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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Amos 9

 

 

Verses 1-15

Amos 9

Fifth Vision. The Downfall. Not even a little Grain perishes. After the Overthrow of all careless Sinners God will raise the fallen Tent of David to new Glory.

1I saw the Lord standing at[FN1] the altar,

And He said, Smite the top[FN2] that the thresholds may tremble,

And dash them[FN3] upon the head of all,

And their remnant I will kill with the sword;

He that fleeth of them shall not flee away,

And he that escapeth of them shall not be delivered.

2If they break through[FN4] into hell,

From thence will my hand take them;

And if they climb up to heaven,

Thence will I bring them down.

3And if they hide themselves on the top of Carmel,

From thence will I search and take them out.

And if they conceal themselves from my sight in the bottom of the sea,

From thence will I command the serpent[FN5] and he bites them.

4And if they go into captivity before their enemies,

From thence will I command the sword, and it slays them,

And I set mine eye upon them for evil and not for good.

5 And the Lord, Jehovah of hosts,

Who toucheth the earth and it melteth,[FN6]

And all that dwell therein mourn;

And the whole of it riseth up like the Nile,

And sinketh down like the Nile of Egypt,

6 Who buildeth his upper chambers[FN7] in the heaven,

And his vault,[FN8]—over the earth He founded it,

Who calleth to the waters of the sea,

And poureth them out upon the face of the earth;

Jehovah is his Name.

7 Are ye not as the sons of the Cushites unto me,

Ye sons of Israel? saith Jehovah.

Have not I brought up Israel from the land of Egypt,

And the Philistines from Caphtor,

And the Syrians from Kir?

8 Behold, the eyes of the Lord, Jehovah, are upon the sinful kingdom,[FN9]

And I will destroy it

From off the face of the earth,

Saving that[FN10] I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob, saith the Lord.

9 For behold, I, I will command

And will shake the house of Israel among all nations,

As one shaketh in a sieve,

And not even a little grain[FN11] shall fall to the ground.

10 By the sword shall all the sinners of my people die,

Who say, The evil will not overtake nor reach[FN12] us.

11In that day will I raise up

The fallen hut[FN13] of David,

And wall[FN14] up its breaches,

And raise up its ruins,[FN15]

And build it[FN16] as in the days of old;

12That they may possess[FN17] the remnant of Edom and all the nations

Upon whom my name is called,

Saith Jehovah who doeth this.

13Behold, the days are coming, saith Jehovah,

When the ploughman reaches to the reaper,

And the treader of grapes to the sower of seed;

And the mountains drop new wine,

And all the hills melt:

14And I bring back the captives[FN18] of my people, Israel,

And they build the waste cities, and inhabit them,

And plant vineyards and drink their wine,

And make gardens and eat their fruit.

15 And I plant them upon their land,

And they shall no more be torn up out of their land which I gave to them,

Saith Jehovah, thy God.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

A Fifth Vision. In the four previous visions, the Lord showed the prophet only what He was about to do; in this one the prophet sees the Lord actually engaged in executing his judgment.

1. Amos 9:1-4, describe an annihilating judgment which none can escape. Amos 9:1. The altar here cannot possibly denote the one at Jerusalem, in spite of all that Keil urges to the contrary. In that case the object of the vision would be one essentially different from that which is mentioned in the threatening, namely, all Israel, and would be Judah in particular, and this, without any indication of the change. There is the less reason for assuming such a change, since the chapter does not give any statement of sins as the ground of the judgment the execution of which it records. The reason of the omission is that the necessity for this judgment has been already shown in the setting forth of the sins of the ten tribes. Hence our chapter treats of a judgment upon this kingdom. That judgment has already been threatened and the grounds of it assigned, whereas one of another kind would require the reasons for it to be stated. But there is an entire lack of such reasons; for the prophet, in spite of what he says in chap2 Amos 9:4, does not consider Judah as deserving such a complete destruction of its political existence as this chapter describes. Such a judgment corresponds to the condition of things in Israel, but not at all to that in Judah so far as known to the prophet. And it by no means follows that because an annihilating stroke afterwards fell upon this kingdom, the prophet announced it here. That would be to take a very unhistorical view of prophecy. We should rather say that if he announced such a fate, he would also have described Judah as meriting it. But he does no such thing. Therefore he knows of no such corruption in Judah, regards its measure of iniquity as not yet full, and hence knows nothing of the judgment which was one day to destroy it. But in fact, had Judah’s sin become so gross, and had the prophet known of it, still it would not have been noticed in this connection, because Amos is not a prophet for Judah, but only touches that kingdom lightly, for the most part passing it over wholly. And it cannot be assumed that he threatens such a destructive visitation upon Judah equally with Israel, whose desert of punishment he has set forth not only immediately before, but in a continuous series of chapters. A fundamental law of prophecy is to balance, so to speak, the sinfulness and the judgment against each other. But no such statement concerning Judah is found in our-chapter. In fine, it is only by violence that the phrase, the sinful kingdom, can be understood to mean “Israel and Judah embraced in one.” No, if the kingdom of Israel is so expressly and amply described as sinful and then expressly named “the sinful kingdom,” then, according to all the rules of a sound hermeneutics, certainly this kingdom of Israel must be intended in the first place, and not at the same time another kingdom the sinfulness of which was not specially noticed.

