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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Amos 4:11

"I overthrew you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, And you were like a firebrand snatched from a blaze; Yet you have not returned to Me," declares the Lord .
New American Standard Version
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  1. Adam Clarke Commentary
  2. Bridgeway Bible Commentary
  3. Coffman Commentaries on the Bible
  4. Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible
  5. Charles Box's Commentaries on Selected Books of the Bible
  6. E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes
  7. Calvin's Commentary on the Bible
  8. Brian Bell Commentary on the Bible
  9. Chuck Smith Bible Commentary
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Bible Study Resources

Nave's Topical Bible - Afflictions and Adversities;   Firebrand;   Gomorrah;   Sodom;   War;   Thompson Chain Reference - Brands from the Burning;   The Topic Concordance - Turning;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Afflictions of the Wicked, the;  
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Sodom;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - God;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Amos, Theology of;   Genesis, Theology of;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Firebrand;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Fire;   Gomorrah;   Palestine;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Amos;   Sorrow;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Eternal Fire (2);   Fire;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Gomorrah;   Sodom;   Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types - Firebrand;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Fuel;  
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Amos (1);   Brand;   Firebrand;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Amos;   Sodom;  
Daily Light on the Daily Path - Devotion for April 3;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

I have overthrown some of you - In the destruction of your cities I have shown my judgments as signally as I did in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah; and those of you that did escape were as "brands plucked out of the fire;" if not consumed, yet much scorched. And as the judgment was evidently from my hand, so was the deliverance; "and yet ye have not returned unto me, saith the Lord."

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These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Amos 4:11". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". 1832.

Bridgeway Bible Commentary

Religion without God (4:4-13)

In words of cutting irony, Amos calls the people to the places of worship, encouraging them to continue their zealous but unspiritual religious exercises. The more they do so, the more they will increase their sin. They are corrupt, immoral, ungodly, greedy, lawless and violent, yet they love to make a show of their religious zeal. Amos mocks them by urging them to offer their sacrifices daily (normally, private citizens did this yearly), to offer their tithes every three days (instead of every three years), to present their sacrifices with leaven (which was forbidden), and to advertise their free-will offerings (instead of offering them privately) (4-5).

God sent famine and drought, with the aim that the people would see these things as a punishment from him and so turn from their sins; but they did not (6-8). Mildew and locusts destroyed much of their crops; disease, war and an earthquake killed many of their people; but there was still no sign of repentance (9-11). God will therefore act in a more terrible judgment. It will be too late to repent and Israel will be forced to meet its God (12-13).

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Amos 4:11". "Brideway Bible Commentary". 2005.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

"I have overthrown cities among you, as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and ye were as a brand plucked out of the burning: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith Jehovah."

In a sense, Sodom and Gomorrah were surely "cities among" the Israelites; and yet, despite the fact that Israel was actually "more corrupt than they (Sodom and Gomorrah)" (Ezekiel 16:47f), God had nevertheless spared them. This truth, that Israel was worse than Sodom and Gomorrah is seldom stressed, but it is profoundly evident in the Bible; and the only reason that God spared Israel, as far as we are able to discern, was that the promise of the Messiah to come through Israel had not yet been realized; and, in a sense, God was "stuck" with the chosen people until that promise should become a reality. Instead of being humbled by the judgment of other nations around them, Israel only presumed upon God's unlimited tolerance of their wickedness, a presumption that nerved them to the murder of the Son of God Himself when he finally arrived.

"I have overthrown cities among you ..." "This is generally taken to refer to an earthquake of extreme severity,"[28] an opinion followed by Barnes,[29] Smith,[30] and many others; but it appears to us that a specific reference to the judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah is made. Of course, that event was accompanied by a great earthquake also.

McFadden's quotation from Lecky is:

"The theological habit of interpreting the catastrophes of nature as Divine warnings or punishments or discipline, is a baseless and pernicious superstition."[31]

This is a fair representation of so-called "scientific" or "modern man"; and, while true enough, that each individual disaster might not be attributed to the immediate sin of the victim (John 9:1-10), there is nevertheless a direct and pertinent connection between the disasters of earth and the rebellion of Adam's race.

"To the sensitive heart, every disaster speaks an urgent message. We have no right to interpret it as the punishment of others, but we have every right to regard it as a call to ourselves, a call to reflection and repentance."[32]

Amos 4:6-11 have recounted the seven great disasters through which Israel had passed, ending in the same plaintive cry every time. "Yet have ye not returned unto me, saith Jehovah."

Some critics make a big thing out of God being referred to in this verse (Amos 4:11) in the third person, whereas, the first person is otherwise prominent throughout; but this is not due to any interpolation, and only signifies that Amos unconsciously reverted to quotations from the Pentateuch in mentioning Sodom and Gomorrah, as any one familiar with the Bible would have done.

It should be noted, as Smith pointed out, that:

"The oracles in Amos 1 and Amos 2 were addressed to seven nations before reaching Israel. Here seven calamities strike before the final act of judgment is experienced."[33]

That final judgment upon the Northern Kingdom will be uttered in the very next verse.

Copyright Statement
Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Amos 4:11". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

I have overthrown some of you - The earthquake is probably reserved to the last, as being the rarest, and so the most special, visitation. Frequent as earthquakes have been on the borders of Palestine, the greater part of Palestine was not on the line, which was especially shaken by them. The line, chiefly visited by earthquakes, was along the coast of the Mediterranean or parallel to it, chiefly from Tyre to Antioch and Aleppo. Here were the great historical earthquakes, which were the scourges of Tyre, Sidon, Beirut, Botrys, Tripolis, Laodicea on the sea; which shattered Litho-prosopon, prostrated Baalbek and Hamath, and so often afflicted Antioch and Aleppo, while Damascus was mostly spared.

Eastward it may have reached to Safed, Tiberias, and the Hauran. Ar-Moab perished by an earthquake in the childhood of Jerome. But, at least, the evidence of earthquakes, except perhaps in the ruins of the Hauran, is slighter. Earthquakes there have been (although fewer) at Jerusalem. Yet on the whole, it seems truer to say that the skirts of Palestine were subject to destructive earthquakes, than to affirm this of central Palestine.

The earthquake must have been all the more terrible, because it was unprecedented. One or more terrible earthquakes, overthrowing cities, must have been sent, before that, on occasion of which Amos collected his prophecies. For his prophecies were uttered “two years before” that “earthquake;” and this earthquake had preceded his prophecy. “I overthrew,” God says, “among you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.” He uses the word, especially used by Moses and the prophets of that dread overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, when they were turned, as it were, upside down. The earthquake is at all times the more mysterious, because unseen, unannounced, unlooked for, instantaneous, complete. The ground under a man‘s feet seems no longer secure: his shelter is his destruction; men‘s houses become their graves. Whole cities must have been utterly overthrown, for He compares the overthrow worked among them, to the overthrow of “the cities of the plain.” Other visitations have heralds sent before them. War, pestilence, famine, seldom break in at once. The earthquake at once, buries, it may be, thousands or tens of thousands, each stiffened (if it were so) in that his last deed of evil; each household with its own form of misery; each in its separate vault, dead, dying, crushed, imprisoned; the remnant indeed “surviving,” for most whom they loved were gone. So he says;

And ye, who escaped, were as a firebrand, plucked out of the burning - Once it had been green, fresh, fragrant, with leaf or flower; now scorched, charred, blackened, all but consumed. In itself, it was fit for nothing, but to be cast back into the fire from where it had been rescued. Man would so deal with it. A re-creation alone could restore it. Slight emblem of a soul, whose freshness sin had withered, then God‘s severe judgment had half-consumed; in itself, meet only for the everlasting fire, from which yet God withdraws it.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Amos 4:11". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.

Charles Box's Commentaries on Selected Books of the Bible

You have not returned to God -- : Five times the Lord described efforts He had made to rescue Israel from sin. But each time He said, "Yet you did not return to me," or "still you rejected me." God punished the people with a shortage of food. The expression "cleanness of teeth" is a figurative designation of the result of famine. But still the people went on with their rejection of God. God said, "Three months before harvest, I kept back the rain. Sometimes I would let it fall on one town or field but not on another, and pastures dried up." The Creator has the ability to control the rain. People from two or three towns would go to a town that had water but it was still not enough to satisfy their need. In spite of all of this the people did not return to the Lord. God wanted to bring His people to repentance but His chastisements had no effect on them.

God had said, "But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee: Cursed shalt thou be in the city, and cursed shalt thou be in the field. Cursed shall be thy basket and thy store." () They now know that God meant what He said. He dried up their grain fields, gardens and vineyards. He sent locusts that ate their fig trees and olive orchards, but even then they rejected the Lord.

God sent plagues upon them, their young men were killed in battle, their horses were stolen and their camp was made to stink with dead bodies. Yet, the Lord still had to declare, "They did not return unto Me." God overthrew some of them as He had done to Sodom and Gomorrah. Others were like a burning stick that God rescued from the fire. Even then they continued to reject Him. His people were unfaithful but God continued to love them. However, He could not overlook their sins.

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These files are a derivative of an electronic edition available at Public Domain.
Bibliographical Information
Box, Charles. "Commentary on Amos 4:11". "Charles Box's Commentaries on Selected books of the Bible". 2014.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

as God overthrew, &c. Reference to Pentateuch (Genesis 19:24, Genesis 19:25. Deuteronomy 29:23). App-92. Compare Isaiah 13:19. Jeremiah 49:18. God. Hebrew Elobim. App-4.

ye were as a firebrand, &c. Compare Zechariah 3:2. Jude 1:23.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Amos 4:11". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". 1909-1922.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

Amos proceeds further, and says, that God had used a severity towards his chosen people similar to that which formerly he showed towards Sodom and Gomorrah. That, we know, was a memorable evidence of God’s wrath, which ought to have filled all ages with dread, as it ought also at this day: and Scripture, whenever it graphically paints the wrath of God, sets Sodom and Gomorrah before our eyes. It was indeed a dreadful judgment, when God destroyed those cities with fire from heaven, when they were consumed, and when the earth, cleaving asunder, swallowed up the five cities. But he says that nearly the same ruin had taken place among the people of Israel, only that a few escaped, as when any one snatches a brand from the burning; for the second clause of the verse ought no doubt to be taken as a modification; for had Amos only said, that they had been overthrown as Sodom and Gomorrah, he would have said too much. The Prophet then corrects or modifies his expression by saying, that a few had remained, as when one snatches a brand from the burning. But in the meantime, they ought to have been at least moved by punishments so grievous and dreadful, since God had manifested his displeasure to them, as he did formerly to Sodom and Gomorrah.

History seems, at the same time, to militate against this narrative of Amos; for he prophesied under Jeroboam the second, the son of Joash; and the state of the people was then prosperous, as sacred history records. How then could it be, that the Israelites had been destroyed like Sodom and Gomorrah? This difficulty may be easily solved, if we attend to what sacred history relates; for it says that God had pity on the Israelites, because all had been before consumed, the free man as well as the captive, (2 Kings 14:25) When, therefore, there was so deplorable a devastation among the people, it was God’s purpose to give them some relief for a time. Hence he made king Jeroboam successful, so that he recovered many cities; and the people flourished again: but it was a short prosperity. Now Amos reminds them of what they had suffered, and of the various means by which God had stimulated them to repentance though they proved wholly untamable.

Then these two things are in no way inconsistent, — that the Israelites had been consumed before God spared them under Jeroboam, — and that they had yet been for a time relieved from those calamities, which proved ruinous both to the captive and to the free, as it is expressly declared. We must, at the same time, remember, that there was some residue among the people; for it was God’s design to show mercy on account of his covenant. The people were indeed worthy of complete destruction; but it was God’s will that some remnant should continue, lest any one should think that he had forgotten his covenant. We hence see why God had preserved some; it was, that he might contend with the wickedness of the people, and show that his covenant was not wholly void. So the Lord observed a middle course, that he might not spare hypocrites, and that he might not abolish his covenant; for it was necessary for that to stand perpetually, however ungodly and perfidious the Israelites may have been. The Prophet then shows, that God had been faithful even in this case, and constantly kept his covenant, though all the Israelites had fallen away from him. He at length concludes —

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Calvin, John. "Commentary on Amos 4:11". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". 1840-57.

Brian Bell Commentary on the Bible

  1. Intro:
    1. Ferdinand & Imelda Marcos(P.I. in 80’s) used their power to amassprivate wealth, siphoning foreign aid, loans, and the profits of domestic companies into secret Swiss bank accounts(suspected $20 billion).
      1. Imelda Marcos liked shoes. She had a special section of the presidential palace, comprising five separate rooms, which housed over 1,220 pairs of shoes.
      2. Imelda also left behind 500 gowns and 300 bras…1 was even bullet-proof.
      3. Imelda Marcos put the “enjoyment of her feet” above the “empty bellies of the children of the country” that looked to her for leadership.
      4. And so we have the rebuke of the women of Israel.
  2. LIVING IN LUXARY! (1-3)
    1. ​​​​​​​(1) These overindulged women of Israel, whom he sarcastically links to a “pampered, sleek, well-fed, & obviously ‘well-watered’ cows!” (“let us drink” or, “Bring me another drink!”)
      1. They grazed in the rich uplands of Bashan. (In TransJordan, near Galilee)
      2. And so these women had constant demand for comfort & luxury…had kept food & clothing from the poor.
        1. It took courage for Amos to call the wealthy women of Israel “cows”!
      3. This was also a breed known for strength & stubbornness(Meyer).
      4. Usually women are the final guardians of morals & standards.
    2. Husbands – A rare word for husbands, meaning lord/master.
      1. Amos scorned those husbands who were supposed to be “masters” but who in reality meekly obeyed like servants.
    3. Oppress & crush – Describe threats & physical harassments used to squeeze $ from the helpless.
    4. The Lord has sworn by His holiness! – adds tremendous weight to the message that follows.
      1. If Israel continues in sin, certain consequences are inevitable.
  3. DEVOTED TO DUTY! (4,5)
    1. ​​​​​​​It wasn’t just the women, but the whole nation was involved w/religiosity!
    2. Here was their “token nod” to God for delivering them from Egypt.
      1. I wonder what part of our “devotion” to God is only a token nod?
    3. “Come” – This was a spoof of a priest’s summons to pilgrims.
      1. “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.” (Ps.94:6)
    4. Bethel & Gilgal – Gilgal was Israel’s 1st campground after entering the promise land.
      1. They crossed over, now what? Conquer the land? No, build a monument!
        1. To celebrate the end of the wanderings & the beginning of a new life!
      2. So, Joshua set up the 12 stones from the river Jordan, in Gilgal.
        1. Don’t forget God’s provisions & guidance!
        2. BUT...don’t make that stone of remembrance a place of idolatry/worship!
    5. Q: How can we keep our worship from becoming empty ritual?
      1. Fresh prayer, spiritual awareness, free from distractions, heart right, focus mentally, choose to worship!
    1. ​​​​​​​Q: Recall a time when you wandered from God. What brought you back? (ask)
    2. God sent his warnings but they would not listen!
    3. “Yet you have not returned to me” is the sad refrain of this chapter.
      1. God’s disciplines are to bring about restoration & true repentance.
      2. Q: If God uses the method of “repetition” in regards to discipline, how can we do the same as parents?
        1. Discipline consistently for the goal of restoration!
        2. Do whatever we can to help them turn from their errant ways
      3. Q: Have you ever had to have been disciplined repeatedly?
    4. God used several means of discipline: famine, drought, crop disease, locusts, plagues, war, & local catastrophes…& the people still didn’t get it.
    5. (6) Famine!
      1. “Cleanness of teeth” – i.e. Nothing to chew on.
      2. But even in this, they would not repent!
    6. (7,8) Drought!
      1. But even in this, they would not repent!
    7. (9) Crop Disease, Mildew & Locusts! (re: their crops)
      1. The hot blasting wind of the Arabian desert blew relentlessly causing blight/disease.
      2. Parasitic worms brought mildew, a yellowing of the tips of green grain.
      3. But even in this, they would not repent!
    8. (10) Plagues & War!
      1. God took their best young men to die in war.
      2. As populations were crowded into walled cities or assembled into camps, contagious disease broke out & spread.
      3. But even in this, they would not repent!
    9. (11) Local Catastrophes!
      1. Finally God totally overthrew some of their cities w/fire.
      2. American Indian story – Picked up a brown leaf & placed a worm in it & said, “I am that worm”.
      3. But even in this, they would not repent!
    10. Q: What words would you use to describe each of the judgments the Lord brought on Israel? (Gracious, purposeful)
      1. Also note: In Deut. 28 you’ll notice similarities between the judgments here & there.
      2. Point being God’s judgments aren’t arbitrary, but He has spelled out the curses for disobedience & the blessings for obedience.
      3. Thus Amos wasn’t announcing something new, but simply enforcing God’s existing covenant.
    11. They had met w/God’s disciplines…but now they were going to meet God Himself!
      1. No more natural calamities, now he would come Himself.
  5. MEET YOUR MAKER! (12-13)
    1. ​​​​​​​(12) There are no more joyous words; nor more awful words then this in scripture “Prepare to meet your maker”!
      1. Joyous – to those who long for the day! Awful – to those who dread it.
      2. Q: In light of this chapter, what kind of meeting could Israel expect?
      3. In 1741 Jonathon Edwards preached his famous sermon: “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”
        1. With the use of vivid imagery he concluded his message with “Therefore, let every one that is out of Christ now awake & fly from the wrath to come!”
        2. God used that sermon to bring a powerful awakening to the town of Enfield, in New England.
      4. Q: Are you prepared to meet your maker?
        1. (LXX) “call upon your God”
    2. (13) This chapter closes with a hymn describing the God Israel would meet.
      1. Q: What do we learn about God in this verse?
        1. He is creator, communicator, hater of idolatry, & “commander of all forces in heaven”.
Copyright Statement
These files are the property of Brian Bell.
Text Courtesy of Calvary Chapel of Murrieta. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Bell, Brian. "Commentary on Amos 4:11". "Brian Bell Commentary". 2017.

Chuck Smith Bible Commentary


Then the Lord says,

Hear this word, ye cows of Bashan ( Amos 4:1 ),

They worshiped the calf so God calls them a bunch of cows. But because they worshiped the calf, He speaks disdainfully concerning them.

which are on the mountain of Samaria, which oppress the poor ( Amos 4:1 ),

Again, the oppression of the poor must have been great because God makes continual reference to it.

who crush the needy, which say to their masters, Bring, and let us drink ( Amos 4:1 ).

So there is that disparity between the very wealthy and the extreme poor. That kind of disparity that is a curse and a plague to many nations where they really do not take care of the poor with whom God is very interested.

The Lord GOD hath sworn by his holiness, that lo, the days shall come upon you, that he will take you away with hooks, and your posterity with fishhooks ( Amos 4:2 ).

This literally happened. The Assyrians were extremely cruel people. They were so cruel that history does record of many cities when surrounded by the Assyrian army, the inhabitants would commit mass suicide much as Masada, rather than to be captured by the Assyrians, because they feared them. Because the Assyrians were accustomed to mutilating their captives: cutting off their ears, mutilating their bodies, mutilating their faces. One of the things the Assyrians did with their captives is that they would put fishhooks through their lips to drag them back to Assyria, or through their noses, or through their ears, so that you"d have to keep marching. You try to slow down and that thing begins to pull on your nose, or on your lip or on your ear. And here is the prophecy, "You"re gonna be led away with fishhooks." So it was. The Assyrians, when they captured Samaria, attached to the people these fishhooks and drug them away, or led them away captive to Assyria. "The Lord God hath sworn by His holiness, that lo, the day shall come upon you that he will take you away with hooks, and your posterity with fishhooks."

And ye shall go out at the breaches, every cow at that which is before her; and ye shall cast them into the palace, saith the LORD. Come to Bethel ( Amos 4:3-4 ),

This place where Jacob first met God and called it Bethel, the house of God. "Surely the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not." But they had made it a place of idolatrous worship, the center of their idolatrous worship in the Northern Kingdom. "Come to Bethel,"

and transgress; at Gilgal [another place of pagan worship] multiply transgression; and bring your sacrifices every morning, and your tithes after three years: And offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving with leaven, and proclaim and publish the free offerings: for this liketh you, O ye children of Israel, saith the Lord GOD ( Amos 4:4-5 ).

Now God here speaks of the judgment that He had brought against them, and the purpose of these judgments was to cause them to turn to God. God oftentimes uses what we call judgments or chastisements, in order to turn us from our path of destruction. "Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth" ( Hebrews 12:6 ).

Now, as long as you"re a child you don"t understand that. It"s not until you become a parent that you understand it. I thought my dad was just feeding me the biggest line when he would say, "Son, this hurts me more than it hurts you." I did not believe that. I thought my dad was just putting me on, until I became a dad and I understood exactly what he meant. The hurt that you feel when it is necessary to punish your child, but you know you must for their own sake and for their own good chastise them, or else they could destroy themselves. But you don"t want to inflict pain, but you know that you"ve got to somehow teach them the danger of their activities. So you are forced to chastise them, though it is an extremely painful thing to do. God, for our benefit, chastises us, and for Him it"s a painful process. God says, "Turn! I don"t want to meet you in judgment. I would rather meet you in mercy. I delight in mercy, not in judgment." I know that as a parent. I always look for any excuse not to spank them. "Say you"re sorry, please say you"re sorry." I was a softie. I would let them talk me out of it, with a very stern warning, "Next time..." And God doesn"t enjoy chastising His children, but it is for our benefit and our good in order that we might turn to Him.

So God brought various chastisements against the land. Oh, how we misunderstand God. Whenever a chastisement or judgment comes, somehow in our minds we picture God is angry with us, as I often pictured my dad angry with me, because I did not understand him. After being chastised, I would often go in my room and I"d begin to cry, "Nobody loves me. I don"t even think my dog loves me anymore. Nobody loves me." Then I"d wish I were dead, because they would all feel sorry then if I were dead, you know. So you think about them standing around your casket crying like everything. The emotional traumas of a child.

When in the Garden of Eden after Adam had sinned and the Lord came down in the cool of the day to walk with him, Adam hid himself from the presence of the Lord, for he realized that he was naked. God said, "Adam, where art thou?" That was not the cry of an arresting policeman, but the sob of a heartbroken Father. But so many times we read it and we think, "Oh man, here he is. Gonna wring his neck, "Where are you!"" No. You"ve got to read that and hear the sob in the voice, "Adam, what have you done?" As God could see the effect of Adam"s transgression upon the whole human race, you and me included. What we have suffered, and what mankind has suffered for the action of Adam. "Adam, where are you?" Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and the purpose is always to turn us to God from the path of self-destruction. God knows to continue that path is to destroy ourselves. So God speaks of those things.

I"ve given you cleanness of teeth in all your cities, want of bread in all of your places: and yet you did not return to me ( Amos 4:6 ),

He had allowed food shortages to develop, yet the people wouldn"t turn.

So I withheld the rain ( Amos 4:7 ),

He began erratic weather patterns.

when there was yet three months until harvest: I caused it to rain on one city, and not to rain upon another: one piece was rained upon, and the piece whereon it did not rain withered. There were two or three cities wandering into one city, looking for water; but they were not satisfied: [A drought in the land.] and yet [God said] you didn"t return to me. So I have smitten you then with a blasting mildew: when your gardens and your vineyards and your fig trees and your olive trees increased, then the palmerworm [the locusts] devoured them ( Amos 4:7-9 ):

The Medfly, the white fly, and yet the Lord said, "You have not returned unto Me."

So I have sent among you the pestilence after the manner of Egypt [that is, the viral infections and all]: and your young men I have slain with the sword, and I"ve taken away your horses; and I"ve made the stink of your camps to come up unto your nostrils: and yet you have not returned unto me, saith the LORD. So I"ve overthrown some of you, even as Sodom and Gomorrah, [fire, earthquakes] the firebrand plucked out of the burning: and yet you have not returned unto me, saith the LORD. Therefore ( Amos 4:10-12 )

Because they had not hearkened to these warning judgments of God, because they had not turned away from their evil deeds.

Therefore thus will I do unto thee, O Israel: and because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel ( Amos 4:12 ).

This is not meeting God in friendly terms, but meeting God to face His judgment. Heavy, heavy duty. "Prepare to meet thy God, O Israel." It is necessary and important that each of us make preparation, because each of us ultimately, one day are gonna stand before God. "And I saw all of the dead small and great standing before the great white throne judgment of God" ( Revelation 20:11-12 ). All of the dead. Death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them. And every man was judged according to the things which were written in the book. "For it is appointed unto man once to die, and after that the judgment" ( Hebrews 9:27 ). No one can escape it. Inevitably, inescapably, one day each of you are gonna stand before God, and that will be a very awesome experience, because you"ll be standing before the very Creator of the universe.

For, lo, he that formed the mountains ( Amos 4:13 ),

God said, "Let the dry land appear."

and created the wind, and declared unto man what is his thoughts, and makes the morning darkness, and treads upon the high places of the earth, Yahweh, The God of hosts, is his name ( Amos 4:13 ).

Prepare to meet Yahweh, the God of hosts, the Creator of the universe. "

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Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Amos 4:11". "Chuck Smith Bible Commentary". 2014.

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible

The Second Address

1-3. The heartless luxury of the rich women.

4, 5. The elaborate sacrifices and pilgrimages.

6-12. The failure of God's chastisements to produce amendment.

1. These pampered women are compared to cows grown fat through feeding in the rich pastures of Bashan (Numbers 32:1-5; Deuteronomy 32:14; Micah 7:14).

Masters] RV 'lords,' i.e. husbands (1 Peter 3:6).

2. He] RV 'they,' i.e. the conquerors.

Your posterity] RV 'your residue.' Those farthest removed from danger will be dragged out of their retreats like fish from the water.

3. Like excited cattle each woman would make for the nearest breach in the city wall and endeavour to escape through it. The second half of the v. is corrupt. Possibly it may have run: 'And ye shall be cast out of your palaces' (Micah 2:9).

4. This v. shows that the pilgrimage to a holy place was then, as it has been in almost all times and lands, one of the popular forms of devotion. The pious Jew delighted in the annual visit to Jerusalem for the Feasts of Passover or of Tabernacles. Jeroboam I set apart Bethel and Dan as the two sanctuaries to be visited by his subjects (1 Kings 12:29-32) for the same purpose. Other places were venerated in like fashion. Amos mentions Beer-sheba (Amos 8:14) and Gilgal. The latter place, which was situated between Jericho and the Jordan, derived its name, 'a circle,' from the circle of sacred stones which existed there from time immemorial. Joshua 4, 5 speak of it as the site of the first camp of the Hebrews in western Palestine and the scene of the circumcision of the great mass of the people.

The prophet asserts that these journeys to the holy places, for the purpose of worship, failed to win the favour of God: the more zealously they were engaged in the greater the guilt of the pilgrims. The reason was that men substituted such devotions in place of good morals. There is an Arabic proverb concerning the ceremonies performed by pilgrims to Mecca: 'Circumambulate, and run, and commit the seven deadly sins!' Another plays thus on words: Al-haram f'il Haramayn= 'Unholiness dwelleth in the two holy cities.'

Every morning.. after three years] 'in the morning.. on the third day,' seems preferable. On the morning after arrival the pilgrims brought an oblation: on the next day—the third, according to Heb. reckoning—they paid the tithes. In the great Mohammedan pilgrimage to Mecca the observances due on each day are strictly defined.

5. According to the Levitical legislation leaven might not be burned as part of a sacrifice (Exodus 23:18; Leviticus 2:12); but even in those laws there are traces of some degree of freedom (Leviticus 7:13; Leviticus 23:17). And in northern Israel it would seem that leavened cakes were consumed on the altar as a praise or thank offering. This liketh you] i.e. this is what you like.

6. Doughty speaks of an Arab who 'would often show that he had nothing left to eat.. in crackling the thumb nail from the backward upon the upper front teeth.' Yet have ye not returned unto me] a pathetic refrain, expressing His disappointment and His appealing love. All warnings have been in vain.

7. In the plains harvest comes at the end of April; a month later in the hills. Heavy rains are necessary from Nov. to Jan. to soften the ground sufficiently for ploughing and sowing.

One piece was rained upon, etc.] cp. Gideon's fleece (Judges 6:37-40).

8. Cities] i.e. the inhabitants.

9. Blasting] the effect produced on grain by the burning wind from the desert (Genesis 41:6).

Palmerworm] or locust.

10. After the manner of Egypt] 'Life and death march in “double companies” through Egypt. All epidemics revel here.' 2 Kings 13:7 is an illustration of the loss of horses. We are to think of the people as shut up in a fetid camp, with decaying bodies of men and horses, and all the other foul odours of the East.

11. The overthrow of these cities had become a type of utter destruction (Deuteronomy 29:23; Isaiah 1:7-8; Isaiah 13:19; Jeremiah 49:18; Jeremiah 50:40). The brand plucked out of the burning is a figure for grievous damage.

12. Thus] but we are not told how. Imagination is to fill up the blank, and the partial overthrow already inflicted is enough to indicate what the final and total ruin will be. They must meet God as a foe (Joshua 5:13).

13. This verse, Amos 5:8-9, and Amos 9:6, were probably written on the margin by an admirer of Job 9:4-10. His thought] i.e. the determination He has arrived at. He darkens the heavens with storms and eclipses. He marches majestically over the mountains in clouds and thunder (Deuteronomy 33:13; Micah 1:3; Habakkuk 3:19; Job 9:8).

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Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Amos 4:11". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". 1909.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

Refusal to repent4:6-11

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Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

Even the overthrow of some Israelite cities did not move the Israelites to repent (cf. Deuteronomy 28:62). Comparing these overthrown cities to Sodom and Gomorrah indicates their proverbial complete destruction (cf. Isaiah 1:9; Isaiah 13:19; Jeremiah 50:40; Zephaniah 2:9), not necessarily the method of their destruction. God had rescued His people like burning sticks from a conflagration, as He had formerly extracted Lot and his daughters from Sodom ( Genesis 19). The Assyrian kings customarily sowed the ground of a conquered area with salt so nothing would grow there. [Note: Niehaus, p402.]

In all, Amos mentioned seven disciplinary judgments that God had brought on the Israelites: famine ( Amos 4:6), drought, ( Amos 4:7-8), plant diseases ( Amos 4:9), insects ( Amos 4:9), plague ( Amos 4:10), warfare ( Amos 4:10), and military defeat ( Amos 4:11). God sometimes permits His people to suffer so they will turn back to Him (cf. Hebrews 12:6), but the Israelites had not done that.

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Amos 4:11". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(11) Overthrown.—Another awful calamity, an earthquake, is referred to, and perhaps a volcanic eruption. Dr. Pusey enumerates a long series of earthquakes, which distressed Palestine, though not the central parts of the country, from the time of Julian to the twelfth century. The allusion to Sodom and Gomorrah gives a hint of the fierce licence and vice which had prevailed in some parts of the Northern kingdom, and called for chastisement.

Some of you.—More accurately among you.

Brand plucked . . .—Men would cast such a brand back into the fire. “Behold the goodness and severity of God.”

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Amos 4:11". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". 1905.

F.B. Meyer's 'Through the Bible' Commentary


Amos 4:1-11

Speaking after the imagery of his vocation, Amos the herdsman compares the rich and powerful of Samaria, who were living in luxury and wantonness, to the kine of Bashan, a breed of cattle notorious for strength and stubbornness. They broke through hedges, threw down fences, trespassed on neighboring pastures, and gored lesser cattle. The judges and magistrates were in cruel collusion with the masters who oppressed the serfs, and were willing to condone breaches of the law for drink. Sacrifices and tithes were rigorously maintained, but the entire religious system was rotten.

Already heavy judgment had fallen upon the degenerate people. There had been famine, the intermission of the rainy seasons, blasting and mildew, pestilence and murrain-but all in vain. That God was behind these phenomena was obvious from the fact that rain showers had fallen in one place and not in another. There had been a method in God’s dealings that indicated a personal agency. The worst cities had suffered the most. But the people had refused to lay it to heart. Note the sorrowful refrain-yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord. It may be that some reader of these lines may find herein a clue to the mysterious succession of strokes that have befallen himself and his household.

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Meyer, Frederick Brotherton. "Commentary on Amos 4:11". "F. B. Meyer's 'Through the Bible' Commentary". 1914.

Arno Gaebelein's Annotated Bible


The Second Discourse

1. Divine threatening and irony (Amos 4:1-5)

2. Yet have ye not returned unto Me (Amos 4:6-11)

3. Prepare to meet thy God (Amos 4:12-13)

Amos 4:1-5. The prophet addresses them as “kine of Bashan, that are in the mountain of Samaria.” The cows of Bashan were noted for their sleek and well-fed condition, feeding on the choicest of pasture. The term is descriptive of Israel’s prosperous condition as well as their beastly character. They were selfish and cruel, for they oppressed the poor and crushed the needy. It seems that women are mostly here in view, which explains the fact that the comparison is with kine and not with bulls. They asked their masters to supply them means for debauchery. But what happens to dumb cattle would happen to them in their luxurious and selfish life. They would be taken with hooks and their posterity with fishhooks, and they would be taken away. The last sentence of Amos 3:3 is correctly translated “Ye shall be cast away to Har (mountain) Monah.” It has been surmised that this means Armenia.

Then follows a statement of bitter irony. “Go to Bethel and sin; at Gilgal multiply transgression.” Go on in your idolatry in these sacred places of your past history! In Bethel the Lord had revealed Himself to the progenitor Jacob; in Gilgal on the banks of the Jordan, the reproach of Egypt had been rolled away Joshua 5:1-15, and these favored places were now the scenes of their wicked idolatries. It is also mockery when the prophet says, “Offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving with leaven,” for leaven always typifies sin.

Amos 4:6-11. The Lord had sent different chastisements upon them at different times. There had been famines, drought; yea, it had rained here and there, while lots of ground received rain others remained parched, so that they might recognize in it the hand of God. He smote them with mildew and blasting; the locusts came and devoured vegetation; there were frightful pestilences and other judgments, but they did not return unto Him. Five times in this paragraph we find the same statement, “Yet have ye not returned unto Me.” They were an impenitent nation and hardened their hearts as Pharaoh did. They were incorrigible, though they knew that through His mercy they were “as a firebrand plucked out of the burning.”

In the book of Revelation we read of a similar condition in the coming days when the Lord deals with the earth in the decreed and revealed judgments. It is written that the inhabitants of the earth, in spite of these judgments falling upon the earth, do not repent of their sins.

Amos 4:12-13. And now they were to come face to face with Himself as the judge.

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Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on Amos 4:11". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". 1913-1922.

G. Campbell Morgan's Exposition on the Whole Bible

The second discourse consists of Jehovah's summons to the people.

It commences with a severe and terrible indictment of the women. He addressed them as "Ye kine of Bashan," which reveals the degradation of womanhood to mere animalism. The prophet described their doings, declaring that they oppressed the poor and crushed the needy, and said unto their lords, "Bring and let us drink." Their doom would be that they would be taken away with hooks, that is, in shame and helplessness, and in the presence of judgment would take refuge in wild flight. He then uttered the final summons to the people. In this call there was a piece of stinging satire. They were to come to Bethel to transgress, to Gilgal to multiply transgression. Their sacrifices they were to offer every morning instead of once a year, their tithe every third day instead of every third year, their sacrifice was to be leavened; they were to make free-will offerings and publish them.

Jehovah then described His patience and their perversity. He had spoken to them by famine, by drought, by blasting and mildew, by pestilence and sword, by earthquake. After each description, Jehovah declared, "Yet have ye not returned to Me." All this culminated in a great call, "Prepare to meet thy God."

