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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Amos 5

 

 

Verses 1-27

Amos 5

3. Lament for Israel. The only Safety is in seeking the Lord. Woe to the Fools who desire the Day of the Lord

1Hear this word,

Which I raise over you as a lamentation,[FN1]O house of Israel.

2Fallen is the virgin[FN2]Israel, she does not rise again,

She is stretched out upon her soil, no one raises her up.

3For thus saith the Lord Jehovah,

The city which goes out by a thousand[FN3]

Shall retain a hundred,

And that which goes out by a hundred

Shall retain ten, for the house of Israel.

4For thus saith Jehovah to the house of Israel,

Seek ye me, and ye shall live.[FN4]

5 And seek not Bethel,

And go not to Gilgal,

And pass not over to Beersheba.

For Gilgal shall surely go into captivity,[FN5]

And Bethel shall come to naught.

6 Seek ye Jehovah, and ye shall live,

Lest he break forth like fire upon the house of Joseph,

And it devour,[FN6] and there be none to quench it for Bethel.

7 They who turn justice into wormwood,

And cast righteousness down to the earth!

8 He who makes the Seven Stars[FN7]and Orion,

And turns the shadow of death into morning,

And darkens day into night;

Who calls to the waters of the sea,

And pours them over the face of the earth,

Jehovah is his name!

9 Who makes desolation to flash[FN8] upon the strong,

And desolation comes upon the fortress.

10 They hate the reprover[FN9] in the gate,

And him that speaketh uprightly they abhor.

11Therefore, because ye trample[FN10]upon the poor,

And take from him a gift of wheat;

Houses of hewn stone ye have built

But ye shall not dwell in them,

Pleasant vineyards ye have planted,

But ye shall not drink their wine.

12For I know that many are your transgressions,

And your sins are great,

Ye who oppress[FN11] the righteous,

Who take a bribe,

And they push aside the poor in the gate from their right.

13Therefore, the prudent at this time is silent,

For it is an evil time.

14Seek good and not evil that ye may live,

And that so Jehovah, God of hosts, may be with you, as ye say.

15 Hate evil and love good,

And set up justice in the gate;

Perhaps Jehovah, God of hosts, will favor the remnant of Joseph.

16 Therefore thus saith Jehovah, God of hosts, the Lord,

In all streets wailing!

And in all the highways shall men say, Alas, alas,

And they call[FN12] the husbandman to mourning,

And lamentation to those skilled in lamenting.

17 And in all vineyards shall be lamentation,

For I will pass through the midst of thee, saith Jehovah.

18 Woe to those who desire the day of Jehovah!

What good is it to you?

The day of Jehovah! it is darkness and not light.

19 As if a man fleeth before the lion,

And the bear meets him;

Or he goes into the house

And rests his hand upon the wall,

And the snake bites him.

20 Is not the day of Jehovah darkness and not light,

And gloom without any brightness?

21 I hate, I despise your feasts,[FN13]

And take no delight in your assemblies.

22For if ye offer me burnt offerings,

Your food-offerings I will not accept,

And the thank-offering of your fatlings I will not regard.

23Take away from me the noise of your Song of Solomon,

And the playing of your harps I will not hear.

24And let judgment roll on like water,

And righteousness like an inexhaustible stream.[FN14]

25 Did ye offer me sacrifices and food offerings

In the wilderness forty years, O house of Israel?

(No) but ye bore the tent of your king 15]

And the pedestal of your images,

The star of your God,

Which ye made for yourselves.

27 Therefore will I carry you away captive beyond Damascus,[FN16]

Saith Jehovah, whose name is God of hosts.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

1. Amos 5:1-3. Lament over the fall of Israel. This word is further defined as a mournful song or dirge. The song follows in Amos 5:2. The virgin expresses the fact that the daughter of Israel had hitherto been unconquered ( Isaiah 23:12). This now should have an end. Amos 5:3 briefly explains the dirge. Israel will perish in war even to a very small remnant.

2. Amos 5:4-17. The deeper ground of the dirge; For Israel might easily be saved if they would seek the Lord, but this they will not do.

(a.) Amos 5:4-6. What God desires is that they should seek Him and forsake idolatry. To live means in the first instance to remain in life, but naturally includes the whole welfare of the state, its independence, etc. Gilgal and Bethel, so far from helping those who resorted to them, should themselves perish. Beersheba, in Southern Judæ, must have been a place of idolatrous worship, to which people from the ten tribes resorted, and in so doing passed over the boundaries of their kingdom.

