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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Amos 3

 

 

Verses 1-15

CHAPTERS3–6

II. To the Kingdom of Israel, especially to its Great Men, the Divine Judgment is announced upon the Prevailing Sins, unless Men seek the Lord.

Amos 3

1. As surely as the Prophet bears the Divine Commission, will God punish Israel.

1Hear this word,

Which Jehovah speaks concerning you, ye sons of Israel,

Concerning the whole family

Which I brought up from the land of Egypt, saying,

2You only have I known of all the families of the earth;

Therefore will I visit upon you all your iniquities.

3Do two walk together

Unless they have agreed[FN1]

4Does the lion roar in the forest

When he has no prey?

Does the young lion utter his cry out of his den

Unless he has taken something?

5 Does a bird fall into a trap[FN2] on the ground

When there is no snare for him?

Does the trap rise up from the earth

Without catching anything at all?

6 Or is a trumpet blown in a city,

And the people are not alarmed?

Or does misfortune occur in a city,

And Jehovah has not caused it?

7 [No;] for[FN3] the Lord Jehovah does nothing

Without having revealed his secret to his servants, the prophets.

8 The lion roars,

Who does not fear?

The Lord Jehovah speaks,

Who must not prophesy?

9 Make it heard over the palaces in Ashdod,

And over the palaces in the land of Egypt,

And say, assemble upon the mountains of Samaria,

And see the great confusions in the midst thereof,[FN4]

And the oppressed in the heart thereof.

10 And they know not to do right, saith Jehovah,

They who store up violence and devastation in their palaces.

11Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah,

An enemy, and that round about the land![FN5]

And he shall bring down thy strength[FN6] from thee,

And thy palaces shall be plundered.

12Thus saith Jehovah,

As the shepherd rescues from the mouth of the lion

Two legs or an ear-lappet,

So shall the sons of Israel deliver themselves;

They who sit in Samaria

On the corner of the couch and on the damask of the bed.[FN7]

13Hear ye and testify to the house of Jacob,

Saith the Lord Jehovah, the God of Hosts:

14That in the day when I visit Israel’s transgressions upon him,

I will visit the altars of Bethel,

And the horns of the altar[FN8] shall be cut off and fall to the ground.

15 And I will smite the winter-house with the summer-house,

And the houses of ivory shall perish,[FN9]

And many[FN10] houses shall disappear.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

1. Amos 3:1-2. Hear this word which Jehovah, etc. “Hear this word.” This phrase is repeated at the beginning of chaps, 5. and6. It therefore shows this chapter to contain one address complete in itself. See the Introduction. Upon the whole family. Although afterwards destruction is threatened only against the ten tribes, yet here the entire race is included. The people as a whole were known and chosen of God, and therefore the punishment of sin is set forth in universal terms. Just so far as sin extends, punishment will and must come. Certainly this occurred first in the case of the ten tribes, but how little Judah could count upon being spared, has already been seen in Amos 5:4, etc.

Amos 3:2. Only you have I known. This is equivalent to “I have chosen,” since the knowing expresses a relation of sympathy and love, as “the motive and the result of the election.”

2. Amos 3:3-8. Do two walk together, etc. The general announcement of a punitive judgment is followed—without any apparent connection with the foregoing—by a series of propositions illustrated by examples from daily life. Plainly, these perhaps proverbial phrases are here introduced only by way of comparison. They illustrate the principle that every effect has its cause.

Amos 3:4. When he has no prey, refers, as Keil justly states, not to the actual seizing of the prey by the lion, but to his having it before him so that it cannot escape. In like manner, the phrase in the second clause, “unless he has taken something,” is to be explained. The lion makes his capture not merely when he has seized and is rending the prey, but when it is so near that escape is impossible. [The lion, as a rule, roars most terribly when it has the prey in sight, upon which it immediately springs. Bochart.]

