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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Amos 2

 

 

Verses 1-3

1-3. The sin and punishment of Moab.

Moab — The third nation east of the Jordan closely related to the Hebrews (Amos 1:11; Amos 1:13). The territory of the Moabites was to the south of Ammon, on the uplands east of the Dead Sea. It was well adapted to agriculture, for it contained many broad valleys and well-watered fields. As a result the Moabites became at a very early period a settled people with large cities. War was waged between Israel and Moab from an early time (Judges 3:16; 1 Samuel 14:47; 2 Samuel 8:2; but compare Ruth 1:4; 1 Samuel 22:3). After the division Moab seems to have secured its independence, for Omri was compelled to conquer it (2 Kings 3:4; compare Moabite Stone, ll. 4, 5). Subsequently King Mesha revolted and secured his independence (2 Kings 3:5 ff.; compare Moabite Stone, ll. 5ff.), which was never again lost to Israel.

Burned the bones of the king of Edom into lime — The exact nature of this crime is uncertain. Was the king burned alive, or after he had died but before he had been buried, or was his body taken from the tomb and burned? To burn the king alive would be extreme cruelty, but to prevent proper burial by burning a corpse or to desecrate a tomb by removing the corpse would also be considered a heinous crime; for, according to ancient Semitic conception, the departed who received no proper burial (Jeremiah 36:30) or whose resting place was disturbed found no rest in Sheol. Many sepulchral inscriptions contain awful curses upon disturbers of the resting places of the departed. Eshmunazar of Sidon, for example, prays that he who desecrates his tomb “may have no root beneath, or fruit above, or any beauty among the living under the sun.” Amos’ sentiments are not due to any heathenish superstition; he is aroused by the spirit of hatred and vindictiveness that manifests itself in the crime. The fact that Moab is condemned not for sins committed against Israel but against the very enemies of the Hebrews is another indication of the high ethical standards of Amos.

Of the crime mentioned nothing is known otherwise; it may have been committed after the joint attack upon Moab by Judah, Israel, and Edom (about 850 B.C.). According to 2 Kings 3:26, the king of Moab seems to have harbored special hatred against the king of Edom. Perhaps he was unable to avenge himself while the king was alive, and therefore pursued him even after death.

Fire — A sin :4.

Kirioth — R.V., “Kerioth.” Since it represents the whole country, it must have been a city of prominence. It is mentioned again in Jeremiah 48:41, and on the Moabite Stone, 50.13. Its location is not certain. Some identify it with Kir (or Ar) of Moab (Isaiah 15:1), chiefly because of the similarity of the names and the fact that wherever Ar or Kir is mentioned no mention is made of Kirioth. Another name for the same locality is thought to be Kir-hareseth or Kir-heres (Isaiah 16:7; Isaiah 16:11). This, on the testimony of the Targum, is identified with the modern Kerak, about eleven miles east of the southern bay of the Dead Sea, eighteen miles south of the Arnon. Others think that Kerioth may be identified with the modern Kureiyat, north of the Arnon, which it has been customary to identify with the ancient Kiriathaim.

With tumult — The noise and confusion of battle. Jeremiah calls the Moabites “sons of tumult” (Jeremiah 48:45; compare Numbers 24:17) There is no warrant for Hoffmann’s suggestion that the Hebrew translated “tumult” is the name of the acropolis of Ar, and that the preposition should be rendered “in,” the name of the acropolis being used instead of the name of the city, as Zion is used sometimes in the place of Jerusalem.

With shouting — See on Amos 1:14.

Sound of the trumpet — Or, horn (see on Hosea 5:8). The sound is the signal to advance.

Judge — Since Moab was governed by kings, the use of judge has been explained by assuming that Moab at the time of Amos had no independent king, that judge is equivalent to governor or viceroy, and that Jeroboam II had deposed the king and placed a governor upon the throne of Moab. However, 2 Kings 14:25, is not a sufficient basis for this assumption, the verse does not prove even that Moab was subject to Jeroboam (see on Amos 6:14); besides, Mesha, who was a vassal of Omri, is called “king” (2 Kings 3:4). It is better to interpret judge as equivalent to king (compare Micah 5:1). The title is appropriate since one of the chief functions of the ancient king was the administration of justice (2 Samuel 8:15; 2 Samuel 15:2; 1 Kings 7:7, etc.).