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Morgan, G. Campbell. "Commentary on Amos 4:11". "G. Campbell Morgan Exposition on the Bible". 1857-84.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

I have overthrown some of you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah,.... Either their houses were burnt, or their bodies consumed by fire from heaven, with lightning; not whole cities, but the habitations of some particular persons, or they themselves:

and ye were as a firebrand plucked out of the burning; some escaped such an awful calamity, their houses were not consumed, while others were; and their persons were safe, while others, just by them, were struck dead at once:

yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord; neither the judgments of God on themselves and others had any effect upon them to humble and reclaim them: such dispensations, without the grace of God is exerted, rather harden than soften; and, instead of bringing men to repentance, cause them to blaspheme; see Revelation 16:8; nor will the mercy and goodness of God, which should lead persons to repentance, attain that end, unless accompanied with the Spirit and grace of God; who, notwithstanding such mercies and deliverances, will remain senseless, stupid obdurate, and impenitent; see Revelation 9:20.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
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Gill, John. "Commentary on Amos 4:11". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". 1999.

Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures

Amos 4:1 Hear this word, ye kine of Bashan, that are in the mountain of Samaria, which oppress the poor, which crush the needy, which say to their masters, Bring, and let us drink.

Amos 4:1Comments- Amos is basically rebuking the rich women in Israel, calling them well-fed cows. They provoke their husbands to oppress the poor so they can enjoy more fleshly indulgences.

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Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on Amos 4:11". Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. 2013.

Geneva Study Bible

I have overthrown [some] of you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and ye were as a m firebrand plucked out of the burning: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD.

(m) You were almost all consumed, and a few of you were wonderfully preserved; (2 Kings 14:26).
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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Amos 4:11". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". 1599-1645.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Burning. This comparison shews the condition of Israel. Hardly any escaped, Zacharias iii. 2., and 1 Corinthians iii. 15. (Calmet)

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Ironside's Notes on Selected Books

Chapter 4

Yet Have Ye Not Returned!

In this chapter they are reminded of the various means whereby God had been speaking, with a view to recalling them to Himself; but the sad result had been that they pursued their ways of sin regardless of warning or punishment. They despised the chastisement of the Lord.

It is probably the great women of Israel who are addressed in vers. 1 to 3; for in place of “kine of Bashan,” the feminine form is used in the original. Luxurious, insolent, and self-pleasing, these haughty dames oppressed the poor and crushed the needy, that they might minister to their own carnal desires. Indifferent to the sorrows their ill-gotten pleasures entailed on others, they feasted and rejoiced; forgetting that the Holy One of Israel was looking on. He had sworn by His holiness to visit upon them their sins, taking them away in the midst of their folly, as the angler hooks the greedy fish that fancies not there is danger lurking in the bait so temptingly displayed.

Verses 4 and 5 have been variously understood; some seeing therein a call to repentance seriously addressed to the consciences of the people. In this case they consider “the sacrifice of thanksgiving with leaven,” to be according to the word of God, as set forth in Leviticus 7:13, where leavened bread accompanied the sacrifice of thanksgiving as the offerer’s acknowledgment of his own personal unworthiness.

But a thank-offering was only in place when the people were in a right state before God. To call them to the schismatic altar of Bethel, there to bring a thank-offering, when they needed a sin-offering, would surely be contrary to the mind of God.

I understand the passage, therefore, to be one of solemn irony, after the manner of Elijah’s taunts to the priests of Baal. In fact, it would seem as though the prophet were saying, “Bring a sacrifice of leaven as a thank-offering, for so liketh you, O ye children of Israel!” There is no thought of the leaven here accompanying a slain victim or a presentation of first-fruits; but the leaven is the offering which they are ironically called to bring. The whole passage is a sad commentary on the pitifully low state of Israel, whose whole system of worship was but iniquity and transgression, while yet they prided themselves on their pomp and ritual.

Does not He who gazes down upon the pretentiousness of a guiltier Christendom regard it with even greater abhorrence? Where conscience is active it will surely lead to departure from iniquity of so glaring a character.

That there was no thought in the mind of God of accepting a sacrifice offered at Bethel or Gilgal is plain from ch. 5:5. All that circled around these centres of apostasy was abhorrent to Him who had set His name in Jerusalem; though there, alas, it had also been profaned.

Because of what we have been considering, He had sent a grievous famine upon them, “giving them cleanness of teeth in all their cities, and want of bread in all places;” but there had been no evidence of repentance, and He had to say, “Yet have ye not returned unto Me!” (ver. 6). The rain too He had withheld, and that in such a way as to lead to inquiry and exercise, had conscience been at all active, giving rain to one city and withholding it from another; but again comes the solemn refrain, “Yet have ye not returned unto Me, saith the Lord” (vers. 7, 8); and with blasting and mildew He had smitten them, so that their scanty crop was ruined ere it reached perfection; and if the orchards, vineyards and gardens seemed to do well, the palmer worm (the locust in its most voracious form) was sent to destroy them. But there had been no awakening-conscience remained dormant. “Yet have ye not returned unto Me, saith the Lord” (ver. 9).

With pestilence too He had visited them, “after the manner of Egypt;” the putrid carcases of their goodliest sons, together with their horses slain in battle, polluting the air so that they breathed in disease and death. But none seem to have discerned who it was who afflicted them, and so they returned not unto Him (ver. 10).

A great physical catastrophe, possibly an earthquake, with an accompanying conflagration, had added to their woes. He had overthrown some of them after the fashion of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, so that the survivors were as firebrands plucked out of the burning: yet had they not returned unto Him (ver. 11). Failing to discern His hand in all that had befallen them, they sought only to escape the rod, hearing it not, nor yet Him who had appointed it. Such is ever the way of man untouched by divine grace. Shutting his eyes to the most palpable evidences of God’s dealing, he pursues his careless way till the pit closes upon him.20

Because of their utter indifference, there remained only one thing more: they must meet Him in judgment whose warnings and acts of discipline they had despised. “Therefore ... prepare to meet thy God, O Israel!” (ver. 12).

For though they knew Him not, yet He who formed the mountains and created the winds, declaring unto man his secret thoughts and making the morning darkness, treading on earth’s high places, was Jehovah, the mighty God of hosts (ver. 13).

Him they must meet-but how? And you too, my reader, have this before you, if still unsaved. Think well how you will stand in that great day of His wrath!

For the believer walking carelessly, this word also has an application. Taking his own way, he may despise the chastisement of the Lord, and fail to hearken to His reproving voice. But not for long can he so continue. Sooner or later God must be met, and all be solemnly gone into in His presence. Oh, then, keep short accounts with Him who knows the secrets of all hearts!




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Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Amos 4:11". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. 1914.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Jehovah details His several chastisements inflicted with a view to reclaiming them: but adds to each the same sad result, “yet have ye not returned unto Me” (Isaiah 9:13; Jeremiah 5:3; Hosea 7:10); the monotonous repetition of the same burden marking their pitiable obstinacy.

cleanness of teeth — explained by the parallel, “want of bread.” The famine alluded to is that mentioned in 2 Kings 8:1 [Grotius]. Where there is no food to masticate, the teeth are free from uncleanness, but it is the cleanness of want. Compare Proverbs 14:4, “Where no oxen are, the crib is clean.” So spiritually, where all is outwardly smooth and clean, it is often because there is no solid religion. Better fighting and fears with real piety, than peace and respectable decorum without spiritual life.

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Amos 4:11". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". 1871-8.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

some of you — some parts of your territory.

as God overthrew Sodom — (Deuteronomy 29:23; Isaiah 13:19; Jeremiah 49:18; Jeremiah 50:40; 2 Peter 2:6; Judges 1:7). “God” is often repeated in Hebrew instead of “I.” The earthquake here apparently alluded to is not that in the reign of Uzziah, which occurred “two years” later (Amos 1:1). Traces of earthquakes and volcanic agency abound in Palestine. The allusion here is to some of the effects of these in previous times. Compare the prophecy, Deuteronomy 28:15-68, with Amos 4:6-11 here.

as a firebrand plucked out of  …  burning — (Compare Isaiah 7:4; Zechariah 3:2). The phrase is proverbial for a narrow escape from utter extinction. Though Israel revived as a nation under Jeroboam II, it was but for a time, and that after an almost utter destruction previously (2 Kings 14:26).

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This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.
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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Amos 4:11". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". 1871-8.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

And I also have given you cleanness of teeth in all your cities, and want of bread in all your places: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD. I also have given you. Yahweh details His several chastisements inflicted with a view to reclaiming them; but adds to each the same sad result, "yet have ye not returned unto me." Literally, 'ye have not returned quite unto me' [ `aaday (Hebrew #5704)]. Their repentance was but a half repentance, which is no true and full returning unto (Isaiah 9:13, "The people turneth not unto Him that smiteth them, neither do they seek the Lord of hosts;" Jeremiah 5:3, "O Lord ... thou hast stricken them, but they have not grieved; time hast consumed them: but they have refused to receive correction: they have made their faces harder than a rock; they have refused to return;" Hosea 7:10, "The pride of Israel testifieth to his face; and they do not return to the Lord their God, nor seek Him for all this"): the monotonous repetition of the same burden marking their pitiable obstinacy. Amos refers to Deuteronomy 4:29, "If from thence (from thy state of affliction) thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find Him, if thou seek Him with all thy heart and with all thy soul."

Cleanness of teeth - explained by the parallel, "want of bread." The famine alluded to is that mentioned 2 Kings 8:1 (Grotius). Where there is no food to masticate, the teeth are free from uncleanness, but it is the cleanness of want. Compare Proverbs 14:4, "Where no oxen are, the crib is clean." So spiritually, where all is outwardly smooth and clean, it is often because there is no solid religion. Better fightings and fears with real piety, than peace and respectable decorum without spiritual life.

Verse 7. And also I have withholden the rain from you, when there were yet three months to the harvest - the time when rain was most needed, and when usually "the latter rain" fell-namely, in spring -- the latter half of February and the whole of March and April (Hosea 6:3; Joel 2:23). The drought meant is that mentioned 1 Kings 17:1. (Grotius).

And I caused it to rain upon one city, and caused it not to rain upon another - any rain that fell was only partial.

Verse 8. So two or three cities wandered unto one city, to drink water - i:e., the inhabitants of three cities wandered about (literally, trembled) in search of water, and found only a scanty and unsatisfying supply in one city (Psalms 109:10, "Let his children be continually vagabonds, and beg;" cf. Jeremiah 14:1-6). Grotius explains this verse and Amos 4:7, 'The rain fell on neighbouring countries but not on Israel, which marked the drought to be not accidental, but the special judgment of God.' It also seems to have fallen within Israel itself in a partial way, descending on the cities and portions of the penitent, and not falling on the portions of the impenitent. 'The Israelites were obliged to leave their cities and homes to seek water at a distance.' (Calvin.)

Verse 9. I have smitten you with blasting and mildew - the blighting influence of the east wind on the grain (Genesis 41:6, 'seven thin ears and blasted with the east wind"). The two words "blasting and mildew" occur only in Deuteronomy, and in Solomon's prayer founded upon it (Deuteronomy 28:22; 1 Kings 8:37). Amos plainly refers in this and many other passages to the Pentateuch, as familiar to the ten tribes. "Mildew," i:e., blight whereby the ears turn into an untimely yellow without grain.

When your gardens and your vineyards and your fig trees and your olive trees increased - in vain ye multiplied your gardens, etc., because I destroyed their produce. Bochart supports margin, 'the multitude of your gardens.' Eastern gardens are at once orchard, herb, and flower-garden (Job 8:16; Song of Solomon 4:13-14; Song of Solomon 6:11).

The palmer-worm - a species of locust is here meant, hurtful to fruits of trees, not to herbage or corn. The same east wind which brought the drought, blasting, and mildew, brought also the locusts into Judea (Bochart); as in the plague of locusts brought by the east wind upon Egypt. (Exodus 10:13). Verse 10. I have sent among you the pestilence after the manner of Egypt - such as I formerly sent on the Egyptians (Exodus 9:3, etc.; Exodus 8:1-32, etc.; Exodus 12:29; Deuteronomy 28:27; Deuteronomy 28:60). Egypt is said to be the birthplace of the plague. Compare the same phrase, Isaiah 10:24.

And have taken away your horses - literally, 'Your young men have I slain with the sword,' accompanied with the captivity your horses; I have given up your young men to be slain, and their horses to be taken by the foe (cf. 2 Kings 13:7, "Neither did he (the Lord) leave of the people to Jehoahaz but fifty horsemen, and ten chariots, and ten thousand footmen; for the king of Syria (Hazael) had destroyed them, and had made them like the dust by threshing"). The possession of the plain of Jezreel tempted Israel to break the law which forbad their multiplying cavalry and horses.

And I have made the stink of your camps - i:e., the stink of the corpses of your slain men (cf. Isaiah 34:3; Joel 2:20).

To come up unto your nostrils. The Hebrew is more emphatic, 'to come up, and that unto your nostrils.'

Verse 11. I have overthrown some of you - some parts of your territory.

As God overthrew Sodom - plainly referring to Deuteronomy 29:23, "The whole land thereof is brimstone, and salt, and burning, that it is not sown, nor beareth, nor any grass groweth therein, like the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah

... which the Lord overthrew in his anger," (Isaiah 13:19; Jeremiah 49:18; Jeremiah 50:40; 2 Peter 2:6; Jude 1:7.") "God" is often repeated in Hebrew instead of I. The earthquake here apparently alluded to is not that in the reign of Uzziah, which occurred "two years" later (Amos 1:1). Traces of earthquakes and volcanic agency abound in Palestine: to some of the effects of these in previous times the allusion here is. Compare the prophecy, Deuteronomy 28:15-68, with Amos 4:6-11 here. Still they were ordinarily more in its outskirts than in itself. Therefore the visitation the more marks the hand of God.

As a firebrand plucked out of ... burning - (cf. Isaiah 7:4). Zechariah derives the expression from Amos (Zechariah 3:2). The phrase is proverbial for a narrow escape from utter extinction. Though Israel revived as a nation under Jereboam II, it was but for a time, and that after an almost utter destruction previously (2 Kings 14:26).

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Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Amos 4:11". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.

The People's Bible by Joseph Parker

Moral Degradation

Amos 4

"Hear this word, ye kine of Bashan, that are in the mountain of Samaria, which oppress the poor, which crush the needy, which say to their masters, Bring, and let us drink" ( Amos 4:1).

David speaks of bulls—"bulls of Bashan." Amos speaks of "kine"; another word, with subtler meanings, which cannot be expressed in terms. The whole people had sunk into sensuality. To say they were distinguished by effeminacy is to expose a word innocent in itself to false interpretations. The whole society spoken to by the reproachful prophet was sunk in the worst forms of selfishness and baseness. This farm servant does not choose his words with any view to consulting the taste of his hearers. He must get at their attention. When a man is determined to arrest the attention of the public he must not be too particular in the use of terms, or the use of words only that are permitted in the court of perverted and fickle taste. There are prophets who are speaking to the taste of the age, and the taste of the age takes no heed of their mincing words. They are not prophets, therefore. They have on the official robe, and they stand upon the official floor, but they are not prophets, because they do not use words that burn their way into the attention of the heart and the judgment. This farm servant, this field hand, comes crashingly down amid the corruptions of his day, and looking upon the wealthiest men lounging in their divans of ivory, nicely cornered where no draughts can reach them, and calling for more drink, he says, "Ye kine of Bashan "—ye filthy women, men—"hear this—" It was well for Amos that he was not a farmer, but only a labourer. He would have been evicted. Poverty can be independent, skill can be courageous; a man who has a living in his fingers has no favours to ask; it is only the gentleman who cannot make his own living who has to beg some other people to let him live. Amos did not say, Gentlemen, nobles, aristocrats, feudal lords; he said, "Ye kine of Bashan." He addressed them as if they had gathered in a stable which itself had not been cleansed for a century, the very air of which reeked with pestilence. We must not send dainty men to do rough work; instruments must be adapted to the function which is demanded of them. There are those who cannot listen to speakers whose voices rise above the level of a whisper. By all means let such people have such gospel as they can receive; but an age marked by avarice, cupidity, oppressiveness, self-indulgence, and every form of evil, must listen to voices often grating, crashing, thunder-like, and carrying with no uncertain emphasis the express and direct judgment of God.

What is the charge against these fallen ones? They "oppress the poor," they "crush the needy." Yet, reading between the lines, and in the light of the day in which this history was written, it is perfectly possible that all this oppression and crushing was done secondarily, so that the men who were guilty of it did not personally and immediately know what they were doing. Does that relieve them of responsibility? Not one whit. The men in question curtained themselves in their divans, lounged at ease, dreamed the devil"s nightmare, enjoyed themselves in all the range and gamut of evil aspiration, and allowed others to crush the needy. There are those who find it convenient not to see all that they are doing; there is a sense of grim comfort about drawing the curtain around one, and letting all manner of oppression and crushing and evildoing be conducted without our personal cognisance of the ghastly facts. This is the charge against the once-called people of God. Is it an ancient charge? Is it a reminiscence that requires a very skilful historian to recall in all its particularity and applicableness? Verily this is the iniquity of to-day. The senior partner does not know what the junior partner is doing; can the senior partner therefore preside over a Christian assembly, and talk pious twaddle, without being responsible for what his more energetic coadjutor is doing? Let him answer the question before he touches the altar in prayer, before he puts to his lips the blood of sacrament. Are they guiltless who leave a church, a country, a family, and so long as they can reap profit enough for their own advantage, care nothing how that profit is extorted from those who are oppressed? If the throne of God is holy, there is a dark day of answering for all such traitors and all such unfaithful souls. It is convenient to have some inner chamber, in which seniority can rest, and whence it can call for more drink, more luxury, more gold, no matter at what cost; but God"s fire will find its way into that innermost chamber, and burn it Blessed be the name of the Judges, for he is interested in the poor; the case of the needy is his. Wherever there is oppression he hates it, and when men seek to sanctify robbery he calls it robbery, and throws it into hell. We need some blunt Amos to talk to us in our mother tongue. The moment he becomes rhetorical he becomes insincere; yet he must create a ritual of his own, noble, massive, resonant, marching through his audience as if by right—intellectual, moral, divine right. You are bound to know how your servants are living. You are called upon by the God of Amos to find out how much you are giving to the least little boy in your establishment. If you are giving a thousand a year for the conversion of people you never saw, and are starving your own apprentices and employes and servants at home, you are bad. If thou say, "I knew it not," God will condemn thee out of thine own mouth. Why read reports of things five thousand miles away, and not know that a man in your own employment is at this moment dying of consumption, has a wife and four or five little children, and hardly a coal in the grate, and not much bread in the cupboard? You are bound to stop your carriage at his door, and save him from destroying hunger. That may make no impression in the public halls of the kingdom, but it will be written in the Book of Life, and in the other book, one day to be read aloud by the Judges, the inconsumable record written in heaven. What Amos dare tell us these things? Lord, send him! He will be crucified, but thou wilt receive him to glory.

"The Lord God hath sworn by his holiness" ( Amos 4:2).

Then it is a moral controversy. Nothing short of the holiness of God is pledged and involved in this argument. God does not swear by his majesty, but by his character. It is because he is holy he is going to take this action. Whenever holiness is interested in a controversy, know that the most obstinate and persistent force known to human nature is engaged in the strenuous contention. Always be afraid of an opponent who is working along the line of a noble character. The religious man is the most determined opponent of evil. The political economist is a calculator, an arranger; he thinks that perhaps the operation of evil had better be suspended, because it interferes with the adjustment of the comings and goings, exports and imports, and internal statistics. He will give way under pressure. Holiness never gives way. Fire will not give in, and the fire of the divine heart is enlisted against all men who oppress the poor and crush the needy. Find a man who is a politician, who operates only from political considerations, and he will be here to-day and there tomorrow; he will listen to know what is being said; he will calculate and arrange and adjust, and see how balances run, and listen to the eloquence of averages. Find a man whose conscience is alive, whose very mind has become a moral organ, whose whole soul is committed to the cause of right, and he will never yield; he cannot be changed, he is a representative of an eternal principle and an unchangeable standard. What we need is moral conviction. We have intelligence of a certain kind in plenty. We want the conscience to be enlisted, intelligently, thoroughly, passionately. When conscience takes up the cause of truth, that cause will be heard of in many languages, will be seen in many aspects, will be confronted in unexpected places. Conscience has been lost. The Church is without conviction; and a creed without conviction is a corpse. The Lord is not so arrayed against wrongdoing that we have to appease his passion; he is so arrayed against evil that we have to satisfy a moral judgment. God will have that which is right. Until the right is done nothing is done. In vain we decorate the walls if the foundations are destroyed. The Lord will have nothing done to the walls until the foundations are put in course. Decoration is nothing to him who appointed the heavens, and flushed the summer with colour, and made all nature an infinite loveliness. He does not look for our paint. He admires our solidity, massiveness, rectitude. We serve a holy Master: "Be ye holy as your Father in heaven is holy."

The farm servant now begins to speak in a tone of irony. It is wonderful how all these farm servants and others became suddenly and completely educated in the very highest style of human eloquence. These burning, blasting utterances might, so far as their rhetorical structure is concerned, have been fabricated by trained heads. The Lord will educate his own ministers, and abundantly qualify those whom he has honoured. God never sends his servants abroad empty-handed; he will have them stand still, and be his instruments through whom he may thunder judgment, or through whom he may whisper benediction. When will men let the Lord alone? When will the Church allow some scope to inspiration, and some opportunity for divine providence to vindicate itself? When will the Church learn to be reverently decent? We do not make one another; God makes us all. Now we shall hear irony that might have been spoken by Elijah.

"Come to Beth-el, and transgress [You are quite equal to it; come and dance on the church-floor, come and turn the sacrament board into a festival of rioting]: at Gilgal multiply transgression [Around the altar weave the web of iniquity, and carry on your madness under the sky of God]: and bring your sacrifices every morning, and your tithes after three years: and offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving with leaven, and proclaim and publish the free offerings" ( ).

What a partial programme! how well it reads, and yet how rotten it is at the heart of it! A sacrifice every morning, tithes after three years, sacrifice of thanksgiving, proclaim and publish the free offerings! There is one thing wanting in all that elegant programme, and for want of that one thing the whole arrangement dies in the air like a gilded bubble. What is omitted from this rehearsal? The sin offering, the trespass offering. They will come with sacrifices every morning as donors to God; they will come with service and sacrifices of thanksgiving with leaven; they will throw money into the treasury, and announce the sum in plain figures—Where is penitence? Where is contrition? Where is heart-wringing? Where is the tearing conscience, the presence of tormenting agony in the innermost life? Most worship is partial; many will have a little partial religion. Some attention has to be paid to custom, to the habit, wont, and use of life; some mean coin must at least be thrown into the treasury, and thrown in with some ostentation; hymns must be sung, and fault must be found with the music, and judgment must be pronounced upon the rabbi, the priest, the teacher for the time being, and for a certain period there must be an odour of sanctity about what we say and do. All this trickery is possible; but it never reaches the heaven of God. Such doing does not amount to conduct; it does not go beyond the boundary of calculation and selfish adjustment. Not the sweetest song is accepted if its sacrifice be but a song. The publican, brokenhearted, crushed, wounded in the soul, crying, God be merciful to me a sinner! sings in his sob, praises God loudly and sweetly in the very utterance that is choked; when he has experienced the mercy he will rise like a liberated bird, and sing at the gate of heaven. Beware of formality, of partial worship, of doing in the church only those things we like. We like to sing; we like to hear some particular voice that charms or rouses, that soothes or encourages us; we like to sit in certain places, and, so far as our partialities go, what can be more decorous and more beautiful than our conduct in the sanctuary? Whereas the Lord, looking upon all these perfunctory attentions and sapless, bloodless sacrifices, says, I am weary to bear them: go and deal thy bread to the hungry, and lift up the life thou hast crushed, and be reconciled to thine enemy: do justly, love mercy, walk humbly with God; and then thy poorest song shall mingle without discord with the music of angels. When we do what we like to do we are not worshipping God. Unless there be a touch of the agony of the Christ, what we do is unacceptable to God.

Here you have punctuality; here you have thanksgiving; here you have music, and yet the Lord turns it into ironic taunt: "Come to Beth-el, and trangress: at Gilgal multiply transgression: and bring your sacrifices every morning, and your tithes after three years": be very punctual in your payments; after you have done it all, go home with the charge that you have been found liars before God. When will Amos come to tread us down in the divine wrath, and raise us up when we have confessed our sins and sought the divine forgiveness? To call us—who have been ministers, office-bearers, heads of parishes, and leaders in sanctuaries—men who have been found liars before God, how rough the speech, how violent the incrimination! Surely this cannot be a true impeachment. Men who talk so cannot be saved. Men should ask, Is it true? Have I omitted from my programme the sin offering, the trespass offering, the sign of personal criminality? Am I only a decorator of my external life, or am I seeking to be purified at the wellhead, cleansed at the font of being?

Now the Lord promises to inflict judgment and punishment upon his people. He will give them "cleanness of teeth" in all their places, because they shall have nothing to eat in all their places; and he proceeds to say that all his policy of punishment has failed. He says, after he has told them what he has done in case after case, "Yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord" ( Amos 4:6); "But they were not satisfied: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord" ( Amos 4:8); "Yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord" ( Amos 4:9); "Yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord" ( Amos 4:10); "Yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord" ( Amos 4:11). Mere punishment, even when exercised by the divine Being, can do nothing permanently and really curative. Here you have references to Sodom and Gomorrah and Egypt, to all the plagues that fell upon the people, and yet after all they stood before God with obdurate hearts. It is not in punishment to regenerate society. You cannot subdue a nation even by divine punishment. For God has tried it and has failed. Why should men hope to succeed where omnipotence has succumbed? Something more than punishment must be attempted; there must be education; there must be opportunity created for reasoning; there must be a spirit of judgment not on the penal side only, but on the side of rational debate and consideration.

Then comes a symbolic word. Amos 4:12 is a picture: "Therefore thus will I do unto thee, O Israel." How? There is no answer. The speaker here strikes an attitude; the attitude is that of an uplifted hand, "Therefore thus." There are many things that cannot be written. The Lord himself calls attention to figures in the sky, to signs in the expressive clouds, to events that build themselves up into pillars—one side all fire, the other delicate and feathery as a cloud. The Lord shows himself apocalyptically, and only because we are blind we allow him to pass by without recognition and grateful hallelujah. Lord, that we might receive our sight! Thou art always near us, but we do not see thee; we are the victims of the body, we are subdued by our own flesh. The flesh warreth against the spirit, and the spirit often shows feeble fight against the flesh. Take not thy Holy Spirit from us. Thou art near, within touch, thou art nearer to us than we can ever be to ourselves,—Lo, God is here, and I knew it not. See the action of providence; note the significance of events; read the signs of the times; standing in the sun is One who says, "Therefore thus." He that hath ears to hear, let him hear; he that hath eyes to see, let him see; these sights are not given to the eyes of the body, they are lavished upon the vision of the pure heart.

"... And because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel" ( Amos 4:12).

How often have these words been turned into words of terror; how many noble discourses have been preached from this text which had no relation whatever to its meaning! This is the voice of love. All punishment has failed; threatened hell has become a familiarity that men listen to and let pass on; eternal fire, eternal brimstone have become figures in rhetoric tropes in poetry—what now is to be done? Something larger, nobler—"Prepare to meet thy God, O Israel." "Prepare:" there is forewarning. When God forewarns he means to give us every opportunity of repentance; if he were not determined upon giving us every opportunity he would plunge upon us without warning, and carry us away as a flood in the nighttime. The very word "prepare" so used in this relation is itself a gospel term. "Prepare to meet thy God"—still "thy God." Men give up God, but does God give them up? They forget that there is a double relation. There be atheists and agnostics and non-theists and secularists who have made up their mind to renounce the whole idea of God, but God has not made up his mind to renounce them. Christ"s Cross still stands; Calvary is just where it ever was; the great evangelic thought of redemption by the blood of Christ is the music of the universe, is the security of things eternal. So God will not renounce us, or cast us off, or allow us to be cut down, until he has pleaded with us, and we have to cut our way from him; and at last even he will say in the words of his Song of Solomon, blessed, eternal Saviour,—I have lost none but the son of perdition; I would have saved him too, but he would not be saved. Imagine not that God is moved by your fickle changefulness. You may have renounced God, but God has not renounced you. Men sometimes say that they have been obliged to give up Christianity; and we find it is not Christianity at all they have given up, but some church creed, some metaphysical, bewildering, superstitious nonsense that they have given up, and thank God they have given it up. All these things ought to be raked together, and burned!


Almighty God, thy throne is established in the heavens, and thou thyself reignest calmly in Zion. Thou dwellest in peace; thou dost sit above the circle of the earth; thou lookest upon all the children of men as they come and go, and behold, as compared with thine own eternity, they are as shadows that abide not. We rest in thy care, we stand in thy strength. Thou art the Ancient of Days, and the Eternal King: blessed are they who have a place in thy house; they will be still praising thee;—in the darkness they will see the Lord, far away they will know his coming, and near at hand they will hear his voice. We bless thee for all this consciousness of thy nearness, thy love, thy care, thy mighty defence; may we so grow in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ as to be no longer tossed about, wearied and worn and distracted by all the tumults of time. May we rest in the Lord and wait patiently for him, and abide under the shadow of the Almighty, and dwell in the tabernacle of eternity; then shall we not see when fear cometh, the cloud will be no frown, the gathered storm will fall in blessing upon our garden, our heritage shall then be fruitful, and our song unto the Lord shall every morning be new. Blessing and honour and glory and power be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on Amos 4:11". The People's Bible by Joseph Parker. 1885-95.

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Amos 4:1. Hear this word, ye kine of Bashan. The strong bulls of Bashan are celebrated in scripture. Psalms 22:13. Vaccæ pingues, fat cows, haughty women, abandoned to luxurious ease, and who, equally with their husbands, oppressed the poor to indulge in feasts and wine.

Amos 4:2. The Lord God hath sworn—that he will take you away with hooks, and your posterity with fish hooks. The Chaldaic has “your daughters.” This language is both natural and impressive. The Philistines cover their seas with fishing smacks, and the Egyptians their river with anglers. It was equally proper for Ezekiel to menace the same offenders with Chaldean hunters, whose princes, according to Xenophon, were famed for hunting the boar. In one of those excursions, Belshazzar, in a moment of anger, pierced his friends. Cyropædia. The nets which providence would cast upon them should so entangle them, as to leave no hope of escape through the meshes or breaches.

Amos 4:4. Come to Bethel and transgress. Bethel was the place where Messiah the God of Abraham appeared to Jacob. Genesis 28.—At Gilgal multiply transgression. Near this place, while the Hebrews were recovering from circumcision, Jehovah the Angel appeared to Joshua: Joshua 5:13; Joshua 5:15. These sacred places, which had been consecrated by the divine presence, were now polluted with Baal’s altars. Such were the grievous and daring sins committed by this idolatrous people. The Lord therefore, by way of contempt, bids them sin on, and be bold in transgression. He bids them bring the tithe of the third year into their cities, an extra-tithing for the levite and the poor, though the word extra is not mentioned. Deuteronomy 14:26. The levites had nine tenths of the whole tithe of the nation, and the priests one tenth, as stated by Dr. Lightfoot.

Amos 4:7. Three months to the harvest. The Lord denied them the latter rain, as described in Deuteronomy 11:14. This was the rain which caused the corn to grow and flourish for a luxuriant harvest. He adds, I caused it to rain on one city, and caused it not to rain on another. The locality of the rain designated a particular providence.

Amos 4:10. Pestilence, after the manner of Egypt. When the waters of the Nile retired, it was often a sickly time, owing to the vegetable decomposition of the wreck which was left behind.


Isaiah had twice given hard strokes at the haughty women of Jerusalem, dressed in purple, scarlet, gold, and gems; and here Amos is understood as doing the same against the women of Samaria. Yet by oppressing the poor, and crushing the needy, the words apply with more propriety to the rulers. It is however a fact, that extravagance occasions oppression; and oppression draws down the vengeance of heaven. The Lord ever lives the widow’s husband, and the orphan’s friend; and he accounts it the glory of his justice to oppress the oppressor.

When wicked men scorn the restraints of temperance and piety, the divine justice with holy scorn bids them glut themselves in the riot of crime. Come ye, transgress at Gilgal; insult that covenant ground, with the foulest breaches of the covenant. So when their fathers loathed the manna, he gave them flesh in his anger, and death followed the feast. Solomon also bids the prodigal that scorns reform, to walk in the sight of his eyes, and in the desire of his heart. Whenever this is the case, it is an awful omen that the wicked approach the vortex of destruction.

The prophet makes a transition to a review of providence towards Israel from the time of their apostasy, and he opens a scene of tragedy the most sublime and instructive that can be conceived. The combatants are God and Israel; and it is awful to add, that both the parties are determined not to yield. Israel is resolved to keep his idols, his feasts, his sins; and God has sworn by his holiness, by his holy name, that they shall all die in their sins, or be led away in chains as fish are drawn from the water by a hook. Who would not tremble for the issue? Who would not lament the consequences of such infatuation?

Feeling as a father, the Lord begins the contest with grace, and grace of an extraordinary kind. When the form and the spirit of religion were almost lost, he raised up Elijah and Elisha, whose ministry resembled the opening of the gospel. He aided their sermons by a sevenfold scale of visitations which tended to restrain wickedness, and to prolong the existence of the nation. He confounded the infidel who denied a providence, by an unheard of variation in the rains. One time he repressed voluptuousness by famine; and at another, by blasting and mildew. The pestilence next raged in the country, mocked at medicine, and gave up the wicked to the empire of death. Fire also fell repeatedly from heaven, and consumed them. Locusts likewise augmented their scarcity, while the sword with encreasing strokes of carnage made their number small. Oh ye mountains of Israel, covered with idols, how unlike the days of David and Solomon, when an obedient people inherited covenant mercies. Still the Lord’s hand is uplifted: still his anger is not turned away: still he awaits but with lingering and weeping over Ephraim; he awaits to let the Assyrian give the finishing stroke. Thus when every resource of mercy is exhausted, justice must do its strange work.

Sinner, inconsiderate sinner, thou art already on the stage in contest with thy Maker. He is dealing with thee as with Israel. Mercy, entreaty, and the rod are hitherto thy lot. Thou art far advanced in the career of defeat and ruin. Destruction awaits thy next presumptuous sin. Therefore, seeing the day, the awful day is at hand, I would say once for all, Prepare to meet thy God. This God, who yet for a moment suspends the blow, made the mountains, created the wind, and treadeth on the high places of the earth: thou hast no chance, no hope to escape out of his hands. Oh yield, yield to his longsuffering grace and mercy, and thou shalt yet be happy. Yield, oh yield, and let not an incorrigible temper be worse than all thy other crimes.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Amos 4:11". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. 1835.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Amos 4:11 I have overthrown [some] of you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and ye were as a firebrand plucked out of the burning: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD.

Ver. 11. I have overthrown some of you] Some and not all: thus, in the midst of judgment he remembered mercy, he did not stir up all his wrath, Psalms 78:38, he let fall some drops, but would not shed the whole shower of it; for he remembered that they were but flesh. Some he hanged up in gibbets, as it were, for example to the rest: as St Jude saith he dealt by Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them, thrown forth for an instance of Divine vengeance to all succeeding ages, 1:7 ( προκεινται); and as Herodotus telleth us, that the sparks and ashes of burnt Troy served for a lasting monument of God’s great displeaure against great sinners. See the like threatened to Babylon, Isaiah 13:19-20.

