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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Amos 9

 

 

Verses 1-4

1. I saw — The other visions are introduced with “Jehovah showed unto me.”

The Lord — He is the central figure in this vision, not a symbolic object or act.

Standing — As in Amos 7:7. A more accurate rendering would be stationed, since the word denotes a more formal attitude than is indicated by the simple standing.

Beside — Literally, upon (Numbers 23:3; Numbers 23:6; 1 Kings 21:1).

Altar — It is most natural to suppose that the prophet has in mind the altar at Beth-el, the chief sanctuary of the north, where he was delivering his message.

He said — To whom? See on “publish ye” (Amos 3:9; compare Amos 3:13).

Lintel — The Hebrew has the singular, which is used in a collective sense, therefore R.V. reads the plural, “capitals”; the ornaments on top of the columns which support the roof (Zephaniah 2:14; compare Exodus 25:31). A blow upon these capitals would cause the roof to fall, especially if the blow was severe enough to cause the foundations to tremble.

Posts — Better, thresholds, since the word is used almost exclusively in the latter sense. Threshold is equivalent to foundation, and the clause indicates the force of the blow.

Cut [“break”] them — The Hebrew underlying this translation is peculiar (G.-K., 61g). The pronoun (plural in Hebrew) is interpreted most naturally as referring back to “capitals” (singular in Hebrew). Such construction is unusual; it may be a construction according to the sense (G.-K., 1350), or the prophet may be thinking of the pieces made by the blow. Most commentators suspect a corruption of the text.

All of them — The worshipers gathered within the sanctuary.

The last of them — Or, the residue of them, that is, any who may escape from the sanctuary; they shall fall subsequently by the sword.

For the rest of Amos 9:1 R.V. reads, perhaps less literally than A.V., “there shall not one of them flee away, and there shall not one of them escape.” Not from the smitten sanctuary, for both the preceding clause and Amos 9:2 imply that some will escape from it, but from Jehovah (Amos 5:19). If any succeed in escaping from the ruins Jehovah will follow them, until he overtakes them and somehow causes their destruction.

This thought is expanded in 2-4, with which may be compared Psalms 139. The prophet enumerates the places which might be expected to provide safe hiding places, but Jehovah will penetrate all.

Hell — Better, R.V., “Sheol”; the place of the departed (Hosea 13:14; Habakkuk 2:5; see article “Sheol” in Hastings’s Dictionary of the Bible). Sheol was thought to be located in the center of the earth (Ephesians 4:9).

Heaven — The dwelling place of God on high. The two represent the lowest depth and the highest height (Isaiah 7:11; Job 11:8); both are inaccessible to living men. If somehow the survivors should succeed in reaching the places Jehovah’s wrath will pursue them.

Amos 9:3 mentions two other ordinarily inaccessible places, which in this instance will offer no safety.

Top of Carmel — See on Amos 1:2. Mount Carmel would be a promising hiding place, because (1) it was rich in natural caves — there are said to be about two thousand “close together and so serpentine as to make the discovery of a fugitive entirely impossible”; (2) its top was thickly wooded. Strabo relates (xvi, 2, 28) that in the first century A.D. the forests of Carmel were favorite hiding places of robbers. If hunted from Mount Carmel they might seek refuge in the neighboring Mediterranean, but even the deep sea bottom will offer no shelter.

Serpent — This is not an ordinary marine serpent, such as are found in tropical climates in the sea — not in the Mediterranean — but a mythological sea monster (Genesis 1:21; compare Isaiah 27:1), called also Leviathan (Job 41:1); it is probably to be connected with the Babylonian Tiamat. With no other agent near, this serpent will be called upon to execute judgment.

Go into captivity — The enemy may be willing to spare their lives; not so Jehovah. He has decreed their utter destruction.

Set mine eyes upon — An expression used frequently in a good sense, equivalent to keep watch over (Genesis 44:21; Jeremiah 24:6); here in a bad sense, to look upon in anger.

For evil — In order to destroy (compare Jeremiah 21:10; Ezekiel 15:7).


Verses 1-6

THE SMITTEN SANCTUARY, vv. 1-6.

These verses contain an account of the fifth vision, followed by an exposition setting forth the inevitableness and completeness of the judgment. The prophet beholds the sanctuary crowded with worshipers, and Jehovah standing beside the altar; he hears the divine command to smite the sanctuary, so that it will fall upon the worshipers and crush them.

