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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments
Amos 1

 

 

Verses 1-15

Amos 1:1. The words of Amos, written with his own hand. He does not name his parents, because they were plain country people. He was himself among the herdmen of Tekoa, a small city twelve miles south of Jerusalem, 2 Chronicles 11:5-6; 2 Chronicles 20:20, and was called of God, like David from the flocks, and Elisha from the plow, to be a prophet of the Lord. This is Jehovah’s right, a right he never surrendered, either to the synagogue or the vatican at Rome.

Two years before the earthquake. This refers to the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah, mentioned in Zechariah 14:5, when the people fled from the falling houses to the fields, where they were not exposed to double danger. We smile at Josephus for reporting the rabbinical figment, that this convulsion of nature was caused by Uzziah’s burning incense! The leprosy which followed was the punishment named in the scriptures;—why then add more? Pliny names an earthquake which destroyed twelve cities of Asia.

The new science of Geology has laid open a large field of knowledge with regard to the subterranean world. The mountain ranges are cavernous, and abound with streams, rivers and lakes. In other places, where lime, iron and sulphur predominate, they become volcanic, and the earth is ventilated by craters and rivers, which open in the bottom of the sea; for those rivers are always accompanied with currents of air.

When inundations of water break out on the lava, the conflict is tremendous, and the crater becomes active. When the water is abundant, the expansion of the vapour is so powerful as either to burst the superior strata of the incumbent earth, or cause the lava to leap out of its bed, overflow the mouth of the crater, or as in Etna, to burst out of the side of the mountain in a continuous river of fire. The whole phenomena is natural, but heaven can employ it at pleasure to punish the inhabitants of the earth.—The more tremendous strokes of earthquakes are so terrific as to form the æras of history. A well-written account of earthquakes may be seen in the British Encyclopædia.

Amos 1:3. For three transgressions I will not turn away. The style of this inspired shepherd is highly classical, though plain. Homer, in his Odyssea, pronounces the Greeks thrice, yea four times blessed. And Virgil, imitating him in his Æneid, uses the number three and four in the . same form as Homer. O terque quaterque beati. Oh thrice, yea four times blessed. This mode of speaking denotes the deepest stain of crimes; just as holy, holy, holy, called by grammarians the super-superlative, marks the sublimest holiness. For these sins God would neither revoke nor mitigate the sentence. Some put the number three and four together, which make seven, a number of perfection, often used in the sacred writings.

Amos 1:4. Ben-hadad succeeded his father Hazael on the throne of Syria. 2 Kings 13:3; 2 Kings 13:24.

Amos 1:5. Kir is said to be the same with Cyrene; but others say it is a part of Albania. This scourge was inflicted on Syria by Salmanezer, as may be gathered from Isaiah 16:4. Pharaoh-necho, and after him Nebuchadnezzar, overran this country.

Amos 1:9. Tyre, with its long siege and fall, is described in Isaiah 23. Ezekiel 26. This city was taken by Alexander, who was so provoked by its resistance that he slew all who did not take refuge in the temples, and then commanded his soldiers to throw fire into the roof of the temples.

Amos 1:14. I will kindle a fire in the wall of Rabbah, as described in Jeremiah 49:2. Amos prophesied in the reign of two kings of Judah, whom he acknowledges as his lawful sovereigns. During this time, (for as in Isaiah, the first chapter does not contain his first sermon) he raised his cry against the bloody cruelties of the seven nations named in this place; and he is followed by succeeding seers. The joy of those nations on the fall of Jerusalem was unbounded; but their joy was short. About four years after Jerusalem had fallen, the Assyrians made a grand campaign against Egypt, and dashed to pieces all the weak powers of Syria that refused to open their gates. See Josephus’s Wars of the Jews.

Amos 1:15. Their king. Melchom signifies an idol as well as a king. The versions render the word both ways. Jeremiah 49:3; Jeremiah 49:5. This disaster was effectuated by the Chaldeans; because God promises the jews a return of the remnant.

REFLECTIONS.

The commencement of these prophecies displays the sovereignty of grace in the election of instruments for the divine work. The mission of Amos was neither of his parents, nor of himself, nor of his religious friends, but solely of God. He was poor, the humblest of the shepherds, for he gathered sycamore fruit; yet God called and qualified him for the work, and raised him to a rank not much behind the first of his great prophets. The Lord has often done this in the christian ministry, that we should be the more grateful to him who has called us, and faithful in his work. Parents also should never force the ministry on a son, after a work of conversion; the idea should come into his heart by the Spirit of God. No man either will or can do God’s work faithfully, unless he have entered upon it from a conviction of a divine call. At the same time, ministers who have learning should not be arrogant and contemptuous towards those whom they call illiterate. A pious young man of genius will gradually acquire that degree of knowledge which will enable him to be more useful to the people than those who may despise him.

We may remark, in the rebukes here extended to seven nations, a moral uniformity in the spirit which inspires the prophets. Amos was here led to speak the same awful things against the Syrians, the Philistines, and the Edomites, as against the Israelites; and the events proved, that God inflicted the scourge with the same severity. And this same supreme Judge ever lives, brandishing his sword against all the despisers of his grace.

In all nations, not to say in all wicked men, there are three or four predominant vices peculiarly provoking to God. Pride, idleness, and fulness of bread were the leading sins of Sodom’s ruin; then a fourth crime followed for which they were burned. Here carnage after battle, selling the vanquished for slaves, keeping alive perpetual animosities, and most wantonly, during the storming of the city, treating the women, are crimes which heaven records, and requites on the guilty. To kill an enemy after he has cast away his arms, and implored mercy, is murder. I might here ask, oh how many are the sins of my country. How many are the sins of Zion. Ah, I would count them in silence. I would bewail them with tears; and urging reformation, I would implore a pardon of the Lord. Had it not been for those sins, and the breaking of the brotherly league, those nations, and especially Tyre, might have enjoyed a fine season under the Babylonian wings. Thus, the spirit of infatuation presedes destruction; and sinners will not enter into the spirit of their danger till the abyss opens beneath their feet. Then they cry with a loud cry; but mercy has shut her ears, and abandoned them to the sword of justice.

 


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Bibliography Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Amos 1:4". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jsc/amos-1.html. 1835.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, June 4th, 2020
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
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