As God overthrew Sodem] As Jehovah from Jehovah rained hell out of heaven upon them, Genesis 19:24, that is, God the Son from God the Father: and so Eusebius observeth that the Father here saith of the Son, that he overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah (De Praepar. Evang. 1. 5, c. 23. Vide Socrat. Hist. Eccles. l. 2. c. 30.): "he condemned them with an overthrow," 2 Peter 2:6, he overthrew them and repented not, Jeremiah 20:16, he overthrew them in a moment, and no hand stayed on them, Lamentations 4:6. And yet worse shall be the condition of those that despise the grace of the gospel, which is the great sin of these last times, Matthew 11:24; yea, the devils will keep holy-day, as it were, in hell, in respect of such sinners against their own souls.

And ye were as a firebrand] Ambustus et fumigans titio, smutchy and smoky, and scarcely escaping with the skin of your teeth, Job 19:20, as Lot out of Sodom, as the man of Benjamin out of the army, 1 Samuel 2:12, as the young man that fled naked away at Christ’s attachment, Mark 14:52, or as Hunniades narrowly escaping with his life from the battle of Varna; where he had like to have fallen with that perjured Popish king, as good Jehoshaphat had for joining with Ahab. It is as if God should say: There are not many of you that are left, and have your lives for a prey; howbeit they are ill bestowed upon you, for any good use you have made of my forbearance. "Let favour be shown to the wicked, yet will he not learn righteousness," Isaiah 26:10; and if thou deliver him once, yet thou must do it again, and when all is done that can be done. "A man of great wrath shall suffer punishment," Proverbs 19:19; and so (to be sure of it) shall a man of great stomach and stubbornness, that refuseth to return, as these of whom the fifth time it is here complained.

And yet ye have not returned, &c.] O prorsus obstinati! saith Tarnovius here: Prorsus indurati et contumaces, saith Mercer. "Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, do ye thus always resist the Holy Ghost?" Acts 7:51 : will ye needs be like horse and mule, uncounsellable, untractable? will ye, after conviction, needs run away with the bit in your mouths and take your swing in sin. If so resolved, yet stay, saith the Psalmist, and take this along with you, "Many sorrows shall be to the wicked," Psalms 32:10; your preservation from one evil shall be but a reservation to seven worse, Leviticus 26:21, as it fared with Pharaoh, Sennacherib, and others; God will surely subdue or subvert you.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Amos 4:11". John Trapp Complete Commentary. 1865-1868.

Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary

But as Israel would not desist from its idolatrous worship, Jehovah would also continue to visit the people with judgments, as He had already done, though without effecting any conversion to their God. This last thought is explained in Amos 4:6-11 in a series of instances, in which the expression ולא שׁבתּם עדי (and ye have not returned to me), which is repeated five times, depicts in the most thorough manner the unwearied love of the Lord to His rebellious children.

Amos 4:6

“And I have also given you cleanness of teeth in all your towns, and want of bread in all your places: and ye have not returned to me, is the saying of Jehovah.” The strongly adversative וגם אני forms the antithesis to כן אהבתּם : Ye love to persist in your idolatry, and yet I have tried all means of turning you to me. Cleanness of teeth is explained by the parallel “want of bread.” The first chastisement, therefore, consisted in famine, with which God visited the nation, as He had threatened the transgressors that He would do in the law (Deuteronomy 28:48, Deuteronomy 28:57). For שׁוּב עד, compare Hosea 14:2.

Amos 4:7-8

“And I have also withholden the rain from you, in yet three months to the harvest; and have caused it to rain upon one city, and I do not cause it to rain upon another. One field is rained upon, and the field upon which it does not rain withers. Amos 4:8. And two, three towns stagger to one town to drink water, and are not satisfied: and ye have not returned to me, is the saying of Jehovah.” The second punishment mentioned is the withholding of rain, or drought, which was followed by the failure of the harvest and the scarcity of water (cf. Leviticus 26:19-20; Deuteronomy 28:23). The rain “in yet (i.e., at the time when there were yet) three months to the harvest” is the so-called latter rain, which falls in the latter half of February and the first half of March, and is of the greatest importance to the vigorous development of the ears of corn and also of the grains. In southern Palestine the harvest commences in the latter half of April (Nisan), and falls for the most part in May and June; but in the northern part of the land it is from two to four weeks later (see my Archäologie, i. pp. 33, 34, ii. pp. 113, 114), so that in round numbers we may reckon three months from the latter rain to the harvest. But in order to show the people more clearly that the sending and withholding of rain belonged to Him, God caused it to rain here and there, upon one town and one field, and not upon others (the imperfects from 'amtı̄r onwards express the repetition of a thing, what generally happens, and timmâtēr , third pers. fem., is used impersonally). This occasioned such distress, that the inhabitants of the places in which it had not rained were obliged to go to a great distance for the necessary supply of water to drink, and yet could not get enough to satisfy them. נוּע, to stagger, to totter, expresses the insecure and trembling walk of a man almost fainting with thirst.

Amos 4:9

“I have smitten you with blight and yellowness; many of your gardens, and of your vineyards, and of your fig-trees, and of your olive-trees, the locust devoured; and ye have not returned to me, is the saying of Jehovah.” The third chastisement consisted in the perishing of the corn by blight, and by the ears turning yellow, and also in the destruction of the produce of the gardens and the fruits of the trees by locusts. The first is threatened in Deuteronomy 28:22, against despisers of the commandments of God; the second points to the threatenings in Deuteronomy 28:39-40, Deuteronomy 28:42. The infin. constr. harbōth is used as a substantive, and stands as a noun in the construct state before the following words; so that it is not to be taken adverbially in the sense of many times, or often, as though used instead of harbēh (cf. Ewald, §280, c ). On gâzâm , see at Joel 1:4. The juxtaposition of these two plagues is not to be understood as implying that they occurred simultaneously, or that the second was the consequence of the first; still less are the two to be placed in causal connection with the drought mentioned in Amos 4:7, Amos 4:8. For although such combinations do take place in the course of nature, there is no allusion to this in the present instance, where Amos is simply enumerating a series of judgments, through which Jehovah had already endeavoured to bring the people to repentance, without any regard to the time when they occurred.

Amos 4:10

The same thing may be said of the fourth chastisement mentioned in Amos 4:10, “I have sent pestilence among you in the manner of Egypt, have slain your young men with the sword, together with the booty of your horses, and caused the stench of your camps to ascend, and that into your nose; and ye have not returned to me, is the saying of Jehovah.” In the combination of pestilence and sword (war), the allusion to Leviticus 26:25 is unmistakeable (compare Deuteronomy 28:60, where the rebellious are threatened with all the diseases of Egypt). בּדרך מצרים, in the manner (not in the road) of Egypt (compare Isaiah 10:24, Isaiah 10:26; Ezekiel 20:30), because pestilence is epidemic in Egypt. The idea that there is any allusion to the pestilence with which God visited Egypt (Exodus 9:3.), is overthrown by the circumstance that it is only a dreadful murrain that is mentioned there. The slaying of the youths or young men points to overthrow in war, which the Israelites endured most grievously in the wars with the Syrians (compare 2 Kings 8:12; 2 Kings 13:3, 2 Kings 13:7). עם שׁבי סוּסילם does not mean together with, or by the side of, the carrying away of your horses, i.e., along with the fact that your horses were carried away; for שׁבי does not mean carrying away captive, but the captivity, or the whole body of captives. The words are still dependent upon הרגתּי, and affirm that even the horses that had been taken perished, - a fact which is also referred to in 2 Kings 13:7. From the slain men and animals forming the camp the stench ascended, and that into their noses, “as it were, as an 'azkârâh of their sins” (Hitzig), but without their turning to their God.

Amos 4:11

“I have destroyed among you, like the destruction of God upon Sodom and Gomorrah, and ye were like a brand plucked out of the fire; and ye have not returned to me, is the saying of Jehovah.” Proceeding from the smaller to the greater chastisements, Amos mentions last of all the destruction similar to that of Sodom and Gomorrah, i.e., the utter confusion of the state, by which Israel was brought to the verge of ruin, so that it had only been saved like a firebrand out of the fire. הפכתּי does not refer to an earthquake, which had laid waste cities and hamlets, or a part of the land, say that mentioned in Amos 1:1, as Kimchi and others suppose; but it denotes the desolation of the whole land in consequence of devastating wars, more especially the Syrian (2 Kings 13:4, 2 Kings 13:7), and other calamities, which had undermined the stability of the kingdom, as in Isaiah 1:9. The words כּמהפּכת אלהים וגו are taken from Deuteronomy 29:22, where the complete desolation of the land, after the driving away of the people into exile on account of their obstinate apostasy, is compared to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. By thus playing upon this terrible threat uttered by Moses, the prophet seeks to show to the people what has already happened to them, and what still awaits them if they do not eventually turn to their God. They have again been rescued from the threatening destruction like a firebrand out of the fire (Zechariah 3:2) by the deliverer whom the Lord gave to them, so that they escaped from the power of the Syrians (2 Kings 13:5). But inasmuch as all these chastisements have produced no fruit of repentance, the Lord will now proceed to judgment with His people.

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Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Amos 4:11". 1854-1889.

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

A Firebrand Snatched From a Blaze

The reference to Sodom and Gomorrah is to indicate that the destruction is complete. Turning the people upside down refers to the destruction of the state after war has been waged on its territory (Joel 2:3). This destruction is referred to in several places (Isa 1:9; Isa 13:19; Jer 50:40).

The destruction is complete, but is not definitive. Some will escape judgment. They are compared with "a firebrand snatched from a blaze". The fire has taken hold of it, and if a power had not come from outside that tore the piece of wood out of the fire, it would have been completely consumed (cf. Zec 3:2). This is how it is with the people. The fact that they are still there is due to a God Who did not totally destroy them. Just as He saved Lot from Sodom and Gomorrah, He will also bring back a remnant of the people from the captivity of the Syrian (2Kgs 13:5; 2Kgs 17:27-28).

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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Amos 4:11". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.

The Popular Commentary by Paul E. Kretzmann

Various Punishments Leading up to the Last Judgment

v. 6. And I also have given you cleanness of teeth in all your cities, namely, because they had nothing to eat, and want of bread in all your places, by famines sent at various times; yet have ye not returned unto Me, saith the Lord, His punishment had not had the desired effect.

v. 7. And also I have withholden the rain from you, the latter rain, which was necessary to insure a crop, when there were yet three months to the harvest, which occurred in the latter part of May or in early June; and I caused it to rain upon one city and caused it not to rain upon another city, both granting and withholding this great blessing according to His will; one piece was rained upon, and the piece whereupon it rained not withered. To this day this is, in spite of spurious claims of scientists concerning reasonable causes for everything, the only explanation which suffices for the fact that moisture in a given locality is often found in definite strips only.

v. 8. So two or three cities, impelled by necessity, wandered unto one city to drink water, to get enough at least to sustain life; but they were not satisfied, they could not drink their fill, and their trip, made with unsteady feet as it was, brought them nothing. Yet have ye not returned unto Me, saith the Lord.

v. 9. I have smitten you, as a third chastisement, with blasting and mildew, with a blight upon the cereal grains; when your gardens and your vineyards and your fig-trees and your olive-trees increased, the enumeration of the individual cases tending to emphasize the visitation, the palmer-worm, the Oriental locust, devoured them. Yet have ye not returned unto Me, saith the Lord.

v. 10. I have sent among you the pestilence after the manner of Egypt, so called because it was prevalent in that country; your young men have I slain with the sword, especially when the Israelites suffered defeats at the hand of the Syrians, and have taken away your horses, these also being slaughtered in battle; and I have made the stink of your camps to come up unto your nostrils, namely, that of the dead bodies of men and beasts. Yet have ye not returned unto Me, saith the Lord, even this chastisement having no effect upon them.

v. 11. I have overthrown some of you, some of Israel's cities, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and ye, those who escaped such utter extinction, were as a firebrand plucked out of the burning, the escape being very narrow. Yet have ye not returned unto Me, saith the Lord.

v. 12. Therefore, thus will I do unto thee, O Israel, namely, what He now says in conclusion; and because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel, namely, to stand before the Lord's judgment-seat, and therefore to make due preparation to avert the final destruction by true repentance.

v. 13. For, lo, He that formeth the mountains, calling them into existence by His almighty power, and createth the wind, and declareth unto man what is his thought, His omniscience readily penetrating into the mind of man, that maketh the morning darkness, turning back the dawn into night, and treadeth upon the high places of the earth, ruling the whole earth with unlimited power. The Lord, the God of hosts, is His name, the Ruler of all the heavenly armies. The entire creation proclaims the one true God, and it is a matter of wisdom for man to stand before Him in a relation which will cause Him to show mercy rather than stern justice.

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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Amos 4:11". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". 1921-23.

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

             Amos 4

2. Punishment must come, since despite all Chastisements the People will not amend.

1Hear[FN1] this word, ye kine of Bashan,

Who are upon the mountain of Samaria,

Who oppress the poor,

Who crush the needy,

Who say to their lords,

Bring hither that we may drink.

2The Lord Jehovah hath sworn by his holiness,

Behold days are coming upon you,

When men will drag[FN2]you away with hooks

And the remnant[FN3] of you with fish-hooks.

3And through breaches[FN4] in the wall ye shall go out, every one before her[FN5]

And be cast forth[FN6] to Harmon[FN7] saith Jehovah.

4Go to Bethel and sin,—

To Gilgal,[FN8] and sin still more !

Bring every morning your sacrifices,

Every three days your tithes.

5 Offer[FN9] a praise-offering of what is leavened,

Call out for voluntary offerings, proclaim them !

For this liketh you,[FN10] O sons of Israel,

Saith the Lord, Jehovah.

6 And I, even I,[FN11] have given you cleanness of teeth in all your cities,

And want of bread in all your places;

And ye have not returned unto me, saith Jehovah.

7 And I, even I, have withheld the rain from you,

When there were yet three months to the harvest,

And have caused it to rain upon one city,

And cause it not to rain[FN12] upon another.

One field is rained upon,

And the field upon which it does not rain, withers.

8 And two, three cities stagger to one city

To drink water, and are not satisfied;

And ye have not returned unto me, saith Jehovah.

9 I have smitten you with blight and with mildew;

And the multitude[FN13] of your gardens and your vineyards,

And of your fig trees and olive trees, the locust devoured;

And ye have not returned to me, saith Jehovah.

10 I have sent pestilence among you in the manner of Egypt,[FN14]

I have slain your young men with the sword,

Together with the booty[FN15] of your horses,

And caused the stench[FN16] of your camps to ascend even into your noses,

And ye have not returned unto me, saith Jehovah[FN17].

11 I have overthrown among you,

As God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah,

And ye were like a brand plucked out of the burning;

And still ye have not returned unto me.

12Therefore thus will I do to thee, O Israel.

Because I will do this to thee,

Prepare to meet thy God, O Israel.

13For, behold, He that formeth the mountains and createth the wind.

And declareth to man what is his thought,

Who maketh dawn darkness,

And goeth over the high places of the earth,

Jehovah, God of hosts, is his name.


1. Amos 4:1-3. Hear this, etc. Plundering and destruction had been threatened; here carrying away is added. They who are threatened are the same as in chap3. The comparison to kine of Bashan. i.e., strong, well-fed well agrees with the description of their extortions and their luxurious life in that chapter. They are compared to cows rather than bulls, manifestly because the latter figure would be too dignified for such persons as are intended. Perhaps their effeminacy is also hinted. But it is certainly wrong to understand the expression as meaning specifically the women of Samaria. For nothing characteristic of women is said of the great in general. Nor is the phrase who say to their lords, any objection to this view; for cows have their “lords,” and the term here means the king and the princes under whom the other great men are ranked. So the Targum, Jerome, Calvin, Maurer, and others.

Amos 4:2. The threat is introduced by an oath Jehovah swears by his holiness, for this perfection must desire the punishment of such an unholy life, Your remnant, what has not been dragged away with hooks. To understand this as meaning “posterity,” would require us to consider two generations as included in the punishment threatened, which is a thought foreign to the context.

The breaches in the walls, are those made at the capture of the city. [There will be no need to resort to the gates, for egress will be possible in every direction—C.] As to the much disputed Harmon, all the ancients and most of the moderns take it as a proper name,—Armenia, Rimmon, Hermon, etc. Kimchi, followed by Gesenius, Winer, Henderson, resolves the word by a change of its first letter into the term meaning palace or citadel, and renders “will be cast down as to the palace,” i. e., from it. Dr. Van Dyck in the New Arabic Bible, also takes it as appellative, and renders “to the citadel.”

2. Amos 4:4-5. Go to Bethel, etc. You will not arrest this judgment by your idolatrous worship, eagerly as you may pursue that worship. Such eagerness is only an enlargement of your sins. This thought is expressed in a manner bitterly ironical by a summons to greater zeal. Gilgal was, like Bethel, a seat of idol worship (cf. on Hosea 4:15). The whole passage is hyperbolical. “Even if you offered slain offerings every morning and tithe every three days, it would only increase your guilt.”

To the same effect in Amos 4:5 they are told, instead of being content with unleavened cakes, to offer also upon the altar even the leavened loaves which were not required by law to be consumed ( Leviticus 7:13-14). And so with the free-will offerings. Instead of leaving these to spontaneous impulses, they in their exaggerated zeal called out for them, published them. The words, for this liketh you, make a mock of this zeal. But the mock is subsequently turned into earnest. For men surely should not persist in such love and zeal for idolworship, after God had so often punished them for it.

3. Amos 4:6-11. All punishment hitherto had been in vain. This is shown in five instances, each concluding with the sorrowful refrain, and yet ye have not returned unto me, which strikingly display the love of Jehovah, who visits and punishes his people only to prevent the necessity of severer punishment.

(a.) Amos 4:6. And I also, etc. To what they did, the prophet sets in opposition what Jehovah did. Cleanness of teeth, because they had nothing to eat.

(b.) Amos 4:7-8. Withheld the rain when, etc. The latter rain is meant. As this fell in February and March, while the harvest occurred in May and June, the interval was reckoned in round numbers at three months. [“This is utterly ruinous to the hopes of the farmer. A little earlier or a little later would not be so fatal, but drouth three months before harvest is entirely destructive.” The Land and the Book, 2:66.] The withholding of rain is stated as partial, in order to show more distinctly that it was a divine ordering.

(c.) Amos 4:9. The third chastisement was a bad harvest, arising from a blight upon the cereal grains and the destruction of fruits by locusts.

(d.) Amos 4:10. The fourth chastisement was pestilence and war. For the grievous sufferings of Israel in the latter, see 2 Kings 8:12; 2 Kings 13:3; 2 Kings 13:7.

(e.) Amos 4:11. I overthrew, etc. This manifestly does not indicate a new chastisement in addition to the foregoing, but sums them all up in a single utterance. “The comparison of the doom of Ephraim to that of Sodom and Gomorrah, is a general indication of the greatness of their punishment (cf. Isaiah 1:9). The way in which the destruction of the cities of the plain is spoken of, plainly refers to Genesis 19:29, where occurs the word ‘overthrow,’ which became the standing phrase to describe this fearful fate Deuteronomy 29:22; Isaiah 1:7; Isaiah 13:19; Jeremiah 49:18; Jeremiah 50:40).” (Baur.) As a brand. The emphasis does not lie on the actual escape, but on i he fact that it was so narrow. The phrase vividly depicts the severity of their chastisements itherto; so much the more inexcusable are they or not having returned to the Lord.

4. Amos 4:12-13. Therefore thus will I, etc. Thus, but how is not said. “Thus,” is therefore to be regarded as a general threat, which is so much the more severe, because it is not stated what shall come, so that there is everything to fear. The punishment is indeed generally indicated in this chapter, as also in chapter3. But the chief point of the chapter is to recall the past hard-heartedness of Israel, not to describe their punishment, since there are only brief references to the judgment already mentioned, the full description of which is resumed in chap5. As yet it is only a threat: hence the summons, Prepare, etc, i. e., not to meet your doom, but to avert it by true repentance (cf. Amos 5:4; Amos 5:6). “To give the greater emphasis to this command, Amos 4:13 depicts God as the Almighty and Omniscient who creates prosperity and adversity.” (Keil.) “His thought” does not mean man’s thought, but God’s own, which He makes known by the prophets, i. e., his purpose to punish. [It seems more natural, as it is more in accordance with the uniform usage of the word שִֹׁיח to refer it to man. As Pusey says, “To Prayer of Manasseh, a sinner, far more impressive than all majesty of creative power is the thought that God knows his inmost soul. He declareth unto man his meditation, before he puts it into words.”] Treads upon the high places = rules over all, even the highest of earth. Finally the whole is confirmed by the lofty title of God as God of Hosts.


1. “This discourse ( Amos 4:1-3) strikes at those who are in authority and practice violence at court and elsewhere. In them, unrighteousness in act concurs with great looseness in speech. The more violently men deal in matters of office and government, the more viciously do they proceed among their fellows, trying to stifle all humane feeling for others need and all complaints at the wrong that is done. But the more frivolous their talk, the more earnest is God in his counsel and oath against them; and as they have done much for the sake of advancing and enriching their posterity, so the judgment of God strikes them with their posterity.” (Rieger.)

2. “Since the prophet here attacks so severely the heads of the state, we are to consider that if a modern preacher were to do the same, it would be regarded as an insult and a calumny. But if a preacher out of a proper zeal should at times handle somewhat harshly acknowledged public offenders who can be reached in no other way, this is by no means to be deemed an unbecoming insult, for the same reproach would apply to the prophets, to our Lord Himself, and to his Apostles, all of whom often uttered severe language. When in any such case the rebuke aims only at the benefit of the persons concerned, it is not an impropriety or an outrage, but a work of love demanded by the preacher’s office, which is to censure the impenitent. This must he done not only upon the lowly but upon the lofty, and indeed the more upon the latter because thev do so much more harm when they act amiss.” (Wart. Bi.) It is a natural inference that such a thing should be done not in passion nor personal provocation, but really from a holy zeal against sin. But clear as the matter is so far, the more difficult is it in practice. One can only say, Let each man approve himself to God as to his inward feeling. The fear of man should not close the mouth to an open testimony against the high. But it docs not follow that an open mouth is always a token of zeal for God’s honor. Least of all is such a thing found in a mere copying of others, even though they be prophets. Nor should the difference between prophets and the preachers of our day be obliterated. With the courage to bear testimony must be united the courage to suffer on account of such testimony (cf. at chap3. Doct. and Eth2).

3. They who shamelessly transgress the simplest moral duties, develop along with this course a powerful religious zeal and cannot do enough in worship. An apparent contradiction, yet one confirmed a hundred times by experience; moral corruption and religious bigotry amalgamated! Yet is it altogether natural; the religious form covers over the moral nakedness and quiets the conscience; but this is certainly a horrible delusion. That it was a false worship in which the Israelites were so zealous, enhances their guilt, for it was an apostasy from Jehovah. But even a religiosity which is formally correct, may be used as a cover for wickedness, and be blended with moral corruption. Thus it is well to remember that religious zeal in itself is no proof that all is well.

4. God tries all means before proceeding to extremities. If benefits are not recognized, He sends chastisements. These in the first instance aim not at destruction, but at opening the eyes through the perception of the divine wrath so that men may repent and seek God. They are therefore as much tokens of grace as proofs of wrath. But if this aim is not reached, the forbearance of God ceases, and a decisive judgment steps forth. But this last is something extorted from God, it is against his real disposition; only with reluctance does He resolve upon it. He waits long in the hope that there will be a change and so the last step be unnecessary. Most clearly does the sorrowful love of God shine out from the vivid delineation of the prophet. National calamities, according to our chapter, are to be viewed as chastisements from God. This view does not conflict with the existence of natural causes, but recognizes God as the being in whose service these act. It sees in the course of the world, not the blind mechanism of a clock, but the work of a personal intelligent will, and considers the laws of that course as the thoughts of this will, which rules and governs the whole, the domain of the physical as well as that of the moral and spiritual, and naturally does not leave these to run on merely side by side, but puts them in constant and intimate relation and alternation with each other, so that physical life finds its highest aim in the loftier domain of moral and spiritual life. National calamities are only a lower degree of the revelation of God’s wrath. Heavy as they may be, they endanger only the material conditions of a nation’s life, and that in a superficial way from which there may be a recovery, but they do not imperil its essential being, which consists in its political “independence and freedom.” That a nation is determined to maintain and guard this, that it considers the loss of it the last punishment from God’s hand, comes forth very clearly as the prophet’s view: A nation therefore should defend this against the attack of a foreign foe. But it is equally clear that where the inner conditions, piety and righteousness, no longer exist, there all pains to preserve independence are vain. God gives the power and victory to the foes. What enemies do, that God himself does through them (cf. Amos 2:13; Amos 3:15). Here also there is no denial of the nearer causality, that of the human will. But while man is doing only his own will, he at the same time does the will of God, acts as his instrument, and serves his aims, which are the highest, the only absolute ones.

5. With a short but lofty delineation of God’s transcendent greatness and almighty power, the prophet concludes the chapter, showing that Jehovah is one who speaks with emphasis and can execute his threatenings. It is as beautiful poetically as it is profound theologically. It exhibits an elevation and depth in the conception of God, which permits a very definite conviction as to the strength and clearness of the divine manifestation made to Israel. As thus controlling all things, God is called the God of Hosts. Observe how fond Amos is of this phrase in the vehement outpouring of indignation in the chaps3–6, cf. Amos 3:13, Amos 4:13, Amos 5:16; Amos 5:27, Amos 6:8; Amos 6:14. Here Jehovah appears as One who towers above all creaturely existences, who rules the highest spheres of might, against whom therefore nothing can avail, around whom everything stands ready to execute his will. He is not the national God of Israel alone, but the God of the world. Hence He is not merely a natural force which builds and again destroys, but a personal God who acts according to his own “thought,” which He makes known to men. And as such a personal, self-conscious, self-active being, He stands in constant relations with his personal creatures.


[ Amos 4:1. Who oppress the poor. He upbraids them not for fierceness, but for a more delicate and wanton unfeelingness, the fruit of luxury, fullness of head, a life of sense, which destroy all tenderness, dull the mind, deaden the spiritual sense. They did not directly oppress, perhaps did not know that it was done; they sought only that their own thirst for luxury and self-indulgence should be gratified, and knew not, as those at ease often know not now, that their luxuries are continually watered by the tears of the poor, tears shed almost unknown except by the Maker of both. But He counts willful ignorance no excuse. (Pusey.)

Amos 4:2. Behold, days are coming. God’s day and eternity are ever coming. They are holding on their steady course. Men put out of their minds what will come. Therefore God so often in his notices of woe brings to mind that those days are ever coming; they are not a thing which shall be only; in God’s purpose they already are, and with one uniform, steady noiseless tread are coming upon the sinner. (Ibid.)

Amos 4:4. Go to Bethel and sin, etc. Words uttered in bitter irony and indignation, as Ezekiel says ( Ezekiel 20:39), “Go ye, serve every one his idols,” and our Lord, “Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers” ( Matthew 23:32). It is a characteristic of idolatry and schism, to profess extraordinary zeal for God’s worship and go beyond the letter and spirit of his law by arbitrary will-worship and self-idolizing fanaticism. (Wordsworth.)

Amos 4:5. Call out for voluntary offerings, etc. The profuseness of idolaters in the service of their false gods may shame our strait-handedness in the service of the true and living God. (M. Henry.)]

Amos 4:6 ff. Have given you cleanness of teeth, etc. Before, we had a thoughtful appeal to God’s mercies; now his chastisements are enumerated. These are the two chief evidences of God’s approach to a people, a community, a family, or even an individual, in love or in sorrow, and what fruits one or the other has borne (Rieger). [And ye have not returned unto me. By repeating this sorrowful ejaculation four times ( Amos 4:6; Amos 4:9-11), God emphatically declares the loving design of his chastisement of Israel. (Wordsworth.)

Amos 4:7-8. The preaching of the Gospel is as rain; God sometimes blesses one place with it more than another; some countries, some cities are like Gideon’s fleece, wet with this dew while the ground around is dry; all withers where this rain is wanting. But it were well if people were but as wise for their souls as they are for their bodies, and, when they have not this rain near them, would go and seek it where it is to be had. If they seek aright, they shall not seek in vain. (M. Henry.)]

Amos 4:9. Of what avail are judgments? Men now are as little influenced by them as Israel of old. They do not believe they are punishments, much less that they are sent for the causes assigned. They deem them accidental, or else invent other causes, and even ascribe droughts, floods, hail, caterpillars, etc, to witchcraft and sorcery, in the face of the Scripture which expressly attributes such plagues to God. (Wurt. Bible.) [Ordinarily, God makes his sun to arise upon the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust, but He does not enslave himself to his own laws. There are variations, and in his Word He reveals to us the meaning of his daily variations in the workings of nature. (Pusey.)

Amos 4:10. After the manner of Egypt. Israel, having sinned like Egypt, was to be punished like Egypt. One of the threatenings in Deuteronomy in case of disobedience was ( Deuteronomy 28:27), The Lord shall smite thee with the botch of Egypt. (Ibid.)

Amos 4:11. I have overthrown, etc. The earthquake is reserved to the last as the most special visitation, It is at all times the more terrible, because unseen, unannounced, instantaneous, complete. The ground under a man’s feet seems no longer secure, his shelter is his destruction; men’s houses become their graves. War, pestilence, and famine seldom break in at once. The earthquake at once buries it may be, thousands, each stiffened (if it were so), in that his last deed of evil; each household with its own form of misery; each in its separate vault,—dead, dying, crushed, imprisoned. (Ibid.)

Amos 4:12. Thus will I do unto thee. God having said this is silent as to what He will do; that so Israel hanging in suspense as having before him each sort of punishment—which are the more terrible because he imagines them one by one,—may indeed repent, that God inflict not what He threatens. (Jerome.)]

Amos 4:13. He that formeth the mountains, etc. This noble description of God on one hand arouses the conscience to appreciate his threatenings and renounce all vain confidence, and on the other encourages the heart to come again into communion with such a God by sincere conversion. (Rieger.) [If He be such a God as He is here described to be, it is folly to contend with Him, and our duty and interest to make our peace with Him; it is good having Him our friend, and bad having Him our enemy. (M. Henry.)]


FN#1 - Amos 4:1.—שִׁמעוּ for שְׁמַענָה, because the verb stands first. Cf. Isaiah 32:11.

FN#2 - Amos 4:2.—נִשָּׂא is Piel, as in 1 Kings 9:11. Green’s Grammar, § 164, 2. כִי pleonastic, like the Greek ὅτι, in direct address.

FN#3 - Amos 4:2.—אחרִית׳ is not posterity (Fürst, Henderson), but remnant, “all even to the very last.” Cf. Hengstenberg, Christol., i367.]

FN#4 - Amos 4:3.—פְרָצִים is accusative of place.

FN#5 - Amos 4:3.—נֶגְדָּהּ, i.e., without turning to the right or the left.” Cf. Joshua 6:5-20.

FN#6 - Amos 4:3.—ה,הִשְׁלַכתֶנָה—is simply the fall form of the pronoun, added here to obtain a similarity of sound with the preceding verb. The Hiphil form is found in all the MSS. save one, and is defended by Hitzig, Ewald, etc, but as it is very harsh, it is better, with the LXX, Syr, Sym, Vulgate, and Arabic, to take it as Hophal (Jerome, Fürst, Keil, etc.).

FN#7 - Amos 4:3.—ההרמ׳. This hapax legom. is not yet satisfactorily explained, although almost every possible interpretation has been given. The final letter appears to be ה local, and in that case the word indicates the place into which the fugitives are cast. But where that place is none can say; we have only conjectures, for which see Keil and Henderson in loc.

FN#8 - Amos 4:4.—“Gilgal” is in the accusative after “go” understood from the preceding clause. “Every three days,” is the literal rendering adopted by Ibn Esra, Rosenmüller, Maurer, Keil, etc. Kimchi gives it as E. V, and is followed by Henderson. The LXX, Vulgate, and Luther agree with Ibn Esra.

FN#9 - Amos 4:5.—קַטֵר, infin. absol. used for the imper.

FN#10 - Amos 4:5.—“For this liketh you.” This fine archaism seems preferable to the marginal equivalent of the E. V, “So ye love.”]

FN#11 - Amos 4:6.—The first personal pronoun, when separately expressed in Hebrew, is always emphatic; hence the repetition in the version, “I, even I.”]

FN#12 - Amos 4:7.—אַמְטִיר. The imperfects from here on are used as the historical present to give life to the description.

FN#13 - Amos 4:9.—הַרִבוֹת, infin. const. used as a substantive = multitude.

FN#14 - Amos 4:10.—“In the manner of Egypt,” because pestilence is epidemic in Egypt ( Isaiah 10:24-26).

FN#15 - Amos 4:10.—עִמ שְׁבִי is usually explained: “together with the carrying away of your horses,” so that even your horses were carried away. But Keil renders it concrete = the booty, so that even the horses that were captured, perished.

FN#16 - Amos 4:10—וּבְאַפְּכֶם—even into your nostrils, “like as a memorial of their sins” (Hitzig).

FN#17 - Amos 4:13.—עשִֹׁה׳, may be, who turns the dawn into darkness, or, by asyndeton, who makes dawn, darkness. i.e., both. [The latter is preferred by Calvin, is expressed in the LXX, and is said by Henderson to be the reading of more than twenty of Kenmcott’s MSS.]

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Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture



Amos 4:4 - Amos 4:13.

The reign of Jeroboam II. was one of brilliant military success and of profound moral degradation. Amos was a simple, hardy shepherd from the southern wilds of Judah, and his prophecies are redolent of his early life, both in their homely imagery and in the wholesome indignation and contempt for the silken-robed vice of Israel. No sterner picture of an utterly rotten social state was ever drawn than this book gives of the luxury, licentiousness, and oppressiveness of the ruling classes. This passage deals rather with the religious declension underlying the moral filth, and sets forth the self-willed idolatry of the people [Amos 4:4 - Amos 4:5], their obstinate resistance to God’s merciful chastisement [Amos 4:6 - Amos 4:11], and the heavier impending judgment [Amos 4:12 - Amos 4:13].

I. Indignant irony flashes in that permission or command to persevere in the calf worship.

The seeming command is the strongest prohibition. There can be no worse thing befall a man than that he should be left to go on forwardly in the way of his heart. The real meaning is sufficiently emphasised by that second verb, ‘and transgress’. ‘Flock to one temple after another, and heap altars with sacrifices which you were never bid to offer, but understand that what you do is not worship, but sin.’ That is a smiting sentence to pass upon elaborate ceremonial. The word literally means treason or rebellion, and by it Amos at one blow shatters the whole fabric. Note, too, that the offering of tithes was not called for by Mosaic law, ‘every three days’ {Revised Version}, and that the use of leaven in burnt offerings was prohibited by it, and also that to call for freewill offerings was to turn spontaneousness into something like compulsion, and to bring ostentation into worship. All these characteristics spoiled the apparent religiousness, over and above the initial evil of disobedience, and warrant Amos’s crushing equation, ‘Your worship = rebellion.’ All are driven home by the last words of Amos 4:5, ‘So ye love it.’ The reason for all this prodigal ostentatious worship was to please themselves, not to obey God. That tainted everything, and always does.

The lessons of this burst of sarcasm are plain. The subtle influence of self creeps in even in worship, and makes it hollow, unreal, and powerless to bless the worshipper. Obedience is better than costly gifts. The beginning and end of all worship, which is not at same time ‘transgression’ is the submission of tastes, will, and the whole self. Again, men will lavish gifts far more freely in apparent religious service, which is but the worship of their reflected selves, than in true service of God. Again, the purity of willing offerings is marred when they are given in response to a loud call, or, when given, are proclaimed with acclamations. Let us not suppose that all the brunt of Amos’s indignation fell only on these old devotees. The principles involved in it have a sharp edge, turned to a great deal which is allowed and fostered among ourselves.