If some should escape by accident they will meet their doom in other ways. Wherever they may seek a hiding place Jehovah will find them and blot them out. The threat is enforced, as in Amos 4:13; Amos 5:8-9, by a solemn description of the majesty and power of Jehovah. If the words were spoken under the shadow of the sanctuary at Beth-el (Amos 7:13), this vision would be especially appropriate and impressive.


Verse 5-6

5, 6. The people might think the prophet mad; hence he proceeds to disabuse their minds by informing them that it is Jehovah who makes the threats. Once more he depicts the divine majesty and omnipotence. The verses are similar in tone to Amos 4:13; Amos 5:8-9, and they serve the same purpose (see comments on those verses and Introduction, pp. 217ff.). They certainly add force to the preceding threats, and Harper is hardly justified in saying, “The proposed logical connection of this verse (5) with the preceding, ‘God is able to bring such punishment because he is the almighty one,’ is unnatural and far-fetched.”

The Lord Jehovah of hosts — Compare Amos 4:13.

Toucheth the land — In a thunderstorm.

Melt — See on Micah 1:4; Nahum 1:5.

Mourn — See on Amos 1:2. Amos 5:5 b describes an earthquake; see on Amos 8:8 b, of which it is an almost verbatim repetition.

Stories — R.V., “chambers”; literally, upper chambers; the dwelling place of Jehovah above the “firmament” (Psalms 104:3; Psalms 104:13).

Troop — Better, R.V., “vault.” The “firmament” of Genesis 1:6, which, to the eye ignorant of the truths of astronomy, seems to rest as a huge cupola upon the earth (Job 26:11).

Calleth for the waters… poureth them out — See on Amos 5:8.

Jehovah — LXX. adds “of hosts” (compare Amos 4:13).


Verse 7

7. The universality of Jehovah’s government the prophet illustrates from the past history of several representative nations. The divine hand could be seen in the deliverance of Israel from Egypt (Amos 2:9-10); but it was not less visible in the movements of the other peoples.

Children of the Ethiopians — Hebrew, “of the Cushites.” Cush was a district in Africa, immediately south of Upper Egypt (see on Zephaniah 2:12; Nab. Amos 3:9). The inhabitants of this region, despised, perhaps, also on account of their color (Jeremiah 13:23), are, in a sense, as dear to Jehovah as Israel.

Philistines — See on Joel 3:4 (compare Amos 1:6-8). The reference to the Philistines would be startling. Could Jehovah care for Israel’s enemies?

Caphtor — Mentioned also in other passages as the original home of the Philistines (Deuteronomy 2:23; Jeremiah 47:4). Opinions still differ concerning the identification of Caphtor. Of the three most important locations suggested, the coast of the Nile Delta, the south coast of Asia Minor, and the island of Crete, the last named is the most probable, but it is quite possible that the other districts also were occupied, at some period, by people of the same race. In favor of this identification is the name Cherethites, applied to the Philistines in 1 Samuel 30:14 (compare Zephaniah 2:5), because this name contains the same consonants as the word Crete.

Kir — See on Amos 1:5.

After shattering the false hope of the people Amos repeats, in his own words, the threat of 1-6, but with an essential modification; he now holds out hope to a remnant, whereas before he announced complete annihilation.

The eyes… are upon — Or, against (see Amos 9:4; compare Psalms 34:16).

The sinful kingdom — Jehovah must punish every sinful kingdom, but the use of the article indicates that the prophet has in mind one particular nation, namely, Israel. On account of its wickedness it must be wiped from the face of the earth.

Saving that I will not utterly destroy — As a kingdom and people Israel had forfeited the divine favor, but there always had been (1 Kings 19:18) and there still was within the nation a “holy seed,” a remnant that continued faithful to Jehovah, out of which he might form a new people and kingdom of God. The divine righteousness and justice demanded the salvation of this remnant (compare on Amos 5:15).

House of Jacob — Not Judah, as distinguished from Israel, or the whole nation, as distinguished from the northern kingdom, but a poetic variant for “house of Israel” (Amos 9:9; Amos 5:3-4; Amos 5:25, etc.), and “house of Joseph” (Amos 5:6), identical with “the sinful kingdom.”


