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A lamentation for Israel. An exhortation to repentance. God rejecteth their hypocritical service.
Before Christ 787.
Amos 5:1. Even a lamentation— This and the following chapter contain a kind of mournful song upon the misfortunes of Israel. See Jer 9:17 and the introduction to the book of Lamentations.
Amos 5:2. Forsaken, &c.— Cast down, or laid prostrate, &c. The kingdom of Israel, or of the ten tribes, after being carried into captivity, was never more re-established: it never formed a distinct kingdom from that of Judah.
Amos 5:3. The city that went out by a thousand— "The city which was able to furnish out a thousand men for war, shall have only a hundred of them left. Only one in ten of them shall escape the sword, and other chances of war." This was the exhausted state of Israel, when Salmaneser attacked and took Samaria, and carried them into captivity.
Amos 5:5. And pass not to Beer-sheba— Beer-sheba was not in the kingdom of Israel; and therefore we may hence collect that it was usual for the Israelites to pass into the kingdom of Judah, to Beer-sheba, and there to use some vain and idolatrous services. This place was remarkable for being the dwelling of Abraham, who planted a grove there for the worship of God; which probably continued, and was abused to the purposes of idolatry. It is immediately after said, that Gilgal and Beth-el shall perish; but not Beer-sheba; because Amos prophesies against the kingdom of Israel, not of Judah, as is plain from the following verse, where he calls them the house of Joseph, or the kingdom of the ten tribes, whereof Ephraim and Manasseh, the sons of Joseph, were the principal.
Amos 5:7. To wormwood, &c.— Into wormwood, and cast down righteousness to the earth.
Amos 5:9. That strengtheneth the spoiled— Who darteth out destruction upon the mighty, and bringeth devastation upon the fortress. Schultens. We need not be surprised to find Amos, who was only a herdsman, speak here of the stars as an astronomer, Amos 5:8. In Arabia, and in the neighbouring countries, to this present day, not only the shepherds, but the men in general, the women and children, know the names of the stars. Sanctius assures us, that the shepherds in Spain know perfectly well the stars of Ursa Major, Orion, the Pleiades, &c. and that they generally measure the time of night by the courses of these stars.
Amos 5:11. Burdens of wheat— Houbigant's reading is, A pledge, or interest for wheat: "You exact a large and exorbitant interest or price for the necessaries of life."
Amos 5:12. They afflict the just, &c.— Who afflict the just, who take a bribe, and who turn aside, &c. Houbigant.
Amos 5:13. Therefore the prudent shall keep silence, &c.— "The prophet who finds that he shall not be heard, and that his remonstrances will not be regarded, shall retire, and keep silence till the Lord commands him to speak." This was the conduct of Amos himself. See chap. Amos 7:12; Amos 7:16. The wise man advises us not to speak before those who will not hear and regard, Sir 32:9 and our Saviour in the Gospel exhorts, not to cast pearl before swine. See Calmet.
Amos 5:14. As ye have spoken— As ye have desired, Houbigant.
Amos 5:16. Therefore the Lord, &c.— Certainly the Lord of Hosts hath said, &c. Houbigant. The latter part of the verse may be read, And the husbandman shall call the professed mourners to lamentation and wailing.
Amos 5:17. For I will pass through thee— "About to avenge mine own injuries; not, as before, sending the pestilence and famine." To the same purpose it is said in the 12th verse of the former chapter, Prepare to meet thy God.
Amos 5:18. Woe unto you, &c.— Woe unto them that wish for the day of the Lord. And why? To you the day of the Lord will be, &c. Infidels made a mock at the words of the prophets, when they told them the day of the Lord was at hand; and from a principle of unbelief expressed a desire of seeing this day, that they might be convinced of the truth of such predictions by ocular demonstrations. Amos goes on in very strong terms to inform them that this day would be in no respect desirable to them, as it would be attended with extreme terrors and evils.
Amos 5:21. Feast-days— Sacrifices.
