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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Amos 1

 

 

Verses 1-16

AMOS

_____________

CHAPTERS1, 2

The Superscription ( Amos 1:1)

1The words of Amos (who was among the shepherds of Tekoa), which he saw concerning Israel, in the days of Uzziah king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash king of Israel, two years before the earthquake.

And he said:—

I. The Divine Judgment is announced first against the Countries lying around Israel, then against the Kingdom of Judah, but at last remains standing over the Kingdom of Israel ( Amos 1:2 to Amos 2:16).

2Jehovah roars out of Zion

And out of Jerusalem he utters his voice

Then the pastures of the shepherds wither

And the head of Carmel is dried up.

(a) Damascus ( Amos 1:3-5).

3Thus saith Jehovah,

For three transgressions of Damascus

And for four—I will not reverse it—

Because they threshed Gilead with iron rollers,

4 I will send fire into the house of Hazael,

And it shall devour the palaces of Ben-hadad.

5 And I will shatter the bolt of Damascus,

And cut off the inhabitant from the vale of Aven,

And the sceptre-holder out of Beth-Eden;

And the people of Syria shall go into captivity to Kir, saith Jehovah.

(b) Gaza ( Amos 1:6-8).

6 Thus saith Jehovah,

For three transgressions of Gaza,

And for four—I will not reverse it—

Because they carried away captives[FN1] in full number[FN2]

To deliver them up to Edom,

7 I will send fire into the wall of Gaza,

And it shall devour their palaces.

8 And I will cut off the inhabitant from Ashdod

And the sceptre-holder from Ashkelon;

And I will turn my hand against Ekron

And the remnant of the Philistines shall perish, saith the Lord, Jehovah.

(c) Tyre ( Amos 1:9-10).

9 Thus saith Jehovah,

For three transgressions of Tyre,

And for four—I will not reverse it—

Because they delivered prisoners in full number to Edom,

And remembered not the brotherly covenant,

10 I will send fire into the wall of Tyre

And it shall devour their palaces.

(d) Edom ( Amos 1:11-12).

11Thus saith Jehovah,

For three transgressions of Edom,

And for four—I will not reverse it—

Because he pursues his brother with the sword,

And stifles his compassion,[FN3]

And his wrath continually tears in pieces,

And his anger endures forever,[FN4]

12 I will send fire into Teman

And it shall devour the palaces of Bozrah.

(e) Ammon ( Amos 1:13-15).

13Thus saith Jehovah,

For three transgressions of the sons of Ammon,

And for four—I will not reverse it—

Because they ripped up the pregnant women of Gilead,

To enlarge their border,

14 I will kindle a fire in the wall of Rabbah,

And it shall devour their palaces,

With a war-shout in the day of battle,

With a storm in the day of the whirlwind.

15 And their king[FN5] shall go into captivity,

He and his princes together, saith Jehovah.

Amos 2

(f) Moab ( Amos 2:1-3).

1Thus saith Jehovah,

For three transgressions of Moab

And for four—I will not reverse it—

Because it burned the bones of the king of Edom into lime,

2 I will send fire into Moab,

And it shall devour the palaces of Kerioth,

And Moab shall die in the tumult,

With a war-shout, with a trumpet-blast;

3And I will cut off the Judges 6 from the midst thereof,

And will slay all his princes with him, saith Jehovah.

(g) Judah ( Amos 2:4-5).

4Thus saith Jehovah,

For three transgressions of Judah,

And for four—I will not reverse it—

Because they despised the law[FN7] of Jehovah,

And kept not his commandments,7

And their lies misled them,

After which their fathers walked;

5 I will send fire into Judah,

And it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem.

(h) Israel ( Amos 2:6-16)

6 Thus saith Jehovah,

For three transgressions of Israel

And for four—I will not reverse it—

Because they sell the righteous for money,

And the needy for[FN8] a pair of shoes;

7 They who pant after the dust of the earth upon the afflicted,

And pervert the way of the sufferers;

And a man and his father go in to the same girl

In order[FN9] to profane my holy name:

8 And they stretch themselves upon pawned clothes by every altar,

And they drink the wine of the punished[FN10] in the house of their God.[FN11]

9 And yet[FN12] I destroyed the Amorite before them,

Him who was as high as the cedars

And as strong as the oaks;

And I destroyed his fruit from above

And his roots from beneath.

10 And yet I brought you up from the land of Egypt,

And led you in the wilderness forty years,

To inherit the land of the Amorite;

11And I raised up of your sons prophets,

And of your young men dedicated ones.

Is it not Song of Solomon, ye sons of Israel? saith Jehovah.

12But ye made the dedicated ones drink wine.

And commanded the prophets, saying, “Prophesy not.”

13Behold, I will press you down[FN13]

As the full[FN14] cart presses the sheaves.

14Then shall flight be lost[FN15] to the swift,

And the strong shall not confirm his strength,

And the hero shall not save his life.

15 He that beareth the bow shall not stand,

And the swift-footed shall not save,—

And the rider of the horse shall not save his life,[FN16]

16 And the courageous one among the heroes,—

Naked shall he flee away in that day, saith the Lord[FN17].

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

Amos 1:1. The Superscription.The words of Amos. The expression is somewhat unusual. It is customary to state the contents of a prophecy as “the word of Jehovah” which came to this one or that one, as in the first verse of Hosea,, Joel,, Micah, etc. Jeremiah uses the same phrase as Amos, but adds expressly, “to whom the word of Jevoah came.” Here also the divine inspiration of “the words of Amos” is put beyond doubt by the addition, which he saw, for חָזָה is the technical formula to denote the prophet’s immediate intuition of divine truth. His “words therefore originated in such an intuition, and were not the outflow and expression of his own thoughts. He “saw” first what he afterwards recorded, and this seeing rested upon a divine revelation. Upon the addition to the prophet’s name, who was among, etc, see the Introduction, § 1.