Verses 7-10

JEHOVAH NOT A RESPECTER OF PERSONS, Amos 9:7-10.

Once before (Amos 3:1-2) Amos attempted to correct the misapprehension that Jehovah was partial to Israel, and that his choice of the nation could be regarded as a guarantee of its safety (see introductory remarks on Amos 3:1 to Amos 4:3). A false confidence, based upon this misapprehension, might destroy the effect of the message in Amos 9:1-6. To avoid this the prophet emphasizes once more the truth that Jehovah is interested in all the nations of the earth, and that any special favors granted to the Israelites must have their justification in the latter’s moral superiority. Since they have shown themselves a “sinful kingdom” they are unworthy of special favors; on the contrary, Jehovah is compelled to proceed against them in judgment. Nevertheless, he will “not utterly” destroy them; a faithful remnant will be preserved.


Verse 9-10

Amos 9:9-10 carry further the thought of 8b. The judgment has a disciplinary purpose, to separate the pure from the corrupt; the pure will be preserved, the corrupt destroyed. This teaching is in accord with the philosophical conceptions of the times; the prophet does not consider the possibility of a righteous man being cut off, while an ungodly person might escape.

I will — Better, I am about to (see on Amos 2:13).

Command — The divine executioner (Amos 6:14).

Sift — R.V. margin, “cause to move to and fro,” as the grain in the sieve is shaken back and forth.

House of Israel — All, good and bad alike.

Among all nations — Among which the Israelites were to be scattered in exile. That experience would test the loyalty of the people, just as the sifting process tests the character of the grain. Grain [“kernel”] — Literally, pebble. In view of the figure of the sieve it seems best to interpret the word figuratively of the solid, sound grain of corn. Not even the smallest sound kernel will be allowed to fall to the ground and be trampled under foot; carefully it will be preserved, to be used according to the wishes of the husbandman. Thus the righteous kernel among the exiles will be preserved for God’s own use; only the godless chaff will perish. Some interpret the word literally, pebble, or little stone. The pebbles are kept in the sieve while the good grain is allowed to fall through, to be gathered and preserved; so the wicked will be retained in exile, while the pious will be restored. In either case the thought is that the fate of the righteous will not be the same as that of the wicked; the former will be preserved for a brighter future.

The sinners — Not the righteous, who have been separated by the sifting process.

By the sword — Of the enemy. A figure of violent death, whatever the means.

The evil shall not overtake nor prevent us — For the second verb, now obsolete in the sense required here, R.V. reads “meet us.” This is undoubtedly the sense of the passage but to justify this translation two slight changes in the verb forms may be necessary.

Evil — Misfortune or calamity. The prophet has in mind especially the self-secure sinners who, relying upon their membership in the chosen race (Amos 9:7; Amos 3:2), or upon their religious zeal (Amos 5:21 ff.), fancy that the judgment cannot touch them (Amos 6:3; compare Micah 3:11; Isaiah 5:19).


Verse 11

11. In that day — When the judgment has fallen, the sinners have been destroyed, and a righteous nucleus has been saved.

Tabernacle of David — The word, also translated “hut,” is used of a temporary structure of boughs, or the reed hut of soldiers in the field (2 Samuel 11:11; Isaiah 1:8); it is descriptive here, by way of contrast, of the house of David (1 Kings 12:19-20; Zechariah 12:7-8; compare 2 Samuel 7:11; 2 Samuel 7:16), the royal dynasty, which at that time will be in dire straits, but which will be raised again to honor from its humiliation (see further Introduction, p. 216).

Fallen — Into ruin. It is no longer a desirable hut (compare Isaiah 11:1). In the next three clauses the figure of a broken wall is substituted.

Breaches — Made by the enemy; a figure of damages inflicted upon the dynasty of David, by which it is rendered defenseless.

His ruins — David’s. R.V., “its,” that is, of the tabernacle. In either case the sense remains the same.

Build — Or, rebuild.

It — The tabernacle.

As in the days of old — During the splendid reign of David. Once more the dynasty will become a house stately and majestic.


Verses 11-15

THE EPILOGUE — PROMISES OF A BRIGHTER FUTURE, Amos 9:11-15.