Amos 5:25-30.5.27. Have ye offered unto me, &c.— See the note on Deuteronomy 12:8. Jeremiah 7:22. These verses have made some people think that the Israelites, in their forty years' wanderings through the wilderness, continued in a course of rebellion against God, nay, and in the practice of idolatry: but this is a thing highly improbable in itself, whether we respect Moses their leader, or God their supreme Governor, and the miraculous providences whereby they were all along fed and sustained in that wilderness; so neither do the words of the prophet carry with them any such import. The idolatry here mentioned is much more likely to have been the sin of the Israelites, who lived in Amos's days, than of their forefathers, who perished in the wilderness. For why should the prophet denounce this punishment of captivity upon them for the sins of their ancestors, at such a distance? and for a species of idolatry, too, of which there is not the least mention in the history?—Why not rather for their own sins? All that is here mentioned, relating to the Israelites in the wilderness, is the omission of sacrifices. Nor is this mentioned by way of reproach; for how should he reproach them for the omission of a thing, which, perhaps, was not in their power constantly to perform? Had the Israelites in the wilderness had plenty of sheep, and bullocks, and corn, so as to offer the accustomed sacrifices, there had been no need to feed them all that time by miracle. But if they had none, or not sufficient, they could not offer them; nor did God require it of them. And the design for which the prophet mentions this particular here, was evidently (as appears from the context) to let the people of his own time see how little God valued their sacrifices in reality, as to the mere worth of the thing; and how much he despised them, when offered to him by wicked hands, and with a vain persuasion that they would be accepted, instead of those other more substantial duties which they were bound to practise. Amos 5:21-30.5.25. I hate, &c. that is to say, "These things are much more acceptable to me, than the richest sacrifices that you can bring: for you know that I was not strict in exacting such things from your forefathers when they were in the wilderness, which was for the space of forty years. Why then should you think that I would accept them now, instead of that justice and judgment which you ought rather to have practised."—"But, to make your sacrifices still more unacceptable to me, (as it goes on, Amos 5:26-30.5.27.) you have added your idolatrous practices to my worship. You have carried about in procession the tabernacles of Moloch, &c." That is, "As you have carried about your idols in great pomp, so shall you yourselves be carried in triumph to a distant country, saith the Lord, the God of Hosts, the Creator and absolute Disposer of all the hosts of heaven, both visible and invisible; which you, in opposition to his declared will, so foolishly and presumptuously worship." See Peters on Job, p. 312.
Amos 5:26. And Chiun your images— And the image of our idols. Houbigant; who understands the word כיון chiun to be an appellative, and not a proper name in this place. The LXX for Chiun read Ραιφαν, Raiphan, and St. Stephen, Acts 7:43. Ρεμφαν, Remphan, or, as some copies read, Ραφαν, or Ρεφαν. Parkhurst is of opinion, that Chiun and Remphan are two words very properly expressive of one and the same god. Learned men have generally supposed that the Arabian or Canaanitish כיון chiun, answers to the Greek Chronos, and the Roman Saturn: an opinion not a little confirmed by the attributes given to Chronos, in the Orphic hymn addressed to that idol. He is there called the ever-blooming father of gods and men. He is said to subdue or consume all things, and again to renew them. The attributes of universal parent of the world,—fructifier [Βλαστημα ] of earth and heaven, and several other remarkable epithets are assigned to him. We meet with an idol of the same kind, and almost of the same nature as Chiun, among the West-Indian philosophers: the Peruvians relate, "That a man of extraordinary shape, whose name was Choun, and whose body had neither bones nor muscles, came from the north into their country: that he levelled mountains, filled up valleys, and opened himself a passage through the most inaccessible places: and that this Choun created the first inhabitants of Peru, giving them herbs and wild fruits of the field for their sustenance." They also relate, that "this first founder of Peru, having been injured by some savages who inhabited the plains, changed part of the ground which before had been very fruitful, into sand; forbad the rain to fall, and dried up the plants: but, being afterwards moved with compassion, he opened the springs, and suffered the rivers to flow. This Choun was worshipped as a god, till such time as Pachacamac came from the South." See Religious Ceremonies, &c. vol. 3: p. 199 and Parkhurst's Lexicon on the word כיון.
See commentary on Amo 5:25
Amos 5:27. Beyond Damascus— The way into Assyria, whither the ten tribes were conveyed, was by Damascus. Amos does not expressly declare into what place the Israelites were to be removed; he only foretels that their banishment should be far remote; not at Damascus; whither they were carried by the kings of Syria, by whom they had before often been conquered and led captive. See Houbigant.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, The prophet cannot but be himself affected with the miseries that he foresees coming upon the people: while, therefore, he demands of them attention to the doleful tidings, he laments in elegiac strains of woe the virgin of Israel fallen, as if she was already a dead corpse, since God had pronounced her doom.
1. Her ruin is irrecoverable. She is not only fallen, but fallen to rise no more, having never been a kingdom since the ten tribes were carried captive by Salmaneser. She is forsaken upon her land, both of God, her allies, and her own people; there is none to raise her up, either able or willing to help her; for those impenitent sinners whom God is determined to destroy, none can save.
