; so that the name and its interpretation originated with the Syrian church, passing thence to the Persians, and eventually reaching the Arabs through them. Consequently the interpretation of Kevan by Saturn has no higher worth than that of an exegetical conjecture, which is not elevated into a truth by the fact that כיון is mentioned in the Cod. Nazar. i. p. 54, ed. Norb., in connection with Nebo, Bel, and Nerig (= Nergal). With the exception of these passages, and the gloss of a recent Arabian grammarian cited by Bochart, viz., “Keivan signifies Suhhel,” not a single historical trace can be found of Kevan having been an ancient oriental name of Saturn; so that the latest supporter of this hypothesis, namely Movers ( Phönizier, i. p. 290), has endeavoured to prop up the arguments already mentioned in his own peculiar and uncritical manner, by recalling the Phoenician and Babylonian names, San - Choniâth , Kyn - el - Adan , and others. Not even the Graeco-Syrian fathers make any reference to this interpretation. Theodoret cannot say anything more about Μολόχ καὶ Ῥεφάν, than that they were εἰδώλων ὀνόματα ; and Theod. Mops. has this observation on Ῥεμφάν : φασὶ δὲ τὸν ἑωσφόρον οὕτω κατὰ τὴν Ἑβραίων γλῶτταν . It is still very doubtful, therefore, whether the Alexandrian and Syrian translators of Amos really supposed Ῥαιφάν and כּיון to signify Saturn; and this interpretation, whether it originated with the translators named, or was first started by later commentators upon these versions, arose in all probability simply from a combination of the Greek legend concerning Saturn, who swallowed his own children, and the Moloch who was worshipped with the sacrifice of children, and therefore might also be said to devour children; that is to say, it was merely an inference drawn from the rendering of מלככם as Μολόχ . But we are precluded from thinking of Moloch-worship, or regarding מלככם, “your king,” as referring to Moloch, by the simple circumstance that כּוכב אלהיכם unquestionably points to the Sabaean (sidereal) character of the worship condemned by Amos, whereas nothing is known of the sidereal nature of Moloch; and even if the sun is to be regarded as the physical basis of their deity, as Münter, Creuzer, and others conjecture, it is impossible to discover the slightest trace in the Old Testament of any such basis as this.
The Alexandrian translation of this passage, which we have thus shown to rest upon a misinterpretation of the Hebrew text, has acquired a greater importance than it would otherwise possess, from the fact that the proto-martyr Stephen, in his address (Acts 7:42-43), has quoted the words of the prophet according to that version, simply because the departure of the Greek translation from the original text was of no consequence, so far as his object was concerned, viz., to prove to the Jews that they had always resisted the Holy Ghost, inasmuch as the Alex. rendering also contains the thought, that their fathers worshipped the στρατιᾶ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ .)
whereas star-worship, or at any rate the worship of the sun, was widely spread in Egypt from the very earliest times. According to the more recent investigations into the mythology of the ancient Egyptians which have been made by Lepsius ( Transactions of the Academy of Science at Berlin, 1851, p. 157ff.), “the worship of the sun was the oldest kernel and most general principle of the religious belief of Egypt;” and this “was regarded even down to the very latest times as the outward culminating point of the whole system of religion” (Lepsius, p. 193). The first group of deities of Upper and Lower Egypt consists of none but sun-gods (p. 188).
(Note: It is true, that in the first divine sphere Ra occupies the second place according to the Memphitic doctrine, namely, after Phtha ( Hephaestos ), and according to the Theban doctrine, Amen ( Ἄμων ). Mentu and Atmu stand at the head (Leps. p. 186); but the two deities, Mentu, i.e., the rising sun, and Atmu, i.e., the setting sun, are simply a splitting up of Ra ; and both Hephaestos and Amon ( Amon-Ra ) were placed at the head of the gods at a later period (Leps. pp. 187, 189).)
Ra, i.e., Helios, is the prototype of the kings, the highest potency and prototype of nearly all the gods, the king of the gods, and he is identified with Osiris (p. 194). But from the time of Menes, Osiris has been worshipped in This and Abydos; whilst in Memphis the bull Apis was regarded as the living copy of Osiris (p. 191). According to Herodotus (ii. 42), Osiris and Isis were the only gods worshipped by the ancient Egyptians; and, according to Diodorus Sic. (i. 11), the Egyptians were said to have had originally only two gods, Helios and Selene, and to have worshipped the former in Osiris, the latter in Isis. The Pan of Mendes appears to have also been a peculiar form of Osiris (cf. Diod. Sic. i. 25, and Leps. p. 175). Herodotus (ii. 145) speaks of this as of primeval antiquity, and reckons it among the eight so-called first gods; and Diodorus Sic. (i. 18) describes it as διαφερόντως ὑπὸ τῶν Αἰγυπτίων τιμώμενον . It was no doubt to these Egyptian sun-gods that the star-god which the Israelites carried about with them in the wilderness belonged. This is all that can at present be determined concerning it. There is not sufficient evidence to support Hengstenberg's opinion, that the Egyptian Pan as the sun-god was the king worshipped by them. It is also impossible to establish the identity of the king mentioned by Amos with the שׂעירים in Leviticus 17:7, since these שׂעירים, even if they are connected with the goat-worship of Mendes, are not exhausted by this goat-deity.
The prophet therefore affirms that, during the forty years' journey through the wilderness, Israel did not offer sacrifices to its true King Jehovah, but carried about with it a star made into a god as the king of heaven. If, then, as has already been observed, we understand this assertion as referring to the great mass of the people, like the similar passage in Isaiah 43:23, it agrees with the intimations in the Pentateuch as to the attitude of Israel. For, beside the several grosser outbreaks of rebellion against the Lord, which are the only ones recorded at all circumstantially there, and which show clearly enough that it was not devoted to its God with all its heart, we also find traces of open idolatry. Among these are the command in Leviticus 17, that every one who slaughtered a sacrificial animal was to bring it to the tabernacle, when taken in connection with the reason assigned, namely, that they were not to offer their sacrifices any more to the S e ‛ı̄rı̄m , after which they went a whoring (Amos 5:7), and the warning in Deuteronomy 4:19, against worshipping the sun, moon, and stars, even all the host of heaven, from which we may infer that Moses had a reason for this, founded upon existing circumstances. After this further proof of the apostasy of Israel from its God, the judgment already indicated in Amos 5:24 is still further defined in Amos 5:27 as the banishment of the people far beyond the borders of the land given to it by the Lord, where higlâh evidently points back to yiggal in Amos 5:24. מהלאה ל, lit., “from afar with regard to,” i.e., so that when looked at from Damascus, the place showed itself afar off, i.e., according to one mode of viewing it, “far beyond Damascus.”
The Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Amos 5". https://www.studylight.org/
Second Sunday after Epiphany