Upon Israel. The peculiar aim of the prophet’s utterances is the kingdom of Ephraim; but this came into view only in so far as it was a kingdom of Israel, and contained a part—in extent a greater part—of the people of Israel. Besides, the threatenings extend to the kingdom of Judah, therefore to all Israel. Moreover, it must be considered that these threatenings terminate in the promise after their execution of a new glorious Israel, in which no account is taken of the existing division of the kingdom. As to the note of time in the days of Uzziah. etc, see the Introduction, § 2, where it is shown to be correct according to the contents of the book.

Two years before the earthquake. See also the Introduction. This date is not so much chronological as argumentative. It is inserted in reference to Amos 8:8 (also Amos 9:5), since this earthquake occurring two years after the prophesying, was a declaration in act that God would make good the words of his servant. As to the genuineness of the entire superscription, no argument against it is to be found in the statement “who was among the herdmen,” etc, and especially the expression “who was;” or if indeed this statement is not original it might yet have been inserted in a superscription otherwise genuine. In favor of this view is the above-mentioned unusual character of the phrase “words of Amos which he saw.” It is scarce conceivable that a later editor would use this expression rather than the customary one, “The word of the Lord which came,” etc. If then the words “two years before the earthquake” are cited, as by Baur, as a proof of spuriousness, because if genuine the prophecy must have been written two years after Amos’s appearance in Bethel, while its whole character shows that it was written soon after that event, we answer that this latter assertion is wholly unfounded. Nothing forbids the opinion that two years, which is no great space of time, elapsed before the record was made, and besides we have before shown that the book is by no means a mere record of the oral discourse. On the other hand, even Baur himself must admit that the precise date and the peculiar form of the superscription presuppose in any event its composition not long after the prophecies were delivered. Surely he who prefixed these words did it in reference, as above stated, to its bearing upon the subject of the prophecies following. And as there is nothing against the authorship of Amos, it is most natural to think that he who suggested the reference recorded it. Besides, we have already seen (Introduction, § 3) that there is reason to believe that the earthquake induced Amos to write his prophecies; indeed, he perhaps refers to it in Amos 1:2. Certainly then nothing is more natural than to assume that he himself contributed this note of time, and thus indicated the inducement which led him to write.

Amos 1:2. Jehovah roars out of Zion, etc. Comp. Joel 4:16. Amos connects himself directly with Joel in describing the judgments upon the heathen as enemies of God’s people. For even from Amos 1:3, he announces the divine wrath upon all the surrounding nations. But suddenly the denunciation turns to Judah, and then to Israel, where it remains standing, so that it is plain that he aimed especially at Israel, and that the threats against the heathen which seemed to be most important, served only for an introduction to what follows. This appears even in the verse before us, since he applies the phrase borrowed from Joel differently from that prophet, namely, against Israel, for since the drying up of Carmel is stated to be the result of God’s wrath, “the pastures of the shepherds,” which are said to wither, are to be referred to Israel. “Woods and pastures are mentioned by Amos in accordance with his peculiar mode of characterizing the country.” Or, we are to assign the “meads of the shepherds” to the pasture grounds of the wilderness of Judah, which was the prophet’s home in the south, and to this Carmel stands opposed on the north, so that Amos sees the whole land from south to north withered. The “withering” means generally destruction, not to be limited to mere drought as a natural occurrence, although this is not excluded, but extending to the devastation of a foreign foe, as the later statements require.

From Amos 1:3 begin the threatenings against the heathen—in the way of a preface. The storm of divine wrath rolls around the outlying kingdoms, until it comes to a stand on Israel. The heathen kingdoms mentioned in their order are six: Syria (Damascus), Gaza, or rather all Philistia ( Amos 1:8), Tyre, Edom, Amnion, Moab. These manifestly constitute two groups, three in each. For the three first are more distant from Israel, the latter nearer, as allied in origin. The ground of their punishment is stated to be their transgressions, especially against Israel; they come into view, therefore, as enemies of God’s people, and as such are threatened with wrath. In the succession of the groups we see a climax of guilt, since naturally the ill-doing of a kindred people is worse than that of a foreign race. Upon this ground the question, why just these were selected, answers itself. It was these from whom Israel had severely suffered, and their guilt lay in the foreground. They are then representatives of a class; a threatening upon such grounds proclaims the guilt of a similar course of action generally—wherever it may be found.

See further, in respect to the bearing of menaces against the heathen upon menaces against Israel, in the Doctrinal and Practical Remarks.