2. The inhabitants shall be diminished, and brought very low. Before the final vengeance overtook them, a variety of calamities had reduced their numbers; so that the city which could formerly muster a thousand men, could on that invasion raise but a hundred; and the village which had a hundred inhabitants was reduced to ten: or these numbers only remained after the campaign, but one in ten escaping the ravages of war.
2nd, The blessings of obedience, and the miseries of sin, are topics upon which we should often dwell, that we may choose the one and avoid the other.
1. The sins of Israel are brought to their remembrance, that they might repent, and amend the evil of their ways. In general, God charges them with manifold transgressions and mighty sins; he knew them, however secretly committed, and now produces them for their conviction. Note; The sinner who is brought to a true knowledge of his state, stands amazed at the multitude of his transgressions, by thought, word, and deed committed against the divine Majesty; and is shocked at the flagrant enormities which cry for vengeance against him.
[1.] They were idolaters flying to Beth-el and Gilgal, where their idols were, instead of having recourse to God at his temple.
[2.] They practised the most flagrant injustice; ye turn judgment to wormwood, acting in direct opposition thereto, and leave off righteousness in the earth, having not the least regard for it, but trampling it under foot.
[3.] They were oppressors of the poor, not only plundering them of burdens of wheat, their very gleaning, or the fruit gotten by hard labour; but also trod them under foot. Imperious, insolent, and cruel to them, they afflicted the just, perhaps hated them because they were so, and took every opportunity to harass and torment them. They take a bribe, and they turn aside the poor in the gate from their right; be the right of the cause never so clear, the bribe carries it against law and equity; and they who cannot bribe them, need not expect redress of the most flagrant injuries.
(4.) They were malicious persecutors of God's faithful ministers and people. They hate him that rebuketh in the gate, the ministers and prophets, who openly preached against their iniquities; and they abhor him that speaketh uprightly; the conversation, yea, the very person of such is their abhorrence, as they are a constant and living reproof to their iniquities. And in those evil days, when the enmity of the wicked is so avowed, the prudent shall keep silence in that time. When a man will be made an offender for a word, it is as dangerous to complain, as fruitless to reprove. Note; Good men are often driven to unwilling silence, though it is a pain and grief to them.
2. Their punishment is foretold, except they repent. The head-quarters of their idolatry, Beth-el and Gilgal, shall come to nought, and the inhabitants go into captivity. A fire shall devour the house of Joseph; it shall consume the whole nation, and none of their idols at Beth-el shall be able to quench it; so little protection can any creature afford us in the day of wrath. Though by the fruits of oppression they reared magnificent abodes for themselves, they shall not be suffered to dwell in them, nor eat the fruits of the pleasant vineyards which they had planted, by death cut off, or by captivity removed far away. Note; What is not honestly got, is not likely to be long enjoyed.
3. To prevent this threatened vengeance, they are exhorted speedily to seek the Lord for pardon and grace, in order that their hearts and lives may be reformed and changed. Seek ye me, saith the Lord, my mercy and favour, and return to my worship and service, and yea shall live; notwithstanding all that is past, their guilt shall be forgiven, and their forfeited lives restored; they shall be suffered still to dwell in their own land; and, what is far better, as partakers of God's grace, and, perseveringly cleaving to him through faith, shall live spiritually his people on earth, and eternally with him in heaven. But they must renounce their idolatries at Beth-el and Gilgal, for while these remained, no mercy could be hoped for: and what wretched vanities were these, compared with him whom they were exhorted to seek, and to whose favour they were invited; he maketh the seven stars, called the Pleiades, and Orion, another constellation, with all the heavenly hosts, and turneth the shadow of death into the morning, and maketh the day dark with night, directing the constant revolutions of day and night; or able to turn the deepest night of distress into the day of exultation and joy; or the meridian brightness of prosperity into the darkness of most abject wretchedness; that calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth, as in the deluge, to punish an ungodly world; or, by exhalations from the great abyss of waters, replenishes the clouds, which drop down the rain to water the earth; the Lord is his name, Jehovah, the self-sufficient, all-sufficient God: that strengtheneth the spoiled against the strong, enabling them to stand against their oppressors; yea, though vanquished before, raising them above their conquerors, so that the spoiled shall come against the fortress, besiege and take it. However desperate, therefore, their national affairs might appear, if God became their friend, they might be easily retrieved: if then they would be delivered from danger, they must return to God, and the paths of duty. Seek good and not evil, putting away all your abominations, and desiring henceforward to know God's holy will, and walk in all his holy ways; that ye may live, as God hath promised; and so the Lord God of Hosts shall be with you, as ye have spoken, as once they boasted he was, or as now they prayed he might be; and his gracious presence is better than life itself. Hate the evil, not only because it is so fatal to your souls, but because it is so offensive and odious to the holy God; and love the good, God himself, his people, his ways, his worship, delighting in the Lord, and in every good word and work which may advance his glory: and, particularly, what they had hitherto so neglected, establish judgment in the gate, that justice may be administered to all impartially, freely, speedily; it may be that the Lord God of Hosts will be gracious unto the remnant of Joseph; though reduced to a few, this conduct would be the means of restoring their prosperity; at least the remnant of the truly faithful souls should find favour and grace in the eyes of the Lord. Note; The way of duty is the path of safety, and God hath never yet failed those who seek him.