Amos 3:5. Does the trap rise up? because lifted up by the bird flying away. Without catching, i. e. the bird.

Amos 3:6. In the first member the usual order of these propositions is reversed, and the cause is mentioned first,—the blowing of the trumpet,—and the result follows. In the second, the other order is restored. In this last, similes are abandoned, and the discourse states directly what had been implied in numerous comparisons. As little as two can walk together without, etc, etc.; so little can misfortune occur in a city without the Lord’s hand; or rather, as in all these eases, one thing is the result of the other as its cause, so is it here. “Misfortune” in the city is the result, the “Lord” is the cause. Even this is to be considered as a kind of proverbial speech, but it explains the subject treated of in this passage. The prophet has threatened the whole people in Amos 3:2, with a visitation from God. Against this the consciousness of Israel revolts, especially because the visitation is to come from God, their own God, Jehovah. Therefore the prophet proves the correctness of his declaration by these examples, in which he traces with the certainty of the strictest logic every effect to a cause, and so every misfortune in the city to Jehovah as its, author (and to his punitive righteousness as the cause). If this be Song of Solomon, every objection is obviated. Whatever misfortune exists must be traced back to Jehovah. This however is not proved, but only illustrated, by the examples cited, which show simply that as every event has its cause, so also must misfortune; so that the question remains, Is this result to be attributed to Jehovah’s activity? The answer to this is found in Amos 3:7-8, which must be taken together, since it is only thus that they furnish the desired proof.

Amos 3:7. For presupposes the answer No, to the foregoing questions, especially the last. No, misfortune does not occur without Jehovah’s hand, for, etc. The proof in the first instance is this: Jehovah does nothing without having disclosed his “secret,” i.e. his secret counsel, to his servants, the prophets. The latter is certainly not the cause, but it is the indispensable condition of Jehovah’s activity, so that between the two there is a necessary connection. But this very revelation to the prophets has as an inevitable result ( Amos 3:8), their prophesying, which again is illustrated by an example drawn from experience, the lion roars, etc. so that this prophesying is not an accidental or capricious thing, but proceeds from a causa sufficiens, which lies in Jehovah himself. Therefore the meaning is: when the prophet speaks or predicts, Jehovah has revealed it to him, and the former is the result of the latter. But if Jehovah has made a revelation to him, then what he predicts, namely, misfortune, is really impending from Jehovah. The Lord will let it come. He will not indeed in the absence of such a revelation; but wherever this occurs, it is a token that He will bring it to pass. Therefore a prophecy, a foretelling of calamity by a prophet, is a voucher—כִי—that the calamity is from the Lord, that a causal connection exists between the two as certain as that between the things mentioned in Amos 3:3-6. Otherwise, the prophet could not announce such a calamity, since he announces only what Jehovah reveals to him, but must announce that. The divine origin of his prophecy is to the prophet, therefore, the basis on which he proceeds as on a certain reality, and from this he argues and proves the divine authorship of the fact which he predicts, namely, a punitive judgment. Thus is sustained the truth of the saying, that Jehovah would visit Israel.—Only in this way do we understand the כִי in Amos 3:7. It is therefore a reversal of the order of thought when most interpreters say that from Amos 3:3 the prophet is proving the divine origin of his prophecy against the objection that he spoke only from subjective influences, i.e., “as little can a prophet speak without a divine impulse as any other effect can be produced without a cause” (B. Baur). No, the prophet does not justify himself or his calling, he is sure of that; he only seeks to convince his hearers or readers that they are really to expect the judgment which he announces, and to this end he uses the fact that prophecy comes from God.—Concerning the examples in Amos 3:3 ff. Baur correctly remarks, “There is no occasion to regard them as anything more than mere analogies representing the general relation of cause and effect, or to assign to each case a special reference to the prophet’s thought, e. g., the two as a figure of God and the people, the lion as representing Jehovah, and the prey and the bird, the wicked, etc.” Such a method leads to constrained refinements, as may be seen in Keil, in loc. The illustration of one principle by so many examples may seem somewhat tedious, but to understand it, one must consider the partiality of the Orientals for figurative and proverbial speeches, which leads them to express in these concrete forms even such an abstract truth as the relation of cause and effect. There is nothing strange, therefore, in finding such a representation coming from the herdman of Tekoa.