When this prophecy found its fulfillment it is impossible to say. The kings of Moab are mentioned as tributaries in the Assyrian inscriptions from the time of Tiglath-pileser III onward. Isaiah 15, 16; Jeremiah 48; Ezekiel 25 contain announcements of judgment and disaster upon Moab (compare also Zephaniah 2:8-10).


Verse 4-5

4, 5. The sin and punishment of Judah.

Judah — The southern kingdom, the home of Amos, in distinction from the northern kingdom, against which Amos prophesied. The other nations had sinned against Jehovah without external law (Romans 2:12); Judah had received a law, therefore its guilt was greater.

Law of Jehovah — See on Hosea 4:6. Despised [“rejected”] — As authoritative (Hosea 8:12); they refused to obey it and to be guided by it. Commandments [“statutes”] — Literally, the things engraven, that is, on public tablets. The word is found frequently in Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 4:5; Deuteronomy 4:8; Deuteronomy 4:14; Deuteronomy 5:1; Deuteronomy 5:31, etc.) and designates enactments of a moral, religious, or civil character. As the next clause indicates, here it refers primarily to statutes enjoining loyalty to Jehovah.

Lies — The worthless idols that have no existence, and whose imagined power and ability to help are not real (Isaiah 66:3; Jeremiah 5:7; Leviticus 19:4, etc.). The fathers put their trust in these; the children followed in the footsteps of their ancestors. The history of Judah presents numerous illustrations of this apostasy. True, there were some kings who remained more or less loyal to Jehovah (1 Kings 15:11; 1 Kings 22:43; 2 Kings 12:2-3; 2 Kings 14:3), but there were others who looked with favor upon idolatry (1 Kings 15:3; 2 Kings 8:18; 2 Kings 8:27; 2 Kings 11:1). Amos himself says little concerning religious conditions in Judah, but there can be no doubt that even in his day idolatry was prevalent there (compare Isaiah 2:8). Utter destruction of the state and of Jerusalem, the political and religious center, will be the punishment.

A partial fulfillment of Amos’s threat took place when Sennacherib overran Judah and besieged Jerusalem (2 Kings 18:3 ff.; Isaiah 36:1 ff.). At that time Jerusalem escaped, but fire did “devour the palaces of Jerusalem” when in 586 B.C. the city was taken and destroyed by the armies of Nebuchadnezzar. After the restoration it was rebuilt, and the city has had a continuous history since. Its present population is said to be about fifty thousand.


Verse 6-7

6, 7a. Oppression of the poor.

Sold the righteous for silver — This accusation is commonly interpreted as a separate count in the indictment, maladministration of justice. It is thought to refer to the acceptance of bribes on the part of the judges, for which they pronounce guilty the innocent and cause him to be sold into slavery. The next clause, “the poor for a pair of shoes,” is said to mark an advanced degree of corruption, when the judges do the same “for a pair of shoes” (see below). Others interpret the second clause as referring to the oppression of poor debtors by rich creditors; the latter sell the former into slavery, though the indebtedness involved may be insignificant. The latter interpretation of “(they sold) the poor for a pair of shoes” is to be preferred (Amos 8:6, but compare Amos 5:12; Isaiah 1:23; Isaiah 3:14-15); and it seems best to interpret the first clause also of the oppression of the poor by rich creditors rather than of maladministration of justice.

They — The wealthy and powerful creditors.

Sold — That is, into slavery. In a figurative sense the verb may be used of less severe treatment.

Righteous — Not in an ethical but in a forensic sense — innocent; those who have come into the control of their creditors without any fault of their own.

Silver — The money for which they are said to be indebted.

Poor — R.V., “needy.” Those who are unable to meet their obligations and have no one to take their part.

For a pair of shoes — A proverbial expression for something of little value; equivalent to the modern “for a song.” “One of the commonest crimes of Amos’s day was that of land-grabbing on the part of the rich (Isaiah 5:8), and it is this that Amos is here denouncing.”

The greed of the rich is further described in 7a, in Hebrew in the form of a participial clause, reproduced in English by a relative clause, connected with “they” of Amos 2:6.