2. Damascus—Syria, Amos 1:3-5. Thus saith Jehovah; for three transgressions, etc. It is peculiar that the threatenings throughout both chapters are always introduced in the same manner. The phrase “for three—and for four,” is well explained by Hitzig, who says: “The number four is added to the number three, to characterize the latter as simply set down at pleasure, to say that it is not exactly three but much more.” Three would be enough, but it is not limited to three. The plurality is not rigidly denned, on purpose to indicate the ever increasing number of sins. These nations therefore have incurred not a light but a heavy degree of guilt.—The עַל with which the threatening begins is in each case repeated before the special transgression mentioned, and this latter, being a single case, seems to conflict with the preceding plurals. But in truth the commencement, having firmly asserted the plurality of the sins, may well allow the subsequent address, as it hastens from one people to another, to be content with naming a single wrong act as a flagrant example which necessarily presupposes the existence of many others. The phrase interposed in each case—I will not reverse it, i. e., the punishment decided upon—cuts off every thought of repeal, and declares the execution to be inevitable. In every case the judgment is described as a sending of fire to consume the palaces, which can mean only the fire of war, conquest, and destruction. Because they threshed, refers to the cruelty with which they crushed the captured Gileadites under iron threshing-machines. This occurred when Palestine east of the Jordan was subjugated by Hazael under the reign of Jehu ( 2 Kings 10:32-33; cf. 2 Kings 13:7Benhadad; was it the first of that name, or the second? Probably both. Shatter the bolt, i. e., of the gate=the conquest of Damascus. The inhabitants of the valley of Aven and the sceptre-holder, i. e., prince or ruler, of Beth Eden, are extirpated.—אָוֶן בִקְעַתlit., valley of nothingness, is probably the modern Bekaa, the valley between Lebanon and Antilibanus, of which Heliopolis (Baalkek) was the most distinguished city. אָוֶן then perhaps=אוֹן the name of the Egyptian Heliopolis, whence the LXX. render πεδίον Ὦν; but designedly written in the former method to play upon the idol worship performed there (cf. בֵית־אָוֶן for בֵת־אֵל.

בֵית־אֵדֶן either the modern Bet-el-Ganna, not far from Damascus, or, better, the ΙΙαραδεισος in the district of Laodicea (Ptol5, 5, 20). The rest are to be carried away to Kir, an Assyrian province, on the banks of the River Kir, Κῦρος the modern Georgia. This was fulfilled by Tiglath-Pileser ( 2 Kings 16:9).

3. Gaza—Philistia. Amos 1:6-8. Gaza stands as a representative of the other Philistine states which are similarly threatened, and is named first, perhaps because it was most actively engaged in the sale of the captives (Keil). There is perhaps an allusion to the same case which Joel mentions ( Amos 3:6). Although Joel speaks of a sale to the Grecians, and Amos of a sale to Edom, there is no discrepancy, for both occurred. Joel mentions the Greeks, because he sought to set forth the wide dispersion of the Jews and their future recall from all lands; but Amos wishes to emphasize the hatred of the Philistines, and therefore speaks of the sale made to Israel’s chief foe, Edom. Why Gath is not named, does not appear. Doubtless it was comprehended under the phrase “remnant of the Philistines.”

4. Tyre—Phœnicia. Amos 1:9-10. The crime here is the same as in the preceding, namely, the sale of prisoners to Edom. But it does not include carrying them away, therefore they must have bought them from others and then sold them. Hence Joel says that the Philistines sold the prisoners whom they captured to the Greeks. But the Phoenicians as a trading people may just as well have bought from others, such as the Syrians, and sold the captives thus acquired to Edom. Their sin here was the greater, because David and Solomon had made a “brotherly covenant” with the king of Tyre. The threatening in Amos 1:10 is limited to the commencement of what is denounced upon Damascus and Gaza. The same is true of Edom and of Judah.

5. Edom. Amos 1:11-12. No particular crimes are here charged, but an implacable hatred against Israel, which broke out in acts of cruelty. Teman is either an appellative, the South, or the name of a province in Edom (cf. Jeremiah 49:20; Habakkuk 3:3; Job 2, 11; Ezekiel 25:13). Eusebius and Jerome speak also of a city named Teman, six hours from Petra. Bozra, probably the capital of Idumæa, south of the Dead Sea, still preserved in the village of el-Buseireh in Jebâl.

6. Ammon. Amos 1:13-15. The fact stated here is not mentioned in the historical books of the Old Testament. Rabbah, in its full form, Rabbah of the Sons of Ammon, the capital of the Ammonites, is preserved in the ruins of Amman. The destruction here threatened is more closely defined. It will take place through a foreign conquest which is compared to a storm, indicating either its speed or its violence.

7. Moab. Chap2 Amos 2:1-3. The burning of the body into lime, i. e., to powder, indicates the slaking of vengeance even upon the dead. Nothing is said of this in the historical books, but it was perhaps connected with the war waged by Joram of Israel and Jehoshaphat of Judah, together with the king of Edom, against the Moabites. In that case the king of Edom was a vassal on the side of Israel, and the insult to him would be, at least indirectly, a crime against Israel. Kerioth is the proper name of a chief city of Moab, still preserved in the place called Kereyat.מֵת is applied to Moab, considered as a person. Here also the occurrence of a battle is mentioned. Judge, used only to vary the expression, is equivalent to king, or sceptre-holder in Amos 1:5. From the midst refers to Moab as a country.

8. Judah. Amos 2:4-5. The sin of Judah consists in apostasy from God. Their lies means their idols, as nonentities, destitute of reality.

9. Israel—the Ten Tribes. Amos 2:6-16. Now in a surprising manner Israel is brought forward, and by a similar introduction placed on the same line with the others; only in place of a short statement, there is a lengthened and detailed representation of its sin, guilt, and punishment.

(a.) Israel’s Sins.

Amos 2:6-8. Unrighteousness in judgment is charged, Amos 2:6. The righteous = one who is such in the judicial sense, i. e., innocent. Money, which they had received or expected. Sell, declare guilty and punish. The sentence is called a sale because the judge was bribed. The phrase, for a pair of shoes, does not state the price with which the judge was bribed [the poorest slave was certainly worth much more than this—Keil], but the occasion of the proceeding, namely, a pair of shoes, i. e., a mere trifle, for which the poor man was in debt and for which the judge gave him up to the creditor as a slave ( Leviticus 25:39).