3. Amos 3:9-15. Here the Lord’s purpose respecting the sinful people is openly declared.

(a.) Amos 3:9-10. The sins.Make it heard, etc. Not only are the sins to be punished set forth, but the heathen are summoned as witnesses. This turn in the address indicates that the sinfulness is very great, enough even to surprise the heathen, and thus puts Israel to shame.

Amos 3:9. Publish ye. Jehovah is the speaker, and we must regard the command as addressed to the people in these heathen lands. The palaces, i. e., those who dwell there, are to be informed, because the question concerns what is done in the palaces of Samaria. Ashdod, as part for the whole, is put for the Philistines, who were regarded by Israel as godless heathen. Egypt, “whose unrighteousness and ungodliness Israel had once abundantly experienced” (Keil).—On the mountains of Samaria, i. e. around Samaria, whence they could look into the city.

Amos 3:10. They know not to do right. They do not understand it, so accustomed are they to unrighteousness. They who store up violence, etc.; evil treasures which, so far from helping, destroy them.

(b.) Amos 3:11-15. Therefore thus saith, etc, עַר may be abstract or concrete. The latter is more probable, especially as in that case it is naturally connected with the verb והו̇רִיד which otherwise would require Jehovah to be understood as its subject. The clause is an emphatic assertion in the form of an exclamation.

Amos 3:12. In this plundering of Samaria, the great men will be able to save their lives only to the smallest extent and with the greatest difficulty Both points are suggested in the comparison. (“A pair of shin-bones and a piece, i. e. a lappet, of the ear.” Keil.)

Amos 3:13. Renews the threatening and raises it still higher. There will be an utter destruction Hear ye, etc, is addressed to the Israelites, as in Amos 3:1, since among even these God has those who will testify what He is going to do. They shall, when summoned as witnesses of wrong doing, announce also the punishment of Israel. House of Jacob means all Israel, i. e., the twelve tribes; even Judah should hear it so as to learn a lesson. The Divine names are accumulated for emphasis; the threat of such a God ought to make a deep impression. The visitation of Israel will begin with the destruction of the altars in Bethel, i. e., of idolatry, the religious source of the moral corruption. This is more closely defined by the cutting off of the horns, which destroys the significance of the altar.

Amos 3:15. Winter houses and summer houses are primarily those of the royal family, but perhaps also those of the noblemen.—The threatened judgment, therefore, is the overthrow of Samaria, especially its palaces, with the complete extermination of the inhabitants ( Amos 3:12).

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL.

1. “Israel stands to us as a constant example both of the unsearchable riches of grace which God bestows and of the inconceivable judgments He sends upon those who receive his grace in vain.” (Rieger.) Here again the bringing out of Egypt appears as the fundamental act of God’s grace. It is mentioned alone, because by it as the condition of its outer and inner existence was Israel constituted the people of God. This bringing out, however, includes the guidance, through the wilderness and the giving of the law. This people alone did God “know;” to them alone He stood in a relation of nearness and confidence; all others were aliens. Therefore so much the greater their guilt, and the move certain their punishment.