II. The blaze of indignation changes in the second part of the passage into wounded tenderness, as the Prophet speaks in the name of God, and recounts the dreary monotony of failure attending all God’s loving attempts to arrest Israel’s departure by the mercy of judgment.

Mark the sad cadence of the fivefold refrain, ‘Ye have not returned unto Me, saith the Lord.’ The ‘unto’ implies reaching the object to which we turn, and is not the less forcible but more usual word found in this phrase, which simply means ‘towards’ and indicates direction, without saying anything as to how far the return has gone. So there may have been partial moments of bethinking themselves, when the chastisement was on Israel; but there had been no thorough ‘turning,’ which had landed them at the side of God. Many a man turns towards God, who, for lack of resolved perseverance, never so turns as to get to God. The repeated complaint of the inefficacy of chastisements has in it a tone of sorrow and of wonder which does not belong only to the Prophet. If we remember who it was who was ‘grieved at the blindness of their heart,’ and who ‘wondered at their unbelief’ we shall not fear to recognise here the attribution of the same emotions to the heart of God.

To Amos, famine, drought, blasting, locusts, pestilence, and probably earthquake, were five messengers of God, and Amos was taught by God. If we looked deeper, we should see more clearly. The true view of the relation of all material things and events to God is this which the herdsman of Tekoa proclaimed. These messengers were not ‘miracles,’ but they were God’s messengers all the same. Behind all phenomena stands a personal will, and they are nearer the secret of the universe who see God working in it all, than they who see all forces except the One which is the only true force. ‘I give cleanness of teeth. I have withholden the rain. I have smitten. I have sent the pestilence. I have overthrown some of you.’ To the Prophet’s eye the world is all aflame with a present God. Let no scientific views, important and illuminating as these may be, hide from us the deeper truth, which lies beyond their region. The child who says ‘God,’ has got nearer the centre than the scientist who says ‘Force.’

But Amos had another principle, that God sent physical calamities because of moral delinquencies and for moral and religious ends. These disasters were meant to bring Israel back to God, and were at once punishments and reformatory methods. No doubt the connection between sin and material evils was closer under the Old Testament than now. But if we may not argue as Amos did, in reference to such calamities as drought, and failures of harvests, and the like, as these affect communities, we may, at all events, affirm that, in the case of the individual, he is a wise man who regards all outward evil as having a possible bearing on his bettering spiritually. ‘If a drought comes, learn to look to your irrigation, and don’t cut down your forests so wantonly,’ say the wise men nowadays; ‘if pestilence breaks out, see to your drainage.’ By all means. These things, too, are God’s commandments, and we have no right to interpret the consequences of infraction of physical laws as being meant to punish nations for their breach of moral and religious ones. If we were prophets, we might, but not else. But still, is God so poor that He can have but one purpose in a providence? Every sorrow, of whatever sort, is meant to produce all the good effects which it naturally tends to produce; and since every experience of pain and loss and grief naturally tends to wean us from earth, and to drive us to find in God what earth can never yield, all our sorrows are His messengers to draw us back to Him. Amos’ lesson as to the purpose of trials is not antiquated.

But he has still another to teach us; namely, the awful power which we have of resisting God’s efforts to draw us back. ‘Our wills are ours, we know not how,’ but alas! it is too often not ‘to make them Thine.’ This is the true tragedy of the world that God calls, and we do refuse, even as it is the deepest mystery of sinful manhood that God calls and we can refuse. What infinite pathos and grieved love, thrown back upon itself, is in that refrain, ‘Ye have not returned unto Me!’ How its recurrence speaks of the long-suffering which multiplied means as others failed, and of the divine charity, which ‘suffered long, was not soon angry, and hoped all things!’ How vividly it gives the impression of the obstinacy that to all effort opposed insensibility, and clung the more closely and insanely to the idolatry which was its crime and its ruin! The very same temper is deep in us all. Israel holds up the mirror in which we may see ourselves. If blows do not break iron, they harden it. A wasted sorrow-that is, a sorrow which does not drive us to God-leaves us less impressible than it found us.

III. Again the mood changes, and the issue of protracted resistance is prophesied [Amos 4:12 - Amos 4:13].

‘Therefore’ sums up the instances of refusal to be warned, and presents them as the cause of the coming evil. The higher the dam is piled, the deeper the water that is gathered behind it, and the surer and more destructive the flood when it bursts. Long-delayed judgments are severe in proportion as they are slow. Note the awful vagueness of threatening in that emphatic ‘thus,’ as if the Prophet had the event before his eyes. There is no need to specify, for there can be but one result from such obstinacy. The ‘terror of the Lord’ is more moving by reason of the dimness which wraps it. The contact of divine power with human rebellion can only end in one way, and that is too terrible for speech. Conscience can translate ‘thus.’ The thunder-cloud is all the more dreadful for the vagueness of its outline, where its livid hues melt into formless black. What bolts lurk in its gloom?

The certainty of judgment is the basis of a call to repentance, which may avert it. The meeting with God for which Israel is besought to prepare, was, of course, not judgment after death, but the impending destruction of the Northern Kingdom. But Amos’s prophetic call is not misapplied when directed to that final day of the Lord. Common-sense teaches preparation for a certain future, and Amos’s trumpet-note is deepened and re-echoed by Jesus: ‘Be ye ready also, for . . . the Son of man cometh.’ Note, too, that Israel’s peculiar relation to God is the very ground of the certainty of its punishment, and of the appeal for repentance. Just because He is ‘thy God,’ will He assuredly come to judge, and you may assuredly prepare, by repentance, to meet Him. The conditions of meeting the Judge, and being ‘found of Him in peace,’ are that we should be ‘without spot, and blameless’; and the conditions of being so spotless and uncensurable are, what they were in Amos’s day, repentance and trust. Only we have Jesus as the brightness of the Father’s glory to trust in, and His all-sufficient work to trust to, for pardon and purifying.

The magnificent proclamation of the name of the Lord which closes the passage, is meant as at once a guarantee of His judgment and an enforcement of the call to be ready to meet Him. He in creation forms the solid, changeless mountains and the viewless, passing wind. The most stable and the most mobile are His work. He reads men’s hearts, and can tell them their thoughts afar off. He is the Author of all changes, both in the physical and the moral world, bringing the daily wonder of sunrise and the nightly shroud of darkness, and with like alternation blending joy and sorrow in men’s lives. He treads ‘on the high places of the earth,’ making all created elevations the path of His feet, and crushing down whatever exalts itself. Thus, in creation almighty, in knowledge omniscient, in providence changing all things and Himself the same, subjugating all, and levelling a path for His purposes across every opposition, He manifests His name, as the living, eternal Jehovah, the God of the Covenant, and therefore of judgment on its breakers, and as the Commander and God of the embattled forces of the universe. Is this a God whose coming to judge is to be lightly dealt with? Is not this a God whom it is wise for us to be ready to meet?

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Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible

Incorrigibleness of Israel Judgments Called to Remembrance Greater Judgments Threatened. B. C. 790.

6 And I also have given you cleanness of teeth in all your cities, and want of bread in all your places: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD. 7 And also I have withholden the rain from you, when there were yet three months to the harvest: and I caused it to rain upon one city, and caused it not to rain upon another city: one piece was rained upon, and the piece whereupon it rained not withered. 8 So two or three cities wandered unto one city, to drink water but they were not satisfied: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD. 9 I have smitten you with blasting and mildew: when your gardens and your vineyards and your fig trees and your olive trees increased, the palmer-worm devoured them: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD. 10 I have sent among you the pestilence after the manner of Egypt: your young men have I slain with the sword, and have taken away your horses and I have made the stink of your camps to come up unto your nostrils: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD. 11 I have overthrown some of you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and ye were as a firebrand plucked out of the burning: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD. 12Therefore thus will I do unto thee, O Israel: and because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel. 13For, lo, he that formeth the mountains, and createth the wind, and declareth unto man what is his thought, that maketh the morning darkness, and treadeth upon the high places of the earth, The LORD, The God of hosts, is his name.

Here, I. God complains of his people's incorrigibleness under the judgments which he had brought upon them in order to their humiliation and reformation. He had by several tokens intimated to them his displeasure, with this design, that they might by repentance make their peace with him but it had not that effect.

1. It is five times repeated in these verses, as the burden of the charge, "Yet have you not returned unto me, saith the Lord you have been several times corrected, but in vain you are not reclaimed, there is no sign of amendment. You have been sent for by one messenger after another, but you have not come back, you have not come home." (1.) This intimates that that which God designed in all his providential rebukes was to reduce them to their allegiance, to influence them to return to him. (2.) That, if they had returned to their God, they would have been accepted, he would have bidden them welcome, and the troubles they were in would have been removed. (3.) That the reason why God sent further troubles was because former troubles had not done the work, otherwise it is no pleasure to the Almighty that he should afflict. (4.) That God was grieved at their obstinacy, and took it unkindly that they should force him to do that which he did so unwillingly: "You have not returned to me from whom you have revolted, to me with whom you are in covenant, to me who stands ready to receive you, to me who have so often called you." Now,

2. To aggravate their incorrigibleness, and to justify himself in inflicting greater judgments, he recounts the less judgments with which he had tried to bring them to repentance.

(1.) There had sometimes been a scarcity of provisions, though there was no visible cause of it (Amos 4:6): "I have given you cleanness of teeth in all your cities, for you had no meat to chew, whereby your teeth might be fouled," especially no flesh, which dirties the teeth. Or, I have given you emptiness of teeth, nothing to fill your mouths with. "Bread, the staff of life, has been wanting, for you have sown much and brought in little," as Haggai 1:9. Some think this refers to that seven years' famine that was in Elisha's time, which we read of 2 Kings 8:1. Now when God thus took away their corn in the season thereof, because they had prepared it for Baal, they should have said, We will go and return to our first husband, having paid dearly for leaving him but it had not that effect. They have not returned to me, saith the Lord.

(2.) Sometimes they had wanted rain, and then of course they wanted the fruits of the earth. This evil was of the Lord: I have withholden the rain from you. God has the key of the clouds, and, if he shut up, who can open? Amos 4:7. The rain was withheld when there were yet three months to the harvest, at the time when they used to have it, and therefore the withholding of it was an extraordinary thing, and, if the course of nature was altered, they must therein own the hand of the God of nature and it was at a time when they most needed it, and therefore the want of it was a very sore judgment, and blasted their expectations of a crop at harvest. And one circumstance which made this very remarkable was that when there were some places that wanted rain, and withered for want of it, there were other places near adjoining that had it in abundance. God caused it to rain upon one city, and not upon another, in the same country nay, he caused it to rain upon one field, one piece of a field, and it was thereby made fruitful and flourishing, but on the next field, on the other side of the hedge, nay, on another part of the same field, it rained not at all, and it was so long without rain that all the products of it withered. No doubt this was literally true, and there were many instances of it which were generally taken notice of. Now, [1.] By this it appeared that the withholding of the rain was not casual, but by a divine direction and disposal, and that the cloud which waters the earth is turned round about by the counsels of God, to do whatsoever he commands it, whether for correction, or for his land, or for his mercy, Job 37:12-18. Rain does not go by planets (as common people speak), but as God sends it by his winds. [2.] We have reason to think that those cities on which it rained not were the most infamous for wickedness, such as Bethel and Gilgal (Amos 4:4), and that those on which it rained were such as retained something of religion and virtue among them. And so in the town-fields it rained or rained not, upon the piece, according as the owner was for we are sure the curse of the Lord is in the house, and upon the ground, of the wicked, but he blesses the habitation of the just, and his field is a field that the Lord has blessed. [3.] It would be the greater grief and vexation to those whose fields withered for want of rain to see their neighbours' fields well watered and flourishing. My servants shall eat, but you shall be hungry, Isaiah 65:13. The wicked shall see it, and be grieved. Probably those that were oppressed were rained upon, and so they recovered their losses, while the oppressors withered, and so lost their gains. [4.] Yet, as to the nation in general, it was a mixture of mercy with the judgment, and, consequently, strengthened the call to repentance and reformation, and encouraged them to hope for all mercy, in their returns to God, since there was so much mercy even in God's rebukes of them. But, because they did not make good use of this gracious allay to the extremity of the judgment, they had not the benefit of it, which otherwise they might have had, for (Amos 4:8) two or three cities wandered at uncertainty, as beggars, unto one city, to drink water, and, if possible, to have some to carry home with them, but they were not satisfied it was but here and there one city that had water, while many wanted, and then it was not, as usual, Usus communis aquarum--Water is free to all. Those that had it had occasion for it, or knew not how soon they might, and therefore could afford but little to those that wanted, saying, Lest there be not enough for us and you. Those that came drank water, but they were not satisfied, because they drank it by measure, and with astonishment and those that drink of this water shall thirst again, John 4:13. They were not satisfied, because their desires were greedy, and what they had God did not bless to them, Haggai 1:6. And now, one would think, when they met with all this disappointment, they should have considered their ways and repented but it had not that effect: "Yet have you not returned to me, no, not so much as to pray in a right manner for the former and latter rain," Zechariah 10:1. See the folly of carnal hearts they will wander from city to city, from one creature to another, in pursuit of satisfaction, and still they miss of it they labour for that which satisfies not (Isaiah 55:2), and yet, after all, they will not return to God, will not incline their ear to him in whom they might have satisfaction. The preaching of the gospel is as rain God sometimes blesses one place with it more than another some countries, some cities, are, like Gideon's fleece, wet with this dew, while the ground about is dry all withers where this rain is wanting. But it were well if people were but as wise for their souls as they are for their bodies, and, when they have not this rain near them, would go and seek it where it is to be had and, if they seek aright, they shall not seek in vain.

(3.) Sometimes the fruits of their ground were eaten up by caterpillars, or blasted with mildew, Amos 4:9. Heaven and earth are armed against those who have made God their enemy. When God pleased, that is, when he was displeased, [1.] They suffered by a malignant air, the influence of which, either too hot or too cold, blasted their fruits, with a force that could be neither discerned nor resisted, and against which there was no defence. [2.] They suffered by malignant animals. Their vineyards and gardens yielded their increase in great abundance, so did their fig-trees and olive-trees but the palmer-worm devoured them before the fruits were ripe, and fit to be gathered in. This was either the same judgment with that which we read of Joel 1:4-6, or a less judgment of the same nature, sent before to give warning of that. But they did not take warning: Yet have you not returned unto me.

(4.) Sometimes the plague had raged among them, and the sword of war had cut off multitudes, Amos 4:10. The pestilence is God's messenger this he sent among them, with directions whom to strike dead, and it was done. It was a pestilence after the manner of Egypt deaths were scattered among them by the hand of a destroying angel at midnight. And perhaps this pestilence, as that of Egypt, fastened upon the first-born. In the way of Egypt (so the margin) when they were making their escape to Egypt, or going thither to seek for aid, the pestilence seized them by the way and stopped their journey. The sword of war is likewise the sword of the Lord this was drawn among them with commission and then it slew their young men, the strength of the present generation and the seed of the next. God says, I have slain them he avows the execution. The slain of the Lord are many. The enemy took away their horses, and converted them to their own use and the dead carcases of those that were slain either with sword or pestilence were so many, and for want of surviving friends were left so long unburied, that the stench of their camps came up into their nostrils, and was both noisome and dangerous, and might put them in mind of the offensiveness of their sin to God. And yet this did not prevail to humble and reclaim them: You have not returned to him that smites you. Such a rueful woeful sight as this prevailed not to make them religious.

(5.) In these and other judgments some were remarkably cut off, and made monuments of justice, others were remarkably spared, and made monuments of mercy, the setting of which the one over against the other one would have thought likely to work upon them, but it had not its effect, Amos 4:11. [1.] Some were quite ruined, their families destroyed, and themselves in them: I have overthrown some of you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. Perhaps they were consumed with lightning, as Sodom was, or the houses were, in some other way, burnt to the ground, and the inhabitants in them. Sodom and Gomorrah are said to be condemned with an overthrow, and so made an example, 2 Peter 2:6. God had threatened to destroy the whole land with such an overthrow as that of Sodom, Deuteronomy 29:23. But he began with some particular places first, to give them warning, or perhaps with some particular persons, whose sins went beforehand to judgment. [2.] Others very narrowly escaped: "You were many of you as a firebrand plucked out of the burning, like Lot out of Sodom, when the fire had already kindled upon you and yet you hate sin never the more for the danger it has brought you to, nor love God ever the more for the deliverance he wrought for you. You that have been so signally delivered, and in such a distinguishing way, have not returned unto me."

II. God, in the close, calls upon his people, now at length, in this their day, to understand the things that belong to their peace, before they were hidden from their eyes, Amos 4:12,13. Observe here,

1. How God threatens them with sorer judgments than any they had yet been under: "Therefore, seeing you have not been wrought upon by correction hitherto, thus will I do unto thee, O Israel!" He does not say how he will do, but it shall be something worse than had come yet, John 5:14. Or, "Thus I will go on to do unto thee, following one judgment with another, like the plagues of Egypt, till I have made a full end." Nothing but reformation will prevent the ruin of a sinful people. If they turn not to him, his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still. I will punish you yet seven times more, if you will not be reformed so it was written in the law, Leviticus 26:23,24.

2. How he awakens them therefore to think of making their peace with God: "Seeing I will do this unto thee, and there is no remedy, prepare to meet they God, O Israel!" that is, (1.) "Consider how unable thou art to meet him as a combatant." Some make it to be spoken by way of irony or challenge: "Prepare to meet God, who is coming forth to contend with thee. What armour of proof canst thou put on? What courage canst thou steel thyself with? Alas! it is but putting briers and thorns before a consuming fire, Isaiah 27:4,5. Art thou able with less than 10,000 to meet him that comes forth against thee with more than 20,000?" Luke 14:31. (2.) "Resolve therefore to meet him as a penitent, as a humble suppliant, to meet him as thy God, in covenant with thee, to submit, and stand it out no longer." We must prepare to meet God in the way of his judgments (Isaiah 26:8), to take hold on his strength, that we may make peace. Note, Since we cannot flee from God we are concerned to prepare to meet him and therefore he gives us warning, that we may prepare. When we are to meet him in his ordinances we must prepare to meet him, prepare to seek him.

3. How he sets forth the greatness and power of God as a reason why we should prepare to meet him, Amos 4:13. If he be such a God as he is here described to be, it is folly to contend with him, and our duty and interest to make our peace with him it is good having him our friend and bad having him our enemy. (1.) He formed the mountains, made the earth, the strongest stateliest parts of it, and by the word of his power still upholds it and them. Whatever are the products of the everlasting mountains, he formed them whatever salvation is hoped for from hills and mountains, he is the founder of it, Psalm 89:11,12. He that formed the great mountains can make them plain, when they stand in the way of his people's salvation. (2.) He creates the wind. The power of the air is derived from him, and directed by him he brings the wind out of his treasures, and orders from what point of the compass it shall blow and he that made it rules it even the winds and the seas obey him. (3.) He declares unto man what is his thought. He makes known his counsel by his servants the prophets to the children of men, the thought of his justice against impenitent sinners, and the thought of good he thinks towards those that repent. He can also make known, for he perfectly knows, the thought that is in man's heart he understands it afar off, and in the day of conviction will set the evil thoughts among the other sins of sinners in order before them. (4.) He often makes the morning darkness, by thick clouds overspreading the sky immediately after the sun rose bright and glorious so when we look for prosperity and joy he can dash our expectations with some unlooked-for calamity. (5.) He treads upon the high places of the earth, is not only higher than the highest, but has dominion over all, tramples upon proud men, and upon the idols that were worshipped in the highest places. (6.) Jehovah the God of hosts is his name, for he has his being of himself, and is the fountain of all being, and all the hosts of heaven and earth are at his command. Let us humble ourselves before this God, prepare to meet him, and give all diligence to make him our God, for happy are the people whose God he is, who have all this power engaged for them.

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Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Amos 4:11". "Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". 1706.

Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

See the folly of carnal hearts; they wander from one creature to another, seeking for something to satisfy, and labour for that which satisfies not; yet, after all, they will not incline their ear to Him in whom they might find all they can want. Preaching the gospel is as rain, and every thing withers where this rain is wanting. It were well if people were as wise for their souls as they are for their bodies; and, when they have not this rain near, would go and seek it where it is to be had. As the Israelites persisted in rebellion and idolatry, the Lord was coming against them as an adversary. Ere long, we must meet our God in judgment; but we shall not be able to stand before him, if he tries us according to our doings. If we would prepare to meet our God with comfort, at the awful period of his coming, we must now meet him in Christ Jesus, the eternal Son of the Father, who came to save lost sinners. We must seek him while he is to be found.

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Henry, Matthew. "Concise Commentary on Amos 4:11". "Matthew Henry Concise Commentary

on the Whole Bible". 1706.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Overthrown; utterly consumed and destroyed your houses and goods.

Some of you; though it was a total consumption to those it fell on, yet it was but on some, who might be wantings to others, and by which others might see how easy it was for God to destroy them all.

As God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah: we no where else read of such fire from heaven, yet it is possible some such judgment might fall on some of their cities, and not be recorded; but I do rather understand it proverbially spoken, denoting most grievous and desolating fires, or judgments.

Ye were as a firebrand plucked out of the burning; such of you as escaped were yet in very great danger, and as firebrands in midst of the fire, where you were with others burning till infinite mercy saved a remnant, and plucked you out.

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Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

Two Indictments Of The People Which Will Result In A Series Of Chastisements (Amos 4:1-13).

A new oracle now begins with the words ‘hear this word ---’ (compare Amos 3:1; Amos 5:1) and consists of indictments, first on the wealthy women of Israel (Amos 4:1-3), and then on all of Israel who are not true to YHWH (Amos 4:4-5). It then follows these up with a series of chastisements which are either a reflection of their past, or are something which will come on them, each of which closes with the phrase ‘yet you have not returned to Me, says YHWH’ (Amos 4:6-11). Finally it closes with a warning of what YHWH will now bring upon them, as he declares to them ‘prepare to meet your God O Israel’ (Amos 4:12-13), which in the context means, ‘Get ready for what is coming on you from YHWH as you face His judgment’.

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Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

YHWH Five Times Expresses His Concern That In Spite of His Judgments Israel Have Not Returned To Him (Amos 4:6-11).

Having made clear His indictment of the women and men of Israel, both because of social injustice and because of false religious practises, YHWH now five times expresses His concern that this is evidence that Israel have not heeded His judgments in the past and returned to Him. In spite of all they have continued on in their own way. Thus they are ignoring the warnings of Leviticus 26:21; Leviticus 26:23; Leviticus 26:27 that if they did not respond to His judgments with repentance worse judgments would come upon them which would eventually result in exile. Notice His stress throughout on His continual attempts in the past to bring them to repentance, to persuade them to ‘turn to Him’. Up to now that had been the purpose of His judgments, but they had not succeeded in their purpose. That is why He has now come to the verge of bringing the final judgment on them mentioned by Leviticus, although still offering a glimmer of hope (Amos 5:4; Amos 5:14-15). The verbs are mainly imperfects or perfects with waw consecutive and we could therefore in our minds add ‘continually’ to each one.

It is open to question whether Amos saw these judgments as past judgments (Israel had certainly experienced such judgments in the past) or as judgments coming in the near future (Hebrew tenses, unlike those in Greek and English, were not specific as to time). In fact he possibly had both in mind.

Five judgments are mentioned and five is the number of covenant. Thus the five judgments are to be seen as related to their responsibility under the covenant. Indeed all five are judgments which are clearly in view, among many others, in Leviticus 26:14-38; Deuteronomy 28-29. The five judgments are:

1) Famine (Leviticus 26:26; compare 2 Samuel 21:1; 1 Kings 18:2; 2 Kings 4:32; 2 Kings 8:1).

2) Drought (Leviticus 26:19; Deuteronomy 11:17; Deuteronomy 28:23; compare 1 Kings 8:35; 1 Kings 17:1; 1 Kings 17:7; 1 Kings 18:2).

3) Plant disease and insect infestation (Deuteronomy 28:22; Deuteronomy 28:42; 1 Kings 8:37).

4) Pestilence (Leviticus 26:25; Deuteronomy 28:21; compare 2 Samuel 24:15) and the slaying of men with the sword (Leviticus 26:25; Leviticus 26:33; Deuteronomy 28:22).

5) The Overthrowing Of Their Cities (Leviticus 26:31; Deuteronomy 29:23; and often experienced in Kings).

We can compare these ‘plagues’ coming on Israel with the ten plagues of Egypt which failed to soften Pharaoh’s heart, even though they did soften the hearts of many of his subjects. Here the plagues had failed to soften Israel’s hearts. Israel could thus be equated with Pharaoh for hardness of heart.

Amos 4:6

“And I also have given you cleanness of teeth in all your cities, and want of bread in all your places; yet have you not returned to me, says YHWH.”

The idea of ‘wanting bread’ reflects Leviticus 26:26. The idea of ‘cleanness of teeth’ occurs nowhere else in the Old Testament, but is a vivid picture, and the idea behind it undoubtedly does. Both express the idea of lack of food resulting from famine and drought (compare 2 Samuel 21:1; 1 Kings 18:2; 2 Kings 4:32; 2 Kings 8:1). Famine was in fact a fairly common occurrence in Canaan in its mild form, but it was when it occurred year after year that it caused real hardship. However, all these famines, both light and severe, failed to cause Israel to turn to YHWH. They should have recognised that the lack of rain was the chastisement of YHWH, and have ‘returned to Him’, but instead they had probably blamed Baal (the Canaanite god of rain and storm) and sought to him. For the idea of ‘returning to YHWH’ see Deuteronomy 1:45; Deuteronomy 30:2; Deuteronomy 30:8; 1 Samuel 7:3.

‘Says YHWH.’ Neum YHWH, ‘oracle of YHWH’, indicating the giving by YHWH of a powerful prophetic word.

Amos 4:7-8

“And I also have withheld the rain from you, when there were yet three months to the harvest, and I caused it to rain on one city, and caused it not to rain on another city, one piece was rained on, and the piece on which it did not rain withered. So two or three cities wandered to one city to drink water, and were not satisfied. Yet have you not returned unto me, says YHWH.”

The thought of YHWH withholding rain is made clear in Deuteronomy 11:17; 1 Kings 8:35; 1 Kings 17:1. But see also the more indirect references in Leviticus 26:19; Deuteronomy 28:23. The implication is that the falling of rain is dependent on YHWH (compare Matthew 5:45). It was a direct and deliberate ‘making redundant’ of Baal who was supposed to be the god of storm and rain. Rain withheld before the barley and wheat harvests (when there were yet three months to harvest) could have a dreadful effect on the harvest. Random and spasmodic rain was nearly as bad, certainly for those who did not receive it, for their crops and fruit would eventually wither. Lack of rain could also hit the city water supplies, especially in the mountain cities where the reliance was often on cistern water collected when it rained. The city fortunate enough to have had rain would be approached by those which had not. They would, however, often be in no position to give them as much water as they wanted. And yet even this shortage of rain and water did not cause them to return to YHWH. Oracle of YHWH.

Amos 4:9

“I have smitten you with blasting and mildew. The multitude of your gardens and your vineyards and your fig-trees and your olive-trees has the palmer-worm devoured. Yet have you not returned to me, says YHWH.”

For ‘blasting and mildew’ compare Deuteronomy 28:22; 1 Kings 8:37. For the palmer-worm compare Joel 1:4; Joel 2:25. Which ‘worm’ was in the end being identified we cannot be certain as species of insects were not strictly differentiated (even though Amos was an expert on sycamore-mulberry trees), but the point was that the ravages of insects among their fruitful tress was also to be seen as the work of YHWH. Note the implication that in the final analysis YHWH controls all the ravages of nature. Their vineyards were their main source of joy and pleasure, their fig trees their source of sustenance, while their olive trees provided their main export potential. But all had at times been affected, making life continually dull and hard (contrast Deuteronomy 8:8 which presents the opposite picture which would have been their lot in the land that YHWH had given them if only they had been obedient). So God’s judgments were in the earth (see Isaiah 26:9), but none of these things had caused them to return to YHWH. When God’s judgments fail to turn men to God, then their hearts are hard indeed.

Amos 4:10

“I have sent among you the pestilence after the manner of Egypt, your young men have I slain with the sword, and I have carried away your horses, and I have made the stench of your camp to come up even into your nostrils. Yet have you not returned to me, says YHWH.”

Up to this point the judgments had only smitten men indirectly, but like the plagues in Egypt they had now begun to strike harder. Pestilence (Leviticus 26:25; Deuteronomy 28:21; compare 2 Samuel 24:15) regularly resulting from poor food, disease ridden water, and bad sanitation, directly affected the bodies of men, while death by the sword (Leviticus 26:25; Leviticus 26:33; Deuteronomy 28:22) inflicted on the finest of their young men who were the very bastion of the kingdom, was irreversible. Added to this was the removal of their war horses and the stench of death and disease in their war camp, especially as men suffered and died from their injuries, and the picture is one of total defeat, all resulting from the fact that YHWH, the God of Hosts and Battle, had no longer been with them. Thus they had no longer been successful in war. And yet they had still failed to return to YHWH.

Amos 4:11

“I have overthrown cities among you, as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and you were as a brand plucked out of the burning. Yet have you not returned to me, says YHWH.”

The final consequence of the defeat of their armies and the death of their finest young men had been that their cities had been overthrown in a similar way to Sodom and Gomorrah (compare Deuteronomy 29:23 and see Genesis 19). And yet it had not been the end, for in His goodness YHWH had delivered them like a piece of flammable wood snatched from the flames (which would have had no chance had it not been so). Up to this point He had always intervened on their behalf. And yet still they had not returned to Him. There could therefore only be one final result. They would have to meet God’s final judgment on them.

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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Amos 4:11". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". 2013.

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible

. Israel's Denseness.—What is the real cause of conduct that merits such punishment? At the root of all the evil is a sham religion, a religion which in its mere formality and gross corruption has degenerated into a blasphemous hypocrisy. Come to Bethel! says the prophet (Amos 4:4). And do what? Why, simply rebel (against Yahweh)! It is useless to multiply religious observances and to invent new rites, to sacrifice every morning instead of once a year, to pay tithes every three days instead of every three years, and to invent new rites such as that of burning cakes of leavened bread (Amos 4:5) as a thank-offering. The futility of such sins has been demonstrated again and again (Amos 4:6-11). By way of warning and punishment, Yahweh had sent various calamities. He had sent hunger ("cleanness of teeth") and famine (Amos 4:6). He had withheld the rain-showers, which are welcomed in March and April; and had thus threatened the harvest, which falls a few months later, in May and June (Amos 4:7). When this happened (Amos 4:7), the fields would become parched (frequentative tenses), and people, lacking even water sufficient to quench their thirst, would stagger from various cities (two or three cities; an indefinite number) to some other city, seeking water in vain. He had sent blasting and mildew to devastate gardens and vineyards, and the locust (lit. the "shearer") to devour the fig-trees and olive-trees. He had sent a pestilence (Amos 4:10). This is described as "after the manner of Egypt," i.e. of the Egyptian kind, or "by the way of Egypt," i.e. a pestilence which spread from Egypt. We learn from inscriptions that such pestilences visited Western Asia in 765 and 759 B.C. He smote the young men with the best of their horses (see below). He brought destruction like that of Sodom and Gomorrah (Amos 4:11). In spite of all such visitations, Israel refused to turn from its evil ways and return to Yahweh. Therefore (Amos 4:12) He is about to take further measures, and the prophet warns the people to prepare to face its God. In Amos 4:13 is added a short hymn or doxology which is perhaps a late insertion. The Almighty Creator declares to men His thought (lit. meditation), He who maketh "dawn and darkness" SO LXX).

Amos 4:4. We may translate, "And bring your sacrifices in the morning, your tithes on the third day."

Amos 4:5. and offer . . . leavened: better, "and burn (cf mg.) some leavened bread as a thank-offering." Usually the leavened bread was not burned. Marti thinks that there had grown up the practice of throwing cakes of leavened bread into the flames as a thank-offering.

Amos 4:7 c. Translate, with Marti, "One field would be rained upon, and the field which I did not rain upon (reading ‘amtir) would be dried up."

Amos 4:9. the multitude . . . devoured: translate, "I laid waste (reading hehěrabti), your gardens and vineyards; and your fig-trees and your olive-trees the locust devoured."

Amos 4:10. and have carried away your horses: MT has (cf. mg.), "together with the captivity (or captives) of your horses." But the word for captivity or captives (shěbhî) is never used of animals. I would suggest ṣěbhî for shěbhî: "the best (beauty) of your horses."

Amos 4:11. I have overthrown some among you: better, "I have brought an overthrow among you." The word is always used in reference to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

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Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary


Amo . Teeth] Famine, as threatened in the law (Deu 28:48; Deu 28:57; cf. 2Ki 8:1).

Amo . Yet three] The latter rain, which fell in latter part of February and beginning of March, when most required (1Ki 17:1). One city] Distress so great that people from one place had to go a great distance for supply, yet could not get enough to satisfy.

Amo . Wandered] Heb. indicates the trembling, unsteady gait of those exhausted in quest of food (Psa 59:15; Psa 109:10; Jer 14:1-6).

Amo . Blasting] Lit. an exceeding scorching. Mildew] Heb. intensive. The mention of these would remind them of other judgments (Deu 28:22).

Amo . Manner] i.e. the way in which God punished Egypt (Exo 9:3). "Palestine was by nature healthy. Hence on account of the terribleness of the scourge, God often speaks of it as of his own special sending" [Pusey].

Amo . Firebrand] Proverbial for escape from imminent danger. Yet] after all corrective measures, obstinately impenitent, and determined to persist in wicked courses!


In these verses God describes the different corrective measures which he employed for the purpose of effecting a change in the Israelites, and at the close of each mentioned in the series, the obstinate impenitence, under the influence of which they persisted in their wicked courses, is emphatically marked by the declaration, Yet ye have not returned unto me, saith the Lord; such repetition gives great force to the reprehension [Elzas]. The verses naturally suggest the divisions of the outline.

I. Famine. Cleanness of teeth and want of bread indicate scarcity of flesh and dearth of corn. The famine was everywhere, "in all your places." This was no accidental failure of crops, nor owing to a combination of second causes. It was the work of God himself, who gives daily bread. "Man's life," says Calvin, "is not shut up in bread, but hangs on the sovereign will and good pleasure of God."

II. Dearth and scarcity of water. They would remember times of plenty, when they had water "every man from his own well and from his own cistern." How minute the circumstances of the calamity.

1. The time is specified. "Three months to the harvest." A time when most needed to ripen corn and grain. This is utterly ruinous to the hopes of the farmer. A little earlier or a little later would not be so fatal, but drought three months before harvest is entirely destructive" [The Land and the Book].

2. The inequality is given. In one city and not in another; upon one field to fertilize it; not upon another, which remained unproductive. Thus were they urged to reflect upon God. In sovereign mercy he holds the key of the clouds, to open and shut at pleasure. Every drop of rain is measured and sent by Divine direction to its destination. He gives rain from heaven and fruitful seasons (Act ).

3. The distress is noticed. Inhabitants in some places were frustrated in their hopes; necessitated to go far away to seek for water, and found only a scanty and insufficient supply. Water, free to all now, was withheld from them. In trembling fear, and weak through toil, they begged from city to city. God can wither our harvests, withhold Divine influence from our schools and churches, and create natural and spiritual distress throughout the nation. "Thou art the land that is not cleansed, nor rained upon in the day of indignation.