Amos 2:7. They who, etc. Plainly, not a new fault, but a description of the sin out of which the former sprang. Pant after the dust, etc, i. e., endeavor to bring these into such misery that they will strew dust on their heads, or that they will sink into the dust, i. e., perish. Pervert the way, etc, prepare for them embarrassments and distress. Son and father go in to the (i. e., one and the same) girl. In order to profane my holy name. The conjunction indicates that the profanation was deliberate and therefore willful. It is so called because it was an audacious violation of God’s commandments. Prostitution in or near the temple itself is not to be thought of here.

Amos 2:8. Every altar and the house of their God, certainly refer to the sacred places at Beer-sheba and Daniel, but it must be kept in mind that in these Jehovah was worshipped. There is no reference to the worship of heathen deities, which indeed did not exist under Jeroboam2, for the conduct here condemned is condemned just because it took place in the sanctuary, and thus was a daring contempt of God. Pawned clothes, i. e., upper garments consisting of a large square piece of cloth, used also as a bed-covering by the poor. These were pawned, given in pledge to a creditor, by the poor. Such the law required to be returned before nightfall ( Exodus 22:25; Deuteronomy 24:12). But instead of this, they were retained, and used as cloths on which the creditors stretched out, i. e., their limbs; and on what occasion? According to what follows, at banquets or sacrificial meals, as the connection shows. Wine of the punished, means wine bought with the proceeds of fines. Manifestly the oppression of the poor is censured also in Amos 2:8. It only connects with this sin that of frivolous luxury.

(b). The sin is the more heinous because Israel is the chosen people of God.

10. Amos 2:9-12. These verses recall to mind the manifestations of God’s grace. He had put Israel in possession of Canaan. Here Amos mentions first the direct means by which this was done, namely, the destruction of the Canaanites, then, what preceded, namely, the deliverance from Egypt and the guidance through the wilderness. And I—emphatic, the very being whom you now treat with contempt. The Amorites are named as the strongest race of the Canaanites (cf. Genesis 15:16; Joshua 24:15); they are likened to a mighty tree, and their destruction to its complete overthrow. A similar reference to these gracious dispensations is found in Deuteronomy 8:2; Deuteronomy 9:1-6; Deuteronomy 29:1-8. Further, the gift of prophecy and the institution of the Nazarites are mentioned as special favors, which God had given to Israel but which they despised.

(c). The Punishment.

This is to be a crushing so severe that no one can escape. The figure of the cart is explained in Textual and Grammatical.

Amos 2:14. Flight is lost to the swift = he will Hot have time to escape.

Amos 2:16. Will flee naked = will not defend himself, but leave behind the garment by which the enemy seizes him (cf. Mark 14:52). The punishment threatened in Amos 2:13 ff. is manifestly the invasion of a superior foe. The powerlessness before him and the consequent fright are depicted in the liveliest manner.

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL.

1. In Joel, prophecy quickly drops the form of a threatening against God’s people which however it certainly has, and then assumes so much the more fully the character of a promise. It is altogether different with the next prophet of whom we have any written memorial, as indeed would be expected from the fact that his mission was to the ten tribes. On one side he stands connected with Joel, but on the other goes far beyond him; his message is not only the earnest calling of a degenerate people to repentance, but the annunciation of God’s destructive judgments upon them. But the transition from Joel’s point of view to that of Amos is worthy of consideration. The former announced a judgment upon the heathen, but in general terms. This the latter takes up with a slight allusion to Israel, but he does not expand it farther until he has paved the way by a succession of threatenings upon foreign nations. He unrolls before the eyes of Israel a picture of the Divine Justice in its sure and awful march through the kingdoms. But if the people at first regard this with satisfaction because it concerns their foes upon whom they will thus be revenged, they are frightfully awakened from their security by a sudden turn in the direction of the menace. Israel itself is counted among these Gentile kingdoms, and treated in the same way. This shows that the address to Israel’s foes is only an introduction; and therefore it passes rapidly from one to another, not entering into details, but content with indicating the multitude of their transgressions, and citing one only as an example of the rest. The prophet thus prepares to make the stroke which at last falls upon Israel heavier and more lasting. Were those nations punished Not less will this one be. Did they suffer who had not received the law nor enjoyed special tokens of God’s favor; far heavier will be the punishment of this people who, although chosen of God, had yet in the grossest manner despised Him and his well-known commands. The storm of divine wrath, which they had gazed at as it fell upon others, would discharge itself upon them in all its fury.

Thus does God prick the conscience of his own people by the judgments threatened upon others. They hear his voice saying, “If I thus punish others, what must I do to you?” The more generally and widely his punishment is inflicted, the less can Israel complain when it comes to them; much rather must they acknowledge it as just.

To Israel in the stricter sense an especial warning is given in the fact that the divine judgment in its circular sweep does not spare Judah, and even names this before Israel. “It should sink deep into the heart of the ten tribes that not even the possession of such exalted prerogatives as the temple and the throne of David, could avert the merited punishment. If such be the energy of God’s righteousness, what had they to expect? (Hengstenberg.) That Isaiah, the ten tribes might at first hear gladly, and even feel flattered by a threatening against Judah, but so much the more surprising must it be when the same thing comes in turn to themselves. Then the matter assumes a different appearance, and they could infer from Judah’s not being spared, how little they could count upon any exemption.