2. The sin of Israel, especially of the ten tribes, is apostasy, at least in the calf-worship (comp. Amos 3:14, chaps, Amos 4:4, Amos 5:5). But that which particularly provokes rebuke and menace Isaiah, as appears by chap2. and the following chapters, the extreme moral corruption, which naturally is regarded as the violation of the divine commands, covetousness and luxury, and in connection therewith, the shameless disregard of the elementary duties due to our neighbors, violent oppression of the poor. This last is continually the subject of sharp censure (cf2, 6, 7, and subsequently Amos 4:1, Amos 5:6; Amos 5:11-12, Amos 6:12, Amos 8:5-6). The poor always stand under the especial protection of the divine law, a peculiar feature of which is its compassion for the lowly, as the Mosaic institute shows in many of its provisions. How fully the prophet was in sympathy with this trait, is shown by the fact that upon no point is he so zealous as upon the oppression of the poor. This was doubtless because such instances frequently occurred; still it is significant that instead of merely touching them and then passing on, he brings them forward and brands them with an especial stigma. “To pervert the way of the poor,” as it was before expressed in chap1. Amos 3:7, Isaiah, as it were, the unpardonable sin. For this reason the prophet’s rebuke is addressed mainly to the great, the higher classes; but certainly not because these alone were corrupt while the lower classes needed no particular censure, although at bottom this was the fact. Are we then to recognize a democratic feature in the circumstance, and observe how a man of the people, a herdman, feels himself called chiefly to scourge the sins of the nobles and especially those by which the humble suffered? If it is correct to assert that God called and employed him to chastise such sins, we may admit this. Only let us not ascribe to Amos that modern democratic view which reviles the higher classes because it condemns all distinctions of ranks. Rather the reverse is true of Amos. He inveighs against the sins of the great, just because their position is so important, because he knows that upon their conduct depends the weal or the woe of the community, for if corruption prevails in their circles, the foundations of the national prosperity are undermined and shaken. With equal or even greater propriety may one ascribe an aristocratic leaning to our prophet, but after a proper manner, i. e., he considers the position of the higher classes very important, but for that very reason very responsible, and holds that their rights and privileges impose corresponding duties. They have much ability, but much is also expected from them, “to whom much is given,” etc. And if they mistake and abuse their position, so much the heavier is their guilt and the greater the harm they work. Their degeneracy at last brings destruction upon the whole. If then a prophet were silent, or censured only the lowly and not the high, he would be justly chargeable with servility and fear of men, which would ill agree with his call to be a witness of divine truth (cf. chap, 4. Doctrinal and Ethical, 2).

3. Misfortune as a punishment comes only from Jehovah. It comes not of itself nor is casual, but has a definite cause and author, who is Jehovah He who chose and blessed his people, the same punishes them. Men may struggle against this truth, but still it remains incontestable. And when a doubt of the divine authorship intrudes, there comes a voucher in the words of the prophets. Before God executes anything, He reveals it to his servants, and these cannot but declare what is thus revealed. A calamity announced by them is a punishment proceeding from God.

4. The lofty significance of prophecy is strongly expressed in Amos 3:7-8. The prophets are not only “God’s servants” in general, but are also entrusted with “his secret,” his “counsel,” i. e., what He proposes respecting his people. Yes, he does nothing until He has revealed it to the prophets. Thus Hebrews, as it were, binds himself to them. Is it asked, Why? The answer Isaiah, The aim of the revelation is to secure its announcement, as it is expressly said ( Amos 3:8), the speaking of God to his servants necessarily leads them to prophesy. The object of their utterances is simple and single, to set plainly before men the severity of God against sin, the truth of his punitive righteousness. If this is done, so to speak, in the interest of God, naturally it is still more in the interest of men. These are to learn how the matter stands with them and what threatens them, so as to take warning while there is time. And if men do take warning—for this is the implied thought,—then “God does nothing,” i. e., does not carry out his secret counsel. Therefore Hebrews, as it were, puts prophecy between his “secret” and its execution, and so prophecy is justly reckoned among Israel’s peculiar privileges (comp. Amos 2:11 and the remarks there). Well remarks Rieger in reference to the present times: “Those to whom God has intrusted the duty of bearing witness to his truth in the world now, cannot put themselves on a level with his ancient prophets, nor should they indulge any natural passion herein. Yet it is very significant that the Lord Jesus addressed to the overseers of the churches of Asia the precious testimony of his Revelation, and therein the secret counsel by which God’s wrath is fulfilled, and thus indicated for all time the participation of the teacher’s office in the judgments of God, partly in foreseeing them, partly in foretelling them, and partly, moreover, in influencing them for good by prayer and watchfulness.”