Amos 5:6. Once more is the seeking of Jehovah declared to be the means of life, and more strictly, the means of averting the judgment. The house of Joseph = Ephraim, the whole kingdom being named from the principal tribe. Bethel, as the chief seat of worship, was the central point of the kingdom.

(b.) Amos 5:7-9. By a peculiar asyndeton the two parties are placed in vivid contrast with each other; the people in their ungodly course, and Jehovah in his omnipotence, naturally with the implied thought, such a God can punish—ought to be feared.

Amos 5:7. Wormwood as a bitter plant is an image of bitter wrong, as in Amos 6:12; righteousness therefore is conceived as a sweet fragrant plant (cf. Deuteronomy 29:19). Casting down to the earth = trampling under foot.

Amos 5:8. Turns the shadow of death, etc. As these words are preceded by a reference to the stars and followed by a mention of natural phenomena, they are certainly to be understood in the same way, the aim of the entire passage being to cite the obvious manifestations God thus makes of himself, in support of the foregoing threatening. The tropical explanation—“he changes the deepest misery into prosperity,” does not suit here, but only the natural, literal meaning; although “the shadow of death” does not in itself signify the regularly recurring shades of night, but as, e.g. in Job 24:17, the appalling gloom of night. Here night in general is set forth under this point of view, and is compared with the shadow of death. For its gloom is conceived of as an image of the divine judgment, of the hiding of God’s face. But in any case the energy of the divine power in turning darkness into light is rendered so much the more prominent. [Keil and Pusey prefer the figurative meaning, which indeed is more in accordance with the constant usage of צַלְמַוֶת, but is certainly unnatural in this place in view of the literal references before and after.]—Who calls to the waters, etc, can refer only to fearful inundations by waves of the sea. [The allusion to the judgment of the Flood can hardly be overlooked. Keil.]

Amos 5:9. Whether the evil mentioned here is to be viewed as caused like the foregoing by manifestations of God’s power in the natural world, is doubtful, but not improbable. The reference might be to an earthquake or a storm.

(c.) Amos 5:10-13. They hate the reprover etc. The prophet returns to the conduct of Israel, which must be punished.

Amos 5:10. “In the gate,” shows that the reference is to judicial proceedings. “The reprover,” therefore, and “the one speaking uprightly” cannot be understood of the prophets, however natural such reference would be on other grounds.

Amos 5:11. Take a gift = do him justice only when they are paid for it. Houses of hewn stone are costly dwellings, Isaiah 9:10. The threat is borrowed from Deuteronomy 28:30.

Amos 5:12. Who take a bribe, may either indicate a fresh sin, i. e., taking atonement money in satisfaction for a murder, against the law in Numbers 35:31, or may belong to the foregoing, thus, ye who oppress (imprison) the righteous and then take a ransom, i. e., will release him only for a ransom. The former is more consistent with the prevailing use of the Hebrew term. [So Pusey and Keil; but certainly the word in one instance at least, 1 Samuel 12:3, is used to denote any sort of bribe.]

Amos 5:13. Manifestly belongs to what precedes, since it further describes the period of corruption. He who has prudence = whose counsel is wholesome, will be compelled to silence (cf. Amos 5:10, the upright speaker is abhorred); instead of attentive hearing he has only violence to expect.

(d.) Amos 5:14-17. Once more the way of deliverance is pointed out, at least for a remnant. But for the mass, nothing is to be expected but deep sorrow on all sides.

Amos 5:14. And that so … with you as ye say. That Isaiah, Then will that be really the case which ye now vainly imagine,—that God is with you.

Amos 5:15. Set up justice, etc.=maintain a righteous administration of justice. Then possibly there may be favor for a remnant. This does not refer to the existing condition of the ten tribes as reduced by Syrian conquests, for the kingdom under Jeroboam II. had recovered its former territorial limits. The remnant refers to that which would be left in future after the great chastisement, impending. See a similar allusion in reference to Judah in Joel 3:5, and Isaiah 6:13; Isaiah 10:21; Isaiah 10:23.

Amos 5:16. Therefore, introducing the threat, presupposes a denunciation of sins. The entire chapter is full of this, and therefore naturally, Amos 5:16-17 do not refer simply to Amos 5:14-15. Yet these latter do, indirectly at least, contain a reproof. The warning implies that the warned are not seeking good, etc. But only such seeking can save, and it is only too certain that these are not doing it; therefore, etc,—general mourning. The sense Isaiah, on every hand there will be dead to weep for. There will be repeated what happened in Egypt at the smiting of the first born; as the words I will pass through the midst of thee, allude to Exodus 12:12. As in the cities, so in the land, there will be such a death wail. And they call is to be supplied before the last clause. The skilled in lamenting, are the professional wailing women who were employed at funerals.

