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The judgments of the grasshoppers, and of the fire, are diverted by the prayer of Amos. By the wall made by a plumb-line is signified the rejection of Israel. Amaziah complaineth of Amos. Amos sheweth his calling, and Amaziah's judgment.
Before Christ 787.
Amos 7:1. He formed grasshoppers— Locusts. Houbigant. See the notes on Joel 1:2 and the introductory note to this prophet.
Amos 7:2. By whom shall Jacob arise?— After the death of Jeroboam the second, the kingdom of Israel, formerly so flourishing and powerful, fell into a state of weakness, which induced it to have recourse to strangers to support it, being unable of itself. Menahem had recourse to Pul king of Assyria, whence arose the last misery of the state.
Amos 7:3. The Lord repented for this— The Lord changed his purpose concerning this matter. Houbigant. See Amos 7:6.
Amos 7:4. The Lord God called to contend by fire— In many places of Scripture war is denoted by fire. We observed, that after the death of Jeroboam the kingdom of Israel was laid waste by civil, and perhaps by foreign wars; for we are not well acquainted with the history of that time. The fire here spoken of was to have dried up the sea, and consumed a great part of the earth, figuratively speaking, had it not been for the prophet, who interposes, and arrests the effect, Amos 7:5-6. The wars here mentioned were to destroy every thing so far as they were kindled and spread; but the Lord set bounds to his anger. Houbigant reads, The Lord God called the fire to avenge his cause.
Amos 7:7. Upon a wall made by a plumb-line— Literally, Upon a wall of a plumb-line; or, erected by a plumb-line, in order to be perpendicular and firm. God is exhibited in this vision, as erecting, or as repairing Israel, like a wall, that it might not fall into ruin. For the kingdom of Israel had stood hitherto by the providence of God alone, though given to idolatry; and had been repaired under the reign of Jeroboam the second. Afterwards, in the next verse, the Lord denounces that he would let down, or give up the plumb-line in Israel; for so it should be translated; that is, that the kingdom of Israel should be given up by him to their own counsels and strength; and that he would no more pass by among them, to repair and re-establish them. See Houbigant.
Amos 7:9. The high-places of Isaac— That is, of Beer-sheba, where Isaac dwelt and built an altar to the Lord. See Genesis 26:25.
Amos 7:11. Jeroboam shall die by the sword— We do not read above that Amos said this; and as the sacred histories do not inform us that Jeroboam died by the sword, it is most likely this was a falsehood raised by Amaziah to injure Amos.
Amos 7:13. For it is the king's chapel, &c.— Because this is the sanctuary of the king, and this is his palace] Samaria was the place where the kings of Israel commonly dwelt: but they had a palace at Beth-el, as this was the place where they exercised their false religion.
Amos 7:14. I was no prophet, &c.— Houbigant reads this, I am no prophet, neither am I a prophet's son; that is, "I am not accustomed to act as a prophet; this is not my condition of life, and therefore it is in vain that you bid me to go and prophesy in Judah; I have only this once taken upon me the person and office of a prophet, because such was God's immediate command to me." We may collect from this answer, that Amos did not prophesy at other periods of his life; but that what we now have of his prophesies were delivered almost all at the same time; for, if he had frequently been in this capacity, he would not have said, I am not a prophet. By sycamore fruit, is generally understood a kind of wild figs, which were common in Egypt and Palestine. See Zechariah 13:5.
Amos 7:17. In a polluted land— By a polluted land is meant a heathen country far from the land of Israel; for the Hebrews considered every other country as polluted in comparison with theirs. History has not preserved to us enough of the life of Amaziah to give a minute account of the accomplishment of this prophesy in his person. It has been said, that Amos was put to death by him. See the introductory note.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, The prophet before spoke what he heard from God in words; here he relates what was revealed to him in vision; and both confirming the same event, the ruin of a rebellious people. We have,
1. The judgment of grasshoppers or locusts, which are removed at the prophet's intercession. They were formed in the vision by God's hand, and commissioned to devour the after-grass, after the first mowings. Some understand this figuratively of the Assyrian army, which, under Pul their king, plundered the country, 2Ki 15:19 after it had begun to revive a little under Jeroboam, 2Ki 13:25 from the ravages it had before suffered; see 2 Kings 3:22. Affected with the melancholy scene, the prophet becomes an earnest advocate for this miserable land: then I said, O Lord God, forgive, I beseech thee: sin was the cause of all their sufferings, and the removal of that was the great object of the prophet's prayer. Cease, I beseech thee, the unequal controversy, which must else quickly consume that sinful people, unable to stand before God's judgments: and he enforces his plea by their relation to him as the seed of Jacob; the low estate of misery to which they were already reduced; and the absolute despair into which they must fall, unless he was pleased graciously to pity, pardon, and save them. By whom shall Jacob arise? for he is small. The Lord heard and was intreated; he repented for this; removed this afflictive dispensation of his providence at the prophet's instance. It shall not be, saith the Lord; either the locusts, or the Assyrian army, shall not be permitted utterly to destroy the land; see 2 Kings 15:19-20. Note; (1.) While we declare to sinners the judgments that they provoke, every pious prophet cannot but be an earnest advocate to avert them, so far is he from desiring the woeful day. (2.) Sin is the cause of every human misery; and the pardon of that is to be sought in the first place, in order to open the door for every other mercy. (3.) The low and afflicted state of the church at any time is a powerful argument to plead for present help. (4.) Powerfully effectual, and mightily availing, is the fervent prayer of a righteous man. Such advocates with God are the greatest blessings to their country.