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL.

Amos 3:1. Hear the word which Jehovah speaks to you. Here we learn that God’s Word should be preached in such way that its hearers should recognize that it is intended for and applies to them. For when it is declared only in general terms, especially as respects God’s wrath against sin, the people commonly sit and think it does not concern them but only folks in far-off lands. It should be said, Hear what the Lord says to you who sit here under the pulpit.

Amos 3:2. You only, etc.—therefore I will, etc. This is a wonderful inference. We should rather expect; therefore will I spare you. But we see that the Lord is accustomed to punish those who have received much at his hands more severely than others not so favored. For his kindness is not intended to encourage us in sin, but to render j us through gratitude more devoted to Him. He has chosen us in Christ that we should be holy and blameless before Him in love ( Ephesians 1.), but where this result does not follow, God’s goodness ceases, and his punishments fall the heavier.—(W. S.)

Amos 3:3 ff. The comparisons here may be practically explained as (1) teaching us what just grounds God has for his punishments. If two walk together, they must agree, but you, He says, do not agree with me, but are my foes, by your evil works, and therefore I cannot walk with you in complacency. (2) As a lion does not roar unless the prey is just before him, so my threatenings are not uttered unless I see men just ready to fall, as it were, a prey to my wrath. Of this, however, they think lightly, and deem any calamity that befalls them an accident. But (3) just as little as a bird falls into the net without a fowler, or a fowler lifts the snare without having caught something, so little does misfortune occur without God’s mind and will, who does not give up his purpose but carries it out unless withheld by a true repentance. As every one fears when the trumpet announces the enemy near at hand, so should my people when my prophets announce to them judgment for their sins. These similes remind us of the divine providence in punishments. They do not fall promiscuously, but in the righteous retribution of God, who determines beforehand who shall suffer and who escape.

[ Amos 3:6. Does misfortune occur, etc. Evil which is sin, the Lord hath not done; evil which is punishment for sin, the Lord bringeth. (Augustine.)

Amos 3:7. The Lord Jehovah does nothing, etc. God has ever warned the world of coming judgments in order that it may not incur them. As Chrysostom says, He has revealed to us hell in order that we may escape hell. He warned Noah of the coming deluge. He told Abram and Lot of the future judgment of the cities of the plain. He revealed to Joseph the seven years of famine, and to Moses the ten plagues, and to Jonah the destruction of Nineveh; and by Christ He foretold the fall of Jerusalem; and Christ has warned all of his own future coming to judge the world. God does this that men may repent; and that if they obstinately continue in sin, He may be justified in executing punishment upon them. (Wordsworth.)

Amos 3:8. Who does not fear? There is cause for you to fear when God roars from Zion, but if ye fear not, the prophets dare not but fear. So Paul says, “Woe is unto me if I preach not the Gospel.” So Peter and John, “We cannot but speak the things we have seen and heard.” Moses was not excused, though slow of speech; nor Isaiah, though of polluted lips; nor Jeremiah, because he was a child. And Ezekiel was bidden, Be not rebellious like that rebellious house. (Pusey.)

Amos 3:9. Publish in the palaces, etc. “Since ye disbelieve, I will manifest to Ashdodites and Egyptians the transgressions of which ye are guilty.” (Theodoret.) Shame towards man survives shame towards God. What men are not ashamed to do, they are ashamed to confess that they have done. Nay, to avoid a little passing shame, they rush upon everlasting shame. So God employs all inferior motives, shame, fear, hope of things present, if by any means He can win men not to offend Him. (Ibid.)