Pant after the dust of the earth on the head of the poor — A peculiar expression. If the text is correct, a twofold interpretation is possible. With both, “dust on the head” is a sign of distress and mourning (2 Samuel 1:2; 2 Samuel 15:32; Lamentations 2:10). The meaning, then, may be either that they are “so avaricious that they begrudge the poor even the little dust used as a token of mourning,” or, that they are so heartless that they yearn to see the poor reduced to a state of misery and distress in which they will sprinkle the dust upon their heads. Jerome reads a different, though similar, verb, “to crush” for “to pant,” and omits the preposition before “the head.” He reads, “who crush upon the dust of the earth the head of the poor,” which gives excellent sense, and is accepted by many as original. With this forceful figure of extreme cruelty may be compared Isaiah 3:15, “grind the faces of the poor,” and Micah 3:2-3, “strip the flesh off their bones.” Other emendations suggested are less probable.

Meek — Simple-minded, God-fearing persons, who harm no one and who do not know the craftiness and deceitfulness of this world, to guard against it. Turn aside the way —They place obstacles in the way of the meek; thus they prevent the carrying out of their plans and purposes, and throw them into difficulties where they become an easy prey.

7b. Immoralities.

A man and his father will go in unto the same maid — The addition of same, which is not in the original, is based upon a misapprehension. The emphasis is not upon the fact that the father and the son go in to the same girl, but upon the universality of the immoral practices. The article is used in a generic sense, to indicate that the maiden alluded to is a member of a well-known class (G.-K., 126g). In English the indefinite article may be used. The allusion is to the sacred prostitutes at the shrines of Ashtoreth, who were found even in those Hebrew sanctuaries where, nominally at least, Jehovah was worshiped (see on Hosea 4:13). A man and his father — father and son; the practice is universal; there is no attempt to conceal it.

To profane my holy name — A final clause, “in order to.” The Israelites should have known better (Amos 2:11), and Amos assumes that they did know better; therefore he represents the practice of these immoralities as deliberate premeditated acts in defiance of the well-known will of God, by which acts discredit and dishonor were brought purposely upon the name of Jehovah, that is, upon his character; for “God’s name is equivalent to the sum of his attributes as revealed to his chosen people” (Isaiah 57:15; Psalms 111:9; see on Micah 5:4). On profane see on Joel 2:17.

The immoralities condemned in 7b are those practiced in the name of religion; the excesses condemned in Amos 2:8 also are connected with the religious cult, though “clothes taken in pledge” goes back to the first count in the indictment. Lay themselves down… by [“beside”] every altar —In drunken carousal (8b). There may be an allusion to the practice condemned in 7b.

Clothes laid to [“taken in”] pledge — The term used denotes the outer garment, a large square cloth with a hood, thrown over the body and held together from the inside. To the poor people this garment served also as a covering at night, and since the nights are at times very cool it is indispensable. Sometimes the garment was given in pledge, but the humane law in Exodus 22:26, demands its return to the owner at sundown. This law the unrighteous nobles neglected to observe in their mad desire to satisfy their lusts.

They drink the wine — At feasts connected with the peace and thank offerings (Amos 5:23; Exodus 32:6, etc.); these feasts had become occasions of revelry and debauchery.

Of the condemned — Better R.V., “such as have been fined.” The wine was purchased with money received from fines; whether just or unjust Amos does not say; that in many cases they were unjust there can be no doubt.

The house of their god — R.V., “God.” It is also possible to render “gods” or even “the houses of their gods.” The Hebrew is ambiguous. To Amos the chief earthly dwelling place of Jehovah was Jerusalem (Amos 1:2). Whether he considered all local sanctuaries illegitimate and the worship practiced there idolatry is not certain. At any rate, he evidently has in mind here the practices at such sanctuaries as Beth-el, Gilgal (Amos 4:4), and Beer-sheba (Amos 8:14); that he thinks of more than one place is indicated also by “beside every altar.”


Verses 6-16

THE SIN AND PUNISHMENT OF ISRAEL, Amos 2:6-16.