Smite, according to the simplest view, is addressed to the prophet. For of angels (Keil) there is no mention here. The prophet is not to be merely a spectator, but takes part in the action. That he was not in a situation to do what is here enjoined is no objection, for the whole transaction takes place in vision. A blow which strikes the pillar-capitals so that the foundation-beams shake, is manifestly = a crash that brings the whole building to the ground. We are then to think of a temple. The shaking to the ground is only the first step; the stroke aims farther, namely, to break to pieces. Upon the head of all; the whole people is considered as assembled around the national sanctuary. What is meant, then, is a destruction, and that total. That no one can escape is expressly said afterwards, but with a change from the language of vision to that of reality. Their remnant refers to the all, and shows that it is to be understood in its full force,—should any succeed in escaping the crash of the building, even these God would slay with the sword. The universality of the destruction is also negatively set forth in the remaining clauses of Amos 9:1, and is still farther expanded with poetical minuteness in the three following verses. Cf. Psalm 139:7-8.

Amos 9:3. On the top of Carmel. Named partly as a mountain which is of considerable height as compared with the sea over which it rises, and partly as a point on the extreme western boundary of the kingdom. “Whoever hides himself there, must know of no other secure refuge in all the land beside. And if there be no security there, nothing is left but the sea.”

Amos 9:4. Even going into captivity shall not save them.

2. Amos 9:5-6. To confirm the threatening, God is described as almighty, such illustrations being cited as show his omnipotence in destroying=He who thus speaks is the Lord, who touches the earth, etc. The first two members of Amos 9:5 stand in close relation to what follows, and are its foundation. Inasmuch as the Lord is enthroned in heaven, he is in a condition to call in the waters of the sea, etc. (and while such devastations are wrought in the earth, He himself is untouched by them). We are not, with Keil, to think here of “a mountain of clouds,” or of rain, for the inundation is plainly stated to proceed from the sea, not from rain. Nor is it natural to admit a reference to the physical fact that the waters of the sea ascend on high in vapor in order to come down again as rain. Amos 9:6, therefore is not to be regarded as an allusion to the Deluge, but rather as a marine inundation, such as often occurs in consequence of an earthquake; e.g., the tidal wave in Chili in1868.

3. Amos 9:7-10. Are ye not, etc. Degenerate Israel should not rely upon their election; they are to be carried away. Still God in his grace will not destroy them wholly, but only sift them, and even the carrying away is to serve as a means to this end.

Amos 9:7. This is the sharpest thing that can be said of Israel, namely, to liken them to the heathen. The “sons” of the Cushites, Ham’s posterity, are as highly esteemed as the “sons” of Israel. And the bringing of Israel out of Egypt avails no more than the bringing of the Syrians and Philistines out of their former dwelling-places. Caphtor, probably,=Crete, from which, according to this statement, at least a portion of the Philistines emigrated. (Others say=Kasluhim.) In chap1 Amos 9:5, it was said that the Syrians should be carried away to Kir. According to the present passage, a portion of them must have emigrated from that place.

After thus rejecting Israel’s claim for impunity, Amos proceeds in Amos 9:8 to announce the punishment once more. It is expressly said upon whom it shall fall, namely, the sinful kingdom, which can be none other than the ten tribes, who are thus sufficiently indicated. But in the second member the threatening is mitigated; there still remains grace. The distinction between Israel and the heathen which has just been denied—denied so far as Israel made it a matter of boasting,—is again set up. The preference, however, is a matter not of merit but of grace, and exists only because God will not wholly abandon his own people. House of Jacob is not=kingdom of Judah, denoting that this should be spared; for then it would not he a limitation of the preceding threatening which was aimed at Israel. Literally the phrase is=stock of Israel; but here, according to the prophet’s aim, it means simply the ten tribes, just as these have been styled in the previous chapters, “Israel,” “House of Israel.” The prophet does not acknowledge two nations, but throughout designedly holds in view the one people, Israel, of which the kingdom of the ten tribes is only the particularly corrupt portion; this house of Jacob, whose punishment is here in question, shall go forth from their own land, but shall not be entirely destroyed. This latter statement does not conflict with the carrying out of what is stated in Amos 9:1-4. For that only denies that any one can of himself escape the threatened destruction.

How we are to understand Amos 9:8 is set forth in Amos 9:9 by a significant figure. By its dispersion Israel comes, as it were, into a sieve, in which the good corn and the dust and dirt are tossed up together. Yet this is only in order to make a more speedy separation. The solid good grains remain, only the trash falls to the ground. So with Israel.