Amos 3:10. They know not, etc. It is a part of the miserable blindness of sin, that while the soul acquires a quick insight into evil, it becomes at last not only paralyzed to do good, but unable to perceive it. Store up violence. They stored up, as they deemed, the gains and fruits; but it was in truth the sins themselves, as a treasure of wrath against the day of wrath. (Ibid.)

Amos 3:11. Therefore thus saith, etc. There was no human redress. The oppressor was mighty, but mightier the avenger of the poor. Man would not help, therefore God would. Thy palaces shall be spoiled. Those palaces in which they had heaped up the spoils of the oppressed. Men’s sins are in God’s providence the means of their punishment. Their spoiling should invite the spoiler, their oppressions should attract the oppressor. (Ibid.)

Amos 3:12. As the shepherd rescues, etc. Amos as well as Joel ( Joel 2:32) preaches the same solemn sentence, so repeated through the prophets, “a remnant only shall be saved.” So it was in the captivity of the ten tribes. So it was in Judah. In the Gospel, not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble were called, but God chose the poor of this world, and the Good Shepherd rescued from the mouth of the lion those whom man despised. (Ibid.)

Amos 3:13. Hear ye and testify. It is of little avail to testify, unless we first hear; nor can man bear witness to what he doth not know; nor will words make an impression, i. e., be stamped on men’s souls, unless the soul which utters them have first hearkened unto them. (Ibid.)

Amos 3:14. In the day when I visit, etc. Scripture speaks of “visiting offenses upon,” because in God’s providence, the sin returns upon a man’s own head. It is not only the cause of his punishment but a part of it. The memory of a man’s sins will be apart of his eternal suffering. (Ibid.)

Amos 3:14. The altars, etc. The vengeance of a just and holy God will one day certainly root out false worship.

Amos 3:15. The winter-house and, etc. What are the palaces and pleasure-houses of the wicked in the time of judgment, but a brand which kindles the wrath of the Lord.

Footnotes:

FN#1 - Amos 3:3.—נוֹעָֽדוּ. To meet together at an appointed time and place.

FN#2 - Amos 3:5.—פַח is the fowler’s net, מוֹקֵשׁ, the springe or snare which holds the bird fast. לָהּ belongs to צִפוֹר [In order to catch a bird in the net, a springe must be laid for it.]

FN#3 - Amos 3:7.—כִּי. Not “surely,” as in E. T, a signification which it never has, but, “for,” in connection with a negative implied in its relation to what precedes. Cf. Micah 6:4, Job 31:18.]

FN#4 - Amos 3:9.—מְהוּמוֹת, noise, disorder, denotes a state of confusion, resulting from a complete overturning of right, such as is expressed by עֲשׁוּקִים, probably to be taken as an abstract, “the oppression” (of the poor) or possibly concrete, “the oppressed.”

FN#5 - Amos 3:11.—עֻזֵּךְ, thy strength, i.e., Samaria’s.

FN#6 - Amos 3:11.—וּסְבִיב is explanatory, “and that round about the land,” i.e., will come and attack it on all sides.

FN#7 - Amos 3:12.—פְּאַת מִטָּה, the corner of the divan. the most convenient for repose, דְמֶשֶׂק, damask, covered with a costly stuff. [Pusey and Wordsworth revert to the old view (Sept, Vulgate, Syriac, Targum), which is followed in the Authorized Version, and interpret, “and recline on Damascus as a couch,” but their reasons do not seem to have much weight.]

FN#8 - Amos 3:14.—הַמִזְבחַ is the singular of species, and is equivalent to a plural.

FN#9 - Amos 3:15.—I vory houses are such as have their apartments adorned with inlaid ivory (cf. 1 Kings 22:39).

FN#10 - Amos 3:15.—רַבִּים, not “large” as E T, but “many.”

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Amos 3:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/amos-3.html. 1857-84.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, August 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19
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