III. Blasting and mildew. Blight would follow from scarcity of rain.

1. Vegetation suffered. The gardens which they cultivated in neglect of God, the fruit which was appearing to reward their toil, and the olive trees which they watched with care, were smitten by the blast.

2. Insects abounded. "The palmer-worm" and putrefaction devoured the fruits of the ground. Malignant air and voracious animals destroyed fruitful fields and prosperous vineyards. "The Lord shall smite thee … with blasting and with mildew; and they shall pursue thee until thou perish (Deu ).

IV. Pestilence and sword. Pestilence such as visited Egypt fell upon them. Young men, the hope of the country, were slain in war. Horses on which they depended were taken from them by a victorious foe. The mighty hosts which they assembled in pride were like sheep for the slaughter. The stench of men and horses, unburied on the field, poisoned the air and polluted the land. Yet this did not humble nor reclaim them. "He made a way to his anger; he spared not their soul from death, but gave their life over to the pestilence" (Psa ).

V. Total overthrow by earthquake. They seemed insensible, but the solid ground beneath them trembled with unwonted motion. The houses above their heads fell in utter confusion. Some of the inhabitants were buried in the ruins or smitten by the lightning. Others who narrowly escaped were like brands plucked out of the fire. Some were overthrown like the people in Sodom; but few, like Lot, were rescued from the danger. Yet notwithstanding these terrible judgments and displays of Divine anger Israel did not return to God. These last chastisements, which typify more than anything else the great judgment day, have failed. Therefore they must prepare to meet God as the Judge and Ruler of the Universe.

"Not thou, O Lord, from us, but we

Withdraw ourselves from thee" [French].


"Yet have ye not returned unto me," is the cry full of grief and tenderness repeatedly uttered. God designed to bring them to repentance, but they were incorrigible and chastised in vain.

I. Man is distant from God. This is not a natural fact merely. Estrangement from God is a state of mind. The miser loving gold, the worldling drinking pleasure, and the atheist denying God—each has a specific state of mind characterized by the distinct evil. In the heart is fixed opposition to God. The will and the word of God are distasteful to the sinner. The lower sentiments and nobler faculties are influenced by his apostasy. The mind is ingrossed with things like our nature. Men talk of fancied reverence and adoration for God; but spiritually they live "having no hope, and without God in the world."

II. God seeks to bring man to himself. The Scriptures abound with facts and figures to illustrate this truth. God seeks to recover the fallen and save the lost.

1. By mercy. Mercies given in Christ and multiplied day by day. Good beyond desert and degree to bring to God. "The goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance."

2. By judgment. Judgments national and personal, severe, many and long-continued. God chastens in body and mind, in social and family circumstances, that we may not go astray. "Man's wisdom consists in observing God's unalterable appointments and suiting himself to them," says Scott. "In the day of adversity consider."

III. Man is often chastised without returning to God. The innumerable judgments of Israel begot no repentance. Nothing external will make us wise without due improvement of it. Sensibility to bodily pain is one thing, sorrow of heart another. "I will at this time send all my plagues upon thy heart." God visits us in many ways, sends bereavement in the family and disappointment in business. And perhaps there is room for repetition day by day. The same judgments have continue I and new ones been inflicted, but we have not returned to God. This proves—

1. Great guilt.

2. Great provocation.

3. Great danger. The voice resounds still in Scripture and providence. "Yet ye have not returned unto me."


Amo . The three charges. I. Oppression of the poor (Amo 4:1-3). II. Corruption of worship (Amo 4:4-5). III. Incorrigibleness under Divine judgments (Amo 4:6-11). Learn—

1. That God has various judgments to exercise a sinful nation.

2. That judgments are changed, not removed, until a return to God.

3. That God is earnest in bringing men to repentance. "A course of sin will not prove a thriving way in the end to any, but especially to the Church, which the Lord will either make a theatre of mercy, or a field of blood, and he hath many rods for that end; for as they liked their way of sin (Amo ), so he also chooseth their judgments and pours out a quiver-full of them upon them" [Hutcheson].

Amo . Withered. So will it ever be in the Church, which is God's vineyard, if ministers give no doctrine and God no blessing, fitly resembled to rain on regard,

1. of cooling heat;

2. quenching thirst;

3. cleansing the air;

4. allaying the winds;

5. mollifying and mellowing the parched earth;

6. causing all things to grow and fructify. This rain of righteousness goes sometimes by coasts as here; God withholding showers, though clouds be full and likely enough to drop down in abundance (see Eze ; Hos 9:7; Pro 16:1) [Trapp].

Amo . After the manner of Egypt.

1. Slaughter of young men.

2. The land filled with pestilence and locusts.

3. Harassed in this defenceless condition by the incursions from Assyria.

Amo . A firebrand plucked.

1. A scene of danger—"burning."

2. An act of mercy—"plucked."

3. A present uncertainty. Once in danger, now rescued. Will you continue where you are, or escape entirely to refuge?

The words will apply—

1. Temporally. "They may recall a striking deliverance in God's providence, when others were taken and they were left. A shipwreck—a battle—an awful accident involving loss of human life—a sickness from which many others around them died" [Ryan].

2. Spiritually. Every sinner saved is a firebrand plucked from the burning. This should prompt—

1. To gratitude.

2. To earnestness in rescuing others from "the wrath of God," which "is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men."



Fire—what is there in the moral world to which it answers? But one thing, that is, wickedness—sin against God—sin in a man's life. Against this evil God calls all his servants to be firemen. "Put out the fires of sin," is a nobler motto than any blazoned on the symbols of commerce and art.

I. Consider the analogy between fire and sin.

1. You cannot weigh fire in the scales. You cannot grasp it, yet it exists—you can feel and see it work. You cannot rate sin by horse power, but you feel its withering, burning influence in the soul.

2. Fire becomes sometimes almost invisible. So with sin. In the glare and noon-day of busy life some fail to see it. The dimness of religious truth to the mind is a terrible monitor of what sin is doing in the heart.

3. Sin is like fire in its attractions. A child loves to play with fire, unconscious of danger. Men toy with sin, which has indulgence for appetite, mirth to amuse, feasts for gluttons, and revelry for the reckless.

4. Sin consumes like fire. It burns down men instead of houses; the man vanishes, and only the animal, the brute, the sensualist is left.

5. Sin spreads like a fire. Wicked thoughts, evil suggestions, are the sparks that kindle the fires of sin in the soul and set communities in a blaze.

6. Sin inflicts pain like a fire. It burns, stings, and agonizes its victim. Here, in the naked conscience and despairing death, is the germ of the fire that is never quenched.

7. Sin, like fire, defaces what it touches.

8. Sin must be resisted like fire. It is an evil to be put out in heart and life.

9. Sin, like fire, if you wait too long to put it out, will render attempts useless. The soul should not be left till sin has mastery. In this world men are often beyond reasonable prospect of repentance.

II. Sin is the fire, but the sinner is the fuel. Ye were as a firebrand.

1. A firebrand is combustible, or it never would have been a firebrand. So with the sinner's heart.

2. A firebrand has been already exposed to the fire. It is charred and blackened, and bears the marks of sin. So the sinner.

3. A firebrand has offered no effectual resistance to the flames. The sinner has not resisted sin. He is bound, and by the grace of God can resist.

4. A firebrand is ready to be kindled anew, after it has been once quenched. A spark may kindle the soul.

5. A firebrand is in the process of being consumed, and a little longer will finish it. So with the sinful heart.

6. A firebrand only needs to be let alone, and it will burn to ashes. Leave the soul to sin—the ruinous power of its own lusts—and its ruin will be complete.

7. A firebrand is a dangerous thing, if its sparks and coals come in contact with anything else. The sinner destroyeth much good.

III. But even firebrands may be saved. Sinners are sometimes plucked out of a desperate condition—Mary Magdalen, the thief on the cross, Saul of Tarsus—but the work is God's. A converted soul is a miracle of grace. Firemen! guardians of our dwellings against a subtle and dangerous foe, be ready to rush to the scene of conflagration, when the alarm is given, night or day! The fires of sin burn all around, and perhaps within you unchecked. Be God's firemen, and help to quench it. Nothing but the blood of Christ can put out the fires. Repent and believe, and you shall be saved. [From The Preacher's Treasury.]


Amo . Therefore] punishments must be continued. This] not expressed, but discerned from what follows—all kinds of things imagined in the uncertainty; but the last the greatest calamity. Prepare] "When thou seest that thou hast resorted in vain to all kinds of subterfuges, since thou never wilt be able to escape from the hand of thy judge; see now at length that thou dost avert this last destruction which is hanging over thee [Calvin].

Amo ] To give greater emphasis to the command, God is described as Almighty, reading the thoughts of men, creating prosperity and adversity as he changes light and darkness, subjecting all things to his control, and ruling as the Lord of Hosts. What an argument for being at peace with him.


Amo . We look to second causes and impute our years of dearth to wet and cold, to hot and parching seasons, to cycles of weather, to comets, and many other accidents, some real and others imaginary, and thus wilfully conceal from our view the power of God, who blesseth a land and maketh it to bring forth fruit abundantly, and who "turneth a fruitful field into barrenness for the wickedness of them that dwell therein." The acts of God's providence are as certainly a part of his administration now as in former ages, and as directly affect each individual of the race as they did the children of Abraham. It is to those who are subdued under his rebukes that he sends his word to heal them. They who watch the ruling hand of God shall become wiser in reading his purposes and their own necessities [Duncan].

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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Amos 4:11". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary

Here we have an account of the Lord's sore judgments upon Israel; by famine, by withholding the fruits of the earth, and by marking his judgments in a distinguishing manner, causing it to rain upon one city and not upon another; by pestilence, blasting, and mildew; by the destruction of the sword; and by particular marked providences to some, not unlike the overthrow of Sodom; these were among the methods the Lord was pleased to take to rouse Israel to a sense of sin, and to an awakening concern for his pardoning love and mercy. But the Lord adds, and repeats it many times, as if feeling for his people, yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord! Reader! how sure and certain it is, as the gospel of Christ teacheth, and this scripture fully confirms, there can be no return to the Lord in a way of repentance and faith, until the Lord first comes to the sinner in a way of grace and mercy. Grace must first enter the heart, before the heart will cry out, Lord! save, or I perish! Oh! how blessed is it to have such provisions of grace preserved for the recovery of his people in the person of Jesus, when the enemy hath at any time been thus triumphing over the Lord's redeemed with an high hand! When thus the Lord gives grace, then, and not before, Israel is prepared to meet his God as a covenant God in Christ.


READER! the continuance of the Lord's expostulations with his ancient Church, Chapter after Chapter, will not fail I hope, to operate both upon your heart and mine, to the same conclusion as it did in the Apostle's mind; that sin will then indeed appear to be sin, when by the holiness of the commandment it is discovered to be exceeding sinful. Depend upon it, until by the sovereign grace of God in the heart, the proper nature and malignity of sin is brought home in its proper colors, the children of God, as well as others, have but too slight views of sin. It is only when God the Holy Ghost lays judgment to the line, and righteousness to the plummet, that the sinner lays low in the dust before God, and never presumes to open his mouth anymore in a way of justification, or in softening transgression. And the same solemn considerations will serve to teach, why it is among the Lord's redeemed that the nations of sin, from the remains of indwelling corruption, do sometimes rise up with such violence afresh, and distress so exceedingly the soul. It is to shew the believer, after all his attainments, what a poor creature he is in himself; and what he would be if not kept by the Almighty power of God, through faith unto salvation. And what can tend to endear Jesus equal to a daily, hourly sense of our need of him? What can so effectually operate, under the Lord's grace, to hide pride from our eyes, and to keep open a perpetual spring of humbleness, and faith, and godly sorrow for sin; as such motions from within, that we are still in the body? Precious Lord Jesus! be thou increasingly precious every hour, and then those workings of a corrupt nature, kept under and restrained by thee, will be overruled to thy glory, and our soul's welfare. Blessed be that glorious covenant, which shews the ruin, and brings the remedy! Though sin hath reigned, and doth reign, unto death; yet shall grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord!

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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Amos 4:11". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". 1828.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Amos 4:10-11. I have sent among you the pestilence after the manner of Egypt — I have sent such pestilence among you as I formerly sent upon Egypt: Or, such as has frequently taken place in Egypt. “The unwholesome effluvia, on the subsiding of the Nile, caused some peculiarly malignant diseases in this country.” — Newcome. Maillet also tells us, (Lett. 1. page 14,) that “the air is bad in those parts, where, when the inundations of the Nile have been very great, this river, in retiring to its channel, leaves marshy places, which infect the country round about. The dew is also very dangerous in Egypt.” Your young men have I slain, &c. — I have caused your young men to fall in battle with your enemies. And have taken away your horses — Have enabled your enemies to take them from you. Horses being very scarce in the land of Israel, the loss of them was a great affliction. I have made the stink of your camps, &c. — I have sent diseases into your camps; so that they have been rendered quite noisome by the smell of the dead carcasses, or so great has been the slaughter in your camps, that there were not a sufficient number left alive to bury the slain. The Syrians made frequent incursions on the Israelites, which obliged the latter to be often encamped. I have overthrown some of you, &c. — Some of your cities I have caused to be burned with fire and utterly consumed, as Sodom and Gomorrah were. And ye were as a firebrand plucked out of the burning — Those that remained very narrowly escaped. A proverbial expression, used both by sacred and profane authors, to signify a narrow escape out of imminent danger.

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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Amos 4:11". Joseph Benson's Commentary. 1857.

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae



Amos 4:11-12. Yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord. Therefore thus will I do unto thee, O Israel: and because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel.

THE various dispensations of providence are intended to awaken our concern for our best interests, and to bring us back to God. But the generality of mankind, satisfied with tracing events to second causes, neglect to make the improvement of them which God designs. Judgments and mercies in constant succession pass unheeded; and, instead of promoting our spiritual welfare, too frequently enhance rather our eternal condemnation. It is certain that God notices the effects which his dealings produce upon us: and, if we continue incorrigible under all the means which he uses for our good, he will sooner or later call us to a severe account. To this effect he speaks in the passage before us; where, having recapitulated the various methods by which he had sought to reclaim his people, he complains, after each, that “they had not returned unto him;” and then he bids them prepare to answer for it at his tribunal.

We may with too much reason apply to ourselves the words originally addressed to Israel, and consider from them,

I. The complaint alleged against us—

God has used various means to bring us to repentance—

[In the context he specifies several judgments which he had inflicted on his people Israel, intimating, at the same time, that in the midst of judgment he had remembered mercy. His judgments had been successive, and partial, not universal, or combined. We too must confess that he has visited us with heavy calamities [Note: Here may be mentioned any that have recently happened; especially if among them can be enumerated scarcity, or drought, or mildew, or pestilence, or prejudicial lightnings.] — — — But yet “he has staid his rough wind in the day of his east wind,” insomuch that we have been like “a brand plucked out of the fire!” War, famine, and pestilence have raged in different parts of the continent; but we, though slightly affected by them all, have escaped without any material injury [Note: Written Feb. 1805.].

For a long time also has God spared us from that awful pestilence which has raged both in Asia and Europe: but now has it reached our shores, and is spreading widely both in Britain and Ireland [Note: July, 1832.], and carrying off multitudes with fearful rapidity into the eternal world.]

But in the midst of all we have continued impenitent—

[We can see nothing of national reformation. Fasts indeed have been appointed from time to time during the late war, and even on the present occasion: but it will be well if these be not numbered amongst our greatest sins; seeing that they have been little else than an empty form, a hypocritical service, a solemn mockery. As for national repentance, what evidence can be adduced to warrant the hope that it has ever taken place? What national sin has been put away? Have we less pride and arrogance, when speaking of our fleets and armies? Have we ceased from traffic in human blood? Does not the land groan as much as ever under the load of sabbaths wasted, oaths violated, and sacraments profaned; or, if any slight alteration in relation to oaths and sacraments have taken place, has it not been through a political concession to popular clamour, rather than from any regard for the honour and authority of God?

Nor can we boast much more of personal improvement. Are not the young as gay and dissipated, as if they had no occasion for mourning and weeping? Are not the worldly as intent upon their gains as if this world were their all? Do not the formal still continue as regardless of the life and power of godliness, as if the service of the heart were not required? Is there any considerable change even in the people of God? Is there much of a spirit of prayer and intercession found among them? Are they pleading, like Abraham for Sodom, or like Moses for the worshippers of the golden calf? In truth, there are few, if any, who lay to heart the iniquities of the nation, or inquire, “What have I done” to increase the sum of our national guilt?]

Surely then, since we must plead guilty to the charge, we may fitly also apply to ourselves,

II. The admonition founded upon it—

God threatened the utter extinction of the Jewish nation [Note: ver. 2, 3. It is in reference to this that God says in the text, “Thus will I do.”]: and he bids us also to “prepare to meet him,”

1. In increased calamities—

[What God has already inflicted on us, is nothing in comparison of what we may expect at his hands, if we continue to provoke him. “Go to Shiloh, and see what he did to it for the wickedness of his people Israel [Note: Jeremiah 7:12.]” Look at the Jews at this day, whom he has dealt with “as a man who wipeth a dish, and turneth it upside down [Note: 2 Kings 21:12-13. with 1 Kings 14:10.].” He hath only smitten us with rods at present; but, if we repent not, he will “chastise us with scorpions:” yea, he will continue to “punish us seven times more for our sins.” O that we might cease from our wickedness, before we oblige him to “come forth against us as a man of war,” and “his fury burn to the lowest hell.” “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”]

2. In the day of future retribution—

[In this world God calls men into judgment in their national capacity. It is in the eternal world only that he will reward and punish the different individuals. Then all of us must appear before his judgment-seat. And if we die impenitent, every dispensation which God had appointed for our good, shall be brought forth to aggravate our guilt and condemnation. ‘I sent you affliction; yet you returned not unto me: I sent you mercies; yet you returned not unto me: I gave you my Gospel to enlighten your mind, and my Spirit to affect your heart; yet you returned not unto me: I continued these mercies to you for so many years; yet you returned not unto me.’ Alas! how unanswerable will be his accusations, how just his sentence, how terrible his award!

For this account we must prepare: we must be ready to meet him whensoever he shall summon us: and if he call us unprepared, it were better for us that we had never been born.]

There are yet two or three considerations, which we would impress upon your minds, to strengthen those which have been already proposed:

1. If you return not to God, there is no hope for you—

[From one end of the Bible to the other we cannot find one word which countenances the idea of any person being saved, who dies impenitent. And should not this thought lead us to repentance? O let it have due influence on our minds! and let us be sufficiently on our guard against self-deception. Let us remember, that it is not a sigh, a tear, an acknowledgment, that will suffice: we must return unto God; we must return to him with our whole hearts: we must return in deep contrition, in lively faith, in unreserved obedience.]

2. If you return to God, you will find him ever ready to receive you—

[As, on the one hand, no one ever found mercy without repentance, so neither, on the other hand, was any true penitent ever rejected. Search the Scriptures; not a syllable will be found to discourage a sinner’s return to God. Nations have always found mercy when they sought it earnestly; and of individuals, not one was ever rejected who turned unto God in sincerity and truth. What greater encouragement then can any man desire? There is the word, yea the oath, of Jehovah pledged, that none shall seek his face in vain. Beloved brethren, only seek him with your whole hearts, and he will assuredly be found of you.]

3. Inconceivable will be the difference between those who are prepared to meet their God, and those who meet him unprepared—

[Think of an impenitent sinner, when summoned into the presence of his God: how glad would he be that the rocks should fall upon him, and the hills should cover him from his sight! But this cannot be. He must appear; he must answer for himself; he must receive his doom; he must take his portion “in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone.” View, on the contrary, the true penitent, the humble believer: behold him coming forth with joy to meet his reconciled God and Saviour: he stands before his tribunal with unshaken confidence: “he knows in whom he has believed.” While the other anticipates in the frowns of his Judge the miseries of hell, he receives in Emmanuel’s smiles an earnest and foretaste of the heavenly felicity. This alone is sufficient to shew the importance of being prepared. We need not follow them to their different abodes: their comparative happiness at the first meeting of their God is abundantly sufficient to enforce this exhortation upon all, “Return unto the Lord, from whom ye have deeply revolted!”]

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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Amos 4:11". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. 1832.

The Biblical Illustrator

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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Amos 4:11". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.

The Biblical Illustrator

Amos 4:6-11

And I also have given you cleanness of teeth in all your cities.

Afflictions providential

There is a material difference between what may be called permissive and active providences; and between such as are disciplinary, and such as are strictly punitive. The afflictions enumerated here were sent by the direct visitation of God for disciplinary purposes. Hence the people were responsible to God for the moral effect of His providential visitations upon them. Just so with every man under God’s government. A thousand evils may come on me, and I may be personally innocent in relation to them; but God will judge me as to the uses I make of these visitations--the moral effects they produce upon me in the way of chastening and reformation.

1. Consider, then, that God’s hand or purpose is in every providential visitation.

2. That God has a specific moral end in every visitation that He lays upon us.

3. That these providences are sure to accomplish their mission upon us, namely, to chasten, soften, reclaim, or else to harden, render obdurate, and ripen for final destruction, as in the case of Pharaoh, ancient Israel, and a multitude of others.

4. Afflictions of every kind should humble us, awaken us to serious reflection and earnest inquiry as to their meaning. They are never sent in vain. A gracious purpose is behind them, or a fatherly rebuke is in them, or the dark cloud is ominous of coming wrath if we haste not to repent. (J. M. Sherwood.)

God’s government of the world a chastising government

In these verses the Almighty describes the various corrective measures which He had employed for effecting a moral reformation in the character of the Israelites.

I. The chastisements are often overwhelmingly terrific.

1. He sometimes employs blind nature, famine, drought, blight, pestilence, sword.

2. He sometimes employs human wickedness.

II. They are designed for moral restoration.

1. Men are alienated from God.

2. Their alienation is the cause of all their misery. See the benevolence of all these chastisements. They are to restore souls.

III. The chastisements often fail in their grand design. “Yet have ye not returned unto Me.” This shows--

1. The force of human depravity.

2. The force of human freedom. Almighty goodness does not force us into goodness. He treats us as free agents and responsible beings. (Homilist.)

Chastisement--its purpose and failure

I. The character of the chastisement.

1. It touched them in their temporal comfort, Nothing else would reach such obstinate sinners. To a good man the Divine love and favour is the highest of all blessings: Israel could only be reached by loss of temporal comfort.

2. The chastisement took various forms in order to reach them all.

3. Stroke after stroke fell upon them, that if their hearts were at all softened by the troubles they had just known, the new trouble might lead them to true repentance; and so that every class of the community might be reached and won for God. A glance at the five forms which the visitation took will show how it reached every circle.

II. The purpose of their sorrows. God wanted to bring them home to Himself.

III. The failure of this chastisement. God had done all that even He could do to make it impressive. Chastisement may fail. “Many meet the gods, but few salute them.” Sorrows which might purify are lost upon us because they do not make us acknowledge Him. God can do nothing more, He must leave men to their sin till the blow fall and the ruin irretrievable has come. (J. Telford, B. A.)

Unavailing chastisements

I. The design of God, in all his dispensations, is to bring men from their wanderings back again to himself. No truth can be clearer than that we have departed from Him. Being anxious for our restoration, God is pleased to chastise us. He does not afflict willingly, as is evident from--

1. His nature. He is a Being of boundless compassion.

2. The patience He exercises.

3. The warnings He gives.

II. That these dispensations frequently fail to answer the end for which they were intended. Happily it is not so in all cases. It is in very many. They are chastised in vain, and the complaint from heaven is heard. “Yet have ye not returned unto Me, saith the Lord.” In the visitations here referred to, three things appear.

1. They are fearful in their character. Some light stroke might be unheeded.

2. Frequent in their infliction. If a single trial is unavailing, surely one coming after another would bring them to consider their ways, and turn to Him that smote them.

3. Marked by certain features which showed the hand of God in the clearest manner. “Rained on one city, and not on another.”

III. When such dispensations are disregarded the most disastrous consequences are likely to ensue. “Therefore, thus will I do unto thee.” (Expository Outlines.)

God varies His instruments of punishment

One day, seeing some men in a field, I went up to them, and found they were cutting up the trunk of an old tree. I said, “That is slow work, why not spilt it asunder with the beetle and wedges?” “Ah, this wood is so cross-grained and stubborn that it requires something sharper than wedges to get it to pieces.” “Yes,” I replied, “and that is the way God is obliged to deal with obstinate, cross-grained sinners; if they will not yield to one of His instruments, you may depend on it He will make use of another.” (G. Grigg.)

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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Amos 4:11". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.

The Biblical Illustrator

Copyright Statement
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Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Amos 4:11". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.

The Biblical Illustrator

Amos 4:11

Ye were as a firebrand plucked out of the burning.

The firebrand plucked out of the burning

A large portion of the sacred writings sets forth God’s exhibitions of kindness towards men as their Protector. Men in every age should study to preserve in their memory the Divine procedure, both in providence and in grace, as being adapted to secure their highest welfare. Here God magnified His mercy by interposing when justice appeared about to consummate its work in their destruction. “I have overthrown some of you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and ye were as a firebrand plucked out of the burning.” Those who are the subjects of God’s grace under the Gospel may properly be thus addressed.

I. Here is indicated a fearful danger.

1. This danger in its nature. It arises under the moral government of God consequent upon the character of man as a sinner. Man in his original state is everywhere under the Divine displeasure, condemned and exposed to punishment. The punishment does not extend merely to the infliction of temporal calamity and sorrow, it extends also to the life which is to come. The punishment incurred through sin is illustrated in the text by the metaphor of fire; the figure being taken from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. The Bible representations of future punishment set forth the intensity of that punishment. They are not to be interpreted literally; they are intended to denote most powerful and supreme intensity of mental suffering; the recollections of the past, the consciousness of the present, and the anticipations of the future, being united in one unmitigated torment and agony.

2. Its imminence. It is represented as being on the eve of consummation. The firebrand is spoken of as being close upon the element that is to consume it, nay, as being already seized. There are few metaphorical expressions more adapted to set forth extreme imminence and exposure to danger. All men, without exception, are in imminent danger of the doom appointed as the consequence of sin, because of the fact that their state of sin constitutes a moral fitness and preparation for it; because of the fact that they are condemned in their sinful state already; and because of the fact that their lives--the season of their probation and trial--are evanescent, frail, and uncertain.

II. A delightful rescue. The source from which the rescue is derived. They are not saved by themselves, or by any finite agency whatever. The only Deliverer of the human soul from the burning is God. And the deliverance is wrought out by a sublime redemptive scheme, the agents being the Divine Son and the Holy Spirit.

III. The characteristics by which this deliverance is distinguished.

1. Observe the freeness of it.

2. The permanence of it.

3. The blessedness of it.

4. The powerful effect which the contemplation of the rescue from the danger should secure.

In this contemplation there will be involved astonishment, gratitude, and compassion for those who are still in the place of burning. (James Parsons.)

A fast sermon for the fire of London

I. The severity of the judgment. “I have overthrown some of you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.” Observe--

1. The nature and kind of it. The suddenness and unexpectedness of it; the force and violence of it; the sad train of circumstances which attend and follow it.

2. Consider it in the series and order of it. It comes in the last place, as a reserve, when nothing else would do any good upon them.

3. The causes moving God to so much severity in His judgment. These are the greatness of the sins committed against Him. But it is not enough in general to declaim against our sins, we must search out particularly those predominant vices which by their boldness and frequency have provoked God thus to punish us. Three sorts of sins are here spoken of. Luxury and intemperance; covetousness and oppression; contempt of God and His laws

4. The Author of the judgment. God challenges the execution of His justice to Himself, not only in the great day, but in His judgment here in the world. When God is pleased to punish men for their sins, the execution of His justice is agreeable to His nature now, as it will be at the end of the world.

II. The mixture of his mercy in it. “Ye were as a firebrand plucked out of the burning.” Note--

1. The nearness they were in to the danger. Like a brand, the greatest part of which is already consumed by fire. This shows the great difficulty of their escaping.

2. The unexpectedness of such a deliverance. They are not saved by their own skill and counsel, nor by their strength and industry, hut by Him who, by His mighty hand, did pluck them as firebrands out of the burning. Though we own the justice of God in the calamities of this day, let us not forget His mercy in what He hath unexpectedly rescued from the fury of the flames. Let us then not frustrate the design of so much severity mixed with so great mercy. Let it never be said that neither judgments nor kindness will work upon us. We have cause enough for mourning and lamentation. Let us meet God now by our repentance, and return to Him, by our serious humiliation for our former sins, and our steadfast resolution to return no more to the practice of them. (Bishop Stillingfleet.)

The fire of iniquity

Many figures are employed to represent the evil of sin. But even the most suggestive are inadequate. “Fire” is very suggestive.

I. Both fire and sin are involved in much mystery. No inspection, or speculation, can determine the weight, colour, consuming power, etc., of fire. Thus with the “fire of iniquity,” there is much that is unaccountable connected with its origin, constitution, and processes of ruin; but none can doubt the terrible fact of its existence.

II. Both find ready and abundant food for the flames. Matter universally possesses the property of heat in various degrees. Human nature is morally of an inflammable character, and universally so. It is only a question of time in the instance of every life, when the hidden properties of sin develop in active, visible form.

III. The most disastrous fires are often from smallest beginnings. A sweeping conflagration that in two hours transformed an American town into a waste of smoking ruins, had its beginning in an unseen flame in a small upper storey. It is in the apparently harmless beginnings of impure thoughts, and unholy desires, and little sins that the desolating fires of iniquity have their rise.

IV. Superior worth of objects does not exempt from attack and ruin. Everything succumbs to fire. This is as sadly true of the fires of sin. It would seem that the brightest genius, the noblest heart, and the most promising talent were the especial victims of the arch-fiend. Satan is no respecter of persons, for the rich and poor, high and low, ignorant and intelligent, useless and useful are drawn upon as fuel to feed his merciless flames.

V. Means of defence are provided against the ravages of this monster. Fire-engines, fire-escapes, etc. Neither has God left humanity destitute of means for the defence of the soul exposed to Satan’s flames. A fountain has been opened, the waters of salvation, the means of grace, the Church, and the Holy Spirit, all these are given us in liberal provision, that the fires of sin may be quenched. Have we been rescued? There are many others yet enveloped in the flames of sin. “Pulling them out of the fire” is the work of next importance. God demands this at our hands. (W. G. Thrall.)

The strange parallel between fire and sin

All nature has its lessons. Fire is a most expressive emblem. What is there in the moral world to which it answers? It is a terrible agent; it is all activity. It tends to consume and to ruin whatever it touches. All life perishes when involved in it. But before that end comes it inflicts the keenest torture. And its inherent tendency is to spread. Let it alone, and with a field before it, its ravages will be terrible and complete. It must be resisted, fought with, mastered, and over come. One thing in the moral world answers to it. Sin against God, sin in a man’s life.

I. The analogy between fire and sin.

1. You cannot weigh fire in the scales. You cannot grasp it. Yet you would call the man absurd or a fool who should deny its existence. So it is with sin. You cannot take hold of it, but you can see the desolation and the ravages it makes. It is a fact which no man can dispute.

2. Fire sometimes becomes almost invisible. At noonday its flame grows indistinct, but the pillar of cloud rises over it and marks the spot. So it is with sin. Some, in the glare and noonday of their busy life, fail to see it. The dimness of religious truth to their minds is a terrible monitor of what sin is doing in their hearts.

3. Sin is like fire in its attractions. A little child loves to play with fire, careless or unconscious of the danger. So it is that men toy with sin. They see its brilliant forms, its beautiful but deadly blaze, and fall in love with it. The moth loves the flame. Men are drawn to sin by its pleasing, winning aspect. It has indulgence for appetite; mirth, wit, and humour, to amuse and gratify; feasts for gluttons; splendour for pride; revelry for the reckless.

4. Sin is like fire in its consuming power. In a short time the flames will turn the grandest and most imposing fabric of human hands into a heap of smouldering rubbish. Sin will do the same thing, only it burns down men. The soul cannot be burned. But what no furnace seven times heated can do, sin will. It can burn the soul down to an eternal ruin. It has done it. It can set it all ablaze with unholy desires; with lust, envy, pride, selfishness, avarice, malice, and all manner of iniquity. It can burn out of it all the elements of reflection, sensibility, principle, and reverence for God. And it is not gross passions alone that will burn down the soul. You can kindle with shavings as well as with pitch and tar. You can desecrate the soul by vain and selfish thoughts as well as by criminal deeds.

5. Sin is like flame, because it spreads, and tends to spread. One spark is enough to kindle a fire that would burn down all London. And so one wicked thought, or evil suggestion or temptation, has been the spark that has kindled the fires of sin in the soul till it glowed like a furnace, or has set the whole community in a blaze of passion. A bad man is always going on from bad to worse.

6. Sin is like fire in the pain it inflicts. What bodily smart or anguish is like that of fire? It is the most perfect of all kinds of torture. Lay a wicked deed on a man’s conscience, and how it blisters it! It burns, and stings, and agonises its victim. It overwhelms him with anguish and remorse. Nothing can make a man so unhappy as his sin.

7. Sin is like fire, because it defaces whatever it touches. Everything fair and beautiful withers before fire. So sin blights the fairest landscapes.

8. Sin is like fire, because it must be resisted. Sin is an evil to be contended with in heart and in life. It must be resisted, or it will consume the soul.

9. Sin is like fire, because if you wait too long before you attempt to bring it under, the attempt is useless. The time comes when fire gets the upper hand. So the soul may be left till sin has got the mastery.

II. It is the sinner that is the fuel

1. A firebrand is a combustible material. It could be burned. So it is with the sinner’s heart. It can burn with unhallowed passions.

2. A firebrand has been already exposed to the fire. So is the sinner’s heart. Unruly desires and unhallowed aims have burned into it, and you can find no one who has not sinned.

3. A firebrand has offered no effectual resistance to the flames. And the sinner has not resisted the fires of sin as he should have done.

4. A firebrand is ready to be kindled anew, even after it has been once quenched. And a spark of temptation may set the sinner ablaze again. It needs to be kept and guarded well.

5. A firebrand is already in the process of being consumed, and a little longer time will finish it. So with the sinful heart; the progress of the fire has been rapid, and its work will soon be done.

6. A firebrand needs only to be let alone, and it will burn to ashes. Leave the soul in its sin--leave it to the ruinous, consuming power of its own lusts, and its ruin will be complete.

7. A firebrand is a dangerous thing if its sparks and coals come in contact with anything else; and so Scripture declares that one sinner destroyeth much good.

III. But even firebrands may be saved. Desperate as their condition is, they are sometimes plucked from the burning, and their flames are quenched. So it is with sinners. How were they delivered? Did they save themselves? As well might the firebrand put out its own fires. The work is God’s. The converted soul is a miracle of grace. He interposes. It is by His Word enlightening the mind, His Spirit convincing of sin, and His grace renewing the soul that the work is accomplished. (E. A. Gillett.)

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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Amos 4:11". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Amos 4:11. Ye were as a fire-brand, &c.— A proverbial expression, used both by sacred and prophane writers to signify a narrow escape out of imminent danger. The comparison expresses perfectly well the state to which the Syrians reduced the Israelites in the war here referred to. "They shall see one part of their kingdom seized upon by the Syrians, their cities taken, their fields plundered, their troops defeated. That which shall be saved, shall escape with difficulty, and as it were half burned: a fire-brand "plucked out of the burning." See Isaiah 7:4. Zechariah 3:2. 1 Corinthians 3:15 and Calmet.

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Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Amos 4:11". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.