2. Returning to the judgments upon the heathen, the question arises, Why were they punished? One might answer without ceremony, Because of their offenses against Israel, the people of God. Undoubtedly these nations are considered as Israel’s foes, and their crimes so far as specified are crimes against Israel; in part they are the same as those charged by Joel, who speaks so plainly of the hostility of the heathen toward Israel. Only in the case of Moab ( Amos 2:1), is the fact otherwise, for here the offense stated is one only indirectly against Israel. But this shows that the relation to Israel is not the only point of view, and that the threatenings against these nations are not to be attributed solely to this cause; a view which is confirmed by a closer inspection of the sins mentioned; crushing with a threshing sledge, giving prisoners to embittered foes (Edom), forgetting the brotherly covenant, slaying a brother, stifling compassion, ripping the pregnant, displacing the landmarks, burning the bones of a corpse. These are plainly moral offenses, trangressions of the simplest laws of morals. They are therefore sins against a natural divine ordinance, not positively revealed, but manifesting itself in every one’s conscience; and as such they incur a heavy guilt. The crimes of these nations then are against God and not merely against his people. So much the more necessary is it for God to punish them.—And He can do this because He is a God who controls all nations, and to whom all are subject even if they do not serve Him. Observe how self-evident this truth is to the prophet. Does not this assumed universality of the power of Israel’s God imply indirectly, or at least negatively, that faith in Israel’s God is destined for all? Under one God, who has power over all, all shall yet bow themselves.

3. Hence it is the more conceivable that Judah and Israel are joined so directly to the threatened heathen nations. Judah, it is concisely said, has not kept the law, in which God positively declared to them his will. To Israel, on the contrary, nothing is said here of the sin of idolatry (which indeed is presupposed), but individual offenses of a gross kind (partly of course allied with idolatry), are specified; base oppression of the poor through avarice, shameless sensuality, spending in drunkenness money wrested from the poor, and this, most offensively blended with idol-worship. How this is regarded is strikingly shown by an expression at the end of Amos 2:7 which applies to the whole series. It Isaiah, says God, a profaning of my holy name. In the view of Scripture there is a holy divine ordinance which is violated by such moral offenses. They are therefore offenses against God, “profanations of his holy name,” who instituted this ordinance. Therefore the punishment is absolutely necessary. For God cannot suffer his holy name to be profaned with impunity. Upon the sins against the poor, see also Doctrinal and Ethical, 2, upon chap3.

4. It is remarkable that the very same threat is made against the heathen and against Judah. This is certainly not without design. Even if it were owing in the first instance to the fact that the prophet had in view one and the same means of punishment for all, namely, subjugation by a foreign foe, still the intentional uniformity suggests equally the unvarying and impartial character of God’s punitive righteousness. There is no respect of persons with Him. Wherever there are sins, there inflexibly the divine wrath makes its appearance; and even if the sins are different in kind, yet where God’s law whether natural or revealed, is transgressed, there a corresponding reaction of his holiness is provoked.

5. Surely the greatness of what God has done for his people weighs heavily in the scale and greatly aggravates their guilt. The fact of these! enefits is the solid ground of the proceeding against Israel’s sins. Those benefits are so many loud accusations, from which there is no escape. For all Israel’s sins are not merely violations of a divine order, but a shameless contempt of his goodness and the blackest ingratitude; and the punishments therefore are only a righteous reversal of abused mercies. Hosea goes farther and represents the ingratitude as conjugal infidelity, since he conceives God’s tender relation to Israel as a marriage bond. The infliction of punishment upon apostate Israel is thus more clearly shown to be a divine right. An approach to this view, an indication of God’s loving fellowship with Israel is found in Amos 2:2 : “You only have I known,” etc.

6. Along with the great blessings which founded the nation—the deliverance from Egypt, and the guidance through the wilderness, and on the other side, the giving of the law,—the institution of prophecy, and the law of the Nazarites are mentioned. “These are gifts of grace in which Israel had the advantage of other nations, and was distinguished as the people of God and the medium of salvation for the heathen. Amos reminds the people only of these, and not of earthly blessings which the heathen also enjoyed, because these alone were real pledges of God’s gracious covenant with Israel, and because in the contempt and abuse of these gifts the ingratitude of the people was most glaringly displayed. The Nazarites are placed by the side of the prophets who declared the mind and will of God, because the condition of a Nazarite, although it was in form merely a consequence of his own free will in execution of a particular vow, was nevertheless so far a gift of grace in that the resolution to make such a vow came from the inward impulse of the divine Spirit, and the performance of it was rendered possible only through the power of the same Spirit. The raising up of the Nazarites was intended not only to set before the eyes of the people the object of their divine calling, or their appointment to be a holy people of God, but also to show them how the Lord bestowed the power to carry out his object” (Keil); of. also the remarks on Hosea 12:10, which rests on this passage in Amos.