By the sword ( Amos 9:10), shall all the sinners of my people die,—but only these. The sinners are still marked as self-secure, by the addition, who say, the evil will not overtake, etc. To the thought expressed in Amos 9:10 we must assign a more general scope, standing as it does at the close of the book, as including in the wide sweep of the judgment a reference to Judah. For it must be supposed that the prophet sees in the same judgment which destroys Israel the execution of the threatening against Judah in chap2 Amos 9:5, only that Judah is not visited in the same degree, i.e., one which destroys its national existence. The stroke penetrates deeply and destroys the sinners, but at the same time purifies, and thus paves the way immediately for Judah, and so for Israel in general, so far as it still exists, to a new prosperity by which it rises again into a kingdom as powerful and happy as ever before.

4. Amos 9:11-15. In that day will I, etc. In the fact that the destruction is not to be absolutely total, the grace of God shines through the furious wrath of the judgment. But the grace is not limited to this negation; it advances to the positive declaration that God will magnify Israel by establishing a new condition of prosperity. This exercise of grace—so the connection of the thought proves—is not something adventitious, but is directly mediated through the action of the judgment. This judgment, just because it is so radical in its extirpation of all sinners among God’s people, operates, as before remarked, in a purifying direction, and its limitation contains the condition of a new position, a new salvation, the possibility of a rich bestowment of grace. For with the removal of sinners, every reason for the divine wrath ceases, and room is afforded for such an exhibition of grace as will restore Israel to a new prosperity. Very naturally, therefore, the question is no longer about the restoration of “the kingdom of Israel,” in the narrow sense of that term, for this in its separation from Judah represented apostasy from Jehovah, and a constitution exactly opposed to the true idea of a people of God. No, the divine grace shows itself in this, that after the destruction of the ungodly elements, first and chiefly in the ten tribes, but also in Judah, there arises a single but prosperous and powerful kingdom of Israel under the legitimate monarchy, which attracts to itself all the elements spared and refined by the judgment, including those which belonged to the existing ten tribes. The discourse certainly turns in Amos 9:11 to Judah, yet not as a separate kingdom, but only in so far as it furnishes the divinely appointed basis and point of departure for the restoration of the entire people. More than that Judah cannot be, since it is not only outwardly enfeebled and proportionately suffering, but also, in the prophet’s view, contains many sinful elements and must expect the divine chastisement, through which it will become still weaker outwardly, so that its future exaltation is due only to the grace of God, who cannot let his covenant with Israel fall, cannot give up his people. This enfeebled, prostrate condition of Israel—i.e., at first Judah, but also Israel because Judah alone was the true representative of Israel—is expressed in Amos 9:11 by the fallen hut of David = the Davidic monarchy, and this, in a condition of real prostration. This is set forth by calling it not a palace but a “hut,” and this hut a “fallen” one; and the picture is made still more vivid by the mention of breaches and of ruins. Many expositors (among them Keil) think that the phrase, the fallen hut of David, presupposes the actual downfall of the kingdom of Judah,—in connection with the execution of the threatening in the whole chapter against Israel and Judah. But apart from what was said on this view in the comments on Amos 9:1, the phrase itself contradicts it. For in the downfall, not only a hut, but the house in general was prostrated. The term “hut” has its appropriate meaning only when we think of something not wholly fallen but still existing, for the manner of this existence is then pointed out by the word “hut,” and is still further characterized by the epithet “fallen,” as also by the following expressions, “breaches,” “ruins.” The restoration of captives spoken of here, can therefore be no proof of the assumption that the downfall of Judah and the Babylonish exile is presupposed in Amos 9:11. For while a carrying away is certainly mentioned, it is from the kingdom of Israel, and the return is included in this promise, although in the first instance it refers to Judah; since the thought is that along with the renovation of Judah, as the one genuine kingdom of Israel, there is bound up the return of all the Israelites held captive in heathen lands, as a constituent of that future prosperity. But, besides, there were, independent of the exile in Babylon, captives out of the kingdom of Judah, who had been dragged away by the heathen, as we have already seen in Joel; and the prophet might therefore well suppose that there would be more, before the new period of salvation. It is not to the purpose that in the later prophets the promise of future salvation for Israel, including Judah, presupposes the foreseen destruction of the kingdom of Judah. For it is preposterous from this to infer that all had the same general view, without regard to the differences of time. Surely we cannot without ceremony transfer to the earlier prophets what belongs well enough to the later.—This fallen hut is to be raised up again, and that in such a way that the breaches shall be walled up and the prostrate ruins restored. This then is a building of the hut, and the result is that it becomes what it was in ancient times=in the days of David himself. This restoration of the former power and greatness is then expanded in Amos 9:13, where the term possess is an allusion to Balaam’s prophecy, “And Edom shall be a possession, Seir also shall be a possession.” The acquisition shall be easily made, being Jehovah’s gift to his people. The remnant of Edom = what has not already been subjugated again. Edom is particularly mentioned, because while they were related to the Israelites, they were of all nations the most hostile to them. To receive possession of them is therefore a peculiar token of Israel’s glory. But Israel is to gain more, even all the nations upon whom my name is called. This phrase manifestly refers in the first instance to the nations who by David were brought under the sway of God’s people and therefore were called by Jehovah’s name. Still the question recurs why the dependence on Israel was expressed in just this peculiar manner. It was to indicate a peculiar relation of these nations to Jehovah which was the reason of their subjugation. This indeed existed under David, but was not then fully realized. What, then lay in intention and was contemplated in their conquest, actually occurs in the new and better time here brought into view. The nations shall so come under Israel’s rule that they will bear the name of Israel’s God, and be called his people, so that a conversion of the heathen—not of all, for the prophecy does not touch that point—but of heathen nations, is placed in prospect or at least intimated. (Upon the quotation in Acts 15:16, and also the meaning of the promise in Amos 9:11-12, see Doctrinal and Moral.) But to the future prosperity of Israel belongs not only national power and greatness, but also a rich blessing upon the land and thus upon the people ( Amos 9:13),in fulfillment of the promise in Leviticus 26:5. What is there said of the action—the threshing shall reach unto the vintage,—is here transferred to the person who performs it. The ploughman reaches to the reaper, i. e., the ploughing will still continue in one place, although the reaping has begun in another, which however does not mean that the crop will grow and mature so quickly, but that so much is there to plough that it lasts to the harvest. This, at all events, is the meaning of the next clause,—The treader of grapes (will reach) to the sower of seed = the vintage will last to the sowing time, so abundant is it. The mountains drop new wine, etc. Cf. Joel 3:18. There the hills are said to flow with milk, here the expression is stronger,—the hills melt, as it were, dissolve themselves in pure streams of milk, new wine, honey.