In Amos 9:9 the prophet promises the preservation of a remnant, in Amos 9:10 the destruction of the wicked. Nothing more need be said about the latter, for they are annihilated; but what will become of the former? It will be exalted to glory and honor. This exaltation is the subject of 11-15. Like the other prophets, our author is convinced that the remnant will be the nucleus of the new kingdom of God, which will be ruled by the restored dynasty of David (11); its boundaries will extend to the limits of the empire of David (12); famine and want will be no more, for the soil will be blessed with extraordinary fertility (13); the exiles scattered abroad will be restored and the waste cities will be rebuilt (14); and in prosperity and felicity the people will be established in their own land forever (15).


Verse 12

12. The restoration of the dynasty is needed in order that the splendor of the kingdom may be re-established. The new kingdom will be harassed no longer by its neighbors, but will triumph over all.

Remnant of Edom — All that may be left of Edom after the conquest. Edom is singled out on account of the long-continued hostility between Israel and Edom (Amos 1:12; Obadiah 1:18-21; Joel 3:19; Psalms 137:7).

All the heathen — Better, R.V., “nations.”

Which are (better, R.V. margin, “were”) called by my name — Literally, over which my name was called. The meaning of the expression may be gathered from 2 Samuel 12:28. Joab, while besieging Rabbah of the Ammonites, invited David to come and take the city, “lest I take the city and my name be called over it,” that is, lest I get the credit for the capture. The nations are those conquered by David, for whose conquest he gave the credit and glory to Jehovah. The thought of Amos 9:12 is evidently that the territory of the new kingdom is to be extended as far as during the reign of David (1 Kings 4:21).

That doeth this — The fact that Jehovah is interested in it assures its fulfillment (Jeremiah 33:2). For a free New Testament application of the verse see Acts 15:16-18.


Verses 13-15

13-15. The outward extension of the territory will be followed by internal peace and prosperity. Amos 9:13 promises extreme fertility of the soil (see on Hosea 2:20-21; compare Joel 2:22 ff.; Leviticus 26:5). The translations of A.V. and R.V. are not quite accurate. Literally the verse reads, “Behold, the days are about to come, saith Jehovah, that the plowman and the reaper shall touch each other, as well as the treader of grapes and the sower of seed; and the mountains shall drop sweet wine, and all the hills shall melt.” This rendering leaves it undecided whether the plowman is to overtake the reaper and the treader of grapes the sower, or the reaper the plowman and the sower the treader of grapes. Undoubtedly the latter is the thought. The ground will be so fertile that the plowman has hardly completed the work of plowing and sowing when the grain is ready for harvest, and the vintage will be so plentiful that it will not be completed when the time for plowing comes around again. Ordinarily the plowing in Palestine takes place in October, the sowing in November, the barley and wheat harvest in April and May, the vintage in August and September.

Treader of grapes — The grapes were thrown into the winepress, where, in ancient times — and even now in some cases — they were pressed with the feet (for illustrations see Van Lennep, Bible Lands, p. 118; compare Joel 2:24). For 13b see Joel 3:18.

Melt — The vintage will be so bountiful that it will seem as if the hills themselves were being dissolved into streams of wine.


Verse 14

14. To this fertile soil the exiles will be brought back, there to live in prosperity and happiness.

Bring again the captivity of my people — See on Hosea 6:11, and p. 133.

Build the waste cities — Destroyed by the invader (Amos 3:15; Amos 5:11; compare Jeremiah 33:10; Isaiah 54:3).

Inhabit — Compare the threat in Amos 5:11.

Plant vineyards,… drink the wine — Compare Amos 4:9; Amos 5:11; for a similar promise see Isaiah 65:21; Ezekiel 28:26.

Make gardens,… eat the fruit — They will be permitted to enjoy the fruit of their labor (compare Amos 4:9).


Verse 15

15. The enjoyment of these blessings will be forever.

I will plant them — A picture of firm and permanent establishment.

Their land — The promise given to Abraham (Genesis 12:7) is transferred to the remnant. Never again will they be disturbed in their possessions.

Thy God — The pronoun is meant emphatically (see on Hosea 2:1; Hosea 2:23).

The nonfulfillment of the Messianic promises in Amos 9:11-15 (see pp. 209, 210) must be interpreted in the light of what is said at the close of the comments on Micah 4:5; Micah 5:15. On the authorship of Amos 9:8-15, see Introduction, p. 215ff.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Amos 9:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/amos-9.html. 1874-1909.

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