Amos 5:17. Even in the vineyards, usually the places of liveliest joy, wailing should resound. [“A vintage not of wine but of woe.”—Pusey.]

3. Amos 5:18-27. Woe to the confident who deceive themselves with false hopes.

(a.) Amos 5:18-20. Woe to those, etc. It would be foolish to expect help from the day of the Lord.

Amos 5:18. Who desire the day of the Lord. Since they fancied that the carnal Israel and the true people of God were identical, this day must of course bring to them deliverance from all distress, and also power and glory. But it is made clear that this day to them can only bring harm, can only be a day of destruction ( Joel 2:2). Therefore, should they escape one danger (from a foe), they would only the more certainly fall into another. This in Amos 5:19 is set forth by a figure taken from common life, the meaning of which is clear.

Amos 5:20. Once more is the threatening character of the day of the Lord affirmed and repeated.

(b.) Amos 5:21-27. Even with festivals and sacrifices the people do not avert the judgment. For worship, rendered as a mere opus operatum, as it is by Israel, is worthless before God, and even offensive to Him. Since the question concerns the ten tribes, we may assume from the following representation that the worship they rendered was as to ritual substantially conformed to that at Jerusalem.

Amos 5:22. For. God’s displeasure at the feasts, etc, arise from his dislike of the sacrifices. The construction is interrupted, the first clause having no apodosis; but this is easily supplied from the second; and the sense Isaiah, I will accept neither your burnt offerings nor your meat offerings.

Amos 5:23. The singing is contemptuously called a noise of songs.

Amos 5:24. Such worship, instead of averting the judgment, rather provokes its full execution. It should pour over the land, like a flowing stream. It is wrong to interpret the verse [with Pusey, et al.] as an exhortation to the people to practice judgment and righteousness. The image of a flood of waters is much too strong for such a thought; it points rather to an act of God. [Yet, one may ask, is the expression any stronger here than in the cognate passage in Isaiah 48:18, “then had thy peace been as a river and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea?” But the connection manifestly favors the author’s view.]

(c.) Amos 5:25-27. Did ye offer, etc. No wonder that such a judgment impends over Israel. From of old they had been recreant to their God. Their present offensive worship was in reality only a continuation of the idolatry practiced in the wilderness.

Amos 5:25. Did ye offer to me sacrifices and food-offerings (=bloody and unbloody oblations)? The question implies a negative answer. The people therefore are described as having omitted the sacrifices to Jehovah for forty years, which certainly could be affirmed of the race as a whole, even if there were no express statements to that effect in the Pentateuch. Still, see e. g. Joshua 5:5-7, for the neglect of circumcision. While the people thus omitted the service of Jehovah, they carried on in place of it, idol worship.

Amos 5:26. And—namely, in place of bringing me the appointed offerings—ye bore the tent of, etc. (see Text, and Gram.). The idolatry censured by the prophet here is of Egyptian origin. Certainly the worship of the sun was widely diffused there, but we cannot affirm its nature more precisely. The existence of a literal god of the stars cannot be historically sustained.

Amos 5:27. After Israel’s apostasy had been established from the history of their forefathers, the judgment (cf. Amos 5:24) is briefly described as a literal carrying away. Even more plainly does it appear that the prophet in his threatenings is thinking of Assyria as the power from which the downfall of Israel is to come. Far beyond Damascus, is only a sort of euphemism for Assyria. The conclusion Isaiah, as in the case of the preceding chapter, the phrase, Jehovah, whose name is the God of hosts, a token that here-another division ends.

[The Quotation by Stephen. In Acts 7:42-43, the proto-martyr is represented as quoting Amos 5:26-27, in terms which vary considerably from our text. The explanation is as old as Jerome. “This is to be observed in all Holy Scripture, that Apostles and apostolic men, in citing testimonies from the Old Testament, regard not the words but the meaning, nor do they follow the words, step by step, provided they do not depart from the meaning.” (Quoted by Pusey in loc.) Stephen quoted from the Septuagint, because its variations, whether real or seeming, made no difference as to the force of the passage in establishing the fact that Israel in the wilderness worshipped false gods. Stephen also substitutes Babylon for Damascus in the closing clause of the quotation; but the idea is the same; for the prediction turned not upon the name, but the fact, namely, that God would scatter them into distant lands. Stephen was not guilty of an error or an inadvertence, but simply brought the prophecy, without any real change of meaning, into agreement with the historical associations of the people in relation to the Babylonish exile.]