Expositor's Bible Commentary


Amos 4:4-13

In chapter 2 Amos contrasted the popular conception of religion as worship with God’s-conception of it as history. He placed a picture of the sanctuary, hot with religious zeal, but hot too with passion and the fumes of wine, side by side with a great prospect of the national history: God’s guidance of Israel from Egypt onwards. That is, as we said at the time, ‘he placed an indoors picture of religion side by side with an open-air one. He repeats that arrangement here. The religious services he sketches are more pure, and the history he takes from his own day; but the contrast is the same. Again we have on the one side the temple worship-artificial, exaggerated, indoors, smoky; but on the other a few movements of God in Nature, which, though they all be calamities, have a great moral majesty upon them. The first opens with a scornful call to worship, which the prophet, letting out his whole heart at the beginning, shows to be equivalent to sin. Note next the impossible caricature of their exaggerated zeal: sacrifices every morning instead of once a year, tithes every three days instead of every three years. To offer leavened bread was a departure from the older fashion of unleavened. To publish their liberality was like the later Pharisees, who were not dissimilarly mocked by our Lord: "When then doest alms, cause not a trumpet to be sounded before thee, as t, he hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men." [Matthew 6:2] There is a certain rhythm in the taunt; but the prose style seems to be resumed with fitness when the prophet describes the solemn approach of God in deeds of doom.

Come away to Bethel and transgress, At Gilgal exaggerate your transgression! And bring every morning your sacrifices, Every three days your tithes! And send up the savor of leavened bread as a thank offering. And call out your liberalities-make them to be heard! For so ye love to do, O children of Israel: Oracle of Jehovah.

"But I on My side have given you cleanness of teeth in all your cities, and want of bread in all your places-yet ye did not return to Me: oracle of Jehovah."

"But I on My side withheld from you the winter rain, while it was still three months to the harvest: and I let it rain repeatedly on one city, and upon one city I did not let it rain: one lot was rained upon, and the lot that was not rained upon withered; and two or three cities kept straggling to one city to drink water, and were not satisfied-yet ye did not return to Me: oracle of Jehovah."

"I smote you with blasting and with mildew: many of your gardens and your vineyards and your figs and your olives the locust devoured-yet ye did not return to Me: oracle of Jehovah."

"I sent among you a pestilence by way of Egypt: I slew with the sword your youths-be-sides the capture of your horses-and I brought up the stench of your camps to your nostrils-yet ye did not return to Me: oracle of Jehovah."

"I overturned among you, like God’s own overturning of Sodom and Gomorrah, till ye became as a brand plucked from the burning - yet ye did not return to Me: oracle of Jehovah."

This recalls a passage in that English poem of which we are again and again reminded by the Book of Amos, "The Vision of Piers Plowman." It is the sermon of Reason in Passus V (Skeat’s edition):-

"He proved that these pestilences were for pure synne, And the southwest wynde in saterday et evene Was pertliche for pure pride and for no poynt elles. Piries and plomtrees were puffed to the erthe, In ensample ze segges ze shulden do the bettere. Beehes and brode okes were blowen to the grounde. Torned upward her tailles in tokenynge of drede That dedly synne at domesday shal fordon hem alle."

In the ancient world it was a settled belief that natural calamities like these were the effects of the deity’s wrath. When Israel suffers from them the prophets take for granted that they are for the people’s punishment. I have elsewhere shown how the climate of Palestine lent itself to these convictions; in this respect the Book of Deuteronomy contrasts it with the climate of Egypt. And although some, perhaps rightly, have scoffed at the exaggerated form of the belief, that God is angry with the sons of men every time drought or floods happen, yet the instinct is sound which in all ages has led religious people to feel that such things are inflicted for moral purposes. In the economy of the universe there may be ends of a purely physical kind served by such disasters, apart altogether from their meaning to man. But man at least learns from them that nature does not exist solely for feeding, clothing, and keeping him wealthy; nor is it anything else than his monotheism, his faith in God as the Lord both of his moral life and of nature, which moves him to believe, as Hebrew prophets taught and as our early English seer heard Reason herself preach. Amos had the more need to explain those disasters as the work of the God of righteousness, because his contemporaries, while willing to grant Jehovah leadership in war, were tempted to attribute to the Canaanite gods of the land all power over the seasons.

What, however, more immediately concerns us in this passage is its very effective contrast between men’s treatment of God and God’s treatment of men. They lavish upon Him gifts and sacrifices. He-"on His side"-sends them cleanness of teeth, drought, blasting of their fruits, pestilence, war, and earthquake. That is to say, they regard Him as a being only to be flattered and fed. He regards them as creatures with characters to discipline, even at the expense of their material welfare. Their views of Him, if religious, are sensuous and gross; His views of them, if austere, are moral and ennobling. All this may be grim, but it is exceeding grand; and short as the efforts of Amos are, we begin to perceive in him something already of the greatness of an Isaiah.

And have not those who have believed as Amos believed ever been the strong spirits of our race, making the very disasters which crushed them to the earth the tokens that God has great views about them? Laugh not at the simple peoples, who have their days of humiliation, and their fast-days after floods and stunted harvests. For they take these, not like other men, as the signs of their frailty and helplessness; but as measures of the greatness God sees in them, His provocation of their souls to the infinite possibilities which He has prepared for them.

Israel, however, did not turn even at the fifth call to penitence, and so there remained nothing for her but a fearful looking forward to judgment, all the more terrible that the prophet does not define what the judgment shall be.

"Therefore thus shall I do to thee, O Israel: because I am going to do this to thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel. For, lo, He that formeth the mountains, and createth the wind, and declareth to man what His thought is, that maketh morning darkness, and marcheth on the high places of earth, Jehovah, God of Hosts, is His Name."

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Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Amos 4:11". "Expositor's Bible Commentary".

Expositor's Bible Commentary


Amos 3:3-8;, Amos 4:6-13;, Amos 5:8-9; Amos 6:12;, Amos 8:8;, Amos 9:5; Amos 8:4-6

FOOLS, when they face facts, which is seldom, face them one by one, and, as a consequence, either in ignorant contempt or in panic. With this inordinate folly Amos charged the religion of his day. The superstitious people, careful of every point of ritual and very greedy of omens, would not ponder real facts nor set cause-to effect. Amos recalled them to common life. "Does a bird fall upon a snare, except there be a loop on her? Does the trap itself rise from the ground, except it be catching something"-something alive in it that struggles, and so lifts the trap? "Shall the alarum be blown in a city, and the people not tremble?" Daily life is impossible without putting two and two together. But this is just what Israel will not do with the sacred events of their time. To religion they will not add common-sense.

For Amos himself, all things which happen are in sequence and in sympathy. He has seen this in the simple life of the desert; he is sure of it throughout the tangle and hubbub of history. One thing explains another; one makes another inevitable. When he has illustrated the truth in common life, Amos claims it for especially four of the great facts of the time. The sins of society, of which society is careless; the physical calamities, which they survive and forget; the approach of Assyria, which they ignore; the word of the prophet, which they silence, -all these belong to each other. Drought, Pestilence, Earthquake, Invasion conspire-and the Prophet holds their secret.

Now it is true that for the most part Amos describes this sequence of events as the personal action of Jehovah. "Shall evil befall, and Jehovah not have done it? I have smitten you. I will raise up against you a Nation Prepare to meet thy God, O Israel!" [Amos 3:6;, Amos 4:9;, Amos 6:14;, Amos 4:12] Yet even where the personal impulse of the Deity is thus emphasized, we feel equal stress laid upon the order and the inevitable certainty of the process Amos nowhere uses Isaiah’s great phrase: "a God of Mishpat," a "God of Order" or "Law." But he means almost the same thing: God works by methods which irresistibly fulfill themselves. Nay more. Sometimes this sequence sweeps upon the prophet’s mind with such force as to overwhelm all his sense of the Personal within it. The Will and the Word of the God who causes the thing are crushed out by the "Must Be" of the thing itself. Take even the descriptions of those historical crises, which the prophet most explicitly proclaims as the visitations of the Almighty. In some of the verses all thought of God Himself is lost in the roar and foam with which that tide of necessity bursts up through Chem. The fountains of the great deep break loose, and while the universe trembles to the shock, it seems that even the voice of the Deity is overwhelmed. In one passage, immediately after describing Israel’s ruin as due to Jehovah’s word, Amos asks how could it "have happened otherwise":-

"Shall horses run up a cliff, or oxen plough the sea? that ye turn justice into poison, and the fruit of righteousness into wormwood." [Amos 6:12] A moral order exists, which it is as impossible to break without disaster as it would be to break the natural order by driving horses upon a precipice. There is an inherent necessity in the sinners’ doom. Again, he says of Israel’s sin: "Shall not the Land tremble for this? Yea, it shall rise up together like the Nile, and heave and sink like the Nile of Egypt." [Amos 8:8] The crimes of Israel are so intolerable, that in its own might the natural frame of things revolts against them. In these great crises, therefore, as in the simple instances adduced from everyday life, Amos had a sense of what we call law, distinct from, and for moments even overwhelming, that sense of the personal purpose of God, admission to the secrets of which had marked his call to be a prophet.

These instincts we must not exaggerate into a system. There is no philosophy in Amos, nor need we wish there were. Far more instructive is what we do find-a virgin sense of the sympathy of all things, the thrill rather than the theory of a universe. And this faith, which is not a philosophy, is especially instructive on these two points: that it springs from the moral sense; and that it embraces, not history only, but nature.

It springs from the moral sense. Other races have arrived at a conception of the universe along other lines: some by the observation of physical laws valid to the recesses of space; some by logic and the unity of Reason. But Israel found the universe through the conscience. It is a historical fact that the Unity of God, the Unity of History, and the Unity of the World, did, in this order, break upon Israel, through conviction and experience of the universal sovereignty of righteousness. We see the beginnings of the process in Amos. To him the sequences which work themselves out through history and across nature are moral. Righteousness is the hinge on which the world hangs; loosen it, and history and nature feel the shock. History punishes the sinful nation. But nature, too, groans beneath the guilt of man; and in the Drought, the Pestilence, and the Earthquake provides his scourges. It is a belief which has stamped itself upon the language of mankind. What else is "plague" than "blow" or "Scourge?"

This brings us to the second point-our prophet’s treatment of Nature.

Apart from the disputed passages (which we shall take afterwards by themselves) we have in the Book of Amos few glimpses of nature, and these always under a moral light. There is not in any chapter a landscape visible in its own beauty. Like all desert-dwellers, who when they would praise the works of God lift their eyes to the heavens, Amos gives us but the outlines of the earth-a mountain range, [Amos 1:2;, Amos 3:9;, Amos 9:3] or the crest of a forest, [Amos 2:9] or the bare back of the land, bent from sea to sea. [Amos 8:12] Nearly all, his figures are drawn from the desert-the torrent, the wild beasts, the wormwood (Amos 5:24; Amos 5:19-20; etc.; Amos 7:12). If he visits the meadows of the shepherds, it is with the terror of the people’s doom; [Amos 1:2] if the vineyards or orchards, it is with the mildew and the locust; {Amos 4:9 ff.} if the towns, it is with drought, eclipse, and earthquake. {Amos 4:6-11;, Amos 6:11;, Amos 8:8 ff.} To him, unlike his fellows, unlike especially Hosea, the whole land is one theatre of judgment; but it is a theatre trembling to its foundations with the drama enacted upon it. Nay, land and nature are themselves actors in the drama. Physical forces are inspired with moral purpose, and become the ministers of righteousness. This is the converse of Elijah’s vision. To the older prophet the message came that God was not in the fire nor in the earthquake nor in the tempest, but only in the still small voice. But to Amos the fire, the earthquake, and the tempest are all in alliance with the Voice, and execute the doom which it utters. The difference will be appreciated by us, if we remember the respective problems set to prophecy in those two periods. To Elijah, prophet of the elements, wild worker by fire and water, by life and death, the spiritual had to be asserted and enforced by itself. Ecstatic as he was, Elijah had to learn that the Word is more Divine than all physical violence and terror. But Amos understood that for his age the question was very different. Not only was the God of Israel dissociated from the powers of nature, which were assigned by the popular mind to the various Ba’alim of the land, so that there was a divorce between His government of the people and the influences that fed the people’s life; but morality itself was conceived as provincial. It was narrowed to the national interests; it was summed up in mere rules of police, and these were looked upon as not so important as the observances of the ritual. Therefore Amos was driven to show that nature and morality are one. Morality is not a set of conventions. "Morality is the order of things." Righteousness is on the scale of the universe. All things tremble to the shock of sin; all things work together for good to them that fear God.

With this sense of law, of moral necessity, in Amos we must not fail to connect that absence of all appeal to miracle, which is also conspicuous in his book.

We come now to the three disputed passages:-

Amos 4:13 :-"For, lo! He Who formed the hills, and createth the wind, and declareth to man what His mind is; Who maketh the dawn into darkness, and marcheth on the heights of the land-Jehovah, God of Hosts, is His Name."

Amos 5:8-9 :-"Maker of the Pleiades and Orion, turning to morning the murk, and day into night He darkeneth; Who calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them forth on the face of the earth-Jehovah His Name; Who flasheth ruin on the strong, and destruction cometh down on the fortress."

Amos 9:5-6 :-"And the Lord Jehovah of the Hosts, Who toucheth the earth and it rocketh, and all mourn that dwell on it, and it riseth like the Nile together, and sinketh like the Nile of Egypt; Who hath builded in the heavens His ascents, and founded His vault upon the earth; Who calleth to the waters of the sea, and poureth them on the face of the earth-Jehovah His Name."

These sublime passages it is natural to take as the triple climax of the doctrine we have traced through the Book of Amos. Are they not the natural leap of the soul to the stars? The same shepherd’s eye which has marked sequence and effect unfailing on the desert soil, does it not now sweep the clear heavens above the desert, and find there also all things ordered and arrayed? The same mind which traced the Divine processes down history, which foresaw the hosts of Assyria marshaled for Israel’s punishment, which felt the overthrow of justice shock the nation to their ruin, and read the disasters of the husbandman’s year as the vindication of a law higher than the physical-does it not now naturally rise beyond such instances of the Divine order, round which the dust of history rolls, to the lofty, undimmed outlines of the Universe as a Whole, and, in consummation of its message, declare that "all is Law," and Law intelligible to man? But in the way of so attractive a conclusion the literary criticism of the book has interposed. It is maintained that, while none of these sublime verses are indispensable to the argument of Amos, some of them actually interrupt it, so that when they are removed it becomes consistent; that such ejaculations in praise of Jehovah’s creative power are not elsewhere met with in Hebrew prophecy before the time of the Exile; that they sound very like echoes of the Book of Job; and that in the Septuagint version of Hosea we actually find a similar doxology, wedged into the middle of an authentic verse of the prophet. [Hosea 13:4] To these arguments against the genuineness of the three famous passages, other critics, not less able and not less free, like Robertson Smith and Kuenen, have replied that such ejaculations at critical points of the prophet’s discourse "are not surprising under the general conditions of prophetic oratory"; and that, while one of the doxologies does appear to break the argument [Amos 5:8-9] of the context, they are all of them thoroughly in the spirit and the style of Amos. To this point the discussion has been carried; it seems to need a closer examination. We may at once dismiss the argument which has been drawn from that obvious intrusion into the Greek of Hosea 13:4. Not only is this verse not so suited to the doctrine of Hosea as the doxologies are to the doctrine of Amos; but while they are definite and sublime, it is formal and flat-"Who made firm the heavens and founded the earth, Whose hands founded all the host of heaven, and He did not display them that thou shouldest walk after them." The passages in Amos are vision; this is a piece of catechism crumbling into homily. Again-an argument in favor of the authenticity, of these passages may be drawn from the character of their subjects. We have seen the part which the desert played in shaping the temper and the style of Amos. But the works of the Creator, to which these passages lift their praise, are just those most fondly dwelt upon by all the poetry, of the desert. The Arabian nomad, when he magnifies the power of God, finds his subjects not on the bare earth about him, but in the brilliant heavens and the heavenly processes.

Again, the critic who affirms that the passages in Amos "in every case sensibly disturb the connection," exaggerates. In the case of the first of Amos 4:13, the disturbance is not at all "sensible": though it must be admitted that the oracle closes impressively enough without it. The last of them, Amos 9:5-6 -which repeats a clause already found in the book {Cf. Amos 8:8} -is as much in sympathy with its context as most of the oracles in the somewhat scattered discourse of that last section of the book. The real difficulty is the second doxology, Amos 5:8-9, which does break the connection, and in a sudden and violent way. Remove it, and the argument is consistent. We cannot read chapter 5 without feeling that, whether Amos wrote these verses or not, they did not originally stand where they stand at present. Now, taken with this dispensableness of two of the passages and this obvious intrusion of one of them, the following additional fact becomes ominous. "Jehovah is His Name" (which occurs in two of the passages), or "Jehovah of Hosts is His Name" (Which occurs at least in one), is a construction which does not happen elsewhere in the book, except in a verse where it is awkward and where we have already seen reason to doubt its genuineness. But still more, the phrase does not occur in any other prophet, till we come down to the oracles which compose Isaiah 40:1-31; Isaiah 41:1-29; Isaiah 42:1-25; Isaiah 43:1-28; Isaiah 44:1-28; Isaiah 45:1-25; Isaiah 46:1-13; Isaiah 47:1-15; Isaiah 48:1-22; Isaiah 49:1-26; Isaiah 50:1-11; Isaiah 51:1-23; Isaiah 52:1-15; Isaiah 53:1-12; Isaiah 54:1-17; Isaiah 55:1-13; Isaiah 56:1-12. Here it happens thrice-twice in passages dating from the Exile, [Isaiah 47:4 and Isaiah 54:5] and once in a passage suspected by some to be of still later date. In the Book of Jeremiah the phrase is found eight times; but either in passages already on other grounds judged by many critics to be later than Jeremiah, or where by itself it is probably an intrusion into the text. Now is it a mere coincidence that a phrase, which, outside the Book of Amos, occurs only in writing of the time of the Exile and in passages considered for other reasons to be post-exilic insertions-is it a mere coincidence that within the Book of Amos it should again be found only in suspected verses? There appears to be in this more than a coincidence; and the present writer cannot but feel a very strong case against the traditional belief that these doxologies are original and integral portions of the Book of Amos. At the same time a case which has failed to convince critics like Robertson Smith and Kuenen cannot be considered conclusive, and we are so ignorant of many of the conditions of prophetic oratory at this period that dogmatism is impossible. For instance, the use by Amos of the Divine titles is a matter over which uncertainty still lingers; and any further argument on the subject must include a fuller discussion than space here allows of the remarkable distribution of those titles throughout the various sections of the book.

But if it be not given to us to prove this kind of authenticity-a question whose data are so obscure, yet whose answer frequently is of so little significance-let us gladly welcome that greater Authenticity whose undeniable proofs these verses so splendidly exhibit. No one questions their right to the place which some great spirit gave them in this book-their suitableness to its grand and ordered theme, their pure vision and their eternal truth. That common-sense, and that conscience, which, moving among the events of earth and all the tangled processes of history, find everywhere reason and righteousness at work, in these verses claim the Universe for the same powers, and see in stars and clouds and the procession of day and night the One Eternal God Who "declareth to man what His mind is."

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Amos 4:11". "Expositor's Bible Commentary".

The Pulpit Commentaries


Amos 4:1-13

§ 2. Second address. The prophet reproves the voluptuous women of Samaria, and fortells their captivity (Amos 4:1-3); with bitter irony he describes the people's devotion to idolatry (Amos 4:4, Amos 4:5): he shows how incorrigible they have proved themselves under God's chastisements (Amos 4:6-11); therefore they must expect further punishment, if so be that they will learn to fear the Lord (Amos 4:12, Amos 4:13).

Amos 4:1

The very women are leaders in dissoluteness and oppression. Ye kine of Bashan. Fat and well liking, such as the rich pastures of Bashan produce. Some have supposed that by this term are meant the luxurious nobles of Samaria, who are called "cows" as being effeminate and licentious. This is possible; but such grandees would be called rather "bulls of Bashan," and the "masters" mentioned just below signify more naturally these women's husbands than the kings. Pussy notes that the genders in the sentence are interchanged. "Hear ye," "your Lord," "upon you," "they shall take you," being masculine; "that oppress," "that crush," "that say," "your posterity," "ye shall go out," "each before her," "ye shall cast," feminine. Evidently the prophet addresses his reproaches to the luxurious of both sexes, though he begins with the women. The land of Bashan extended from Hermon to the Jabbok, including Gaulonitis, Auronitis, Batauea, and Trachonitis. It was always famous for its pasturage, cattle, and oaks. The Vulgate takes the term as metaphorical, and has, vaccae pingues. So Symmachus, βόες εὔτροφοι, which translation Jerome adopts. Mountain of Samaria. The hill of Shomer, on which Samaria was built (see note on Amos 3:9). Oppress the poor. This they did in ministering, or getting their husbands to minister, to their luxury and debauchery. Apparently they urged their husbands to violence and fraud in order to obtain means to satisfy their extravagance. A bad woman is thoroughly unscrupulous (see the case of Ahab and Naboth, 1 Kings 21:7, etc.). Their masters; their lords; i.e. husbands (comp. Genesis 18:12; 1 Peter 3:6). Bring, and let us drink. They invite their husbands to supply the means of debauchery and to join in their revels.

Amos 4:2

By his holiness. God swears by his holiness, which cannot tolerate iniquity, and which they had profaned (Amos 2:7; comp. Amos 6:8). That he will take you away. "That one, or they, shall take you away;" the enemy, the instrument of God's vengeance, is meant. With hooks; tsinnoth; Septuagint, ἐν ὅπλοις: Vulgate, in contis. The translation, "with hooks," is correct, the idea being that the people shall be utterly helpless and taken for destruction, like fish caught with hooks (Jeremiah 16:16; Habakkuk 1:15). Your posterity; acharith (Amos 9:1); better, your residue, those who have not been destroyed previously. The Septuagint and the Vulgate give quite a different notion to the passage. The former (according to the Vatican manuscript) has, καὶ τοὺς μεθ ὑμῶν εἰς λέβητας ὑποκαιομένους ἐμβαλοῦσιν ἔμπυροι λοιμοί, "And fiery destroyers shall cast those with you into boiling caldrons;" the latter, Et levabunt vos in contis, et reliquias vestras in ollis ferventibus. (For the explanation of these versions, which arise from mistakes in the meanings of ambiguous words, see Schegg and Kuabenbauer.)

Amos 4:3

At the breaches made in the city walls, as cattle hurry through gaps in a fence. Thus they should go forth when Samaria was taken. Every cow at that which is before her; better, each straight before her, just where the opening offered itself (comp. Joshua 6:5, Joshua 6:20). The LXX. inserts γυμναί, "naked." And ye shall cast them into the palace; Septuagint, καὶ ἀποῤῥιφήσεσθε εἰς τὸ ὄρος τὸ ῥομμάν, ( ῥεμμάν, Alex.), "And ye shall be cast forth into the mountain Romman; Vulgate, et projiciemini in Armon. The Syriac and Arabic Versions, and Aquila, render, "unto Mount Armon;" the Chaldee paraphrast, "far beyond the mountains of Armenia." The Hebrew expression haharmonah occurs nowhere else. Our version takes it in the sense of armon, "a palace," intending probably a palace or citadel of the enemy, which certainly ought to have been expressed. Kimchi renders, "Ye shall cast yourselves into the palace of the king." The passage is probably corrupt. If the verb is taken as passive, the unusual word must be considered to denote the place of banishment. Thus, "Ye shall be cast forth into Harmon." Whether Harmon means Armenia, as many ancient commentators thought, or not, cannot be determined. Various opinions may be seen in Keil, Schegg, Trochon, and others; but the simplest explanation is that of Orelli and Ewald, viz. that each fugitive shall fling away her idol Rimmona (the wife of the god Rimmon, 2 Kings 5:18), in order to be more free for flight (comp. Isaiah 2:20).

Amos 4:4

The prophet now turns to Israel, and ironically bids them exhibit their zeal for idolatry, and thus increase their guilt. Bethel; as the chief seat of idol worship (Amos 3:14). At Gilgal; rather, to Gilgal, "come ye" being repeated in thought. Gilgal was a strong position in the plain of Jordan, three miles east of Jericho, taking its name probably from the stone circles erected for purposes of worship in very early times. Joshua (Joshua 5:9) gave a new meaning to the old name. There is a large pool of water in this neighbourhood called Jil-julieh, about four miles from the Jordan, which is doubtless a corruption of the ancient name Gilgal. It seems to have been regarded as a holy place in Samuel's days or even before (see 3:19; 1 Samuel 7:16; 1 Samuel 10:8; 1 Samuel 11:14, etc.; 1 Samuel 13:8, etc.); and later was appropriated to false worship, though we have no information as to the date of this declension. Gilgal and Bethel are associated together in idolatrous worship (Amos 5:5 and in Hosea 4:15; Hosea 9:15; Hosea 12:11). Bring your sacrifices every morning. They were careful to maintain the outward semblance of the regular Levitical worship, even beyond the letter of the Law in some respects, though their service was all the time idolatry. As this and the following clause are still ironical, Amos is speaking, not of the daily-prescribed sacrifice (olah, Numbers 28:3), but of the offerings (zebach) of individual Israelites which were not required to be presented every day. Your tithes after three years; literally, on the three of days; lishlosheth yamim; Vulgate, tribus diebus; Septuagint, εἰς τριημερίαν, "every third day." Revised Version, "every three days." So Gesenius, Ewald, Keil, Schegg, Hitzig, Baur. The prophet bids them bring their tithes, not as the Law ordered, every year (Le 27:30), or, as in the ease of the second tithe, every three years (Deuteronomy 14:28; Deuteronomy 26:12), but, by an ironical exaggeration, "every three days." Dr. Pusey defends the English Version on the ground of the idiomatic use of "days" for one circle of days, i.e. a year (Le 25:29; 17:10; 1 Samuel 27:7). But this loses the irony which is so marked in the whole passage. Keil, "If ye would offer slain sacrifices every morning, and tithe every three days, ye would only thereby increase your apostasy from the living God."

Amos 4:5

Offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving with leaven; more definitely, offer by burning a thank offering of that which is leavened. This is an alteration of the prescribed ritual in two particulars. The Law forbade leaven in any meat offering consumed by fire (Le Amos 2:11; Amos 7:12); and if it allowed cakes of leavened bread to be offered on one occasion, these were not to be placed on the altar and burned, but one was to be assigned to the officiating priest, and the rest eaten at the sacrificial meal (Le Amos 7:13, Amos 7:14). The ironical charge to the Israelites is that in their unlicensed zeal they should not only burn on the altar that which was leavened, but, with the idea of being more bountiful, they should also offer .by fire that which was to be set apart for other uses. The Septuagint Version can only be explained by considering the translators to have had a different reading, καὶ ἀνέγνωσαν ἔγω νόμον, "and they read the Law without." Proclaim … publish. Make public proclamation that free will offerings are to be made, or else, like the Pharisees (Matthew 6:2), announce with ostentation that you are about to offer. The essence of such offerings was that they should be voluntary, not of command or compulsion (Le 22:18, etc.; Deuteronomy 12:6). Septuagint, καὶ ἐπεκαλέσαντο ὁμολογίας, "and called for public professions" (as Deuteronomy 12:6, Deuteronomy 12:17, Deuteronomy 12:18). This liketh you; this ye love; Septuagint, "Proclaim ye that the children of Israel loved these things." Their whole heart was set on this will worship.

Amos 4:6

In this and the five following verses God sets forth instances of the judgments which he had sent at various times to correct Israel; viz. famine, drought, blight, pestilence, earthquake; but all had been in vain. Five times recurs the sad refrain, "Yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord." God's unwearied love had not conquered their rebellion. Cleanness of teeth; Septuagint, γομφιασμὸν ὀδόντων, "dulness of teeth;" Vulgate, stuporem dentium. It is not "toothache" that is meant, but famine, as is seen by the parallel term, want of bread; as Corn. a Lapide says, "Cum enim in fame et penuria dentes non habent quod mordeant et mandant, innocentes sunt et mundi." This is the first chastisement mentioned. It was threatened in the Law as a consequence of backsliding (see Leviticus 26:1-46.; Deuteronomy 28:48, Deuteronomy 28:57). The famines to which Amos alludes are not recorded. Plainly they were not fortuitous, but were providential inflictions, in accordance with previous warnings Yet have ye not returned unto me. Pusey notes that the words imply, not that they returned not at all, but that they did after a fashion return, but not so as to reach God, their repentance being a half-repentance and their worship a half-worship, and therefore unacceptable.

Amos 4:7

The second punishment is drought, as predicted (Le 26:19, etc.; Deuteronomy 28:23). When there were yet three months to the harvest, and when rain was most necessary to swell the grain. The season meant is in February and March, when what was called "the latter rain" fell. In the south of Palestine the harvest commenced at the end of April, but in the northern parts it was some weeks later, so that it might be said in round numbers that it took place three months after the latter rain. I caused it to rain upon one city. That they might not attribute this drought to the blind laws of nature, God caused it to be of a partial character, giving rain to one city while he withheld it from another. One piece. The portion of ground belonging to an individual is so called (Deuteronomy 33:21; Ruth 2:3; Ruth 4:3).

Amos 4:8

This want of rain produced great dearth of water to drink, and persons had to go long distances to procure supplies. Wandered; literally trembled, staggered, as spent and exhausted by thirst. The word is used in Psalms 59:15; Psalms 109:10. The supply thus used was soon exhausted, and brought no permanent relief.

Amos 4:9

The third chastisement is occasioned by blight (Deuteronomy 28:22) and palmerworm (Deuteronomy 28:39, Deuteronomy 28:42). Blasting; the scorching east wind spoken of by Isaiah (Isaiah 27:8) and Ezekiel (Ezekiel 17:10). Vulgate, in vento urente; Septuagint, ἐν πυρώσει, "with parching;" Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion, ἀνεμοφθρία. Mildew; a blight, under the influence of which the ears of corn turned yellow and became unfruitful. "Blasting and mildew" are mentioned together in Moses' curse (Deuteronomy 28:22) and in Solomon's dedication prayer (1 Kings 8:37; comp. Haggai 2:17). The LXX. has, ἐν ἰκτέρῳ, "with jaundice." When your gardens … increased. It is better to take this sentence as the English margin, "The multitude of your gardens … hath the palmerworm devoured." So the Vulgate, Multitudinem hortorum tuorum comedit eruca. Gardens included orchards, herbaries, and pleasure grounds. The palmerworm; gazam; Septuagint, κάμπη: Vulgate, eruca. The word occurs in Joel 1:4; Joel 2:25, and is taken by many commentators to mean some kind of locust; but it is more probable that the Greek and Latin translators are right in regarding it as "a caterpillar" (see Smith, 'Dict. of the Bible,' 2:696, etc.; 'Bible Educator,' 4:293). Amos seems to be referring to the visitation in Joel's time, if we take gazam ("biter") to be a kind of locust.

Amos 4:10

The fourth visitation is pestilence and the sword (Le 26:25; Deuteronomy 28:60). After the manner of Egypt. In the manner in which Egypt is stricken (comp. Isaiah 10:24, Isaiah 10:26; Ezekiel 20:30). There is here no reference to the plague of Exodus 9:3, etc; or Exodus 12:29. The allusion is to the plague which was reckoned to be epidemic in Egypt, and to other loathsome diseases for which that country was notorious (see Deuteronomy 7:15; Deuteronomy 28:27, Deuteronomy 28:60) Sir G. Wilkinson notes that the plague used to occur about every ten years. Your young men have I slain with the sword. Pestilence and wax are allied scourges in Le Exodus 26:25. A reference may here be made to the wars with the Syrians, wherein the Israelites suffered heavy losses (2 Kings 6:25; 2 Kings 8:12; 2 Kings 13:3, 2 Kings 13:7, 2 Kings 13:22). And have taken away your horses; rather, together with your captive horses, still under the regimen of "I have slain." The destruction of men and horses is mentioned in 2 Kings 13:7. The stink of your camps. These unburied caresses caused pestilence in the district. Septuagint, καὶ ἀνήγαγον ἐν πυρὶ τὰς παρεμβολὰς ἐν τῇ ὀργῇ ὑμῶν, or, according to the Alexandrian manuscript, παρεμβολὰς ὑμῶν ἐν τῇ ὀργῇ μου, "In my wrath against you I set fire to your camps."

Amos 4:11

The fifth visitation is the earthquake (Deuteronomy 29:23). I have overthrown. This is the word used to describe the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:25; Jeremiah 20:16), and it seems better to refer the occurrence mentioned to some such convulsions of nature which caused widespread destruction, than, as Keil and others, "to the utter confusion of the state by which Israel was brought to the verge of ruin." We do not know anything about the particular earthquake to which the prophet alludes. (For an exhaustive catalogue of the earthquakes in this country, see Pusey's notes on this verse.) As God overthrew. The substitution of the name of God for the personal pronoun, when the Lord himself is speaking, is not uncommon in Hebrew. Here it rather takes the form of a quotation from Genesis. Ye were as a firebrand plucked out of the burning (Zechariah 3:2, where see note)—a phrase which implies, not only a narrow escape, but an escape accompanied with loss. The "brand" not wholly consumed is yet blackened and diminished by the burning.

Amos 4:12

Therefore. Because all previous judgments have been in vain, therefore will I send upon them something more terrible still. Thus. God says not how; he leaves the nature of the coming chastisement in mysterious uncertainty, that the very suspense may work fear and repentance. Because I will do this (pointing back to the mysterious "thus" above) unto thee; because I am ready to bring on thee still heavier punishment. Prepare to meet thy God; Septuagint, ἐτοιμάζου τοῦ ἐπικαλεῖσθαι τὸν θεόν σου, "Prepare to call upon thy God." Make ready to meet thy God in judgment, turning to him with changed heart, if perchance he may forgive thee and withdraw his heavy hand. Another explanation, derived from Symmachus and adopted by a Lapide, Schegg, and others, "Praeparare ut adverseris Deo tuo"—an ironical encouragement to them to withstand God—deprives the following verse of its suitability to the context. For the prophet would hardly invite them to this contest by expatiating upon God's almightiness.

Amos 4:13

The prophet enforces his threats by declaring God's power and omniscience. He that formeth the mountain; ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ στερεῶν βροντήν, "I am he that strengtheneth thunder". The mountains are mentioned as the most solid and everlasting of his works; the wind, as the subtlest and most immaterial of created things. Declareth unto man what is his thought; i.e. man's thought; reveals man to himself shows that he knows man's thought before man puts it into words. This he does sometimes by the stings of conscience, sometimes by inspiring his prophets to declare men's secret motives and the real state of their heart. Vulgate, Annuntians homini eloquium suum, where eloquium is equivalent to cognitatio. The LXX; with some change of letters, has, ἀπαγγέλλων εἰς ἀνθρώπους τὸν χριστὸν αὐτοῦ, "proclaiming unto men his Christ"—a reading which supports the misinterpretation of "his thought" as meaning God's thought, Christ being regarded as the λόγος of God. Many of the Fathers have seen here a prophesy of the Messiah. See Tirinus and Corn. a Lapide on this verse. That maketh the morning darkness. Keil, after Calvin, takes these words as asyndeton for "the morning dawn and darkness." So the Septuagint, ποιῶν ὅρθρον καὶ ὁμίχλην, "making morning and gloom." This would be simply a further instance of God's creative power. The Vulgate gives, faciens matutinam nebulam; and it seems probable (comp. Amos 5:8; Amos 8:9) that the clause means that the Lord turns the dawn into darkness. This may refer to the action of clouds or an eclipse; or it may be said metaphorically of prosperity and adversity. Treadeth upon the high places of the earth. An anthropomorphic representation of the might and majesty of God, who governs all things, and has the loftiest in perfect subjection (comp. Deuteronomy 32:13; Deuteronomy 33:29; Job 9:8; Micah 1:3). The Lord, Jehovah, the eternal, self-existent, covenant God, is he who in these things manifests himself, and therefore his threats are not to be despised (Amos 5:8). In the prophet's view the laws and powers of nature have their scope in executing God's commands.