Amos 9:14. I bring back the captives, etc. This is another essential feature in the picture of Israel’s future. For when the period of judgment has once elapsed, and God in his grace brings his people to a new prosperity, its members cannot longer continue under the power of the heathen, for that would be an evidence that the state of punishment still continued. As to “the captives” thus restored, see above on Amos 9:11. The phrase, they build the waste cities, etc, clearly depicts the reviving activity of those who have been restored from exile to their desolated land, and the words in Amos 9:15, they shall no more be torn up, etc, distinctly express the final abolition of an exile. As God’s direct judgments, drought, and barrenness, are to cease, so also shall the indirect, namely, desolation by a foe. Therefore they shall not merely build cities but inhabit them; not only plant vineyards, but also drink the wine (the direct reverse of chap5 Amos 9:11); not only lay out gardens, but eat their fruit! And ( Amos 9:15) especially shall the restored exiles never again be carried away by enemies. This, in immediate connection with what has just been said of the plantings which Israel is to make, is represented under the figure of a planting which shall never be torn up; at the same time with a reference to the firm “planting” formerly made by means of David, in 2 Samuel 7:10. The higher fulfillment of this will occur only when David’s fallen hut is again raised up.

DOCTRINAL AND MORAL

1. The prophet paints in a frightful manner the vast power of the divine judgments and man’s helplessness before them. God’s omnipresence and omnipotence subserve his wrath; hence its energy. Nowhere can man escape Him; by no means can he protect himself; all places are accessible to God; all powers stand subject to his will. The judgment here primarily intended is one that is executed by a conquering foe. Now whence comes the crushing weight of so many conquerors, whom nothing can resist, before whom all means prove impotent? We do not understand how it is possible. Here we have the answer, here where we, as it were, glance behind the scenes. The conqueror is only the instrument of God’s wrath; but this is so mighty, so irresistible, that it is no wonder that nothing can withstand the victorious foe, that every resource fails, even though it may have a hundred times in other cases brought relief and defense. If the Lord will not, all is of no avail.

2. But when the judgment is one thus executed by a foreign conqueror, it is not to be denied that the description, as indeed often in the former chapters, so especially here, transcends what usually occurs in case of a hostile invasion and conquest. It has, so to speak, an eschatological coloring. The threatened punishment is a total, final, decisive destruction of sinners. The prophet knows of none that goes beyond it. The only counterpart to it is a glorious act of grace. As surely as the latter is something definite and conclusive, so is the former. If we inquire as to the fulfillment of this threatening, confessedly one such took place for Israel in the overthrow of the kingdom. But a complete and exact fulfillment is not to be found in that event; an unprejudiced comparison shows that the prophecy transcends the experience. This fact does not show that the threatening is unfounded, but that it has an eschatological character. The prophet, indeed, sees the last decisive judgment arise, the day of the Lord (although there is no express reference to that here), but still the judgment which came historically upon the ten tribes was not this last decisive one. What he threatens against Israel was, we venture to say, farther fulfilled in the last judgment upon Israel, when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans; but this still awaits its complete fulfillment in the last judgment at the Parousia upon the entire body at the apostate members of God’s people, of whom Israel was a type. In this judgment the punitive righteousness of God will be fully revealed in its frightful universality. The threatenings, as well as the promises of prophecy, find their complete fulfillment first in the New Testament, yet not in the literal Israel, but in the people of God represented by Israel in so far as it is apostate. It is not unimportant to make this clear, in order to show the incorrectness of the popular argument, that because all the threatenings have been fulfilled in the literal Israel, therefore the promises must be so likewise; that the latter are to be taken just as strictly as the former, and hence the fulfillment of such of them as have not yet come to pass, is to be expected in Israel after the flesh.