DOCTRINAL AND MORAL

1. The prophet himself calls this chapter a wail over the house of Israel. Now as in such a wail the existing sorrow is touchingly expanded, but with it whatever can serve for its present and future amelioration, so in this lament the terribleness of sin and of the destruction to which it leads is sadly depicted, but at the same time are interwoven warnings to seek God so that in some measure the evil may be abated. (Rieger.) It is indeed remarkable; from what has gone before one would think Israel’s fate decided, that all admonition and warning were vain and nothing but punishment remained; and yet this chapter, far more than those which precede, gives admonition with a promise annexed. The sharper the threatening, the more the way of escape is pointed out, for “God desires not that any should perish.” Certainly it is the only way; therefore the admonition only states more emphatically the complaint; this only can save you, but you will none of it.

2. “Seek the Lord that ye may live.” Equally simple and definite are the monition and the promise. Man knows what he has to do, and what to expect. Not merely is warning given, but also promise and the reverse. The gain is certain if one fulfills the condition, but the condition is indispensable. Yet how little is asked—only to seek the Lord,—and at the same time how much! And on the other hand, how little apparently is promised—to live—and yet how much! Warning and promise therefore are connected together not merely by an outward, casual juxtaposition, but by an inward coherence. The result always follows upon the performance of the conditions; for it is the Lord from whom life and death proceed. Hence no other condition for the attainment of life can be imposed than just this, Seek the Lord; and no smaller gain can be promised to the fulfillment of that condition than this,—Life. How strong a testimony for the truth of religion is contained in a single maxim of this kind, and that one recorded in the Scriptures, even in the Old Testament! The condition imposed is in the first instance religious—“Seek the Lord, and cleave not to idols”—( Amos 5:5, also Amos 5:25-26), but this naturally involves also one of an ethical character. This is expressly stated, in accordance with the rigidly ethical character of the Old Testament, when afterwards ( Amos 5:14) the demand is changed into, “Seek good and not evil,” with the same promise attached—“that ye may live.” Only he therefore seeks the Lord in truth, who seeks good, and vice versa. And this seeking of good is more closely defined as hating evil and loving good. Both must concur; then only is there a real seeking of good; for God does the one as well as the other. Evil must be earnestly repelled and shunned, otherwise the seeking of good lacks truth and energy; in like manner must good be grasped at, otherwise the attempt misses its aim and soon becomes fruitless. Piety must have an ethical element, must show itself by hating evil and loving good. A mere outward religiousness, however zealous in ceremonies, is worthless in the eyes of God. Amos pronounces most decidedly against a sacrificial service destitute of a corresponding disposition of heart, where the offerings and gifts are not the expression of inward devotion and obedience to God.

3. The “good” which men are to love and to do, appears here continually as rectitude, in opposition to the prevailing unrighteousness, “the turning justice into wormwood, and casting righteousness down to the earth.” This is the least that can be expected, yet in another sense it is the most important, for in vain do we look for the other, and, so to speak, rarer duties from the neglecter of justice, whereas he who sincerely observes this will soon reach something farther. Justice is the foundation of social order; when it is wanting, all in the end comes to ruin.

4. “What the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh” ( Romans 8:3), appears clearly here as it does in the other prophets. Clearly and frankly the law declares God’s will, and tells man what he ought to do; notwithstanding, sin only increases, and apostasy becomes worse. For the law cannot along with its “Thou shalt” give to man the “I will.” Rather on account of his inborn depravity, its commands and prohibitions stir up the motions of sin, and lead them to a bolder outbreak. Then surely the whole curse of the law must at last light upon the transgressor; and the prophets announce this through the judgments with which they threaten the disobedient people. Thus the insufficiency of a legal position is ever more plainly set forth. The law cannot give a new heart—and this is really the question if sin is to be checked and perfect obedience secured,—but grace alone can, full and free grace. Israel had already, from the time of the Exodus, experienced many acts of grace from God, among which very properly the giving of the law itself may be ranked. But these were only benefits which address men from the outside, real benefits indeed, in which God expressed his love, but only in order thus to render his commands more acceptable. But there was wanting the peculiar, unparalleled manifestation of love which is made in Christ. He bore and suffered the full curse of the law; He took upon Himself the entire condemnation pronounced upon the transgressor. But this resulted in the largest grace to men, since He without sin took upon Himself that curse, and thus freed us from it; and through the Holy Spirit streaming into men united by faith in Him, there is created a new heart which wills what it should, which hates evil and loves good, and in which the power of the σάρξ is broken, so that “the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit.”