7. Whether these threatenings against different heathen nations were fulfilled, is a question we must ask still more in the case of Amos than of Joel. For Amos not merely sees and describes in a general ideal sketch the downfall of the heathen power which then stood opposed to Israel’s exaltation, but he speaks as if predicting a precise historical occurrence. Yet it is to be considered, that, as was hinted before, the threatening runs essentially in the same terms, is in fact one, and, although subjoining special features in some cases (especially Amos 1:5; Amos 1:15), yet at bottom is very general, and sets forth simply conquest and loss of independence, but by whom, is not said. Just this fate befell these kingdoms, although at different times and in different ways. Syria experienced it from the Assyrians when Tiglath-Pileser, in the time of Ahaz, conquered Damascus and put an end to the kingdom. Later, the Chaldæan invasion overthrew the other nations, although the information on the point is scanty. Accordingly we are always justified in saying that these predictions were fulfilled, without necessarily affirming that it was in the sense intended by the prophet. [But this latter is a point of no moment, if the fulfillment was in the sense which the Holy Spirit intended.—C.] We must further consider that such threatenings are not absolute. They are given at a particular time, and the issue depends upon the behavior of those whom they concern. For God’s purposes, and therefore his punishments are directed according to our conduct. Hence He delays his visitations, or lessens or increases them; so that what takes place at last little coincides with what the prophet had to announce in his name. Nor should the idea be wholly rejected, that these predictions came to the foreign nations themselves, seeing that they were neighbors, and were laid to heart by them just as the heathen oracles were, so that thus the state of affairs might be changed. For these announcements of punishment are to be viewed as warnings as well to the heathen as to Israel—warnings intended to be heard and regarded. That the threatening against Judah, which is of the same tenor as the others, was fulfilled by Nebuchadnezzar, is well known. But even this fulfillment does not answer exactly to what the Prophet had in view, which manifestly was a judgment closer at hand, perhaps by means of the Assyrians. Hence it is clear that Judah obtained a respite, because its condition had meanwhile improved.

8. It is remarkable that none of these burdens of Amos are addressed to the greatest powers of the heathen world, opposed to Israel and Judah,—Assyria and Babylon. The Holy Spirit who spake by him, reserved the declaration of the destinies of these two great kingdoms for two other of the twelve minor prophets. Assyria was reserved for Nahum, Babylon for Habakkuk. There seems, therefore, to have been divine forethought in the omission. … The prophecies of Amos are expanded by succeeding prophets. Amos himself takes up the prophecy of Joel whom he succeeds. Joel, by a magnificent generalization, had displayed all God’s judgments in nature and history as concentrated in one great Day of the Lord Amos disintegrates this great whole, and particularizes those judgments. Joel declares that God will judge all collectively; Amos proclaims that He will judge each singly. (Wordsworth.)

9. Pusey (p161), with great propriety, calls attention to the fact that the complete captivity of a population, the baring a land of its inhabitants, was a thing unknown in the time of Amos. It is true, Sesostris brought together “many men,” “a crowd,” from the nations he had subdued, and employed them on his buildings and canals (Herodotus, 2:107–8). But in this and other like cases, the persons so employed were simply prisoners made in a campaign, and the solo object of the removal was to obtain slaves so as to spare the labor of the native subjects in constructing the public works. This is shown by the earlier Assyrian inscriptions, all of which speak only of carrying off soldiers as prisoners or women as captives, of receiving slaves, or cattle or goods as tribute, or of putting to death in various ways rulers and men at arms. The forced deportation of a whole people, and the substitution of others in their place, is a different thing altogether. The design of this was to destroy effectually the independence of the subject races and put it out of their power to rebel. The first trace of it we find in the policy of Tiglath Pileser toward Damascus and East and North Palestine, and afterwards it came into general use. But Amos foretold this wholesale transportation long before it occurred, and at a time when there was no human likelihood that it would occur. It must have been a divine inspiration which enabled him so clearly to predict such an unprecedented captivity.—C.]

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL.

Amos 1:2. The head of. Carmel is dried up. Its glory has passed away, as in the twinkling of an eye. God hath spoken the word and it is gone. “All,” says Van de Velde, “lies waste; all is a wilderness. The utmost fertility is here lost for Prayer of Manasseh, useless to man. The vineyards of Carmel, where are they now ? Behold the long rows of stones on the ground, the remains of the walls; they will tell you that here where now with difficulty you force your way through the thick entangled copse, lay in days of old those incomparable vineyards to which Carmel owes its name.” (Pusey.)

Amos 1:3 ff. Every infliction on those like ourselves finds an echo in our own consciences. Israel heard and readily believed God’s judgments upon others. It was not tempted to set itself against believing them. How then could it refuse to believe of itself what it believed of others like itself. If they who sinned without law perished without law, how much more should they who have sinned, in the law, be judged by the law. (Ibid.)—For three transgressions, etc. God is long-suffering and ready to forgive; but when the sinner finally becomes a vessel of wrath, He punishes all the former sins which for the time He had passed by. Sin adds to sin out of which it grows; it does not overshadow or obliterate the earlier sins, but increases the mass of guilt which God punishes. When the Jews slew the Song of Solomon, there came on them all the righteous blood shed upon the earth from righteous Abel to Zacharias the son of Barachias. So each individual sinner who dies impenitent, will be punished for all which in his whole life he did or became contrary to the law of God. Deeper sins bring deeper damnation at last. As good men by the grace of God, do through each act done by aid of that grace gain an addition to their everlasting reward, so the wicked by each added sin, add to their damnation. (Ibid.)—I will not reverse it. Sin and punishment are by a great law of God bound together. God’s mercy holds back the punishment long, allowing only some slight tokens of his displeasure to show themselves that the sinful soul or people may not be unwarned. When He no longer withholds it, the law of his moral government holds its course. (Ibid.)

Amos 1:4. Devour Benhadad’s palaces. What avail the pleasure-houses and palaces of the rich of this world? How soon do they turn to dust and ashes when the fire of God’s wrath kindles on them?

Amos 1:6. Carry away prisoners to deliver them, etc. Who so further afflicts the afflicted, shall in return be afflicted by God. Fugitives who flee to us for refuge should never be treated with hostility nor robbed of their liberty.