Amos 4:1-3

The woes of the women at ease.

By a contemptuous and striking figure, the women of Samaria are styled the "kine of Bashan." They were as kine, unmindful of the past, unheeding of the future, their attention limited to the present, and living in it only the life of sense. They were as Bashan's kine, wandering in richest pastures, overfed, indulged, and pampered, and therefore waxed voluptuous and wanton. In explanation of the special reference to them, observe—


1. They reflect the national character. Soft, and easily receptive of influence, whether good or bad, the female character is, to a greater extent than the male, a compound tincture of the prevailing qualities of the land and time. It is natural that, as reflecting the national sin, the women will be obnoxious to national punishment.

2. They form the national character. They have earliest, most constant, and most affectionate access to the young. They influence character at its softest and most pliant stage, and they approach it, moreover, on its softest side. Reflecting national character so truly, and impressing this so inevitably on the rising generation, it is through them chiefly that good or evil becomes hereditary in society.

"O woman, nature made thee

To temper man."

The "tempering" is oftener for good than ill, converting into porcelain the common clay, purifying and ennobling all she comes near.

"Woman's empire, holier, more refined,

Moulds, moves, and sways the fallen yet God-breathed mind."

But if she reigns as the devil's vicegerent, if the influences that go forth from her tend to the enthronement of corruption and wrong, she must be deposed as a matter of policy, and punished as a matter of justice (Isaiah 3:16-24; Isaiah 32:9-13).

II. A COURSE THAT INVOLVES EVIL IS AS GUILTY BEFORE GOD AS A COURSE THAT INFLICTS IT. The evil a woman does outside her family circle is largely indirect. Of the women of Israel it appears that:

1. They were self-indulgent at the necessary expense of the poor. "Which oppress the humble, which crush the needy." This would sometimes be done directly, but generally through the agency of the men. A luxurious mistress often makes a hard and oppressive master. Her extravagant demands must be met by an increased income, and that is only too likely to be sought in exactions from the dependent poor. Let it be in overcharged dues or in underpaid work, in every case the luxury that forces on the demand is responsible for the evils of the enforced supply. "Those at ease often know not that their luxuries are continually watered by the tears of the poor … but God counts wilful ignorance no excuse" (Pusey). Hood's stanza, addressed to men, is doubly pertinent to women.

"O men with sisters dear!

O men with mothers and wives!

It is not linen you're wearing out,

But human creatures' lives."

The self-indulgence of the women of Israel meant really the grinding of the poor, out of whose poverty "their lords" were; driven to wring the means of carrying on their shameful excesses.

2. They encouraged their husbands in self-indulgence. "Bring, and let us drink." This was a doubling of the evil. They not only did wrong, but tempted others to do it. They wasted much, and procured the wasting of more. They were at pains to increase the number of harpies who would gorge themselves on the hard earnings of the poor.

3. This was not an isolated act, but a habit. "Oppress" is equivalent to "are continually oppressing." Luxury had settled irate a chronic social evil. The demand for fuel to feed the fire of indulgence was constant. It was a cancer eating out the well being of society continually, and devouring, generation after generation, the inheritance of the poor. The evil of it smelled rank to Heaven, and the guilt of it clamoured for punishment.

III. GOD'S OUTRAGED PERFECTIONS ARE THE GUARANTEE OF THE SINNER'S PUNISHMENT. "The Lord Jehovah hath sworn by his holiness." The occasions of God's action are often supplied by men, but the grounds of it are in himself—in the perfections of his character and the purposes of his will.

1. Holiness is God's characteristic quality. There is a universal ascription of it to him in Scripture (Exodus 15:11; Isaiah 6:1-3; Isaiah 57:15; Habakkuk 1:13). Absolutely his "name is holy;" relatively he is the "Holy One of Israel." This holiness is an infinite contrariety to all that is morally impure. It characterizes all his other perfections, and is, in this aspect, not so much a distinct attribute as the blending together of them all. Administratively, he swears by his holiness, and sits upon the throne of his holiness (Psalms 89:35; Psalms 47:8); believers are the people of his holiness, and heaven the habitation of his holiness (Isaiah 63:18, Isaiah 63:15); whilst a synonym for the consecrated life is "holiness to the Lord."

2. God's holiness was the quality specially profaned. (Amos 2:7.) It was to profane his holy Name that they had sinned. The perfection specially sinned against is naturally the one to be vindicated. "He pledges his own holiness that he will avenge their unholiness (Pusey). Jealous of all his perfections, the one our conduct tends to obscure or hurt is the one God will most emphatically illustrate and glorify.

3. Holiness is the quality that makes punishment of sin inevitable. It is the recoil of God's infinitely pure nature from moral evil. It is the expression and sum of an essential and external antagonism to it. It is incompatible with impurity as light is with darkness, and its necessary and natural action toward it is destructive. Fundamentally it is because God is holy that he punishes, and must punish, sin.

IV. THE SINNER'S PUNISHMENT WHEN IT COMES WILL MATCH AND SQUARE WITH HIS SIN. (Amos 4:2, Amos 4:3.) Here the dovetailing of retribution with crime is very complete. There would be:

1. Deportation from luxurious scenes. "I will take you away." The indulgences become habitual would be violently interrupted. The luxurious and vicious tastes, developed into tremendous strength by long continued sensuality, would be deprived of their gratification. Instead of the high living, become by long enjoyment a thing of course, and a necessity of their life, they would have the coarse and scanty fare of slaves. To visit with want and bondage, when habits of rule and luxury have become a second nature, is a judgment bitterly felt.

2. This in a violent and painful manner. "With hooks." The figure is drawn from fishing. The drawing out of the fish by means of a hook is always painful, and is rendered doubly so by its resistance. So with the soft and delicately nurtured women of Samaria in the hands of a rough and brutal soldiery. They would suffer as a fish transfixed by a barbed hook, and their former luxury would be in a sense its own avenger.

3. This to the last one. "And your last one with fish hooks." Not one should escape. God's judgments are particular. He does not visit people in the mass, but individuals. Not a cow but would feel the cut of the drover's whip, and experience the famine pangs of the scanty pasture.

4. This in connections with their own lusts as auxiliaries. The hook that draws out the fish has been baited for it, and voluntarily swallowed, though under a wrong impression. In heathen luxury and dissolution the Hebrew women found a bait which they swallowed greedily. Now they should find that, with the bait, they had swallowed also a cruel hook, which would draw them away to suffer evils worse than they had themselves inflicted. "And be cast away to Harman" (Authorized Version, "into the palace"), i.e. probably Armenia (see Pusey). Here, being used to minister to heathenish luxury and lust, they would be victims in the matter in which they had been so long the victimizers of others. There is a nameless cruelty in debauchery, which only the victims of it know. This, with the added burden of heathen horrors, the delicate and pampered Israelitish women would now suffer. Their punishment would rise upon them in familiar shape, the resurrection of their own sin.

5. The bovine stolidity of their prosperous days would make them helpless as driven cattle in the day of calamity. "In the wall ye shall go out every one before her," i.e. "as a herd of cows go one after another through a gap in the fence" (Pusey). The level of intelligence goes down with the level of morality. The penalty of living the brutes' life of sense is a weakening of the heavenly gift of reason, by which we are distinguished from them.

Amos 4:4, Amos 4:5

Corruption and religiosity in unholy alliance.

Here the prophet turns from the women of Israel, and addresses the people at large. His language is that of strong irony. What he bids the people do is the thing he knows they have been doing and will go on doing, notwithstanding the imminence of the punishment he predicts. He means, by a sarcastic coordination of their acts of hollow worship with those of their sin-stained lives, to bring them to see themselves as God and others saw them.

I. MORAL CORRUPTION AND A ZEAL FOR RELIGIOUS FORMS MAY EXIST TOGETHER. (Amos 4:4.) Here it would seem as if the multiplication of transgressions and of observances went pari passu together.

1. The observance if religious forms involves nothing in the way of spirituality. Taste is wanted, and feeling and judgment, but that is all. Enjoyment in the formal acts of worship may be an aestheticism which is altogether apart from spirituality. The sensuous delight in music, oratory, attitudinizing, millinery, upholstery, and other ecclesiastical impedimenta is just as abundant and as much at home in the theatre as in the church, and is the same non-spiritual thing wherever found.

2. Worship may even be made so sensuous as to become the minister of luxury. Other things being equal, the largest congregations gather where the adjuncts of worship are most elaborate and most gorgeous. Many confessedly attend the house of God exclusively for the music and singing, never waiting to hear the gospel preached, or consenting to do so only for appearance' sake. And the thing is perfectly intelligible. A musical and ornate service is decenter than a music hall, and pleasanter than their own room, and makes an agreeable break in their idle Sunday afternoon. So far from such an observance involving or tending to produce spirituality of feeling, it leaves this out in the cold, and makes its appeal entirely to sense. It has no more bearing on the religious life than theatre going, or club going, or race going, or any other mode of raising the sensational wind.

3. External religious observance quiets the conscience, and so smoothe the path of the self-indulgent. Even after the sinful life has far advanced, his conscience gives the sinner trouble. Failing to prevent the sin, it suggests the performance of some compensatory work. To sin, and then do penance, is easier than to crucify the flesh and be separate from sin. And one of the commonest salves for an accusing conscience is diligence in the externals of religious observance. It looks and feels like worship, and it makes no demands on the religious faculty. Rather, by substituting an emotional exercise for one of the conscience and heart, it deadens the moral sense, and lulls the transgressor into a dangerous complacency.

II. MEN WHO REST IN FORMS ARE PRONE TO MULTIPLY THEM. This is a logical necessity. If the form be everything, then the more of it the better. Besides, the sensation produced by observing it gets stale after a time, and, in order to keep it at its first strength and freshness, there must be a continual increase of the dose. Israel illustrated this principle in two degrees.

1. They were particular about ceremonial obsevances. They offered the slain sacrifices, the praise offerings, the free offerings, and the tithes at their appointed times. In addition to the annual tithe they also gave a second tithe every three years (Deuteronomy 14:28; Deuteronomy 26:12). This was keeping up to the very letter of the Law. A Pharisee in later times could not have given more circumstantial obedience to it than they did. When the opus operatum is made the whole of a religious ordinance, it is sure to be circumstantially observed; and the rule is that the more completely the spirit is lost sight of, the more elaborately is the letter observed. To the exhaustive observance of ordinances by Israel, according to our text, there was one significant exception. This was the omission of the sin offering and the trespass offering. They had no consciousness of sin. They deported themselves as men who had praise to offer and gifts to bestow, but no sin to be atoned or to confess. To the formalist an adequate idea of sin is impossible, and in his worship the question is not raised.

2. They went beyond the letter of Divine requirement. In addition to the re.ruing sacrifice required by the Law, they offered slain sacrifices (so the Hebrew) every day. Then, not content with burning unleavened cakes on the altar as a praise offering, they burned also the leavened cakes which were to be eaten at the sacrificial meal (see Keil, in loc.). As to the free offerings, they carried the provision for having them made beyond the command by having them cried. Thus, so far as forms went, the idol loving, corrupt, rebellious people were almost exemplary worshippers—went further, indeed, than true worshippers had always felt called upon to no. "It is a characteristic of idolatry and schism to profess extraordinary zeal for God's worship, and go beyond the letter and spirit of his Law by arbitrary will worship and self-idolizing fanaticism" (Lange). To compensate for the utter absence of the spirit, the letter is made to do double and vicarious duty.

III. TOO MUCH ATTENTION TO THE EXTERNAL FORM OF AN ORDINANCE TENDS TO THE VIOLATION OF THE SPIRIT OF IT. On the one hand, the spirit gets lost sight of through inattention, and on the other hand, the inventive faculty introduces practices inconsistent with it.

1. In their anxiety to offer more than was required Israel offered a thing that was forbidden. To "kindle praise offerings of that which is leavened" was contrary to Levitical law. The leavened bread of the praise offering, which they burned along with the unleavened cakes and oil, was not to be burned, but eaten (Le Amos 2:11; Amos 7:12-14). The human mind cannot add to a Divine ordinance anything in character. The addendum will either obscure or traverse the religious rite to which it is attached. God's ordinances, like his oracles, can only be added to under a heavy penalty—the penalty of mistaken action arising out of erroneous thought.

2. They destroyed the essentially spontaneous character of the free will offerings by endeavouring to make them practically compulsory. These offerings must be made of the offerer's free will (Le 22:19). Made under compulsion, moral or otherwise, they lost their spontaneous character, and might as well not have been made at all. And what but compulsion was it to "proclaim and publish," or literally to "call out" for them? God's ordinance can be safely and rightly observed only in God's way. In such a matter human invention, if it interferes, is sure to err. Hence the so emphatic and frequent warnings in Scripture against "the commandments and ordinances of men."

3. This amateur tinkering of Divine institutions is very agreeable to human nature. "For so ye love it." Unspiritual men love the forms of religion if they serve as a means of escape from its realities. They love them more still if, by observing them, they can seem to accomplish a salvation by works. They love them most of all when they are partially of their own invention. Almost all human ordinances in religion are the expression of man's love of his own intellectual progeny.

IV. THE MULTIPLICATION OF ACTS OF WILL WORSHIP IS ONLY THE MULTIPLICATION OF SIN. The close association of the words "transgression" and "sacrifice" would indicate that the sacrifice itself was sinful.

1. It was not meant to please God, being an act of pure self-will. That which will please God must be meant to please him. A formal religious act, if done for our own pleasure, and not as an act of service to God, is valueless (Colossians 2:20-23). Will worship is self-worship. It is only an insidious way of "satisfying the flesh." It is a thing by which God is not honoured, but dethroned, and by which man is prejudiced with God and not commended (Isaiah 2:11).

2. It was not fitted to please him, being observed in a manner contrary to his will. God's ordinances had been altered. The alteration of form in every case had been a violation of the spirit. The ordinances were no longer God's, but something different from and inconsistent with the thing he had appointed: The observance of them was not service, but disobedience and rebellion. For the Nadabs and Abihus who offer strange fire before the Lord there is reserved the fire of his wrath and not the light of his favour.

3. It was reeking with the wickedness with which it was deliberately mixed up. "Multiply transgression; and bring your sacrifices." The "obedience" to himself which "is better than sacrifice" was entirely wanting. The "mercy" to men which he will have "and not sacrifice" had been desiderated in vain. With one hand they piled high the offering, and with the other piled higher still the trespass. And in so doing they piled the mountain of a moral impossibility between them and acceptance. The form of worship, in combination with the reality of sin, is a spiritual monstrosity which, as an offering to God, may not be so much as named. God will take no gift from a sin-stained hand (Isaiah 1:15). "If we regard iniquity in our heart, the Lord will not hear us" (Psalms 66:18). If we lift up unclean hands in worship, he will not accept (1 Timothy 2:8). Let us "wash our hands in innocence" when we go to the "holy altar." With clouds of sin hovering over our sanctuary service no dews of Divine favour can ever fall.

Amos 4:6-13

Judgment the Divine retort to human sin.

This is the sad history of God's vain contendings with an incorrigible nation. In Amos 3:1-15. is an account of the mercies by which he at first had tried to draw them. All that had failed utterly. They met privilege with inappreciation, friendship with rebuff, and favour with incredible disregard. Then he had changed his tactics. They would not be drawn, perhaps they might be driven. The experiment was worth the making, and the record of it is in these verses.

I. THE VARIED VISITATIONS OF JEHOVAH. "So then God had but one gift which he could bestow, one only out of the rich storehouse of his mercies, since all besides were abused—chastisement" (Pusey). This he sent:

1. In diverse forms. He reduced them by famine, which often acts as a moral depletive, by cutting off its supply from, lust. He plagued them with pestilence—a visitation that strikes terror into the boldest hearts. He slew them with the sword of their enemies—a fate which has terrors peculiarly its own. He swallowed them up in earthquakes—the most portentous and awful of earthly phenomena.

2. In increasing severity. Famine is direful, but it is directed primarily against the means of life. Pestilence is ghastlier, for it is directed against the life itself. The sword is more terrible than either, for it takes the life with circumstances of cruelty, which are an added horror. The earthquake is the most terror-moving of all, for it summons the overwhelming forces of nature to our destruction.

3. With differentiating circumstances in different cases. There was nothing humdrum in the visitations, no pitching them on the dead level of hackneyism or prescription.

4. In minute correspondence to prophetic warnings. They were plagued with pestilence "after the manner of Egypt" (Amos 3:10). This Moses had circumstantially announced would be the result of disobeying the Law revealed on Sinai (Deuteronomy 28:27, Deuteronomy 28:60), whilst immunity from it was promised in connection with fealty and obedience (Deuteronomy 7:15). Then, with blood curdling explicitness (Amos 3:6, Amos 3:7, Amos 3:10), famine, pestilence, the sword, and desolation (Le 26:23-33), blasting, mildew, drought, and locusts (Amos 3:9; Deuteronomy 28:21-26, Deuteronomy 28:38, Deuteronomy 28:42), and, to crown all, destruction and ruin, as of Sodom and Gomorrah (Deuteronomy 29:22-28), are piled (Amos 3:11), Ossa on Pelion, in prophetic intimation to Israel to be "upon thee for a sign and for a wonder, and upon thy seed forever" (Deuteronomy 28:46). In all this the work of identifying national judgments, as from a pledge keeping and sin-avenging Jehovah, is made easy to all but the wilfully blind.

II. THEIR MEAGRE RESULTS. Judgments fell thick and wide in five varieties of terror moving severity and appositeness, and five times the prophet, gleaning vainly after the scythes of God for a grain of good result, can but repeat the sadly reproachful refrain, "Yet ye have not returned unto me, saith the Lord."

1. The sinner refuses to believe that his affliction is punishment. He attributes it to accident, or bad management, or natural causes, or the malice of others, as the case may be. While unconscious of his sin, he is necessarily blind to the significance of his suffering, and until he sees this he cannot profit by it. If men would "hear the rod and who hath appointed it" they would have realized a primary condition of improvement under it.

2. Suffering is not in itself purifying. A bad man it often makes worse. He wants to "curse God and die." Even if the hardening stops short of this, he is frequently soured and embittered. Suffering, to be beneficial, must not go alone. It prepares for other measures. It makes men more amenable to moral influence, but if no such influence be brought to bear in connection with it, it is no more fitted of itself to purify the character than ploughing is to fertilize the desert sand. "Bray a fool in a mortar, yet will not his folly depart from him."

3. The love of sin is stronger than the fear of suffering. Courses, which all observation and experience declare to be ruinous to health and happiness, are entered on deliberately by millions. Even the physical evil consequences of the early steps in sinful indulgence, which are soon felt, do not arrest the evil doer in his way. By the confirmed sinner hell itself is practically, if not consciously, preferred to reformation. Only what weakens the love of sin secures the successful application of suffering for its removal. The operation of one or ocher of these principles, or the concurrence of them all, no doubt accounted for Israel's persistent sinning even in the fire.

III. THE LAST RESORT TO WHICH GOD WILL NOW BETAKE HIMSELF. "Therefore thus will I do unto thee. The terror of these words is in nothing lessened by their vagueness. It is evident rather:

1. That the thing menaced would in point of severity be an advance upon all that had yet been done. Only thus would there be any use in adopting it. After expostulation the rod, and after the rod a sword—that is the logical order of corrective measures. "Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon thee," was a foreshadowing of God's consistent policy.

2. It would involve being brought face to face with God. "Because I will … prepare" (Amos 3:12). The kind or occasion of the meeting with God is not explained. It is, therefore, to be taken to include all modes and occasions, whether in life, at death, or at the final judgment. And the thought of it is one of terror to the ungodly, under whatever circumstances. They can face his judgments; God is not in them, unless in figurative sense. They can face his prophets; God is not in them, unless in a spiritual sense. But to face God literally was, even to a pious Jew, like facing death (Exodus 33:20; 13:22); whilst to the impious it must have been the embodiment of all terror. It is from the "presence of the Lord" that the wicked in the judgment call upon the hills to hide them. That, of all things in the universe, is an ordeal they cannot face.

3. It is left undefined that it may seem the more terrible. We have hers the eloquence of silence. The terror of the threat is enhanced by its vagueness. Familiarity breeds contempt. If a thing, however bad, is exactly defined, we can familiarize ourselves with the thought of it in time, and brace our courage up to meet it. "It doth not yet appear what we shall be," but our idea of it, meantime, has an element of enlargement in its very indefiniteness. God says vaguely "Thus," and stops short, that imagination may fill up the blank. His silence is charged with deeper meaning than any words could carry.


1. Look for a meeting with God. It is inevitable. It is at hand. The fact must be faced. No good, but harm, can come out of the attempt to escape or blink it (2 Corinthians 5:10; Psalms 139:7-12).

2. Prepare for it. This is a word of hope. Meeting with God is inevitable; but it need not necessarily he injurious. Preparation for it is possible, being enjoined, and would avail something if it were made. "God never in this life bids people or individuals prepare to meet him without a purpose of good to those who do prepare" (Pusey).

3. Do this because of impending judgments. "Because I will do this unto thee." We might suppose that if God was going to destroy, the preparation to meet him would be too late. But that does not follow. When Nineveh was wicked God expressed his purpose to destroy it, but when it became penitent he spared it. Hezekiah, prayerless in the particular matter, was bidden prepare to die; but Hezekiah, praying for more life, was spared fifteen years (Isaiah 38:1, Isaiah 38:5). What God will do to us, so far as it comes within our cognizance, is conditioned by what we will do to him. Until the judgment has actually fallen, the threat of it is a message of mercy. A sentence of destruction itself is a call to repentance, and so has woven into it a thread of hope. "Because I will do this unto thee, prepare."

Amos 4:11

Burning, yet not turning.

From Moses to Amos was about seven hundred years. It is a long time with men and the works of men. But it is little in the two eternities through which the purposes of God extend. There were prophecies which it had taken all this period to mature; courses of treatment for the cure of sin pursued through all the interval, and whose last measure had not yet been taken. One of these finds record here. A new event looks out at us in the guise of an ancient prophecy (Deuteronomy 29:22-24). What seven centuries before had been conceived in the womb of time is here "delivered upon the mellowing of occasion."

I. GOD'S JUDGMENTS A FIRE. "Plucked out of the burning." A commentary on this figure is the association by Isaiah of "the spirit of judgment" and "the spirit of burning" (Isaiah 4:4). Like a fire:

1. Judgments are painful. The sensation of burning is about the most painful we know. Too severe for capital punishment, too cruel even for prisoners of war, death by burning has been generally reserved for the martyred saints. This intensest form of physical pain is a fitting symbol of the effects of God's inflictions. What he sends is the greatest of its kind. If it be pleasure it is ideal—a pleasure at his right hand forevermore. If it be pain it is phenomenal—a torment whose smoke ascendeth up forever and ever.

2. They are consuming. What fire feeds on it destroys. Where the flames have passed no organic matter remains. So with God's judgments. They are the mills of God which "grind exceeding small." That on which they must fall "they destroy and consume unto the end." They are nothing if not adequate to their purpose.

3. They are purifying. By burning out what is inflammable they leave what is incombustible behind, unmixed and pure. This idea of refining is often associated with the fires of judgment (Zechariah 13:9; Ma Zechariah 3:2, Zechariah 3:3). They seize on the dross of evil, and burn it out of the mass. When their work is done there is only the fine gold of a pure nature in the crucible.

4. They are irresistible. Fuel, in contact with fire, can do nothing but burn. If the flame is to be quenched it must be done by some extra agency. To be as "tow" or "stubble" in the flames (Isaiah 1:31; Nehemiah 1:10) is the strongest possible figure for helplessness under the avenging stroke of God. Men cannot prevent it, cannot avoid it, cannot arrest it, cannot in any degree reduce its force. When he works "who shall let it"? When his day burns as an oven, who shall withstand the fire (Isaiah 43:13; Ma Isaiah 4:1)?

II. SINNERS ARE THE BRANDS ON WHICH IT FEEDS, "Ye were as a firebrand." There are certain steps which lead up to burning, whether literal or figurative. The brand was:

1. Withered. It is not on the sappy growing branch that the fire seizes. Before, in the natural course, it reaches the flames, a preliminary process has been finished. Its leaf yellows and falls, its bark shrivels, its sap dries up. Then it is mere tinder, and fit for nothing but the fire. So sin withers and kills the branches of the tree of human character. It dries up the sap of spiritual life, and so turns sere the leaf of profession, and destroys the fruit of well doing. In a little no function of life is possible, and all its uses are lost. To cut it down is all the husbandman can do, and to burn it follows in the natural course.

2. Brought to the flames. There are no prairie fires in God's domain. What is burned is first prepared, and then bound in bundles (Matthew 13:30) and then set fire to. There is no accident anywhere. The man by his ill-doing makes himself tinder, and God in his providence uses him for the only purpose he suits.

3. Combustible. Fire seeks out and feeds on what is most inflammable. There is an affinity between the two things that does not fail to bring them together. So with God's avenging fires and the fuel they consume. The vultures of his judgments spy out, and alight upon the carrion of the sinner's lusts. Every transgression of the written Law is a transgression also of the unwritten law of the nature of things, and brings punishment on and through the instrument of the sin.

III. THE BURNING THAT SCATHES WITHOUT CONSUMING. "Plucked out of the burning." This language implies:

1. A narrow escape. The brand had been in the fire, and actually alight. A little while and it would have been inextinguishable. The fires of judgment had been around Israel, and around her close and long. If she had been in them but a little longer she could not have come out alive. The narrowness of her escape was a fact charged with the double influence of fear as to what might have been, and gratitude for what actually was.

2. An escape with a certain amount of injury. The brand that has been alight has suffered. Its fair surface has been scathed and charred. It can never be its original self again. Such a thing was Israel. "Once it had been green, fresh, fragrant, with leaf or flower; now scorched, charred, blackened, all but consumed. In itself it was fit for nothing but to be cast back into the fire whence it had been rescued. Man would so deal with it, a recreation alone could restore it. Slight emblem of a soul whose freshness sin hath withered, then God's severe judgment had half consumed; in itself meet only for the everlasting fire, from which yet God withdraws it" (Pusey).

3. An escape managed for an important purpose. God tries all means before going to extremities. He threatens, menaces, sets fire to, and scorches, yet after all delays to consume.

IV. THE NATURE THAT WILL CONSUME BEFORE IT WILL MELT. Israel had not repented, and was not going to repent. Rescued from the flame in unspeakable mercy for a season, the brand would have to be thrust in again and burned. This unconquerable hardness was that:

1. Of a nature that had strayed. The hardest sinner is the apostate. He sins against light, against favours received, against experience enjoyed, against gracious influences felt. To have beaten down, and sinned in spite of all these deterrents, argues a hardness and determination that the stranger to gracious influences has not had an opportunity of acquiring. Paul tells us that those who have so sinned cannot be "renewed to repentance" (Hebrews 6:4-6).

2. Of a nature that had been hardened by punishment. There is a degree of induration in the back that has experienced the lash. The brand put into the fire and taken out again is hardened by the process. The criminal often leaves the prison more callous than he entered it. So with the subjects of Divine judgment. If they are not melted by it they are indurated. Hatred to God and love to the sin are intensified, rebelliousness is stirred up, self-will is put on its mettle, and so moral insensibility is increased by the process of resistance.

3. Of a nature in which sin is supreme. In most natures there is a struggle between good and evil. It is largely a question of circumstances, which will preponderate at any given time. Temptation is resisted sometimes, and sometimes yielded to, according to our mood and the manner in which it is brought to bear, This indicates a state of war between the law in the members and the law in the mind, victory inclining to Israel or to Amalek as the hands of conscience are upheld. But when a man sins invariably, under whatever pressure of temptation, and when there is no temptation at all—sins in spite of all conceivable deterrent circumstances—the case is different. He says to evil, "Be thou my good." His moral nature is inverted. He will not mould into a vessel of mercy now. He is "a vessel of wrath and fitted for destruction"

Amos 4:12

The great preparation.

"Therefore thus will I do unto thee, O Israel," etc. Here an important duty fathers itself on a stupendous fact. An omnipotent God is in judgment with sinful Israel. His wrath has expressed itself in bolt after bolt of judgment already hurled. But these measures are far from embodying all his punitive resources. In the failure of these to bring repentance there are woes unnamed, because unutterable, still in store. If Israel, then, would have the heaviest artillery of retribution kept out of action, they had need bestir themselves in the matter of a duty the further neglect of which must precipitate disaster.

I. GOD AND MEN LIVING APART. The enjoyment of God's presence was paradise (Genesis 3:8), and will be heaven (1 Thessalonians 4:17); that privilege lost is death (Genesis 3:24), and will be hell (Luke 16:26).

1. The wicked neither have God's presence nor desire it. "God drove out the man," when he became a sinner; and all men, as sinners, are "afar off." Purity and impurity are incompatible, and there can be no fellowship between them. Righteousness and unrighteousness are antagonistic, and cannot come together without coming into collision. Man's instinctive consciousness of this led him to anticipate expulsion from God's presence by trying to run away (Genesis 3:8). The separation between God and the sinner is thus by consent, and in the nature of the case, and so inevitable during the status quo.

2. The righteous enjoy it in the imperfect measure in which they desire it. The need of Divine fellowship, universal with men, becomes conscious when they become spiritual (Psalms 42:2). As supply everywhere meets demand (Philippians 4:19), and measures it, the drawing near of God is synchronous with the springing of desire for it (Matthew 5:6), as well as proportioned to its strength (Revelation 21:3). To each of us God comes when we desire him, and as we desire him. If the presence be intermittent or incognizable, it is because appreciation is inadequate, and the longing for it irregular or weak (Isaiah 57:15; Isaiah 43:22).

3. To desire it perfectly and possess it fully is heaven. "Heaven is endless longing accompanied with an endless fruition" (Maclaren). In it there is perfection of the faculties which commune with God. There is perfection of opportunity for their exercise. Accordingly, there is perfect attainment of the normal result. We are "with Christ," and "know even as also we are known."

II. CERTAIN OCCASIONS ON WHICH THEY NEVERTHELESS MEET. The wicked fear God (Romans 8:15) and bate him (Romans 8:7), would be miserable in his presence (Revelation 6:16), and so do all they can to keep away from it (Job 22:17; Job 21:14). But:

1. They meet him in the dispensations of providence. He is their King. He rules their life. All the events in it are of his disposing. He is where he operates, and so in each operation of which they are the subjects they meet him. Especially does he come to them in his judgments, which they are provoking every day. Misfortune, sickness, death,—these in their order, for a widening circle, and at ever closer quarters, are occasions of meeting God which none would choose, yet none can shun.

2. They meet him in the influences of his grace. "No one's salvation is so desperate, no one is so stained with every kind of sin, but that God cometh to him by holy inspirations to bring back the wanderer to himself" (Jerome, in Pusey). The strivings of the Spirit are unnoticed often, and resisted often (Luke 19:44; Acts 7:51), and so are in the end withdrawn (Genesis 6:3); but, so far as we know, they are universal. As truly as he met the Prophet Balaam in the way does God meet men in the exercise of constraining or restraining grace.

3. They shall meet him in the judgment day. "Before him shall be gathered all nations." This meeting is sure, and will be unutterably momentous. All other meetings are preliminary and preparatory to it. It will gather up and declare and finally administer their cumulative results, The wicked shall be finally banished from God's presence, and the righteous be finally admitted to it; and so for each it shall be the great meeting and the last meeting.

III. THE PREPARATION NEEDED FOR SUCH ENCOUNTERS. Israel was evidently deficient in this; not expecting the meeting and not furnished for it. In making it we must:

1. Prepare a character. To meet God satisfactorily men must be like him. To see him on the one hand, or relish him on the other, or be capable in any sense of holding communion with him, a man must be pure (Matthew 5:8; 2 Corinthians 6:14). He must bring to the meeting a character in sympathy with God's, if he would bring a blessing away.

2. Prepare a case. Man before God is a criminal, guilty, condemned, and sentenced. He wants all this reversed, and he must be able to show reason before it can be done. And what are the elements essential to his ease? Clearly the penalty he was under must have been exhaustively endured (1 Peter 2:24); the Law he is under must have been perfectly obeyed (Isaiah 42:21); both these things must have been done with the approval and by the appointment of God (Hebrews 5:4, Hebrews 5:5); and the man must be intelligently resting his case on these facts. In other words, there must be Divine vicarious obedience and death, divinely recognized, and rested in by faith. Any appearance before God apart from these must end in confusion.

3. Prepare an advocate. Man cannot plead his own case. lie has no locus standi. He can approach God only through a mediator (1 John 2:1). This mediator, to be admissible, must have Divine recognition (Isaiah 42:1; Hebrews 5:4, Hebrews 5:5); to be efficient, must have Divine power (Psalms 89:19; Matthew 28:18); and to be available, must have Divine sovereign love for men (Ephesians 5:2). These conditions meet, and meet only, and always met, in Jesus Christ. He is the one Advocate of every dispensation. Access into the antitypical holiest of all has been one thing and by one way always (Hebrews 9:8; Hebrews 10:19-22). It is and was and shall be only spiritual and through the Son of God.

4. Prepare at once. To Israel a meeting in judgment had been long foreshadowed, and was now overdue. It might be any time, and must be soon. A surprise—and in like circumstances it is the same with all—was probable, and would be disastrous (Revelation 3:3). To prepare immediately was, therefore, a duty as urgent as it was clear (Matthew 24:44). It is ill beginning to dig a well when the house of life is already on fire.

IV. THE CONSIDERATIONS THAT MOVE US TO PREPARE. In the context these are written large. There is:

1. An implied promise. "It has hope in it to be bidden to prepare" (Pusey). The person so enjoined is not yet given up. The menaced doom is not yet inevitable. The way in which God shall be met, and so the result of the meeting, is still capable of being modified. Every call to action is an implicit promise of the result to which it naturally leads. There is also:

2. An explicit threat. "Thus will I do unto thee." There is a vagueness here that is far more terrible than the most explicit denunciation. A series of woes already sent has just been named. But there is a woe that is unutterable in reserve, and already on its way. This, because words are too weak to express it, is left to the imagination to picture. "Thus will I do unto thee," he says, and attempts to particularize no further, where the sentiment is too terrible for words. And so it is with the woe in store for all the impenitent wicked. It cannot be literally defined, and so is suggested by figures such as "the blackness of darkness" (Jud Amos 1:13), "the worm that dieth not, and the fire that is not quenched" (Mark 9:48). But, however figuratively represented, the woe is real, is prepared, is being kept in store, is incomparably great, and shall fall as God is true.

3. Whether we are prepared or not, the meeting with God must come. "We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ." There is a needs be in the case. The purpose of God must be fully carded out in issuing all the matters that go down unsettled to the grave. The righteousness of God must conclusively be vindicated in meting out to all rewards according to their works. The truth of the Divine Word, pledged in promise and in threat, must be established forever in the answering of event to explicit prediction. The meeting may be a joy to us or a shame, as we choose to have it; but it must be a fact.

4. A feeling of unreadiness is a necessary step to preparation. The measure of a sinner's fancied readiness to face his Maker is the measure of his ignorance as to what real fitness implies. The man who has been brought to say, "I dare not face God," has made one step in advance. He is disillusionized. His eyes are open and his conscience awake. Self-deception and false security are at an end (Revelation 3:17, Revelation 3:18). The first step toward grappling with the facts has been taken when once we have fairly faced them. Realize that you are sinners, and the grace of God that bringeth salvation will find appreciation and an open door.