5. Upon the day of the Lord, see Joel 2Doctrinal and Moral, 1. The reproof which Amos utters, stands, as we may confidently assume, in close relation to Joel, i. e., refers to an abuse which had been made of Joel’s announcement of the day of the Lord. It appears here again that this day is essentially one of judgment. It certainly brings to Israel as God’s people deliverance from their foes, but still only in so far as they are really God’s people. So far as they are unfaithful and put, themselves on a level with the heathen, that day is for them one of judgment, since it brings destruction upon all that is ungodly and anti-godly. The name, Israel, therefore, gives no license. Only in this sense is the announcement made. The people saw in this desired period one that would overthrow their foes and deliver them from their present distresses, without remembering that their guilt caused these distresses, and that they deserved punishment rather than deliverance. In this view, the announcement of the last day is still gladly welcomed. Men assign the evil, the punishment, to others, especially to those by whom they suffer, but claim the good for themselves, and anticipate the end of all sorrows and the dawn of cloudless prosperity. Hence results the security which is directly opposite to the watching and praying so earnestly enjoined by our Lord. Men then may long for the day of the Lord as a day of deliverance, but let them look well to the way in which they regard it, and see that this day finds them prepared and true to the Lord, so that He may recognize them as his own. Certainly it is not to be longed for in a spirit of revenge, i. e., in the view that the quicker it comes the sooner will God’s judgments fall upon a godless world. The true Christian rather appreciates the wisdom and long suffering with which God forbears to Judges, and rejoices that room is left for the conversion of God’s foes, even if meanwhile he is to suffer by them. He who with carnal impatience wishes for God’s judgments upon others, will experience them himself, and truly in a different way from that of God’s people. Empty forms and lip-service, however zealously pursued, are no defense against the divine judgments, and no earnest of the salvation which proceeds thence for the true people of God. (See also under Homiletical and Practical.)

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

Amos 5:1. As a lamentation. God is so gracious that He not only shows us our sins, but even mourns when. He must punish us for them ( Luke 19:41). The accusation before punishment becomes a lament afterwards. Did we heed God’s charges, we should not need to hear his lament. [The bewailed who know not why they are bewailed, are the more miserable because they know not their own misery. Dion.]

Amos 5:2-3. God’s judgments increase in severity as they go on; if the earlier and milder are fruitless, at last comes total destruction. (Pf. B. W.) [Fallen. A dirge like that of David over Saul and Jonathan, over what was once lovely and mighty but had perished. (Pusey.) God had said, How should one chase a thousand! but the blessings of obedience are turned into the curses of disobedience. As the ancient Christian poet says, If the Lord is against us, our walls become cobwebs; but if the Lord is with us, our cobwebs become walls. (Wordsworth.)

Amos 5:4. Seek me and live. Four times repeated ( Amos 5:6; Amos 5:8; Amos 5:14). Wonderful conciseness of the Word of God, which in two words comprises the whole of the creature’s duty and his hopes, his time and his eternity… The object of the search is God himself. Seek me, i. e., seek God for himself, not for anything out of Him, not for his gifts, not for anything to be loved with Him. This is not to seek Him purely. All is found in Him, but by seeking Him first, and then loving Him in all, and all in Him. (Pusey.)

Amos 5:5. Seek not Bethel. Israel pretended to seek God in Bethel. Amos sets the two seekings as incompatible. The god worshipped at Bethel was not the one God. To seek God there was to lose Him. Pass not to Beersheba. Jeroboam1. pretended that it was to much for Israel to go to Jerusalem. And yet Israel thought it not too much to go to Beersheba, perhaps four times farther off. So much pains will men take in self-willed service, and yet not see that it takes away the excuse for neglecting the true.—Pusey. Gilgal shall surely, etc. Literally, “the place of rolling away,” so called because there God rolled away the reproach of Egypt from Israel ( Joshua 5:9). “Shall be clean rolled away.” This is the law of God’s dealings with man. He curses our blessings if we do not use them aright. Our holiest Gilgals—our sacraments, our Scriptures, our sermons, our Sundays,—which were designed by God to roll away from us the reproach of Egypt, will be rolled away from us if we do not use them aright; aud will roll us downward unto our destruction. Wordsworth.]