Amos 1:7-8. The five cities of Philistia had each its own petty king. But all formed one whole; all were one in their sin; all were to be one in their punishment. So then for greater vividness, one part of the common infliction is related of each, while in fact, according to the wont of prophetic diction, what is said of each is said of all.

Amos 1:9. Remember not, etc. It is a great aggravation of enmity and malice, when it is the violation of friendship and a brotherly covenant. (M. Henry.)

Amos 1:10. Fire into the wall of Tyre. Not fine buildings nor strong walls, but righteousness and honesty are a city’s best defense. 2 Kings 2:12; 2 Kings 13:14.

Amos 1:11. Pursues hit brother with the sword. Eleven hundred years had passed since the birth of their forefathers, Jacob and Esau. But with God eleven hundred years had not worn out kindred.… It was an abiding law that Israel was not to take Edom’s land, nor to refuse to admit him into the congregation of the Lord. Edom too remembered the relation, but to hate him. “Fierce are the wars of brethren.” (Pusey.)—Stifles his compassions. Edom “steeled himself against his better feelings,” as we say, “deadened them.” But so they do not live again. Man is not master of the life and death of his feelings, any more than of his natural existence. He can destroy; he cannot recreate. And he does so far do to death his own feelings whenever in any signal instance he acts against them. (Ibid.)

Amos 1:13. To widen their border. The war of extermination was carried on not incidentally nor in sudden stress of passion, but in cold blood. A massacre here and there would not have enlarged their border. They wished to make place for themselves by annihilating Israel that there might be none to rise up, and thrust them from their conquests and claim their old inheritance. Such was the fruit of habitually indulged covetousness. Yet who beforehand would have thought it possible? (Ibid.)

Amos 1:15. He and his princes. Evil kings have evermore evil counsellors. It is ever the curse of such kings to have their own evil reflected, anticipated, fomented, enacted by bad advisers around them. They link together, but to drag one another into a common destruction. (Ibid.)— Amos 2:1. Even the iniquity done to the godless, God will not leave unpunished. To rage against the bodies of the dead is sinful and horrible. Pusey justly remarks, “The soul being beyond man’s reach, the hatred vented upon one’s remains is a sort of impotent grasping after eternal vengeance. It wreaks upon what it knows to be insensible the hatred with which it would pursue, if it could, the living being who is beyond it. Hatred which death cannot extinguish is the beginning of the eternal hate in hell.”

Amos 1:3Amos 2:3. Who shall not tremble at the judgments of God? But who shall not gain confidence against all the insolence of men, from the thought how God has judged the world? Who shall not shun all rage, cruelty, and violence, since he knows that God avenges all such sins?

Amos 2:4. Because they despised the law, etc. Many other sins prevailed among the Jewish people, but by mentioning only these two,—contempt for the law and false worship,—the Lord shows that they are the most grievous, since they violate the first and great commandment, and make up the three and four, i.e., seven, the complete number of sins, the fullness of the measure of iniquity. For it is one of God’s greatest benefits that He gives us his Word containing the revelation of his will and thus points the way not only to our temporal welfare but to eternal blessedness. To throw to the winds such a gift is the grossest ingratitude. From this contempt of the Word, there follows necessarily the other sin of idolatry. For a man cannot exist without a God and worship; his nature forbids it. If any one turns aways from the Word in which God reveals his nature and will, he must needs devise to himself a deity and a worship which is nothing but a pernicious lie.—Despised. The prophet uses a bold word in speaking of man’s dealings with God. Man carries on the serpent’s first fraud, Hath God indeed said? He would not willingly own that he is directly at variance with the mind of God. It were too silly as well as too terrible. So he smoothes it over to himself, lying to himself: “God’s Word must not be taken so precisely.” “God cannot have meant.” “The author of nature would not have created us so if He had meant.” Such are the excuses by which man evades owning to himself that he is trampling under foot the mind of God. Scripture draws off the veil. Judah had the law of God and did not keep it; then he despised it. This ignoring of God’s known will and law and revelation is to despise them as effectually as to curse God to his face. (Pusey.)—After which their fathers walked. The children canonize the errors of their fathers. Human opinion is as dogmatic as revelation. The second generation of error demands as implicit submission as God’s truth. The transmission of error against himself, God says, aggravates the evil, does not excuse it. (Ibid.)

Amos 2:5. Will send fire into Judah. So we know that a fiery stream will come forth and destroy all who, whether or no they are in the body of the Church, are not of the heavenly Jerusalem; dead members in the body which belongs to the living Head. And it will not the less come, because it is not regarded. Rather, the very condition of all God’s judgments is to be disregarded and to come, and then most to come when they are most disregarded. (Ibid.)

Amos 2:6. For three transgressions of Israel, etc. We see here that the idolatry of Israel was a fountain of all sorts of misdeeds, even of such as would shock a reasonable Prayer of Manasseh, as the list shows; perversion of justice, oppression of the poor, unnatural uncleanness and shameless luxury.

Amos 2:7. Pant after the dust. Covetousness, when it has nothing to feed on, craves for the absurd or impossible. What was Naboth’s vineyard to a king of Israel with his ivory palace f What was Mordecai’s refusal to bow to one in honor like Haman? Covetousness is the sin, mostly not of those who have not, but of those who have. It grows with its gains, and is the less satisfied the more it has to satisfy it. (Pusey.)—To profane my holy name. The sins of God’s people are a reproach upon himself. They bring Him, so to say, in contact with sin, and defeat the object of his creation and revelation. “He lives like a Christian,” is a proverb of the Polish Jews, drawn from the debased state of morals in Socinian Poland. The religion of Christ has no such enemies as Christians. (Ibid.)