2. Another judgment by fire succeeds, and this also is extinguished at the prophet's prayer. The Lord God called to contend by fire, and, ready at his commands, the elements obey him: it devoured the great deep; it seemed to dry up the ocean; and did eat up a part of the earth; which may refer either to some remarkable visitation of lightning, consuming part of their country; or to the intense heat of the sun, occasioning a drought through the land, and consuming them by famine; or figuratively describes the devastations of the Assyrian army under Tiglath-Pileser, 2Ki 15:29 and the captivity of a part of the land. Hereupon the prophet repeats his former request, and again succeeds in preventing their final ruin. Note; (1.) God hath many arrows in his quiver; and when one judgment does not humble a sinful soul, he will send another. (2.) God is not unwilling to multiply his pardons, if we are not weary in waiting upon him with our prayers.
3. In a third vision their final ruin is predicted; for reprieves are not pardons; and they whom neither mercies nor judgments effectually work upon, may expect to be at last utterly abandoned of God. And he shewed me, and behold the Lord stood upon a wall made by a plumb-line: the Jewish state was like a wall of adamant, strong, and raised by the divine architect straight and regular; and now he came, with a plumb-line in his hand, to discover their crookedness, who had so departed from the line of duty and his pure worship. On the proof, therefore, of their incorrigible perverseness, he now resolves to pass by them no more; and therefore the prophet may no more intercede for them. Their doom is fixed; their high places shall be destroyed; their idol-temples demolished; notwithstanding the holy progenitors from whom they descended, which they might flatter themselves would be their protection; and the house of Jeroboam, the great author of their apostacy from God, shall be cut off; as was shortly after accomplished by Shallum; 2 Kings 15:10. Note; (1.) No outward privileges will protect apostates from ruin. (2.) Walls of adamant are no defence against God's judgments. (3.) In all God's visitations he acts with strictest justice; so that they who suffer have not the shadow of complaint. (4.) Though God bears long with impenitent sinners, he will not bear always: vengeance, though slow, is sure.
2nd, From the kindness which the prophet had shewn by his intercession in behalf of the land, and the manifest design of all the judgments threatened, which was to lead them to repentance, one might have expected that the most grateful returns would have been made to their affectionate friend and faithful reprover; but let not the best of men be surprised at the basest ingratitude which they meet with.
1. Amaziah, the priest of Beth-el, or prince, the chief ruler perhaps both in ecclesiastical and civil affairs, could not bear the threatenings of the prophet, and therefore transmits to court an accusation against him as a traitor against the nation; as one that sowed sedition among the people, and spirited them up to murder the king: so that, if timely care was not taken, the land would not be able to bear all his words: either they would breed a revolt, or the country was so exasperated against him, that he would insinuate as if nothing could be a more popular act than to silence or punish him. For thus Amos saith, Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel shall surely be led away captive out of their own land; which was partly false and partly true. Israel's ruin indeed the prophet foretold; but Amaziah suppresses the circumstances of Amos's intercession, and his declarations that their repentance would prevent the judgment. As for Jeroboam's death, the prophet said no such thing: the threatening was against his house, not himself; but this was easily perverted. Note; (1.) Apostate priests are the bitterest persecutors of the true prophets. (2.) It is a common method with designing men to represent the faithful as seditious, and troublers of the land, though in fact they are the best friends of it. (3.) They who bear testimony for God against men's sins, may expect to meet with the most malicious insinuations against them, and to have their words often tortured to a meaning of which they never dreamed.
2. Amaziah endeavours to drive Amos out of the country. What answer he received from court is not said; it should seem, not one so favourable as he expected; and therefore, to be rid of him at any rate, by pretending regard for his safety, which he insinuates would be in danger, he advises him to quit Beth-el, and fly to Judah, where he would be better received and rewarded; judging from his own case that Amos prophesied for bread, which at Beth-el he would never get: besides, the place was improper; it was the king's chapel, and court, where his plain speaking could not fail of being disagreeable, court-preaching requiring soft words, and smooth prophesies; nor could he think of making converts there, where the torrent ran so strong against him, and would the more endanger his safety the more he attempted to oppose it. Note; (1.) False and faithless prophets measure the faithful by themselves, and think their only motive to be that filthy lucre and worldly esteem which they adore. (2.) A zealous, active minister is a burthensome stone in the eyes of the lazy and negligent, especially when he happens to be in a very public situation, where his conduct more glaringly reflects on theirs; and therefore by fair means or foul they will strive to get rid of him.
3. Amos answers this wicked priest with the steadiness which becomes his office, and as one not to be intimidated by danger from the discharge of his duty. As for himself, he was not descended from a prophet, nor bred up in the schools of the prophets; but was an herdsman, and a gatherer of sycamore-fruit, to serve his family or cattle; and from this employment the Lord called him to go and prophesy unto Israel. His divine mission, therefore, authorized him; he dared not desert his post, since he was sent thither of God; and, as he had been accustomed to hard fare, he was the better prepared to meet with any hardships in the course of his ministry; though they who dared oppose and oppress him should suffer for it; and Amaziah, who had forbad him to prophesy, among the first. His wife will be an harlot, and her wickedness will reflect infamy on him: his children shall fall by the sword of an enemy, and his eyes shall behold it; his estate shall be divided among the conquerors, and himself survive these miseries to die a wretched captive in a polluted land: and Israel shall surely go into captivity forth of his land, as he would see fatally verified. Note; (1.) God often chooses weak and unlikely instruments; but whom he sends he will qualify for their office. (2.) Persecutors of God's prophets shall shortly meet their fearful doom. (3.) God's word will surely take place, whatever opposition sinners may make against it.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Amos 7". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28