3. But the divine judgment is not a work of absolute annihilation but of sifting, to separate the wheat from the chaff. Herein is revealed the eschatological character of these judgments, in that they are so strictly just; but since the separation of the wheat and the chaff is only relative, the sparing of those who are spared must be deemed an act of grace, and so much the more, since the sparing does not stand alone and simple, but the judgment upon the ungodly is itself a purifying work for “the righteous,” and cannot remain without a wholesome influence upon them; while on the other hand it is for them a deliverance, the dawn of a new prosperity which is possible only after the consummated excision of the destructive elements which provoke the wrath of God. What Amos calls “the little grain” in the sieve is substantially that which afterwards appears as the “remnant of Jacob.” But still the question with Amos was not about a still surviving remnant of the people in general when he now sees the kingdom of Israel fall, nor was it whether the whole people of God should or could go down or not. Hence the term “remnant” would ill apply to those whom he sees to be spared.

4. Israel’s provocation of the divine wrath in general lay in the ungodly course it took at the founding of the kingdom of the ten tribes and ever afterwards persevered in. After the destruction of this kingdom, and after the judgment which is to fall upon Judah, although this kingdom is not to be destroyed, there no longer remains any hindrance to the blooming of a new prosperity for Israel as a whole. Therefore the prophet, since it was his commission to announce the judgment of God upon all the ungodly, but especially upon the ungodly kingdom of the ten tribes, concludes, after this commission has been fulfilled, with a promise for Israel as the people of God. Under the only legitimate monarchy, the house of David, it is by God’s blessing raised out of its humiliation; its power and greatness are restored as they were in David’s time; the kingdom spreads out over the heathen; the land rejoices in the richest blessings; all captive exiles return,—never again to be carried away; and the kingdom has the prospect of being established forever. It is very perverse to ask if an internal renovation is not also expressed in this exaltation. What is said in Amos 9:11, etc, concerning deliverance and restoration, refers only to the outward prosperity of Israel, not to its internal character; but certainly an inward renewing is presupposed, for the destruction of all sinners Isaiah, as Amos 9:10 shows, the only way to the promised outward restitution, its conditio sine qua non. Subjectively it is its ground and root, while objectively all results from the grace of God, who has intended prosperity and salvation for Israel as his people, and who therefore in all his judgments upon Israel aims at last at a new and so much the higher blessing, and the establishment of a complete state of prosperity. The flourishing Israel therefore is naturally to be considered as a people serving God and converted to Him, even though nothing has been expressly said on the point. Or they are considered as his members, consisting partly of those who remained faithful, partly of such as have been, converted. The emphasis with Which an annihilating judgment is beforehand pronounced upon ungodliness, leaves room for no other view. Such a divine blessing as is here promised, and especially its permanence, presupposes a godly life. Although Amos says nothing of a personal Messiah, yet in the wide sense we must call this prophecy Messianic, in substance if not in form, in so far as the Messiah of the later prophets is He who introduces the consummation of the people of God, and the great time of its happiness, and it is just this final completeness and glory which is here promised.