Amos 5:6. The same promise and the same warning,—a proof that there is no other way to life, and also that the warning cannot be given too often, alas, is so often in vain. Ye shall live. God’s gracious promises must be held before sinners, lest in despair they go from sin to sin. For how can one feel genuine repentance, if he has no hope? [None to quench for Bethel. Bethel, the centre of their idol hopes, so far from aiding them then, shall not be able to help itself, nor shall there be any to help it. Pusey.] God’s wrath is a consuming fire; only true repentance can extinguish it.

[ Amos 5:8. Seek him that maketh, etc. Misbelief retains the name God, but means something quite different from the one true God. Men speak of “the Deity” as a sort of first cause of all things, but lose sight of the personal God who has made known his will. “The Deity” is no object of love or fear. For a First Cause who is conceived of as no more, is an abstraction, not God. God is the cause of all causes. All things are, and have their relations to each other as cause and effect, because He so created them. A “great first cause” who is thought of only as a cause, is a mere fiction of man’s imagining, an attempt to appear to account for the mysteries of being, without owning that since our being is from God, we are responsible creatures who are to yield to Him an account of the use of our being which He gave us. In like way probably Israel had so mixed up the thought of God with nature that it had lost sight of God as distinct from the creation. And so Amos, after appealing to their consciences, sets forth God to them as the creator, disposer of all things, and the just God who redresseth man’s violence and injustice. (Pusey.) Ye who worship the stars are rebelling against Him who made them. (Wordsworth.)]

Amos 5:10. Impatience at a well-meant and friendly rebuke is the mark of an evil and perverse spirit. Such rebuke should be esteemed a kindness, even a balsam upon the head. On the other hand, reproof is to be administered with discretion. (Pf. B. W.)

Amos 5:11-12. Because ye trample, etc. Men should shun the oppression of the poor. Whence comes the swift ruin of entire families? It is because the sighing of the poor before God testifies against them, (ibid.)

[ Amos 5:13. The prudent is silent. So our Lord was silent before his Judges, for since they would not hear, his speaking would only increase their condemnation. So Solomon said, “He that Revelation -proveth a scorner getteth himself shame.” “When the wicked rise, then men hide themselves.” (Pusey.)

Amos 5:15. Hate evil, etc. He hateth evil who not only is not overcome by pleasure, but hates its deeds; and he loveth good who, not unwillingly nor of necessity nor from fear, doeth what is good, but because it is good. (Jerome.)] To hate evil and to love good belong together. (Rieger.) And set up justice, etc. Justice is a pillar of the state. To set it up when fallen is the duty of all men, but especially of those in posts of honor or profit.—Perhaps, etc. Temporal promises are made with an “It may be,” and our prayers must be made accordingly. (M. Henry.)

[ Amos 5:16. Therefore saith Jehovah, etc. For the third time here as in the two preceding verses, Amos reminds them of Him in whose name He speaks, namely, the I Amos, the self-existent God, the God of all things in heaven and earth, He who has absolute power over his creatures to dispose of them as He will. (Pusey.) Alas, alas! The terribleness of the prophecy lies in its truth. When war pressed without on the walls of Samaria, and within was famine and pestilence, woe, woe, woe must have echoed in every street; for in every street was death and the fear of worse. Yet imagine every sound of joy or din or hum of men, or mirth of children, hushed in the streets, and woe, woe, going up in one unmitigated, unchanging, ever-repeated monotony of grief. Such were the present fruits of sin. Yet what a mere shadow of the inward grief is its outward utterance! (Ibid.) Call the skilled in lamenting. The same feeling makes the rich now clothe their households in mourning, which made those of old hire mourners, that all might be in harmony with their grief. (Ibid.)

Amos 5:18. Woe to those who desire, etc. A similar spirit manifested itself in those who said in Jeremiah’s days, “The Temple of the Lord are these” ( Amos 7:4), and who prided themselves on their national religious principles, but did not obey the Lord of the temple, and were therefore condemned by the Prophet. A like temper was manifested after the Captivity. The Hebrew nation was eager for the Messiah’s coming to the new built temple, but the prophets reminded them that his coming would be a day of fear and woe for the ungodly. Malachi 3:2. (Wordsworth.)