Amos 2:8. They stretch themselves, etc. They condensed sin. By a sort of economy in the toil they blended many sins into one: idolatry, sensuality, cruelty, and, in all, the express breach of God’s commandments. This dreadful assemblage was doubtless smoothed over to the conscience of the ten tribes, by that most hideous ingredient of all, that the “house of their God” was the place of their revelry. What hard-heartedness to the willfully-forgotten poor is compensated by a little churchgoing! (Ibid.)

Amos 2:9-10. And I destroyed, etc. We need often to be reminded of the mercies we have received, which are the heaviest aggravations of the sins we have committed. God gives liberally and upbraids us not with our meanness and unworthiness, and the disproportion between his gifts and our merit; but He justly upbraids us with our ingratitude and ill-requital of his favors, and tells us what He has done for us, to shame us for not rendering again according to the benefit done to us. (M. Henry.)

Amos 2:11. I raised up … dedicated ones. The life of the Nazarite was a continual protest against the self-indulgence and worldliness of the people. It was a life above nature. They had no special office except to live that life. Their life taught. Nay, it taught in one way the more, because they had no special gifts of wisdom or knowledge, nothing to distinguish them from ordinary men except extraordinary grace. They were an evidence what all might be and do, if they used the grace of God. (Pusey.)

Amos 2:12. Made them drink wine. What men despise they do not oppose. “They kill us, they do not despise us,” were the true words of a priest in the French Revolution. Had the men in power not respected the Nazarites, or felt that the people respected them, they would not have attempted to corrupt or to force them to break their vow. (Ibid).—I command the prophets, Prophecy not. Those have a great deal to answer for who cannot bear faithful preaching, and those much more who suppress it. (M. Henry.)

Amos 2:13-16. When God’s judgments go forth, no power, Wisdom of Solomon, wealth, arms, swiftness or experience, is of any avail. Because men so readily fall into contempt of God’s judgments as something easy to be avoided, He at times expresses them in such terms as to show that no escape is possible. (Rieger.)

Footnotes:

FN#1 - Amos 1:6.—נְּלות, l, exile; but usually concrete, exiles.

FN#2 - Amos 1:6.—שָׁלֵם, complete, therefore in full number=all the prisoners.

FN#3 - Amos 1:11.—ושִׁחֵת depends upon עַל, which continues in force as a conjunction.—שִׁחֵת, deוtroys = stifles his compassion = acts mercilessly.

FN#4 - Ewald and Green make עֶבְרָ a nominative absolute, and suppose an omitted mappik in the last letter of the verb, so as to translate, “and it keeps its wrath forever.”]

FN#5 - Amos 1:15.—מַלְכָּם. Some of the Greek versions, followed by the Syriac and Jerome, give the form Μαλχομ, Melchom, as a proper name, but the common text is sustained by the LXX. and Chaldee, and required by the connection.]

FN#6 - Amos 2:3.—שׁוֹפט analogous to תוֹמֵךְ שֵׁבֶט, in Amos 1:5; Amos 1:8, is simply a rhetorical variation for מֶלֶךְ.

FN#7 - Amos 2:4. תּוֹרָת = God’s law, his preceptive will in general. הֻקִּים = the separate precepts, whether ceremonial or moral.]

FN#8 - Amos 2:6.—בַּעֲבוּר is not synonymous with בְ pretii, but means on account of. Fürst, Keil, etc. [Pusey and Wordsworth adopt the former view.]

FN#9 - Amos 2:7.—לְמַצַן, not “so that,” but, “in order that,” indicating that the sin was practiced not from weakness or ignorance, but a studious contempt of the Holy God.

FN#10 - Amos 2:8.—עְַנוּשֵׁים: punished in money, i. e, fined, as in the margin of the Auth. Version.

FN#11 - Amos 2:8.—אְֶלֹהֵיהֶם, not their gods, i. e., idols [as Henderson], but their God.

FN#12 - Amos 2:9.—The repetition of the personal pronoun אָנִֹכִי, here and in Amos 1:10, is very emphatic, equivalent to our English phrase, “It was I who,” etc.]

FN#13 - Amos 2:13.—הֵעִיק, to enclose, compress, crush, תָּחתּיכֶם, Keil renders “down upon you” = crush you. [So Winer. Gesenius, Ewald.] Fürst takes the word here and elsewhere as a substantive, meaning place, position, and renders, “I will compress your standing-place.” The pressure is compared to that of a cart. According to the usual explanation, the cart is further defined as full of sheaves. But in that case it is strange that the pressure of a full cart should be used to represent the destructive crushing here intended. A more appropriate comparison is found in the pressure by which a threshing cart threshes the sheaves. It is better therefore to take עָמִיר as the object, and to refer להּ הַֽמְלֵאָה to עַנֽלָה = the full threshing cart, since such a cart is always conceived of as heavily laden. The explanation of Fürst is forced. He supplies עַל גֹרֶן, to which he refers the adjective, so as to render “upon the floor full of sheaves.”

FN#14 - Amos 2:13.—הַמלֵאָה לָהּ, lit., “which is full in itself, has quite filled itself.”

FN#15 - Amos 2:14.—אָבַד מנוֹס.The same combination is found in Psalm 142:4.]

FN#16 - Amos 2:15.—נַפשׁוֹ belongs to both members of the verse.

FN#17 - Amos 2:16.—אַמִּץ לִבּוֹ = “the strong in his heart,” i. e., “the courageous.”

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Amos 1:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/amos-1.html. 1857-84.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, October 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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