The denunciations in Amos 1:3 to Amos 2:5, are preparatory to Amos 2:6-16, which is the thesis of the entire book. Chapters 3ff. are an elaboration of this thesis. If other nations, less favored than Israel, are to be punished for their sins, can Israel, with its superior privileges and advantages, hope to escape judgment? The prophet begins his accusation in the same stereo-typed form, but he departs from it after the first verse. He opens with the presentation of the indictment (Amos 3:6-8), containing two counts: (1) oppression of the poor, (2) immorality and inordinate self-indulgence practiced in the name of religion. With this conduct he contrasts the divine care for Israel and condemns the base ingratitude of the corrupt nation (Amos 3:9-12). He closes with an announcement of the speedy destruction of the people (Amos 3:13-15).


Verses 9-12

9-12. What contrast between the actual conduct of the people and the conduct that might be expected of them in view of Jehovah’s loving care for them throughout their entire history! He brought them out of Egypt and led them in the wilderness (Amos 2:10); he destroyed the Amorites (Amos 2:9); he raised up religious teachers (Amos 2:11-12). In the present Hebrew text the chronological order of events is not observed; chronologically the verses should be arranged Amos 2:10 - Amos 2:9, - Amos 2:11, - Amos 2:12, and this Harper thinks to have been the original order.

Yet destroyed I — The contrast is brought out more emphatically in the Hebrew, “But I (on my part), I destroyed.”

Amorite — In Amos 2:10 Palestine is called “the land of the Amorite,” an expression found also in early Babylonian inscriptions. In the Old Testament Amorite is used (1) as synonymous with Canaanite, to designate the inhabitants of the whole of Palestine (Joshua 24:8; Joshua 24:15; Joshua 24:18; Deuteronomy 1:7; Deuteronomy 1:19, etc.); (2) to designate the peoples ruled by Sihon and Og, east of the Jordan (Numbers 21:21-25). As Amos 2:10 makes plain, here the reference is to the inhabitants of the entire land.

Cedars — Among the Hebrews the “type of loftiness and grandeur” (Isaiah 2:13; compare Isaiah 1:30-31).

Oaks — The type of strength and endurance (Isaiah 2:13; compare Isaiah 1:30-31; Zechariah 11:2). For the belief that the inhabitants of Palestine were of giant stature see Deuteronomy 1:28; Numbers 13:32-33.

Fruit… roots — The highest and the lowest parts, equivalent to root and branch — completely. A similar expression is read on the sarcophagus of Eshmunazar (see on Amos 2:1; compare Hosea 9:16; Isaiah 5:24).

Also I — The pronoun is again emphatic.

Brought you up Up, because of the mountainous character of Palestine as compared with Egypt.

From the land of Egypt — The Exodus from Egypt was the supreme manifestation of Jehovah’s love and power in Hebrew history; hence it is frequently made the basis of prophetic appeals (Amos 3:1; Hosea 12:9; Hosea 13:4, etc.).

Forty years through the wilderness — Lovingly and tenderly he cared for them and supplied their wants (Amos 5:25; Deuteronomy 2:7; Deuteronomy 8:2; Deuteronomy 29:5); his ultimate purpose being to bring them into the promised land.

Jehovah raised up among them religious and moral teachers, which was a special mark of divine favor, enjoyed by Israel exclusively.

Prophets,… Nazarites [“Nazirites”] — Two classes of religious teachers and workers; the former taught principally, though not exclusively, by word of mouth, the latter by example. Both played important parts. From the beginning of Hebrew history to its close no serious crisis arose without God raising up a prophet to lead the people through it. The Nazirites (separated, or, consecrated) tried to stem by example the tide of worldliness and self-indulgence, which threatened to sweep away the simplicity of ancient Hebrew life. (See articles “Prophecy and Prophets” and “Nazirites,” in Hastings’s Dictionary of the Bible.) The law regulating the conduct of Nazirites is found in Numbers 6:1-21 (compare Jeremiah 35).

Is it not even thus — An appeal to confirm or deny the preceding statements. Denial was impossible.

Saith Jehovah — This particular expression is very common in prophetic writings; it is a solemn asseverative interjection (see on Joel 2:12); and by calling attention to the fact that the prophet is delivering the word of Jehovah it sets a seal of truthfulness upon the message.