Amos 4:13

The God with whom we have to do.

God always acts in character. From the thing he is may be inferred the quality of the thing he will do. We see him here—

I. AS REVEALED BY HIS NAMES. Each Divine name and title is a Divine revelation; sets forth some one of God's incomparable perfections.

1. Jehovah. "The Being;" "the Living One." In contradistinction to idols, having real existence. In contradistinction to created things, having eternal existence. In contradistinction to all outside himself, having necessary existence. Jehovah is the true God and alone claiming faith, the self-existent God and alone giving life, the eternal God and alone conferring immortality.

2. God. "The Adorable One." The Sum of all excellence. The Object of all worship. The Inspirer of all veneration. The Being who at once deserves and commands the heart s whole allegiance and devotion.

3. Of hosts. "God of the armies." The hosts are the heavenly bodies (Genesis 2:1; Deuteronomy 4:19), the angels (Joshua 5:14, Joshua 5:15; 1 Kings 22:19; Psalms 103:21; Psalms 148:2), and men (Exodus 12:41). All these he made, owns, keeps, controls, and uses. He is the universal Sovereign, and "doeth according to his will" everywhere, always, and without appeal. Such a Being it is no light thing to meet. Just as it is done will utter ruin or absolute safety result.

II. AS REVEALED BY HIS WORKS. The worker puts something of himself into his work—the author into his book, the painter into his picture, the mechanic into his machine. And so with God (Psalms 19:1).

1. He produces physical phenomena. Three kinds are enumerated:

Matter in all forms is the creature of God. Its mutations are the doing of his power. Its elements are the instruments of his hand. He does to it and by it what his own moral excellence prompts. And thus it reveals him. We

"View great Nature's open eye,

And see within it trembling lie

The portrait of the Deity."

2. He reveals mental phenomena. "Maketh known to man what is his [man's] thought." The power of introspection is peculiar to man of earthly creatures. He takes cognizance of what passes in his own mind; reads his thoughts, and analyzes the process of thinking. This is among the highest exercises of reason. It is a revelation of its marvellous powers, and so of the wisdom and power of him by whom the faculty was bestowed. If a man's thoughts are open to himself, much more are they to God. The mind can do all this; what cannot the Maker of it do (Jeremiah 17:9, Jeremiah 17:10)?

3. He rules moral phenomena. "Goeth over the high places of the earth." The "high places" are the exalted people. All these he rules. The highest do his bidding. From prince to peasant all are but clay in the Potter's hands. Who, then, shall strive with him? What can avail against his transcendent might? All natural forces, all creaturely existences, are but tools in his hand, and ministers that do his will. This is the God we must meet, and to meet whom we may well prepare.


Amos 4:4, Amos 4:5


The rhetorical fervour of the prophet leads him in this passage to address himself to the guilty nobles of Israel in terms of bitter irony. That descendants of Abraham should have forsaken Jehovah, should have set up altars to a golden calf, or to deities of their heathen neighbours,—this cuts the prophet to the heart. But that, even whilst acting thus, they should retain some of their ancient observances, should profess any reverence for the precepts of the Law of God,—this is the most cruel wound. Hence this language of irony, the severity of which is apparent to every reader.

I. IT IS HYPOCRISY OUTWARDLY TO REVERENCE THE ORDINANCES OF GOD WHILST REALLY SERVING GOD'S ENEMIES. Sacrifices, tithes, leaven, offerings—all of which are mentioned in this passage—were prescribed in the Mosaic Law. The sin of the Israelites lay here. All the time that they were attending to these observances, they were worshipping idols, and breaking the first and second commandments of the ten. Virtually, all men who profess Christianity, and yet love the sinful practices and pleasures of the world, are guilty of this sin. It is hypocrisy, which is worse than an open defiance of the Divine authority.

II. HYPOCRISY SEEMS TO MEET A NEED OF DEPRAVED AND SINFUL NATURES. "This liketh you;" "So ye love to have it;"—such is the reflection of Amos upon this evil conduct. Men do not "like" to break off the associations of the past; they do not "like" to turn their back upon the principles they have formerly professed; they do not "like" to forfeit the apparent advantages of conformity to the requirements of religion. Yet, at the same time, they are not willing to forsake the pleasures of sin, to deny self, to take up the cross.

III. HYPOCRISY MAY DECEIVE SOCIETY, AND MAY EVEN DECEIVE THE HYPOCRITE, BUT IT CANNOT DECEIVE GOD. The conscious aim of the hypocritical is often to impress their companions with the belief of their goodness. But in many cases men actually persuade themselves of their own piety, whilst their life is in flagrant contradiction to the assumption. Let it never be forgotten that God "searcheth the heart, and trieth the reins of the children of men;" that his scrutinizing gaze cannot be averted, nor his righteous judgment avoided. Those who multiply insincere observances really "multiply transgression." And multiplied transgressions surely involve multiplied penalties.

APPLICATION. Bethel and Gilgal are not the only spots on earth where hypocrisy has been practised. The question of all importance forevery professed worshipper to put to himself is this—Is there harmony between the language which I use in devotion and the thoughts and desires of my heart, the actions and habits of my life?—T.

Amos 4:6-11

National calamities are Divine chastisements.

Graphic and morally impressive is the catalogue of Divine judgments which the inspired prophet here draws up and puts upon record for the admonition of future ages.

I. OF WHAT THESE CALAMITIES CONSIST. They are thus enumerated in the several verses.

1. Famine.

2. Drought.

3. Blight.

4. Pestilence.

5. War.

6. Destruction.

Alas! from the beginnings of human history such have been the sad and weary experiences of the nations. Some of these ills appear to be beyond human control; others of them are more or less attributable to human ignorance, to human neglect, to unbridled lust and passion. The peculiarity of their treatment in the books of Scripture is not in their description, but in the connection shown to exist between them and the moral life and probation of man, and the righteous government of God.

II. FOR WHAT INTENT THESE CALAMITIES WERE INFLICTED. They are not here regarded simply as events; even the philosophical historian does not regard them thus.

1. They convince the observant and pious mind of the concern of God in human affairs, and of God's indignation with human sin. Certain philosophers imagined the great rulers of the universe to be indifferent to all the affairs of men. The Scriptures teach us that nothing escapes Divine observation, that nothing eludes Divine justice, God's censure, or approval.

2. They induce, in the case of the right minded, repentance and reformation. When God's judgments are abroad, the inhabitants of the earth will learn righteousness. If events teach men that "the way of transgressors is hard," they may also teach them that "whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every child whom he receiveth." "Before I was afflicted," said the psalmist, "I went astray; but now have I kept thy Word."


1. There can be no question that, in many instances, they are the occasion of hardening of the heart. As in the case of Pharaoh King of Egypt, afflictions may increase insensibility and rebelliousness.

2. There are cases in which chastisements of the kind here described produce national humiliation and repentance. Such was the case with Nineveh, even when Jonah preached and foretold the city's doom; the people repented even before the calamity came, and so averted it. And there were instances in the history of stiff-necked Israel where chastisement led to general abasement and repentance.

3. There are cases in which calamity fails to produce a general reformation, but is nevertheless the means of effecting in individuals a genuine repentance and a sincere conversion unto God.—T.

Amos 4:6

Obduracy reproached.

There is a mingling of severity and pathos in this language of Jehovah addressed to Israel. The repetition of the reproach adds to its effectiveness and solemnity. As one calamity after another is described, and as all are represented as chastisements inflicted by Divine righteousness, the touching words are added, "Yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord."

I. THE WANDERINGS IMPLIED. In order that there may be a return to God, there must first have been a departure from God. Such had certainly been the case with Israel. The people and their rulers had alike done wickedly in departing from their covenant God. They had mingled with the worship of Jehovah practices superstitious and idolatrous. They had broken the Divine laws of morality, and that in a flagrant and shameful manner.

II. THE SUMMONS AND INVITATION TO RETURN WHICH HAD BEEN ADDRESSED BY GOD TO ISRAEL. Dealing with sinful men, a benevolent God has not been content simply to reveal truth and to inculcate holiness. He has ever addressed the children of men as those who have disregarded the truth and disobeyed the Law. Revelation is full of declarations of Divine mercy and promises of Divine forgiveness.

III. THE CHASTISEMENTS WHICH WERE INTENDED TO PRODUCE REPENTANCE AND REFORMATION. Words proving insufficient, they were followed by acts. It is dangerous for us confidently to interpret the plans of Divine providence. Yet God most high is the supreme Ruler of the nations, and in his own Word his "dealings" with the nations are interpreted with unerring justice and truth. The several disasters recounted in this passage as having befallen Israel are declared to have been of the nature of chastisements designed to awaken refection and to call to penitence and to newness of life. "The voice of the rod" is a voice sometimes effectual, and always morally authoritative.

IV. THE INATTENTION OF ISRAEL TO THE SUMMONS AND TO THE CHASTISEMENTS. It is amazing to learn that not only the messages of prophets and authorized heralds, but even the "judgments" of the righteous Ruler, failed to produce the intended effect. Yet so it was, and those who had been often reproved hardened their neck. In this Israel was an example of that obduracy which may be discovered in all ages and in all communities. The power of man to resist the appeals and the entreaties, the commands and the chastisements, of a righteous God, is one of the most surprising and awful facts of the moral universe.

V. THE PATHETIC REPROACH. He whose power could smite and destroy the rebellious speaks as if himself wounded and distressed by the perseverance in rebellion of those he governs. It seems as if Omniscience were astonished and appalled at human obstinacy and obduracy. Hence the expostulation, the reproach addressed to the impenitent and rebellious, "Yet have ye not returned unto me."—T.

Amos 4:11

The brand snatched from the burning.

Amongst the methods employed by the Divine Ruler to bring Israel to repentance was some calamity, some "judgment," which overtook certain of the cities of the land. It may be doubtful whether we are to understand that those cities were, like Sodom, struck by lightning and partially consumed by fire from heaven; or were attacked and given to the flames by an invading, hostile force; or were overtaken by some disaster figuratively described in this pictorial language. In any case, the circumstances are naturally suggestive of reflections upon the methods and purposes of God's treatment of sinful men.

I. A STRIKING PICTURE OF PUNISHMENT FOR SIN. Like a city given to the flames, like a brand flung upon the blazing fire, is the man, the community, that, on account of disobedience and rebelliousness, is abandoned for a time and for a purpose to the ravages of affliction and calamity. How often has a sinful, proud, luxurious, oppressive nation been consigned to this baptism of fire! How often has the wilful and obdurate nature been made to endure the keen and purifying flames! The connection between sin and suffering does indeed abound in mysteries; yet it is a reality not to be denied.

II. A STRIKING PICTURE OF THE DANGER OF DESTRUCTION TO WHICH THE IMPENITENT AND SINFUL ARE EXPOSED. Fire may purify the gold from dross, but it may consume and utterly destroy the chaff. Some nations exposed to the flames of war and calamity have perished and disappeared. Some individual lives seem, at all events, to have vanished in the flames of Divine judgment. The peril is imminent and undeniable.

III. A STRIKING PICTURE OF DIVINE DELIVERANCE. As the brand is plucked, snatched from the burning, so that, although bearing the traces of fire upon it, it is not consumed, even so did it happen to Israel that Divine mercy saved, if not the community, yet many individuals, from destruction. Where, indeed, is the soul, saved from spiritual death, of which it may not be said, "Here is a brand plucked from the burning"? And there are instances of salvation in which the similitude is peculiarly appropriate. There are those whose sins have, by reason of enormity and repetition, deserved and received no ordinary punishment in this life. And amongst such there are not a few whom the pity, the wisdom, and the power of our Saviour-God have preserved from destruction, and who abide living witnesses to his delivering might and grace.

APPLICATION. Here is encouragement for those who labour for the conversion and salvation of the degraded and debased. Even such, though nigh unto burning, may be plucked by Divine mercy from the flames of judgment.—T.

Amos 4:12

Prepare to meet thy God.

Forbearance has its limits, and probation is not forever. Discipline itself is temporary, and, when the purposes of God concerning men are fulfilled, will come to an end. There is a time for preparation, and then after that comes the time for reckoning and for recompense.


1. Especially the disobedient, the threatened, the chastened. The previous verses make it evident that it was to these that the admonition was particularly addressed. The people of Israel, as a whole, had departed from God, and had been censured and chastened by God. It seems to have been in consequence of their impenitence and obduracy that they were addressed in the solemn language of the text.

2. Yet the appeal has surely reference to such as were learning the lessons so powerfully though so painfully inculcated by Divine providence. There were individuals disposed to profit by the awful dispensations that were befalling the nation, and by the faithful admonitions addressed by inspired prophets.


1. It is not to be supposed that there is ever a time when God is not in immediate contact with his creatures. We meet him at every turn, we meet him at every moment. His eye is ever upon us, his hand is ever over us. "Whither shall we flee from his presence?" To the pious soul this thought is grateful, congenial, welcome. To the irreligious soul this thought should be productive of sincere humiliation and penitence.

2. There are, however, occasions appointed by the providence of God upon which the sons of men are constrained, manifestly and unmistakably, to meet their God. Nations meet God in national crises, in solemn conjunctures of incident, of probation, of destiny. Individuals meet God in critical events in human life, in remarkable experiences of the inevitable incidence of the moral law of God.

3. All Scripture declares that there is a future judgment, when all the intelligent and accountable shall be summoned into the Divine presence and before the Divine tribunal. "After death the judgment;" "Then shall every man give account of himself to God." We are directed to keep this day of account before our view, and to live in prospect of it.


1. In character it must be thorough and sincere. Nothing hypocritical or superficial can suffice. For the meeting anticipated is with him who is the Searcher of all hearts.

2. In nature it must consist of true repentance and true faith. A turning of the heart from evil, and a turning unto God,—these are essential. Unfeigned repentance and cordial faith are indispensable.

3. In manifestation it must be in conformity with Divine requirements. If thou wouldst meet God with holy confidence, then must thou "do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with thy God."—T.

Amos 4:13

The majesty of God.

This and several other passages in this book of prophecy prove to us that Amos was a man who lived much in communion with nature and nature's God. A herdsman and a gatherer of figs, he passed his earlier years, not in towns, in palaces, in libraries, in schools, in the temple, but beneath the open sky, and in the presence of the solemnity, the grandeur, the sublimity, of the works of the Eternal. He had climbed the mountains of Judaea, had gazed upon the rugged ranges that closed in the Dead Sea, had scanned the desert of the south, and had delighted himself in the blue waters of the Mediterranean. He had out watched the stars and greeted the glorious dawn; he had bowed his head before the tempest, and heard the voice of the Almighty in the thunder's crash. He had read the scroll which unfolds itself to every observant eye; he had listened to the language best heard in solitude and seclusion. His meditations concerning God as known, not by the book of the law, but by the book of nature, relate to—

I. GOD'S CREATIVE POWER. This he doubtless recognized wherever he turned, by day and by night, in the peaceful plain and upon the awful hills. He here refers to two instances of the Maker's might, two proofs of his incomparable majesty. "He formeth the mountains." The stability and the immensity of the mountains have ever possessed a charm and an inspiration for the sensitive and thoughtful student of nature. Little as Amos could have known of those processes by which the enduring hills have been fashioned, he was capable of appreciating their testimony to the Creator, and probably of recognizing their symbolism of Divine attributes. The wind is a phenomenon which has always impressed the observer of God's works. Its immense power and its inscrutable mystery, its tenderness as it breathes through the forests at eventide, its awfulness when it roars upon the mountains, when it lashes into fury the mighty waves of the sea, are suggestive of the manifold operations of the all-comprehending Deity. And our Lord himself has reminded us of its symbolical significance as setting forth the wonderful, varied, and inexplicable manifestations of the presence and the working of the Divine Spirit.

II. GOD'S SPIRITUAL INSIGHT. When the prophet describes God as "declaring unto man what is his thought," the language has sometimes been taken to refer to the Divine thought revealed to man; but it probably is to be interpreted of that omniscient energy by virtue of which the Eternal penetrates the spiritual nature of men and reads their thoughts afar off. That the creating Spirit is thus in perpetual and intimate contact with those created spirits into which he has breathed the breath of life, and which he has fashioned in his own likeness: this is reasonable enough. Yet the enunciation of this unquestionable truth should have two effects upon us. It should enhance our conception of God's majesty, and so call forth our adoration and our praise; and it should make us concerned as to the moral quality of the thoughts of our minds, which the omniscient and holy God must surely estimate with justice, and by a standard infinitely lofty and pure.

III. GOD'S PROVIDENTIAL RULE. If we take literally the language, "That maketh the morning darkness, and treadeth upon the high places of the earth," then these clauses are additional acknowledgments of the Creator's power and wisdom as displayed in nature. But coming after the preceding clause, which refers to men's thoughts, they seem to invite another interpretation. God's presence is to be recognized in the order of the world, in the tokens of moral government, in the workings of retributive law—in a word, in the facts which are justly deemed providential.

IV. GOD'S GLORIOUS NAME. To the Hebrew mind there was a very close connection between the nature and attributes and the Name of the Divine Ruler and Lord. He was Jehovah, i.e. the Self-existing and Eternal, whose Being accounts for all being beside. He was the Lord of hosts, i.e. supreme over all powers, possessed of all might, ordering all natures and all processes according to his own wisdom. The angelic hosts of unseen ministers and warriors, the armies of Israel and of the nations, the innumerable forces that obey the Divine behests and bring to pass the Divine purposes,—all these are beneath the cognizance and the sway of the Eternal, all these are ever executing his authoritative commandments and establishing his universal and everlasting kingdom. In the presence of a Being so glorious, so mighty, so holy, what power attaches to the monition of Scripture, "Stand in awe, and sin not"!—T.


Amos 4:12

Prepare to meet thy God.

The threats which precede this summons are very indefinite. Designedly so; for the prophet wished to arouse a genera/foreboding of retribution amongst the careless people, which would have its fulfilment in national disasters, but its final consummation in another world. Such indefiniteness also makes it possible to apply his words to men of every age and country. All responsible beings must at last meet their God, and may wisely be urged to "prepare." From the time of man's fall the all-merciful Father has been calling men to return from their evil ways. Adam was encouraged to hope in his mercy. The antediluvians were faithfully warned through Noah, the preacher of righteousness. Israel was constantly being exhorted by the inspired prophets. John the Baptist had as the burden of his preaching this same word "prepare;" and it has come ringing down the centuries to make itself heard among us also.

I. THE JUDGMENT FORETOLD. It is clear that the reference is to a summons to the tribunal of God, the Judge of quick and dead. There is a sense in which we may meet God in the study of his wonderful works in nature; in the strange and sometimes startling events of his providence; in the pages of his Word; in earnest supplication at his footstool. But another special and more solemn occasion is alluded to in our text—even that day when the great white throne will be set, and every man will have to give an account of all the deeds done in the body, whether good or bad.

1. That judgment is certain to come. Even nature seems to point onward to some crisis in the future of our race. Conscience warns us that sin cannot always go unpunished, for the world is governed by a God of righteousness. Scripture constantly affirms that he has appointed a day in the which he will judge the world by that Man whom he has ordained.

2. It is quite uncertain when it will, come. "Of that day and of that hour knoweth no man." It will come suddenly and unexpectedly, as a thief in the night. Death will end our time of probation, and no one knows where and when it may meet him. Therefore "prepare to meet thy God."

3. When it comes the trial will be thorough and final. All actions, together with their motives, are under the Divine cognizance. None will escape his notice. No false excuses will avail; and, on the other hand, no mere errors will be condemned as if they were wilful sins. The good will be severed from the evil, as our Lord teaches us in the parables of the dragnet and the tares of the field.

II. THE PREPARATION NEEDED. We should not be urged to "prepare" unless by nature we were unprepared. It is merciful of our Judge to give us warning, counsel, and opportunity. He willeth not the death of a sinner, but would rather that he should repent end live. Had it not been possible for us to make ready, had he wished us only to hurry onward to a certain doom, we should not have heard this exhortation. But he gives us forewarning in many ways, and at certain seasons with peculiar force; e.g. when death enters our family, or some accident befalls ourselves.

1. We need self-examination. "Know thyself" was the advice of a heathen philosopher; but it is worth heeding by us all. We want the illumination of God's Spirit and the instruction of God's Word to aid us. "The candle of the Lord" must throw its rays into the recesses of our hearts.

2. We need confession and repentance. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

3. We need faith in the atonement of Jesus. It is said of all sinners who safely pass the great tribunal and enter into the heavenly world, "They have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."

III. THE REASONS URGED. These appear in the next verse.

1. God is omnipotent. "He formeth the mountains." The mightiest cannot resist him; the most subtle will not escape him.

2. God is omniscient. "He declareth unto man what is his thought." He is the Searcher of hearts (Psalms 139:2; Jeremiah 17:10). Nothing eludes his notice. There is warning in this thought for the wicked; and there is comfort for the righteous, because these may reflect that their unspoken prayers, and their secret self-denials, and their unfulfilled purposes, are all recognized by him. They are represented by our Lord (Matthew 25:37-40) as being surprised at reward coming for acts which they thought little of or had quite forgotten. "God is not unfaithful to forget your work of faith and labour of love."

Apply the words of the exhortation to the careless.—A.R.


Amos 4:4, Amos 4:5

Worship abounding with abounding sin.

"Come to Bethel, and transgress; at Gilgal multiply transgression; and bring your sacrifices every morning," etc. " keenest irony. The "The language of these verses," says Henderson, "is that of the Israelites were addicted to the worship of the golden calf, and to that of idols, whereby they contracted guilt before Jehovah, and exposed themselves to his judgments; at the same time, they hypocritically professed to keep up the observance of certain feasts which had been appointed by Moses." The subject that the text teaches is—abounding worship with abounding sin. The sins of Israel, the frauds, violences, and nameless iniquities, are referred to in the preceding chapters. Crimes ran riot amongst them at this period; and yet how religious they seemed to be! "Amos has described how zealously the people of Israel went on pilgrimage to Bethel and Gilgal and Beersheba, those places of sacred associations; with what superabundant diligence they offered sacrifice and paid tithes; how they would rather do too much than too little, so that they even burnt upon the altar a portion of the leavened loaves of the praise offering, which were only intended for the sacrificial meals, although none but unleavened bread was allowed to be offered; and, lastly, how in their pure zeal for multiplying the works of piety, they so completely mistook their nature as to summon by a public proclamation to the presentation of free will offerings, the very peculiarity of which consisted in the fact that they had no other prompting than the will of the offerer" (Delitzsch). We offer two remarks on this subject.

I. Abounding worship often IMPLIES ABOUNDING SIN. This is the case when the worship is:

1. Selfish. More than half the worship of England is purely selfish. Men crowd churches, attend to religious ceremonies, and contribute to religious institutions purely with the idea of avoiding hell and getting to a happier world than this. They do not serve God for naught. Selfishness, which is bad everywhere, is never worse than when engaged in religion.

2. Formal. When religion is attended to as a matter of form, when sentiments are expressed without conviction, services rendered without self-sacrifice, the insincerity is an insult to Omniscience. "God is a Spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." Abounding worship is no proof of abounding virtue and abounding godliness. Often, alas! the more worship in a community, the more corruption.

II. Abounding worship often SPRINGS FROM ABOUNDING SIN. It may spring from:

1. A desire to conceal sin. Sin is an ugly thing; it is hideous to the eye of conscience. Hence efforts on all hands to conceal. Nations endeavour to conceal the terrible abominations of infernal wars by employing the ministers of religion in connection with their fiendish work. The greatest villains have often sought to conceal their villanies by worship.

2. A desire to compensate for evils. Great brewers build churches and endow religious institutions in order to compensate in some measure for the enormous evil connected with their damning trade.

3. A desire to appear good. The more corrupt a man is, the stronger his desire to appear otherwise; the more devil in a man, the more anxious he is to look like an angel.

CONCLUSION. Do not judge the character of a nation by the number of its churches, the multitude of its worshippers, or the amount of its contributions, or efforts to proselytize men to its faith.—D.T.

Amos 4:6-11

God's government of the world a chastising government.

"And I also have given you cleanness of teeth in all your cities, and want of bread in all your places" etc. In these verses the Almighty describes the various corrective measures which he had employed for effecting a moral reformation in the character of the Israelites. At the end of each chastising measure which he describes, he marks their obstinate impenitence with the expression, "Yet have ye not returned unto me." As if he had said, "The grand end of all my dealings is to bring you in sympathy, heart, and life back to me." The subject of the verses is this—God's government of the world is a chasing government; and three remarks are here suggested.

I. The chastisements employed are often OVERWHELMINGLY TERRIFIC.

1. He sometimes employs blind nature. Here is famine. "I also have given you cleanness of teeth in all your cities, and want of bread in all your places." The transgressors under the Law God had threatened with famine (Deuteronomy 28:48). The Divine government has often employed famine as a ruthless and resistless messenger to chasten mankind. In the days of Elisha the demon wielded his black sceptre for seven long years (2 Kings 8:1). The second is drought. "I have withholden the rain from you, when there were yet three months to the harvest: and I caused it to rain upon one city, and caused it not to rain upon another city: one piece was rained upon, and the piece whereupon it rained not withered. So two or three cities wandered unto one city, to drink water; but they were not satisfied." Rain—indispensable to the life of the world—comes not by accident or Mind necessity, but by the Divine will. "He watereth the hills from his chambers." To show that the rain is entirely at the disposal of the Almighty, it came upon one field and one city, and not upon another. Hence the inhabitants of the places where it rained not had to go great distances for water, and yet "were not satisfied." This is a terrible chastisement. The third is blight. "I have smitten you with blasting and mildew: when your gardens, and your vineyards, and your fig trees, and your olive tress increased, the palmerworm devoured them." A malignant atmosphere combined with devouring reptiles to destroy the produce of the land. The fourth is pestilence and the sword. "I have sent among you the pestilence after the manner of Egypt: your young men have I slain with the sword, and have taken away your horses; and I have made the stink of your camps to come up unto your nostrils." The allusion, perhaps, is to the pestilence with which God visited Egypt (Exodus 9:1-35.). The pestilence is God's destroying angel. Thus by blind nature God has often chastised mankind. He makes the stars in their courses fight against Sisera. Nature is a rod in his chastening hand; and what a rod it is! At his pleasure, by a touch, he can wake tempests that shall shake the globe, earthquakes that shall engulf cities, etc. Yes, whatever materialistic scientists may say, nature is nothing more than a rod in the hand of its Maker. The fifth is fire. "I have overthrown some of you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and ye were as a firebrand plucked out of the burning."

2. He sometimes employs human wickedness. The sword is mentioned here. "Your young men have I slain with the sword." War, unlike famine, drought, pestilence, and fire, is human, devilish. It is the work of free agents, under the influence of infernal evil. But God employs it; he does not originate it, he does not sanction it, he does not inspire it; but he permits it and controls it for purposes of chastisement. Thus all things are at the use of his chastising government—matter and mind, angels and fiends, heaven and hell.

II. The chastisements employed are ever DESIGNED FOR MORAL RESTORATION. After each judgment described we have the words, "Yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord." "Yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord." "Yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord." This is the burden and design of the whole. Note:

1. Men are alienated from the lord. They are estranged in thought, sympathy, and purpose. Like the prodigal, they are in a far country, away from their Father.

2. Their alienation is the cause of all their misery. Estrangement from God means distance, not only from virtue, but from freedom, light, progress, dignity, blessedness. Hence the benevolence of all these chastisements. They are to restore souls. "Lo all these things worketh God oftentimes with man, to bring him back from the pit, that he may be enlightened with the light of the living" (Job 33:29, Job 33:30). To every unconverted man God can say, "I have chastised you in this way and in that way, on this occasion and on that, but 'yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord.'"

III. The chastisements employed often FAIL IN THEIR GRAND DESIGN. "Yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord." This shows

Almighty goodness does not force us into goodness. Almighty love does not dragoon us into goodness. He treats us as free agents and responsible beings.—D.T.

Amos 4:12, Amos 4:13

Preparation for meeting God.

"Therefore thus will I do unto thee, O Israel: and because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel," etc. "All the means that had been employed to reform the Israelites having proved ineffectual, they are here summoned to prepare for the final judgment, which was to put an end to their national existence. To this judgment reference is emphatically made in the terms כח, 'thus;' and זאח, 'this.' There is a brief resumption of the sentence delivered in Amos 4:2 and Amos 4:3." We raise three observations from these words.

I. MAN MUST HAVE A CONSCIOUS MEETING WITH GOD. "Prepare to meet thy God." I shall see God," says Job: "whom I shall see for myself, and not another." Yes, we shall all see God. All men ought ever and everywhere to see him, for he is the great Object in the horizon, nearer to them infinitely than aught besides. But they do not. Their spiritual eye is so closed that they see him not; they are utterly unconscious of his presence. But see him they must one day. All must be Brought into conscious contact with him, and in his presence they will feel the greatest things in the universe melt into nothing- The atheist who denies his existence shall see God; the worldling who ignores his existence shall see God; the theologian who misrepresents his existence shall see God. We must all see God.


1. To meet him; reconciliation is needed. Practically we are at enmity with him. How shall an enemy stand in his presence? Who does not feel uneasy and even distressed when he confronts a man he hates, although the man may have no disposition and no power whatever to injure him? How will the soul with enmity in its heart then confront him? "I beseech you then in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God."

2. To meet him, moral purity is necessary. How will a consciously corrupt soul feel in the presence of absolute holiness? How are the flames of hell kindled? By the rays of Divine holiness falling on corrupt spirits.

"Eternal Light, eternal Light,

How pure the soul must be,

When, placed within thy searching sight,

It shrinks not, but with calm delight

Can live and look on thee!"


1. His procedure is terribly judicial "Therefore thus will I do unto thee, O Israel: and because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel." He was approaching the sinner in judgment, moving towards him judicially. He was coming towards the Israelites as an Avenger. And so he is ever coming towards wicked men. Prepare, therefore, to meet him. He is coming as a Judge—slowly it may be, but surely and terribly.

2. His procedure is overwhelming grand. "Lo, he that formeth the mountains, and createth the wind, and declareth unto man what is his thought, that maketh the morning darkness, and treadeth upon the high places of the earth, The Lord, The God of hosts, is his Name." This magnificent description of Jehovah is given in order to urge the call to preparation.

CONCLUSION. The one mighty, loud, unceasing voice of God to man through all nature, history, and special revelation is, "Prepare to meet thy God."—D.T.

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Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Amos 4:11". The Pulpit Commentary. 1897.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

I have overthrown some of you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and ye were as a firebrand plucked out of the burning: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD.
as God
Genesis 19:24,25; Isaiah 13:19; Jeremiah 49:18; Hosea 11:8; 2 Peter 2:6; Jude 1:7
as a
Zechariah 3:2; 1 Corinthians 3:15; Jude 1:23
6; Jeremiah 6:28-30; Ezekiel 22:17-22; 24:13; Revelation 9:20
Reciprocal: Deuteronomy 21:18 - will not;  Deuteronomy 28:24 - make the rain;  Deuteronomy 29:23 - like the;  Psalm 18:8 - fire;  Proverbs 21:12 - overthroweth;  Isaiah 1:9 - we should;  Isaiah 7:4 - the two tails;  Jeremiah 20:16 - as;  Jeremiah 50:40 - GeneralEzekiel 15:4 - the fire;  Ezekiel 16:50 - therefore;  Amos 7:4 - called;  Luke 17:29 - GeneralRomans 9:29 - we had been;  Revelation 11:8 - Sodom

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Amos 4:11". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge".

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

I have overthrown some of you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and ye were as a firebrand plucked out of the burning: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD.

Overthrew — By grievous and desolating judgments.

As a fire-brand — Such of you as escaped were yet as fire-brands in the midst of the fire, 'till infinite mercy saved a remnant.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
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Wesley, John. "Commentary on Amos 4:11". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". 1765.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible


With Amos 4:4, begins a new discourse, addressed to the people at large. The occasion was probably a religious gathering, when the people, by their zeal for the external requirements, accompanied by an utter disregard of the divine ethical demands, had revealed their utter misapprehension of the will of Jehovah. In an ironical vein Amos exhorts them to continue their heartless ceremonial worship, “for this pleaseth you,” implying at the same time that Jehovah takes no delight in it (Amos 4:4-5). Again and again he sought to make them understand his dissatisfaction with their conduct, and to bring them to their senses, but in vain (Amos 4:6-11). Hence he can do nothing but send a final blow, for which they must now prepare themselves (Amos 4:12-13).


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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Amos 4:11". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

6-11.Seven unheeded chastisements. Through various acts of providence Jehovah attempted to win back the rebellious people, but without success.


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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Amos 4:11". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

11.Earthquake. Some consider Amos 4:11 a summary of all preceding judgments, not a description of a new calamity; others, a figure of devastating wars (2 Kings 13:4; 2 Kings 13:7); but it is more natural to interpret it as a description of an earthquake causing serious havoc in Israel. Palestine has suffered frequently from earthquakes, especially in the border districts. During the past ten years four earthquakes are said to have visited the country. The most disastrous of which more or less complete accounts have been preserved were those of 31 B.C., in which, according to Josephus, some thirty thousand persons perished, and of January 1, 1837. A vivid account of the horrors of the latter is given in Robinson, Biblical Researches in Palestine, 2:529-531, note 41. The only earthquake mentioned in the Old Testament is that mentioned in the days of Uzziah (Amos 1:1; compare Zechariah 14:5), unless we class in the same category the destruction of the cities of the Plain (compare G.A. Smith, Historical Geography, p. 508f.). The allusion cannot be to the one mentioned in Amos 1:1, unless we suppose that Amos retouched his prophecies when he collected them subsequent to the earthquake (see p. 195). He may have in mind any similar catastrophe.

Some of you — R.V., “cities among you”; literally, among you. Not the whole country suffered; nevertheless, all should heed the warning.

God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah — The point of comparison is the completeness of the ruin. As an illustration of this the destruction of these cities (Genesis 19) is mentioned several times in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 29:23; Jeremiah 49:18; Isaiah 1:7, etc.).

Ye — Those that escaped.

A fire brand plucked out of the burning — A picture of narrow escape. They were almost consumed, only the divine mercy saved them (Isaiah 1:9; compare Zechariah 3:2). But even in the face of ruin and with this overwhelming evidence of the divine love the people hardened their hearts. The divine love and mercy (Amos 2:9 ff.), as well as the divine judgments (Amos 4:6 ff.) failed to accomplish the divine purpose. Nothing more can be done. Destruction is inevitable.

On the philosophy underlying Amos 4:6-11, see in part comment on Amos 3:6. To it may be added that in the ancient world it was customary to ascribe all calamities to the wrath of the deity, manifesting itself either arbitrarily or on account of sins committed by the devotees. The Hebrew prophets believed that Jehovah’s wrath was aroused by sin, that his righteousness demanded the punishment of sin, and that the punishment would take the form of some calamity to be experienced in this present life. They believed also that these calamities had a corrective purpose. These two beliefs underlie the prophetic explanation of calamities. Since secondary causes and the working of natural laws were entirely disregarded, it never occurred to the prophets that any calamity could come without Jehovah’s direct interference, and without a punitive or corrective purpose. With a clearer conception of the character of God we may hesitate to believe that every time a famine or drought or earthquake occurs, God is especially angry with those who have to suffer, and yet there can be no doubt that “the instinct is sound which in all ages has led religious people to feel that such things are inflicted for moral purposes.”


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Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Amos 4:11". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.