Amos 5:19. As if a man fleeth before the lion, etc. The day of the Lord is a day of terror on every side. Before and behind, within and without, abroad under the roof of heaven or under the shelter of one’s own, everywhere is terror and death. (Pusey.)

Amos 5:20. Is not the day, etc. An appeal to men themselves, Is it not so? Men’s consciences are truer than their intellect. Intellect carries the question out of itself into the region of surmising and disputings. Conscience is compelled to receive it back into its own court and to give the sentence. Like the God of the heathen fable who changed himself into all sorts of forms, but when he was still held fast, gave at last the true answer, conscience shrinks back, twists, writhes, evades, turns away, but in the end will answer truly when it must. The prophet then turns round upon the conscience, and says, “Tell me, for you know.” (Ibid)

Amos 5:21-22. I hate, I despise, etc. Israel would fain be conscientious and scrupulous. What they offered was the best of its kind; whole burnt offerings, fatted beasts, full-toned chorus, instrumental music. What was wanting to secure the favor of God? Love and obedience. And so those things by which they hoped to propitiate God became the object of his displeasure. (Ibid.)

Amos 5:23. Take away the noise, etc. Here is a warning to all who think to please God by elaborate musical services in his house; while they do not take heed to worship Him with their hearts and to obey Him in their daily life. (Wordsw.)

Amos 5:24. Did ye offer unto me, etc. The ten tribes,) by approving and copying the false worship of their forefathers, made that sin their own. As the Church of God is at all times one and the same, so that great opposite camp, the city of the devil, has a continuous existence through all time. These idolaters were filling up the measure of their forefathers, and in the end of those who perished in the wilderness they might behold their own. As God rejected the divided service of their forefathers, so He would their’s. (Pusey.)—Unto me. This is emphatic. If God is not served wholly and alone, He is not served at all. As Jerome says, He regardeth not the offering, but the will of the offerer. (Ibid.)

Amos 5:25. Which ye made for yourselves. This was the fundamental fault. Whereas God made them for Himself, they made for themselves gods out of their own mind. All idolatry is self-will, first choosing a god and then enslaved to it. (Ibid.)

Amos 5:27. To break the force of the prophecy contained in this verse, De Wette says, “Although the kingdom of Israel had through Jeroboam recovered its old borders, yet careless insolence, luxury, unrighteousness must bring the destruction which the prophet foretells. He does but dimly forebode the superior power of Assyria.” To which Pusey justly answers, that decay does not involve the transportation of a people, but rather the contrary. A mere luxurious people rots on its own soil and would be left to rot there. It was the little remnant of energy and warlike spirit in Israel that brought its ruin from man. In the faults referred to, they were no worse than their neighbors, nor so bad; not so bad as the Assyrians themselves, except that, God having revealed Himself to them, they had more light. God has annexed no such visible laws of punishment to a nation’s sins that man could of his own wisdom or observation of God’s ways foresee it. They through whom He willed to inflict it in this case, and whom Amos pointed out, were not provoked by the sins De Wette specifies. There was no connection between Israel’s present sins and Assyria’s future vengeance. No eastern despot cares for the oppressions of his subjects so that his own tribute is collected. As far too as we know, neither Assyria nor any other power had hitherto punished rebellious nations by transporting them. Only He who controls the rebellious wills of men, and through their self-will works out his own all-wise will and man’s punishment, could know the future of Israel and Assyria, and how through the pride of Assyria, He would bring down the pride of Samaria.]

Footnotes:

FN#1 - Amos 5:1.—קִינָה is the word used to denote David’s dirge over Saul and Jonathan, 2 Samuel 1:17. It is here in apposition with דָבָר.]

FN#2 - Amos 5:2.—נִטְּשָׁה, E. V. forsaken is quite inadequate. Targum and Vulgate have cast down, but better is the literal meaning given above—stretched out, and therefore prostrate and helpless.

FN#3 - Amos 5:3.—The numerals define more closely the manner of the going forth, i. e, to war.

FN#4 - Amos 5:4.—The two imperatives, by a usage common in all languages, express command and result; e. g., Latin, divide et impera.

FN#5 - Pusey offers, as illustrative parallels, “Paris périra,” or “London is undone.”].

FN#6 - Amos 5:6.—ואָ‍ֽכְלָה cannot be rendered as in E. V. “and devour,” as if Jehovah were the subject.