The Israelites failed to appreciate the divine goodness; not only did they refuse to listen, they even sought to silence the prophets and compel the Nazirites to become unfaithful to their vows; by these acts they insulted Jehovah himself.

Gave… wine to drink — One of the principal obligations of the Nazirites was to abstain from intoxicating drinks (Numbers 6:3).

Prophesy not — Such prohibitions are not infrequent (1 Kings 13:4; 1 Kings 18:4; 1 Kings 19:2; 1 Kings 22:8; 1 Kings 22:26-27; 2 Kings 1:9 ff; 2 Kings 6:31); for the time of Amos and later see Amos 7:13; Amos 7:16; Hosea 9:8; Isaiah 30:10-11; Micah 2:6; Jeremiah 20:7-10.


Verses 13-16

13-16. The punishment. Righteous retribution will overtake the sinful nation. Amos 2:13 is rendered more acceptably in the R.V., “Behold, I will press you in your place, as a cart presseth that is full of sheaves.”

Behold I will — The Hebrew construction implies the imminence of the judgment; better, “Behold, I am about to” (G.-K., 116p).

Press you in your place — The meaning of the verb, which occurs only here in the Old Testament, is doubtful. The cognate verb in Arabic means “to hinder,” “to cause to stop”; hence, “I will cause a stop under you.” If this meaning is accepted, the form of the second verb demands the translation “as a cart causes a stop.” This is strange, since we would expect “as a cart is caused to stop.” Others — so R.V. — connect the verb with the Aramaic and read, “I will press you in your place”; literally, I will press under you, which is thought to mean that he will hold them fast in their place, so that they cannot escape. This also is not without difficulties. (1) “I will press you in your place” would be quite satisfactory, but “I will press under you,” the literal rendering, is not so intelligible; and in the second clause, “as a cart is pressed,” would give good sense, not so “as a cart presseth.” (2) The presence of an Aramaic word in Hebrew at the time of Amos is peculiar. (3) Amos 2:14 implies flight, though the fugitives will be overtaken; nothing is said there about inability to move. For these reasons most commentators accept the emendation of Hitzig, who reads Amos 2:13, “Behold, I am about to cause it to totter under you, even as a wagon totters that is full of sheaves”; that is, the ground will totter under them — a figure of approaching ruin.


Verses 14-16

14-16. The swiftest and best-equipped warriors cannot escape.

Therefore — R.V., better, “and.”

Flight — Rather the place of flight or of refuge.

Shall perish — Better, R.V. margin, “shall fail.”

Swift — He would be expected to be the first to reach a place of safety; but when the divine blow fails the qualities ordinarily of the greatest advantage will profit nothing.

Shall not strengthen his force — The strong man will be so terrified that he cannot collect his strength or make use of it.

Mighty — The warrior, whose bravery might be expected to save him, cannot save his life (margin).

Handleth the bow — The armed man.

Shall he stand — Stop in his flight (Nahum 2:8). The swiftness of man (2 Samuel 1:23; 2 Samuel 2:18) or of horse shall avail nothing.

Courageous — Literally, the strong in his heart (Psalms 27:14; Psalms 31:24).

Naked — He will throw away everything that might hinder his flight — weapons, armor, and superfluous clothing.

In that day — The day of judgment.

Saith Jehovah — As in Amos 2:11.

The judgments announced in chapters 1, 2 are expected by the prophet to take the form of foreign invasions and war. In no case does he call the executioner by name; but it is beyond doubt that throughout he is thinking of the Assyrians, who, beginning with the reign of Ashur-nasir-pal (885-860 B.C.), became an ever-increasing menace to all the nations enumerated. Why Amos does not call them by name is not quite clear. It may be because in his days the Assyrian power was on the decline — it revived under Tiglath-pileser III (745-727 B.C.) — and therefore the mention of their name would have added no force to his message, but, on the contrary, might have weakened it. It is worthy of note, however, that neither Isaiah nor Jeremiah mention the national enemies by name in their earlier discourses. Wellhausen is undoubtedly right when he calls Amos “the leader of the prophetic choir of the Assyrian period.”

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Amos 2:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/amos-2.html. 1874-1909.

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Sunday, July 5th, 2020
the Week of Proper 9 / Ordinary 14
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