5. As to the fulfillment of the prophecy, it must be said, just as in the case of Joel, that this has not taken place exactly according to the letter, for that represents the new greatness and never-ending prosperity of the kingdom of Judah and Israel as coincident with the judgment upon the ten tribes. But although this latter event was followed by happier times for Judah, still this was not what is promised here, but in place of a flourishing exaltation of the Davidic line there followed its complete prostration along with the overthrow of the kingdom. But this, as we said above, the prophet does not take into the account. For this reason, the fair prospect of Israel’s future glory has maintained and still maintains its truth and validity, as it is not a product of human wish and hope, but flows from a revelation of the Holy Spirit and rests upon a view furnished by that Spirit. Nor do we deceive ourselves when we assume that the later prophets, who also foresaw and announced the downfall of Judah, found a basis for their promises in the promise of Joel and also in that of Amos which is so closely connected with it. For if such a noble future was predicted, the downfall of the kingdom could not be final, rather, not only would a remnant be saved, but there would be a lifting up out of this deep fall, a restitution after the overthrow. Israel, as the people of God by virtue of God’s covenant with them, may and indeed must suffer his judgments in case of apostasy, but so far from perishing by these, rather attains a condition of greatness and power, an enduring prosperity; this is the truth forever established and fortified by our promise. A certain fulfillment was no doubt experienced in the restoration accomplished by the Jews who returned from exile. But this was by no means “the Messianic salvation,” the consummation of God’s kingdom in Israel. Nor can a literal fulfillment of Amos’s prophesy be sought herein, because our prophet does not take into account the facts which gave occasion for that return, namely, the overthrow of the kingdom and the exile. The Messiah came in the person of Jesus Christ. Did then the promised great salvation come? Did He fulfill our promise? Not according to the letter, since by no means did a time of new grandeur break in upon Israel after the flesh; but in place of expecting any such thing in the future and seeking there the fulfillment of the promise, we rather affirm that it has already begun with Christ’s coming. For as, according to a principle before laid down, we have the true complement of the Old Testament in the New, so we see in Christ’s salvation the fulfillment of the promise of a time of glory for Israel, since Israel (with Canaan) was only a type of the true people of God. What therefore was promised to Israel passes over by virtue of the new covenant to all who belong to Israel through faith in Christ and form the people of God. And we are not at all to expect a literal fulfillment of these engagements to a national Israel, and in the shape of temporal blessings on the stand-point of the Old Testament. For, if we did, it would follow that there must be a literal possession of the “remnant of Edom.” But the boldest realist will hardly conclude that in the future Edom will again exist alongside of Israel. We may here appropriate in substance the observations of Keil, who says that “the raising up of David’s fallen hut commenced with the coming of Christ and the founding of the Christian Church by the Apostles—(as to which we refer, e.g., only to Luke 1:32-33, where Jesus is represented as the restorer of David’s throne, and one whose kingdom shall have no end),—and the possession of Edom and of all the other nations upon whom the Lord reveals his name, took its rise in the reception of the Gentiles into the kingdom of heaven set up by Christ… The land which will flow with streams of divine blessing is not Palestine, but the domain of the Christian Church, or the earth, so far as it has received the blessings of Christianity. The people which cultivate this land is the Christian Church, so far as it stands in living faith and produces the fruits of the Holy Spirit.” And—we may add—so far as the Jews are converted to Christ and incorporated into the Christian community, there is “a bringing back of the captives.” Still this “bringing back” is not limited to Israel after the flesh. Its fulfillment is to be sought more generally in the freedom which Christ has brought, in consequence of which believers in Him are no longer prisoners under the control of an alien power. They possess “the glorious liberty of the children of God,” through their enjoyment of communion with God,—incomplete, indeed, in the first instance, just as the return from exile is not complete. But it will be through Christ. He will one day conduct all the (genuine) members of God’s people out of exile and bondage into the heavenly Canaan, and no one shall ever again drive them out. But certainly this promise for the people of God first began to be fulfilled at the appearing of the Messiah and in the domain of the Christian Church. Its complete fulfillment is to be expected at the parousia of Christ; and then the spiritual blessing, the spiritual power and greatness, the spiritual freedom which the people of God now enjoy, will obtain a corresponding outward sensible manifestation. Inward prosperity will not lack that which is outward, yet in a higher sense than the Old Covenant understood it, since the distinction between the outward and the inward will in the main be done away. The hope of this final glory of the people of God has a right to nourish itself constantly from the prophecies which give such bright pictures of the future glory of Israel. So far these prophecies preserve constantly their significance for the religious life. By their confident and assured tone they greatly oppose and undermine the doubts awakened by the day of small things in which we live.

6. The opinion that our promise is fulfilled in Christ is confirmed in the New Testament ( Acts 12:15) by the Apostle James. He sees a fulfillment of the words of Amos ( Amos 9:12) concerning the relation of the nations=the heathen, to the restored Israel, in Peter’s statement of the effects of faith in Christ among the heathen, since these without being circumcised had received the Holy Spirit. He thus probably understands the phrase, “upon whom my name is called,” in a pregnant sense=upon whom God has testified Himself as God, therefore as a promise of an inward relation of God to the heathen, but at bottom a promise of the bestowment of the Holy Ghost upon them. Therefore he regards the advices of Peter as a fulfillment of the prophetic utterance. This explanation does not conform to the original sense of the prophet’s words (see above in Critical and Exegetical), just as the words immediately preceding are given by James in a form quite different from the Hebrew. For us the only important point is that James considers the fulfillment of this promise as beginning with Christ. But we may draw a farther conclusion. If James sees this statement of Amos concerning the heathen and their relation to Israel fulfilled in the appearance of Christ, in so far as that caused the reception of the Spirit by believers in Him, then certainly he regards the promise of the restoration of David’s fallen hut as fulfilled in Christ. Although the promise, literally understood, treats of an outward restoration, a return of outward greatness to Israel as a kingdom, yet the tenor of the discourse is wholly different; James therefore, since he saw its fulfillment then occurring, could not possibly have cherished any dreams of an outward glorification of the kingdom of Israel to be expected in the future on the ground of the prophetic utterances. The only correct view Isaiah, that to him the people of God appeared in the closest union with the national Israel, and he; saw Christ and his salvation as obtained in the first instance for the latter. The national Israel to him always stood in the foreground. But he saw the promises to the nation fulfilled in the spiritual blessings which proceeded from Christ. But it was inconsistent to take the prophet’s promises literally in respect to “Israel,” i.e., to claim them for the national Israel, and yet not to take them literally in respect to their meaning, not to understand them as holding out an earthly greatness, a national blessing; and hence both Peter and Paul went far beyond this view. But it is remarkable that James, who was so pronounced a representative of the Judaistic tendency, should regard such a promise as we have in Amos, as fulfilled, so far as regards its meaning, in the appearance of Christ and the spiritual blessings thence resulting, without even once referring it to the second coming of the Saviour. Even he therefore is a patron of the Song of Solomon -called spiritual interpretation of the prophecies; and if the theological explanation here finds itself in agreement with a disciple of the Lord, and him a man of strong Jewish-Christian feeling, that is a proof that it is on the right track, and has so much the more reason for disowning the doctrine of a future glorification of the national Israel as guaranteed by the prophets.