FN#7 - Amos 5:8.—כִּימָה, the crowd, is the Seven Stars or Pleiades. כְּסִיל, the fool, but according to the old interpreters, [whom Fürst follows] the giant, is Orion. Both constellations are mentioned together in Job 9:9; Job 38:31. The connection between Amos 5:7-8, Isaiah, They are acting in this atrocious way, whereas Jehovah is the Almighty and can bring sudden destruction upon them.

FN#8 - Amos 5:9.—מַבְלִיג, causes to break in. [Following an Arabic analogy, Keil and Wordsworth suppose an allusion to the swiftness of lightning, expressed in the version by flash. Pusey follows Aquila and Jerome, and renders maketh to smile. The E. V. followed a conjecture of Kimchi, and is clearly wrong, besides quite needlessly turning שֹׁד in both members from an abstract into a concrete noun.]

FN#9 - Amos 5:10.—מוֹכִיח. Not merely a judge acting officially, but “any one who before a tribunal lifts up his voice against acts of injustice.” Cf. Isaiah 29:21.

FN#10 - Amos 5:11.—בוֹשֵׁס. ἁπ. λεγ., a variant orthography for בוֹסס. Fürst derives it from בוֹשׁ, i. q. בָאַשׁ, to be loathsome, h. bad. Hiph., to bring evil upon.

FN#11 - Amos 5:12.—צוֹרְרֵי. This and the following participle belong to the suffixes in the nouns preceding.

FN#12 - Amos 5:16.—To proclaim mourning to the husbandman=to call him to mourning.

FN#13 - All agree that it denotes convocations in connection with religious observances, whether penitential or otherwise.] אָרִיתַ, lit. to smell, is an expression of satisfaction, in allusion to “the odour of delight” which ascended to God from the burning sacrifice. Cf. Leviticus 26:31; Genesis 8:21; Ephesians 5:2.

FN#14 - Amos 5:24.—אֵיתָן. The later critics give the primary meaning as constant, abiding, and hence when applied to streams, inexhaustible.

FN#15 - Amos 5:26.—The words here are difficult, since סִכּוּתּ and כִיּוּן are ἁπ. λεγ. Perhaps they are proper names of idols, so that the adjoining words are in apposition, and we should render—Sikkuth, your king, and Chiun, your image. So Luther, and of later critics, Fürst. The name Sikkuth (in Syriac with another pointing כֶּיוָן, Chevan) has been explained to mean Saturn, who indeed in Arabic is called Kaiman, but it is not certain that this did not originate from the passage before us, and therefore “it has no more worth than that of an exegetical conjecture” (Keil.) The LXX, changing the word, make out of כִּיוּן an idol Ῥαιφάν ( Acts 7:43, Ρεμφαν), the meaning of which is equally uncertain, since the name does not occur elsewhere in the LXX, or in the writings founded upon that version. Keil therefore conjectures an exchange of letters; instead of כיון they read ריפן. Then the plural צַלמֵיכֶם becomes difficult, for although Fürst says that צְלָמִים, Isaiah, like שִּׁקּוּצים,גּלוּלִים, used here as a singular for an idol, that is a mere assertion Naturally then the appellative כּוֹכַב would belong to both the proper names. But that כוֹֽכַב אֱל׳ is not to be coördinated with the two preceding phrases, is plain from the omission, first of the אֵת which stands before each of those clauses, and then, of the וְ by which they are closely bound together.

More probable then is the appellative view of Sikkuth and Chiun. The former from סָכַן, hence a covering, a booth. So the LXX, σκηνη. (But they improperly take מַלְכְכֶם as a proper name, τον μολέχ.) Therefore, “tent of your king,” meaning doubtless a movable shrine in which the image of the god was kept; such as, according to Herod. ii63, and Diod. Sic. i97. were used by the Egyptians. Chiun is correspondingly explained as pedestal, from כּנּן, and allied to כֵן and מכוֹנָה, therefore, the pedestal or framework of your images, that by which they were carried about. What follows is to be considered as in explanatory apposition, viz. the star of your god = the star who was your god. Undoubtedly even this explanation has great difficulties. [But still it is easier than the others which have been proposed, and is sustained by the sanction of Ribera, Junius, Gesenius, Hengstenberg, Keil, and Wordsworth.] In any case we must understand by כּוֹכַב the image of a star, for the carrying it about is inconsistent with its being an actual star,—which ye have made refers either to this star-image or to “your god.”

FN#16 - Amos 5:27.—מֵהָלְאָה לְדַבֶּשֶׂק. From a distance in respect to Damascus=far beyond Damascus.

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Amos 5:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/amos-5.html. 1857-84.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, August 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20
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