3rdly, The clause from Amo 5:16 to the conclusion of the chapter, declares what would be the case, if neither judgments, mercies, nor exhortations wrought upon them.
1. Such calamities were coming upon them, as would raise a bitter and universal mourning. Their streets should echo with wailing, and their highways resound with lamentations; even the husbandman and the vine-dresser shall leave their employments, to join the general cry, Alas! alas! while those, whose profession it had been to awaken the sorrows of others, shall now with no fictitious notes of woe pour forth their anguish, and raise the melancholy sound; for I will pass through thee, saith the Lord, with such fearful vengeance and desolations, as when of old the destroying angel passed through the land of Egypt.
2. The scoffers are particularly and severely rebuked. Many of the profane and ungodly mocked at the warnings given, and with daring insolence and hardened infidelity bid the day come, as if they neither believed nor feared it. Therefore woe unto you that desire the day of the Lord; it would come faster than they were aware; to what end is it for you? it would make them wish a thousand times that their impious speeches were unsaid; for the day of the Lord is darkness, and not light: a terrible day for them. And it is repeated, to affect them with a sense of their danger, even very dark, and no brightness in it, when the hopes with which these sinners, and all who are like them, flattered themselves, shall be lost in black unfathomable despair. No door of escape shall then be open; it shall be as if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him, such a multitude of dire calamities should surround them; or went into a house and leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him; for no place in a day of wrath can afford the impenitent sinner shelter or support. Perhaps some wished for these troublesome times which were threatened, hoping to make their own advantage of them; but, to their cost, they would find themselves dreadfully involved in the common calamity.
4thly, Amidst abounding ungodliness, they flattered themselves that the form of godliness which they observed would preserve them from ruin; but they are woefully mistaken.
1. Their sacrifices and services, so far from being pleasing to God, were his abomination; and their sacred songs grated harsh discord in his ears. Not only they were performed contrary to his institution, at Beth-el instead of Jerusalem; but also their allowed iniquity and barefaced hypocrisy made them doubly displeasing and loathsome in his sight. Note; (1.) Formality and hypocrisy are more odious to God than open profaneness; these shall receive greater damnation. (2.) Many flatter themselves that their duties and devotions will carry them to heaven, when their pride, and vain confidence in these things, only the more certainly lead them down to hell.
2. What God required of them was righteousness and judgment, without which no sacrifice could avail. Let judgment run down as waters, freely, copiously, without interruption; and righteousness as a mighty stream, bearing down before it ungodliness and wrong.
3. To idols, not to God, had their sacrifices been offered. Have ye offered unto me sacrifices and offerings in the wilderness forty years? No. The greatest part of the time none were offered; and, of the few sacrifices which they did bring, the golden calf had a chief share: so soon idolatry began, and had continued ever since among them. Ye have borne the tabernacle of your Moloch, little shrines or small images of this hated idol, probably the sun, in honour of whom they burnt their children in the fire; and Chiun, the same as Remphan, Act 7:43 representing also Moloch, or perhaps the planet Saturn; your images; the star of your god, which ye made to yourselves; the worship of the heavenly hope being the most ancient idolatry, which they had adopted, worshipping and serving the creature instead of the Creator.
4. For these things they are doomed to an ignominious captivity. Therefore will I cause you to go into captivity beyond Damascus, into a more distant and strange land, even beyond Babylon, as Stephen quotes it, Act 7:43 and the infallible certainty of the prediction is confirmed by thus saith the Lord, whose name is the God of Hosts, almighty to execute, and true to accomplish, the threatenings of his word.
See commentary on Amo 5:25
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Amos 5". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
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