7. In relation to the promises of prophecy, we may make the same remark as before in relation to prophetical threatenings in chap, 7, sec6, of Doctrinal and Moral. As the prophet is not the mere instrument of revelation without will of his own, we must, while fully acknowledging the objective ground of these promises, at the same time regard them as evidences of the prophet’s own strength of faith. While he at first on account of the prevailing sinfulness sees only punishment and downfall, a speedy outbreak of divine wrath, yet at the same time he holds firm as a rock the hope that the grace of God will return and a new salvation begin for the people of God. The divine promises made to Israel as the people of God are an anchor of his faith and a light to illumine the gloomy future before him, so that the final aim of the procedure remains to him immovably noble. If it is the old promises upon which his faith rests, these are reanimated and freshly confirmed by the new revelations he receives. But this occurs only when they are firmly believed, and therefore the utterance of them is an evidence of strength of faith.

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

Amos 9:1. Smite the top, etc. The judgments of God when they begin are like might blows, which make everything tremble, if they do not altogether dash to pieces. Apostasy from God (idolatry) is that which decides the case, and at last makes the divine judgments break forth.

Amos 9:2-3. That which is our greatest confidence when God is on our side, namely, that He is everywhere present, is our terror when He is against us. [The prophet has not employed a superfluous heap of words. Every suitable is important, even though at first it may seem otherwise. The Holy Spirit designs to shake off our self-flatteries and rouse our innate torpor, that we may not think of God as of ourselves, but know that his power extends to all hiding-places.—Calvin.

Amos 9:4. And I set mine eye, etc. The eye of God upon us is our whole hope and stay and life. It is on the confessor in prison, the martyr on the rack, the poor in their sufferings, the mourner in the chamber of death, for good. What if that eye, the source of all good, rests on his creature only for evil?—Pusey.]

Amos 9:5-6. God’s omniscience and omnipresence gain their whole significance from his omnipotence. But He is as certainly almighty as He is allwise and everywhere present. He commands the earth when and as He will, and it must obey Him. If He only touch it, it trembles. But no wonder that the earth obeys Him, for it is He who rules also the heaven. [This is the hope of his servants, the hopelessness of his enemies.—Pusey.]

Amos 9:7. Are ye not as the sons of the Cushites, etc. Woe to him who considers what God through grace has made of him, as his own merit, and therefore boasts! God will be ashamed of him, and humble him under those over whom he exalts himself.

Amos 9:8. The eyes of the Lord, etc. Nothing escapes the eyes of God; even though the contrary may often seem to be the case, yet in the end it is proven that He has seen all, and in his own time administers chastisement. Whole kingdoms as well as individuals are objects of God’s attention for joy or for sorrow. Why does many a kingdom meet a frightful end? The eyes of the Lord were upon it and upon its sins, and though men were not conscious of it, finally the fact became manifest.

Amos 9:8-9. I will not utterly destroy, etc. That we do not utterly perish is due only to the goodness of God, which has no end. Who has reason to fear the divine judgments? Not those who are like wheat, but those who resemble chaff. Hence the grave question to each one; whom do you resemble? Although it often seems as if even the wheat fell to the ground, yet in the end it is shown to be otherwise. Much seems to be wheat, and is not. In the sifting power of God’s judgments lies their chief significance.

Amos 9:10. Who say, The evil shall not, etc. [In both destructions of Jerusalem, the people perished the more miserably being buoyed up by the false confidence that they should not perish. So too now, none are so likely to perish forever as they who say, The evil shall not overtake us. “I will repent hereafter.” “There is time enough yet.” “God will forgive the errors of youth, the heat of passion.” “God is merciful.” Thus Satan deludes thousands upon thousands to their destruction.—Pusey.

Amos 9:11. As the prophet here declares that a redeemer would come and renew the whole state of the kingdom, we see that the faith of the fathers was ever fixed on Christ; for in the whole world it is He alone who has reconciled us to God. Nor could the fallen Church have been restored otherwise than under one head. If then at this day we desire to raise up our minds to God, Christ must immediately become a mediator between us; for when He is taken away, despair will overwhelm us. Our confidence will come to nothing unless it be founded on Christ alone.—Calvin. The fallen hut. Strange comment on human greatness, that the royal line was not to be employed in the salvation of the world until it was fallen ! The royal palace had to become the hut of Nazareth, ere the Redeemer of the world could be born, whose glory and kingdom were not of this world, who came to take from us nothing but our nature that He might sanctify it, our misery that He might bear it for us. Yet flesh and blood could not foresee it ere it came, as flesh and blood could not believe it when He came.—Pusey.

Amos 9:12. That they may possess, etc. No gifts of God end in the immediate object of his bounty and love. Israel was restored in order that they, the first objects of God’s mercies, might win others to God, not Edom only, but all nations upon whom his name is called.—Pusey.

Amos 9:13. The mountains and hills of Judæa, with their terraced sides clad with the vine, were a natural symbol of fruitfulness to the Jews; but they themselves could not think that natural fruitfulness was meant under this imagery. It would have been a hyperbole as to things of nature, but what in natural things is a hyperbole, is but a faint shadow of the joys and delights and glad fruitfulness of grace.—Id.

Amos 9:14. And they build cities, etc. This needs no exposition, since throughout the world, amid the desert of Heathendom, which was before deserted by God, churches of Christ have arisen which for firmness of faith may be called cities, and for gladness of hope, vineyards, and for sweetness of charity, gardens; wherein they dwell who have builded “them through the Word, whence they drink the wine of gladness who formed them by precepts, whence they eat fruits who advanced them by counsels.—Rupertus.

Amos 9:15. It is a promise of perpetuity like that of our Lord, Lo, I am with you alway, etc. As Jerome says, the Church may be shaken by persecutions, she cannot be uprooted; she may be tempted, she cannot be overcome. For the Lord God Almighty hath promised that He will do it, I whose promise is the law to nature.—Pusey.]

Often in oar time the Church of Christ seems like to David’s fallen hut, but only when we look at its outward condition and the many who shun it; so far as regards the power which goes out from Christ and the blessing which He procures, it is not a fallen but a restored hut. For his blessings are not small. Happy are all who believe in Him. But a day is coming when the Church shall triumph in the face of the world, and stand forth great and noble outwardly as well as inwardly.

“Amen, Lord, all thy Word is true!

Amen, Lord, come, complete it all!”

Footnotes:

FN#1 - I Amos 9:1.—עַל, used with נצב=at or by. Cf. Genesis 18:2; 1 Samuel 4:20.]

FN#2 - Amos 9:1.—כַפְתוֹר=knob, h. pillar-top or capital, כף=threshold, usually that over which one enters a building, but also=the foundation-beams in which the posts are inserted. So here.

FN#3 - Amos 9:1.—בְצַּעַם for בְצָעֵם (Green, Heb. Gr., 125, 1). The suffix ם—has no exact antecedent. It cannot be referred naturally to סִפִים, nor in order to admit of such reference should the latter word be altered to mean “projecting roof of the temple supported by pillars.” It belongs to כַפְתּוֹר, and either denotes that the capital on various pillars was struck, or the thought is that one capital was dashed into many pieces. [Keil and Hengstenberg refer it to both the capitals and the thresholds or the entire building, which is greatly preferable.]

FN#4 - Amos 9:2.—חָתַּר with בְ=to break through into.

FN#5 - Amos 9:3.—נָחָשׁ = water-serpent, not to be more closely defined—elsewhere called לִוְיָהָן or תַּנִּין, Isaiah 27:1.

FN#6 - Amos 9:5.—מוּג, lit. to melt; here denotes the dissolution of the earth. Others [Fürst]=to fail through fear, to quake. The latter half of the verse is repeated with insignificant alterations from chap8 Amos 9:8.

FN#7 - Amos 9:6.—מַעֲלֹות = עְליּוֹת, Psalm 104:3, lit., places to which one has to ascend, upper chambers, lofts.

FN#8 - Amos 9:6.—אַגֻדָּה, vault=רָקיע.

FN#9 - Amos 9:8.—בַּמַּמ׳, lit., they rest upon the sinful kingdom, in order to destroy it. [Verbs and nouns expressive of anger are connected by בְ with the object on which the anger rests. Cf. Psalm 34:17 [Hengst.].

FN#10 - Amos 9:8.—אֶפֶס כִי introduces a limitation.

FN#11 - Amos 9:9.—צְרוֹר, lit., a thing tightly bound together; hence anything solid, as a pebble or little stone ( 2 Samuel 17:13); here, a kernel or grain of corn, as opposed to the loose, dusty chaff.

FN#12 - Amos 9:10.—חִקְדּים בצד, lit., to come between=so as to block up the way of escape. [Usage requires us to render, “to come to meet one round about,” i.e., from every side.]

FN#13 - Amos 9:11.—סֻכַּת, lit., a booth, here a hut.

FN#14 - Amos 9:11.—גָדַרְתִּי, the “close” of E. V, is better replaced by “wall” from the margin. The plural suffix in *פִרְ probably refers to “walls” understood. [Keil and Hengstenberg say that it indicates that both kingdoms are intended.

FN#15 - Amos 9:11.—The suffix in חֲרִס׳ refers to Israel understood [but others refer it to David].

FN#16 - Amos 9:11.—The suffix בְנִי׳ all agree, refers to the fallen hut.

FN#17 - Amos 9:12.—יִירְשׁוּ, take possession of, in reference to Numbers 24:18.

FN#18 - Amos 9:14.—שׁוּב שְׁבוּת. Keil vainly contends against explaining this formula as meaning “to restore the captives,” and insists that it=to turn a state of misery into one of prosperity. [Hengstenberg strongly maintains the latter view, which indeed in such cases Job 42:10 must be admitted.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Amos 9:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/amos-9.html. 1857-84.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, October 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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